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Jun 1, 2011

The Bhagavad-Gita

Perhaps the most profound text in the canon of Hindu literature is "The Bhagavad-Gita," a sacred text, which most translators call "Song of the Lord." It's a philosophical discourse between a warrior named Arjuna and the god Krishna.

The Bhagavad-Gita
"The Bhagavad-Gita" belongs to the sixth book of a martial epic, known as "Mahabharata," and "The Bhagavad-Gita" stands out as the most popular narrative of the entire collection. Divided into 18 teachings, the text begins on a battlefield, where Arjuna expresses pity at the prospect of battling his kinsmen and friends. He pleads with his charioteer Krishna for insight on proper conduct; and this is where the philosophical rapport begins and the divine mentor patiently relates the secrets of equanimity.
Each teaching touches upon a topic designed to facilitate understanding. Krishna is presented as a patient and well-meaning teacher, who lists the advantages and disadvantages of following his counsel. The poetic narrative is sometimes very cryptic; a familiarity with sacred aspects of Hinduism clarifies some concepts. The book is a concoction of mythology and sagacity; and the reader is well served by a reflective reading pace. Many of the proverbial verses are as challenging as riddles. However, the simple-structured verses offer insight:


Truly free is the sage who controls
his senses, mind, and understanding,
who focuses on freedom
and dispels desire, fear and anger.
(Fifth Teaching, v. 28)

The narrative proposes the means by which perfect peace can be attained; and throughout the book, there are guidelines intended to initiate the process of equanimity. There is a meditative aura about "The Bhagavad-Gita." The steps required to reach inner bliss are sometimes vague, and sometimes quite obvious. I liken the book to a well from which one can heave buckets of wisdom. However, the bygone centuries have not tainted the book's messages. The text invites a reader to reassess his or her concept of self. The impulse to understand, self, others, and the world in which we life, is readily encouraged. Also, throughout the book, knowledge is a key to comprehending the essence of being.

It is interesting to note that a large helping of "The Bhagavad-Gita" mirrors both Buddhist and Christian sentiments; and parallels are easily discernible.

To a Western mentality, the book may appear somewhat esoteric, but there is something of the universal to be discovered in these pages. Great minds--H.D. Thoreau, R.W. Emerson, and T.S. Eliot to name a few--have discovered in the narrative a fountain of inspiration. Every reader can benefit; and much of the advice has the power to inititiate in the reader a reassessment of former ideas and ideals. "The Bhagavad-Gita" can nourish a portion of the searching soul.

1 comment:

  1. BHAGAVAD GITA
    If we delve deep into the Mahabharata, it is only a story of a war between two families. It remained a story for several centuries. During the Hindu kingdoms of Gupta, Vijayanagar and Mahratta the story aspect of the Mahabharata alone was etched in the minds of the people. There were no philosophical discourses in temples. Devotees worshiped the idols of gods and goddesses. All Hindu scriptures remained mnemonic and there were no manuscripts, for it was considered sacreligious to produce manuscripts or to print books of the sacred scriptures. A prayer like the Gayatri mantra could be recited only by Brahmins. If a non-Brahmin had accidentally heard the recital by a Brahmin, molten led would be poured into his ears. The Asiatic Society was founded in 1784 by William Jones. While still on board of the frigate Crococlile carrying him from England to India, he prepared a long list detailing his plan of study. This included “the laws of the Hindus and Mahomedans; Arithmatic and Geometry and mixed sciences of Asiaticks; Medicine, Chemistry, Surgery and Anatomy of the Indians etc.,.” So even before landing in India, Jones was bent upon establishing the fact that ancient Indians were well versed in philosophy, mathematicas, science and medicine. But there were no manuscripts of Hindu scriptures and no original sources about Indian knowledge of science and medicine. The preferred method of Jones and other British scholars was to sit in the company of Sankrit-knowing Brahmins's and other Hindus, and to ask them to recite from memory Hindu scriptures. Scientists say that memory loss begins at the age of 40. How could the old Brahmins recite by heart century-old Scriptures? Recital by Brahmins contained many contemporary ideas. William Jones and other Orientalists syncretised Sanskrit with Classical and Biblical narratives, to establish transcultural correspondences by means of often crude conjectural etymologies. There were Brahmins such as Pundit Ramlochan, Balachandra Siromani, Rajendralala Misra, Bala Sastri of Benares, Radhakanta Sarman who were allowed to produce their own versions of Hindu scriptures. Many fake manuscripts were produced. Brahmin scholars could get easy access to Christian scriptures and western literature from Fort William College and Sanskrit College in Calcutta established by the British. Another scholar, Francis Wilford, claimed that he had discovered the relationship among Hindu traditions, the Bible and the ancient British antiquities. Jones and other scholars, in collaboration with Brahmins, produced Sanskrit manuscripts with these fake claims. Krishna’s narration of creation in the Bhagavad Gita and the creation account in the Manu smriti produced by Jones are modified reproduction of the creation account in the Bible. Krishna’s instructions in the Gita are patterned on the book of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes in the Bible. As the modern translation of the Bhagavad Gita indicates, the work is in poetic form and in many places it is metrically exact parallel to Biblical literature. Sir Charles Wilkins translated the Bhagavad Gita into English in 1785, and he had used the Sanskrit manuscript produced by Asiatic Society scholars with so many interpolations and deletions. It was the English translation that gave worldwide publicity for the Bhagavad Gita. Deception and forgeries can be detected in the manuscripts produced by them. In 1788, Wilford, claimed to have found innumerable references to ancient Egypt, its Kings and holy places in Puranas by publishing a long text of baroque complexity in Asiatic Researches. However, Wilford was forced to admit with a humiliating note in the same journal that he had been systematically duped by his head Brahmin Pandit between 1793 and 1805. Probably the modernized version of the Bhagavad Gita was interpolated during this period.





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