Essays in Life and Eternity
by Swami Krishnananda

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PART III: THE DEVELOPMENT OF RELIGIOUS CONSCIOUSNESS

Chapter 30: The Gospel of the Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita, known as the 'Song of the Blessed Lord', occurs in the Mahabharata, and purports to be a dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna. It is believed that the Gita furnishes in a novel way the quintessence of the Upanishads, providing a teaching on the proper relationship obtaining among God, the world and the individual. Here is, in this teaching, an interesting blend and proportion, the coming together of the call of duty, a harmony of human relation, a consciousness of a higher agency operating behind man and society, the interrelatedness of all the things in the world, and the supremacy of Godhead above everything. Humanity as a whole is represented in the personality of Arjuna, and God in the Incarnation of Krishna.

The Bhagavad Gita commences with a picture of the human predicament in a conflict of duty, of what is proper and improper, in an arena of the vast world which appears to the human individual as a field of opposing forces, where the good and the evil seem to be warring with each other. There is tension at every step, and man's life has been a ceaseless effort at self-adjustment with the changing contours of the world and human society. This situation converts the human being into a kind of movement towards what ought to be, or is yet to be, rather than something that is, independently by itself. This is the phase in human life which manifests itself as a series of perpetual types of restlessness, helplessness, dejection and despair.

But there is in man, at the same time, an inner stuff which defies movement, change and caprice and asserts its permanency characterised by an unending longing for deathless values. This dual facet of human individuality is accountable by its involvement partly in the world of name, form and process and partly in Eternity that masquerades in the midst of the name-form complex and space-time process. The soul of man is immortal, his body is perishable. The noumenal and the phenomenal join hands in the formation of the human personality.

As the world includes the individual as a content of itself, it is the duty of everyone to participate in a wholesome manner and unselfishly in the evolutionary process of the world which ranges from the visible formation of matter, life, mind and intellect to the higher realms of the several ways in which God reveals Himself in creation. Life in the world is not all, the destiny of man is above this world. World-experience is a preparation for God-experience. The individual is a passage to the Absolute. Work becomes a compulsive duty as it is an expression of the way in which the individual can be conscious of its harmonious relation with the world, and finally with God. Since God is immanent in the world, work done in the world becomes also a worship of God. Since the forces of the world constitute an organic network of intrinsic relation, no one can be free from the obligation of duty, not only in the form of cooperation with other living beings but also with Nature as a whole and with God in the light of His eternal order in the form of creation. Action binds when it is thought to be done for one's own benefit. Action does not bind when it is done as a cooperative participation in the universal activity of creation and in the fulfilment of the Will of God who is the central Agent of all process, action and creative movement, everywhere.

The sources of conflict are mainly fourfold; that between the higher and the lower nature in one's own self; that between oneself and other people; that between oneself and the world of Nature; and that between oneself and God. The Bhagavad Gita endeavours to prescribe methods of resolving this fourfold conflict in an ascending series of methodology, right from the lowest concept of things to their highest universality. The inner schism which one feels within oneself as a psychological conflict is on account of one's fall from the status of God-consciousness, which consequently becomes the cause of a gulf between man and man, and between man and the world. No one who is not established in God as an entirety of existence can feel a kinship with Nature or even a sense of brotherhood with others, let alone have peace of mind within one's own self. Unselfish dedicated work for the welfare of all (Sarvabhutahite ratah) and constant devotion to God as the universality inseparable from one's true being are marks of perfection (Sthitaprajna).

The Yoga way of meditation prepares one for the higher identification of oneself with the world as a whole, Nature in its comprehensiveness, and God as the All-Being. The Bhagavad Gita is designated as Brahma-Vidya, or the science of the Absolute; Yoga-Sastra, or the art of meditation; and Krishna-Arjuna Samvada, or the union of God and man. The first definition makes out that the Bhagavad Gita provides a metaphysical foundation for life as a whole, the second aspect points out that it is a guideline for self-discipline and self-integration, and the third portrayal declares that the teaching is centred on the journey of man to God, and his final union with God. The great promise that God bequeaths to man in the Bhagavad Gita is in the proclamation that He is ready to grant all the needs of the devotee when he unquestioningly and undividedly centres his consciousness in God-Being. The concluding verse of the Bhagavad Gita announces that prosperity, victory, happiness and established polity will reign supreme wherever Krishna, the Lord of Yoga, and Arjuna, the bowman of action, move forward seated in a single chariot, implying thereby that perfection is possible and is attainable when the Universal and the particular commingle in a state of harmony and balance in the world as well as in the individual. Here is a recipe for the blessedness of all. The God of the Bhagavad Gita presented in the eleventh chapter is, verily, the God of universal religion, not of a religion, but religion as such, religion as it is, and as it ought to be.