Ever since I became interested in Vedānta a few years ago, I’ve been yearning to begin studying the Bhagavad Gītā, perhaps because I grew up listening to the Mahabhāratā and the Bhagavad Gītā was mentioned in that context many times throughout my life. I’m grateful that today on Vijayadhasami, I’ve begun the study with a few other wonderful people.
Our life is a series of experiences with some happy and some sad experiences. We all naturally want to be completely happy and free from sorrow. Our ultimate goal as human beings is to be free from sorrow. Only humans have this capacity to self-reflect with our minds and intellect, to make choices, and put effort into achieving that ultimate goal.
The means to attain liberation (freedom from sorrow) is preserved in the Vedas in Indian culture. Veda means Knowledge. It comes from the word vid which means to know. Vedas are divided into three kāṇḍas, or sections: karma-kāṇḍa, upāsanā-kāṇḍa, and jñāna-kāṇḍa. karma-kāṇḍa gives us the means to purify the mind, upāsanā-kāṇḍa gives us the means to develop single-pointedness, and jñāna-kāṇḍa gives us the Knowledge of Self.
The essence of this entire Knowledge can be understood by studying and mastering the Bhagavad Gītā. It is a dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra just before the start of the war, narrated in the middle of Mahabhāratā (written by Veda Vyasa). It comprises eighteen chapters with approximately 700 verses. The first six chapters are on karma (action), providing clarity on our nature, Atma-svarupa (tvam). The next six chapters are on upāsana (devotion), providing clarity on the nature of God, Isvara-svarūpa (tat). The last six chapters are on jñāna (knowledge), providing clarity on the identity between Atman and Brahman (asi).
Sorrow weakens our minds to be deluded, which makes us perform wrong actions. Wrong actions automatically create more sorrow. We get stuck in the vicious cycle of wrong action and sorrow when we are confused about what our duty (svadharma) is. The Bhagavad Geeta gives us the wisdom to master the art of being free from delusion and sorrow. This enables one to master action, and paves the way for liberation.
In Mahabhāratā, Prince Arjuna, an intelligent and accomplished warrior is filled with sorrow when he sees all his relatives and teachers on the other side of the battlefield at Kurukshetra. With anguish, his mind becomes deluded. He becomes despondent and mentally crashes with a lot of confusion in his mind. That is when Sri Krishna gives discourse to Arjuna in the form of Bhagavad Gītā and clears all his doubts enabling him to do his duty with a clear mind, free from sorrow. Putting ourselves in the shoes of Arjuna, with a subjective mind, we can study the Bhagavad Gītā to master life.
The Bhagavad Gītā
- applies to people of all temperaments
- is relatively easy to understand with practical instructions
- is engaging & captivating
- provides an opportunity to ask questions
- provides answers to all the questions
- teaches us how to transform ourselves, to live dynamically to our fullest potential
In addition to the Master Gita Master Life course, we will also be using The Holy Geeta by Swami Chinmayananda as our resource and guide while pursuing this study. I look forward to sharing reflections and more resources throughout the study.