The Bhagavad Gita contains a concise summary of the vast wisdom of the Vedic literature. Its influence has extended far beyond India, many people around the world have admired its message and progressive ideas.
Bhagavad Gita originally appeared as a chapter within the Hindu epic the Mahabharata. The Gita is a conversation between Prince Arjuna and his chariot driver Lord Krishna. Arjuna and his brothers are preparing to fight their relatives in a war for sovereignty of their kingdom.
The Mahabharata describes the events leading to the battle…
Prince Arjuna is one of the five sons of King Pandu. Pandu’s elder brother, Dhrtarastra, was blind from birth, so he was unable to take the throne. Consequently, his younger brother Pandu ruled the kingdom. When King Pandu died at an early age, his five sons came under the care of their uncle, Dhrtarastra.
Dhrtarastra however, considered his own sons were the rightful heirs to the throne. He didn’t intervene when his eldest son Duryodhana laid claim to the throne and made many unsuccessful attempts to kill the sons of Pandu.
Eventually Duryodhana unfairly defeated the sons of Pandu in a gambling match and banished them from the kingdom. They were forced into exile in the forest. When they returned and begged for their rightful share of the kingdom, Duryodhana refused and said he wouldn’t give them enough land into which to drive a pin.
The Pandava brothers tried many times to reach a peaceful settlement, but they were unsuccessful. The sons of Pandu are monarchs, members of the kshatriya class by occupation. According to their dharma or duty, they must earn their livelihood by the administration a kingdom. But with no land or kingdom and all avenues of peaceful settlement unsuccessful, they are left with no alternative. They must fight for sovereignty of the kingdom.
Some people may find a battleground setting incongruous for a spiritual literature. Yet the scene is appropriate on many levels. Arjuna is a member of the warrior caste so fighting for honourable principles is his natural occupation and duty.
The spiritual advice of the Bhagavad Gita is not only philosophically sophisticated it’s also very practical. Lord Krishna doesn’t advise Arjuna to leave his present circumstances and travel to a mountaintop to meditate. Rather, he explains how everyone can combine practical everyday activities with the goal of spiritual development.
Very few people in the modern age can personally relate to a battleground setting, yet from the spiritual perspective, we are all standing on a field of death. We must at some time in our lives come to terms with the fact that one day we will be forced to face, not only our own death, but the death of all our friends and relatives.
Lord Krishna’s song is not meant exclusively for Arjuna, He sings his divine harmony to each and every one of us.
“Simply hearing this conversation with faith will liberate you from suffering and you will reach the abode of the virtuous souls.”