The Gita Summed Up
The story takes place on a battle field and is an allegory of life itself being a battle field in which we find good & evil and right & wrong; both externally and within ourselves. Prince Arjuna must “look within” in order to live his sva-dharma (own-law). The God-man, Krishna is the higher Self which guides him to Awakening.
Krishna uses 3 arguments to lead Arjuna out of his delusion. One that our essential nature always remains, that it is only the body which appears to be born and to die. Two, that you can never avoid acting, even in inaction there is the ‘act of inaction’. Third, you must follow your duties, your dharma; duty to the higher law!
The story is a profound teaching and is complementary to a yoga practice to help us go deeper in our self-discovery.
Here are three of my favorite books for studying the Bhagavad Gita:
The Bhagavad Gita Introduced and Translated by Eknath Easwaran
This translation and commentary of the Gita is concise and easy to read. I think it is a good first time reading; in the commentary you can find ways to use the Gita to understand and grow in everyday life. I’ve read it through cover to cover twice plus I refer to it from time to time when doing my self-study and I need a translation of some verses which is less esoteric than other translations.
Paths to God: Living the Bhagavad Gita by Ram Dass
This isn’t a translation, in fact the actual verses of the Gita are not written, so you may want to have a translation near-by to refer to. However, I loved this book! It is full of hilarious and touching stories with deep teaching by Ram Dass, showing how to bring the teachings of the Gita to our everyday life and inner being. He is a fascinating man with an eccentric story.
God Talks with Arjuna by Paramahansa Yogananda
This is an absolutely amazing translation and commentary that is more complete than any other I’ve seen. It is one of my all-time favorite books that I refer to all the time and probably will for years and years to come! I don’t recommend it as a first time Gita reading but once one has some understanding then this is ideal for delving deep on the spiritual path to self-learning.
This is a nice sum-up of the Gita by Julia Sarano one of our lovely teacher trainee graduates (this was one of her home work assignments):
THE BHARATA WAR AS AN ALLEGORY OF LIFE
The setting of the Gita is the battlefield of kurushetra while the war is about to begin. This field is not only a physical place but it is representative of a battle in the state of mind. Here Arjuna is fighting a moral struggle. The Bharata war is the field where moral struggles are fought. Arjuna is in misery and refuses to fight; he is filled with pity and sorrow in face of horrors of war and death.
Krishna is the incarnation of cosmic power, who descends to earth to accomplish the restoration of order in times of chaos. Krishna teaches that the warrior’s duty (dharma) is based on the relationship between the Divine and human action (karma). This relationship with the sacred is crucial to keep universal order. Freedom lies not in the renunciation of the world, but in self-transcending action (karma yoga). Put concretely, all action is to be performed without attachment to the fruits of action and dedicated with loving devotion to the Divine.
Arjuna learns to clear his mind of attachment and to dedicate the fruit of his action to the greater order. In this way he can continue to live and act in a world of pain without suffering despair. Arjuna can dedicate himself to Krishna only after his delusions about the nature of life and death have been dispelled. Then he has the capacity to see Krishna in his cosmic form. This is a metaphor to explain the way of surrender to God.
The Bharata war is Arjuna’s dramatic journey of Self-discovery. The charioteer, Krishna, is aware of his spiritual conflict and guides him to the appropriate path for resolving it. He draws Arjuna into a universe beyond the world of everyday experience but keeps teaching him to engage in the battle of life. He counsels, on one hand, the life of action and moral duty, and on the other hand, the transcendence of the world in search of spiritual knowledge and liberation.
Human life is the place to discover our spiritual dimension that was “forgotten” at birth. The Bharata war is the metaphor to describe the struggles we go through in search of this realization. Arjuna’s relation with Krishna is the metaphor of our connection with the Self and with God, or to God within us. All of us have this extraordinary part that is the soul that is infinite and timeless. Conscious union with the Self can take one to conscious doing.
Don’t be attached to the outcome of your actions or to the outcome being in a certain way. Enjoying the doing becomes more important than where you want to get to, then the goal looks after itself.
Jesus said: “Don’t be concerned about tomorrow. Tomorrow will take after itself”. Matthew 6:34