vasudeva sudam devam kamsa chanura marthanam
devaki paramanandam krishnam vande jagatgurum
Before going into the introduction to the Bhagavadgita and knowing the
studying it, it is worthwhile to examine some frequently made observations
about the Bhagavadgita.
people even after years of reading the Bhagavadgita lament that the scripture is full
of contradictions and confusing statements.
It is true
that there appears to be some contradictions in the scripture. Apart from
this it also has some statements which defy comprehension. But it is
important to examine whether these contradictions and
confusions are real or superficial? Many great souls devoid of any personal
motives from time immemorial have praised the subject matter of the Bhagavadgita
its deft handling. Also, from the change noticeable in the behavior of its
student Arjuna, before and after the teaching, it becomes clear that certainly
something very valuable has been grasped in between.
If it be
so, why there is confusion for some?
knowledge is not grasped by a person there can be two possibilities.
Either there is
nothing in it for him to know or there is a need for some improvement on
his part such as the state of his mind to understand that particular
highest to be achieved and Krishna imparts the same to him. Naturally the
highest cannot be a common knowledge and to comprehend it one requires patience,
(faith) and concentration or focused effort.
qualities are developed relentlessly the subject matter will shine in
one's understanding like a clear crystal. On the other hand, if a person goes
through the scripture any number of times with a mind tainted by his own likes and dislikes then
he will find the same subject
matter confusingly contradictory and devoid of any true merit.
seen how a developed mind is a pre-requisite for the
study of the Bhagavadgita, in the absence of which one may find in it contradictions and
difficulties in comprehension.
If one wants to know whether one has such qualified disposition, one
should read the verses 7 to 11 from the Chapter 13 of the Bhagavadgita, wherein Lord Krishna
enumerates the 20 qualities required by a a student to grasp the highest Knowledge revealed by
If a person does not have one or many of these qualities, which is
more likely, then what should he do? Should he abandon the study of the Bhagavadgita?
No, not necessary. What he should do is to keep developing those qualities
he feels he is lacking in and simultaneously persist with his efforts to unravel the mysteries of the Bhagavadgita,
under the guidance of a qualified Guru. (Teacher). The role and
importance of studying the scripture under the guidance of a qualified teacher
or master will be discussed in detail in the later parts.
process, although one has to wait for some time to develop the required qualities
to understand the significance and true purport of the Bhagavadgita, the
very process of the effort he makes is bound to enhance the
quality of his life, with or without any appreciable change in the
quality or mode of his worldly success.
In the study of the Bhagavadgita not only the end, which is the attainment of
the Highest, is important, but also the means, the very journey towards
the Highest, is fruitful and a source of delight.
Now, we will move on to another observation which is usually made about the Bhagavadgita. Some
people say that the Bhagavadgita is a murderous Text because it has instigated an
who was otherwise preparing himself to lay down the arms to engage in a
cruel and catastrophic, which resulted in the mass destruction of numerous lives. They
question how such a sanguine plot can have any divine teaching in that? Let
us analyze the truth in this observation.
great Indian epic Mahabharata the scene was set for a huge
war. Over awed by the event, the hero of the war, Arjuna,
surrendered to Lord Krishna and asked for the best teaching to be imparted
to him ( Chapter 2 Verse 7 ). At this point, before the start of the
war, Lord Krishna, God in human form, taught to his nephew and friend
Arjuna the eternal subject of realizing the highest attainable by a human
being. The teaching is what is called as Bhagavad Bhagavadgita ( Song of the
God ). At the end of the teaching, Arjuna, who was thus far grief-stricken and
mentally unwilling to go to war, rose to the occasion and caused terrible destruction
to the enemy camp to help his side emerge victorious in the end.
context of the teaching is sometimes commented upon. The great Bhagavadgita
referred as a murderous text because instead of bringing about peace, it
has has precipitated a violent and destructive war in which countless
lives were lost besides great destruction of property.
true dispenser of the fruits of our actions and also as the upholder of
the peaceful equilibrium of the entire creation, God is duty bound to protect
righteousness ( dharma ) and destroy un-righteousness ( adharma ). In
the exercise of this duty, in the role of Lord Krishna, God taught us the
highest truth attainable by a human being, the Knowledge of Self, by knowing which
one becomes free from the bondage of earthly life. The need for a a life
of righteousness as a precondition to grasp this knowledge also finds its place in
or un-righteousness do not exist independent of people who pursue them. It is the duty of a just ruler to deal
effectively with this problem, lest chaos will only prevail. In doing that sacred duty one
should not fall prey to one’s own attachments and emotions. In wiping
out the un-righteous, all that one needs is to see whether sufficient
opportunity has been given to the wrong doers to correct themselves
before taking necessary corrective measures to establish order and
At the end of the teaching, Lord Krishna declared to Arjuna that he had
imparted him the most
secret and sacred truth and suggested him to act as
he deemed fit. ( Chapter 18 Verse 63). As a
valiant fighter and a proclaimed student of the Lord chosen by Him to be taught the
highest, what choice Arjuna had but to continue with his duty of war against the
another stand point also, one can this find this particular observation of the
Bhagavadgita as a murderous text as baseless and not conforming to logic.
In Chapter 4 verse 8 in the Bhagavadgita, three functions are attributed to an
incarnation of God. They are:
- To protect the righteous.
- To annihilate the Un-righteous, and
- To establish the rule of Righteousness. (Dharma).
We have seen that by imparting the right knowledge Lord Krishna ensured
that the divine plan went ahead smoothly as He wanted. His selection of the time
and venue for His teaching can be appreciated in the context of the
subject matter of the Bhagavadgita also. Imparting Brahmavidya, the Knowledge of
the Self , is the Goal of the teaching. The Yogasastra, Action with a Certain Attitude ( Karma Yoga
) is the means which has been explained in complete detail in the Bhagavadgita
in view of the plurality of the nature of human minds. This may
sound contradictory of purpose. If Knowledge is to be gained, why action
All Knowledge has to take place in the mind only. Driven
by their own combination of natural attributes, ( Sattva, Rajas and
Tamas Gunas) human beings continuously engage in actions hoping to
achieve some result or the other. Depending upon the nature of result
attained the human mind is agitated by the successes and
failures it encounters in the course of its actions. Successes are sought
after, failures are frowned upon and each action is followed by another
action endlessly. This being the case then can ordinary human beings
stop indulging in desire oriented actions and attempt to gain only the Supreme Knowledge? It is easier said than done.
It is impossible for any one to remain without actions while they
are continuously driven by their respective qualities of nature.
Knowledge cannot be gained by a mind that is attached to desire driven
action. It has to be perceived by a mind that is quiet and detached but
still engaged in action since it is impossible for us to be completely
free from all actions, mental or physical. If that be so, what is the solution for this quagmire?
Lord Krishna offers a solution to this problem in his teachings in the Bhagavadgita, by introducing the famous and ingenious concept, popularly known as Karma Yoga,
Action with a Certain Attitude. The Karma Yoga topic will be
discussed in detail later. The essence of this concept is that every
person must do his enjoined duty to the best of his ability as an
oblation, ( Iswararpitha Buddhi ), to God who is the true giver of such abilities to
all of us. And when he attains the result of his action he must have
the attitude to accept it as a gift from God (
Prasada Buddhi ). Such a disposition of doing desireless actions and accepting
results, results in the purification of the mind and qualifies
him to receive the
highest Knowledge, knowing which one is freed from the bondage to the
earthly life and the sense
Action is inevitable. Doing it with a certain attitude purifies the mind
and only a pure mind is qualified to receive the teaching. The teaching
imparts the Knowledge of Self, the highest attainable by a human being,
which Knowledge alone frees one from bondage and the sense of
limitation. Freed from bondage and the sense of limitation one discovers
oneself to be Happy!!!. Which is what one is always chasing.
While emphasizing the role of Action for one's spiritual advancement,
Lord Krishna does not leave one with any choice. Perhaps, this was
why, he chose to deliver his teaching when the most difficult action was
to be performed . Arjuna, the great warrior King, said he was willing to live on
alms rather than waging a war against his own
fraternity, revered elders and most importantly his own teacher of
warfare.( Chapter 2 Verse 5 ). Lord Krishna disagreed and logically
proved that action that needed to be done must be done, irrespective of one's likes
and dislikes, to achieve purification of mind and attain the
highest Knowledge of Self. If such a grave action of war was no
exception, what can be said about the ordinary actions we all perform in
our day to day lives.
So, truly speaking, it is not war what Lord Krishna encourage, but right action with
a certain attitude. For emphasizing the importance of performing actions
in human life no other context would have better suited.
Therefore, the observation that God encouraged war is not tenable. In
the same Mahabharata we see how Lord Krishna exhausted all possible
efforts to avert a war. In the context of the teaching, war must
be construed as an undesirable action which needs to be performed if it
becomes a part of ones ordained duty and should not be confused with an action of annihilation and
The battle field context can be analyzed from yet another stand point.
Next: Why Study the Bhagavadgita Part 5 to 7
Suggested Further Reading
About the Author: Mr.N.Amarnath is currently working as a Manager in State Bank Of India. He is a former Olympian
(Moscow 1980) and served as India's Captain during the 1982 Asian Games
in basket Ball. He has been a student of the Bhagavad Gita for the past 6 years,
attending one class each week. He considers himself for being
fortunate to have been taught the subject matter in a traditional manner
by a qualified Guru.