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An Introduction to the Bhagavad-Gita And Its Three Secrets

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by Jayaram V

The Gita is not meant for any one person or creed or nation; it is meant for humanity. It speaks to a mind that has fought in life, a mind that is dissatisfied with constant want, a mind that is alert and thinking, and that has many conflicts. (Swami Dayananda from the Teaching of the Bhagavad Gita)

The Bhagavad-Gita is one of the most ancient religious scriptures of the world. It contains the direct message of God. It is a dialogue between God and his closest devotee. The discourse was delivered originally in Sanskrit, but today its translations are available almost in every language. The antiquity of the Bhagavad-Gita is hidden in tradition, ancient scriptures, myths and legends. Its history, content and personality are intimately connected to the life of Lord Krishna, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and the Yadava hero, who played a crucial role in the war of the epic Mahabharata.

Lord Vishnu incarnated in the form of Lord Krishna to root out evil and establish dharma or righteous living upon earth. He participated in the drama of human life and left behind his discourse in the form of the Bhagavad-Gita for the benefit of future generations. The scripture is truly an icon of the Sanatana-dharama, an ageless and valuable ancient discourse that has the potential to play a significant role in the alleviation of suffering in all branches of human life, in a world that has been increasingly becoming more complex and unstable.

The central philosophy of the Bhagavad-Gita characterizes in many ways the central theme of Hinduism even in today's context. It contains the message of divine centered living based upon right knowledge, faith, devotion, self-surrender, detachment and dispassionate performance of tasks as opposed to the ego centered living that is characterized by incessant striving, self-centered thinking, egoism, and suffering arising out of non-attainment of desires, or union with the undesired objects or separation from the desired objects. The book is a discourse of immense spiritual value, for people engaged in daily battles of life, symbolically or even truly reflected by the episode of Arjuna, who was stricken with sorrow and confusion, being taught and assisted by God himself, in the middle of the battle field of Kurukshetra where good and evil forces stood in confrontation with each other.

The Bhagavad-Gita reveals how any one can perform ordinary duties in the world and yet remain free from the consequences of ones actions. It is not by inaction, not even by doing only the so called good deeds, but by doing deeds without the sense of doer-ship, as a sacrificial offering to God, in the true spirit of renunciation, but without shunning the responsibility that comes with the birth.

The scripture deals with such basic concepts as the nature of our existence, the nature of the true self, our true relationship with God, the truth about action and inaction, the correct meaning of knowledge and ignorance, the inborn qualities of man and how the actions bind him to the mortal world, the meaning of true devotion, the right attitude towards the external world, the meaning and purpose of maya and so on.

The Bhagavad-Gita is a book of self-discovery and inward journey into the Abode of God. It helps one move from sorrow driven mortal existence to eternal and blissful life. Desire is central to all human activity. By eliminating the desires, but by not abandoning the actions, one can free oneself from the bondage caused by the desire driven actions. Such an approach not only liberates us from the struggling and striving that characterizes our egoistic actions, but also reduces greatly our inner anxieties and frustrations, creating in us in the process a permanent basis for a stable, peaceful and contended life.

According to the Bhagavad-Gita the external world is unreal not because it does not exist, but because it is unstable and ever changing. Since it is based upon impermanence, it cannot be relied upon as the vehicle of truth and it should not become the purpose of ones existence. He who clings to such an unstable phenomenon is bound to suffer as he is bound to engage himself in desperate actions to retain his unstable possessions and experience constant anxiety, anger, fear and envy.

Therefore the Bhagavad-Gita searches for a permanent reality that makes life more meaningful, stable, peaceful and purposeful. It discards layer after layer of untruth that surrounds us and reveals the shining self that exists in all of us as the center of truth and permanence that we should all ultimately discover. It is by understanding the hidden Self in us we will ultimately discover the Supreme Self, That exists in all of us and in Whom we all exist.

Great scholars of the Bhagavad-Gita say that the scripture fundamentally deals with three primary teachings, which are called the three secrets. The first secret is about duty. One must do ones duty in accordance with ones nature (swadharmacharana). The second is about the hidden self. In every one there is a real and hidden self which is different from the external false self. Every one must realize this difference between the outer self and the inner self. The third secret is about the omnipresence of God. One must live in this world with the awareness that all that exists in this world is but Vasudeva.

These three secrets are known as guhya (secret), guhyatara (more secret) and guhyatma (most secret). The second, third, fourth, fifth and eighteenth chapters deal with the first secret. The second, sixth, thirteenth to eighteenth chapters deal with the second secret. The third, seventh, eight, ninth, tenth to eighteenth chapters deal with the third secret.

The Bhagavad-Gita has profoundly effected the Indian way of life for millenniums. Its teachings have been at the core of the Hindu fundamental beliefs for time immemorial. They are ageless and relevant even today.

Originally written in Sanskrit, the scripture has been translated into many languages all over the world and is now easily available to interested readers in most parts of the world. It attracted the attention of many scholars for centuries.

Each verse and every chapter in it is loaded with multiple meanings, enabling each to understand it and interpret it in his own way. The more we read the Bhagavad-Gita, the greater is our insight into its deepest secrets. The more we read it, the stronger our feeling that we know but little about it.

When we feel that we have understood it all and can safely go elsewhere for inspiration, a particular verse or a chapter again starts bothering us with its new wisdom or a perplexing insight. That is why today we have so many interpretations of the Bhagavad-Gita from various scholars.

The Bhagavad-Gita contains 18 chapters and 700 verses, which are attributed to the four principle participants of the narration in the following manner:

1. Dhritarashtra 1

2. Sanjaya 41

3. Arjuna 84

4. Lord Krishna 574

Each verse is considered to be a very sacred mantra. The seed mantra of this scripture is said to be the 11th verse in Chapter II. The shakti mantra of this scripture, because of which it is endowed with the divine blessings and able to exert influence on the mankind for centuries, is said to be the 66th verse in Chapter 18.

In all in the entire Bhagavad-Gita, Lord Krishna has been addressed with 27 different names and titles. These are : Anantarupa, Achyuta, Arisudhana, Krishna, Kesava, Kesanishudana, Kamalapatraksha, Govinda, Jagadpatih, Jagannivasa, Janardhana, Devedeva, Devavarah, Purushottama, Bhagawan, Bhutabhavana, Bhutesah, Madhusudhana, Mahabahu, Madhavah, Yadava, Yogaviththama, Vasudeva, Varsheya, Vishnuh, Hrisikesa and Harih.

Whether the Bhagavad-Gita is a revelation or an actual event is a matter of great controversy. Looking to the depth of symbolism involved and the basic purpose of the whole scripture, the former possibility seems to be more acceptable than the latter. Veda Vyasa is regarded as the author of the book. It is not clear from where Veda Vyasa got the whole information since it was Sanjaya, not Veda Vyasa who was the direct witness to the whole discourse between Lord Krishna and Arjuna. Either Vedavyasa might have heard it from one of the participants or he got it through his inner experience, which is generally the case with all the shruti literature.

It is possible that the scripture might have entered the human consciousness as a revelation. It is even possible that the entire episode of the Mahabharata might have happened on a different plane and become a part of the human collective consciousness through the inner eye.

Whether revelation came to Veda Vyasa or to some other sage, we would rather leave the matter to historians and scholars to debate. What is more important is that the Bhagavad-Gita is a divine message for the troubled humanity and it provides many solutions to our day to day problems and helps us to balance our temporal lives with our spiritual needs.

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