by Jayaram V
The study of the Bhagavadgita leads to an understanding of Hinduism,
beliefs and practices. The text is actually a summary of the principles and
practices of Hinduism, presented from a spiritual perspective for the liberation
of its followers. It became popular in the early Christian era, at a time when
the Mathura region, the birthplace of Lord Krishna came under the influence of
foreign rulers like Sakas and the Kushanas, probably as an answer to the
growing popularity of Buddhism and Jainism. The scripture is divided into 18
chapters, containing several verses which deal with various subjects such as the
self, the body and the senses, Nature, God, rebirth, social divisions, various
paths that lead to salvation, gunas or qualities and how to achieve liberation
through devotion and surrender to God. Although it is a long scripture,
basically it runs in the form of a conversation between Lord Krishna and Arjuna in the
middle of the battle field, witnessed remotely by two more characters.
Strange as it may seem, the
principal characters of the Bhagavadgita symbolically represent the various ways in which spiritual experience can take place in man.
The Bhagavadgita is probably one of the most dissected, discussed and debated
scriptures of Hinduism. Those who read its verses regularly find new meaning in
them with each reading. The verses make an excellent subject for contemplation
and meditation, besides providing providing hints and insights to people looking
for solutions to their day to day problems. The scripture can be symbolically interpreted at various levels. Even the seemingly most inconsequential verse in the book may have deep symbolic meaning, discernible only to the deeply meditative minds.
We can learn a lot from the Bhagavadgita by the study and understanding of its principal characters, each of whom represents a particular energy, component or trait in the human beings. Since the
Bhagavadgita is essentially a book of divine messages for the spiritual advancement of mankind, we confine our study in this chapter to the interpretation of its main characters from this aspect.
To begin with, the main characters of the Bhagavadgita are four. Apart from Lord Krishna, who is its author and hero, we come come across three other characters, who witness the whole drama, participate in the divine discourse and receive divine knowledge. Symbolically, these three individuals represent the three methods by which man can receive divine knowledge from God.
Arjuna represents the first method. He is the direct recipient of the Gita. Sanjaya represents the second method. He receives it through clairvoyance, while Dhritarashtra, the blind king receives it through the word of Sanjaya.
The direct method which Arjuna represents is possible only to very highly evolved souls who are very rare to come across in human history. There might not be many people in human history who might have stood face to face to with God and conversed with Him so elaborately on temporal and spiritual matters as Arjuna did. But Arjuna was a blessed soul who was given that rare honor and privilege by Lord Krishna.
Sanjaya, the psychic was not so fortunate. But he too was a man of immense spiritual strength who had mastered his body and mind to such an extent that they became perfect vehicles to receive the divine knowledge through his psychic abilities without being hindered by his lower nature.
History is replete with instances where men received divine knowledge through their psychic powers. Many spiritual truths have been rendered into religious verses through this method. Sanjaya was the ablest among them. He received the entire Gita through his mind's eye.
He was such a pure soul that there was no trace of distortion or egoistic interference in his receptivity or expression. He was truly and immensely a man of divine vision endowed with perfect psychic powers. No wonder the Lord selected him as His vehicle for imparting the knowledge to Dhritarashtra.
Dhritarashtra received the knowledge through the third and the most common method: from another person, from Sanjaya, the knowledgeable one who had already received the knowledge from God (directly or indirectly). It is pertinent to note here that Dhritarashtra in the Mahabharata is a blind king.
His blindness in the Gita symbolically stands for his ignorance or spiritual blindness. An imperfect soul, driven by his desires and deeply attached to his family and kingdom, it is well known that it was actually his blind passion for the throne of the Kuru empire and his hidden partiality for his children which ultimately led to the battle of Mahabharata.
He was the central character who unleashed or permitted the forces of destruction. Perhaps because of this reason and perhaps in order to give him an opportunity to transform himself that Lord Krishna gave him a chance to receive the divine knowledge indirectly through the mouth of Sanjaya, a learned man.
And finally we have this whole army of the Kauravas and the Pandavas, with
their machinery of warfare, waiting anxisosly for the conversation to end. They
have been very much there in the battlefield while the Gita pravachan
(discourse) was going on. But did they know it? Did they have any idea of what
was going on in the middle of the battle field between Arjuna and Lord Krishna?
Probably they were not. They were waiting impatiently for Arjuna to climb back
into the chariot so that they could get on with their business of fighting the
war. The armies of Pandavas and Kauravas represent the world in general, the
worldly people, who are oblivious of all the divine activity amidst them even
when it happens right in front of their eyes or in the midst of their lives.
That is how probably the Divine wills and acts in mysterious ways.
Suggested Further Reading