Essays on the Gita

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This is the psychology which today rules over the whole world, except in a few individuals who have grown out of this exclusivism; but otherwise this is the general tendency today even those who hold religious conferences in order to arrive at understanding – even when they claim that others have got some truth or much truth – they still try to believe in their own life, in their own meaning that after all, ‘My religion is superior to all the others; that I have a truth which none others has got.’ This is the psychology which divides the world today very seriously. It is in this context that the Gita is being studied now by us. So let us not fall into this kind of a pit, because all these exclusivists, when they study their own religious Scripture, they want people to accept every word written there, as Sri Aurobindo says, even a comma, or a diacritical mark which is there, they would not like it to be changed, as if it is the last word in the Truth.

This raises the question as to what is the authority of truth. How do you know that truth is Truth? And why is it that so many people in the world have upheld one book, one scripture, as containing the highest truth? What is the reason for this? And it is in that context we have to ask ourselves whether the Gita that we are going to study, are we going to make the same kind of claim that the highest Truth is here and no other truth anywhere exists, and that every word that is given here is absolutely final and there has been no expansion at all?

Fortunately, in India we have a tradition, it says: ananta veda, the Vedas are infinite. And this is a very great liberating truth, so that we may say that even the Vedas that we read are not claimed to be `the' Truth or the only truth exclusively, something that is confined in the four corners of the Scriptures that we read as Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, Atharva Veda. If the Vedas are ananta, then there are so many things still remaining to be told, to be revealed, to be brought out: then, if that is true of the origin of the Gita, then what to talk of the Gita itself?

So this is a fortunate circumstance in India that right from the beginning, our minds are free from this kind of bigotry – although this bigotry exists, but basically in our own tradition there is an opening of a gate which can liberate us from this bigotry. Now it is in that spirit that we are going to study the Gita, not as something which is finally true, for all times to be true, but to see what truths it contains, and if the whole of the Gita is nothing but the truth, to keep in consciousness that there are many things which are not in the Gita, many other truths, which are not in the Gita. There are even for example many truths of the Veda, which are not in the Gita. The Gita may be regarded as a quintessence of the Veda, but the richness of the Veda is not in the Gita. The Gita is an episode, at a given occasion, and whatever was relevant to that occasion has been answered. But although it is called the quintessence of the Upanishads, the richness of the Upanishads is not in the Gita. Therefore, we cannot make a claim that all that is true is in the Gita, that the Gita gives you the final word of the truth and that there is nowhere any truth anywhere else or whatever truth anywhere else exists is subordinate to this truth. This is not the attitude with which we are going to study the Gita and this is to be very clear in the minds of everyone that if you study the Gita from other point of view we shall be blinded by truth but not enlightened.

"It may therefore be useful in approaching an ancient Scripture, such as the Veda, Upanishads or Gita, to indicate precisely the spirit in which we approach it and what exactly we think we may derive from it that is of value to humanity and its future. First of all, there is undoubtedly a Truth one and eternal which we are seeking, from which all other truth derives, by the light of which all other truth finds its right place, explanation and relation to the scheme of knowledge. But precisely for that reason it cannot be shut up in a single trenchant formula, it is not likely to be found in its entirety or in all its bearings in any single philosophy or Scripture or uttered altogether and forever by any one teacher, thinker, prophet or Avatar. Nor has it been wholly found by us if our view of it necessitates the intolerant exclusion of the truth underlying other systems; for when we reject passionately, we mean simply that we cannot appreciate and explain. Secondly, this Truth, though it is one and eternal, expresses itself in Time and through the mind of man; therefore every Scripture must necessarily contain two elements, one temporary, perishable, belonging to the ideas of the period and country in which it was produced, the other eternal and imperishable and applicable in all ages and countries. Moreover, in the statement of the Truth the actual form given to it, the system and arrangement, the metaphysical and intellectual mould, the precise expression used must be largely subject to the mutations of Time and cease to have the same force; for the human intellect modifies itself always; continually dividing and putting together it is obliged to shift its divisions continually and to rearrange its syntheses; it is always leaving old expression and symbol for new or, if it uses the old, it so changes its connotation or at least its exact content and association that we can never be quite sure of understanding an ancient book of this kind precisely in the sense and spirit it bore to its contemporaries. What is of entirely permanent value is that which besides being universal has been experienced, lived and seen with a higher than the intellectual vision.”

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