Essays on the Gita

Track Running Track 203

So if that is the truth, that means that He knew what is Svabhava and Svadharma for Himself, which was specific, which was different from what was true for Arjuna. So it is in that plastic sense that we should take the words, which are used in the Gita.

Another word that Sri Aurobindo takes up is the word Shastra. It is said in the Bhagavad Gita that you should always follow the Shastra. What is the meaning of Shastra? If you read the Bhagavad Gita very closely, you'll find that along with the word Shastra there is also a great insistence upon shraddha. And while distinguishing between the two, Sri Krishna also says that you should act according to Shraddha.

And in the last chapter, Sri Krishna even discusses three kinds of Shraddha: the Tamasic Shraddha, Rajasic Shraddha and Sattwic Shraddha. And if you have to follow Shraddha, and it is a conflict between Shastra and Shraddha then, what happens?

In fact, this is one of the last questions of Arjuna and says that if somebody deviates from Shastra, but deviates with Shraddha, then what would be the consequence? In fact this is one of the very important questions which is asked by Arjuna, and from where Sri Krishna answers a question at a very deep level, and it is from there that He develops the idea and says that Shraddha is so important that if you really do with Sattwicki Shraddha, then you arrive ultimately to a point where you transcend all Dharmas.

So you have a Dharma of your group, Dharma of your own self, but the culmination comes, when you transcend everything, all Shastras, sarva–dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam (XVIII, 66). So  you transcend all dharmas, so you transcend Shastra, you transcend svadharma, everything, and you just belong to the Divine. And then the Divine pours Himself into you, and manifests all that He has to manifest through you and there is no limit to it. All Dharmas, all Shastras are limitations but all are transcended when the Divine Himself begins to act through you.

Now, this Bhagavad Gita itself while discussing these words, transforms the meanings of the accepted terms, which were used at that time. So now, when you translate the word "Shastra" you should be careful, even when it is said by Sri Krishna, you should follow Shastra, you should read this word in the context not only of that particular point where it is expressed but on the totality of the whole Bhagavad Gita what ultimately it means. This shows that while you read the Bhagavad Gita, one has to be very careful……. while interpreting certain specific words which if they are not applied rightly and truly in the deepest spiritual sense, they may bind you to certain wrong ties instead of liberating you. And then, you may be led to prescribe something which is not valid for our times. And therefore you might say, even a critic……. might say: "Oh! Sri Krishna spoke of four castes and the present moment of life in the world is opposed to all classes and all castes, throw them away! Therefore Bhagavad Gita has no relevance today at all"; and this can be a prescription also of the critics that Bhagavad Gita today has no relevance.

The ultimate upshot of all this is, that Sri Aurobindo says: We turn to the Bhagavad Gita for what reason? Why do we want to study the Bhagavad Gita at all? Bhagavad Gita can be studied in many ways, with many kind of attitudes: one attitude is to study it as a part of history, and you discuss many questions like: did Bhagavad Gita really form a part of Mahabharata? Or was it an interpolation later on? This is one of the important questions …….many scholars are dealing with Bhagavad ­Gita in that sense. Is it a fact that Sri Krishna recited the Bhagavad Gita on the battlefield? Was there sufficient time at that time to expound such a long, long, long debate and discourse on the battlefield when all of them are ready to shoot each other? Questions of this kind also can be debated while dealing with the Bhagavad Gita and you can write two volumes on that subject. There are so many commentaries, so many ideas, so many proofs, `disproofs'; and you can go on into that labyrinth and you can waste your time over it. If that is your interest! Fine. It is all right if you want to decide this question. Fine! But Sri Aurobindo says, if you and I are about to turn to the Bhagavad Gita, let us not turn to the Gita to discuss these questions. There is something much more important in the Gita.

The Bhagavad Gita can be also studied from a scholastic point of view. When a scholar studies the Bhagavad Gita he takes every word very seriously,…. in a very rigid manner and then says: 'etymology of this word is this, gradually it came to mean this, in due course when the Bhagavad Gita was composed it came to mean this, and therefore that is the real meaning of the Bhagavad Gita'. In regard to which we just now took the example of the words: Yajna, Shastra, Shraddha, and many other words. So that could be a scholastic discussion of Bhagavad Gita.

 Then there is also another way by which people are studying the Bhagavad Gita: you may be a Monist,….. you may be an Advaitin, you may be a Dvaiti who believes in dualism, you may be a Vishishtadvaiti, believing in Vishishtadvaita (qualified monism), you may be a Vaishnava, where you want to prove that Sri Krishna is all in all the world and He is the Ultimate Reality. There are many ways by which you want to read the Bhagavad Gita and want to prescribe to people: "Look, my theory of Monism is exactly the theory given by the Gita and therefore you should follow the Gita, since Gita is a great scripture you should follow it, and since Gita prescribes Monism, therefore you should become Monist". This could be one way of interest in which you study the Bhagavad Gita. Or you might say, "Look, I am Advaitin, and when you read the Bhagavad Gita, there is a full support to dvaitavada. Bhagavad Gita is opposed to Monism, it is opposed to Vishishtadvaita, it is  purely a theory of dvaita. And when one may study the whole of the Gita from this point of view, and there are many dialecticians today, who want to prove or disprove that this word which is used `there' was only subordinate, `that' word which was used there was the most important word, and therefore you should give more importance to `that' word and not to 'this' word, and in the Bhagavad Gita if one goes on searching you can find so many statements.

We use cookies in this webiste to support its technical features, analyze its performance and enhance your user experience. To find out more please read our privacy policy.