Essays on the Gita

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And Bhagavad Gita, basically is so synthetic, and there are so many rivers flowing into it and confluence of all these rivers, that it is quite easy to pick up one line, or one river and say, "This is the river of the Bhagavad Gita, and all other rivers are only tributaries of that particular river." It can be argued, and you can go on wasting your time in discussing all these kinds of theories, that can be one attitude. If that is your interest, fine, you can study the Bhagavad Gita from that point of view also.

Sri Aurobindo asks this question: Is it really the reason why we should, you and I, turn to the Gita?..... We, who belong to our present times, we who are passing through a very difficult time, there are certain pressing problems of our times, and we are looking for a solution to those pressing problems. So our fundamental question should be: ‘for pressing problems of today, for answering those questions most effectively, most fully, is there anything in the Gita?’ That is our real demand from the Gita. Our present problems which are pressing upon us, and we want to solve these problems and we want to fulfill ourselves today, in the present time so that we feel that all that was to be done by us at present, we have done, our very best and for doing that, all the knowledge we wanted, we have tried to find that knowledge.

If that is your attitude, Sri Aurobindo says, that is why he has written this book. It is not a book written for scholastic reasons,…. for establishing one theory against the other like a dialectician, the purpose is not historical; this kind of a spirit with which we may approach the Gita and whoever likes to approach it, can approach it. But Sri Aurobindo says that it is not our approach. That is to say all of us, who are keen to do our very best in the present circumstances of the world, and who are keen to find out knowledge from wherever it may be, it is in that spirit that we approach the Bhagavad Gita and ask this question: We have problems, do you have an answer to this question? So, Sri Aurobindo says, we are knocking the doors of the Bhagavad Gita in this spirit. Therefore in this book you will not find the kind of battle that you find in many books written on the Gita, whether Sri Krishna existed or not; whether Arjuna had really the time to listen to the discourse on the battlefield or not; whether Sri Krishna is a Vaishnava, the first god of the world, or second god of the world; or Trimurti and relationship with Sri Krishna – all these questions will not find any place in this book because these questions are not relevant to our basic seeking. We are pressed by the problems of today, we want to do our very best, we want to solve the problems, we want the light.

It is in this context that Sri Aurobindo says that we have to realise….. that when we read the Gita, the most important element in the Gita is something that is relevant to our own times, and that is the spirit of synthesis. Our modern times have reached a point, where the spirit of synthesis has become most prominent. If you examine the psychology of modern times, where various points of views have been explored during the last five centuries in the history of the world, and we are emerging from five centuries of experience, where we find that every point of view has some truth behind it. This is the one conclusion that the modern mind is now arriving at. Even the exclusive religions today are opening up saying: that there might be some truth in some other religions, although my religion tells me the 'highest'. But still, even then, we are ready to say that Islam may have something to say which is useful, Christianity may have something which is useful. So today, we are not in that situation where we say that ‘My point of view is the only point of view and other points of views have no truth at all.' We are not actually at present at that stage of development; we have gone beyond that stage.

That is why in the very first paragraph, Sri Aurobindo describes our mood, our present condition, while the world abounds in religions and scriptures with revelations and half–revelations; and there was a time where people were killing each other in the name of religion because of 'exclusivism', and today we have become wiser so that we are at least tolerant enough to say that some other religions, or some other points of view may have the truth behind it. But above all this, the most important tendency of our times is to see that even `our own' point of view may not be the `supreme' point of view; even that `modern man' is even prepared to accept it that, 'although I might have been taught a certain point of view, I might see a great value in it, today I think it is the supreme point of view'. But if you are really modern in the true sense of the term, you will realise that you are prepared to accept that even `my' point of view may not be the 'supreme' point of view. So, it is in that sense that today we are moving, with that psychology.

This is the period in which a great synthesis is a dominant tendency and it is in that spirit that Bhagavad Gita comes to us with a tremendous freshness, because among many books of the world, if there is one characteristic which is so supreme in the Bhagavad Gita, is its own tendency towards 'synthesis'. Bhagavad Gita is a book of synthesis. And that is a great relevance of the Gita. Today it is something that corresponds to our psychology, our own mind wants to see the synthesis by finding out the truth behind various points of view, and arrive at a large and comprehensive truth in which all the propositions find their full satisfaction. Their corrections, if there are any, and yet their full satisfaction.

In fact, in one of the talks, Mother said, "What is the meaning of a synthesis?" And She said, "A true synthesis is one in which the truth of each contradictory statement is discovered, and then brought together in such a way that each standpoint finds its full satisfaction." Although at a given time it was contradictory of the other, but when you have discovered the truth of  that point of view and the truth of another point of view, and when it is presented to `all' of them, then `each one' finds that in which my proposition is fully satisfied. When you arrive at that point, then you feel that this is a real synthesis in which nothing is denied. It is actually a denial of denials, a true synthesis denies all denials in which there is a complete affirmation.

Now, Bhagavad Gita has this tremendous value for the modern man because of the fact …..that it is a book of great synthesis and it is this synthesis whicuh is so relevant and therefore when we turn to the Gita and see how Shri Krishna is able to synthesise. What is the method…….. by which Sri Krishna's synthesizes so many points of views? As Sri Aurobindo says that Bhagavad Gita is not Monism although it states Monism; Bhagavad Gita is not Vishishtadvaita although it accepts the truth of Vishishtadvaita; it is not Dualism, although it accepts the truth of Dualism; it is not Karma Yoga although it accepts Karma Yoga; it is not merely Jnana Yoga although it accepts Jnana Yoga; it is not merely Bhakti Yoga but it accepts Bhakti Yoga. Every statement that you can make regarding the positions, regarding the Truth, and regarding the methods by which the Truth can be achieved, all  this is stated here in such a manner that all of them find a confluence and the ultimate answer that we get is a complete synthesis and the satisfaction of all the parts of our being. This is what happens if you read the Gita in this light and in this search.

So try to read the Gita not to establish this position or that position, but try to see how the Bhagavad Gita arrives at a 'grand' synthesis. And this is that grand synthesis ……..which is very relevant to us today, because if you learn the Bhagavad Gita, you will know how to synthesize.

As pointed out by Sri Aurobindo, ‘today mankind is standing at the head of a great synthesis’. Today the truth of all the religions is being examined with fresh eyes; there are many movements of ‘interfaith understanding’, ‘parliament of religions’, where all kinds of religions are being studied in a fresh manner. Most of the religions are theistic because they believe in God but the modern feeling is that we should not confine ourselves only to `theistic' religions. Religions like Buddhism, which is not theistic – it is even atheistic, – even these religions are now coming upon us with a recovered sense and presents itself as one of those religions which have to be understood properly, even by `theistic' religion, this atheistic religion is coming upon mankind with such a great force that we all are forced to understand even the atheistic religion.

Even modern knowledge of science, it has become such a dominant thing that religions can no more remain blind to the modern developments of science. Many scientific discoveries have challenged some of the beliefs of religions, and there has been a lot of conflict between science and religion.  And ultimately the modern mood is to see whether religion and science can be combined together, can arrive at a synthesis. There is a modern tendency today to realise that even beyond religion there is something like spirituality, in which all religions can be united and on the base of which even science can be united, and therefore that could yield a new kind of science, in which the truth of spirituality and the truth of science can be all amalgamated and synthesized. That is why Sri Aurobindo says we must remember that: "We do not belong to the dawns of the past but to the noons of the future."(Essays on the Gita, SABCE Vo1.13, P.8) We are not going to repeat what was done in the past, so be respectful to the past and derive from the past, but don’t bind yourself with the past. Open yourself in which all the knowledge of the past syntheses, present conflicts, the present knowledge, which is being recovered, all of them come together and they get synthesized.

It is in the search of this synthesis that Sri Aurobindo says that Bhagavad Gita is bound to play a most important role and because of that reason, it is necessary that we turn to the Gita and what is study it. This is a real justification why we should read the Gita today, why we should get our children to read the Gita, because if they do not read the Gita, ……this capacity of synthesis which must be built in our children will not come. It is a very important element. If you do not know that synthesis, even the new synthesis, which is demanded for the new days, will not be able to be arrived at.

So if you really want to understand the secret of synthesis, all the past syntheses have to be studied and the new synthesis has to be built up. This is the demand of our times. Therefore we demand from the Gita, whether it has any light to offer to us in this context.

In fact, Sri Aurobindo says that there have been in the history of India itself, right from the time of the Vedas to the present day, several systems of synthesis – not one. Therefore not only that we should read only the Gita and nothing else, we need to read even much more! Gita of course has to be studied but we should not go with the idea that that is the only thing to be studied, even that would be a mistake, because in the history of India itself there have been many syntheses in the past and we have to understand all the synthesis , if we really want to succeed in arriving at a synthesis for the future.

The first synthesis was the Veda itself. In fact, where Sri Aurobindo describes the synthesis of the past, ……. Sri Aurobindo, has summarized the synthesis so briefly that when you read this paragraph, you realise that it is one of the most difficult paragraphs.

In fact I shall read this paragraph so that it may become easier for you to follow, where….. Sri Aurobindo describes the synthesis that was achieved in the Vedic times, the synthesis of the Upanishads, the synthesis of the Bhagavad Gita, the synthesis of Tantra and now the modern tendencies towards further synthesis. So before we can arrive…… at future synthesis where the Gita will certainly play a role we also need to take into account the synthesis right from the time of the Vedas. So we have to tell our children do not be confined only to the Gita. There are many people who claim that the Gita .......

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