Essays on the Gita

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It is claimed that the Gita is the summary of all that has been said in the Vedas, Upanishads, and therefore you don’t need to go to all of them, you just read the Gita and once you have learnt the Gita, you know all the knowledge that is given in the Vedas and the Upanishads. Now fundamentally, this proposition is true, a summary, essential, is always of this nature. But human life is not only based on summary and not only based upon essence; they are very important, but life is multifarious manifestation. Therefore for dealing with life, you cannot be confined only to essence or to the summary.

In fact, there are some people who say that Sri Krishna said, "All that is to be known by the Vedas is known if I am known." And this proposition is very true, and then they argue further that if you turn to Sri Krishna, you don't need to read anything else at all – which is also true. The question is how do you turn to Sri Krishna? How do you know Him? Of course if you know Him, you will know everything. That is true! But everybody has his own concept of Sri Krishna and say if you know this Krishna, everything is known – which may not be true because your own concept of Sri Krishna may be limited.

So, what is the synthesis that we need to know which was created in the time of the Veda, that which was created in the time of the Upanishads, in the Gita and Tantra? And what is the need of today? I'll read to you first this paragraph (Essays on the Gita, Ch. I, p.7), and then come back again to elucidate a few points.

"There have been other syntheses in the long history of Indian thought. We start with the Vedic synthesis of the psychological being of man in its highest flights and widest rangings of divine knowledge, power, joy, life and glory with the cosmic existence of the gods, pursued behind the symbols of the material universe into those superior planes which are hidden from the physical sense and the material mentality. The crown of this synthesis was in the experience of the Vedic Rishis something divine, transcendent and blissful in whose unity the increasing soul of man and the eternal divine fullness of the cosmic godheads meet perfectly and fulfil themselves. The Upanishads take up this crowning experience of the earlier seers and make it their starting–point for a high and profound synthesis of spiritual knowledge; they draw together into a great harmony all that had been seen and experienced by the inspired and liberated knowers of the Eternal throughout a great and fruitful period of spiritual seeking. The Gita starts from this Vedantic synthesis and upon the basis of its essential ideas builds another harmony of the three great means and powers, Love, Knowledge and Works, through which the soul of man can directly approach and cast itself into the Eternal. There is yet another, the Tantric, which though less subtle and spiritually profound, is even more bold and forceful than the synthesis of the Gita, – for it seizes even upon the obstacles to the spiritual life and compels them to become the means for a richer spiritual conquest and enables us to embrace the whole of Life in our divine scope as the Lila of the Divine; and in some directions it is more immediately rich and fruitful, for it brings forward into the foreground along with divine knowledge, divine works and an enriched devotion of divine Love, the secrets also of the Hatha and Raja Yogas, the use of the body and of mental askesis for the opening up of the divine life on all its planes, to which the Gita gives only a passing and perfunctory attention. Moreover it grasps at that idea of the divine perfectibility of man, possessed by the Vedic Rishis but thrown into the background by the intermediate ages, which is destined to fill so large a place in any future synthesis of human thought, experience and aspiration."

This is a very difficult paragraph because in a few lines, the quintessence of the Veda, Upanishads, Gita and Tantra is described…..

Let us try to understand first of all, the synthesis that was achieved in the time of the Veda. What is the Vedic synthesis? Why is it a synthesis at all? Because there have been many teachings which are not synthesis. In later philosophies when you come, there is Nyaya which is not a synthesis; Vaishishika is not a synthesis; Sankhya is not a synthesis; Pantajali's Yoga is not a synthesis; Uttara Mimansa is not a synthesis; Purva Mimansa is not a synthesis. Because even when Uttara Mimansa has been presented as synthesis, it immediately broke into Shankara's Vedanta, Ramanuja's Vedanta, Madhwa's Vedanta. So they all cease to be synthetic because each one excludes the other. But such is not the truth of the Veda. Veda is a synthesis. You find in the Veda confluence of various rivers, nana dharmah, this is one of the words that has been used in the Veda, various kinds of Dharmas are combining and there is an appreciation of all of them and say that it is because of that reason that humanity is one home, one family, where all of them are brought together. That is why the last statement of the Rig Veda is, saṃ ghachadhvaṃ saṃ vadadhvaṃ (Rig Veda 10. 191.2.), walk together, speak together, have your own opinions, your own views all combined together in a synthetic manner.

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