Essays on the Gita

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So this is our starting point of the study of the Gita, this is the spirit in which we are going to study. And now, we come to the real beginning, of the study of the Gita but even the real study of the Gita is prefaced by three important propositions, because there are three most important elements in the Gita: the Teacher, Sri Krishna himself; Arjuna, the Pupil; and the occasion, the battle of Kurukshetra. And all the three have symbolic meaning and significance, and also the significance of their actuality. The actuality of the situation is to be measured by the fact that the Bhagavad Gita is a part of a great battle, and it is directly related to our life because we ourselves are in a battle. Not many people realise the force of this battle in which we are gripped today, but whether we like or not, we are in a battle, and that is why wherever you turn, we have problems and series of problems. We resolve one problem and another faces us, and so on. Why is it that we are living in a world with this pressure on problems one after the other? And we do not know how to deal with these series of problems. It is almost like Abhimanyu going into the seven circles: you pass one, you come to the second; you come to the second, you go to the third; and even if you reach the seventh you do not know how to return. Such is the present situation and that is why the significance of the Gita for us. Why the Gita is so near to us? Because the Gita is not written as a book, like the Upanishads or the Veda, which in the tranquility of your hours of life you can turn to, meditate and contemplate. Here you do not even have the time to contemplate; you are in the midst of the battle. Arjuna was given no time at all to face the problem and to find the solution to the problem, something like what we are obliged to do in our life. So the occasion, the actuality, in which the Gita is fixed, is presented, is a very dynamic reality, and the problem that has been raised in the Gita is not an ordinary problem. As Sri Aurobindo says, no such great book like the Gita could have been written, if it was to solve an ordinary problem. It is only because the problem is one of the knottiest problems that a great teaching bursts out to solve that problem. So this occasion, however has two important figures involved in it.

Historically we might say a warrior and a charioteer, a warrior who was convinced that the problems that are faced by him, by his family, by his clan, by his nation, by the country, by the people, could be resolved only if you fight out a war. He was convinced of this. And it is with that conviction that Arjuna, the great warrior, enters into the battlefield and with a heavy and proud head, he asks his charioteer, Sri Krishna, to place him at a point where he can see all the armies which were arranged in the battle and with whom he has to fight and to slay. And Krishna is the advisor, inspirer but a charioteer, in a sense the closest to the warrior, even physically; nobody can be so close to a warrior unless he becomes his charioteer. Happily such a relationship obtained.

Now there are many questions which have been raised and as Sri Aurobindo says, we shall not deal with those questions because they are not of great significance to us. One question was: did Mahabharata take place at all? Is it simply a dramatic fiction written by some author or by several authors? Or did it actually take place? And on this so much has been written that if we enter into that field our main purpose in reading the Gita will be lost. And we need not deal with it because even if such a war did not take place, even if you take it as a dramatic fiction, what is important is `what the Gita teaches'. The occasion that it paints, even if it may be an imaginary painting, the important point is whether such a problem that faced Arjuna would not realistically face anybody in the world? And if that is shown to be true, it is enough for us that there, such a problem did arise even to an imaginary character like Arjuna, and that this problem was dealt with, with a great force of knowledge and power, even though in imagination. But if that knowledge and power are really verifiable, experiencable, and if it is really going to help us, then even if it is a dramatic fiction, it does not matter at all. Why should we waste our time in discussing whether it did happen or not happen? Not that that problem is of no importance, but we are not concerned with it, we are not turning to the Gita for that purpose, at least we. As Sri Aurobindo says, our demand and need from the Gita is not from that point of view, it is a historical discussion which is always good, you can have a hundred scholars put up and see the Bhagavad Gita, see the archaeological excavations and so on, you can make lots of enquiry about it, compare one history with the history of another country, and so on. Fine! But that is not our purpose.

There is a question whether the Bhagavad Gita was a part of the original Mahabharata, or whether it was interpolated into the Mahabharata, this is also another question, and many scholars who debate on it. Some believe that Mahabharata, as originally written, did include Bhagavad Gita as its part. Some believe that later on as the story developed gradually, some philosopher wrote the Bhagavad Gita, and in order to give a great value to it, he interpolated his whole book into the Mahabharata.

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