So this is, you might say the connection between Sri Krishna and Sri Aurobindo. As Sri Aurobindo said, "It is Sri Krishna with whom I have become one" – not only an influence, but "I have become one". [...and with whom I realised identity (SABCE Vol. 26, P. 137)]
Actually therefore, to read what Sri Aurobindo has written on the Gita has a very special significance. It is not an intellectual discussion; it is as if it were Sri Krishna himself speaking – what he has intended to speak through the Gita. Actually, if you read the Gita, Essays on the Gita, this great book, if you really read it with a tremendous quietude, you will yourself feel that it is Sri Krishna who is whispering into your ears the real message of the Gita. There have been so many interpretations of the Gita that if you read them, you feel as it were in a field of pedantry, and you will not know whether this or that is right, or that is right. So instead of being enlightened and inspired, you become confused.
I myself, before I came to meet Sri Aurobindo, I had read several commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita and I was so much confused that I really felt that our children should not be told the Gita, because it creates so much of confusion in the minds of the children, and there are so many opinions – Advaitic interpretation, and Vishisht advaitic interpretation, and Dvaitic interpretation, and so many others. Almost every great teacher in our country has written on the Gita and has given one message or the other, emphasizing one or the other. We did not really know what exactly is the Gita's teaching.
It was at that time that I happened to get this book, Essays on the Gita. I was in that state at that time that in four days I read the whole book. It is a physical fact in my life that I read this whole book in four days time. I was reading about twenty one hours every day and it was such a tremendous experience of a flow; it was as if I really felt that Sri Krishna was telling me, “This is what I have meant in the Gita, this is what 1 have meant in the Gita, this is what I have meant in the Gita...” And that is why with confidence I can tell the people, "if you really want to learn on the Gita, please read this book." It is not because of my reading the message of the Gita in this book but it is what I feel , my real experience that Sri Krishna himself had to speak what is the Gita’s teaching, it is in this book that it is given. Instead of giving all kinds of opinions and controversies I would simply like to put everyone in direct contact with this book and that is, to my mind, a tremendous service to humanity. If Sri Krishna can tell you directly what He had to say without controversies, so that you are absolutely sure this is what He meant.
Now, in the very first paragraph of this great book, Sri Aurobindo deals with one very important problem, and that must be raised in the context of today.
There is today in the world several great universal religions. There is Hinduism for example which claims to be a universal religion; there is Judaism; there is Christianity; there is Islam; and then there was also Zoroastrianism, and so many other religions. Now, each one of them claims the truth, the highest Truth, the only Truth is to be found, each one says in my religion and ‘this book’ or ‘that book’ contains the whole of the Truth, and nothing farther is to be needed in order to find the Truth.
This is a very big problem for all of us, who are not partisans to this or that; we are all seekers of the Truth. We want to know the Truth as it is. So for all of us there is a big problem: which claim to accept, and to accept one to fight against others? It is a big battle as it were.
So, if you take this book the Gita, you also have a similar claim. You hear this claim: ‘the Gita is a quintessence of the Vedas, a quintessence of the Upanishads, it is the last word of Wisdom, the greatest and the only Truth that has been revealed and nothing farther needs to be known. Once you know this, all that is to be known is known.’
This also a claim!
And then, if those who hear this message and read it, they become partisan soldiers of this army which is ready to fight against others and claim, ‘Here is my Bible, my Truth, and something that is supreme’.
In fact, there was a time, when for the sake of religious beliefs people used to quarrel and kill people. The famous example of crusades in the West, where wars went on for decades and decades, just to show that Islam is the highest truth and Christianity is the highest truth and the whole Truth was to be decided on the battlefield and by killing people! Even today from time to time, you know that in the name of religion, people are ready to kill each other. Of course, the situation has greatly changed now and people don't take to guns or to swords in the name of religions. But they still believe that even though there are many other religions, may be many other religions also give some truth, but ‘My truth is superior; the religion that I practice is superior to all other religions.’ This tendency is still present in mankind very largely in spite of many movements of conflict resolution, of meeting of religions, synthesis of religions. In spite of new movements which are realised, this tendency remains: ‘exclusivism’ of one religious truth against another.
Sri Aurobindo therefore when starting with the study of the Gita wants to make clear as to in what spirit we are going to study the Gita: to become members of a partisan army or what? What is the purpose for which we should learn the Gita? I do not know if you have got the book with you (Essays on the Gita), but if you open the first page of this book, which is called: ‘Our Demand and Need from the Gita’; it reads:
“The world abounds with Scriptures sacred and profane, with revelations and half-revelations, with religions and philosophies, sects and schools and systems. To these the many minds of a half-ripe knowledge or no knowledge at all attach themselves with exclusiveness and passion and will have it that this or the other book is alone the eternal Word of God and all others are either impostures or at best imperfectly inspired, that this or that philosophy is the last word of the reasoning intellect and other systems are either errors or saved only by such partial truth in them as links them to the one true philosophical cult. Even the discoveries of physical Science have been elevated into a creed and in its name religion and spirituality banned as ignorance and superstition, philosophy as frippery and moonshine. And to these bigoted exclusions and vain wranglings even the wise have often lent themselves, misled by some spirit of darkness that has mingled with their light and overshadowed it with some cloud of intellectual egoism or spiritual pride. Mankind seems now indeed inclined to grow a little modester and wiser; we no longer slay our fellows in the name of God's truth or because they have minds differently trained or differently constituted from ours; we are less ready to curse and revile our neighbour because he is wicked or presumptuous enough to differ from us in opinion; we are ready even to admit that Truth is everywhere and cannot be our sole monopoly; we are beginning to look at other religions and philosophies for the truth and help they contain and no longer merely in order to damn them as false or criticise what we conceive to be their errors. But we are still apt to declare that our truth gives us the supreme knowledge which other religions or philosophies have missed or only imperfectly grasped so that they deal with subsidiary and inferior aspects of the truth of things or can merely prepare less evolved minds for the heights to which we have arrived. And we are still prone to force upon ourselves or others the whole sacred mass of the book or gospel we admire, insisting that all shall be accepted as eternally valid truth and no iota or underline or diaeresis denied its part of the plenary inspiration.”