Essays on the Gita - Track 301

We are still on the first chapter, and we were trying to see in what way the Gita needs to be studied. There are many ways in which the Gita has been studied and is being studied and there are many scholarly studies, very academic studies, but this particular book deals with what may be called the living experience of the message of Sri Krishna in practical problems of human life. The question is: in what way the Gita is contemporarily relevant. We all who belong to the present days, we are all confronted with certain specific problems and we are in search of the solution of these problems.

One of the problems with which Sri Aurobindo has started is the question of the conflict of religions. Whether we like or not, we are already in a field where different religions are in conflict with each other, and every religion comes forward to give a message and say that this message is `the message'. Or else, even if there are other messages, this message is a better message or much superior message. Are we therefore also to say that this Bhagavad Gita is the message or it is a superior message to any other message? At the very beginning Sri Aurobindo makes it clear that this is not the spirit in which we are going to turn to the Gita, nor has the Gita any pretension of making such a claim. In fact the Gita has been presented as no other religious book has been presented to the world. The Gita is an episode, it is a part not of any religious scripture like the Bible or the Koran or even like the Vedas and the Upanishads, which are exclusively composed for a specific purpose which we may call `scriptural', but the Bhagavad Gita has been cast into a framework of a battle, and a scene also of a battlefield where the hero comes to a sudden crisis, and it was in search of a solution to that crisis that the entire teaching of the Gita emanates. Therefore, it is not the spirit of the Bhagavad Gita, or at least it is not our spirit in which we are approaching the Gita, to see in it the message or the supreme message. But we can say that we also belong to that category of people who, like Arjuna, are beset with a crisis. In fact all of us, in our own times, are facing a very big crisis and knowingly or unknowingly, we are a part of that crisis. So, like Arjuna, we also need to turn to somebody who can enlighten and who can give a guiding light. So it is in that spirit that we are turning to the Gita, not to make a scholastic study in which we ask questions as to what this particular word means, and what that scholar has said... We are trying to go to the Gita with our practical problem and try to find out if there is a living light that can give us the message that we require.

It is as if we are going to meet Sri Krishna himself. And Sri Krishna himself does not deal with this problem in a scholastic manner in the Bhagavad Gita. Whatever opinions of other people He refers to, are referred to only in the sense that they are necessary help. But the Bhagavad Gita itself is not a book of scholarship. So it is like meeting Sri Krishna himself in our own present day, and turn to him to find out in what way He can elevate us, uplift us, and give a new light. Therefore this entire book does not try to show that this is the message, the supreme message, the final message.

Secondly, Sri Aurobindo points out that we are actually in need of a synthesis. Our first point was that we are in a crisis and we are turning to the Gita to get some kind of an upliftment from this crisis. Not necessarily that we shall find a complete answer in it, because it is only an episode which is addressed to a particular situation. But we are open whether it gives us a complete message, or no message, or partial message, or the relevant message, or the guiding message, or the helpful message. And the second point is that we are all today in a state not only of conflict of religions but conflicts of various kinds. Even in the field of philosophy there is a conflict, different philosophical standpoints have come to a sharp conflict. In the field of philosophy and science there is a conflict, in science and religion there is a conflict. In fact all disciplines of knowledge today are in need of some kind of synthesis. And we are living in an age where this problem of synthesis has to be faced. So this is a second context in which we are turning to the Gita. The need of synthesis of today, in what way can it be fulfilled by the Bhagavad Gita? So we shall turn to the Gita also with this question: can Gita help us in arriving at a synthesis, resolution of conflict not only of religions but of all disciplines of knowledge? And this is where we were last time.

Sri Aurobindo describes the present stage of mankind as that which stands at a threshold – a threshold of a `new synthesis'. The need of a synthesis which requires new synthesis because there could be a need at some time  to go back to this synthesis of the past in which case our look at Gita would be quite different. We are today standing at a point where there is a need of a new synthesis. And that is because as Sri Aurobindo says in the last paragraph of the first chapter which is extremely important where he says: We do not belong to the dawns of the past, but to the noons of the future.

There is today, he says, a need to synthesise all the theistic religions of the world, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism. Then, there is a need to synthesise religions with Buddhism, which is not a theistic religion – so even religions which are not theistic even they have to be synthesised.