The Bhagavad-Gita, or Celestial Song, or Song of Songs, as we can translate the name, represents a very old Tradition, unifying the highest of Hindu theologies into one body of teaching. The Tradition started during the first two centuries BC. Scholars compiled and edited the Bhagavad-Gita over a period of some three hundred years. During the later half of the first century the work came to fulfillment.
Wayist Tradition states that Lord Yesu spent quite a bit of time with various schools of Hinduism and strongly influenced the final formation of the Gita Tradition. This is the work we know Yesu to have come to do for religion. The Lord took from each tradition that which was pure and confronted the then current leaders with their own theology, urging them to bring about revitalization from within. History shows that most often, as with Christianity, a new sect broke away from the old and started by discarding the redundant and irrelevant traditions of the past. As He did for Judaism and the Greco-Roman philosophies, so too did Yesu do for Persian Zoroastrianism, Therevada Buddhism, the Chinese Religions (old Daoism) and the Hindu traditions of Northern India.
Bhagavad Gita is a poem, or a song, which was originally part of the epic work of prose, the Mahabarata. The book is written in prose, the excellence of which the translation into English has almost entirely lost. The prose is divided into sections of nines which, upon careful analysis, yields a whole series of sections based on the division, multiplication and square root of the mystical cipher nine.
The message of the book is manifold and beyond description in an introduction. The book speaks for itself and any analysis of its message always returns to studying the whole work. One can however provide a few pointers, which we will do forthwith, but we must say that the central message of the book could be: ‘God invites us to share in God’s Being, and thus are we called to walk this Way to perfection and union with the Absolute One.’
We can state several pointers regarding the book’s message but not without being incomplete. To say nothing of it may have been the comprehensive statement, as is the case of all talk of God. Nevertheless, we live in the time of the information explosion and to give such pointers are customary in this age.
The book deals with The Way to perfection, the process of deification, or in other words the lifestyle of yoga. We derive the word Yoga from the Sanskrit root for ‘yoke’ that intends to denote the lifestyle of being yoked to God, to have the Divine as yoke-fellow, thus gaining in perfection through association or the spiritual osmosis process.
The notion of Yoga came to the ancient Greek language during the 4th century BC and was expressed in their language as ‘theosis’ which is the process of yoga, and ‘henosis’ which is the culmination of the yoga Way – union with the Energies of God. The difference between the two cultures, western and eastern, is that in the end they understood theosis as something that happens, where they understand yoga to be a holistic lifestyle.
Bhagavad-Gita deals with the holistic lifestyle of the complete yoga in that it takes each aspect of yoga and deals with it one by one. Many schools of thought have drifted from the Gita’s message and started out each emphasizing another aspect of yoga, affording the one precedence over others. This error is today most prevalent in the West. Bhagavad-Gita deals with all the yogas as a holistic whole. While it makes allowance that certain yogas may be more relevant in a particular person’s life-situation the intention is clearly for us to see the various yogas as the various aspects of the journey. The responsible traveler does not embark on a journey without clothing, shoes, a plan, and a means for bodily sustenance – and neither should we isolate any one of the yogas and think we can embark with this on the longest and most arduous journey ever – the journey inward unto perfection. Bhagavad-Gita is thus an indispensable travel guide for all who want to journey on The Way.
Divine Energies, Forces and Beings
Bhagavad-Gita draws all of the Hindu gods, goddesses, divine emanations, energies and forces together (without enumerating or naming them) and makes them subject to the One Spirit which is God, which is Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent. This is the great break with classic Hinduism, and herein lies the purifying and unifying work of the Christ. What results is a new Hinduism, a new sect is born. The Bhagavad-Gita Tradition is to Hinduism what Christianity is to Judaism. Bhagavad-Gita says that the familiar Hindu gods or goddesses and their consorts were human comprehensions of emanations or aspect of the One God. The Gita understands however that people are differently enabled and some can probably worship a tree or an animate object. Nevertheless, they are in fact doing their best to recognise the Higher Power and thus cannot but worship the Only Power. This tolerance marks this religion and sets it apart from its peers. This unconditional love that is so expressed is something that peer cults such as western Christianity has lost during its political formation period. The Gita does not simply stop at what may be a condoning of the worship of the Deities, gods and goddesses but urges devotees to start looking beyond to the only one Reality. It urges first to start knowing that these lower levels of worship are vehicles to a higher level, and can be good religion if correctly understood, but the goal to strive toward is to know, love and attain to the Absolute One God.
The character Sanjaya who is unknown to the Bhagavad-Gita portion of the Mahabarata narrates the story. Sanjaya tells the story to Dhritarashtra the king of the opposing force, and neither of these two characters features in any other way in the story except that they aid in the narration of it.
The story which the Bhagavad-Gita use is of the human hero Arjuna who sets out to command his force in battle against very familiar spirits. Due to Arjuna’s ‘friendship since childhood’ with the Christ Principle, which is portrayed as the character Krishna, Arjuna chooses him to be his charioteer in the war. The chariot symbolises the soul, Arjuna is the spirit inhabiting the body and the horses drawing the chariot symbolises the senses. The Bhagavad-Gita is one long discourse between Arjuna and the Christ of God on the topic of preparation for and waging the war against the self – and all this happens while sitting on the chariot positioned between the two opposing forces ready to engage in battle.
Every collection of inspired saying of the Christ has its seeming dilemmas which the human mind must engage, in contemplation, to acquire the intended lessons. These seeming dilemmas jump at us as sayings which we regard on the surface and shy away from them because they seem incongruent. Yet as St. Origen taught us, this seeming incongruence is the sign that a deeply mystical allegory is at play and we need to approach with caution and in the spirit to attain to its Truth.
The Gita starts with one such example, perhaps as a road sign warning us, ‘Surface Level Interpretation Hazards Lie Ahead’. The opening scene is of Arjuna refusing to engage in battle with his adopted family who robbed his tribe of their rightful inheritance, which is a country of beauty and bounty. Arjuna states that he cannot see any sense in killing his friends and elders for a piece of land. The Christ responds by telling him that no one can kill the spirit because it is eternal, and to kill the body of a person is not as severe as he seems to think. Christ continues to urge Arjuna to stop being such a sissy and to fight to win. This brings to mind Christ saying in another context that he does not bring peace as we suppose but he brings war and enmity, and members of one household will rise against one another, fathers against sons and sisters against mothers. Christ also says that whoever cannot hate father and mother and brothers and sisters cannot be his disciples. Yet the one great commandment of all the Scriptures, which the Christ brings about, is always that love is the beginning and end of the process to unify with God who is Love.
Is it on purpose that holy Scripture is so confusing? Some scholars think so. No one knows more about the human mind’s limitations than its Author. No one knows more about the human’s capabilities than its Author. God is inviting us to contemplation, to reach out beyond our familiar frame of reference and to seek Truth in the multitude of other realms which lay awaiting our arrival.
The poem uses mystical allegory to the nth degree. So much of it beauty and inner meaning are lost to the reader not well versed in Sanskrit. The Gita gives the names, which have deep symbolic meaning, of the generals, the warriors of repute, the conches, weapons, family members, the tribes and many similar niceties now mostly lost to modern readers. But this is the way it is with most ancient Scripture. The meaning of the Hebrew, Aramaic, Chinese and Greek proper names in other Scripture are also lost to the average reader but we must refuse to allow this inadequacy to withhold us from extracting every ounce of teaching which does not directly depend on such information – and that which will be yielded is more than enough to assure our ascension to heaven if we pay regard to what we have learned.
About this translation
We decided to replace some Sanskrit concepts, which are usually not successfully translated into English, with English words or phrases. Following is a guide of the most important words and their corresponding English translation used in this edition.
- Purusha - Uncreate energy
- Prakriti - Creative energy
- Prana - Subtle energy
- Atma - Spirit
- Jiva - Soul
- Jivatma - Human being
- Brahman - God
- Self - Spirit
- Prajna - Wisdom (flow)
- Maya - Illusion
- Self-realisation - Spirit-realisation
- Karma - Action
- Law of Karma - Cause & Effect
- Yajna - Service, selfless service
A note about the influence of Sanskrit on world cultures and religions
- Yah - This Sanskrit word means ‘he who’.
- Atman - The word means spirit. The name Adam is etymologically related.
- Jiva - The word means soul. The name Eva is etymologically related.
- Jivatman - The word means human being.
The list of Sanskrit words that influenced earliest Aramaic and the first written languages is very long. The influence od Sanskrit on our languages today, deserves to be studied.
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