01.46 – The Genius of the Bhagavad-gita

by December 5, 2011

The genius of the Bhagavad-gita is that it takes a specific real-life situation, examines it philosophically and offers a universal pragmatic solution.

The Gita begins with Arjuna’s weak-hearted capitulation: at the end of the first chapter (1.46) he puts aside his bow and thereby expresses through his actions his intention: “I will not fight.” The message of the Gita infuses Arjuna with clarity of vision, as evidenced in his concluding strong-hearted resolution: “I will do your will.” (18.73)

Significantly, Arjuna doesn’t conclude with the specific resolution “I will fight” because by then his vision has been lifted far beyond the specific battlefield dilemma: “Should I fight?” That’s why, though the Gita urges Arjuna to fight in the initial chapters, the exhortations to fight become increasingly infrequent as its discussion becomes deeper and broader. The Gita’s battlefield setting is certainly historical, not mythological. At the same time, it is, after all, the setting, not the substance.

The substance of the Gita is its majestic analysis of the universal existential perplexity that confronts all of us: “What should I live for?” The Gita answers by urging us: “Live for love: love of Krishna and all his children.” The Gita’s philosophy, when understood holistically, reveals divinity’s love for humanity and inspires a reciprocal humanity’s love for divinity.

When, like Arjuna, we choose to respond to our specific dilemmas with the universal panacea of loving surrender: “O Lord, I will do your will”, this attitude of surrender fosters a divine vision that causes not only the specific dilemma to dissolve, but also to reveal through the dilemma a pathway to the world of love that is beyond dilemmas.

Thus the Gita’s universal message goes beyond violence to transcendence.


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