Does the Gita offer spiritual solution to spiritual problem or to material problem?
Question– Is the Bhagwad-Gita a spiritual solution to a spiritual problem or is it a spiritual solution to a material problem?
When Arjuna in BG 2.8 says that nothing material, even attainment of heaven, will not solve his problem, does this indicate that Arjuna is saying that his problem is not at all material but spiritual?
Can we have spiritual solutions to material problems? Or we need material solutions to material problems?
Answer– Firstly we need to clarify what we mean by ‘spiritual’ and ‘material’, otherwise there can be unnecessary confusion. There are two aspects to it.
First aspect is that, if by ‘spiritual’ we refer to the soul (or something divine) and by ‘material’ we refer matter (or things connected to matter) then we have to understand that material problems will require material solutions. One should not anticipate some miraculous spiritual intervention happening all the time to solve a material problem. For example, if Arjuna is fighting a war and somehow he forgets to take his weapons with him or in the middle of a war his chariot’s wheel breaks down. In such a situation, it is not that Krishna will be doing miracles to solve Arjuna’s problems. Although, in some exceptional situations Krishna can do so, but that usually doesn’t happen. We also observe that Arjuna also does not expect that Krishna will miraculously intervene to solve his problems. On the contrary, we see that Arjuna really labors very hard to achieve an extraordinary level of material competence in archery and becomes world’s topmost archer. So, when we talk about spiritual solution to material problem that doesn’t mean material apathy or material irresponsibility.
Even in the Vedic tradition, e.g. Ayurveda (theistic medical science), wherein existence and benevolence of Vishnu is acknowledged, for a particular health problem, a particular medicine is prescribed for solving the problem. Therefore, even in the Vedic tradition we find that there are material solutions to material problems. It is not that in Ayurveda, only worship to Vishnu is done to cure an illness, the patient has to take medicine and follow necessary treatment protocol.
However, there is another way of understanding what is meant by ‘spiritual’. So far I explained ‘spiritual’ means connected to soul and ‘material’ means connected to matter i.e. based on constitution. But we can also understand ‘spiritual’ or ‘material’ in terms of orientation, meaning -purpose of our life. Are we living for material gratification or aggrandizement or are we living for spiritual purification? Is our purpose in life ‘material’ or is it ‘spiritual’?
So what exactly the phrase -spiritual solution to material problem means?
This means that spiritual solution is not a substitution for the material solution rather it is the foundation for material solution. Let us understand this by an example. Consider a situation in which everyone in the world starts chanting Hare Krishna mahamantra and everybody becomes a devotee. Does that mean that there would be no problem in the material world? No. Still there will be sufferings and material solutions would be required for solving these sufferings. So even if everyone is chanting the mahamantra, still we have to make some arrangement for providing food, shelter or clothing. Therefore chanting of mahamantra is not the substitution of food, shelter, and clothing. However, if our orientation is spiritual, it will bring selflessness and will avoid selfishness. There can be good material systems for solving problems but if there are self-centered motivations then even the best systems will fail. But if there are people who are purely motivated, compassionate, selfless, even the imperfect systems can deliver wonders. And this is exactly what the right spiritual orientation offers us.
Therefore, Bhagwad-Gita is a spiritual solution, definitely. How? It changes Arjuna’s orientation completely. Arjuna at the starting of Bhagwad-Gita has been thinking in terms of ‘me and my’ but after hearing the message, his focus of thinking changes completely and he picks up his weapon and fights. He fights with his material weapons and material skills (archery) but with spiritual orientation.
What exactly does the Bhagwad-Gita solve?
It helps us to develop the right disposition for dealing with material problems we face so that we are able to implement solutions properly. If we do not have the spiritual disposition and we are not connected to Krishna in our consciousness in the mood of service then our actions will make problems bigger than they need to be and we will become overwhelmed by the problems. We will do things or take decisions, which ultimately will make things worse
To summarize, yes the Bhagwad-Gita is the spiritual solution to the material problem but that doesn’t mean that it is a substitute for the material problem rather it is the life force that ensures that the material solution works.