People of India origin take Bhagwad Gita for Granted as they are all fed with tidbits of the postulates of Bhagwad Gita right from their child hood in various forms as bed time stories to the regular folk lore. As such I myself never read the book Bhagwad Gita Verbatim but knew in a nutshell what Bhagwad Gita stands for as the defining book which epitomizes the importance of a man’s duty and self-less action without expecting the fruit of his actions. Interestingly I joined a new job recently and have the pleasure of working with a Russian colleague who really impressed me with his well-rounded knowledge on any given topic under the sun. He for the past few weeks used to carry a book of Bhagwad Gita written by Eknath Eswaran and used to read it during his daily morning commute to work. As the book Bhagwad Gita lay on his desk I asked him a question. What the Essence of Bhagwad Gita was all about. He answered back with the more technical Hindu terms. Be true to your Dharma and find a way to free yourself from samsara. He asked me back what Dharma and Samsara mean. Well I said Dharma has many meanings and samsara is all about the cycle of life and death.
What Intrigued me is as my Russian colleagues interest in Bhagwad Gita and I borrowed the book myself after he finished reading to finally started reading the Bhagwad Gita finally in a book format rather than as a compilation of information from various sources. For all what went on between the discourse between Krishna and Arjuna. Bhagwad Gita in its distilled form only emphasizes on a few golden facts. I myself want to pose a few questions to the basic tenets which from my point of view are not always applicable from a practical view.
Gita’s Emphasis on soul’s eternal existence and the devaluation of death in a battlefield is meant for Arjuna not to see death as a permanent phenomenon but a transient phenomenon and in turn motivate Arjuna to fight relentlessly not thinking about the consequences of death. Does this mean the body has no significance when compared to the soul? The very essence of bodily existence seems irrelevant when compared to the souls eternal existence. The bodily existence does have a purpose and soul needs the body to reach the higher realms of consciousness. However Lord Krishna dismisses the bodily existence to justify war.
In the midst of the discourse Lord Krishna emphasizes on the nature of karma and its pivotal role in the cycle of life and death and also mentions it’s the last thought which is very important and the last thought before death sets the scene for the pre conditions of the next life. This is sort of counter intuitive because it negates the law of karma itself for the last thought is given such pivotal importance. KRISHNA further adds one who truly surrenders to him is liberated from the cycle of karma. This tenet is no different from the principles of Christianity where belief in Christ is of primordial importance for one’s salvation. This only means divine grace overrules karma and true surrender to God is the only way to salvation. At the same time Krishna emphasizes the role of mediation and acquisition of knowledge of the true self also as true means of salvation but at the same time implying that seeking his grace is a better option. This is a bit difficult to comprehend
Gita says is that work itself is more pleasurable than the results. Do not let the fruit be the purpose of your actions, and therefore you won’t be attached to not doing your duty. In our modern world the fruit of our work is a hard earned pay check. I admit I myself work for a pay check so we do expect the fruit for our actions. There is a saying there is no free lunch. This means we have to work to earn our lunch. So the saying that don’t expect the fruit of your actions can only be applicable in situations when it does not work out it more works out in a fatalistic setting. I mean it’s like a fallback plan when things don’t work out
More over the concept of working relentlessly and not expecting results is like working like a slave who is not entitled to any fruits of his labor. So does this mean human life is nothing but servitude to God who expects us to work relentlessly and don’t expect the results and are we all at his mercy to enjoy the fruits of our labor?
To me after reading Bhagwad Gita it seems Lord Krishna was more playing the role of a counselor to Arjuna or more playing the role of a psychologist trying to persuade Arjuna to go ahead with the War. He is constantly prodding Arjuna to realize his inner self and do justice to his duty. But the discussion takes a detour and includes all topics ranging from the nature of the Soul, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga to the role of meditation and lord Krishna himself revealing to Arjuna as the Lord of the Universe. Does Arjunas confusion at the start of the war mandate such a divine discourse? Hard to debate but It has been pointed out that it could be the work of the author to incorporate the teachings of Upanishads as a divine discourse by lord krishna to explain the metaphysical in a family folk lore called Mahabharata to bring the message to the masses.