We live in times which have seen unprecedented scientific progress. Many new discoveries have come to surface which has made human life easier. At least that is what we think so. With all these modern comforts, human life has not been better in terms of happiness, peace within and joy. I am not against progress.However, I think while scientific progress has its place in human life so does the spirituality. Our scriptures say that it is very difficult to get human life and so one should not trivialize it or waste it. Many will argue on this point alone saying that wasting is a point of view. However, we often find that certain events take place which wake us up. We realize the time-bound nature of things around us. When this awareness arises, this also starts a journey to discover the truth of life.
Bhagavad-Gita holds a very prominent place in Sanatana Dharma (Eternal way of living). In it, Bhagvan has given a way of life and unfolded the message of our scriptures in a “capsule form”. Unfortunately, many Hindus either never study Gita at all or have some misconceptions about what it has to offer.
The following are some of the misconceptions:
1. Gita is to be read only in later stage in life.
Many people believe that Gita is to be studied only after one gets old. This is based on what they have heard growing up or sometimes just the notions they pick up without really looking into them. Gita unfolds a beautiful map to live one’s life. It unfolds the wonderful truth about us. At what age do we study Gita? There is no particular age, just the maturity to see that world around us is constantly changing. Some times an event takes place in our life that wakes us up to the realization of this fact. Thus begins the journey on the path of spirituality. Gita teaches us to lead our lives intelligently, not falling prey to our likes and dislikes.
At times we find that our lives are driven by our likes and dislikes. It is as though our likes and dislikes are managing our lives. This is not an intelligent living but living under the grip of likes and dislikes which move us around like a yo-yo. Gita helps us to manage our likes and dislikes thereby living an intelligent life. The earlier we discover and understand the message, the better off we are in leading an intelligent living.
2. Merely reading the Gita is insufficient, One needs to practice it too!
People say that it is not just enough to study, one needs to “practice” it. Gita is a matter of understanding. The message is to be understood and assimilated. If I am ignorant of what my essential nature is, what I need is the knowledge to shed the ignorance. Bhagavan unfolds the truth and removes the ignorance by knowledge. It is the self-knowledge that is to be gained. The truth, however, is very subtle and requires a subtle mind to assimilate it. The meditation is a means to make the mind quiet so that one can inquire into the reality. All our efforts and the means that we deploy are to make our mind pure so that we can assimilate the message. All the “practice” that is talked about is to gain the purity of the mind and heart so the vision of Gita can be understood.
3. Gita is a preaching by Bhagavan to Arjuna
Arjuna was confused on the battlefield. He could not bear the thought of fighting Bhismapitamah and Dronacharya on the battlefield. These two people shaped his life. We “fight” a battle too in our daily life. It is a battle of a different kind. It is a battle to manage our likes and dislikes and not have them drive our actions. There is “Arjuna” in each of us in that sense. The teaching of Gita is very relevant to our situations. The whole teaching is applicable to all human beings at large.
4. Central Message of Gita is somewhat unclear.
This view is held by people who have either not completely studied Gita or have not given their mind and heart to it. The words of Gita are to be looked into and reflected upon. The central message of Gita is Tat Tvam Asi (That you are). Roughly first six chapters (except the first one) are dedicated to unfolding the nature of Tvam, i.e. you. Next six chapters are dedicated to unfolding the nature of tat, i.e. Isvara (Godhead) and the last six chapters equate the two sides, a seemingly impossible equation. If asked to introduce ourselves, we say things like “I am so and so, I am a doctor, I am a son of so and so” etc. All these are incidental attributes. For example, being a doctor is an attribute of your intellect; a son is a relation with respect to the father. Gita says that you are not any one of these incidental attributes. All of these belong to either your body or the mind-senses complex while you are ever free from all of them. Gita says “You are the atmacaitanyam (consciousness) that is pure, eternal and all pervading”. This is a paradigm shift in our vision of us. Therefore, naturally, it requires a lot of listening, reflection and contemplation. Similarly, we have a vague idea of what Isvara is. Gita helps us understand the essential nature of Isvara. Understanding the essential nature of I and Isvara, we assimilate the final message.
5. Gita’s message is applicable in olden days: it has very little applicability to modern times.
Many, who do not bother to study Gita, hold this view. Do we say the same about the ancient Sun? Something does not become inapplicable just because it is ancient. What is applicable thousands of years ago is also applicable today. This is because the human mind works the same way, functionally speaking, as it did several thousand years ago. We are mesmerized by the objects of the world, driven by the likes and dislikes. Gita changes our vision of ourselves and the world. This is an important human growth. We are born on the earth with this purpose only and all our means and desires, really speaking, sub-serve the goal of self-knowledge. Times have changed while the eternal truth remains the same. The message of Gita unfolds the eternal truth about us.
6. Gita’s message is a matter of belief.
Some say that Gita’s message is a matter of belief. It is not. The message of Gita is a matter for understanding. The message is to be carefully listened to, reflected upon and understood properly. The student is the one who has to validate the words of Gita by reflection and contemplation. Gita removes the ignorance that we have about ourselves. The ignorance can only be removed by knowledge. Knowledge is not a matter of belief but something that has to be assimilated and understood. Initially, one starts the studies with sraddha in the words of Gita. The word sraddha means a commitment to the words of Sastram (scriptures) pending discovery. Who is the discoverer? the student. One begins the study with this bit of understanding so that the aim is of the studies is clear.
7. Gita is for intellectuals, not for me.
We are born as human beings. Human beings have the intellect which is required to “see” the message of Gita. Animals do not have discriminative faculty needed to gain the knowledge. It is only the human beings who can do this. To understand the message, one needs to gain the purity of the mind and heart and not necessarily a high IQ. Sometimes with the high IQ comes the ego which comes in the way of understanding. A sincere desire to look into the words of Gita is essential. It is important that one studies Gita from a teacher who is well versed in Sastram and has the ability to explain the wonderful words of Bhagavan in a language that can be easily understood. With this understanding, a human life can be a privilege that can be lived in the Grace of Isvara. Every moment can be precious moment to be lived to the fullest extent.
I welcome comments and would like to discuss this matter with you.