Philosophy and Religion
The Bhagavad Gita is the most famous poem in all of Hindu literature and part of the Mahabharata, the ancient Indian epic masterpiece. The Gita (in Sanskrit, “Song of the Lord”) consists of a dialogue between Lord Krishna and Prince Arjuna on the morning of a climactic battle. Krishna provides Arjuna with the spiritual means to understand his own nature so that he can take action and prevail. However, the larger canvas painted in the poem is that of the moral universe of Hinduism. As translator Eknath Easwaran, one of the world’s premier teachers of meditation and spirituality, notes “The Gita does not present a system of philosophy. It offers something to every seeker after God, of whatever temperament, by whatever path. The reason for this universal appeal is that it is basically practical: it is a handbook for self-realization and a guide to action.Goodreads Overview
Discerning, Insightful, and Well Translated
Two of my favorite classes in college were Eastern Philosophies and Meditation and A History Of India. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for fictional and nonfictional books based in India, but it wasn’t until college I understood why. It all became clear once I read Easwaran’s translation of The Bhagavad Gita from the Mahabharata. I realized many of the teachings expounded by the figure Krishna mirror many of my Christian beliefs. This cemented in my mind with particular clarity all people in the world have more in common than they think.
Easwaran separated his book in two parts.
- An explanation of core teachings in the epic poem along with special clarification on the Gita’s history
- An easy to follow translation of the Gita
I especially enjoyed reading Easwaran’s descriptions and explanations of Hindu beliefs illustrated by Arjuna’s conversation with Krishna. Because I studied historical research in college, I ate up this first section and made many written connections between Christian and Hindu beliefs. I wondered about the ancient history behind the Mahabharata and how its teachings evolved over time. It was almost as if there were echoes of an older religion, forgotten and lost over a millennia.
Teachings Which I Found Most Intriguing
- Atman, or the divine core of personality. Practicing yoga daily reminds me that I am a divine and eternal being. In the Bhagavad Gita so much of one’s choices hinge on how clearly they see their Atman. If one understands they are divine, their actions change and they strive to live a more balanced life. I’ve been taught this all my life, so seeing it written and explained in this book gave me such joy!
- Karma, every event is a cause and an effect. I am a firm believer that what each person does has consequences, especially concerning matters of marriage, love, and education. I’ve often pondered how God, who honors man’s freedom to choose, must feel watching his children fall victim to poor decisions. I’m not a mother yet but I often think how I will teach my children this principle.
- Tamas, Rajas, and Sattva, Non-Activity, Unbridled Activity and Balanced Activity. This principle is a little more complicated. Actions influenced by Tamas are made without awareness but with ignorance. There is no desire to grow. It is living life wallowing through a cold river. There is no passion. Rajas are the exact opposite. It is like making decisions, fast-paced with no thought to any damage it can have on others. It is like running at full speed and spreading fire through every step. Sattva is mindful decision-making through balanced evaluation and thought of people. Studying these three principles helped me understand how to balance my actions and make a bigger difference in the world.
Who is this book for?
If there is anyone who loves to do yoga and study deeper ways to grow in their practice, I would recommend reading this book. Lovers of Indian History will also appreciate Easwaran’s clear explanations and translation. I loved reading this book because I felt better connected to different religions around the world. I like to believe each religion carries snippets of truth that can benefit the world. Our job is to look and find them.
I won’t rate this book because it is a historical and religious work.
No one who does good work will ever come to a bad end, either here or in the world to come.
The peace of God is with them whose mind and soul are in harmony, who are free from desire and wrath, who know their own soul.
He who has let go of hatred
who treats all beings with kindness
and compassion, who is always serene,
unmoved by pain or pleasure,
free of the “I” and “mine,”Lord Krishna
self-controlled, firm and patient,
his whole mind focused on me —
that is the man I love best.
We are not cabin-dwellers, born to a life cramped and confined; we are meant to explore, to seek, to push the limits of our potential as human beings. The world of the senses is just a base camp: we are meant to be as much at home in consciousness as in the world of physical reality.
Thank you for reading! See you tomorrow!