Lessons from the Bhagavad Gita

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Lessons from the Bhagavad Gita

yoga teacher trainingBy Bhavan Kumar

Yoga teachers may wonder about the deeper lessons within the Bhagavad Gita.  The following is a brief summary of a much bigger story.  The Bhagavad Gita is part of the ancient Indian epic, the Mahabharata. The Bhagavad Gita is comprised of 700 to 745 verses, depending on the translation and the age of the text. It is written in a poetic Sanskrit form known as chhandas. This type of verse was often chanted aloud. Many religious scholars date the origination of the Bhagavad Gita some time between 200 years prior to the birth of Christ to 200 CE. For some Hindus, the Bhagavad Gita is a scriptural teaching text that is drawn from the greater text of the Mahabharata. For other Hindus, the Bhagavad Gita is a spiritual text that was divinely revealed. A divinely revealed text in Sanskrit is known as a “sruti.” Many of the core teachings of the Upanishads are distilled in the text of the Bhagavad Gita.

The Gita, as it is informally known, is a long conversation between Arjuna, a young Pandava prince, and Lord Krishna himself. Arjuna is absolutely torn apart at the prospect of fighting against and possibly killing members of his own family during the Kurukshetra War. The Kurukshetra War can be interpreted as a metaphor for the internal battle that is waged within all of us between the dark and the light. Many religious scholars and spiritual teachers believe that the Kurukshetra War is an allegory and a backdrop for Lord Krishna to explain to all of us how to navigate the difficult and sometimes murky waters of life with dignity, morality and faith.

During their conversation on the battlefield, Lord Krishna reveals an incredible depth of divine wisdom to Arjuna regarding the honor of fulfilling one’s dharma or sacred duty, the practice of jnana yoga, karma yoga and divine liberation or moksha. Lord Krishna also elucidates the deeper levels of existence and reincarnation. The lessons that Arjuna learns from Lord Krishna are similar to the lessons that the young Siddhartha learns during his sadhana. Ultimately, both young men are lead to a place of inner understanding of the connected web of all existence and the eternal aspect of their consciousness.

The inner identification with what is eternal frees our hearts and minds from the craving to make what is transitory and passing, permanent. According to the Bhagavad Gita, until a human being begins the process of contemplating the ultimate nature of reality he or she will not attain the ultimate goal of human life, moksha. Moksha is a Sanskrit term for liberation. This penetrating inquiry is referred to in the Gita as brahma jijnasa. It is the same process that young Siddhartha went through as he sat for many days under the Bodhi tree just prior to attaining enlightenment. In order to be liberated while living, a deeply experiential understanding of the nature of reality, maya or illusion and reincarnation is necessary. During the course of the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna divinely reveals this wisdom to Arjuna to help relieve his suffering and lead him back to a state of divine oneness with God.

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