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What is Geetaa?

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What is Geetaa?

There are 18 chapters (Adhyaaya) in the Geetaa and 700 Shlok in all. Not all the 700 verses need in-depth study to get a good grasp of the Bhagwad Geetaa. A study of say, even a third of the total verses on a selected basis is enough to give a fairly good grasp of the Geetaa. The Bhagwad Geetaa does not professes to give anything new beyond what has been previously taught by the Upanishad. The Geetaa contends itself with a synthesis of the older teachings.

The ultimate goal in religion is the realization of the existence of an entity ie the Soul behind the apparent body. The visible body is not the whole reality. There is in it an unseen but ever-active master of the house, the Dehi, the possessor of the body, whose existence we should realize before can live the true life. This entity, the Self (Aatmaa), is not to be confused with the intangible functions of the brain. That entity is not mere Thought, Perception, Emotion, Will or Discriminative Intelligence etc etc which are all only the functions of the body. The Soul is an entity apart from and behind all these functions. It is not seated in any particular part of the body but pervades the whole of it and all the senses, unaffected by the law of "extension", even as ether was taken by the physicists to pervade the whole of space and matter. Not only man, but every animal and plant, every living thing, has a Soul. The body is just the field of action, the Kshetra, in which resides the Soul, who is the Kshetree, or Kshetragya.

The Geetaa avers that the Aatmaa (Soul) does not repeat, not cease to exist when the body dies and is buried, burnt or eaten up by animals, beasts, birds or insects. Krishn declares that grief over death is foolish as the Soul is incapable of death. It is the body that is cast off in death even as we cast off old clothes and wear new ones. The Geetaa reaffirms that Self-knowledge alone can deliver one from the bonds of repeated cycles of birth and death (Sansaar-punaraapi jananam punaraapi maranam). Most of us are confounded as to our duty (Dharm) and are deeply plunged into the mighty ocean of grief as Arjun was. Krishn wanted to help His friend out of such grief and introduced him to Self-knowledge when He said:- "You grieve for those who are not to be grieved for...... The enlightened people grieve neither for the living nor for the dead". Ch 2, verse 11). Thus Krishn is trying to remove the very source of Arjun's delusion in the Geetaa.

One's ego rises when the Pure Self (Aatmaa) is not recognized, and the deep-seated ignorance in man not only veils his Divine Nature from himself, but also projects on the Reality a positive misconception. The egocentric idea that he is conditioned by his own body, mind and intellect, is the true seed of man's delusory attachments with his own relations and the consequent deep compassion that leads his mind to make him so helpless. Grief and dejection are the prizes that delusion demands from its victim, man. So, by rediscovering ourselves as something higher than our own ego , we can put an end to all imagined sorrows that have come to us through false identifications. That is the crux of the Upanishaidik Message reaffirmed in the Geetaa.

It is the ego in Arjun that came to suffer its neurotic condition, goaded by its own delusion and its instinctive misapprehensions. Lord Krishn knew in his infinite wisdom that misapprehension of Reality can take place only when it is preceded by a pitiable non-apprehension of Reality. Therefore, in order to cure the very source of Arjun's delusion, He advices him the very cream of knowledge as declared in the immortal books of the Hindoo: the Upanishad. Krishn starts His instructions to Arjun with a direct discourse upon the eternal Reality. He points him out that Bheeshm and Drone are not merely the body-encasements in which they were now functioning. The inner equipments of both Bheeshm and Drone allowed through them a glorious expression of life-principle or the soul in them, and these great men were incomparable due to this divine shine beamed out through them. To consider that the cultural soul of Bheeshm and Drone would be wounded and their life would be ended in the war is a mere delusory concept of an uninitiated understanding. By this statement Lord Krishn has indicated to Arjun the existence of the Self greater than the ego in every embodiment.

Krishn advices Arjun to renounce his physical, emotional and intellectual estimates of his teacher and his grandsire (Bheeshm) and, in fact, to renounce the whole battlefield problem and to re-evaluate the situation from his spiritual understanding. This subtle psycho-physical shock treatment by the Lord does immense good to Arjun. Krisn explains how men of true wisdom never feel miserable and never moan over things that are there or for things that are no more. They understand that the outer world of objects is essentially finite and, therefore, things in it must perish and be born again. Continuity of change is the nature of finitude and it is this change that we understand as death. To lament over change amounts to not understanding the nature of finitude.

Continuity of the soul is emphatically brought in the Geetaa. He declares unequivocally that the embodies soul in everyone is set on a great journey in which it comes to identify itself with varied forms temporarily to gain fixed specimens of experience. He says neither Himself nor Arjun, nor the great kings and warriors who have assembled in both the armies there, have not come from nowhere and at their death will not become mere non-existent. Herein lies the Hindu philosophy theory of Reincarnation. We keep hearing amazing stories of people remembering their earlier birth, the place where they lived, names of their previous life's parents and other relatives etc. Krishn's declaration that that none, including Himself, Arjun and the great Kings, even after their death on the battlefield, "shall cease to exist in future" is worth meditating upon.

The Bhagvad Geetaa, literally, The Song of the LORD, is essentially a song of life. It shows us how Jeevaatmaa, who lives the life of separation here on Earth, can be or may be united with his Divine source, the Paramaatmaa. It shows us the path which we must take to reach our Homeland. But this way is to be trodden, not merely spoken about. Step by step must man move on the Path, until the wanderer reaches his true Home...!

The scholars have divided the eighteen chapters of the Geetaa into three sections:
(1) The first six chapters deal with the Karm Yog or "Path of Action" and are described as the 'Karm Maarg'. They teach us right of action, selfless action, we are taught that the performance of one's own duty - Swa-Dharm - is of paramount importance. This attitude of selfless service will promote Desirelessness and detachment in us. We offer all our actions as a sacrifice to the lord. This purifies our heart, mind and soul, filling our lives with peace and joy'.

(2) Chapters 7-12 deal with the Bhakti Yog or "Path of Devotion" and are described as the 'Bhakti Maarg'. They teach us how we may transform our Karm or action into worship of the Lord. "Work is love made visible". When we do our duty in a spirit of joy and love, we grow in devotion, in pure love for Shree Krishn. Karm Yog becomes linked with Bhakti Yog and work becomes worship. We grow in the awareness of the glorious truth 'Geetaa Saar or the Essence of Geetaa'. We have learnt to see Lord everywhere; we have linked the heart and the hand, blended 'Karm with Bhakti'.

(3) The last six chapters deal with the Gyaan Yog or "Path of Knowledge" and are called the 'Gyaan Maarg '. It teaches us that the 'Self in Us' is not just the body, the mind or the senses: it is the deathless "Aatmaa" that is ever free from pain, misery and sorrow. We begin to understand the purpose of our life on earth and this the beginning of our quest for God. We grow in detachment, we assimilate Divine qualities that are necessary to tread the spiritual path. We learn the ultimate lesson of surrender and Divine Grace. Bhakti eventually leads to Gyaan - the highest wisdom. Both Gyaan and Paraa Bhakti enable us to attain liberation, union with the Lord - which is the goal of all Saadhanaa and Abhyaas.


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Created by Sushma Gupta On 3/9/02
Modified on 12/13/10