The term Bhagavad Gita, means ‘The Eternal Song’ and is the very essence of ‘Mahabharata’ – an ancient Indian epic poem. It has 700 verses covered in 18 chapters. Each chapter is called ‘Yoga’ – the science of individual consciousness attaining communion with the Ultimate Consciousness. Each chapter is a highly specialized Yoga revealing the path of attaining realization with the Ultimate Truth. The first six chapters have been classified as the ‘Karma Yoga’ section – dealing with the science of attaining communion ‘through actions’. The next six are designated as ‘Bhakti Yoga’ section – attaining this communion travelling the ‘path of devotion’. The final six chapters are regarded as ‘Jnana Yoga’ section- the science of this communion ‘through the intellect’.
Written some five thousand years ago, it’s an unusual text amongst all scriptural works. The text covers a whole gamut of issues. Presented in the form of a conversation between Lord Krishna and Arjuna – it occurs in the thick of the war-field, where the almighty Lord Vishnu in His avatar as Lord Krishna, advises a disillusioned Arjuna on the various facets of Life and Works. The Bhagavad Gita is as much unusual as it is endearing.
It has a message to people from all walks of life. Philosophers delight in the description of the ‘Karma Yoga’ and ‘Samkhya Yoga’. The proponents of Bhakti cult extol the several manifestations of the Lord – His almighty ‘Visvarupa’ (Devine form). The description of the ‘Gunas’ (sattva, rajas and tamas) can surprise even a hardcore psychologist. The common man finds solace in the concept of the ‘stitaprajna’ (equipoised soul) to overcome his ever increasing anxieties. Management experts see in it the entire process of Change management. Perhaps, the greatest (and the most modern) idea is the focus on commitment to work, without getting excited about the rewards. The portrait of a ‘Karma Yogi’ has made many a scholar – from both the occident and the orient, to sit up and take notice of the elegant truth behind all human endeavors. Hence, the Gita has universal appeal and it transcends the boundaries of time and space.
Bhagavad Gita was originally revealed in the classical language of Sanskrit spoken in the Indian sub-continent. In 1785 it was translated into English by Charles Wilkins, then to Latin in 1823 by Schlegal, into German in 1826 by Von Humbolt, into French in 1846 by Lassens and into Greek in 1848 by Galanos. By now it has been translated into all major languages of the world such as Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Hebrew, Portuguese, and Arabic to name a few.
Bhagavad Gita is not a book teaching just how to worship God; many other texts do so. It focuses more on the eternal quest to reach Godhead itself. It edits the wisdom of the Upanishads and presents them in a more digestible format. It teaches the three basic paths to reach the Almighty – namely Bhakti Yoga, karma Yoga and Jnana Yoga. It also paves the path for a householder to lead a more rewarding and meaningful life. It makes a forceful thrust on action and condemns inactivity in no certain terms. In fact it combines the best aspects of both Eastern and Western thought processes. No wonder, it is revered by millions not only as a sacred text, but also as a guide for leading a better and fulfilling life!