A few posts ago I said I’d be going through the Bhagavad Gita chapter by chapter, and the time has come to do so.
As it is for many people, the Gita was my first real introduction to the Hindu faith and philosophy,. Yesterday I wrote on my other blog, Sadhana Day by Day, about the experience that turned my life around forty years ago, and set me on the uphill path I am still walking to this day. The aftermath of that experience was that I returned home and turned over a new leaf completely; and the lifeline that straightened out my oh so crooked life was this little book: the Bhagavad Gita.
In retrospect it seems that that path was already predetermined, and that everything was all planned out in advance that I should end up devouring the Gita as if I were starving and it was living water. Before my trip through South America I had already discovered the miracle of Hatha Yoga, and diligent practice had sorted out many of my more pressing, physical problems: drinking, smoking and an eating disorder that had made me so fat I’d fallen into a slump of inferiority and self-loathing. The Gita was the next step; for that inferiority and self-loathing still lived on in me, but in a more subtle, mental form.
The Gita pulled me out. The Gita showed me the way. The Gita opened doors for me and I walked through into a wonderful new world where inferiority and self-loathing could be shed like an old used skin and I gradually woke up to another me hidden beneath all the layers of self that had seemed so real, and were so suffocating.
The Gita is, of course, the central teaching at the heart of the Mahabharata. Everything else, the huge cast of characters, the discourses, the sub-plots and plots-within-plots, the war, the entire vast story itself, are all merely spokes in a wheel of which the Gita is the hub. I’m always astonished when I read some short versions of the Gita, which omit the Gita as if it were a mere distraction from the story. It’s actually the other way around: the story is a distraction from the Gita, and that’s why the Gita has found a life of its own beyond the Mahabharata. Millions of people, in the West as well as in the East, have read and loved and revered the Gita who have never come near to the Mahabharata; it can exist on its own, whereas the Mahabharata on its own—well, it’s still a great story, but a story without a spine: just another book in the fantasy genre.
The Gita, of course, is pretty long in itself, and there was no way I could include the whole of it in Sons of Gods. I did, however, try to prise out its essence, find new words for the jewel Krishna handed to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra; and so Chapter 58 of Sons of Gods, the Song of God, is a condensed version of the Gita. The day after tomorrow I’m going to post that entire Chapter as a page in this blog, and that’s the Gita that will be discussed here.