As the reader is very likely aware, the Bhagavad Gita, or the Song of God, is a Hindu scriptural text known for the depth of its spiritual insights. It is part of a much larger epic, the Mahabharata, that describes in intricate detail, the events leading up to and including the climactic battle at Kurukshetra.
On one side is the army of the Pandavas, a family of virtuous and noble brothers. Arrayed against them is the army of their cousins, the Kauravas, a more ruthless and opportunistic family that seeks dominance and control over the surrounding kingdom of Hastinapura. The Gita itself describes the interactions between Arjuna, the Pandava general, and Shri Krishna, his advisor. In the period leading up to the battle, Shri Krishna offers assistance to both Arjuna and Duryodhana (The Kaurava leader)—specifically, and, the choice between Shri Krishna’s massive army and Shri Krishna Himself as counsel and charioteer. In a fateful decision, Arjuna chooses the latter.
On the face of it, the Mahabharata can be considered as a kind of morality play, but it is much more than that. It is a guide to the attainment of higher consciousness. The life lessons it imparts are meant for those seeking freedom from the bondage of their mind and senses, and who wish to ultimately realize the essential nature of their true being.
The Mahabharata is actually an allegory, within which the Kauravas symbolise the lower nature of the human being, and the Pandavas represent the higher, more refined nature of the soul or jeeva. On a deeper level, the battle is not an external one, but serves as a metaphor for the inner struggle of the individual to transcend the human condition. In the case of the Gita, Arjuna represents the virtuous mind, the soul who seeks enlightenment, but is still affected by the changing nature of the world, and the sway that human experience has on him. Shri Krishna, as Arjuna’s mentor, represents the Divine Being who leads the higher intellect to a state of moksha or liberation from the shackles of the human ego and mind. In reality, Arjuna and Shri Krishna exist in all of us.
In this article, I want to describe the life lessons the Gita imparts. Their relevance is not as removed from our daily experience as the reader might think because the Gita deals with the human condition, which applies to us all. The question here is not how to improve our humanity, but rather how to transcend it and realise that it is the ignorance of our essential Self that leads to all suffering. Remove this ignorance, and the true brilliance of our being can then shine most brightly.
The inner battle
When Arjuna realises that many of those arrayed against him in the Kaurava army are his dearest relatives, teachers, and friends, he becomes despondent and confused. He is paralysed by the thought that they might be killed in the ensuing battle. As he surveys the scene of the impending battle, he becomes helpless, his limbs weaken, and he is not even able to wield his mighty bow.
As mentioned above, the battle itself is a metaphor for the inner struggle between the forces of light, and darkness. The forces of darkness lead the mind to feel weak, limited, and helpless. The Kauravas are the personifications of attachment, greed, and fear that plague the human psyche. The higher intellect struggles to break free of their bondage, and it is only when the light of the essential Self shines through, that the being is finally free from such ensnarement.
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