It is gratifying to note that Bhagavad Gita, the Song Celestial is likely to be declared as the Rashtriya Granth (National Book). This was hinted by Sushma Swaraj, Union Minister for External Affairs on the occasion of the Gita Prerna Mahotsav to coincide with the 5151st year of this divine text. The week-long celebration which ended on December 7, 2014 sought to raise awareness about the Bhagavad Gita as a source of practical inspiration for people in politics, education, business, and other fields.
It is not a dharma granth, it is a karma granth, in this light there are many reasons that we need to understand to know why it deserves to be called a National Book. Revered not only by Hindus, but by people across the globe, the Bhagavad Gita is one of the greatest and the most popular religio-philosophic poem of the Hindu scriptures. This Sanskrit text gives a synopsis of the religious thought and experience of India through the ages and describes the ultimate reality as a personal god, identified with Lord Krishna. Gita Jayanti which falls on the Ekadashi day of Shukla Paksha commemorates the day when Lord Krishna, rendered his philosophical teachings to Prince Arjuna on the first day of the 18-day battle of Kurukshetra between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. The epic battle of Mahabharata took place in Kurukshetra.
Gita consists of 700 Sanskrit verses divided into 18 chapters and all the chapters are designated as Yogas which may be reduced to four – the Karma Yoga, the Raja Yoga, the Bhakti Yoga and the Jnana Yoga. Lord Krishna is called Yogeswara since he handles all the four Yogas with equal importance. The earliest commentary on Bhagavad Gita is by Adi Shankaracharya followed by Bha-skaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Madh-vacharya, Nilakanthacharya, Sridhara-charya, and Madhusud-anacharya. In modern times, commentaries were written by Bal Gangadhara Tilak, Sri Aurobindo, Mahatma Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave, and Dr S Radhakrishnan.
The revered book was first translated into English by Sir Charles Wilkins and published by the East India Company, with an introduction by Warren Hastings, the then Governor General of India. It was later translated into the French, German and Russian languages. The Bhagavad Gita in Sanskrit, Canarese and English with A.W. Schlegal’s Latin version and Humboldt’s Essay on the Philosophy of Gita, was published in 1847 by John Garrett. J. Cockburn. Thomson translated Bhagavad Gita into English in 1885. Albert Einstein, Dr. Albert Schweizer, Aldous Huxley, Carl Jung and Henry David Thoreau studied it deeply.
Bhagavad Gita expounds the philosophy of Karma and Dharma and is an exposition of Existence-Knowledge-Bliss (Sat-Chit-Anand). Though the words Karma and Dharma have been used with 30 different meanings in Bhagwad Gita, nowhere have the word ‘Dharma’ meaning ‘religion’ comes up. The word ‘Hindu’ also does not occur anywhere in Bhagavad Gita. It has been addressing contemporary issues and solving day-today problems of humanity. The Bhagavad Gita can be experienced as a powerful catalyst for transformation. For those who wish to lead a normal life in this world, the Bhagavad Gita gives a moral code and a prospect for final liberation. It has got all the management tactics to achieve the mental equilibrium and to overcome any crisis situation.
It serves as an essential guide to better living and it prompts an individual to think, to take fair and right decision without surrendering one's identity. It reveals the experience of everyone in this world, the ascent of man from a state of utter dejection, sorrow and total breakdown and hopelessness to a state of perfect understanding, renewed strength and triumph. The Bhagavad Gita is profound in thought and sublime in heights of vision. It is the essence of the Vedas and Upanishads and hence the most influential work in Indian thought.
VN Gopalakrishnan (The writer is a Mumbai-based freelance journalist)