(The following is an edited version of Swamiji’s talk on Gita Jyanthi)
“…Gita has been said to be the very essence of the Upanishads upon which our culture is based. Even now the basis of Bharatian culture is recognised to be the Upanishads. The Upanishads about which one of the greatest of German savants said: ‘The Upanishads have been the solace of my life and the Upanishads shall surely be the solace at the time of my departure from life.’ Gita is said to be the very cream and the essence of the lofty wisdom of these Upanishads. So in the Gita we have got the wisdom of the Upanishads in a nutshell. We have access to the best, the most precious gems that are to be found in the mine that the Upanishads are.
“Therefore, it was that the father of our nation the late Mahatma Gandhiji of revered memory said that he regarded the Gita as his own mother, by which he meant to say that his very life had been sustained by the Bhagavad Gita, that his thoughts, his feelings, his philosophy, had been nourished by the soul-elevating and strengthening Upadesha of Srimad Bhagavad Gita. As a representative of our nation Mahatmaji expressed by this utterance what Gita ought to be to every Indian. He desired thereby that every Indian, every son of Bharatavarsha ought to make Gita his own, to enshrine the knowledge and the philosophy of the Gita in the chambers of his heart, to illumine his life by the bright flame of Gita-Jnana. It is this pride of Bharatian culture, this gem in the Bharatian culture, Mother Gita, that has ever been the soul of Indian philosophy.
“It is precisely for this reason that, even though it is just a small book of 700 verses, a mere exposition forming part of a greater epic poem, the Mahabharata, yet it has been given the unique place of one among our Prasthanatraya, and no great saint or scholar or Acharya worth the name has failed to comment upon it. Gita has received equal reverence at the hands of every one of the leaders of religion. All great Acharyas, all great saints, all great men of realisation and scholars have ever taken the Gita to be an authority and have also drawn from it and built up their philosophy. What is more: in the West, many a great and deep thinker has not at all hesitated to accept and avow frankly his debt to this great supreme scripture of scriptures.
Emerson, for instance, was only too ready to accept that Gita had been a great factor in moulding his thought and his attitude towards life. Such is the glory of this great star in the firmament of our Hindu scriptures.
“A scripture can be approached in several aspects. Specially such a universal scripture as the Gita can be and has been approached by people from numberless angles, each trying to seek in the Gita light for his particular view of life, for his particular philosophy of life. People of absolutely divergent temperaments, people of widely varying conceptions and different conclusions on similar questions, have all sought to find in the Gita support for their peculiar views.
A Karma Yogin approaches the Gita and in it finds a support for the cause of Karma Yoga. A devout Bhakta approaches the Gita and his joy is unbounded that the Gita gives him wonderful support for his Sadhana. A Jnani approaches the Gita and is elated that the Gita fully supports his view. And a man of meditation—to him, too, Gita gives ample support and proof. For a man of active temperament, for a man politically inclined, a man who wants to move actively and effectively in this Vyavaharic world, in this world of externalised life, he, too, finds plenty in the Gita to enthuse him and to enlighten him and to guide him. The student of mere sociology who wants to present to the people his own views on the ideal society, has got in the Gita valuable support and guidance. Like this, we can multiply any number of instances.
“But then a scripture can be approached as a book of knowledge that enlightens us about numerous subjects and yet it can also be approached as a practical guide to see if there is anything in the scripture which will be of practical use to the person, which will be of substantial utility, by which I mean that a man approaches a scripture for purposes of actually solving some immediate problems that confront him, for actually helping him out of a practical difficulty in which he finds himself in life. Gita fulfils both these ends. Gita not only gives us in a nutshell a brilliant exposition of the philosophy of the Upanishads, but Gita also gives us in a very helpful, very practical and very decisive manner, valuable hints for the actual Sadhana, the actual practices through which we can make these truths of the Upanishads, living experiences of our own life.
“A book may give all about the sugar industry, all about the various aspects of the growing of cane, the fertilisation, the care of the cane crop, the necessary manure and the method of transporting the cane to the factory—all about the machinery in the factory and all about the science of proper manufacture of sugar; and yet it may not give us practical guidance as to how we might get at the commodity, consume it and enjoy the actual bliss of the sweetness of this sugar.
“On the other hand, there may be a very practical guide—very short and not so elaborate, not so erudite, not so very technical, but yet which tells us a direct and easy method of gaining actual access to a mine of ready-made sugar from which we can take as much as we like to consume and ever be in continued enjoyment. A man who is more concerned with achievement, rather than with the accumulation of facts, of data, would prefer the latter-mentioned book. Even so, those of the Jivas that are disgusted with the sorrows, with the vexing problems, with the limitations and pains of this bound earthly life, those who yearn to get free of these Samsaric afflictions, who are fired with the zeal and aspiration to break these fetters of Samsaric life, and who wish once and for all to rise up to the consciousness of a higher existence and who wish to enjoy the plenitude, the power and the beatitude of Atmic experience, a life of perfection, of freedom, of immortality, of eternal bliss,—they will be ever on the look out for what practical guidance they can gain from the Gita in order to help them in this achievement.
“They are eager to completely annihilate all limitations, weaknesses, and bondage, to completely eliminate all sorts of afflictions and pain and to secure the permanent acquisition of light, power and wisdom, and bliss of the highest experience of Sadhana. This is the test of the Utility of any scripture for us. Readily Gita fulfils this demand of the struggling aspirant, of the awakened Jiva, who wishes to transcend this Samsaric life and soar into the empyrean of blissful, magnificent, Atmic experience. This is the goal of every Indian; and every son born in this Punya-Bhumi of Bharatavarsha, has got this element of aspiration ingrained within himself.
“Whatever be the ‘daulat’ of this earth, whatever be the pomp of this passing pageantry, the real Hindu knows that true and lasting happiness is not to be got in this perishable world. Anityamasukham Lokamiman Prapya Bhajaswa Maam. This is the clarion call of Sri Krishna in the Gita. This is the main theme. Things here are not going to last. We cannot depend upon any objects for our permanent bliss or satisfaction. Also it is Asukham: there is no real pleasure in the objects of the external universe. There is no real pleasure in any enjoyment of the human senses. This knowledge is ingrained in every son of Bharatavarsha; be he of the highest aristocracy or education, or be he an unlettered and illiterate Kisan.
“He also knows, “these passing things of this external earth will not give me eternal satisfaction”, and that yearning is there in the sub-conscious of every true Hindu. This yearning is more than amply fulfilled in the Gita. Gita is the scripture for the struggling Sadhaka who wishes to have this attainment of Paramananda, Nityasukha, Param Shanti. For that, if we turn to the Gita, we see that its pages are teeming with practical hints, guiding advice and admonition, about every aspect in Sadhana, and a wonderful synthesis of all Sadhanas, suited to all temperaments upon earth.
It is a unique scripture covering the entire gamut of spiritual life. For the Karma Yogin, Gita has its wonderful advice. Gita gives to all of us, Sadhakas, who long for real peace and bliss, and freedom from the bondage of this sorrowful, earthly existence, a wonderful Sadhana, a wonderful treasure, a view as also a wonderful Bhav or attitude towards life.”