Published on 9th December, 2014, in www.dailyo.in
In April this year, I simplified the complex Bhagavad Gita written in Sanskrit to reach a larger audience through just 18 tweets. Known to contain the essence of ancient Vedic thoughts, Gita was put down in writing at a time when Buddhism was on the rise advocating the way of the hermit: renunciation of worldly life and striving for oblivion of identity (nirvana) for complete freedom from suffering (dukka). Gita proposed an idea where liberation (moksha) could be obtained by participating in society and fulfilling our ritual and worldly duties.
Although composed some 2000 years ago, there are several aspects of Gita that are relevant to contemporary times. Gita has 700 verses spread over 18 chapters that approach life emotionally (bhakti), intellectually (gyaan) and practically (karma). This is not to say, it is a rule-book such as the Holy Bible. Instead, Gita is a work of philosophy that provides perspective on the nature of life and the world where we lead this life. It presents a view of the world where all our actions have consequences. It describes why we must take responsibility for our actions and reactions without categorising them as right and wrong or good and bad deeds. As a result, Gita helps us strike a balance between our heart and actions. Most people tend to focus on a particular verse or a set of verses based on their interpretations of the verse and current life situations.
Though Gita can be made a “Rashtriya Granth”, it is likely to confuse the world and Indians alike as it is interpreted differently by different people. While Mahatma Gandhi believed Gita provided him the moral basis for non-violence, Bal Gangadhar Tilak believed it provided him with the moral basis for righteous violence. Ambedkar inferred Gita as a text justifying caste oppression. To Aurobindo, Gita captured the essential mystical truth about individuals.
Gita is different from other holy scriptures in many respects. The Bible and Quran speak of a world where we live only one life. Gita on the other hand, views this world as a place where we live many lives. This is the fundamental difference between Gita and other religious texts. Apart from this major ideological difference, The Bible and Quran preach that God is outside human beings, whereas Gita explains why God resides inside every human being. Religious books such as The Bible and Quran propagate “what God wants”. However, according to Bhagavad Gita, God always provides several choices in life. These options presented along the journey of life vary with people depending upon their intellectual and emotional capabilities. For every choice that people choose to exercise, there will be a consequence attached and they must take responsibility for not just their actions but also the consequences that follow.