I acknowledge this graphic from the Net
Assembled together in this sacred plains of Kurukshetra
What did my sons and Pandu’s do as they ready to battle?
This is the opening verse of what is probably the most sacred of all Hindu scriptures, considered the Word of God. In 700 verses developed over 18 chapters, this scripture is a dialogue between man and God. It forms part of the largest epic poem ever written, the Mahabharata, comprising over 100,000 verses in 18 chapters. The central character in both, as well as in another major Hindu epic, Bhagavatam, is Krishna, incarnation of Vishnu, the Sustainer in the Hindu holy Trinity.
Why does this piece of work, recited in Sanskrit perhaps 5000 years ago, still invoke an inspired following of readers, who claim to apply it in the daily work and life? Why do I, as a coach and trainer, quote innumerable times words of Krishna’s advice to Arjuna, as if the counseling comes from me?
The story of Mahabharata is complex. In its 100,000 verses, it has thousands of short detours, and tens of thousands of characters, each of whom leaves a foot print on the reader’s minds. Vyasa, its author, whose name merely means Editor, was perhaps not one person, especially considering that a person with the same name compiled the 4 Vedas, the foundation of Hindu philosophy. Anyone who reads the Mahabharata cannot but admire the editing skills of the author, opening up thousands of stories within a story, with tens of thousands of characters, effortlessly bringing them all back to closure.
Bhagavad Gita, in contrast is straight forward. It is a dialogue between Arjuna, the greatest of all warriors, and Krishna, his buddy, guide, teacher and God. Its message is simple, something we will come to in later pages. Bhagavad Gita appears at the almost the end of the epic Mahabharata, jut before a calamitous 18 day war that annihilates a large part of the then Indian warrior and princely population, including the ruling princes of the Kaurava family.
The Kauravas and the Pandavas are cousins, born to two princes. There are a 100 Kaurava princes, whose father Dhritarashtra was born blind to a widowed mother. There are 5 Pandavas born to an accursed prince Pandu through two of his wives with divine intervention and origin. As has been said often, even today, neither Hollywood nor Bollywood can create such story of salacity, deceit, intrigue and humor, and yet elevating the reader to heights of devotion. We all believe what we are taught to believe!
The Kauravas and Pandavas are arraigned in battle at Kurukshetra, with a vast army estimated at 4 million soldiers in addition to horses and elephants, in 18 divisions, 11 with Kauravas and 7 with Pandavas. of these, about 3 million perished. It was the mother of all battles. Dhritarashtra, the blind king, is far away in Hastinapura, their capital, about a 100 miles away. His advisor and charioteer Sanjaya has been gifted divine tele sight to see and communicate to his King the happenings on the battlefield at Kurukshetra, even as they are in their capital Hastinapura. The first verse is the King’s impatient query to his seeing eye as to what is happening in the battlefield.
Mahabharata is considered by many a metaphor with its key in the verses of Bhagavad Gita. The metaphor is the constant battle between good and evil. Its theme is that good will eventually win, at perhaps a huge cost, as long as its principals stay in the path of righteousness. King Dhritarashtra is blinded, in addition to his physical blindness, by his obsessive love for his son Duryodhana, representing evil in the epic. Good and evil are closely related as first cousins! They fight all the time! So, what is new?
The theme of Bhagavad Gita according to some is surrender. According to me it is action and a clear need to define what one is acting towards. Surrender in Gita arises in a different context that we shall discuss later. It is the action theme in Gita that holds the reader in thrall. Krishna is forever focused, Arjuna forever dithering. The greatest of archers, who could shoot a tiny object down looking only at its reflection in water, could not focus when confronted with emotional issues. The message of Gita is as well how the amygdala in the hypothalamus region short circuits our cognition. Gita is as well Emotional Intelligence 101.
My writing on the Gita is not another commentary on what is already a most commented upon scripture. It is about what I have learnt from the Bhagavad Gita and what may be possibly be of value to a fellow professional. This material is not for scholars; they should go to the original Sanskrit verses, since every commentary I have read on the Bhagavad Gita, and I have read many, are colored by the viewpoint of the author. Here, I make no pretensions about conveying the message if the Bhagavad Gita as Vyasa intended. I have no clue. I interpret the verses, both the Sanskrit and the English, in my idiom. My source is the Adi Sankara commentary on the Gita, translated by Alladi Mahadeva Sastry over a 100 years ago.
If I am making a mistake, let me at least follow the footsteps of the greatest of all Hindu teachers, Sankaracharya!