Five thousand years ago, a conversation took place which would mould the course of history from the moment it began. It was different from any normal conversation. Firstly, it took place between a warrior and his most trusted friend and companion. Secondly, the discussion was a revelation – teachings on the physical, mental and spiritual: from the most basic axioms of nature to the laws of reality itself, and everything else in between. On this day, that fateful conversation between Panduputra Arjuna, and his charioteer, friend, brother and mentor, Krishna happened – what we know as the Bhagavad Gītā.
Let’s set the scene. One of the mightiest wars ever known at the time, the battle between brothers for the throne of Hastinapur, is about to begin. The Pandavas finally have a chance to rightfully claim what is theirs. The Kauravas aim to cement their claims once and for all.
However, on the dawn of battle, the reality of Arjuna’s situation sinks in – he’ll have to fight and destroy his family, his mentors, his teachers, in order to take his role as a king. He drops his weapons, shocked by this horrifying truth, and looks to Krishna for help. However, what he receives goes entirely beyond that altogether. The teachings, wisdom, knowledge and understanding conveyed between Krishna and Arjuna is narrated and recorded by Sanjaya, who received a power to see the battlefield, to the current King.
But why is the Gītā so important that we celebrate its day of origin? Well, the Gītā goes beyond just facts – it contains lessons on life and the human character itself, and how to recognise and conquer our limits and shortcomings. For example, when asked about the mind and focus, Krishna says:
bandhur ātmātmanas tasya yenātmaivātmanā jitaḥ
anātmanas tu śhatrutve varte tātmaiva śhatruvat
For those who have conquered the mind, it is their friend. For those who have failed to do so, the mind works like an enemy.
Not only does this capture beautifully what our minds are like, but also stresses the importance of why this is a hindrance. Another such example follows after:
saha-jaṁ karma kaunteya sa-doṣham api na tyajet
sarvārambhā hi doṣheṇa dhūmenāgnir ivāvṛitāḥ
One should not abandon duties born of one’s nature, even if one sees defects in them, O son of Kunti. Indeed, all endeavors are veiled by some evil, as fire is by smoke.
Put simply, Krishna Bhagavān’s most important lesson is to distinguish – to be able to observe the positive and the negative within our actions and values, and be aware and acknowledge these – a key skill for students like us as we observe the world as it is today, yet also be more aware of what we can do about it.
This year, especially during a pandemic-affected year, let’s all attempt to have that important discussion with ourselves, try to appreciate and practice such timeless wisdom in our lives, so that we can be the best possible versions of us we can be.
Wishing everyone a Shubh Gītā Jayanti!
Atharva Joshi – NHSF (UK) Sanskaar Team