Tarka #002

On the Bhagavad Gita


On the Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gītā is one of the most widely read and beloved sacred texts of India and the world. It teaches the Yoga of devotion and equanimity through a vivid dialogue between the young prince Arjuna and Lord Krishna.  Set in the midst of a battlefield, it tells a story of violence, yet it has become a tremendous resource for peace. Often referred to as the “Bible of Hinduism” the Bhagavad Gītā, is not read literally, meaning that it does not draw its importance and validity from the idea that the events may or may not have actually occurred in history.  Rather, as a work of poetry that is intended to be recited, memorized, and performed, it shares eternal truths that resonate across religious and sectarian boundaries.  

Unlike the Yogasūtras, the Bhagavad Gītā is a text that overtly engages the world.  It supports an active life rather than a life of renunciation and suggests that the cultivation of insight and devotion is the means to true freedom.  In the final chapter Krishna declares, “As long as one has a body, one cannot renounce action altogether. True renunciation is giving up all desire for personal reward.  Those who are attached to personal reward will reap the consequences of their actions: some pleasant, some unpleasant, some mixed. But those who renounce every desire for personal reward go beyond the reach of karma.” (BG 18: 11-12, translation from Eknath Easwaran, 2007)

MK Gandhi wrote and taught extensively on the Gītā as a resource for nonviolent protest, explaining, “The field of battle is our own body.  An eternal battle is going on between the two camps and the Poet Seer has vividly described it.  Krishna is the Dweller within ever whispering in a pure heart.” He continues, “Himsa [violence] will go on eternally in this strange world.  The Gītā shows the way out of it. But it also shows that escape out of cowardice and despair is not the way.” (Young India, 1925 in Views on Hindu Dharma by MK Gandhi, edited by Neerja Arun Gupta, 2018).

The articles in this second issue of Tarka approach the Bhagavad Gītā from a variety of angles and provide a broad introduction to this text.  They were initially published along side the lecture series, Radical Practice: Living the Yogasūtra and Bhagavad Gītā.  If you are interested in this programing it is available in the “learn” section of the Embodied Philosophy web page.  

~ Stephanie Corigliano, Tarka Managing Editor