Radhanath Swami: Bhagavad Gita
At Kurukshetra, under the very banyan tree where Krishna originally spoke to Arjuna, I first read the Bhagavad-gita. I had read many spiritual texts in my travels but the Gita struck me as a book that was so highly practical.
I read that Krishna spoke to his disciple Arjuna, who was about to shrink from his calling in the face of insurmountable obstacles. The Gita had been spoken on a battlefield because life itself is a battle where evil perpetually attacks good and our sacred ideals are destined to be tested. We will all be confronted by grave dangers and fearsome demons within and without. There is much to be gained from facing these aggressors with integrity and faith. Krishna’s timeless call culminates in the practice of selfless devotion, determination, and spiritual absorption as the means to access a power beyond our own to overcome all fear — the power of God’s love.
In that sanctified place, the Bhagavad-gita’s message penetrated me so deeply I felt as if Krishna were personally speaking to me on every page. I read several chapters each day, and was struck by how powerfully they revealed the science of self-realization beyond sectarian or historical boundaries. The Gita elucidates such intricacies as how the soul is related to God, how that changeless soul is affected by material nature, how karma (the natural law of action and reaction) affects all of us, and how the imperceptible influence of time acts on creation. As a lonesome wanderer seeking truth, where danger, temptation and fear could pounce on me at any moment, I found solace and direction in those immortal words. In Kurukshetra, the Bhagavad-gita became my handbook on how to live.
I once wondered — when Arjuna wanted peace, why did Krishna speak philosophy to impel him to fight? The Bhagavad-gita asserts that lasting peace is possible only when a person first makes peace with God in his or her own heart. Only when we are peaceful within can we act in ways that will promote peace without. And we can have internal peace only when we are in harmony with our internal nature, which is that we are neither gross bodies nor subtle minds, but non-material souls, beloved children of God. Therefore, we can achieve our right to real peace and happiness not by making patchwork arrangements in this world of inescapable death, but by reviving our innate love for God and returning back to His eternal abode.
Although Bhagavad-gita is sacred for Indians in general and Hindus in particular, the appreciation of Bhagavad-gita is not limited to Vedic circles. Many Western scholars have found the Bhagavad-gita to be amazingly coherent and cogent. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s remark is a sample: “In the great book of India, the Bhagavad-gita, an empire spoke to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence, which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions that exercise us.” —Radhanath Swami