Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bhagavath Gita - An Introduction

Among the different sects of Hindus, Bhagavath Gita is a Holy Book to be read and followed with great devotion. It is a Smriti - one that is to be realised by applying it to life's situation. Bhagavath Gita is part of Mahabharatha and is in the Bheeshma Parva as a series of conversation between Arjuna and Lord Krishna.

In the Mahabharatha war between Pandavas and Kauravas, Kaurava's army was more in numbers as compared to Pandavas. They were comfortable in numbers in the ratio of 11:7. That didn't mean all of the Kauravas supported Duryodhana whole heartedly. They knew he was wrong, but they had to be in Kaurava's side due to loyalty to Hasthinapura like (Bheeshma and Dronacharya), trick (Madra's king Shalya - maternal uncle of Nakula and Sahadeva) or friendship (Karna). The battle field was at Kurukshetra in present day Haryana. This Kurukshetra derived it's name from the King Kuru and is believed  that a person dying at this place will get Moksha immediately. All the kings of the Akhanda Bharatha of those times participated in this war on either of the sides except Balarama - Lord Krishna's elder brother who stayed neutral as both Bheema and Duryodhana are his disciples and Vidharba's king Rukma - Lord Krishna's brother-in-law and Rukmini's elder brother who was unwanted in either sides. In doing so friends, relatives and teachers were in the opposing sides and had to face each other in the battle - a not so comfortable situation. The war was a colossal damage. Only 7 survived from Pandavas - 5 Pandava brothers, Satyaki, Yuyuthsu and of course Lord Krishna and 3 survived from Kauravas - Aswathaama, Krithaverma and Kripachaarya. The war was scheduled to start on the Amaavasya day of the Margasheersha month of the Chandramana (lunar) calendar. Knowing fully well that this planetary position will be advantageous to Duryodhana, Lord Krishna had the moon disappear the previous day and made it Amaavasya. So the war started only on the Prathamai day of the Sukla Paksha of Margasheersha month.

Just before the start of the war, Arjuna asks his charioteer Lord Krishna to park the chariot in the middle of the battlefield so that he could see his opponents clearly. Doing so, he looks at them and sees his great grand father Bheeshma, Gurus Dronacharya and Kripacharya, maternal uncle Shalya and cousin brothers. He goes weak in his knees and feels so confused in his mind as to whether this war is worth to be won by killing all these dear people. Lord Krishna clears all of his confusions, explains the Karma, Bhakthi and Gyana Yoga (path) to be followed in life and makes Arjuna to be ready for the fight. This whole conversation is called as the Bhagavath Geetha. This is a Brahma Vidya (explaining the concept of Brahman) and a Yoga Shastra (explaining the path to be taken).

Let us next see how this was passed on to us after so many generations. During the Mahabharatha war, Hasthinapura's king and Kaurava's father - Dhritharasthtra who was blind was given the power to see all the happenings of the war - public or private happenings as a Gyana Dhristi by Veda Vyasa - the author of Mahabharatha. Dhritharasthtra declined the offer stating he didn't want to see the destruction and had his aide Sanjaya have this power. On the tenth day of the war, Bheeshma was felled by Arjuna with the help of Sikandi. At end of day, Sanjaya passed this information to Dhritharasthtra who in turn asked Sanjaya to tell all the heppenings from the start. Since this day - eleventh day (ekadashi) of the Sukla Paksha of Margasheersha month is the day Gita was first reported to the world it is celebrated as the Gita Jayanthi day. In our calendar, this comes a month ahead of the Vaikunta Ekadashi day.

It is said Veda Vyasa dictated Mahabharatha to Lord Ganesha who as a stenographer wrote it with his tusk on the Meru mountain. Later, sages Suka - son of Veda Vyasa and Vaisampayana - a disciple of Veda Vyasa (we remember him in the Dhyana shlokas of Vishnu Sahasranama in the Vaisampayana Uvacha verse), recited this to King Parikshith (when he was waiting for his death) and his son Janamajeya (when he did the parihara for killing snakes). Narada Maharishi recited this to Devas and Suta Maharishi recited to the Saunaka rishis in the Naimisharanyam. Even today Gita Jayanthi is celebrated in temples like Guruvayoor and the full 701 verses of Bhagavath Gita are recited.

A lot of wise men and saints have written Bhaasya (commentary) on this Bhagavath Gita like Adhi Sankara, Ramanujacharya etc. I am planning to write my commentary on this - an ordinary mortal's limited understanding of this great work. I am planning to start this on the coming Vyasa Poornima or Guru Poornima falling on July 15th 2011. There are 701 Shlokas in this Bhagavath Gita divided into 18 chapters and am planning to write it in sets of 10 with the audio, shloka and the meaning, making it to continue for 70 weeks. That tentatively will continue till Gita Jayanthi day of 2012 (sometime in the end of November 2012). The next 2 weeks will be concentrated on Gita Mahatmiyam which is in the Varaha Purana and the week after will be on Gita Dhyana.

May Lord Krishna give me the strength and energy to do this.
Sarvam Krishnaarpanamasthu.

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