Thursday, October 19, 2006

Introduction to Bhagavad Gita by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood.

Recently, I was at a festival celebrating the forthcoming Diwali or the Festival of Lights in which the Tamils and Hindus regard as their New Year.
At one of the stalls, religious objects and books were on sale. The woman who came forth to speak to me didn't look like an Indian. Indeed, she wasn't. She was a Croatian. Her husband is a Malaysian Indian.
During our brief conversation, I found out that she was a former Catholic but the religion which she was born with didn't find her a willing believer when she grew up. Later she was more attracted to Hinduism.
There were several copies of Bhagavad Gita or the Song of God. The hard-bound version was a bit pricey and the soft cover wasn't to my liking. Anyway, she managed to convince me of the usefulness of the booklet by Swami Prabhavananda.
A few days after I had brought the book home, I spent one evening reading its contents. It is an excellent introduction to one of India's finest book on religion. Many of the aspects covered were similar to the Bible and other great books of religion.
I couldn't help seeing the connection between the philosophies behind the major religions of the world.
It is my personal belief that great teachers always have the ability to convey the most complex spiritual issues in the plainest of language. To that end, Swami Prabhavananda has not failed. In fact, he has succeeded most admirably.
From a single reading of this booklet, you won't be an expert on the Bhagavad Gita but it will open that little window towards a broader understanding of a religion that spans thousands of years.
Now if you were to be asked what is the bhagavad gita, you can tell the person who asks that it is an ancient Sanskrit text that consists of 700 verses of the Mahabharata.
The title can also be translated to mean "Song of the Divine One". In this case, it refers to the Bhagavan (Supreme Being) who is Lord Krishna.
The gist of the Bhagavad Gita is a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna at the battle ground of Kurukshreta. The dialogue takes place just before a major war.
Arjuna is confused about certain moral and personal issues, so Krishna explained to him his responsibilities. Krishna specifically brought up examples and anecdotes from several Vedantic and yogic teachings.
From the Gita, Hindus have since got the impression that it is a guide to the Hindu philosophy. During the course of the conversation with Arjuna, Krishna reveals himself to be the Bhagavan or God.
From this humble introduction, the reader will be led to understand that the Bhagavad Gita can be considered to be an Upanishad or Hindu scriptures. The Upanishad is considered to be a text that discusses the meditation, philosophy and the power of God.
There are small paths that can be found in everybody's life that leads him to enlightenment, if an individual is so inclined. This booklet is one of the tiny paths, if you are interested.
Even though I am a Catholic, I find books like this one a source of inspiration and knowledge. Is it not God's will that everything that exists on earth are at our disposal whenever we need them?
So go in peace and live in serenity, for that is the way of the masters and the enlightened ones.