I will describe briefly how I got introduced to Gita. My early childhood days were spent in the temple town of Udupi in Karnataka which is famous for its Shri Krishna temple. My parents used to take me to the temple often and I was fascinated by the Janmashtami festival and the Ratha processions of the temple. During my childhood I have seen my mother reading a small book in her puja room. I always was curious to know what this book contained but as the book was in Kannada, my state language and my schooling was in English and Hindi I was unable to read it. My mother used to read those shlokas in front of God and I never understood it. Also through the serial Mahabharata which had the sloka –
yada yada hi dharmasya
glanir bhavati bharata
tadatmanam srjamy aham
Meaning: Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time I descend Myself.
I was eager to read the Gita. When I was in 8th or 9th standard in school in Delhi, my 2nd language being Sanskrit, in the Sanskrit text book there were shlokas from Gita explaining the eternal nature of the soul which cannot he destroyed and only the body gets destroyed. Later I got an English translated version of Bhagavad Gita. Initially I read a few shlokas, later I wanted to finish reading the whole book with the explanation. I also used to attend with my mother the Gita discourse sometimes; here they used to explain one chapter of Gita with examples containing humour and stories. Each time I read Gita shlokas I understood a new meaning of the same. I made a habit of reading one shloka daily during my engineering days and used to carry a small Bhagavad Gita in my bag when I was working as a software engineer.
Presented in the form of a conversation between Arjuna and Krishna the Bhagavad Gita is as much unusual as it is endearing. The words Bhagavad Gita means the eternal song. It was written some 5000 years ago and it is an unusual text amongst all other religious works. It occurs in the thick of the war field in Kurukshetra where Shri Krishna advises a disillusioned Arjuna on the various facets of life and work. This in contrast to what many people who have not read Bhagavad Gita think that it advocates violence as Lord Krishna asks Arjuna to fight and kill his own cousins to uphold Dharma. In order to instill the notion that Gita upholds harmony and action through rightful ways I will cite few examples.
Now if we see a common day example, the soldier in order to protect the country and safeguard his countrymen has to kill the enemies and terrorists who try to harm the country and its citizens. In fact if the soldier does not kill them thinking that killing them or punishing them is not violence then he is not doing his duty. In one way if we see what the soldier is doing is violence, but his action is justified as it his duty to protect his motherland and his countrymen and his action of killing the enemies is an act of bravery and sacrifice for his motherland doing his duty. Similarly if an honest doctor does not perform surgeries on his patient to save his life then he is not doing his duty. Similarly in the case of Arjuna, Lord Krishna advised him to fight the battle as a duty to uphold the Dharma and set an example that anyone doing injustice and resorting to unrightful activity will be punished and justice will be done to the good. Hence Krishna removed Arjuna's illusions through the immortal Gita in Kurukshetra.
In Gita we hear the sound of conflict and Lord Krishna comes in the middle to harmonise them. He is the great teacher of harmony. Blessed is the human birth as true knowledge may be attained only by a human being and the best way is through understanding the Gita. Knowing that life is transitory, one must acquire the knowledge that all creatures exist in the Supreme Lord and He is the supersoul Paramatma. One who has attained this knowledge attains supreme peace. But he who always doubts, who is ignorant and without faith is ruined. For the doubting soul there is no happiness in this world. Humility, unostentatiousness, homelessness, forbearance, service to guru, purity, steadiness and self-control – all this is called knowledge.
A man’s goal in life should be to get liberated from the four main miseries of life that is birth, death, old age and disease. Dispassion for sense objects, absence of egoism – all these are the virtues of a man of knowledge. Also the atma, the soul is eternal, permanent, and it cannot be killed when the body is slain. Just as a person casts off worn-out clothes and puts on new ones, the atmas casts off worn out bodies and enter into others that are new. When a person thinks of sense objects, he feels attachment which gives rise to desire and this in turn leads to anger which in turn leads to delusion and destruction and the man perishes. The above statement sums up the mind of a person attached to crime. The man of self-control on the other hand moving among sense objects with his senses under restraint and free from attachment and aversion attains serenity of mind. He whose senses are well controlled from their objects has steady wisdom. Many are the means described for the attainment of highest good, love and devotion to Him is the easiest way of finding joy and liberation. The common man finds solace in the concept of the equalized soul (sthitaprajna) to overcome his ever increasing anxieties. Perhaps the idea is the focus on commitment to work without getting excited about the rewards. The teachings of Gita has inspired many famous personalities from time immemorial irrespective of religion like Albert Einstein, Amitabh Bachchan, Sunita Williams, Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda to name a few and most recently our PM Narendra Modi gifted it to the Japanese PM. Hence the Gita has universal appeal and it transcends the boundaries of time and space.
Importance of Gita in my daily life
The lessons from Gita which have inspired my daily life: During my school and college days when I was studying for my exams I used to get anxious about my marks, etc., but then I used to believe in the words "do your duty or action (in my case it was hard work) and leave the results to the Almighty". This has helped me to remain strong in conditions of difficulties and helped me face tough situations – come what may, there is a Supreme power of Lord who will give us what we deserve and what He gives is always the best. When there is any crisis as Lord Krishna tells, He gives intellect and wisdom to handle situation in the Gita, similarly I get some or the other idea to solve the situation. Actually when I used to read Bhagavad Gita relatives used to make fun that is for old people to read and now is not the time for me to read Bhagavad Gita. But believe this is the best guide for all the people irrespective of age groups to handle life with joy, contentment and peace.
Now since the past 2 years as I have quit my software engineering job to take care of my 1.5 year old son, the Bhagavad Gita has helped me to raise him as a gift of the Lord in the strong belief that God will ensure him wisdom, hope and a good future.
I used to hear from my mother that my grandmother used to always read Bhagavad Gita whenever a close relative died. Now I realize it was the most practical way of following the principle mentioned in Gita that only body is slain and the soul is eternal and cannot be destroyed, thus it helps in reducing the sorrow of losing a loved one and it also gives us strength and wisdom to overcome the loss. Reading Bhagavad Gita has reduced my anger and helped in curbing my vices though not completely rid of. Whenever any person tries to insult me or makes me angry now I mentally tell myself I surrender my anger, ego, jealousy and desire at the feet of the Lord, let Him do what is best for me and if He believes the other person needs to be punished or forgiven then He will do the necessary. I will try to remain calm and behave calmly. When I was working in a software company, daily I used to commute by cab which takes 1.5 hrs, I used to carry a small Gita and read one verse with its meaning which hardly takes 2 to 3 mins of time. It used to give me lot of strength and wisdom in handling my daily tasks both professional and personal. The two shlokas which hold a lot of significance and gives me hope every time I feel let down.
BG Chapter 9.22
ananyas cintayanto mam
ye janah paryupasate
yoga-ksemam vahamy aham
Meaning: Those who always worship Me with exclusive devotion, meditating on My transcendental form—to them I carry what they lack, and I preserve what they have.
BG Chapter 18.66
mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo
moksayisyami ma sucah
Meaning: Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.
Both the above shlokas have given me immense strength and also guided me that many times. When we desire something we don't get that, then God gives what He believes is best for us and what we deserve.
Difficult situations where Gita guided me
Now coming to the last part, Gita had been guiding me and helping me in overcoming difficult situations and also helping me in taking decisions by giving me intellect and wisdom. During my engineering placement when very few companies came and they wanted only distinction holders whereas I had obtained first class and companies were rejecting in prescreening itself. There was a company for which students from 10 colleges had applied for campus placement. 1500 were shortlisted for written, interview rounds and only 15 were finally selected and given offer letters and I was one among them. In addition, the company after initial training was planning to relocate those selected to other places but they gave me my home location Bangalore, so I didn't have to relocate. This reaffirmed my faith in the Gita verse – "Do your Karma and renounce the rewards to the Almighty". In my case my karma was my hard work and left the reward to God and He gave me more than I expected.
Second instance in 2009 when recession hit the IT industry and due to loss of projects I was on bench, well I believed in Gita and kept preparing for interview and continued reading Gita and when I lost my job unlike my other colleagues many of who had to struggle almost six months to a year, I immediately got two job offers, with a very good pay hike and it included additional benefits like free cab and food facility which was very rare during recession. The new job gave me lots of awards and recognition. Thus Gita was my guiding force and strength during my times of despair. Believe me, if one reads Gita, one can overcome his stress and anxieties; it gives everlasting wisdom and joy to face any situation strongly. The words in the Gita asking Arjuna to proclaim – "My devotees never perish.” (pratijanihi na me bhaktah pranasyati).
Lastly I would like to say regular reading of the Gita leads one to increased happiness, knowledge, contentment and love for Godhead and decreases anxiety, fear and subjugation of lust, anger, greed, cheating and hating.
By Shruthi Gaurav Alva