Why Study the Gita?
The Bhagavad Gita is one of the most ancient of holy scriptures. It is a teaching presented to us by Krishna, one of the greatest of all the Masters, one who became a living embodiment of the Mystery.
Who was Krishna, historically? This much is known: today he is worshiped by Hindus as a god. Indeed, no living entity is more deserving of that title of "god", but we cannot overlook the fact that he was an incarnate entity.
Krishna lived approximately five thousand years ago. He was a king, and his kingdom was in the subcontinent of India. He was born into incredible wealth, and unlike later Masters never rejected this wealth or his title.
Krishna was clearly recognized in his own time as a great Master, even from a very young age. It is clear that at this time, the average person was not yet under the false notion that to be spiritual one has to be old, or poor, or reject the world. Far from rejecting the world, Krishna totally involved himself in it. He embraced music, love, beauty, and even war.
The key to understanding Krishna's way, which is indeed the way of all Masters, is to understand that one must not reject matter, but attachment to matter. One must not reject action, but attachment to action. By renouncing attachment, one embraces the moment, accepts whatever is happening and whatever one must do at any moment, and one can thus be total in one's consciousness. Krishna's greatness as a Master and a man is that he was the fullest embodiment of a human being, he was able to be total in everything he was and did.
Krishna lived in a time of conflict. His closest friend and student, Arjuna, was a prince of the most powerful dynasty of kings in India at that time, the Kurus. He and his brothers were the rightful rulers of that dynasty, but their positions were usurped by their cousins, the sons of King Dhirtarashtra. The resulting civil war in India, the Mahabharata ('great war'), was the most devastating war that had ever befallen the earth to that point.
Krishna fought in the final and most devastating battle of that war, the battle of Kuruksetra, where he served as charioteer to his friend Arjuna. It was in this battle that Krishna is said to have recited the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna. The Gita was a summary of Krishna's entire teaching, phrased as an argument to convince a reluctant Arjuna that he had to go through with the battle.
What is the relevance of Krishna and the Gita for the modern world? The themes of the Gita address the fundamental causes of human suffering, our delusions, and Krishna's own method of transformation. I have taught in the past that all teachers have a Mystery School, which is less a term for a specific institution and more so a term describing a particular process of transformation advocated by a given teacher for the people of his own time and place. Although this would seem to make the relevance of Krishna's Mystery School very far removed from our own time and place, there are in fact many elements to his teaching that would make his Mystery School particularly relevant to us.
Krishna's India was a very different place from the India of today. It was a land of spectacular wealth, as opposed to poverty. Krishna was teaching to people who, by the standards of societies of that age, were living extremely opulent lifestyles, lives of comfort and material riches. In that sense, Krishna's methods are very appropriate to our own society, and particularly to those of the educated and comfortable western world.
But even more significant is the fact that Krishna's society was being menaced by the forces of materialism. Much like our own culture, Krishna lived in a world where a large portion of the 'establishment' had become consumed with a materialistic philosophy. They had rejected the notion of a deeper dimension to life, and they saw material success as the be all and end all of existence.
This is the most significant connection to our own era. People have become so divorced from the mystical, that they have lost a sense of peace in themselves, and have attempted to substitute it, as they did in Krishna's time, with the pursuit of wealth and comfort.
It was due to this situation that the Mahabharata war had to be fought. Arjuna's enemies, the sons of Dhirtarashtra, were the main advocates of this philosophy and way of living. Thus, whether the full Gita was recited by Krishna at the battle of Kuruksetra, or whether it was simply a collection and summary of Krishna's way, its recitation at the battle is of symbolic significance. The battle was a real event, just as one must really act in one's life to oppose unconsciousness, but it was also a symbolic conflict. It symbolized the battle between consciousness and unconsciousness, between a merely materialistic animal existence, or an essential and conscious way of being and living.
Read the Gita as a message for today. Connect to Krishna's essence, and be transformed.