Bhagavad-gita Chapter 1

In this post, Syamananda deliberates on chapter one of the Bhagavad-gita.

This chapter deals with stepping back and becoming objective about what nature is, what spirit is, and how to realize the purpose of the connection of matter and spirit.

Before getting too spirited though, let’s take a look at what the Bhagavad Gita is, mytho-historically speaking. Although when viewed separately it has 18 chapters of its own, 700 stanzas in total, it is only one chapter of the epic Mahabharata, spoken by the highly insightful sage Vyasa and, according to sacred legend, transcribed by none other than the famous elephant-headed god Ganesha once upon a time in the Himalayas. So is the story worth listening to because the author is spectacular? Were they simply reporting on what was happening in society at the time and therefore the Mahabharata should be seen as a history lesson? What if both the characters in the story, as well as the ideas about the author, are all made up?

The solution to all these doubts is to look to the power of the story. First, we will look more at the ideas about the author, because they are pretty cool. In literary theory, we find the term ‘omniscient narrator’. Well, Vyasa is said to be one, literally! Everything, past, present, and future is floating in the sky of Vyasa’s mind as if God himself descended to Earth as an author. Vyasa composed many different works dealing with everything from how to live happily in this world life after life to how to transcend this world when the time has come. The latter type of knowledge is difficult to digest, so Vyasa eases the reader in over the course of lifetimes. He begins by letting you know how you can get the things you want in this world by religious sacrifices. Once you begin to receive the fruits of such practices, your faith in the knowledge that Vyasa reveals will grow in you. Then you start to think that maybe there is something more to all of this than getting mundane benefits. Let me illustrate this.

There is a story where a man learns that the saint Sanatana Goswami has a magical stone that can turn any metal into gold. The man approaches the Goswami and asks if he can borrow the stone and touch it to some of his silver coins. The Goswami answered, “Yes, sure, it’s back in that pile of junk there behind my hut.” The man thanked the Goswami and enthusiastically went to search the junk pile. A few minutes into searching, the obvious thought strikes him, “Why is Goswami keeping such a valuable thing in a junk pile?” The man returned to the front of the hut and asked the Goswami this very question, adding, “What is it that you have that makes you treat that magical stone as garbage?” The man thought that perhaps the Goswami had another stone that could turn other stones into diamonds or something. The Goswami answered, “I have a magical mantra that I received from my guru. This mantra has the power to purify my heart from selfishness and infuse it with a longing to serve God passionately.”

This kind of love for God, our consciousness source, is indicated in a hidden way in the very first verse of the Bhagavad Gita, a verse that also highlights the selfishness that creates all the problems in the world. This selfishness is rooted in ignorance, as we wouldn't have a need for selfishness if we understood who we truly are, and it is in and through love that we find that understanding. 

Categories: : Yoga Philosophy