The Bhagavad Gita as translated by Juan Mascaro is a poem based on ancient Sanskrit literature contained in eighteen chapters. The period of time, around which it was written, although it is merely an educated guess, was approximately 500 BCE. “there are a few archaic words and expressions, some of the greatest scholars have considered it pre-Buddhistic, i.e. about 500 BC,” (Bhagavad Gita, xxiv). This quote is found in the introduction to the book and further explains that the exact time it was written is undeterminable. Although the words and dialogue are very different than that of the English language to which most are accustomed to, the spiritual messages throughout the entire book are very clear and meaningful. There are two main characters, and a host of minor ones who represent very specific roles. The preceding paragraphs will discuss the roles of the characters, as well as the spiritual meanings found throughout the novel.
The Bhagavad Gita has two main characters, Arjuna and Krishna. Arjuna is the mighty warrior in the physical sense, however his character is a representational form of a person or soul searching for the right or divine way. Arjuna is introduced early on in the book on a battlefield. He knows both sides of warriors who are about to ensure in this particular battle. The battle is very symbolic for life and its trials and tribulations. Krishna is a higher power is then introduced, and in the physical sense is Arjuna’s mentor. In the spiritual sense, Krishna is the Supreme Truth, what all people want to attain during their lifetime. It is Krishna’s job to lead his disciple, Arjuna to the ultimate conclusion of Gita. The contents of the eighteen chapters are very basically the acquisition of the correct knowledge to achieve such a conclusion.
The piece of spiritual knowledge that carries the most weight throughout the Bhagavad Gita is the responsibility of the individual. Before one can accept the responsibility of one’s self, one must differentiate between the temporary material body and the eternal spirit soul. Everyone must engage in some sort of activity in this material world, however one’s own actions can do one of two things. They may bind you to this material world, or liberate one from it. By living life selflessly and placing full faith and trust in the Supreme Truth, one will be lead to that higher path. The idea of self-responsibility is not merely being accountable for your faults, but living according to the wants and needs of a higher power. Simply, the responsibility of the individual is to submit fully to the Supreme truth, and live one’s life righteously in the quest for that truth.
In trying to explain this Supreme Truth as well as other aspects of life, Krishna appeals to Arjuna in several arguments. Just when Arjuna believes he is headed for the great battle, he falls to his knees in despair, “Fall not into degrading weakness, for this becomes a man who is not a man. Throw off this ignoble discouragement, and arise like a fire that burns all before it” (Bhagavad Gita, 2). Arjuna is a classic example at this moment of any man in life who is overwhelmed with life itself. He fells he does not know which way to turn, or what course of action to take. Therefore, Krishna stops him and clams him down, while trying to rationalize with him. This is merely an example of one of the many arguments and examples Krishna uses to demonstrate his teachings of what Arjuna should be.
The Bhagavad Gita not only tell an entertaining story about a warriors quest for the Supreme Truth, but also is a helpful tool, giving a little insight into the Hindu religion. The clarification of yoga is explained early in the book as by living according to the pleasures of the Supreme, without a personal agenda, transcendental knowledge of the self and the Supreme is attainable. Then there is mention of a meditative practice known as Astanga-yoga, as well as Bhakti-yoga, pure devotional service. Several aspects of the teachings of Krishna to Arjuna are overflowing with knowledge and similarities of Hinduism.
Although the book was difficult to understand at times, it was very insightful overall. It was very easy to observe the similarities between the battle, and real life, and Arjuna and a common man, and Krishna and a higher power. In my opinion, the basic message was like that of a fable or any other kind of story passed down: If you submit fully and selflessly to the higher power, and according to his rules, than a lifetime as well as after-lifetime of rewards is there waiting at the end. I thought the ideas that were taught and presented about kharma-yoga and the soul sort of pertained to the way many people in Christian America believe today. The idea that the person who understands the difference between the material body and soul is on the right path is part of my life today. As previously stated, The Bhagavad Gita was incredibly discerning and for the most part entertaining at the same time.