All of us have an inborn desire for peace and happiness. But there are times in life that we experience so much inner conflict that peaceful existence just does not seen possible. It is at such times that many of us turn towards the sacred scriptures of the world for guidance.
Among the ancient scriptures if India the Bhagavad Gita holds a special place. Rich with spiritual insights and wisdom its message is universal. For centuries it has been a vast source of inspiration to all those seeking spiritual guidance.
This illuminating commentary by Swami Tejomayananda on selected verses from the Bhagavad Gita shows how inner wisdom enables us to maintain mental balance while dynamically acting in the world. His teachings are profound, yet simple but above all relevant in today’s world. He guides us on how to base our choices on the vision of Oneness and Truth, so that we can revitalize and enliven every aspect of our lives.
The Bhagavad Gita, or the Song of the Lord, holds a special place in classic literature and Hindu philosophy. For centuries it has served as a manual of daily living to people from all walks of life. It is a dialogue between a young warrior prince, Arjuna; and his revered friend Lord Krishna, Arjuna is considered to be the incarnation of Nara, the average person, and Lord Krishna of Narayana, the supreme indwelling Lord. On the verge of a war with his cousins, Arjuna is confused and does not know how to respond to the situation. Lord Krishna instructs him on how to win the battle of life, the war being symbolic of the conflict of choice that we all face in everyday situations. With his inspiring words Lord Krishna is able to lift Arjuna out of his despondent state, and ultimately Arjuna becomes a mighty personality with tremendous inner strength and balance.
This book has been transcribed from Swami Tejomayananda’s discourses to students at a two-month pro- gram of scriptural study and contemplation known as the Dharma Sevak Program, which was held in Piercy, California in 1998. It was at this retreat that Swami Tejomayananda gave us a new approach to the study of the Bhagavad Gita. Choosing selected verses from a number of chapters, he gave an overview of its essence without sacrificing the subtle and detailed analysis of relevant verses that is a hallmark of the teachings initiated by his teacher, Swami Chinmayananda.
Swami Tejomayananda is now the chief Acharya and head of Chinmaya Mission worldwide. He has been teaching Vedanta around the world for over twenty years. He has the rare ability to make complex topics appear simple. Swamiji uses everyday examples to provide deep insight into the nature of the Self and the world. The Bhagavad Gita is said to contain the essence of all the Upanishads, Se1f—knowledge being the main theme of both these scriptures. But the Gita is unique and has universal appeal because it guides us in the fundamental problem of humankind — that of right choice. This universal problem is identified in Part One.
Part Two deals with the resolution of that problem. In choosing wisely between options we need to have a clear understanding of the vision of life. We have to know our identity and our goal, what do we want to achieve in life'? Thus clear understanding is the firm basis for right thinking. And correct thinking leads to right action. This is what Lord Krishna taught Arjuna in the Gita and through that dialogue it remains a lesson for all humanity. He began the teaching with the absolute standpoint of highest Truth and then taught Arjuna to also understand the relative perspective of right conduct in society — the standpoint of dharma. In order to resolve our topical problems we need to view life in its totality.
We also study the teachings of the Gita in regard to karma yoga. Life is nothing but a series of experiences. Therefore we must know what constitutes action. We do not have a choice of whether or not to act. But we do have the choice of selecting which actions to perform and with what attitude.
Part Three examines the value system of the Gita. What are the virtues that lead us to liberation and what are the negative qualities that strengthen our bondage to the world? Often we understand the significance of values, but those values are not always lived for it requires immense discipline on our part.
When our thoughts are different than our actions we develop a So-called "split personality" and we find ourselves constantly agitated. Hence the importance of learning the value of these values.
Lastly, Part Four looks at the person who has transformed himself after having understood all of the above - the problem of life, the goal of life and how one should live in the world wisely. He is described as a man of Wisdom.
Our life is nothing but a transaction between this world and ourselves in the form of perception and response. Once we are born, we cannot escape it. The world is such that we have to respond. But how we respond is what matters. It is only when we have a vision of the totality of life that we can make right choices in the complex problems that confront us in life. That is the knowledge that Lord Krishna imparted to Arjuna on the battle- field of Kurukshetra. For our benefit it was set into metrical form by Shri Veda Vyasa as the 700 verses of the Bhagavad Gita.
The Bhagavad Gita is a manual for living that offers a complete philosophy of life, each verse guiding us to a new understanding of ourselves. But before we get into the commentary on the verses, let us first have a clear understanding of the word "life." Life is a series of experiences and at every moment we are required to make a choice. Most of us are not always certain which is the right action to take and therefore there is a conflict.
Shakespeare in his famous play, Hamlet said, "To be or not to be," which we may paraphrase as "To do or not to do." Some- times we decide on an action, but when it comes time to carry it out we begin to doubt. This inner conflict of how to make the right choice in every situation is common to all. And in order to resolve it, we need to be able to think clearly. For those who have clarity of thought life is simple and uncomplicated. Thus the most important thing is to learn the art of right thinking. Knowing how to think is more important than knowing what to think.
We should also have a vision of life in its totality. And in the light of that vision, all problems can be resolved easily. What- ever challenges we meet with in life be it illness, emotional trauma, financial hardship, and so on, our response will vary according to our level of inner maturity and our vision of life.
Take ill health, for instance, one who has faith and inner maturity tends to be more accepting and will consider the illness as a temporary situation and suffer much less. While a person who lacks faith and who has a narrower view of life will be more fearful and suffer greatly at only the hint of a disease. Once we know the art of clear and logical thinking it becomes easier to deal with various situations that we encounter in life.
While studying these Gita verses, do not just focus on what Lord Krishna is saying, but also be aware of how He presents the teachings. For the significance of what is said is revealed by the very way in which it is presented. Various commentaries have been written on the Bhagavad Gita which deal with each verse and interpret the complex Sanskrit terms and verses. However, in this book I attempt to give a summary of the teachings to cover various aspects of the philosophy as it applies to our day— to—day lives. As the verses unfold, we see how the Lord removes Arjuna’s ignorance so that with wisdom and discernment he may confidently confront the difficulties placed in his path. I sincerely hope that the readers of this book will also receive the “Krishna—cure" and thus make their lives sublime.
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