Bhagavad means ‘blessed’ and Gita means ‘song’. Thus Bhagavad Gita is ‘The Song of the Blessed One’, referring to Krishna, an incarnation of the Highest Divinity. The title is also written as Bhagavadgītā when the two words are compounded.
What interests us here is the transformational teaching of the Bhagavad Gita, its yoga, by which warriors may be internally integrated and discover their right relation to all levels of energy in the universe, and their proper place in the cosmic order. We are not interested in entering into scholarly disputations or sectarian arguments; rather we wish to place ourselves, as much as the clarity of our hearts would allow, in the light emanating from the Gita. Wherever we have come across any scholar’s or devotee’s remarks that have enhanced our appreciation of this illumination, we have not hesitated in accepting them.
All spiritual traditions have maintained that there are many levels of reality, both inside and outside of us. What I call myself potentially includes the whole domain of reality: from the crudest part with completely self-centered concerns to the subtlest part that all the sages in the Upanishads have identified as Brahman. In the felicitous remark of the great philosopher Plotinus, our psyche is amphibious in character; it can sink into the matter or soar into the One.
Corresponding to the level of development of awareness in a person, there are different levels and scales of the applicability of dharma. Starting from the very first word in the first shloka, the whole sacred dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita is about dharma and is inspired by it, as Krishna himself says toward the end (18.70). The meaning of dharma in this text is much the same as in the Rig Veda, namely, the upholding of the orderly relatedness of all that is. My responsibility for the maintenance of order is my dharma, svadharma; similarly for each one of us.
The Hindu tradition, which has been continuous for at least five thousand years, refers to itself as Sanātana Dharma since it is based on eternal (sanātana) order (dharma), which is timeless and therefore valid for all time, although no doubt our interpretations of it and responses to it may vary in time. This Sanātana Dharma is not made by any person or by any deva; it is prior to them. It is the support of the entire creation; it is the ordering principle of all that exists; it is the first and the highest principle of manifestation. There are tendencies and forces that aid the maintenance of dharma and there are others that oppose it. The whole cosmic drama is played out between these two large currents; one may choose to be in one current or the other, but no one may opt out of the game. No one, that is, who is bound by the power of manifestation (māyā), gross or subtle.
This conflict of various levels of dharma is what bewildered the legendary warrior Arjuna in the middle of the two armies, paralyzing him into inaction. A resolution of his dilemma could only come from deep within himself; he turns to Krishna, his own deepest self, for illumination (2.4–9). In a summary way it can be said that Krishna’s response to Arjuna’s crisis about action is that no action can be right unless the actor is right; and if the actor is right, the action is right however terrible it may appear externally. Then Krishna teaches Arjuna how to be the right actor. That is what turns the Gita into a classical text of yoga and Krishna into Yogeshvara, Lord of Yoga. Dharma is concerned with right action, whereas yoga is the science par excellence of the transformation of a person into the right actor. Arjuna needs to be transformed by the multifaceted yoga taught by Krishna; only then can he understand what dharma truly is at all levels, from the personal to the cosmic, and struggle for its establishment.
To carry out the right action required by dharma requires the right actor disciplined by yoga. However, as Krishna teaches, yoga cannot be accomplished without yajña, an activity involving a collaboration between human beings and the devas, subtle energies inside and outside ourselves, requiring a sacrifice of the attachment to one’s usual level of being.
It is also possible for a human being to be free of all specific dharmas, if the individual is able to identify the self completely with the highest Purusha (Spirit). Then that person is bound by nothing, higher or lower. Such a person participates in Krishna’s own mode of being, that of unconditioned freedom (moksha). This is the end of human dharma, and the goal of human beings (18.65–66). However, this is possible only at the culmination of the transformation brought about by the teaching. Then the searcher can let go of all dharmas— all supports and all laws—and enter into oneness with the Supreme. St. Paul said, “Christ is the end of the law” (Romans 10:4) and “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18). Having repeatedly appealed to Arjuna’s innate nature and his warrior dharma, Krishna concludes his teaching by saying to the radically transformed Arjuna, “Abandon all dharmas, and take refuge in Me alone” (18.66).
Ravi Ravindra; (Pg. 9-11 ;The Bhagavad Gita: A Guide to Navigating the Battle of Life; Shambhala Publications, USA, 2017)
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Great and an article!