I offer my obeisances unto my spiritual master who has opened my eyes in the midst of darkness.
We are in the darkness of material nature and it is the duty of the Spiritual Master to open our eyes to the light. In our conditional state, we cannot see things as they are. But, by the mercy of the Spiritual Master, we can come to see things, through aural reception. The first way to receive knowledge is by direct perception, through the senses. For example, if I see you playing a drum, that is a kind of knowledge acquired.
However, of all forms of learning, the first class perception is to receive knowledge from direct authorities. According to Vedic literature, hearing from authority is perfect knowledge. Direct sensual perception is imperfect. For example, if a motorman sees a car, he knows what it is, but if a child sees it, he can't know. Simply by use of the senses, we can't know anything certainly. The child is not an expert, as the motorman is. In medicine, if you wish to be a doctor, you must study with a doctor. So, if in material things authority is necessary, how can we learn of God on our own? The Vedic recommendation is that, if you wish to have transcendental knowledge, you must go to a Spiritual Master.
But whom shall I accept for my Spiritual Master? There are two qualifications to look for: first, he must be one who has heard perfectly from his master. And what is the proof of this? That, secondly, he lives fully in the knowledge he has received. Bhagavad Gita is the science of God. In other scriptures, there is a concept of God. But, take this example: We can see that the flower is red, and the leaf is green. But a botanist will give you far more perfect and subtle knowledge. So, there is theoretical knowledge and practical knowledge.
The science of God means that we should have, of course, knowledge of the Lord. We cannot have full, practical knowledge of God. Even with a leaf, we cannot know all about it. This is because, by nature, we are limited. In Bhagavad Gita you will find it stated that we are small particles. In Padma Purana the measurement of the soul is given as the tip of the hair divided by 100, and then again. But we have no way to imagine such things. Sometimes we imagine there is no soul. That soul is within you, but persons with less intelligence say there is none.
The Vedic way to understand is to learn from authority. A child must depend upon its mother in order to know who its father is, and there is no recourse to her authority. So, similarly, the Supreme Father God what is He? How can we know? We can know through the Vedic literature, the merciful mother. The Vedas are called mother, and Smriti, the additional Scriptural literature, is called sister. We must learn of God from the authority of God. Bhagavad Gita is accepted in Indian theological society. There are two divisions in this theological community: the personalist and the impersonalist. The personalists are divided into four, but all four are personalists. All bona fide impersonalists follow Shankaracharya. Now in his commentary on Bhagavad Gita, Shankaracharya says, "The Supreme Personality of Godhead is Krishna." If we want to learn of God, we have Bhagavad Gita, which is spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself.
It is best to accept authority, but questions and doubts are not forbidden. The means of study are outlined in Bhagavad Gita. First you must surrender to a man of knowledge. We have to search out such a person. But simply finding a Spiritual Master is not enough. Next comes inquiry. And, too, there must be service. This is described in every Vedic writing. The same process is always followed: find a bona fide Spiritual Master, surrender, query, and serve.
In Bhagavad Gita, Krishna is the Spiritual Master and Arjuna is the pupil. Krishna and Arjuna are of the same age. They are related, as cousin-brothers, and Krishna's sister is Arjuna's wife. Krishna is playing like an ordinary man. So, on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Krishna and Arjuna were talking as friends, but when the talks got nowhere, Arjuna accepted Krishna as his Spiritual Master. Only this surrender to one in higher knowledge can resolve our bewilderment.
Bhagavad Gita is also known as Geetopanisad. At the end of each chapter you will find: ity srimad bhagavad gita supanisatsu, etc. Out of many Upanisads, nine are very important. But Bhagavad Gita is the essence of all Upanisads. In others, there is a faint idea of God, but in the Gita this God is clearly described. In Isopanisad, the glaring effulgence of the Lord is spoken of. This effulgence is like the sunshine, which can obscure our view of the sun. The effulgence blocks our vision of the Lord. The sun, which we see every day, is unapproachable. There is no way for us to go to the sun planet. What then to speak of God? There is a God-planet also, but it is far, far away. The generally accepted name is Bhagavad Gita, but I have named it Geetopanisad, because that is used at the end of each chapter.
Some American lady asked me for a good translation, but I could not offer one. There are many Bhagavad Gitas in English, but the commentaries are poor.
How to understand Bhagavad Gita as it is, is mentioned in 4th chapter, first 3 verses. This yoga was first spoken to the sun god, then to his son Manu, then to his son Iksaku, and then to Mankind. Now Krishna says that, in the course of time, that line of knowledge was broken. There were many scholars then, but still Krishna says that Bhagavad Gita was lost. Ordinary scholarship is insufficient for understanding Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna was nothing more than a fighter. He was neither a scholar nor a Vedantist. He was not even a Brahmin. He was a great fighter. Spiritually, however, he was Krishna's friend. It is naturally understood that the mystery of Bhagavad Gita was given to Arjuna because of this friendship toward the Lord, and Arjuna's understanding is presented in the 10th chapter.
As on a medicine bottle there is a dosage direction, so the Gita should be studied according to the directions of the Gita. This is done through disciplic succession. Arjuna was accepted as the next in line from Krishna. If we follow him, then our understanding is necessarily perfect.