The Gita, or Bhagavad-gita ("The Song of God"), was spoken five thousand years ago by Lord Krsna to the prince Arjuna. It contains the essence of Vedic knowledge.
The compiler has applied a question-and-answer format to the Introduction to Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
For what purpose did Lord Krsna speak Bhagavad-gita?
The purpose of Bhagavad-gita is to deliver humankind from the ignorance of material existence. Everyone is in difficulty in so many ways, as was Arjuna in having to fight the Battle of Kuruksetra. Every one of us is full of anxieties because of this material existence. In the material world we are caught in the repeated cycle of birth and death. Thus our very existence remains in constant jeopardy in the atmosphere of nonexistence. Actually we are not meant to be threatened by nonexistence. According to theBhagavad-gita our existence is eternal. But somehow or other we are put into asat. Asat refers to that which does not exist.
What distinguishes human beings from animals?
In this world, human beings are not meant for quarreling like cats and dogs. Human beings must be intelligent to realize the importance of human life and refuse to act like ordinary animals. A human being should realize the aim of life. This direction is given in all Vedic literature, and the essence is given in Bhagavad-gita.
Vedic literature is meant for human beings, not for other forms of life. Out of so many human beings who are suffering, there are a few who are actually inquiring about their position, as to what they are, why they are put into this awkward position, and so on. Unless a person is awakened to questioning his suffering, unless he realizes that he doesn't want suffering but rather wants to make a solution to all suffering, then he is not to be considered a perfect human being.
Humanity begins when this sort of inquiry is awakened in one's mind. Every activity of the human being is to be considered a failure unless he inquires about the nature of the Absolute.
Who is the proper student of the Gita?
Those who begin to question why they are suffering or where they came from and where they shall go after death are proper students for understanding Bhagavad-gita. The sincere student should also have a firm respect for the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Such a student was Arjuna.
What subject does the Bhagavad-gita cover?
The subject of Bhagavad-gita entails the comprehension of five basic truths: the science of God, the constitutional position of the living entities (jivas), material nature (prakrti), time (kala), and activity (karma).
Who does the Bhagavad-gita say is God?
Bhagavad-gita establishes that the Supreme Godhead is Krsna. He is the supreme controller, the greatest of all. No one is greater than Him or equal to Him.
Who is controlling nature?
Bhagavad-gita explains that the Lord has control over the universal affairs of material nature. Material nature is not independent. She is acting under the directions of the Supreme Lord. As Lord Krsna says, mayadhyaksena prakrtih suyate sa-caracaram: "The material nature is working under My direction."
When we see wonderful things happening in the cosmic nature, we should know that behind this cosmic manifestation there is a controller. Nothing could be manifested without being controlled. It is childish not to consider the controller. For instance, a child may think that an automobile is quite wonderful to be able to run without a horse or other animal pulling it, but a sane person knows the nature of the automobile's engineering arrangement. He always knows that behind the machinery there is a person, a driver. Similarly, the Supreme Lord is the driver under whose direction everything is working.
How does Arjuna describe Krsna as God?
The manner of Arjuna's acceptance of Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead is given in the Tenth Chapter (10.12-14) of Bhagavad-gita: "Arjuna said: You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the ultimate abode, the purest, the Absolute Truth. You are the eternal, transcendental, original person, the unborn, the greatest. All the great sages such as Narada, Asita, Devala, and Vyasa confirm this truth about You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me. O Krsna, I totally accept as truth all that You have told me. Neither the demigods nor the demons, O Lord, can understand Your personality."
After hearing the Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna accepted Krsna as the Supreme Brahman. Every living being is Brahman, or spirit, but the supreme living being, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the Supreme Brahman.
How does Arjuna support his claim that Krsna is God?
One may think that because Krsna was the friend of Arjuna, Arjuna was calling Him God by way of flattery. But Arjuna, just to drive out this kind of doubt from the minds of the readers of Bhagavad-gita, substantiates these praises when he says that Krsna is accepted as the Supreme Personality of Godhead not only by himself but by authorities like Narada, Asita, Devala, and Vyasadeva. These are great personalities who distribute the Vedic knowledge as it is accepted by all great teachers in the Vedic tradition. Therefore Arjuna tells Krsna that he accepts whatever He says to be completely perfect.
Does God have a form and personality, or is God formless or void?
Bhagavad-gita explains that God is the complete whole, and all manifestations are due to His different energies. The complete whole comprises the supreme controller, the controlled living entities, the cosmic manifestation, eternal time, and karma, or activities, and all of these are explained in the Gita. All of these taken completely form the complete whole, and the complete whole is called the Supreme Absolute Truth. The complete whole and the complete Absolute Truth are the complete Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna. All manifestations are due to His different energies. He is the complete whole.
People with insufficient intelligence consider the Supreme Truth to be impersonal, but He is a transcendental person. This is confirmed throughout the Vedic literature. As we are all individual living beings, the Supreme Absolute Truth is also, in the ultimate issue, a person, and realization of the Personality of Godhead is realization of all of the transcendental features in His complete form. The complete whole is not formless. If He were formless, or if He were less than any other thing, then He could not be the complete whole. The complete whole must have everything within and beyond our experience.
What does Lord Krsna say in the Gita about demigod worship?
In Bhagavad-gita, worship of demigods or rendering service to them is not approved. Verse twenty of the seventh chapter states: "Those whose intelligence has been stolen by material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures." Here it is plainly said that those who are directed by lust worship the demigods and not the Supreme Lord Krsna. When Lord Krsna descended to the material world to show His pastimes in Vrndavana, He even discouraged His father Nanda Maharaja from worshiping the demigod Indra, because He wanted to teach that people need not worship any demigod. They need only worship the Supreme Lord, because their ultimate goal is to return to His abode.
Do we own anything?
The Lord is purnam, all-perfect, and there is no possibility of His becoming subjected to the laws of material nature. One should therefore be intelligent enough to know that the Lord is the only proprietor of everything in the universe and that He is the original creator the creator of Brahma, who is ordinarily understood to be the creator of the universe. In the eleventh chapter Krsna is addressed as prapitamaha because Brahma is addressed as pitamaha, the grandfather, and Krsna is the creator of the grandfather.
So no one should claim to be proprietor of anything; one should accept only things set aside for him by the Lord as his quota for his maintenance.
There are many examples of how we are to use those things set aside for us by the Lord. This point is explained in Bhagavad-gita. For example, animals can kill other living animals, and there is no question of sin on their part, but if a man kills an animal for the satisfaction of his uncontrolled taste, he must be responsible for breaking the laws of nature.
(continued in the next issue)
Krishan B. Lal, an ISKCON Life Member, is retired and lives in Huntington Beach, California.