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 / answer format to the Introduction to Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
How should we engage our mind for spiritual benefit?
Bhagavad-gita teaches how to absorb the mind and intelligence in the thought of the Lord. Such absorption will enable us to transfer to the kingdom of God. That is the secret of Bhagavad-gita: total absorption in the thought of Sri Krsna.
Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.5.23) gives nine devotional processes for cultivating remembrance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The easiest process is sravanam, hearing the Bhagavad-gita from a realized person. Yet the practice of any one of the nine processes will lead to remembering the Supreme Lord and will enable one, upon leaving the body, to attain a spiritual body fit for association with the Supreme Lord.
Lord Krsna says:
paramam purusam divyam
"He who meditates on Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, his mind constantly engaged in remembering Me, undeviated from the path, he, O Arjuna, is sure to reach Me." (Bg. 8.8)
This is not a very difficult process. But one must learn it from an experienced person. Tad vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet: one must approach a person who is already in the practice. The mind is always flying to this and that, but one must practice concentrating the mind always on the form of the Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna, or on the sound of His name. One must meditate on the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the spiritual kingdom and thus attain Him.
How can we transfer our thoughts from matter to spirit?
There is so much literature that fills our thoughts with the material energy newspapers, magazines, novels, and so on. Our thinking, now absorbed in this literature, must be transferred to Vedic literature. Great sages, therefore, have written so many Vedic books.
Why did Vyasa write Vedic literature?
The forgetful living entities, or conditioned souls, have forgotten their relationship with the Supreme Lord and are engrossed in thinking of material activities. Just to transfer their thinking power to the spiritual sky, Krsna-dvaipayana Vyasa has given a great number of Vedic books. First he divided the Vedas into four. Then he explained them in the Puranas, and for less capable people he wrote the Mahabharata, which contains the Bhagavad-gita. Then he summarized all Vedic literature in the Vedanta-sutra, and for future guidance he gave a natural commentary on the Vedanta-sutra, called Srimad-Bhagavatam.
We must transfer our reading to these books, given to us by Vyasadeva. Then it will be possible to remember the Supreme Lord at the time of death.
Is Krsna consciousness open to all?
Bhagavad-gita gives the means for ultimate realization, and its door to knowledge is open for everyone. Anyone can approach Lord Krsna by hearing from Him and thinking about Him. The Lord says that anyone can attain the Supreme. One does not need highly developed intelligence. Anyone who accepts the principle of bhakti-yoga and accepts the Supreme Lord as the goal of life can approach the Lord in the spiritual sky. If one adopts the principles enunciated in Bhagavad-gita, he can make his life perfect and make a permanent solution to all the problems of life. This is the essence of the Bhagavad-gita.
What is sanatana-dharma?
Sanatana-dharma refers to the eternal occupation of the living entities in relationship with the Supreme Lord, irrespective of race, religion, or nationality. The great spiritual authority Sripada Ramanujacarya has explained the word sanatana as "that which has neither beginning nor end." The Supreme Lord and His transcendental abode are both sanatana, as are the living entities, and the association of the Supreme Lord and the living entities in the sanatana abode is the perfection of human life.
When we speak of sanatana-dharma, we must understand that it has neither beginning nor end. Therefore, that which has neither end nor beginning must not be sectarian, for it cannot be limited by any boundaries. Thus, sanatana-dharma does not refer to any sectarian process of religion; it is the business of all the people of the world nay, of all the living entities of the universe.
Dharma refers to that which constantly exists with a particular object. Without heat and light, for example, there is no meaning to the word fire. Similarly, we must discover the essential part of the living being, that part which is his constant companion. That constant companion is his eternal quality, and that eternal quality is his eternal religion.
What is the difference between dharma and religion?
The English world religion is a little different from sanatana-dharma. Religion conveys the idea of faith, and faith may change. One may have faith in a particular process and may change that faith and adopt another, but sanatana-dharma refers to that activity which cannot be changed. For instance, liquidity cannot be taken from water, nor can heat be taken from fire. Similarly, the eternal function of the eternal living entity cannot be taken from the living entity. Sanatana-dharma is eternally integral with the living entity.
Non-sanatana religious faith may have some beginning in the annals of human history, but there is no beginning to the history of sanatana-dharma, because it remains eternally with the living entities. Yet man professes to belong to a particular type of faith with reference to particular time and circumstance and thus claims to be a Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, or an adherent of any other sect. Such designations are non-sanatana-dharma. A Hindu may change his faith to become a Muslim, or a Muslim may change his faith to become a Hindu, or a Christian may change his faith, and so on. But in all circumstances the change of religious faith does not affect the eternal occupation of rendering service to others.
What are the major benefits of studying Bhagavad-gita?
Bhagavad-gita is a transcendental literature that one should read very carefully. The Gita-mahatmya ("The Glories of the Gita") lists many benefits derived from reading and following the instructions of the Gita:
(1) One can be freed from all the miseries and anxieties of life.
(2) One will be freed from all fears in this life, and one's next life will be spiritual.
(3) The reactions of one's past misdeeds will not act upon him. The Lord declares in Bhagavad-gita (18.66), "Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear." Thus the Lord takes all responsibility for one who surrenders unto Him, and He indemnifies such a person against all reactions of sins.
(4) One may cleanse himself daily by taking a bath in water, but if one takes a bath even once in the sacred Ganges water of Bhagavad-gita, for him the dirt of material life is altogether vanquished.
(5) Because Bhagavad-gita is spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one need not read any other Vedic literature. One need only attentively and regularly hear and read Bhagavad-gita.
In the present age, people are so absorbed in mundane activities that it is not possible for them to read all Vedic literature. But this is not necessary. One book Bhagavad-gita will suffice, because it is the essence of all Vedic literature and especially because it is spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
(6) One who drinks the water of the Ganges attains salvation, so what to speak of one who drinks the nectar of Bhagavad-gita, which is spoken by Lord Krsna Himself, the original Visnu.
Bhagavad-gita comes from the mouth of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and the Ganges is said to emanate from the lotus feet of the Lord. Of course, there is no difference between the mouth and the feet of the Supreme Lord, but from an impartial study we can appreciate that Bhagavad-gita is even more important than the water of the Ganges.
(7) Daily recitation of Bhagavad-gita provides nourishment for the soul.
The Gitopanisad, Bhagavad-gita the essence of all the Upanisads is just like a cow, and Lord Krsna, who is famous as a cowherd boy, is milking this cow. Arjuna is just like a calf, and learned scholars and pure devotees drink the nectarean milk ofBhagavad-gita.
What universal needs can sanatana-dharma
and Bhagavad-gita fill today?
People are eager to have one scripture, one God, one religion, and one occupation, but they do not know that sanatana-dharma, or eternal religion, has always existed on this planet, is still existing today, and will continue to exist as long as the human race endures.
The vision for Bhagavad-gita as a universal scripture for mankind was boldly proclaimed in the Gita-mahatmya more than ten centuries ago by Sripada Sankaracarya:
ekam sastram devaki-putra-gitam
"Let there be one scripture only one common scripture for the whole world Bhagavad-gita."
eko devo devaki-putra eva
"Let there be one God for the whole world Sri Krsna."
eko mantras tasya namani
"Let there be one hymn, one mantra, one prayer the chanting of His name: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare."
karmapy ekam tasya devasya seva
"Let there be one work only the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
Krishan B. Lal, an ISKCON Life Member, is retired and lives in Huntington Beach, California.
This completes our serialization of the Introduction to Bhagavad-gita As It Is adapted to a question-and-answer format. We thank Shri Krishan B. Lal for his devotion in preparing this series and pray that Lord Krsna bless him with many more years of dedicated service. The Editors