Bhagavad-gita, or Gitopanisad (the essence of the
Upanisads), as it is often referred to, is a classic text
delineating yogic, or spiritual, discipline. It is found within the
epic Mahabharata, and is comprised of a dialogue between Krsna and
Arjuna, primary figures of the Mahabharata.
The setting for their conversation is on a battlefield just prior to
an immense battle, a place where one often finds the weightiest
subject matters discussed. Arjuna asks Krsna why there is suffering,
not only on the battlefield, but also everywhere in life. Krsna
answers Arjuna's questions, and ultimately Arjuna surrenders to
Krsna, and receives instruction from Him.
What Krsna describes in the Gita are the principles of Bhakti yoga,
i.e., the ABC's of yogic, or spiritual, life. Included is the
explanation of the principles on which the entire world is based,
and how one can act within it in a manner that frees one from
samsara, or the cycle of birth and death.
In a sense, Arjuna is representing us all. True, we're all not on a
military battlefield, but our lives here in the world are a struggle
to keep our heads above the water physically, emotionally,
intellectually, ethically, and morally. Ultimately, each of us will
leave this world, just as an unfortunate soldier will die on the
battlefield. How much better if we have lived a life of true
knowledge and understanding. The Gita's teachings give a foundation
for a life of purpose and realization, something sorely lacking in
the world at this time in history.
The knowledge contained in Bhagavad-gita can direct us to
realization of the yogic principles, knowing which we can perfect
our lives reestablishing our individual and eternal relationship
with the Absolute Truth.
The American Transcendentalists were readers of the Gita. Ralph
Waldo Emerson wrote in his journals of the Gita, I owed a
magnificent day to the Bhagavad-gita. It was the first of books; it
was as if an empire spake to us, nothing small or unworthy, but
large, serene consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in
another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same
questions that exercise us.
Thoreau took the Gita with him to Walden Pond. Of it, he wrote: The
reader is nowhere raised into and sustained in a bigger, purer, or
rarer region of thought than in the Bhagavad-gita.
At the Bhakti Yoga Club get-togethers we use the Bhagavad-gita to
explore the breadth of Bhakti thought, and it is through its study
that the subtle precepts of Bhakti can be easily understood. The
version we use is Bhagavad-gita As It Is, with translations and
explanations by A. C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the foremost
practitioner of Bhakti Yoga in this age. This translation has won
the acclaim of scholars and is the most widely used translation in
the world, with over 32 million copies in print. The club has enough
copies for everyone to use during class.