Just reading the text of Bhagavad-Gita or intellectually understanding its content is not enough if we aim to reap the full benefit of its wisdom. Sometimes, those who have never read a line of the Gita lead a life that epitomizes it and scholars who give hours of explanation for each verse of the Gita lead a life removed from it. Practicing the message is vital if we want to attain the wisdom. In other words, we can go through the Gita several times, but it is very important that we let the Gita go through us at least once.

Of course, we can enjoy the Gita merely as poetry or as an intellectual or academic exercise, but if we want to hear the larger voice of a universal consciousness, indeed we have to go beyond reading a book or attending a lecture. We have to verify our understanding in our daily life, see what works and what doesn’t, and constantly review our personal philosophy and world view.

We often tend to make our personal view of the world rather static, but when everything is changing how can we remain still? And if we want to indeed achieve Stillness, then we have to transcend the notion of change once and for all. Krishna calls this the supreme state or the state of brahman – a state beyond creation and destruction, growth and decay.

Having read the Bhagavad-Gita and finding it to be a fountain of wisdom, we are interested in how the wisdom can help change our own life. For this reason, the peripheral issues around Gita (Did Krishna really exist? Did the war really take place? Did it take place 5,000 years ago? Was the Gita written by a single author? Was the Gita originally a part of the text of Mahabharata?) go into the background. While these are interesting topics of discussion, since our immediate purpose is to understand the message, we have to take the text at face value and examine it.

A good way to approach the Gita is by trying to understand the mind of Krishna. This is easier said than done. The reason is that Krishna is a mysterious character. He is an eternal paradox, as famed playwright and poet T. P. Kailasam captures in his lovely sonnet on Krishna:

A woman’s witching face, her ways, her eyes;
A panther’s frame, its grace, mayhap its heart;
An eerie mastery of ev’ry art;
A honey-tongue that steep’d all truth in lies
And yet could strip all lies in light of Truth
A smile that mock’d at plight of friend in Woe;
A breast that bled at sight of fallen foe;
Ador’d and yet afear’d of all, in sooth:

Thou tangl’d mass of man and god and brute,
What mortal mind may con thy rainbow-life
That blazed undimm’d mid storms of human strife,
And glean the wisdom of thy madd’ning flute,
Thy love-lit crimes, thy kindly cruelties,
Thou paradox for all eternities!

Krishna, as a person, is extremely happy and playful, but pragmatic. His religion consists of embracing life in totality and enjoying it as a game. He easily manages good and evil since he knows how to live in the world, by looking at things from an overall perspective.

We humans are rather biased in our tastes – we want the cake and eat it too. We want pleasure but no pain, joy but no sorrow, roses but no thorns, peace but no war. Krishna points out that these are merely two sides of the same coin. Non-violence has relevance only in the face of violence and Comfort takes on meaning only in the face of discomfort. Worldly life is full of dualities and going beyond the opposites leads us to endless peace. Embracing the world with a sense of connectedness is true spirituality.

There can be no single rule for all of human life; one can merely try to act appropriately in all situations. While brokering for peace, Krishna tells Duryodhana that he is about to commit a great sin by insisting on war. The same Krishna tells Arjuna on the battlefield that he is committing a great sin by running away from war. Krishna’s life and message is filled with such apparent contradictions, but seen in perspective, the opposing ideas make sense. It takes a while to reconcile with the idea that truths can be contradictory because they are at different levels.

Typically religion divides things into ‘sacred’ and ‘profane’. But Krishna focuses on a more useful division of what is appropriate and what is not.Thus Krishna is able to make statements that are supremely practical and at the same time perfectly spiritual. We have to know this if we want to joyfully participate in the game of life. A knowledge of both the material and the spiritual elements helps us sustain our application of wisdom to daily life.

In many ways, the Bhagavad-Gita is a unifying text. Krishna cuts across class distinctions, mocks at social prejudices, abhors dated traditional practices, and finds convergence for divergent thoughts and beliefs. Krishna declares that the religion of the Vedas is inclusive and talks of egalitarianism, but with focus on the inherent strength of an individual. He challenges Arjuna to think differently and not to buy into traditional baggage, by showing him how external factors mean little when greater heights are reached spiritually.

The journey from ignorance to knowledge consists of opening our minds and learning how to entertain an idea without accepting or rejecting it. To blindly accept or reject anything is ignorance. Objective examination of the evidence, experimentation in daily life, carefully listening to the voice of intuition that comes with years of experience – these are some of the ingredients to forming an all-round view of the world around us and attaining supreme bliss.

Om, salutations!
May the spirit of yajña flourish!
May the one with the spirit of yajña flourish!
May divine grace be upon us!
May divine grace be upon humankind!
May plants be bountiful!
Auspiciousness to the two-footed!
Auspiciousness to the four-footed!
Om, peace, peace, peace!
(from the Krishna Yajur Veda)


  1. K A Raju1/08/2012

    I have no words to appreciate your effort in translating the innermeaning of the devine work of Lord Krishna...Very interesting and captivating....

  2. Thank you so much sir. We greatly appreciate your words.