God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita

Paramahansa Yogananda, Self-Realization Fellowship

The Bhagavad Gita, the Song Celestial, is the most sacred of all testaments to Hindus. Westerners refer to the Gita as the “Hindu Bible” and the Indians call the Bible the “Christian Gita.” For many yogis, this is indicative of the great mutual respect.

Like other testaments, there are many translations and commentaries of the original Sanskrit. Our review is of a commentary with significant transformation potential for yogis. The Gita can have a three-fold meaning as seen below:

physical and social duties in life body material
moral and psychological aspects of life mind astral
realization of soul and divine nature soul spiritual

Commentaries that we have come across cover the material life. Is there a way out of the human predicaments in life? Everyday conflicts often seem to make life a long battle. The Gita is the gospel of freedom that points the way out. The setting of the Gita is the battlefield Kurukshetra. It is part of the epic Mahabharata, the great battle between two sides of a family (the Kauravas and the Pandavas). The Kauravas have deceptively taken away the kingdom from the rightful Pandava princes, their cousins. The only way to regain the kingdom is through battle. The chief Pandava prince Arjuna (also spelled as Arjun) looks across the battlefield at all his cousins, uncles, and teachers lined up on the other side and is overcome with grief and despondency. He would rather lose the kingdom than fight and kill his family, no matter how wicked they are. A good outcome to this war is impossible, irrespective of who wins and who loses. Arjuna has Krishna, his charioteer, draw the chariot in the middle of the battlefield. In his despondency, he pleads to Krishna for counsel. The Gita is the eloquent counsel Krishna gives to Arjuna. It is a universal and timeless teaching and appropriately called the Song Celestial.

God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita (Royal Science of God-realization) by Paramahansa Yogananda is a two-volume commentary that is profoundly different from others. It is the allegory of yoga. Just as a religious pundit will interpret the text in religious terms, this yogi sees a clear astral and spiritual path of raja yoga that includes kriya as taught by the lineage of Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, and Sri Sri Yukteshwar. The readers can refer to the classic Autobiography of a Yogi for more on this lineage and Paramahansa Yogananda. This commentary is their revelation of the Gita, relevant primarily to the science of yoga and to kriya yoga in particular.

The author summarizes the historical setting of the Gita and gives a short account of the main characters and what they signify in raja yoga. Who is Krishna? The readers get a background on Krishna’s life and his relationship to the Pandavas:

“Krishna’s life demonstrates the ideal, not of renunciation—which is a conflicting doctrine for man circumscribed by a world whose life breath is activity—but rather the renunciation of earth-binding desires for the fruits of action.”

Fleeing the material life is not the answer. The author states that the answer is to live a balanced life, no matter what the environment, by following the steps of yoga. The Gita gives a broad understanding and philosophy of yoga. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras give the method. For a dedicated yogi, the two texts are critical and go hand-in-hand. In fact, the commentary refers frequently to the Yoga Sutras to give parallels and fill in more details.

The genealogy of the Kauravas and Pandavas parallels the descent of Spirit into man. Yoga is the process by which the descent can become the ascent back to Spirit. Dhritarashtra, the Kauravas’ father, is the blind and ignorant mind (manas). Blindness gives rise to desires and desires give birth to one hundred sense tendencies (the hundred Kauravas). Pandu, the Pandavas’ father, is the discriminative intellect or buddhi (ability to distinguish right from wrong). Buddhi gives birth to the five elements (the five Pandava brothers). The following table describes the five brothers:

Yudhisthira ether vishuddhi chakra
Bhima air anahata chakra
Arjuna fire manipura chakra
Nakula water swadhisthana chakra
Sahadeva earth mooladhara chakra

Their bride, Draupadi, is the divine energy, kundalini shakti. The path of ascent lies in the spinal cord with the opening of the chakras, followed by the rising flow of this divine energy up to the Spirit.

So Kurukshetra is the battlefield of the body, mind, and spirit—between the desires of the blind and ignorant mind and their powers of delusion versus the discriminating intellect that is trying to overcome the mind to ascend back to Para-Brahman/God/Spirit.

The allegories are explained verse-by-verse. There is a lot of repetition from verse to verse and if that gets in the way, it is always possible to skip some parts. The reader will recognize all that is encountered in meditation at each level—the daunting thoughts, relationships, memories that keep arising and blocking the awareness. It is the journey of the hero embarking on a quest and having to slay the demons along the way. It is heartening to know that this how it is for everyone. There is encouragement, hope, and inspiration to move on when encountering doubt and loss of faith.

God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita is one of the two most important texts for a serious yogi, the other being the Yoga Sutras (see Four Chapters on Freedom). No one else explains it quite this way with such insight. For someone not familiar with the Indian texts and raja yoga, the books will be overwhelming. We suggest that Christian yogis read The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You by Paramahansa Yogananda. He sees the Bible in the same light as the Gita, as a hidden code of yoga. Verse-by-verse, he explains the allegory that many of you are already beginning to discover for yourselves.

These two insightful commentaries can transform yoga meditation, irrespective of the tradition followed.

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