The Bhagavad Gita, “The
Song of the Lord,” is the best known and most read of all the Indian
scriptures, featured on college reading lists, quoted in yoga magazines, found
in all good libraries and bookstores, and recognized as part of the wisdom
literature of all time. Easwaran held the Gita to be India’s greatest gift to
the world, and he found in it his most profound source of inspiration. He
started teaching classes on the Gita in Berkeley in the sixties, and continued
to bring his unfailing enthusiasm to a wide audience throughout his life.
Readers have always appreciated the authenticity of his translation, which
regularly tops the bestseller list of its genre and has consistently been the
bestselling book for Nilgiri Press.
The Gita opens, dramatically, on a battlefield.
Prince Arjuna, a great warrior and a man of principle, is about to face the
treacherous relatives who have deprived his elder brother of his crown. Just as
the battle is about to begin, however, Arjuna collapses in his chariot, his bow
falling to his side, unable to face the inevitable slaughter ahead of him.
Arjuna’s struggle is profoundly modern. He has
lost his way on the battlefield of life, and turns to a higher, spiritual power
to find the path once again. About to go into the fight of his life, he asks
direct, uncompromising questions of his spiritual guide, Sri Krishna. Acting as
Arjuna’s friend and charioteer, Krishna is in reality the Lord himself. In
seven hundred verses of sublime instruction, Krishna talks of living and dying,
of loving and working, of the nature of the soul and the paths we can take to
realize our true Self, our true stature.
For, as Easwaran points out, the Gita is not
what it seems – it’s not a dialogue between two mythical figures at the dawn of
Indian time. “The battlefield is a perfect backdrop, but the Gita’s subject is
the war within, the struggle for self-mastery that every human being must wage”
to live a life that is meaningful, fulfilling, worthwhile. Arjuna represents
each of us, every person of action and principle today. Krishna is not an
external deity “but the spark of divinity that lies at the core of the human
personality.” And this is no external dialogue, but one that takes place within
us as we struggle, like Arjuna, to do what is right.
Easwaran’s genius is to show us that the Gita is
not just a text that is interesting historically and culturally – it’s a
practical manual, a book of choices, that offers guidance for whatever
challenges we face. It places human destiny entirely in human hands. The range
of paths the Gita describes for spiritual realization – of action, wisdom,
devotion, and meditation – is broad enough to appeal to all our different
personalities. Great figures like Gandhi turned to the Gita again and again,
and so can we.