- By Ved Prakash Saxena (firstname.lastname@example.org)
It is a grave misconception that Srimad Bhagwadgita, Gita in short, is a religious text of Hindus. The reality is that Gita is neither related to any religion, nor does it propound a new religion; it is an unparalleled manual of social harmony and of human elevation to higher reaches of consciousness, and not a religious text.
That Gita is an absolutely different genre from religious texts is established by a dispassionate comparison. Unlike the religious texts, Gita does not bring in any messenger of God, nor does it prescribe a system of worship, rites and rituals, pilgrimages, particular prayers at designated times, fasts and festivals on specified days, and a host of other dos and don’ts for the followers, which set them apart from the followers of other religions. Religious texts denigrate the non-adherents as kafirs, heretics, apostates, etc.; who must be converted or killed. As such, religious texts are divisive of humankind. In glaring contrast, Gita’s precepts are absolutely non-discriminatory and all inclusive. They relate to the entire mankind – polytheists, monotheists, idolaters, worshippers of formless God, agnostics, and even atheists. Anyone, irrespective of their faith, caste, creed, color, gender, or any other distinction can imbibe and practice them for elevation of the self to higher levels of consciousness and for fostering social harmony.
In Chapter 12 of Gita, Krsna exhorts everyone to harbor no ill feelings towards anyone; have friendly, compassionate, and forgiving disposition towards one and all, and rise above all kinds of attachment and ego. Again, Chapter 16 emphasizes cultivation of the divine attributes of non-violence, truth, compassion, humility, non-anger, pleasant speech etc., and discarding the demonic attributes of lust, anger, arrogance, avarice, etc.
All this is rational and certainly, non-sectarian. Gita’s precepts aim at transforming an individual from the self-oriented state to the community-oriented state for social integration (stated as lok sangrah in Gita). Gita’s supreme ideal is ‘others before self’.
The most outstanding feature of Gita that puts it apart from religious texts is that unlike the latter, which demand blind faith from the adherents, Gita encourages thorough scrutiny of its precepts before accepting them. In the last Chapter of Gita Krsna asks Arjuna, his friend and disciple, to thoroughly reflect upon his teachings and then act as he should deem proper – no foisting of an ideology and no demand for blind faith. That is Gita. Surely, not the way of a religious text. Probably, it was this realization of Edwin Arnold, the English poet that made him translate Gita under the very appropriate title ‘The Song Celestial’.
The sublime teachings of Gita for self-elevation and social harmony shall never face the threat of being dated; they are for all times. They are valid for all the diverse sets of people – the scholar and the layman, the erudite and the ignoramus, even the believer and the non-believer!
घर-घर गीता, सस्वर गीता | सुमधुर गीता, हर उर गीता ||