By Prof. G.V. Kulkarni

IT is well known that the Bhagavad Gita is one of the main scriptures of the Hindu religion (Prasthana Trayi, the threefold authority). It is a universal scripture, a ‘Song Divine’. Bhagavan Ramana used to say that the Gita and the Bible are one and one should read the Gita always. 1 He often used to quote verses from it and explain them in his own inimitable and illuminating way in reply to various questions of seekers. The light that he has thrown on the teaching of the Gita is simply unique, extremely clear and very penetrating. This is perhaps because he lived the scripture in toto and hence had the authority to elucidate it like Bhagavan Sri Krishna or Sri Jnaneshvara. He spoke from his plenary, first-hand experience and not from verbal erudition.

Bhagavan was asked by a devotee to give in brief the contents of the Gita. He selected fortytwo verses and arranged them in an appropriate order to serve as guidance. 2 Another devotee complained that it was difficult to keep all its seven hundred verses in mind and asked if there was not a verse that could be remembered as the gist of the whole Gita. Bhagavan immediately mentioned Verse twenty of Chapter ten:

Aham Atma, Gudakesa, Sarvabhutashayasthitah
Aham Adischa Madhyam cha bhutanam anta eva cha.

I am the Self, O Gudakesa, dwelling in the hearts of all beings.
I am the beginning, and the middle and the end of all beings.

Another time Bhagavan summarised the purpose of the Gita in a reply to a question by a devotee:

Devotee: The Gita seems to emphasise karma, for Arjuna is persuaded to fight. Sri Krishna Himself set the example by an active life of great exploits.

Maharshi: The Gita starts by saying that you are not the body, that you are not therefore the karta (doer).

D: What is the significance?

M: That one should act without thinking oneself to be the actor. The person has come into manifestation for a certain purpose. That purpose will be accomplished whether he considers himself the actor or not.

D: What is karma yoga?
M: Karma yoga is that yoga in which the person does not arrogate to himself the functions of being the actor. The actions go on automatically.

D: Is it the non-attachment to the fruits of action?

M: The question arises only if there is the actor. It is said throughout that you should not consider yourself the actor.

D: The Gita teaches active life from beginning to end.

M: Yes, the actorless action. Bhagavan Sri Krishna is an ideal example of such a karma yogi.

Maharshi clarifies it thus: The Self makes the universe what it is by his shakti and yet he does not himself act. Sri Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita, ‘I am not the doer and yet actions go on’. It is clear from the Mahabharata that very wonderful actions were effected by him. Yet He says that He is not the doer. It is like the sun and the world action. There are certain apparent contradictions in the Gita which baffle an ordinary reader. Maharshi in his replies removes such contradictions. In reply to a question he said: The answers will be according to the capacity of the seeker. It is said in the second chapter of the Gita that no one is born or dies; but in the fourth chapter Sri Krishna says that numerous incarnations of His and of Arjuna had taken place, all known to Him but not to Arjuna. Which of these statements is true? Both statements are true, but from different standpoints. Now a question is raised, how can jiva rise up from the Self? Only know your real Being; then you will not raise this question. Why should a man consider himself separate? How was he before being born and how will he be after death? Why waste time in such discussions? What was your form in deep sleep? Why do you consider yourself as an individual?

On another occasion a devotee asked Maharshi, “Why does Sri Krishna say, ‘After several rebirths the seeker gains Knowledge and thus knows me?’ There must be evolution from stage to stage”.

Maharshi replied:
How does Bhagavad Gita begin? ‘Neither I was not, nor you nor these chiefs, etc. Neither is it born, nor does it die, etc’. So there is no birth, no death, no present as you look at it. Reality was, is and will be. It is changeless. Later Arjuna asked Sri Krishna how he could have lived before Aditya. Then Krishna, seeing Arjuna was confounding Him with the gross body, spoke to him accordingly. The instruction is for one who sees diversity. In reality there is neither bondage nor mukti for himself or for others from the jnani’s standpoint. Abhyasa (practice) is only to prevent any disturbance to the inherent peace. There is no question of years. Prevent this thought at this moment. You are only in your natural state whether you make abhyasa or not. Here Maharshi refers to his famous dictum, “You are already realized”.

People generally consider Sri Krishna as a personal God. They overemphasize the physical form of the Lord. According to them He is a mythological God of the Hindus; and thus they miss the real teaching of the Gita. What does Sri Krishna say about Himself throughout the Gita? Bhagavan clearly removes the doubt and explains the real nature of Sri Krishna.

He points out even the limitations of the cosmic form shown by Him to Arjuna, as described in the eleventh chapter. Once a devotee said, “There is a girl of eleven at Lahore. She is very remarkable. She says she can call upon Krishna twice and remain conscious, but if she calls Him a third time she becomes unconscious and remains in trance for ten hours continuously”.

Maharshi commented, “So long as you think that Krishna is different from you, you call upon Him. Falling into trance denotes the transitoriness of the samadhi. You are always in samadhi; that is what should be realized. God vision is only vision of the Self objectified as the God of one’s own faith. Know the Self. Another devotee asked, “What is visvarupa”?

M: It is to see the world as the Self of God. In the Bhagavad Gita God is said to be various things and beings and also the whole universe. How to realize it and see it so? Can one see one’s Self?

D: Is it then wrong to say that some have seen it?

M: It is true in the same degree as you are. Realization implies perfection. When you are limited, your knowledge is thus imperfect. In visvarupa darshan, Arjuna is told to see whatever he desired and not what was presented before him. How can that darshan be real? On another occasion a devotee asked, “Divya chakshuh (divine sight) is necessary to see the glory of God. This physical eye is the ordinary chakshuh”.

M: Oh! I see, you want to see million sun-splendour and the rest of it.

D: Can we not see the glory as million sun-splendour?

M: Can you see the single sun? Why do you ask for millions of suns?

D: It must be possible to do so by divine sight.

M: All right. Find Krishna and the problem is solved.

D: Krishna is not alive

M: Is that what you have learnt from the Gita? Does he not say that He is eternal? Of what are you thinking, His body?

D: He taught others while alive. Those around Him must have realized. I see a similar living guru.

M: Is Gita then useless after He withdrew His body?

Did He speak of His body as Krishna? ‘Never was I not, etc’. Later Sri Bhagavan said that divine sight means Selfluminosity. The full word means the Self. In this dialogue Bhagavan has very logically and mercilessly removed the common ignorance about the real nature of Sri Krishna and has clearly indicated Him to be the all-pervading Self, residing in the Heart.

The three yogas, karma, bhakti and jnana (which includes dhyana) given in the Gita are meant for seekers of different temperaments, says Maharshi. Karma yoga is meant for men of active tendencies. It is calculated to eliminate the idea of doership in the seeker. Bhakti yoga is meant for men of powerful emotions. It dissolves the ego in supreme devotion for God. Jnana yoga is meant for men of reason and understanding capable of Self-enquiry. When the mind wanders, it should be controlled and brought back to the Self.

It eliminates the individual ‘I’, the spurious ego. This is the direct path and all other yogas ultimately lead to this. When the false ego is understood and hence removed, the Reality shines in all its glory automatically. To understand this truth and experience it here and now is the purpose of the teaching of the Gita, says Bhagavan.

In the words of Saint Jnaneshvara, “It is easy to make the earth golden, to create great mountains of desireyielding jewels, to fill the seven seas with nectar, but it is difficult to indicate the secret of the meaning of the Gita”. Bhagavan Ramana has definitely done it. No wonder it is identical with his main teaching, “Either know who you are or surrender”.

From the great Adi Shankara down to Dr Ranade and Swami Swaroopanand, many scholars and sages have written works on the Gita. In this galaxy, Bhagavan Ramana’s contribution to the Gita, though couched in a few words, is remarkable and true to the original. It is at once universal and beyond the categories of time and space, and yet practical in the everyday life of man.

Let us pray to him to shower his grace and blessings on us all to help us understand this truth and experience it here and now. A thousand pranams to him!