Krishna - John Provost

The Wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita
The Bhagavad Gita
A great summary of the Hindu vision of
reality. Nevertheless, its message is
timeless and universal and transcends
all religion.
The Bhagavad Gita
The English title might be translated as
“Song of the Blessed One” or “Song of
the Adorable One.” The adorable one is
Lord Krishna, who is God in human
form, and the song is his teaching to
humanity. In many ways the Gita is to
Hindus what the Gospels are to
What the Gita is about
The teaching of the Gita emerges from
a battlefield conversation between Lord
Krishna and the warrior-prince Arjuna.
The war is between two royal families
and is said to have taken place about
5000 years ago.
What the Gita is about
The long story of how this conflict came
about is told in the Mahabharata, India’s
vast national epic (twelve times the
length of the Iliad and the Odyssey
combined, it is the longest epic poem
ever written). The Bhagavad Gita is the
sixth chapter.
What the Gita is about
Arjuna is getting ready for the battle
when he sees the destruction about to
be unleashed and falls into despair. He
throws down his weapons and gives up
just before the important battle. The
Gita is mainly Krishna’s response to this
evasion of Arjuna’s duty.
Hindu Scriptures
The scriptures start with the Vedas, the
most ancient texts. The Upanishads
come next. They are mystical
commentaries on the Vedas, revealing
their “hidden meaning” concerning the
true goal of life and how to attain it.
The philosophy based on the
Upanishads is known as Vedanta, and
the Bhagavad Gita has been deemed
“the best authority on Vedanta.”
The Language of the Gita
The original text was written in Sanskrit,
the ancient language of India and it has
now been translated into most
languages, even Yiddish!
Sanskrit is regarded as a sacred
language, and its sound is held to have
a powerful transforming effect. The Gita
is usually recited as a chant, and
listening to it is considered uplifting
even if one doesn’t understand the
Interpreting the Gita
Numerous commentaries have been
written on the Gita and many of them
emphasize different aspects of its
meaning. Scholars debate, as they do
with all of the world’s scriptures now, its
true message and meaning.
Interpreting the Gita
A traditional view holds that the different
emphases in the Gita are not
disagreeing with each other but rather
looking at different facets of the same
gem. As the Vedas state, truth is ever
the same, though the wise speak of it in
various ways.
Interpreting the Gita
The great modern sage Sri Aurobindo
advises us not to be overly concerned
with how the Gita was understood in the
past, but that we should extract from it
the living truths that meet our own
spiritual needs, for the Gita’s spirit is
large, profound, universal, and timeless.
The Avatar
Krishna is an Avatar. The Avatar, who is
God directly “descended” into human
form, appears on earth periodically-in
different forms, under different names,
in different parts of the world-to restore
truth in the world and to shower grace
on the lovers of God.
The Avatar
In the Vedic tradition, Krishna is
worshipped as an Avatar of Vishnu, that
aspect of the one indivisible God which
preserves and protects the creation.
Many people regard Krishna as a
universal savior comparable to (or even
identical with) such world teachers as
Christ and Buddha.
In the Gita, Krishna is a companion and
teacher, as well as the god who
commands devotion. Krishna is the
incarnation of cosmic power who
periodically descends to earth to
accomplish the restoration of order in
times of chaos.
Aurobindo comments that to the
spiritual aspirant, controversies over
historicity are a waste of time: the
Krishna who matters to us is the eternal
incarnation of the divine that we know
by inner experience, not the historical
teacher and leader.
For his lovers, Lord Krishna is a living
reality whose companionship is possible
to experience here and now, as
devotees of all times will attest. The
Divine beloved is always with us and
within us, because God is our own Self.
Five Points to Facilitate
1. The dialogue it tells about and the
battle it describes is a metaphor for the
journey of every soul. We all must have
this dialogue between the self that is in
the world and our deeper, truer self that
is the divine spark in us.
Second Point
2. “Each of us contains the doubting,
despairing, potentially brave and
illumined human being (Arjuna) and the
mystery of Krishna (the eternal Divine
Self) hidden behind all the veils of our
psyche and mind.”
Third Point
3. We must approach a study of a text
like this in the manner of a medieval
monk doing Lectio Divina. That is, we
most approach it not as a text to tackle
and finish, but as a poem to meditate
and reflect on. In other words, the Gita
is a wisdom document.
Fourth Point
4. Do not let the discussion of the
different Hindu Yogas lead to a debate
about which yoga is better, for that
would be to miss the point: Any and all
yoga is to lead to union with God.
Fourth Point
4. “The full truth is that the Gita
embodies and celebrates a permanently
radical fusion of all the traditional Hindu
approaches to the Divine in a vision of
what the full human divine being should
and must be.”
Fourth Point
4. “Philosophical analysis, practical
discipline, metaphysical knowledge, and
devotion are not mutually exclusive
methods, but aspects of a
comprehensive approach to the human
dilemma of living in a transient, chaotic
Fourth Point
4. “These different yogas in the Gita are
fused into a vision that combines and
transcends them all to offer human
beings the richest and most complete
way of being and acting in the world
with divine truth, wisdom, and
Fifth Point
5. It is important to read the Gita as if it
was written for today’s world and
today’s problems. Then it will become
relevant and meaningful to the person
who is reading it. Example: Gandhi
based much of his movement on the
The Battle
The Gita describes a battle. And surely
the world is in a battle today, “a battle
whose outcome will determine the fate
of the planet.”
The Battle
“In the Bhagavad Gita, those who long
to know how to fight wisely for the future
will find a handbook of spiritual
warriorhood and divine realization that
will constantly inspire and ennoble them
and infuse them with divine truth and
sacred passion.”
Mystical Activism
“An activism that is not fed by mystical
wisdom and stamina will wither in the
fire of persistent and persistently
exhausting disappointment and defeat
and tend to create as many new
problems as those it tries to solve.”
Mystical Activism
“Only the highest spiritual wisdom and
tireless sacred passion for all of life
united with pragmatic, radical action on
all possible fronts can now help us
preserve the planet.”
Core Message
1. We must not give into depression and
despair. Through spiritual practice and
wisdom we can face the battle of our
lives in a world desperate for love and
Core Message
2. We are encouraged to realize our
own union with the divine because that
is the main source of our hope and
strength. Without this experience of
union we are just “believers,” and we
have only to look around us to see the
damage done by a world full of
Core Message
3. The Gita teaches the importance of
“letting go and letting God.” That is we
are to give up our attachment to our
own plans and success and to our own
need to feel important and to be of
service for less than holy reasons.
Core Message
3. The goal is not to be “doing God’s
work,” but to let God work in and
through us. Thomas Keating teaches
that contemplative service is “God in us
serving God in others.”
Core Message
4. The lesson of letting go will teach us
the final mystery, “a final mystery of
divine love that will fill your whole being
with a permanent sober ecstasy-an
ecstasy that arises from the awareness
that you and all beings are loved by
God with deathless and unconditional
In the Gita devotion is a discipline
(bhaktiyoga) involving the performance
of disciplined action (karmayoga)
without personal attachment and with
dedication of the fruits to Krishna.
“This devotion enables one to engage
actively in the world and still have
spiritual freedom. Through devotion the
self expands toward the infinite and the
infinite is brought to a conceivable
human scale.”
The Human Self
“The Gita talks about three types of
attributes found in humans: inertia,
energy, and clarity. In human beings,
lazy people are plagued with inertia,
hyperactive people with energy, and
intelligent, even-keeled people are
blessed with clarity.”
The Human Self
“Krishna uses these three qualities to
outline a developmental model of the
self. Sloth should be countered by
energy, and energy-the shadow side of
which is a tendency to fly off the handleshould be monitored by clear-eyed
The Four Yogas
“The yogas, which are four in number,
have proven to be so astute in their
analysis of differing spiritual
temperaments-Carl Jung adapted his
four psychological types from them-that
they now belong to the world.”
Jnana Yoga
“Reflective persons (jnana yogis)
advance toward God by knowing him,
but it is important to realize that the kind
of knowing involved is an intuitive
discernment that is more like seeing
than thinking.”
Bhakti Yoga
“Affective persons (bhakti yogis), who
live more in their hearts than in their
heads, draw close to God by loving him.
Karma Yoga
“ Wired with energy, active people
(karma yogis) advance toward God by
serving him.”
Raja Yoga
“ Those with an aptitude for meditation
(raja yogis) realize God by that route.”
Integral Yoga
Integral Yoga is a new form of yoga that
combines all four together in a model
somewhat like cross training in athletics.
The idea would be to work with the
different yogas at different times
depending on which was most needed.
Integral Yoga
Integral Yoga demonstrates that the
combining of different practices in an
intelligent and sensitive manner
contributes to faster growth and
development in the human being than
any single yoga can provide on its own.
The Relativity of Values
The relativity of values is sometimes
difficult for Westerners to grasp
because we have been raised on the
values of universality and
egalitarianism. Theoretically, right and
wrong are not absolute in the Hindu
The Relativity of Values
Practically, right and wrong are decided
according to the categories of social
rank, kinship, and stage of life.
Unfortunately, we are familiar with this
idea in only its distorted form as the
caste system, which we rightly reject.
The Relativity of Values
But the wisdom behind the caste
system is the recognition that we all
have different gifts and temperaments
and our morals are based on how we
can best live out our potential. What
might work for one person could be the
exact opposite for someone else.