Thursday, 4 June 2015

Bhagwad Gita

Bhagwad Gita

The first time I had the good luck to read Bhagwad Gita (in Hindi and English translation) was when I was about 16 years old.

I belong to a culture, where almost every other house, including my own, had the following 'Gita Saar' (essence of the Gita) chart hung on the living room wall.

For those who cannot read Hindi, following is a translation in English:

  • whatever happened was good
  • whatever is happening is good
  • whatever will happen will also be good
  • what have you parted with that makes you cry ?
  • what did you bring with you that you have lost ?
  • what did you create which is now destroyed ?
  • what you have taken, you have taken only from here.
  • what was given was given only from here.
  • what is yours today, was someone else's yesterday, will be someone else's tomorrow.
  • change is the law of the universe
English Translation Source:

As a child, when I used to meditate on its meaning it used to sound like a strange philosophy which attracted me immensely, even though I used to find it difficult. But it continued to hold a huge impact on me and I liked to read it over and over again.

I used to wonder, how is it possible not to worry over the things which bother us! I was excessively emotional and sensitive to the happenings around me. Like most children, both loving words and cruel scolding by either parents or teachers had intense effect on me. I could be joyful enough to shout out aloud, or weep for hours together!

As I grew older, became an adolescent, the philosophy of Bhagwad Gita began to attract me even more, and I asked my father if I could read his copy of Bhagwad Gita.

It was a very simple, basic translation in English and Hindi. I was a voracious reader and immersed myself in it for days; making notes on the margins of pages wherever I had queries. I was immensely impressed by most of it, as much as I could understand it that time. By the time I finished reading it, I had a ton of questions.

My father satisfactorily answered a lot of them, but there were still 40% of my doubts which were outside the sphere of his understanding too. One of my Bengali friends’ maternal aunt was a Sanskrit professor. I went to her, with Bhagwad Gita and a notebook and a pencil, seeking answers. But even she couldn’t clear all my doubts.

But within few months I gave up, and my mind full of queries and uncertainties about the philosophy of Gita. Soon I got distracted, and started reading Swami Vivekananda, whose simpler language and charged up words excited my temperament much more and I devoted my time in reading his works.

The second time I read Bhagwad Gita was when I had crossed the age of 30. Since then, it has helped me cope with Depression, and overcome my insecurities and has had a positive impact on my self-image. In short, it has had profound effect on me.

Now I can clearly see that it aims at a complete cognitive restructuring (CR) of the reader's mind. CR is a technique where we learn to recognize the faulty or wrong notions created in the deep recesses of our minds, and try to alter them with the right thought patterns.

Quite understandably, the wrongs patterns of thinking are those which hurt us emotionally or make us unhappy, and the right thinking patterns are the ones which pull us out of unhappiness and lead us towards a happier, more productive life.

In contemporary times, when materialism and individualism are taking over human lives, stress is everywhere. It is the constant companion of even those who have no shortage of money, fame, beauty and power.

The way Bhagwad Gita works on human psyche, in my personal experience (especially if read under the guidance of a good Guru/scholar), it can be beneficial in multiple ways.
Some of circumstances when psychologists or community leaders can make use of Gita as a tool to alleviate unhappiness in people are:

Ø  Loss of a family member or loved one.
Ø  Lack of motivation, in work place, school/college, or generally in carrying out duties of daily life.
Ø  Finding a meaning or purpose in life.
Ø  Exploring philosophical approaches to life.
Ø  Helping children in teaching positive cognitive mindset which can help curb the suicide rates and adolescent Depression.
Ø  Leading a more fulfilled and contented life.
Ø  Cognitive restructuring to face life-crisis with healthy attitude.
Ø  Enhancing skills to give one’s best at one’s talents.
Ø  Helping soldiers coping with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).
Ø  Rehabilitation work (drug addicts, adolescent delinquents)

Let me quote some famous quotes on Geeta, from the prominent world figures:

Wilhelm von Humboldt, the Prussian philosopher & founder of the Humboldt University of Berlin, pronounced the Bhagwad Gita as: "The most beautiful, perhaps the only true philosophical song existing in any known tongue ... perhaps the deepest and loftiest thing the world has to show."
Source: The Episode of the Mahabharata Known by the Name Bhagavad-Gita (On Hegel's review of Wilhelm von Humboldt's lectures on the Bhagavad-Gita). By G. W. F. Hegel, 1827

Henry David Thoreau, the American author, poet, philosopher and historian wrote, “In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial."
Source: The Bhagavad-Gita by  Barbara Miller

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American thinker and poet who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century was strongly influenced by the philosophy of Bhagavad Gita and Vedanta in general, "I owed a magnificent day to the Bhagavad-Gita. It was as if an empire spoke to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us."
Source: The Bhagavad-Gita by  Barbara Miller

“It (Bhagavad-Gita) is one of the great classics of world literature, it has inspired such diverse thinkers as Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi, and T.S. Eliot.”
Source: The Bhagavad-Gita by  Barbara Miller

The first governor general of British India Warren Hastings wrote: "I hesitate not to pronounce the Gita a performance of great originality, of sublimity of conception, reasoning and diction almost unequalled; and a single exception, amongst all the known religions of mankind." 

“It was Warren Hastings who encouraged Charles Wilkins to translate the Bhagwad Gita in 1785.”
Source: Brahma in the West: William Blake and the Oriental Renaissance by David Weir

It was Charles Wilkins’ translation of the Gita which was soon translated into French (1787) and German (1802). It proved to be a major influence on Romantic literature and on European perception of Hindu philosophy. William Blake later celebrated the publication in his picture The Bramins, exhibited in 1809, which depicted Wilkins and Brahmin scholars working on the translation. 

Thus, we can see that Bhagwad Gita has influenced major philosophers and thinkers of the world, and they have been in awe of the philosophy ever since. It is a matter of great pity if the country where it originated, should not respect and understand its significance.

In Bharat, not just for spiritual purposes, but also for practical purposes, it can be and must be used as an efficient tool in order to improve the quality of life in several ways.

It can be especially beneficial in the field of education and psychology, where it is imperative to give education on how to deal with stress and various life-situations. 

The study of Gita is crucial if we want the children – who are the future of our nation and world – to be mentally prepared for life and want them to imbibe positive and healthy attitudes.

It is sincerely hoped that the professionals in various fields recognize the potential which this ancient classical text holds for us, and work towards applying its principles in modern Bhartiya (Indian) life.


  1. Well written Swati! I am inspired by your exploration into the depths of Gita.. I also feel that Gita and Mahabharata provide you with practical life lessons whereas Ramayana is inclined more towards the moral lessons, both of which are equally important.

    1. Yes, indeed there is a lot of knowledge and wisdom in these texts which can be used to lead a better, happier life.

  2. Wonderfully written the esscence. Even if you listen to any of the famous spiritual gurus or motivational speaker you can co- relate the thoughts directly from gita may be said by using a different set of words. It is a complete set Philosophy of life.

    1. Yes, indeed, the philosophy of Vedanta - which is seen in Bhagwad Gita, is deeply imbibed in the Indian consciousness.
      Thanks for appreciating the post.

  3. Wonderfully written the esscence. Even if you listen to any of the famous spiritual gurus or motivational speaker you can co- relate the thoughts directly from gita may be said by using a different set of words. It is a complete set Philosophy of life.

  4. Wonderfully written the esscence. Even if you listen to any of the famous spiritual gurus or motivational speaker you can co- relate the thoughts directly from gita may be said by using a different set of words. It is a complete set Philosophy of life.