The Circumstance of the Teaching of the Gita

To gain a true appreciation for the uniqueness of the Bhagavad Gita, it is helpful to reflect on the background and circumstance of this teaching. The identity of teacher, the role of the recipient of the teaching and the event within which the teaching has been given are three important aspects that create the context for what the Gita is communicating.

Sri Aurobindo addresses these three points: “There are indeed three things in the Gita which are spiritually significant, almost symbolic, typical of the profoundest relations and problems of the spiritual life and of human existence at its roots; they are the divine personality of the Teacher, his characteristic relations with his disciple and the occasion of his teaching.”

The teacher is the Divine manifested in the world. The student is the evolved human soul representing the aspiration and developed powers of humanity at a critical point in the active life of that soul. The event is a cataclysmic battle in which friends and relations are on both sides, a civil war that not only is tearing apart the society, but which also has clear implications for the evolutionary progress of humanity and the battle between the forces of light and growth versus the forces that are trying to hold back, impede and destroy the forward progress in order to hold onto their power and control. Innocent, even revered souls are caught up in a conflict of values, with issues of honor, loyalty and duty ranging people who would ordinarily support one another onto the opposing sides.

We see here not only conflicting emotions but also conflicting sets of values that appear to be irreconcilable. It is at this juncture that the Divine Teacher has to step in to help humanity advance and find a new principle that can enlighten and guide action for the leading edge of human development.

The situation “….raises the whole question of the meaning of God in the world and the goal and drift and sense of human life and conduct.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 2, The Divine Teacher, pp. 9-10,

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