Avoiding Narrow or Partisan Interpretations of the Gita

The Bhagavad Gita represents a complex and many-sided teaching. Because it contains so many diverse threads and themes, it is possible to latch onto one of them and attempt to make it the focus or dominant teaching. Such a position, however, does not do justice to the integrated and comprehensive approach of the Gita itself. It is therefore important to realize that at each stage, as we review the Gita’s various elements, that they are “parts of a whole” and not a self-standing single dominant theme.

There are those who have interpreted the Gita to be a teaching of “renunciation” of life, others who hold it up as the ultimate doctrine of “works in the world”. Some look upon it as a song of devotion, while others find in it the doctrines of philosophy and the ultimate expression of the yoga of knowledge. It is a testament to the holistic approach taken by the Gita that each one can find in it the apparently opposite teachings!

Sri Aurobindo reminds us of the big picture that integrates all of the subordinate threads so that as we enter into the details we do not lose sight of the whole. The Gita is a spiritual teaching of enormous scope and not a weapon in a polemical battle of adherents of one philosophical or religious bent or another. The Bhagavad Gita is far more than any of its parts, or even the sum of its parts.

“That which the Gita teaches is not a human, but a divine action; not the performance of social duties, but the abandonment of all other standards of duty or conduct for a self-less performance of the divine will working through our nature; not social service, but the action of the Best, the God-possessed, the Master-men done impersonally for the sake of the world and as a sacrifice to Him who stands behind man and Nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 4, The Core of the Teaching, pp. 26-28,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.