We have completed our review of the second series of Sri Aurobindo’s Essays on the Gita. The Bhagavad Gita, although brief in compass, is vast in scope. It addresses the human condition in a very real and direct manner, starting from the conflicting answers provided by our philosophical, ethical, moral, social and personal values to the very complex and tangled situations we face while trying to survive in the world.
Arjuna is the representative of the leading values of human existence. He has been educated in the highest principles of his time and he combines the ability to focus with utmost concentration and discipline with a sensitivity to the moral and ethical values that have formed the core of his judgments about how to respond to life.
The Gita has placed this individual in a situation where none of his past guidelines or rules of action are any longer of value. By carrying out one line of action, he supports the values of that direction while concurrently destroying other values. To protect the social order he has been asked to take action that will wrench that very fibres of that social order! He clearly needs and craves new guidance, and thus, the Gita is able to address him by providing a new approach which avoids the trenchant oppositions of the mental framework that demands “either/or” solutions, by showing him that these opposites are actually part of a larger unified whole and a greater harmony. In order to act from this new standpoint, he must move beyond the limitations of his background, education, training and mental framework. Thus, the yoga of the Gita.
The Bhagavad Gita remains relevant today because it addresses issues and conflicts we face every day in our lives. We are also asked to sort out conflicting values and make judgment calls that are less than satisfying. We are asked to live our lives in a world that seemingly has stripped a lot of significance out of it, reducing life into some kind of mechanical existence, a fight for survival or a field of enjoyment, without recognizing the deeper significance and the greater opportunities available to us if we try to become the best and highest we can be, using the utmost of our born human capabilities and then finding a way to exceed even these best and highest manifestations of human endeavor.
The Gita however is much more than a philosophical treatise; it delves into the details of how action occurs and dissects for us in a very precise way the operation of the modes or Gunas of Nature. This is essential information for anyone trying to make sense of action in the world and searching for a way to respond more effectively to challenges.
The knowledge provided by the Gita takes on its ultimate value when we actually begin to try to see, observe and practice this teaching through transference of our viewpoint, our very standpoint of living, from the human to the divine standpoint. This is the ultimate secret communicated by the Gita.
The Bhagavad Gita translates for a more modern humanity the ancient teachings found in the Vedas and especially in the Upanishads. Those ancient texts, revered as repositories of wisdom, have been very much closed books to us because their cryptic and symbolic language had been lost to our modern mind and methods of understanding. The Gita helps us bridge that gap.
Sri Aurobindo has done an outstanding service to us here by systematically and in detail taking up the entire step by step progression of the Gita’s exposition, showing us both the “big picture” and the fine details along the way, while keeping us focused on the essentials that the Gita is trying to communicate. He found that the Gita is not solely a text for any particular path of yoga, but was rather a synthetic attempt to take up, reshape and reformulate each of the various paths and methodologies, to organize and put them in their right place in the scheme of things, and thereby harmonize and uplift them rather than place them in opposition with one another.
The Gita’s method is in fact an illustration of its central teaching; that is, to move from the limited, fragmented, “black and white” approach of the linear mental consciousness, to an embracing, global and holistic approach of the divine consciousness.
Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita