THE CONCEPT OF GOD AND SALVATION IN BHAGVADGITA:

In the pages of the Bhagvadgita, we find the image of a personal god who appeals to our relationship with him. It calls us to knowledge, love, peace of mind, and a sense of duty to¬wards him, the world and humankind. We also enjoy its literary and esthetic charm, intellectual depth and emotional richness. In these lines, we shall glance at the concept of God in the book of Bhagavadgita and its consequences for the human salvation. Bhagavadgita is a part of the book of Mahabharata (Bhisma¬parvamhabharat) and has 18 chapters, which are doctrinal treatis¬es, representing several schools of thought. It is a conversa¬tion between Krsna and Arjuna one the battlefield, on the eve of the battle between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. The five Pandava brothers were fighting for the restoration of their rights against the Kaurava usurpers. But Arjuna, one of the five Pandava brothers, sits down dismayed before Krsna, with his arrows and bow dropped, ready to stop fighting against his kin and kith. But Krsna exhorts him not to yield to cowardice and “faint-heartedness” (II:2f). He explains to him detachment from the perishable body and from worldly desires. Through renouncement, man should be united with Brahman, the Source of all beings, and attain salvation/liberation (Moksa). 1)GOD, SUPREME RULER OF THE WORLD Bhagavan/Brahman is the highest god and origin of all be¬ings, comprising all the perfections of the Upanisadic Atman and Brahman. He is the centre of all thoughts and deeds. This is the dominating theme of the Gita. Brahman demands supreme devotion and answers such devotion by freeing man from the wheel of births and rebirths and leading him to final goal: liberation. When the contradictory predicates are attributed to him, it means that he is the Supreme Reality, not confined to empirical determinations. Thus, for instance, he is “neither Being nor No-being” (XIII:12), he is “invisible, unthinkable and immutable” (II:25). He is Sadchitananda–eternal, full of knowledge and bliss. While the concept of God in Upanishads is abstract and highly impersonal and does not appeal to the masses, the Gita speaks of a personal, quasi-human and incarnate god for their worship. Krsna, the local chieftain of the Vaishnava class, was divinized into an appealing divine figure. This divinized hero appeals to both the higher and the lower classes. In this direc¬tion, the Gita has satisfied the monotheistic tendencies of all. 2)INCARNATION God is close to the world, immanent in it. He actively participates in it and guides it. But he is not defiled by it. He appears in a tangible living form as to protect it and lead it to higher evolution. When the world was deteriorating, Vishnu/Nar¬ayana incarnated himself as Krsna. He appears as born and related to the world, though he is infinite knowledge and power, controls maya and is the first cause/mulprakrti, composed of three gunas/energies and is Eternal, Indestructible, Free and the Lord of creatures. Krishna is one of the millions of forms through which the universal spirit manifests itself. 3)WORLD The Supreme Being is the source of everything, both material and spiritual. The world has emerged from two primary elements, namely Prakriti or the Nature (Not-Self), which is changeable, and Purusha or the Person (the spirit or conscious Self), which is immutable. They are the forms of one Supreme Reality. They have their origin in the Eternal Brahman and are without begin¬ning. That is the reason why the Supreme Reality is said to be the supporter of the world and all its activities. Also He is the efficient and material cause of the Universe. In the Gita, prakrti is no longer independent, it is Krsna’s “lower nature” (VII:5), which means that nature also is pervaded by the divine being. Thus, nature and spirit subsist in the same divine self. In this Gita overbridges the dualism of Samkhya. In the last vision, Arjuna perceives Krsna in divine body with many mouths, eyes and arms (XI:8). One does not live in a deceiving world, but in a real and genuine world. “The world and God are one as body and soul are one. They are a whole but at the same time unchangeably differ¬ent. Before creation, the world is in a potential form, in crea¬tion, it is developed into matter and form. The world is produced by the Supreme Reality out of His own nature” (S.Radhakishnan, Bhagavad Gita, p.18). The world is like a vast temple of God. Our existence in this world is a privileged condition to enjoy close and constant companionship with God. If we look at it as a bed of thorns, we will only sour our lives. Although there is sorrow and suffering, much of it is due to man’s own mistakes. If every one pursues the path of righteousness, pain and misery would disappear. Thus, the world created by God is His love and delight. A lover of God must love the world and its inhabitants. 4)UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER TO GOD The Eternal God demands unconditional surrender to him, devotion, love (bhakti). The basic requirement of Bhakti-Devotion is : i)Correct Knowledge of God or Jnana-marga: The truths of God can be apprehended only by those who prepare themselves for their reception by rigorous discipline. We must cleanse the mind of all distractions and purge the heart from all corruption to acquire spiritual wisdom. By such knowledge, man comes to God. ii)Offering: The highest way of making offering to God is to offer all actions to Him, without claiming any merit for one’s own self. To attain perfection, man must learn detachment from worldly desires. Through Yoga, man can have command over sense and mind and centre himself on the emancipation from the limitations of the empirical world. If he fails in his efforts for self-control, the answer is the doctrine of rebirth, which finally leads to perfec¬tion: “He who through many births has won perfection goes thence on the highest way” (VI:45). The aim of the yogic efforts is exclusively God, who becomes the centre of all intentions and actions: “Holding all these (senses) in check, let him sit, controlled, intent on me” (II:61). This ideal of the yogin is perfected in the love of God: “Of all yogins him who with faith devoutly worships me, whose inmost self is lost in me, I hold to be the most controlled” (VI:47). When one worships the Lord devoutly and is lost in him, the Lord controls him so that he knows the Lord fully. Bhakti leads to final release after death. Misery comes in this world because of the body. Arjuna must fix his thoughts on the Lord Krishna, in order to attain Sadchitananda body, as it is promised by him: “He who goes remembering me at the time of death, after leaving the body, goes to my being, there is no doubt of that (VIII:5). Thus, everything is to be done for God as all things are comprised in Him: the universe is the unfolding of of his lower nature, which is qualified by the three gunas/quali¬ties of prakrti/nature: sattva (purity/lucidity), rajas (energy/passion), tamas (darkness/indolence). God is the origin, abode and absorbing abyss of created beings. By such knowledge man comes to God. However, Gita proclaims tolerance towards those who worship other deities. It states: “If anyone worships any other deity with true devotion, he worships Me, though only imperfectly” (IX:23). The idea is not that “one man’s god is another’s devil”, but that any true devotion has its own divine side. What matters is not so much the object that is worshiped, as the spirit in which one worships. 5)WORK God is the Ruler of the world. He is interested in its main¬tenance and progress. God continuously works. “Whatever may be a man’s profession, he can reach the Lord by doing his duty super¬bly. For performance of duty is tantamount to worship of God”. Work is to be done without a reward. The motive for exertion may be i)”purifying the self/cleansing the heart’ and ii)subserv¬ing the purpose of God. In the Gita, moral rectitude aims at the elimination of worldly desire. It is not satisfied with rational¬izing our impulses. It tends to spiritualize them. It teaches that an active life led without any thought of securing the worldly results, it may yield, is necessary. If the motive is “cleansing the heart”, the goal is self realization. If, on the other hand, it is subserving the purpose of God, then the end is God-realization, which means reaching the presence of God and being absorbed in the Absolute Brahman. Devotion to duty in life (Svadharma) for emancipation is the central teaching of Krsna to Arjuna: “Do the duty without an eye to the results thereof. Thus, shouldst thou gain the purifi¬cation of heart which is essential for Moksa?” (XVIII:46). A WORD OF CRITIQUE AND CONCLUSION Gita addresses its teachings to humankind. It gives a uni¬versal teaching. God is the god of all, the God of the Universe, the Protector, the Destroyer and the Establisher of Peace and Harmony. Secondly, it exhorts to devotion and surrender to God. It also points out to the need of God’s help in human strug¬gle. It stresses the incarnation, the coming of God to this world. It speaks of God being in all beings, but it boils down to being identical with all. his presence is needed for every human action. If God is the Creator, why should he come to protect the good and destroy the evil? We are deeply moved to the devotion to and love of God. But the difference arises at the first glance: whereas in Christianity the teacher of the message is historical person, who through his death and Resurrection became the centre of Revelation, the Krsna of the Gita is a literary fiction; the hero of the epic war was slowly divinized. His literary speech inspired thousands to a deeper love of God, but historically speaking, Krsna never uttered the words attributed to him. Further, the idea of creation is not clear. There is no sovereign freedom of God in relation to the Universe. The world moves by necessity. There is no beginning, no final aim of human history. Obedience results in the salvation of man, that is from the wheel of the world. But there is no mention of the resurrec¬tion of the body and the renewal of heaven and earth. We have to read the Bhagavdgita, enjoy it and find our self-fulfillment in the fullness of Revelation, Jesus Christ. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Swami Prabhupada, Bhagavad Gita As it Is, Collier Macmillan Publishers, London, 5th ed., 1974 Jesuit Scholars, Religious Hinduism, St.Paul’s, 3rd.ed., Allahabad, 1968 Hari Prasad Shastri, Teachings from the Bhagavad Gita, Luzac, London, 1935 Swami Swarupananda, Bhagavad Gita, Advaita Ashram, 15th ed, Calcutta, 1993 Fr.Zacharias, OCD, A Study on Hinduism, Industrial School, Ernakulam, 1931 S.Radhakrishnan, The Bhavad Gita, George Allen and Unwin Ltd., London, 1963 R.B.Lal, The Gita In the Light of Modern Science, Samaiya Publ., Bombay, 1970 T.M.P. Mahadevan, Outlines of Indian Philosophy, Chetan Pvt.Ltd., 4rth ed., Bombay, 1984 Hiriyanna, Outlines of Indian Philosophy, G.Allen and Unwil Ltd., 5th ed., London, 1964 FOOTNOTES: 1)It is of later origin than the bulk of the Mahabharata, it may have been inserted into it about the 2nd century BCE. 2)R.B.Lal, The Gita In the Light of Modern Science, Samaiya Publ., Bombay, 1970, p.25f. Sebastian Painadath, SJ, “Bhagavad Gita’s Contribution to the Future of India”, Jnanadeepa 1998, vol.1, no.1, pp.19-30: The Bhagavad Gita is widely known and accepted in the world…part of the threefold scriptural corpus (prasthanatraya) Gita has been placed high among the holy scriptures of the Hindu heritage and hence this book has a uniquely representative char¬acter. It is an authentic source of inspiration of the Bhakti movements. Over the last hundred years, it has considerably influenced the sages of the Indian renaissance and the leaders of the Freedom Struggle. For Mahatma Gandhi, the Bhagavad Gita has been like a consoling mother and guiding teacher; he found in the Gita “the essence od dharma , the highest knowledge that evolved out of experience” (M.K.Gandhi, The Bhagavad Gita, Orient Paperbacks, 1972, p.9). It has been globally accepted as a spiritual classic of humanity…it offers to all seekers a spirituality of personal integration and social harmony. The rational and the emotional, the conscious and the subconscious, the mental and the intuitive, the social and the ecological aspects of the spiritual evolution of a person are brought together in a holist¬ic process of transformation. This process of spirituality evolves through a threefold path (marga): jnana, bhakti and karma: contemplative perception of reality, loving self-surrender to the divine Lord and greedless work for the welfare of all. All the three are the constitutent elelments of a liberative spiritu¬ality. (It offers a threefold path of spiritual integration). Jnana enlightens bhakti and karma; bhakti enlivens jana and karma; karma actualises janan and bhakti. These are correlative dimensions interwoven in the one integral growth process. 1.1. Jnana-marga: There are two types of knowledge: that of the mind (manas) and that of the intuitive faculty (buddhi). Mind objectifies everything and analyses reality within the I-thou/it framework; mind grasps reality through conceptualization and articulates this understanding through words. It is a fragmentary encounter with reality. What takes shape through this mental process is vijnana, informative knowledge. Buddhi is the faculty of a deeper perception. Through the buddhi one perceives reality as part of the subject; the perceiving subject finds itself as part of the totality of reality. Mind pursues the logic of things, while buddhi intuits the mystery of reality. Mind specu¬lates on the horizontal plane; buddhi dives vertically into the sacred depth of reality. Buddhi perceives reality though partici¬patory contemplation and expresses this insight through poetic and mythical symbols. What evolves through this intuitive process is jnana, transforming wisdom. Integral perception of reality according to the Gita is a combination of both jnana and vijnana (6:8; 7:2; 9:1). One has to acquire objective knowledge through an analytical process of the mind, and for this Scriptures and teachers, customs and tradi¬tions are of vital importance (4:34; 16:23-24). The genuine seeker cannot do away with them because through them one is inserted into the living heritage of humanity.

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