|Introduction||Home | Index | Previous | Next|
Introduction to the Gita
Gita means song. But the Gita is no ordinary song. It is the divine song of emancipation. It is given by God to free us of the illusions that have kept us bound. The Gita celebrates our highest truth, the atma.
Atma means self. But atma also means God. Atma is our god-self, our true self. And since God is always one, atma is the one true self of everyone and everything. Illusion makes it appear as the many. Our destiny is to dispel the clouds of illusion so that our truth is revealed and the atma is realized. That is selfknowledge.
When self-knowledge comes, the illusion of separate beings and separate objects goes, and is replaced by unity consciousness. Self-knowledge is the only knowledge that has truly eternal and lasting value, for it enables us to transcend all limitations of time and space, and be immersed in the bliss of the atma.
In every major age, God comes as avatar and teaches the Gita to initiate us into self-knowledge and dispel the veils which hide our divine nature. 5000 years ago, God came as Krishna, to render this song of truth at a time of great moral decline. At that time, he gave the Gita in order to rescue Arjuna, and through him all of mankind, from the fog of illusion and attachment. In this age, he has come again as Sai Baba, to give this sacred teaching at another time of great turmoil and deteriorating values. The malady he is treating is the same, and the remedy he prescribes is also the same, stemming from the same ancient wisdom. But, being the very source of eternal wisdom, he knows how to transmit it in a way which makes it come alive today and be meaningful in this present age.
In his Gita teachings, Baba shows us how to transcend the false perception of our senses and mind, which constantly support the illusion of separate existence. Step by step, he directs us onto the inner path to discover who we truly are. When all illusion is stripped away, we realize that we are not these bodies and personalities, we are not separate beings individualized into name and form. The truth is, and he emphasizes it over and over again, that we are not different from God. Our unchanging reality, which was the same before we took on the limitations of these bodies, and which is the same after we let go of these bodies, is the one divine self, the atma. Inexplicably, atma has become cloaked with the changing names and forms which make up the covering veil of maya, or illusion. But, under the layers of obscuration, hidden from view, atma shines in everyone as the unvarying radiance of divine light.
To realize this requires a purification of consciousness, until only pure awareness, unbefogged by illusory mind-stuff, remains. Baba tells us that when we give up our outer vision and our fascination for the world and, instead, turn our mind inwards to gain the integral vision, we become steeped in unity consciousness. When we give up body-consciousness we gain God consciousness. When we expand beyond our limited human awareness into the fullness of our potential, we become who we truly are. We transcend the illusion of separation of God, man and world and merge into the one divine principle. That is the essential teaching of the Gita.
The Gita is the very heart of the ancient wisdom making up the perennial philosophy of the East. It is the basis of all spirituality. We are told that it had a profound influence on Jesus, as well as on the Buddha, not to speak of the countless spiritual lights who have graced this planet in the millenia since the Gita was given by Krishna on the battlefield.
The Gita has something for everyone at every level of the spiritual path. Baba talks to each of us at the level at which we are ready, pointing us from wherever we are, to our final destination. If we incorporate this Gita into our daily lives, we will never need to read another book nor study another teaching. By following the directions given here, we will be led home to our own unchanging truth. First, however, there are a number of stages we must go through. They are best spoken of in terms of the yogas. The Sanskrit word yoga speaks of union, referring to union with God.
There are three principal yogas which Baba takes up here. They are karma yoga, the path of selfless service; bhakti yoga, the path of devotion wherein we see the divinity in everything we see; and jnana yoga, the path of wisdom, the culmination of the spiritual journey, wherein we dwell constantly on our highest truth. These yogas are the soap which purifies us and strips away the layers of unreality that have covered the atma. For too long, illusion and unreality have posed, bizarrely, but totally convincingly, as the only true reality and kept the bona fide reality, the atma, hidden. These yogas help return us to unity consciousness.
A question may arise as to why, when the verses of Krishna's Bhagavad Gita are freely available, Baba has elaborated this new version of the Gita. Baba explains that this present age is different from Krishna's time and different from Rama's time, as well. In the age of Rama, the forces of darkness were embodied as demonic hordes, external enemies that disturbed the inner peace and tranquillity of the people. Rama, God incarnated as avatar, personally took up arms and went into the forest to destroy this evil. Tens of thousands of years later, in the age of Krishna, the forces of evil were not outside in the forest, but right at home in the same family. Now the avatar did not take up arms directly. Instead, he drove the chariot and galvanized Arjuna to fight the battle and win the victory.
In truth, the divinity had already decided the outcome. To make it clear to Arjuna that he was merely an actor in this drama, Krishna gave Arjuna a vision of the cosmic form of God. Suddenly, Arjuna could see all of time, past, present and future. He saw all the combatants on both sides, engulfed in their inescapable destiny, following the play orchestrated by the Lord. Though he was engaged in fighting all the battles, Arjuna saw that he was merely the instrument carrying out the will of the Lord, and that the ultimate conclusion of the war, the triumph of righteousness over evil, had been decided even before the first battle commenced.
In those days people lived much longer than they do now. Baba mentioned that at the time of the Mahabharata war, Krishna and Arjuna were both in their eighties. Krishna and Arjuna had known each other for over 70 years. They were the closest of friends, spent most of their time together, and were related as brothers-in-law. In all this time spent together, the Gita never came up. For years, Arjuna, along with the other Pandava brothers, had nobly borne every insult and indignity perpetrated by their wicked cousins. But, the forces of evil were unrelenting. The conflict was destined to culminate in war. Preparations for the battle commenced. Now, on the eve of the war, when Arjuna saw his beloved grandfather and his revered teacher ready to fight on the opposing side, and all his other close relations arrayed for battle, he threw down his bow in despondency.
In speaking of this, Baba said that Arjuna had faced many worldly dilemmas in his life and knew how to deal with them. But, at that point, Arjuna was facing a spiritual dilemma. He was overwhelmed with a feeling of helplessness that stemmed from the onslaught of his inner enemies, attachment, infatuation, deluded vision, and the rest, which had made him forget his own truth and his commitment to preserve righteousness at all cost. Now, in desperation, he turned to Krishna, knowing that Krishna alone could rescue him from this quagmire. He declared, "Lord, command me. I will do as you say." At that moment, their relationship changed from chums and co-equals to master and disciple. And it was at this point, Baba tells us, that Krishna chose to teach Arjuna the Gita. Surrender of the individual will to the divine will was the key to proper preparation in receiving this age-old wisdom.
Baba said that the sage Vyasa tuned in on their dialogue with his yogic powers of subtle hearing. Vyasa elaborated Krishna's teachings into 700 verses in the Sanskrit poetic form, which have been preserved through time as the Bhagavad Gita. But, Baba said that in the 20 minutes or so, when Krishna spoke to Arjuna on the battlefield, he did not actually expound all these verses or render them in poetic meter. Krishna's goal was very specific.
Krishna who was the divinity incarnate was always unremittingly happy. Arjuna, like the rest of humanity, experienced periods of joy and sorrow. Here, on the eve of the battle, Arjuna was deeply depressed, but earlier that day, Arjuna had been highly elated, eager to fight. Krishna knew that all of these changes of mood were caused by illusion. Arjuna was out of touch with his true nature, the atma, which is synonymous with eternal delight. Krishna resolved to dispel Arjuna's confusion and bolster his courage by teaching him the knowledge of the atma, so that Arjuna would discover his own divine truth and be forever immersed in unchanging inner joy.
In these chapters, Baba gives us an insight into the main points of Lord Krishna's Gita. Since this present book is the Gita for this present age, Baba gives many additional directions for our spiritual advancement, which are particularly applicable to these troubled times and our needs. His goal is the same as Krishna's, namely to establish us in ananda, the eternal delight which is our true nature.
This age is different in many ways from Krishna's age. In this age, the forces of good and evil are not only battling in the same family, but they are battling inside of every being. Baba tells us that if the Lord were to come today, sword in hand, to stamp out all traces of evil, no one alive would escape or survive. He comes, instead, as the inner director. Following his guidance, we must fight our own inner battles, conquer our own inner enemies, and gain the ultimate victory of salvation and awakening.
This kali age, in which we are now living, wherein gross materialism and lawlessness have run rampant and spiritual values have declined, is, in many ways the worst of all ages. But, from the spiritual point of view, this age is the best of all ages for the transformation of the individual. In this age we can most readily throw off the bonds of illusion and realize the atma. But, it requires swimming up-stream against the powerful current and rapids of worldly life, which try to sweep us into the abyss and keep us locked onto the endless cycle of birth and death. Now, the avatar of this age, through his teachings, shows us how to navigate these rapids. He works internally as the indweller in every being, directing us how to confront our own inner enemies and win this war of good and evil inside.
In ages past, Baba points out, the spiritual path was primarily devoted to rituals and religious practices, such as meditation, penances, chanting of mantras, prayers and other worshipful activities. These practices are still important, but they are not enough. Baba often says, "Hands that work in the service of society are much holier than lips that pray." He wants us to do karma yoga and engage in selfless service to mankind. All our work must be pure and done to the full extent of our capacity for excellence. At the same time, we must have no attachment to the fruits of our labors, but instead, offer up all our actions and their results to God.
When we see the divinity everywhere, installed as the indweller in every being, and we serve that omni-present divinity in all we do, then karma yoga automatically becomes bhakti yoga. Our work becomes worship. But in this there is still some separation between ourselves and God; there is still some duality. Baba is not satisfied with our spiritual progress until we become totally immersed in non-duality and reach our highest truth, the realization of the immortal self. That is the final stage.
Baba tells a little story of an old woman who was sewing in her home at night. She was working on her tapestry when she lost her needle. The light being very dim in her house, she went out to the street lamp where the light was bright, to look for her needle. Baba ends the story there. Whenever he tells this story he always seems a little amused by the silliness of it.
We are like that old woman. We have also lost our needle while working on the tapestry of our many lives. Our lost needle is the knowledge of our truth, without which we cannot finish our work. After groping through countless lives caught up in illusion, we now know that there is something vital to our existence that we have lost. We go to great teachers and to ashrams where the spiritual light is intense, hoping to find there what we have lost.
We get great solace being in the light and we gain deeper understanding of what we are looking for, but the final discovery of what we have lost can only happen when we look inside our own heart of hearts. There within, deeper than the body and the mind, deeper than our sense of I-ness which stands at the core of our individual self, beyond all sheaths, subtle and causal, which cover our truth, we find the brightest light of all, the light of atma. When the atma, our true self is realized, the tapestry of our long journey in the world which we have been working on for so many eons and so many lives, is finally complete.
Baba assures us that, just as was true in the vision given to Arjuna showing the final outcome of the war, the outcome of our long trek and our inner war has also already been determined by the divine will. We are destined to return home. Nevertheless, we must still tread the path and fight the battles and win final victory over our inner enemies. We initiate this process by making friends with the divinity in our hearts, keeping it as our steady companion and allowing it to guide our inner journey.
As we proceed on our path the clouds of illusion thin out and we become aware of a great mystery. We realize that the spiritual journey we thought we were on is itself an illusion. We are not individuals on the spiritual path following the direction of the divine inner guru. In truth, we are the totality. We are the divinity itself. We are and always have been the atma. Atma is neither born nor reborn; nor does it ever die. As atma we have not come from somewhere nor are we going somewhere. We have never changed. Only the illusion of individuality and separateness has changed. Ultimately that illusion disappears and we discover the glorious truth that we have always been one with God. Baba tells us, "God if you think, God you are. Dust if you think, dust you are. Think God. Be God. You are God. Realize it."
Some years ago in a public discourse, Baba directed us to repeat several times daily, "I am God, I am God, I am no different from God. I am the infinite supreme. I am the one reality." If we allow this declaration of truth to suffuse our lives and fill us with the consummate love that is God, these powerful words will gradually become our direct inner experience. More and more we will identify ourselves with the divinity, our real self, and less and less with these ephemeral personalities which are but shadow selves. Thus we realize who we are, the immortal self, the one divinity, which is love itself.
That is the inspiring message of this Gita.