One of my favourites Yoga books is the Bhagavad Gita, which is an ancient, sacred, Indian text written between the 5th and 3rd century B.C. Bhagavad Gita means the “Song of the Lord and it is basically a dialogue or a “conversation” between the Prince Arjuna and his spiritual guide Krishna. The Prince Arjuna is looking for answers to fundamental questions of life.
This is the story of Prince Arjuna which is faced with a battle that he does not want to fight and asks Krishna for help. Prince Arjuna must avenge Dhritarashtra’s passing of the kingdom to his own son, rather than to Arjuna’s brother Yudhishthira, the rightful king.
Krishna does not accept to fight his battle but accepts to guide him. And although Krishna does not want to fight Arjuna’s battle, he offers to be his charioteer and his adviser. And the Bhgavad Gita is his answers to Prince Arjuna on the fundamental questions of life and on his confusion about how can he kill others out of greed for gaining a kingdom.
Krishna tells Arjuna, that as a warrior and a prince, he must follow his dharma, or duty, where nothing is higher than the war against evil. Avoiding this battle, will, however incur sin, and violate his dharma (purpose, duty) and his honour. But in essence, this battle is a metaphor or allegory: the battle of good and bad that we all deal in our daily lives: the war within.
As Prince Arjuna starts asking deeper questions about life and death, Lord Krishna helps Arjuna understand who he thinks he is and what his true form is. In the allegorical sense, Krishna is a symbol of the atman , Arjuna’s deepest Self. Once Arjuna comprehends this, Lord Krishna bestows him with the gift of Self-Realisation.
The Gita also introduces the idea of rebirth or samsara. The Self wears the body as an item of clothing; when the clothes are old, they are cast aside and a new one is put on. It is the soul (or jiva) that travels from life to life, and therefore as “death is certain for the living, rebirth is certain for the dead”.
Krishna also defines yoga not as physical postures and exercises (hatha yoga) but as the path to Self-Realisation: “Yoga is evenness of mind”, it is the union of the individual consciousness with the Ultimate Consciousness – the Self (atman).
In this journey to Self-Realisation, Krishna describes different Paths of Yoga that a person can take to find the purpose and meaning in this world:
- Karma Yoga: the path of Selfless Action
- Bhakti Yoga: the path of Devotion
- Jnana Yoga: the path of Knowledge and Intellect
These are all paths to bridge our inner world with our outer world and to find that linkage point where we can realise the meaning and purpose of our life.