by Michael Dolan/B.V. Mahayogi
Bhagavad-Gita Chapter 2 continued... March 11, 2019
It is useful to keep in mind that for all its philosophical rigor, the Bhagavad-Gita is not a doctoral thesis or an academic paper. It is ancient conversation recorded long before the talks of Socrates were edited into dialogues by Plato. Krishna advises his friend while Arjuna anxiously eyes the warriors lined up against him. They talk while armed men race about in chariots blowing war-trumpets. We may not expect an entirely disciplined discourse, footnoted for scholars. And yet, Krishna’s arguments follow a logical framework. Here in the second chapter Krishna lays the ground for the points that follow.
His first teaching is important. He tells Arjuna to try to see things from a wider perspective: from the point of view of eternity.
The soul is immortal. All wisdom will flow from this. Krishna will uncover different levels of surrender to divinity culminating in complete dedication. But he wants Arjuna to explore the spiritual dimension first. This echoes the Vedanta-sutra’s athāto-brahma-jijñāsa: The human form of life is meant for inquiring into the nature of self; it is a gift for discovering spiritual reality. Soon we will discover a higher principle--that of divinity or God.
Bhagavad Gita and Theism
The Bhagavad-Gita is a profoundly monotheistic work. The word “Bhagavan” means God. In the course of the work we discover that Krishna claims divinity for Himself. It will be revealed that God may be understood as the Supreme Person. The inner meaning of the Mahābharata is seen in the Bhagavad-Gita which reveals Krishna as the Supreme Absoute Truth. Some may be uncomfortable with the insistence upon Krishna as God, but if we suspend our critical judgment long enough to enter into the teachings given here, we may learn something useful that helps our own faith. Anyone reading the Bible must accept that the Old Testament describes God as Yahweh. In order to truly enter the spirit of the Bhagavad-Gita we must likewise accept Krishna as Bhagavan at least for the duration of our reading.
Why God Appears
According to the text, when the earth was over-populated with tyrants and burdened by the weight of military might, God Himself appeared in the Krishna-avatar to diminish the burden by eliminating those puissant kings. The battle of Kurukshetra was to be their extinction. Krishna has empowered Arjuna with the task of removing such demonic kings.
And so Krishna asks Arjuna not only to do his duty as a soldier but to fight as an act of dedication to God Himself, the Supreme Person.
The idea of dedication to God is called Bhakti or divine love and bhakti is the true inner meaning of the Gita. Krishna will discuss in turn different religious practices, different concepts of duty, and distinct forms of yoga. Arjuna is rightly concerned with death. If he dies in battle, having murdered cousins, uncles, gurus, and grandfathers, perhaps he might go to hell. Before riding in to battle, he has questions: “What is the standard of proper behavior? How does karma affect us? What is the right path?”
Spiritual Wisdom: Buddhi-yoga
Krishna will answer his questions in due course, but he begins with the idea of spiritual wisdom. On the basis of spiritual wisdom we will come to the right conclusions about action. Krishna explains that such wisdom will ultimately lead one to see the value of dedication, bhakti.
The Buddha taught that right thinking and knowledge are key to proper vision, action, meditation and enlightenment. Krishna tells us that wisdom and a proper understanding of the soul are key to determining our true self-interest as spiritual entities: eternal dedication to divinity in love or bhakti.
He will go on to describe different kinds of processes that lead to self-realization and freedom from birth and death. He will talk of different “yogas” but at the heart of all these yogic processes is what he dubs here in the second chapter: buddhi-yoga.
Bhaktivinod Thakura has commented that “Krishna’s teaching will show that real wisdom--buddhi-yoga--is the central guiding principle behind all the other yogas described in the Gita. When the path of wisdom is limited by good deeds or intellectual “knowledge” it is karma-yoga, saṅkhya or jñāna-yoga. But true wisdom discovers the bhakti principle of dedication. This is the purport of buddhi-yoga and supercedes all other forms of yoga: The highest wisdom is found in surrender and divine love--bhakti.