By Andre Haralyi, M.A., C-IAYT
The Bhagavad-Gītā or “Lord’s Song” consists of eighteen chapters of the sixth book of the Mahābhārata called Bhīshma-parvan (Book of Bhīshma). The eighteen-book Mahābhārata, written by Vyāsa, is one of the greatest Indian epics referred to as smṛti (what is remembered) and has over 100,000 verses.
The Bhagavad-Gītā may or may not be based on historical events, and is believed to be composed by Vyāsa between the 4th and 2nd century B.C.E. Most authorities acknowledge that it can be placed between 400 – 300 B.C.E.
The whole narrative of the Bhagavad-Gītā consist of a dialogue between Lord Krishna and his disciple Prince Arjuna. The dialogue takes place on the battlefield of Dharma-kshetre, “the field of duty or virtue,” in the country of the Kauravas, traditionally located in a plain north of Delhi. Dharma-kshetre can be understood as a metaphor representing the battlefield of life or as an actual event.
The Bhagavad-Gītā is a creative reflection on the relationship between morality and liberation and has a close correlation with the teachings of Sāṃkhya* and Vedānta† philosophy. This text has been interpreted in a literal and allegorical way both by Western and Indian readers. What really matters is that the image of the battlefield gives the reader the background and the context to explore deeper philosophical ideas that resonate even in modern times.
The Bhagavad-Gītā presents a synthesis of the concept of duty (Dharma) and the ideals of liberation (mokṣa or mukti) through wisdom (Jñāna), devotion (Bhakti) and action (Karma) Yoga.
- *Sāṃkhya is one of the six philosophical systems or Darśana of Hinduism, which enumerate 25 categories of existence (tattvas). The spiritual path of Sāṃkhya Philosophy consists in the careful differentiation between puruṣa (transcendental Self or Soul) and prakṛti (cosmos or nature) and the complete renunciation of everything that is other than the Self, which is the only principle, endowed with consciousness.
- †Vedānta is the dominant philosophy of Hinduism, favoring a non dualistic (advaita) interpretation of existence. This very same approach is found in the core of Krishna teachings, which shows Arjuna that the source of all that is in the world came from Krishna itself and there is only one Reality, which appears manifold to the unenlightened mind but which reveals itself as singular and non-dual after reaching liberation.