FAQ on the Bhagavad-gita
What is Bhagavad-gita?
Bhagavad-gita (“The Song of God”), also known as Gitopanisad, is the essence of Vedic knowledge and one of the most important Upanishads in Vedic literature. It was spoken five thousand years ago by Lord Sri Krishna to the prince Arjuna on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra (located about 130 miles north of modern New Delhi). The sage Vyasadeva recorded the conversation, spoken in Sanskrit, and included it in his epic Mahabharata.
Are all commentaries on Bhagavad-gita of equal value?
There are many English commentaries on the Bhagavad-gita, but none of them can be strictly said to be authoritative, because in almost every one of them the commentator has expressed his own opinions without touching the spirit of Bhagavad-gita. To be bona fide, the translator must be a recognized devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna, and his views must be corroborated by evidence from other Vedic scriptures and spiritual masters in the line of disciplic succession
What is the spirit of Bhagavad-gita?
The spirit of Bhagavad-gita is mentioned in Bhagavad-gita itself. It is just like this: If we want to take a particular medicine, we have to follow the directions on the label. We cannot take the medicine according to our own whim or the directions of a friend. It must be taken according to the directions on the label or the directions given by a physician. Similarly, Bhagavad-gita should be taken or accepted as it is directed by the speaker Himself. The speaker of Bhagavad-gita is Lord Sri Krishna. He is mentioned on every page of the Gita as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan.
What is the significance of the word bhagavan?
Sometimes the word bhagavan is applied to any powerful person or any powerful demigod, and certainly in Bhagavad-gita, bhagavan designates Lord Sri Krishna as a great personality, but at the same time we should know that Lord Sri Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as confirmed by all great acaryas (spiritual masters) like Sankaracarya, Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya, Nimbarka Svami, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and many other authorities of Vedic knowledge in India.
The Lord Himself also establishes Himself as the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the Bhagavad-gita, and He is accepted as such in the Brahma-samhita and all the Puranas, especially the Srimad-Bhagavatam, known as the Bhagavata Purana (Krishnas tu bhagavan svayam). Therefore we should take Bhagavad-gita as it is directed by the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself.
To whom was Bhagavad-gita first spoken?
In the Fourth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita (4.1–3) the Lord informs Arjuna that this system of yoga, the Bhagavad-gita, was first spoken to the sun-god, and the sun-god explained it to Manu, and Manu explained it to Iksvaku, and in that way, by disciplic succession, one speaker after another, this yoga system has been coming down. But in the course of time it has become lost. Consequently the Lord has to speak it again, this time to Arjuna on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra.
Why is Vedic knowledge received through disciplic succession?
Vedic knowledge is not a question of research, nor is it imparted by defective living entities. Our research work is imperfect because we are researching things with imperfect senses. We have to accept perfect knowledge that comes down, as stated in Bhagavad-gita, by the parampara (disciplic succession). We have to receive knowledge from the proper source in disciplic succession beginning with the supreme spiritual master, the Lord Himself, and handed down to a succession of spiritual masters. Arjuna, the student, who took lessons from Lord Sri Krishna, accepts everything that Krishna says without contradicting Him. One is not allowed to accept one portion of Bhagavad-gita and not another. We must accept Bhagavad-gita without interpretation, without deletion, and without our own whimsical participation in the matter. The Gita should be taken as the most perfect presentation of Vedic knowledge. It was imparted unto the heart of Brahma, the first created living being, and Brahma in turn disseminated the knowledge to his sons and disciples.
What makes Vedic knowledge infallible and human knowledge imperfect?
Vedic knowledge is received from transcendental sources, and the first words were spoken by the Lord Himself. The words spoken by the Lord are called apauruseya, meaning that they are different from words spoken by a person of the mundane world who is infected with four defects. A mundane person
Is sure to commit mistakes
Is invariably illusioned
Has the tendency to cheat others
Is limited by imperfect senses.
With these four imperfections, one cannot deliver perfect information of all-pervading knowledge.
Consequently, the followers of the Vedas accept Vedic knowledge to be complete and infallible. For example, cow dung is the stool of an animal, and according to smriti, or Vedic injunction, if one touches the stool of an animal he has to take a bath to purify himself. But in the Vedic scriptures cow dung is considered a purifying agent. One might consider this to be contradictory, but it is accepted because it is a Vedic injunction, and indeed by accepting this, one will not commit a mistake; subsequently it has been proved by modern science that cow dung contains antiseptic properties. So Vedic knowledge is complete because it is above all doubts and mistakes, and Bhagavad-gita is the essence of all Vedic knowledge.
For what purpose did Lord Krishna speak Bhagavad-gita?
The purpose of Bhagavad-gita is to deliver humankind from the ignorance of material existence. Everyone is in difficulty in so many ways, as was Arjuna in having to fight the Battle of Kurukshetra. Every one of us is full of anxieties because of this material existence. In the material world we are caught in the repeated cycle of birth and death. Thus our very existence remains in constant jeopardy in the atmosphere of nonexistence. Actually we are not meant to be threatened by nonexistence. According to the Bhagavad-gita our existence is eternal. But somehow or other we are put into asat. Asat refers to that which does not exist.
What distinguishes human beings from animals?
In this world, human beings are not meant for quarreling like cats and dogs. Human beings must be intelligent to realize the importance of human life and refuse to act like ordinary animals. A human being should realize the aim of life. This direction is given in all Vedic literature, and the essence is given in Bhagavad-gita.
Vedic literature is meant for human beings, not for other forms of life. Out of so many human beings who are suffering, there are a few who are actually inquiring about their position, as to what they are, why they are put into this awkward position, and so on. Unless a person is awakened to questioning his suffering, unless he realizes that he doesn’t want suffering but rather wants to make a solution to all suffering, then he is not to be considered a perfect human being.
Humanity begins when this sort of inquiry is awakened in one’s mind. Every activity of the human being is to be considered a failure unless he inquires about the nature of the Absolute.
Who is the proper student of the Gita?
Those who begin to question why they are suffering or where they came from and where they shall go after death are proper students for understanding Bhagavad-gita. The sincere student should also have a firm respect for the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Such a student was Arjuna.
What subject does the Bhagavad-gita cover?
The subject of Bhagavad-gita entails the comprehension of five basic truths: the science of God, the constitutional position of the living entities (jivas), material nature (prakrti), time (kala), and activity (karma).
Who does the Bhagavad-gita say is God?
Bhagavad-gita establishes that the Supreme Godhead is Krishna. He is the supreme controller, the greatest of all. No one is greater than Him or equal to Him.