Om. O Mother Bhagavad Gita, I meditate on you, the destroyer of rebirth, arranged by the ancient sage Vyasa in eighteen chapters in the middle of the Mahabharata, showering the nectar of Advaita (non duality) which Lord Narayana Himself taught Partha.
The verse begins with a clear reminder of the goal, the purpose of the study of the Gita, the discovery of the Divine Self within.
O Mother Bhagavad Gita
Addressing the Bhagavad Gita as ‘Mother’ is an interesting angle. The mother is most patient with the child. She is the only person who does not condemn her child, even if the child commits the same blunders over and over again. She always provides solace and comfort to her child. In the same manner the Gita provides solace to us, spiritual children. Like children we too stumble again and again, act selfishly, get egoistic and land in trouble. Even so the Gita is a constant source of inspiration and relief.
The use of the word ‘Mother’ symbolises the respect women enjoyed in traditional Indian society. The woman, epitomised by the mother, was seen as a constant source of strength and encouragement. Today however, the respect the woman enjoys has reduced because we have given up our traditional values. The Gita is likened to a mother because it remains a constant source of strength and encouragement for all of us, her children, irrespective of what stage of spiritual evolution we are at.
“Bhagavatim” because it has the 6 “Bhagas” or attributes. They are:
1. Aisvarya (power)
2. Dharma (righteousness)
3. Yasha (splendour)
4. Shri (beauty)
5. Jnana (knowledge)
6. Vairagya (dispassion)
The Bhagavad Gita has all the six qualities that together make for excellence. Anyone who sincerely studies and imbibes the principles laid down in the Gita develops these attributes. The Gita confers worldly success and gives us the right values so that we are able to remain focussed on our spiritual goal. Rare is the person who has achieved all that the world has to offer and yet maintains balance, poise, grace and charm. This combination is possible only when we live the principles put forth by the Gita.
I meditate on you
Meditation in this context means constant reinforcement of the values laid down in the Gita. There must be an urge, a strong desire, to overcome one’s deficiencies. So, the awareness of one’s shortcomings is important. There is no room for complacency on the spiritual path. Through this sentence we are urged to consistently strive to reach higher levels of spiritual evolution. Life means change. And the funny thing is, if we aren’t changing for the better, we end up changing for the worse. Thus there must be a focus on our spiritual goal and a consistent exertion towards attaining it.
The destroyer of rebirth
In Vedanta death is not the problem. What we want to get over is rebirth, because we understand the pain, the trauma and the agony that is an inherent part of being in the world. Death is not what bothers us. But in common parlance it is death that we mourn and we celebrate birth. If we look at it objectively, it is birth that exposes us to all kinds of problems, sorrow, stress and depression. We have no idea what dangers lurk in the life of a newborn.
The word ‘Amrta’ in the verse literally means without mrta or death. Deathlessness means birthlessness. In other words we rise above change, which is an integral part of the world, to attain that changeless state of Realisation. Hence the use of the word ‘amrta.
When we understand that sorrow is an inherent aspect of life we seek release from it. The only way out of this unending cycle of birth and death is to transcend both. This can only be done by following the spiritual path and eradicating our desires. A vedantin is not afraid of death but strives to avoid rebirth, getting back into the cycle of birth, growth, disease, decay and death. We must strive to conquer death before death conquers us. The Gita helps us destroy this vicious cycle of birth and death.
Arranged by the ancient sage Vyasa
In the Indian culture age is revered and respected. Age is associated with wisdom. However, nowadays not every aged person is wise. This is because they have not invested in developing their spiritual assets. But in the ancient times in India, the majority grew wise as they were exposed to these fundamental truths of life through Vedanta from childhood. And the younger generation looked up to the seniors as role models.
The great sage Vyasa is also considered to be amongst the sapta rishis, the seven ancient greatest sages of India. This is another reason he is referred to as ancient sage.
In 18 chapters in the middle of the Mahabharata, showering the nectar of Advaita (non-duality) philosophy which Lord Narayana himself taught Partha.
There is an emphasis on “Svayam Narayana” – the Lord himself. Not the son of God or the messenger of God but God himself! Krishna was an avatar, born realised. He is accepted as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu hence Svayam Narayana. It is indicative of the fact that He spoke out of his experience of Divinity, not academic brilliance. When one speaks out of one’s own experience and conviction, one’s word carries more weight. Mere intellectual knowledge is of no use. What we need to take from this is that merely acquiring knowledge about the scriptures without testing and applying these principles in our own lives is pointless. There must be the willingness to test these principles in our own spheres of activity, see the results for ourselves and hence make it our own. Because, the proof of the pudding is in the eating!
Vedanta or Advaita philosophy is likened to nectar since the study of the principles of Vedanta is enchanting. Not only this, but the results that come out of living these principles are even sweeter and more exhilarating. This is why gurus, from time immemorial, have said that Vedanta is a philosophy that must be integrated with our everyday lives. It adds the sweetness to our lives that we so desperately seek and the pursuit of it takes us to the state of Infinity.