63. The Bhagavad Gita 

I believe it has gotten to that point in the year where I find myself successfully making good on all those promises I made to myself during the new year. The most important of all of these was to pull myself out of my comfort zone and not to feel trapped by it. Honestly there have been times recently when nobody is as surprised as me when I hear myself saying yes, and putting aside my own reluctance has led to good things. Relearning that it can be comfortable to take a chance on someone or something without expectation and survive is a wonderful thing.

‘Say yes’ is my new mantra, within reason… I’m not taking on contracts for murder.

So in this spirit of ‘say yes’ and in the spirit of this leading to the break in my 9 month hiatus from writing. I feel the all consuming need to put new ideas in my head and discover. So I thought it was time to discover how I feel about the Bhagavad Gita. 

The Bhagavad Gita – Translation W. J. Johnson 

The Bhagavad Gita is the most famous part of the Hindu Epic the Mahabharata. It is a very small part of the larger story and is mostly focused on a discussion between the warrior Arjuna and the God, Krishna. Stood on the battlefield, Arjuna falls to his knees wracked with the decision of what he should do. This battle is a complicated one as he possess friends and relatives on both sides and feels overwhelmed, distraught, and unable to move.

In the midst of his emotional turmoil, Krishna appears and they begin to have a conversation that veers off into a long philosophical discussion. Arjuna’s existential crisis is soothed by the God who explains there are many paths to God, that we all have a duty to strengthen the mind, that we all have a duty to perform our purpose, and that in mastering the mind and senses we will attain enlightenment (for a few).

On the face of this this is a man frozen in the midst of war being talked into it by a God. However Krishna offers a nest of solutions to Arjuna that point him into why he should fight, logically some of these discussions lead into other problems. Though some resolution is found and Arjuna finds he is then able to pick up his bow and the battle can then start.

“What is the right thing to do?” is the age old question that surely keeps more than just me awake at night. The Gita belongs to that long tradition of figuring out how to figure out how an action is the right one, as if somehow we can predict the consequences. It doesn’t really concern itself with good and evil, it concerns itself with the self and with the purpose of the self. But it is so tightly packed in 80 pages and there are so many translations that I don’t feel like this is a text you can read just once.

For my first go around, I enjoyed it. There was a lot to be gleaned from these pages and I am a sucker for anything that fixes my own existential crises but this is something I have to revisit in another translation. I also feel quite humbled to have read a text originally written in Sanskrit and to have a wonderful emotional reaction to it. Everyone, I think, has at some point found themselves at a crossroads unable to act because of the fear of action and what it’ll bring.

Coming full circle back to my own recent revelation of pulling myself out of my comfort zone, isn’t it actually kind of a beautiful thing that we still even do this? That as a species we still fall down on our personal battlefields unable to act, and that we still haven’t quite grown secure enough in our own judgements to then have to ask the question “what is the right thing to do?” Perhaps I am a romantic, but I believe that is what transcends time and culture and what is so easily accessible about the Gita.

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