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January 7, 1999   VNN2802  

Bhagavad-gita: Essence Of The Upanishads


EDITORIAL, Jan 7 (VNN) — Bhagavad-gita: The Essential Message of the Upanishads

The immortal Bhagavad-gita is by far the most famous Hindu sacred text. Although it stands alone as a complete work, it also forms one chapter of the great epic Mahabharata. Seven times longer than the the Greek epics Iliad and Odyssey combined, the Mahabharata is a vast literary undertaking. Its plot is entertaining, replete with political intrigue, romance, and war, while its purpose is deep, seeking to reveal the significance of the esoteric Upanishads to the common person.

Upanishad means "to sit close." The implication is that the message of the Upanishads is secret knowledge that one will have to come close to hear. The Upanishadic message is not the common knowledge of the phenominal world, nor the common religious message. It speaks of the secret of the self. To do so within the context of a worldly yet religious story line is the mastery of the Mahabharata.

As the story unfolds and the great war looms, the reader is perched on the edge of his seat. Mahabharata reaches its climax as a great fratricidal war proves unavoidable. Family members face off as the reader has come to identify with men and women on both sides. The legendary author Vyasa has captured the full attention of his readers and no one can put his book down. It is at this moment that Vyasa wisely inserted the Gita, the sacred conversation between God and devotee, Krishna and Arjuna. Armies are lined on either side, separated by a thin line of tension. They remain poised as Krishna perfectly balances on that line and enlightens all about inaction within action, and about the confidential knowledge of the highest devotion. In 700 verses, the essential message of the Upanishads issues from the lips of Krishna as Arjuna asks all the pertinent questions of the ideal seeker.

In the Gita, Krishna is the ideal statesman and philosopher. He does the work of the avatara, delivering the pious and destroying impiety, as he establishes religious principles on a firm philosophical foundation. Krishna's words are penetrating and immortal, all the more compelling when considering the position he takes in the war. Krishna, God of gods, becomes the chariot driver of Arjuna.

In the Gita, Krishna promises that his devotee will never perish. In the war, he proves himself to be reliable for the devoted, breaking his promise of not fighting to protect his devotee. His message: "Fix your mind upon me. Become my devotee. Worship me and make homage unto me. I will protect you because you are my dear friend."

From 'Form of Beauty: The Krishna Art of B.G. Sharma'
by Swami B.V. Tripurari

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