Gita addresses itself to the basic question of human ignorance about one’s true nature and the consequent suffering.
Chapter One and the first ten shlokas of the second chapter of Gita describe sorrow, which arises due to internal conflict of the mind. Though ascribed to Arjuna, such grief is in fact a constant companion of human heart. Everyone experiences a sense of dissatisfaction and the resultant grief, almost on daily basis.
Gita teaches mankind as to how to resolve the inherent conflict of human mind and thus overcome this wholly avoidable sorrow. In this manner, one can lead a meaningful and purposeful life.
In the backdrop of a battleground and through the dilemma of a great warrior, Gita has analysed the essential aspects of human nature. Battlefield at Kurukshetra is the symbol of human mind which is the scene of constant conflict — a conflict between dharma and adharma, a conflict between reason and emotion, a conflict between personal interest and public good and so on. It is a battleground of the moral struggle for establishment of dharma, the path of righteousness. Dharma is what promotes materialistic growth and spiritual attainment.
In addition to the instinct which every animate being has been provided with, the human being is blessed with buddhi, the faculty of intellect. A man is not only aware of the world around him, but also of himself. Through buddhi, one is able to perceive oneself as happy or not happy. He can also imagine as to what could bring happiness to him. As per this understanding, one makes choices which he thinks to be appropriate for him. He chooses what he thinks would get rid of his feeling of dissatisfaction.
Excercise of choice entails conflict. Conflict often leads to dilemma because of the inability of mind to choose between equally difficult options. Dilemma results in confusion and sorrow.
One often tries to overcome the persistent sensation of dissatisfaction by running after worldly things. But no material acquisitions or worldly achievements can satisfy one for long. A sense of dissatisfaction arises soon after as one’s mind wants more and more. Thus, the sense of dissatisfaction lingers on. And the sense of distress does not diminish whatever one gets in life.
Arjuna realised this fact of life in the battlefield, when faced with the prospect of killing his own near and dear ones in the war. He then lamented that the prosperous and unrivalled kingdom on earth or even the sovereignty of heavenly gods cannot drive away the grief that was drying up his senses (Shloka 2.8). He understood that he would not find lasting satisfaction by gaining wealth or power. He would not get peace of mind, either in victory or in defeat.
Torn apart by sorrow and confused about what to do and what not to do, Arjuna sought refuge in Krishna, the Supreme Lord, and beseeched Him for His advice and guidance. Arjuna requested Krishna to tell him, for certain, as to what was good for him (Shloka 2.7).
Krishna started His teachings (Shloka 2.11) with the assurance that there was no valid reason for grief. In the subsequent discourse, He explained the distinction between Self, the Atman, and the mind-body complex. He told that whereas the body and the mind were subject to decay and destruction, the Self was indestructible. He further explained that physical pleasure and pain arise from the contact of senses with their objects and do not last for ever. One should learn to endure them (Shloka 2.14). In other words, one should remain established in the Self and should not be overwhelmed by the feelings of the mind.
Krishna declared that sorrow arises due to ignorance about one’s true nature. When one discovers oneself to be imperishable Atman, the anxieties of life and the consequent distress vanishes. Then, one attains to the goal of perfection.
In addition to the knowledge of the Self, Krishna explained as to how action was to be undertaken in the world (karma yoga) and how one can establish a relationship of trust and love to God (bhakti yoga). He also explained as to how the senses, the mind and the intelligence can be controlled.
What Krishna told Arjuna was most relevant to all of mankind in the past, is equally relevant in the present ; and would for ever remain relevant in future.
Once the teachings of Gita are internalised, everyone would say as Arjuna said in shloka 18.73 that his delusion is destroyed and he has gained wisdom. His doubts have been dispelled and he would do what is required of him to be done.
After such a wisdom dawns, the feelings of doubt, fear, anxiety, depression and sorrow are burned in the fire of wisdom. One becomes internally strong and capable of facing all pleasures and pains of life with equanimity. He becomes happy from within, a naturally joyful person. His happiness is spontaneous. His dilemma vanishes and he is at ease with himself.
The author is a former bureaucrat and writes on spirituality, philosophy, psychology, religion and other contemporary subjects