Today we celebrate Gita jayanti. The Bhagavad Gita forms part of the great Indian Epic, the Mahabharata. The words of this “song celestial” have flowed from the Lord, Sri Krishna Himself. The Gita chanting is generally preceded with what is known as “Gita Dhyanam” – nine introductory verses in praise of Bhagavad Gita. Originally published in our quarterly magazine “JYOTI” of July-September 2007 issue, this article, focussed on seventh verse, was transcribed from the weekly Gita Talks that I deliver on Tuesdays, between 7 and 8 p.m. at the Ramakrishna Centre, Glen Anil.
Let us recollect what Swami Vivekananda says:
Gita is the best commentary we have on the Vedanta philosophy – curiously enough the scene is laid on the battlefield, where Krishna teaches this philosophy to Arjuna; and the doctrine which stands out luminously in every page of the Gita is intense activity, but in the midst of it, eternal calmness. This is the secret of work.
May this lotus of the Mahabharata, born in the lake of the words of the son of Parashara (Vyasa), sweet with the fragrance of the meaning of the Gita, with many stories as its stamens, fully opened by the discourses on Hari, the destroyer of the sins of Kali, and drunk joyously day by day by the six-legged bees of good men in the world, become the bestower of good to us. Gita Dhyanam, 7
It is customary to recite the meditative verses (dhyana shlokas) before beginning the study of Srimad Bhagavad Gita proper. The poet-devotee, who composed these nine verses, has charmingly explained the purpose, principle and the practice of the Gita in these meditative verses.
Vast and deep
In the above seventh verse, he stresses the utmost importance of the knowledge contained in the Mahabharata. He says that the Gita is like a full-blown lotus, grown in the vast lake of words dictated by the son of the Sage Parashara, thereby meaning Sri Veda Vyasa (author of the Mahabharata). The significance of not saying the name of Vyasa but indicating him as son of Parashara lies in the wonderful combination of wisdom of the Rishi with practical sense of a fisher woman, Satyavati who was the mother of Vyasa. Sage Vyasa, like his father Parashara, had a broad, vast knowledge of the Vedas and like his mother, Satyavati, who would go deep into the river to catch fish, also went deep into the meaning of Vedas.
Petals and fragrance
The full-blown lotus has an extremely sweet fragrance and many soft petals. The insight of the Gita is said to be the fragrance and the varied stories cum sub-stories that form the elaborate Mahabharata, the petals. The lotus is full blown by the speech of Lord Sri Krishna, who is verily Hari Himself.
The drink and the drunk
A bee continues its unending search for nectar from many flowers. But it is the flower that is most beautiful and exuberantly filled with sweet honey that attracts it the most. Likewise, we have a number of scriptures. Of them, Srimad Bhagavad Gita, which forms part of the world’s largest epic, the Mahabharata, contains that nectar which makes the learner go beyond birth and death.
The insight that the Gita provides in controlling our life’s destiny is unparallel. The Gita gives us wonderful courage to deal with the many challenges that life poses. In order to gain the rich experience that the Gita enumerates, noblemen – men of character – searching for the true meaning of life come to study the Gita.
The poet-devotee of the meditative verses compares a noble-minded person with the untiring bee. Bees, unlike other insects or birds, go much deeper into flowers. They go to the very source.
So it is clear that if we want to obtain the knowledge of the Gita, superficial study is not enough. Merely chanting the Gita may give us a sense of peace; a little more study may lead us on a good path to enjoy the blessings of a noble life. But only a deeper study can provide the knowledge of Atman (Soul) which is the real nectar of the Gita. Like a bee, we must go deep – meditate deeply on each verse of the Gita. This will light up the lamp of knowledge that is within each of us. Mahapurush Maharaj, known as Swami Shivananda, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna once said, “…You must meditate on them. Then, only will you assimilate them. Hari Maharaj [Swami Turiyananda] used to meditate on each verse until he had mastered it.”
Legs that lead
Furthermore, the poet-devotee has used the words “six-legged” when describing the bee. This also has a profound significance. Merely being noble may not be sufficient to understand the inner meaning of the Gita. Perhaps the man who is only “two-legged” has to acquire another “4 legs” in order to grasp the inner meaning of the words that flow from Lord Sri Krishna’s lips.
What then, are the “six-legs” that a noble man has to possess? They are discrimination, detachment, devotion, deep yearning, deliberate effort and divine knowledge,. Once a person of noble character possesses these “six-legs” he will be able to hold onto the slippery petals and drive himself deep into the nectar of inner meaning. Therefore, a study once or twice is not enough. “Again and again” one must devotedly pursue the study so that the bad samskaras – mental impressions – that are gained from birth to birth can be removed by continuous study of the Gita.
Thus the poet-devotee concludes in this verse of Dhyana Shloka on Srimad Bhagavad Gita, propounded by the Lord Himself, is great, bestows welfare and removes all the impurities that are born of this age (Kali Yuga).