On November 29, 2017, Radhanath Swami spoke at Bhakti Center, New York City, about the wisdom of the Bhagavad-gita on the day of Gita Jayanti. Below are exerts from his talk.
Today is Gita Jayanti, the day the Bhagavad-gita was spoken which is about 700 verses within a great literature called the Mahabharata which is approximately 100,000 verses. Bhagavad-gita is the very essence of the Mahabharata and is in fact the very essence of all the great Vedic literatures.
It is spoken in such a way that it is especially not just for people who are renunciants, yogi’s, scholars, but was actually spoken for everyone. The setting in which it is spoken is very much pertinent to the world today and for that matter the world as it has always been. It was spoken in an inconceivable environment of conflict in a time when things became so difficult that the person who was hearing Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna, he felt powerless and didn’t know what he could do. This situation of conflict not only represents conflict that is within the world but the conflict that is within each of our hearts and minds.
The basic story of the Bhagavad-gita is Arjuna wanted to renounce performing his duty and the Bhagavad-gita was spoken to activate him to live in this world but not of this world. To actually see everything as divine property and according to our positions, whether we are in business, finance, education, mothers, fathers, students, swami’s, whatever are role is what’s important is not what the role is but what is the spirit in which we function within that role. What is the least likely person to talk to about peace and love? A warrior on a battlefield. Krishna spoke to the whole world through Arjuna to teach us these basic priniciples that true peace, love and happiness is realized in the eternal self and its relationship with the supreme self and through that to understand our relationship with nature and all living beings.
Recently I was speaking at the Cambridge Union and the discussion was,’have we lost faith in faith’, because so many people had lost faith in religion due to seeing so much hatred, divisions, violence, arrogance in the name of religion and God and therefore rejected. Bhagavad-gita says when we identify the spiritual path by these material aspects of it it can make us more pious maybe but it is not really the purpose. Krishna is telling you must go to the essence and understand who truly am I am, who is God, what is this world and what is our relationship with them.
Everyone was looking at me at what I was going to say and I agreed with them, I also lost faith in faith as these dyanamics were tearing the world apart in so many ways. Yet it is really based on the ego, its not just religion. People do it in the name of politics and race. Its due to the insidious ego in where we have to feel ourself superior to others.
Srila Prabhupada, explained that true religion is not to be a Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jew, but true spirituality is to awaken the innate love for the Supreme within our hearts and to live in the spirit of service to others. That is Krishna’s message in the Bhagavad-gita.
Krishna tells in the Bhagavad-gita, there are two types of knowledge, jnana and vijana. Jnana means to theoretically know and vijnana means to realize, to have direct experience, to be enlightened and that comes when we just apply to our life these essential teachings of the Bhagavad-gita. We can be empowered scholars and obtain perfection or we could be illiterate and obtain the same perfection if we apply the principles of the Bhagavad-gita to our lives. What is that principle? True peace and love comes when we value the spirit of seva or service. Whatever we see we see it in its truth. A student once asked Srila Prabhupada what do you see when you see a tree? He said, I see the tree and I see that there is a soul that is giving life to this tree and I see how that soul is a part of Krishna and the tree is part of Krishna’s creation and so when I see the tree I remember Krishna and feel great love for Krishna and in that love for Krishna I feel great love for the tree and all trees and everyone else. That is teachings of the Bhagavad-gita.
Chanting God’s names in this spirit that the Bhagavad-gita gives, it gives us that potential of happiness of eternal love that is within our hearts. This Bhagavad-gita is dynamic and universal and beyond any sectarian conceptions and helps us to live in this world, even when there is so much conflict all around us, and like a lotus flower that grows in a muddy place, it lives very pure, the Bhagavad-gita teaches us to live in a spiritual state and actually make a real difference in this world.