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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bhagavad Gita Interpretations

What business you have got to poke your nose and give interpretation? Are you bigger than Krsna? Krsna left it for you? This nonsense going on. Big, big swamis, big, big yogis, big, big politicians, simply misinterpreting, he's spoiling his own life and he's spoiling others. Bas. This is going on. Very serious condition.

- Srila Prabhupada - Room Conversation Aug 14 1976 Bombay

Srila Prabhupada in many places criticized interpretations of the Bhagavad Gita by modern day scholars. Till date, I have not seen in writing these interpretations. I happened to browse Wikipedia and found the following interpretations of famous scholars and saintly people.

Personally, I think it is highly inappropriate to interpret the words of Krishna completely out of context. To add allegorical and symbolic meanings and conclusions to Krishna's words implies Krishna is a mythical figure. In the Bhagavad Gita, clearly, Krishna establishes Himself as the Supreme Being without par. By discrediting and extrapolating His words, scholars reject Krishna as the Supreme entity. It is precisely for this reason, Krishna Himself says to Arjuna that this mysterious science of the Gita can be understood only by His (Krishna's) friends' and devotees'. Others are not privy to this mysterious science.

Below are interpretations which are not directly mentioned anywhere by the original author Krishna.

Eknath Easwaran writes that the Gita's subject is "the war within, the struggle for self-mastery that every human being must wage if he or she is to emerge from life victorious" and "The language of battle is often found in the scriptures, for it conveys the strenuous, long, drawn-out campaign we must wage to free ourselves from the tyranny of the ego, the cause of all our suffering and sorrow."

Swami Nikhilananda, takes Arjuna as an allegory of Ātman, Krishna as an allegory of Brahman, Arjuna's chariot as the body, and Dhritarashtra as the ignorance filled mind.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, in his commentary on the Gita, interprets the battle as "an allegory in which the battlefield is the soul and Arjuna, man's higher impulses struggling against evil".

Swami Vivekananda also emphasized that the first discourse in the Gita related to the war could be taken allegorically. Vivekananda further remarked, "This Kurukshetra War is only an allegory. When we sum up its esoteric significance, it means the war which is constantly going on within man between the tendencies of good and evil." He continues, "If one reads this one Shloka (BG 2.3), one gets all the merits of reading the entire Gita; for in this one Shloka lies imbedded the whole Message of the Gita." (this is not the conclusion of the Gita according to Krishna!)

 In Aurobindo's view, Krishna was a historical figure, but his significance in the Gita is as a "symbol of the divine dealings with humanity",while Arjuna typifies a "struggling human soul".However, Aurobindo rejected the interpretation that the Gita, and the Mahabharata by extension, is "an allegory of the inner life, and has nothing to do with our outward human life and actions":

Swami Krishnananda regards the characters and the circumstances depicted in the Bhagavad Gita as symbolic of various moods, vicissitudes, and facets of human life. He highlights the universal applicability of the Gita to human life by saying that "It is not the story of some people that lived some time ago but a characterization of all people that may live at any time in the history of the world"

Swami Chinmayananda  writes, "Here in the Bhagavad Gita, we find a practical handbook of instruction on how best we can re-organize our inner ways of thinking, feeling, and acting in our everyday life and draw from ourselves a larger gush of productivity to enrich the life around us, and to emblazon the subjective life within us"

Hare Krishna

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