Again the aim of Bhagwad Gita was to show a definite and clear path to Arjuna and he admitted that after hearing Gita all his doubts have been removed.
Then how can it be said that Gita has no central teaching? It is, however, true that Gita has not established any of the three paths of knowledge, devotion and actions as superior than others.
Gita presents the path of Niskam Karmayoga, in which the knowledge, devotion and action are synthesized and the intellect, emotion and will attain their highest culmination.
This Niskam Karmayoga is the central teaching of Gita; its meaning however requires a clarification. But before the discussion of this central teaching of Gita it is relevant to critically discuss the various views of different philosophers, regarding the central teaching of Gita.
In Gita one may easily find some apparently contradictory remarks. It is due to this apparent contradiction that the different commentators have established widely different aims on the basis of Gita.
But by seeing this problem from the integral and spiritual standpoint these apparently contradictory remarks will appear to be complementary. In this integral vision, the mutually contradictory views are seen as complementary.
Result of Gita’s Preachings:
After bearing the whole teaching of Gita, Aijuna bacame prepared to fight. Pointing out to this end of the Bhagwad Gita, Tilak remarks that after hearing Gita, Aijuna neither became a recluse nor a dancing devotee, but what he did was to begin a bold fight. Thus by the analysis of the end of Bhagwad Gita, Tilak proves that its aim is action.
Again, Tilak points out that during the whole course of Bhagwad Gita, Krishna has been repeating the same goal of activism which is its central teaching. The argument is continually interspersed with the constant refrain “therefore fight”.
Novelty of Gita’s Preachings:
But the most important factor to decide the central teaching of Gita is the novelity of its subject. It is due to this that Sri Krishna presented Gita even though the essential principles have been already explained by the Upanisads. Gita stood for the propagation of activism. Before the origin of Gita, there were to paths wide apart from one another, i.e., Pravrtli and Nivrtti, the material and the spiritual path.
Some followed one while some followed another. The novelty of the Gita consists in pointing out to a golden mean between these two extremes of activism and renunciation. Thus Gita finds a via-media between this world and another. This novelty of the subject points out that the central teaching of the Gita was activism.
The Immediate Result of Gita’s preachings:
Now what was the immediate result of the teaching of Gita? None can deny that after hearing Gita from Lord Krishna, Arjuna declared that his mind is now clear about his duties and that he will light. He agreed to do as the Lord wanted him to do and the Lord asked him to fight. This makes the whole thing clear about the purpose of the Gita.
Subsidiary matter and Arguments in Support:
Besides the above significant points the subsidiary matter and the argumentation in support also prove that the central aim of Gita was action. The whole change of beautiful arguments presented with sound logic aimed to convince Arjuna of fighting. The cosmic vision, the distinction of the eternal and non-eternal, the description of self, the elaboration of the different types of Kannas etc, are subsidiary elaborations of this central teaching of Gita. Thus Sri Krishna has tried to convince Arjuna about action from he beginning to the end of Gita.
In the beginning he presented a pragmatic and common sense argument by saying that if you die, you will find the heavens and if you win, you will enjoy the kingdom of the earth. But when this pragmatic argument did not convince Aijuna, Sri Krishna preached the immortality of soul. But when all arguments failed to convince Arjuna, Sri Krishna showed him His cosmic form and thus made him realise that the real doer is the God himself and man is merely an instrument in his hands and so his duty is only to follow divine commands.
Tilak’s view is one-sided:
Tilak’s view has been supported by many other thinkers including Swami Krishnanad and Prof. Deussn but it will be seen in sequence that the conclusion to which Tilak arrived, though based on sound premises, is equally one-sided.
Gita undoubtedly preaches action, but this action is not ordinary action as we take it. It is Niskam Karma. Niskam does not mean action without desire or detached action. It is rather to act according to God’s will.
Acting according to God’s will is possible only in the stage of identity with God. Hence Niskam Kanna means to act as a successful instrument in divine hands through complete identity with God.
Such action will not breed bondage. In this stage however, it is not the action which is so much important, but rather self-sun ender and identification with God. Identity with God is impossible without divot ion and complete self-surrender.
In the absolute integral identity, the contribution of intellect is equally necessary. Hence the knowledge cannot be rejected. Thus to reach the stage of SthitaPrajna, the ideal man in Gita, a synthesis of knowledge, devotion and action, thought, emotion and will through identity with God is necessary.
The actions of the ideal man according to Gita are not for himself, but for God. Even the actions according to one’s own Varna and Ashram, are also for God, because it is He who has established the Varnashram.
This integral identity with God leads to divine transformation of man by which he can become a successful instrument to fulfill divine purposes in the world.
Gita presents spiritual synthesis:
As matter of fact the spiritual seeing is always whole and integral. In it the contradictories become complementaries. Thus in Gita the apparently contradictory paths of knowledge, devotion and action are really complementary to each other. This synthesis is neither a pragmatic compromise nor a golden mean, nor an organic relation.
It is the stage of spiritual unity. It cannot be understood or explained by intellectual concepts. One can only say that here the will, the thought and the emotions, all become homogeneous, transformed and divine. Thus Gita takes man to a stag here all the aspects of his personality are integrated, transformed and divinised
Knowledge of Brahman and Science of Yoga:
So far we have tried to understand the central teaching of Gita by a discussion of the views of different commentators. But without an analysis of the verses from Gita itself, this discussion will not be final. In order to understand the central teachings of Gita, let us look into Gita itself. At the end of every chapter in Gita, it has been called, “the knowledge of Brahman, the science of Yoga”.
Thus Gita is science of Yoga. A science means a systematic study of a certain subject Thus as a science of Yoga Gita systematically studies Yoga. It is not a science of knowledge or devotion or action, but Yoga. Hence the central teaching of Gita is Yoga. The knowledge of Brahman is the basis of this Yoga, but the basis is not more important than the edifice. It only points out that Gita is based upon a sound metaphysical foundation.
Meaning of yoga:
Hence to understand the central teaching of Gita, let us clarify the meaning of the term “Yoga”. Here also one finds various interpretations by various commentators. To grasp at the truth in all this variety of opinions, one should keep his eyes steadily on the Gita itself.
The world Yoga has been derived from the root ‘YOGA’ which means union or identity. It is due to this that Ramanuja has so much emphasized the union of the Jiva and the God.
This view of Ramanuja is not untrue, but it is necessary to point out here that in the absolute union, the self and the God become one while Ramanuja does not admit such a complete identity between individual and God even at the highest stage.
Action, as it will be seen in sequence, is an important aspect of Yoga in Gita. Hence the devotional interpretation will be at best incomplete. According to Sri Krishna, “Yoga is perfection in action.”
Hence the interpretations of the central teaching of Gita as given by Samkara or Ramanuja do not seem to be appropriate. Similarly, the meaning of the Yoga does not appear Patanjali Yoga as well, because Aijuna was himself prepared to renounce the world and become a recluse while Sri Krishna stopped him from doing this precisely.
It is true that Gita has admitted Patanjali Yoga as helpful in control of the mind, but the eight-fold Yoga is merely a means in Gita, Yoga is not an ant in thesis of activism.
As Annie Besant points out, “everywhere in this scripture of Yoga there is the urging to action of the most violent type.” Curiously enough Yogeshwar Krishna preached Gita in die battle-field and not in the secluded corner of a forest as a Patanjali Yogi might do.
Karma yoga and karma sanyasa:
Hence Gita prefers Karma Yoga to the renunciation of Karma. According to Gita “both renuciation and Kanna Yoga may lead to liberation and yet Kanna the ethics of gita Yoga is better than renunciation of Karma”.
But this does not mean that action is the central teaching of Gita. Gita’s teaching is very clear in this respect. “Yogi is better than the ascetic, Yogi is better than the knower, is better than the actor as well, hence Arjuna be a Yogi”.
These words make it amply clear that while the Yogi is better than the ascetic, learned and the active person, Yoga is different from penance, knowledge or action. Yoga is not action, but perfection in action.
Now what is this perfection? In the 17th verse of the eleventh chapter of Gita Sri Krishna says, “Yoga, which rids one of woe is accomplished only by him who is Yukta in diet and recreation, in performing action, in sleeping and waking.”
It is significant here that the word ‘Yukta’ does not mean regulated or balanced, but “in union with divine” because if one takes the former meanings, it becomes difficult to understand remarks like those which advocate complete self surrender to God.
Also it does not lead to the status of “ideal man in Gita”. Again, Yoga has been called as Samatwa. This word also cannot be taken in the sense of balance, due to the obvious reasons.
Sthita Prajna is the highest ideal in Gita and he has been called a Yogi. Sthita Prajna literally means “one established hi the divine self consciousness” i.e., he who sees God everywhere in waking, dreaming and sleeping stages, while eating, drinking and working, in the elephant, dog, and high caste man etc.
Thus he is the one whom is in complete union with divine. Therefore identity with God is the real meaning of the words ‘Yukta’ or ‘Samatwa’. Thus Yoga means continuous identity with the divine power.
It is by this alone that one can attain the ultimate end i.e., realization of God or the consolidation of the society. It is here that the God can be realized and the social good can be attained.
As a matter of fact consolidation of society is an essential aspect of God realization in Gita, because the man who has realized God should work as the divine instrument in the world to achieve purpose.
Niskama karma yoga:
Hence the central teaching of the Gita is Niskama Karma Yoga. The meaning of the Niskama Kanna Yoga must have been clear by now. Nikama does not mean without personal desire sines an action without motive is not psychologically possible.
It means an action in identity with the divine will or to be a successful instrument in the hands of divine power. Karma in Gita means acting according to one’s own Varna and Ashram.
Gita believes in, the Varna-Ashram system. It has been established by God himself that he ii the initiator of the Varna system in society. Thus Gita has given a divine sanction to the scientific principle of division of labour in society.
This division of labour was not hereditary. It was based upon one’s own temperament and capacity. As Cycle has said, “Know what you can do, and do it like a Hercules.” Thus Gita has synthesized the modern psychological findings with the spiritual truths.
The actions according to one’s own Varna Ashram however, are not fast the individual or for the society, but for the God. Gita does not believe in Pant’s dictum of “duty for duty”. It preaches duty of Deity.
Yoga in Gita means identity with God and this identity with God is the ultimate end of Gita. But the concept of identity is dynamic and the man does not seem to be inactive after realizing God.
As a matter of fact he becomes even more active than ever, due to his union with the original source of energy. Thus Niskam Karma Yoga is favorable to the physical, psychological and spiritual nature of man. It Resizes selfishness with altruism it harmonizes the good of the individual with that of society.
It fulfills the good in the world to come. Thus Gita has preached a life of Yoga, established in divine self consciousness, in which the man forgetting all other rights and duties passes his life as divine instrument, working hands of God.
After giving all reasoning’s to Arjuna, Sri Krishna asked him to leave all other Dharmas and to find shelter in him. He promises that he will be relieved of all sins and that he should not bother about his destiny any more to is not determinism even if it may be divine since the God, according to Gita is also the inner self of man, God determinism means self most free when determined by God, i.e., determined by his inner self.
It is the sole end of all actions Gita has preached the dharma of Vamashram, but the fulfillment of this dharma becomes a duty only because it has been created by God.
In the Gita, Krishna himself has said that all the four Varnas have been created by Him according to toe distinction of qualities and action.
Good realization also leads to knowledge of the nature of soul because soul is only a form of God. This soul is to be experienced internally as well as in the external world. An ideal Yogi person experiences God hi every state.
The soul according to the Gita, is permanent and unchanging. It is indestructible while all the other physical objects of the universe are transient God is the controller of the self and physical objects.
He is the creator, sustainer and destroyer of the world- He is omnipotent and omnipresent the soul is merely an instrument of His purposes.
Public service has as much importance in the Gita as has God- realization, in view of their postulating that the soul and universe are both parts of the universe. Sri Krishna has said in the Gita that, yogi who is engulfed or engrossed in the befint of all beings goes to Hun.
Social service propels man towards God. Duty should be done not merely for duty but for the sake of consolidation of society. According to the Gita, action is superior to inaction
It has been said in the Gita that liberation cannot be achieved by fleeing from action or taking leave of activity (III-4), natural action being indispensable even to the learned.
Actions must be carried out according to one’s nature (111-5 to 33), actions are necessary for the body (III-8) actions are the law of creation (111-20). Even God himself acts in order to set an example to people and to protect the society from desolation (111-21 to 24).
For a learned person, the result of activity and inactivity is similar but in spite of it, it is the active person who is superior (111-17 to 19). Gita has indisputably accorded superiority to Karma Yoga in preference to Karma Sanyasa.
Synthesis of Hedonism and Asceticism:
Here Gita has synthesized hedonism and asceticism. It has stressed self control. Sex and anger are both dangerous enemies of man but they can be won over by synthesis of habitual action and renunciation and a feeling of disenchantedness and through practice. Knowledge is coloured or covered by sexual feeling (111-38).
Anger originates in sex, attachment in anger and it in turn destroys memory, the consummation coming with the destruction of reason or complete degeneration (11-62 and 63). The soul can triumph over both of them because mind and reason are merely the instruments of the soul. This way, self control will put an end to actions but not withstanding this, they are essential both for society and the individual. This contradiction can be resolved by detached action. This does not allow the results of action to become encumbrances.
The daily duties also have been elaborately discussed in the Gita according to which every man has some native determined actions (XV1II-41). He can achieve his personal and the social ultimate end by performing these determined actions (XVIII-23). The distinctions of quality and action have been utilized for the division of society into four varnas (IV-3) brahmana, kshatriya vaishya and shudra. Sattva abounds in the brahmanas, while rajas dominates sattva in the kshatriyas, in the case of vaishyas the rajas overpowering tamas and the reverse being the case of the shudras.
Accordingly, the Gita’s ethics resembles that of Bradley in the imagination of every person having a particular station to fill in society. The only point where they differ is that while Bradley treats self realisation to be the motivating cause, the Gita considers the aim to be the achievement of god or consolidation of society.
Thus, the natural activities of brahamanas are self control, suppression of senses, purity both internal and external, to accept pain for religion and to be forgiving and acquiring simplicity in mind, senses and body, theistic reason, knowledge of scriptures, and experience of the spiritual essence.
Valiance, patience, intelligence and nature of not fleeing even in war, benevolence and sense of mastery are all activities attributed to kshatriyas (XVII-44). As for the vaishyas, they are naturally adapted to activities like farming, dairying and truthful behaviour in buying and selling. And to serve all the other classes falls to the lot of the shudras (XVUI-44).
All these activities should be performed with the intention of submission to God (XII-6). The desire o result is the cause of enchantment and leaving or abandoning it brings everlasting peace (V-12). Such a person is a true hermit or ascetic (VI-1).
Sacrifice of result is real sacrifice (XVIII-2). Selfish desires should be negated (11-71). The limited love of wife and family should be sacrificed. Thus the Gita preaches karma yoga (III-4) and not escapism (V-2). But it is not ritualism. The purity of the conscience has been stressed in the Gita.
The practice of divine qualities has been emphasized in the Gita, besides the sacrifice of animal passions. The author of Gita has described these divine virtues elaborately, the God-realised person is free from malice, friendly, compassionate, forgiving content, united to God, having control over body, mind and senses and a firm resolve, free from egoism, delight, anger, perterbation and fear, pure, clever, impartial, neither annoys nor feels offended, neither rejoices nor hates, nor grieves nor desires, without attachment and full of devotion.