Towards the end of the year marks Gita Jayanti, the day that the Bhagavad Gita (the Divine Song) was recited from avatar Krishna to His adored devotee Arjun.
A subtext of one of the longest written epics in the world the Mahabharata, the Gita is held in high esteem by most Hindus. Around 700 poetic verses in 18 chapters it describes the purpose of life and outlines the goals one should strive for to attain the Absolute. To many Hindu practitioners it holds the highest philosophy that can be executed in everyday living.
On the battlefield of Kurukshetra, the great warrior Arjun is faced with the dilemma of having to kill his relatives, elders, and gurus in the opposing army who have sided with his adharmic, unrighteous cousin. Facing intense depression he tells his charioteer Krishna that he’s unable to bear the sin of killing his own flesh and blood. In frustration he throws down his weapons and refuses to fight. Krishna expresses his concern for Arjun’s grief not by speaking, but by singing the science of Self realization. In the end Arjun understands his purpose in life and his relationship with the Infinite, overcoming his grief and attaining transcendental knowledge.
The Gita touches on many important theological subjects. It gives a blueprint of what a spiritual aspirant must do to break the stranglehold of material existence and attain Divine consciousness.
It explores mystical subjects such as:
- cultivating devotion so Divine presence is within one’s heart (bhakti yoga)
- carrying out one’s duties with no expectation of rewards (karma yoga)
- acquiring knowledge to understand one’s purpose (jnana yoga)
- mental concentration on the Supreme through meditation (raja yoga)
- the concept of the avatar (Divine manifestation on Earth when evil overpowers good)
- the eternal and indestructible nature of the soul (atman)
- the afterlife: transmigration, heavens, hells, and ultimate liberation of the soul (moksha)
- methods of worship and how various paths eventually lead to the same Ultimate Truth
The Gita also discusses several areas of correct everyday living:
- establishing equal vision of all living entities
- freedom from suffering through detachment
- the importance of reducing and destroying one’s ego
- virtuous conduct (giving charity, dietary laws, speaking truth, etc.)
- comparing qualities of the good, the passionate, and the demonic
On Gita Jayanti devotees recite the Gita all day, chant the holy names of God repeatedly, perform acts of charity, distribute books, sing bhajans, attend lectures, and even fast.