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Gandhi on Bhagavadgita

by Jyotsna Kamat
First Online: June 01, 2004
Page Last Updated: February 09, 2014

The Bhagavad-Gita or the sacred song, is a Hindu poem with deep philosophy, spirituality and divinity embodied in it. It primarily is a wartime counsel between Krishna and his disciple/relative warrior Arjuna. Gandhi has often acknowledged its profound effect on his life. 

It is strange but interesting that Gandhiji's first introduction to Gita was in England and through two English brothers. Gandhi at that time was studying law. The brothers read Gita regularly and asked Gandhi to join in. Perhaps they thought that they may get to know the text in Sanskrit better. But Gandhi felt sad, because of his lack of Sanskrit knowledge. He read English version by Sir Edwin Arnold as recommended by his English friends, and was captivated for life by Gita's message. He specially liked the last nineteen verses of the  Chapter II. He felt, his concept of dharma was summarized in those verses. He took to reading Gita everyday, later, in the original Sanskrit language. During his imprisonment years, he studied the book in detail. Due to insistence from his friends, he translated it into Gujarati, his mother-tongue. Later English translation appeared.

Many language versions and interpretations of Gita are in vogue. The three great acharyas, Shankara, Ramanuja and Madhwa, interpreted it to advocate their stand of monism, qualified dualism and dualism, respectively. Besides, upholding spiritual knowledge, devotion and renunciation seem to be the favorite stand of great many teachers. In modern times, Lokamanya Tilak advocated that action (karmayoga) was the real message. Gandhi however interpreted that action without expectation of fruit (anasaktiyoga) was the essence or quintessence of the entire work.

The Mahabharata war in this great book was only a pretext, he felt. It was an allegory. In fact, it represented a battle going on, within every individual. Mahabharata war might not be historical as it exists today. Poet Vyasa, used it as background to preach real dharma. This dharma according to Bapu was self-less action.

Even winning the war did not bring happiness. Along with tremendous losses, it brought only regret and remorse to all. It proved that mere material gains never brought peace within.

Krishna of Bhagavad-Gita is wisdom personified, to Gandhi. He might or might not be an incarnation of God. That point was immaterial. A person who thinks or acts ahead of his times and who is a deeply religious person, is considered 'avatarapurusha'. Bapu, saw complete emancipation in Lord Krishna.

Self realization or liberation may be the goal of Hindu philosophy. But for Gandhi, Gita's stress is on attaining liberation through selfless action. Renunciation of all desire of action was ultimate message, he writes.

Gandhi on BhagawadGita:


The Gita is the universal mother. She turns away nobody. Her door is wide open to anyone who knocks. A true votary of Gita does not know what disappointment is. He ever dwells in perennial joy and peace that passeth understanding. But that peace and joy come not to skeptic or to him who is proud of his intellect or learning. It is reserved only for the humble in spirit who brings to her worship a fullness of faith and an undivided singleness of mind. There never was a man who worshipped her in that spirit and went disappointed. I find a solace in the Bhagavad-Gita that I miss even in the Sermon on the Mount. When disappointment stares me in the face and all alone I see not one ray of light, I go back to the Bhagavad-Gita. I find a verse here and a verse there , and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming tragedies -- and my life has been full of external tragedies -- and if they have left no visible or indelible scar on me, I owe it all to the teaching of Bhagavad-Gita.
                   

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Table of Contents

Biography Article
Man and Wheel _Picture_
Gandhi -Timeline
Churchill & Gandhi Article
Illustrations
Dandi March _Picture_
On Education Quote
On Jews Article
Autobiography Article
Gandhi & Women Article
Ask Gandhi  Q & A
"Leader Lead" _Picture_
Leather Puppet _Picture_
Gandhi on Gita Quote
Photo Quilt
Voice Clip Sound
Boy Gandhi _Picture_
As a Lawyer _Picture_
Day with Gandhi Slideshow
Visit to Sevashram Article
Gandhi by Laxman _Picture_
Gandhiji Quotes Quote
Radhakrishnan on Gandhi
Gandhi Cartoon _Picture_
Man & Wife  _Picture_
On Bhagat Singh Quote
ASCII Gandhi
Gandhi Rangoli _Picture_
Portrait _Picture_
Gandhi Stamps
Gandhi Painting _Picture_
Miracle Worker _Picture_
Alphabetical Index
Internet links
Satyagraha Article
Eulogy by Nehru Article
Gandhi Currency _Picture_
Hind Swaraj ArticleArticle
Citations
Gandhi Pictures _Picture_ _Picture_

 

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