The Song of God
In order to guide human beings in the ways that they should live to attain spiritual
fulfillment and contentment, Krishna has taken on the form of man on many occasions
to teach us. Among the most revered tales of those incarnations is found in the Bhagavad Gita,
or The Song of the Lord. Traced to the Epic Period between 400 BC and 200 AD of Indian history,
it was composed by a sage named Vyasa. It may be the most popular of all the Hindu epics.
In the Gita, Krishna talks to Arjuna about inner peace and true and eternal happiness and of how
to achieve it. This takes place as Arjuna is facing a crisis in his faith. Seeing friends and relatives
arrayed on both sides of a battle about to begin, Arjuna is questioning the rightness of waging war,
thinking that it wrong to wage war for pleasures and desire. Krishna teaches him what his actions
It might seem on the surface that what Krishna is teaching supports violence, but it is not that
simplistic, but what he is actually saying is that man must follow the rules of the sacred teachings
and in that will find fulfillment and peace. Hinduism is built around these dharma and how
obedience to it enhances the atman or soul. As one source says:
The Gita (as it is often called) consists of a dialogue between Lord Krishna and Prince Arjuna on the eve of the great battle of Kurukshetra. Arjuna is overcome with anguish when he sees in the opposing army many of his kinsmen, teachers, and friends. Krishna persuades him to fight by instructing him in spiritual wisdom and the means of attaining union with God (see yoga). The main doctrines of the Gita are karma-yoga, the yoga of selfless action performed with inner detachment from its results; jnana-yoga, the yoga of knowledge and discrimination between the lower nature of man and his soul, which is identical with the supreme self; and bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion to a particular god-in this case, Krishna, who reveals himself to Arjuna as the avatara (incarnation) of Vishnu, Lord of the Universe. (Encarta)
In fact, the Gita teaches the importance of love and the necessity of recognizing the presence of
an omnipotent and just and benevolent God, and surrender to his will. This central part of the
greater epic Mahabharata has been translated into more languages than any scripture other than
the Bible. It consists of 700 verses set in 18 chapters in the original sanskrit.
It seems to me that the message of Krishna is not simply to be a warrior, but to accept that
we are engaged in a spiritual struggle within ourselves and that renunciation of much personal
desire and submission to the sacred teachings is the path to self-realization.
At the same time, much in Hinduism is difficult for someone acculturated in the western world
to readily accept. It almost seems as if we are to accept the caste system of India with all the
obvious problems that involved. At the same time, we are to accept the belief in reincarnation,
and that is a tall order. In the Hindu religion based caste system, people were strictly segregated
into groups (or in the case of the Untouchables, out of them), movement from which can only be
achieved through reincarnation in future life. That 'movement' might better be termed escape, and
the system locked millions of people in quite terrible circumstances for centuries.
That is not to suggest that the 'west' has a better way necessarily. It was not Hinduism that
produced Hitler, slavery, or Jim Crow. That does not excuse the abuse that it has engendered,
however. Indeed, it might fit nicely with Marx's interpretation that religion is the 'opiate of the
It is difficult to imagine Krishna arguing to Arjuna that one must simply trust in God and accept
oppression and destitution because of the reward to be recieved in the next life, but in effect, that
is largely what it has meant for thousands of years in India. That is hardly self-realization, spiritual
fulfillment, or attainment of inner peace or contentment.