The Bhagavad Gita, or the Gita as it is popularly known, is part of epic mahabharata. This epic describes the war between the pandavas and kauravas on the battlefield of kuru-kshetra. The gita is a discourse given by krishna to arjuna just before the war is about to begin. Krishna is identified as god. His words contain the essence of vedic wisdom.
In its final form, the bhagavad gita had 700 verses, split into 18 chapters, of which 574 are spoken by krishna, 84 by arjuna 41 by sanjaya and 1 by dhritarashtra. It is a conversation, though it does seem like a discourse, which takes place over ninety minutes,while fully armed solders on either side waiting impatiently for battle.
Krishna describes the human body as a city with nine gates (nava-duara-pura); two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, one mouth, one anus and one genital. A relationship involves two people eighteen gates at all. That the gita has eighteen sections; it make sense of eighteen books of mahabharat– which tell the story of a war between family and friends, fought over eighteen days, involving eighteen armies – indicates that core teaching of the gita has much to do with relationships. It serves needs of householder rather than the hermit.
The Gita demonstrates many modern techniques of communication. First, Arjuna’s problem is presented (Chapter 1), and then krishna’s solution (chapters 2 to 18) is offered. Krishna begins by telling Arjuna what he will reveal (Chapters 2); he then elaborates on what he promised to tell (Chapters 3 to 17); and finally, he repeats what he has told (Chapter 18). Krishna’s solution involves analysis (sankhya) and synthesis (yoga) – slicing the whole into parts and then binding the parts into a whole. The solution itself is comprehensive, involving the behavioural (karma yoga), the emotional (bhakti yoga) and the intellectual (gyana yoga).
We never actually hear what krishna told Arjuna. We simply overhear what sanjaya transmitted faithfully to the blind king Dhritarashtra in the comforts of his palace, having witnessed all that occurrred on the distance battlefield, thanks to his telepathic sight. The Gita we overhear is essentially that which is narrated by a man with no authority but infinite sight (Sanjaya) to a man with no sight but full authority (Dhritarashtra). This peculiar structure of the narrative draws attention to the vast gap between what is told (gyana) and what is heard (vi-gyana).
krishna and sanjaya may speak exactly the same words, but while krishna knows what he is talking about sanjaya does not. Krishna is source, Snajaya is merely a transmitter. Likewise, what sanjaya hears is different from what arjuna hears and what Dhritarashtra hears. Sanjaya hears the words, but does not bother with meaning. Arjuna is a seeker and so he decodes what he hears to find a solution to his problem. Dhritarashtra is not interested in what krishna has to say.
I am not the source of The Gita. But I do not want to be merely its transmitter, like Sanjaya. I want to understand like Arjuna.