The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita - Bernd Helge Fritsch - ebook

The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita ebook

Bernd Helge Fritsch

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This book results from the author‘s decades of in-depth studies of Eastern spirituality. The Bhagavad Gita combines the most beautiful pearls of Ancient Indian wisdom into a wonderful entity. The “Song of the Sublime“ thoroughly explains all the important subjects of the earthly and the divine world. The Gita provides us with one of the most valuable and beautiful revelations mankind has ever received. Its verses open a gate to spiritual self-recognition and to a discovery of the divine. This edition of the Gita offers today‘s readers a most practical access to its essence thanks to a careful selection of all important text passages and the use of clear, easily understandable language. Comments added to the translation will facilitate a deep understanding of this ancient and yet timeless eastern teaching.

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The book

This book results from the author‘s decades of in-depth studies of Eastern spirituality.

The Bhagavad Gita combines the most beautiful pearls of Ancient Indian wisdom into a wonderful entity. The “Song of the Sublime“ thoroughly explains all the important subjects of the earthly and the divine world.

The Gita provides us with one of the most valuable and beautiful revelations mankind has ever received. Its verses open a gate to spiritual self-recognition and to a discovery of the divine.

This edition of the Gita offers today‘s readers a most practical access to its essence thanks to a careful selection of all important text passages and the use of clear, easily understandable language. Comments added to the translation will facilitate a deep understanding of this ancient and yet timeless eastern teaching.

The author

Until the age of forty, Bernd Helge Fritsch was a successful lawyer in the Austrian city of Graz. Following an inner voice, he gave up his law practice. Since then, he has been active as a writer, spiritual teacher and mentor.

He spent many years travelling, mainly in Asia and southern Europe. He lived in Buddhist and Hindu monasteries, studying and practicing Zen.

In particular his books, “The Jewel of Shankara“, “Der große Prinz und das Glück“, and “Wu Wei“ have made Bernd H. Fritsch wellknown among a large circle of readers and as an inspiring author.

Further information about his books, lectures and seminars is available under www.berndhelgefritsch.com.

Contents

I. Foreword

The uniqueness of the Bhagavad Gita

The “essence“ of the Gita

Access to the Gita

Describing the indescribable

Western and Eastern way of thinking

The practical use

True religion has no label

Parallels to Christianity

II. The symbolism of the Gita

Krishna and Arjuna

Krishna and Jesus

The great epic of Mahabharata

The composition of the Gita

Chapter 1 – The frame story

The Battle of Kurukshetra

The events just prior to the battle

Arjuna is overcome by compassion

Chapter 2 – The everlasting core of Being

The difference between transience and the everlasting

The Self knows neither birth nor death

Reincarnation

Selfless action, the basis for liberation

Mastery of the mind

You deplore what is not deplorable

Pleasure and pain

The real is everlasting

The Self is not born and does not die

All phenomena come and go

No one knows the Self, the Atman

No entitlement to the fruits of your labour

Deeply rooted in pure consciousness

Control your thoughts

Attaining inner peace

Chapter 3 – Karma yoga: Oneness with God through the right deeds

Karma yoga, Bhakti yoga, Jnana yoga, Raja yoga, Hatha yoga

Action and avoiding action

The Middle Way

Man proposes, God disposes

Karma

The soul‘s freedom of choice

Karma aims neither at rewards nor at punishment

You are not your own destiny

Dualist thinking is the problem

Recognize the “kingdom of heaven“ within you!

The necessity of acting

Selfless acting

Follow the voice of your heart!

Set an example!

You are not the doer

Likes and dislikes

Chapter 4 – Jnana yoga - the way of recognition

There is an “Avatar“ hidden within everyone

Non-action in action

Contentment

Liberation from karma

The timeless Krishna

Recognize the divine Self!

Stay independent of your own action!

Awareness of God

Wisdom is the highest goal

Guilt and karma will burn

Mastering the senses

Chapter 5 – Self-denial and the yoga of action

Karma yoga or Sannyasa

Non-identification

Renouncing the joys of life?

Untouched like a lotus leaf

Recognition liberates

Serenity and contentment

Finding your inner light

Chapter 6 – Controlling our mind, and meditation (Raja yoga)

All happiness comes from the bottom of the soul

The creative power of thinking

Liberation from the compulsion of thought

Achieving oneness through self-awareness

The nature of meditation

The fate of those who do not achieve fulfillment

Selfless service

Your mind - your greatest friend and enemy

Yoga of meditation

Finding the right measure

The self in all beings

Control of the spirit

No one who makes an effort will be lost

Chapter 7 – God’s lower and higher nature

Many are called, but few are chosen

The two natures of the deity

Non-identification

The Gunas and the Maya

Focus on God

The lower and higher nature of God

Krishna the seed of everything

Seeing through the Maya

The Godseekers

Man is governed by what he believes

Born in illusion

Chapter 8 – Death and rebirth

Erasing the ego

The cycles of the universe (Yugas)

The path of light and the path of darkness

Brahman, Atman and karma

The state of Being after death

The supreme Purusha

Non-return

The day and the night of the Brahma

The goal of all goals

Two paths beyond the world

Chapter 9 – The Royal Knowledge (Raja Vidya)

Eternal life

All is Brahman

The human ego nature

I am the way and the life

No one is preferred

God is not identical to his creatures

Ignorance causes ego thinking

Taking part in the nature of the deity

The inner observer

Worshiping other gods

Always be connected with divine oneness

Seeking refuge within the inner God

Chapter 10 – The power and the glory of God

Krishna the creator of all worlds

Krishna and his revelations

I am the sun among the heavenly bodies

The origin of all phenomena

Krishna’s glory

Krishna grants his wish and explains

Chapter 11 – Arjuna’s vision

Arjuna “beholds” the highest deity

The Apocalypse

All happens according to Gods plan

Your decision

Krishna’s thousand fold forms

The supreme truth

The fate of the warriors is predetermined

Seeing and worshiping the deity in all things

Chapter 12 – Bhakti yoga or the connection with the absolute

Honour God in the absolute or in his creatures?

Serving and enjoying the well-being of all creatures

Always keep your mind on me

The truly devoted

Chapter 13 – The field and the knower of the field

Prakriti and Purusha

Like two golden birds in a tree

The differentiation between the Self and nature

The characteristics of the knowers

Brahman, goal of all goals

Nature and the Self

Liberation

All that happens is a play of nature

Chapter 14 – The three Gunas: Rajas, Tamas, Sattva

The Gunas, the “stuff” of life

How the three Gunas are shaping the mind

Duality and individuality

Meaning of the earthly life - the ego phase

Longing for oneness

Liberation of the soul

Brahman and Brahma

The three Gunas determine nature

Identification with the body and the mind

Merger with the Self through non-identification

Reposing - in joy and sorrow

Chapter 15 – Jiva - the soul of man

The World Tree

Jiva, the soul of man

Identification with the manifest person

The dualist view of man

The sword of non-adherence

Overcoming duality

Birth of the soul

Walk resolutely on the path of yoga

I am the light of the sun

The highest Self (Purushottama)

Chapter 16 – Divine and demonic characteristics

“Good” and “evil” persons

The struggle against evil

The characteristics of those connected with God

Demonic characteristics

Chapter 17 – The Gunas in all spheres of life

The power of faith

The Gunas and man’s behaviour

Om Tat Sat

Man is what his faith is

Types of askesis

Chapter 18 – Denial and liberation

Action or non-action

The difference between castes

Conditions for becoming one with Brahman

Recognition, acting, reason and perseverance

Sattva joy

Perform the tasks that fit your own nature

Achieving oneness with Brahman

The Lord directs all movements

Give up all religions

Conclusion – The essence of the Gita

The deity within you

Blasphemy

Ego and being God

Wise men live beyond dualist evaluation

The imperfection of the dualist world

Breaking through things

Index

Recommended books

I. Foreword

The uniqueness of the Bhagavad Gita

In its philosophical and spiritual clarity and its comprehensive presentation, the Bhagavad Gita cannot be compared to any other teachings handed down to us from antiquity. In it, we find all Hindu teachings in a nutshell that were meaningful at the time of its origin. All important questions of earthly and divine concern are fully dealt with in this Gita (Song) of Bhagavad (the Sublime).

The probably best known hymn of praise composed for the Gita in western culture comes from the great explorer and statesman Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767–1935):

“I thank God that He let me live long enough to learn of this book, the most beautiful, perhaps the only true philosophical poem existing in any literature known to us.“

Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, formerly professor of comparative religion and ethics at Oxford University, was perhaps the most influential commentator of the Gita in modern times. He was president of India from 1962 to 1967 (an amazing exception: a spiritual teacher of wisdom at the head of a gigantic state). In his introduction to the Gita he wrote:

“Through centuries, millions of Hindus have found comfort in this book which presents the basic principles of a spiritual religion in clear, penetrating words, without poorly founded facts, unscientific propositions or even arbitrary phantasies. Even today, as in the long history of its spiritual energy, it still serves those as a beacon of light who want to receive enlightenment from the depth of its wisdom…“

The great philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) wrote enthusiastically about the Gita:

“Those who have become familiar with this book through diligent reading are deeply touched by its spirit. It is the world‘s most educational and sublime teaching. It has been the solace of my life and will be the solace of my death.“

The “essence“ of the Gita

The Gita, consisting of 18 chapters with 700 verses, was written in Sanskrit, the ancient Indian language regarded as “sacred“. Numerous translations exist into just about every language in the world. However, it is not easy for anyone in the West to find a good, easily readable edition of the Gita.

The reasons are in the original with its

disconcerting way of thinking

innumerable repetitions

confusing contradictions

abstruse religious terminology

many unknown names from Indian mythology

When we realize how some books that were highly current and have fanned people‘ s imagination one or two hundred years ago, are hardly readable today, or how movies from the time before World War II and from the 1950s and 60s seem completely old-fashioned to us, it is no wonder that today‘s readers cannot easily comprehend the spiritual message of scripture whose origins go back a few thousand years.

Access to the Gita

The author of this book has studied Asian and Western spirituality for decades. He teaches about Ancient Indian doctrines of wisdom in lectures, university courses and public seminars. In the course of this teaching, he has realized that Western students are finding it difficult to connect with the essential thoughts of the Bhagavad Gita based on reading editions available in bookstores.

He met several people who had come across the Gita and tried to find a deeper understanding of this scripture. Encountering the above difficulties, most had soon given up this attempt.

In writing this version of the Gita, the author‘s object was to present the wonderfully wise teachings of this scripture in a most easily understandable way. He wanted the Gita to be a readable, interesting text as well as a practical guide for those who - like “Arjuna“ - want to walk the path leading to the achievement of their own Self.

On the one hand, the author of this version intended to stay as close as possible with the original text, and on the other hand to remove unimportant and repeated verses which make understanding more difficult. Also, he simplified or left out all together some passages that deal specifically with differences between various philosophical and religious movements or traditions in Ancient India, but do not help us to understand “the essence of the Gita“. That is why several of the approximately 700 verses of the Gita are not included in this book.

As a comparison of the numerous translations indicates, the specific characteristics of Sanskrit in conjunction with the verse form in which the Gita is written, provides a large spectrum for different interpretations. That is why all translations and commentaries depend to a great deal on the translator‘s or commentator‘s way of thinking. Of course, this also applies to the present “Essence of the Bhagavad Gita“.

Describing the indescribable

The main difficulty for the author of a book on the transcendental Being is that he tries to find words for the reality that is beyond our dualist world of terminology. He uses traditional words like “God“ or “Brahman“, “universal consciousness“, “Karma“ or “Atman“ knowing that they can never express what they represent. They can only serve as signposts to give readers the direction in which their mind must move to learn about the “indescribable“. For that reason, teachers of wisdom like to use images and parables to explain the inexpressible. It then depends on the reader‘s readiness to discover what is substantial behind the words.

As we can recognize especially well in the Gita, when spiritual teachers explain something, they like to step down occasionally from their own non-dualist consciousness level to the pupil‘s mental level and then climb back to their own higher dimension. This reflects their effort to get the pupil away from the consciousness level on which he happens to be. This procedure explains occasional contradictions in the statements of these spiritual masters.

Western and Eastern way of thinking

To accept the Bhagavad Gita not only with the mind, but also as a whole human being - with heart and soul - it is necessary to open our mind to the special way in which Asian “seers“ (Rishis) think.

Western thought works primarily on the analytical level of dualist reasoning. According to our logic, something is either true or false, good or evil. As a rule, for us the “evil“ cannot be something “good“ at the same time. The Western mind thinks that on the one hand opposites exclude each other, and that on the other hand they may exist independently of each other, that the good can destroy the evil, after which there will only be the good. To Asian philosophers (lovers of wisdom!) this way of thinking is absurd. To them, the evil depends on the good and vice versa; the evil ends only beyond good and evil.

Spiritual teachers of Hinduism, Zen Buddhism and other Eastern spiritual currents have another kind of access to truth. Usually Westerners need time to get used to that way of thought and expression, for it includes possibilities beyond dualist reason which seem illogical, paradox and incomprehensible to Western minds.

For the “Rishis” there is - in addition to the opposites of good and evil - a Being that extends beyond those two.

They recognize a divine completeness that includes and harbours all opposites and inconsistencies.

In addition to the past, present and future time, they also know a “timeless” time.

They know of a “life” without birth or death.

They achieve a “love” that includes all Being.

For them, an individual “Being God” (Atman) exists which is also identical to the universal deity (Brahman).

What Western man calls the “real world” is a fantastic illusion to the wise men of the East. On the other hand, what the Rhisis call “reality” does not exist at all for the Western intellect. That “reality” can only be comprehended beyond the dualist patterns of thought.

The practical use

What practical use can we expect from studying the Bhagavad Gita which - next to the Bible - is regarded as the most widely distributed book worldwide?

We find answers to mankind‘s most important questions:

Is there a God? And if yes, who, how and where is God? » Who am I? What is the relationship between my soul and God?

What causes my joys and my sorrows?

What is the meaning of my life? What is my most important and highest goal?

How can I overcome worries and suffering, old age, illness and death?

How can I achieve love while being deeply and lastingly happy?

The Gita provides us with answers to the most important questions about being human. These answers are surprisingly satisfying, full of wisdom and also practically feasible. However, they require that we earnestly and energetically deal with their message. To reach the “goal of goals“ requires gradual development as well as mental and spiritual effort.

Every human has all the prerequisites for being successful. However, just as you can only become a good pianist by committing yourself firmly to absorbing the spirit of the music and to practice certain skills, you will also clearly understand the laws of life and become a “master“ of joy, love and freedom with the appropriate commitment and a willingness to learn. I hope that my remarks in this book will serve to motivate and support you.

True religion has no label

The spiritual teachings of the Gita are naturally embedded in the religious culture of Ancient India. They were influenced by thoughts from the Vedas and Upanishads, the philosophy of the Samkhya and the instructions of yoga. The Gita not only fully represents the circle of Hinduism‘s ideas at the time, but also the essence of all religions. This essence is not “Hindu“. True religion has no label, no name. It is not Jewish or Christian or Islamic. True religion is what connects people‘s innermost feelings with the spirit of the visible and invisible universe!

Parallels to Christianity

It is expected that this “Essence of the Gita“ will be read mainly by people of Western culture and tradition. Among them will be many who are shaped by the Christian body of thought. For that reason, I have cited some Bible passages and Christian mentors to build a bridge between Ancient Indian wisdom and Christianity. These will clearly show readers how much the great religions coincide in their basic concept. They will also show that those who look for the deepest insight do not need to confess to any particular religion or leave their present religious denomination.

II. The symbolism of the Gita

Krishna and Arjuna

It cannot be answered today whether Krishna - who in the Gita acts as the highest God and teacher of wisdom - can be related to any historical person. In any event, he is surrounded by many tales as a sage and Avatar (God who bodily appeared on earth).

The Gita‘s description of the belligerent conflict and of the two protagonists, Krishna and Arjuna, should be mainly understood as an allegory. This is already clear from the first verse in Chapter 1. There, even the “Kuru battlefield“, where according to the epic of Mahabharata the battle took place, is called the “Dharma field“ (Sanskrit: dharma kshetra). The term “dharma“ is of central importance in Hinduism and Buddhism. In short, dharma can be translated as divine order, justice or meaning of life.