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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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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Renouncing the joys of life?
Untouched like a lotus leaf
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
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
The Gunas and the Maya
Focus on God
The lower and higher nature of God
Krishna the seed of everything
Seeing through the Maya
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
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)
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 grants his wish and explains
Chapter 11 – Arjuna’s vision
Arjuna “beholds” the highest deity
All happens according to Gods plan
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
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
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
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
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
Ego and being God
Wise men live beyond dualist evaluation
The imperfection of the dualist world
Breaking through things
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 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
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.
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“.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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