Importance of studying Bhagavad–Gītā
(At Bhagavad-Gītā Appearance Place)
– By HG Baḍa Haridāsa Prabhu
Indradyumna Mahārāja asked me to say a little something about Bhagavad-Gītā. There is actually so much to say about Bhagavad-Gītā. One time Śrīla Prabhupāda—in one of his writings, before he came to America, in some works that were compiled called “Vairāgya Vidyā”—he made a very interesting statement. He said that this Saṅkīrtan movement of chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa inaugurated by Lord Caitanya; this movement could be very well established and spread on the philosophy of Bhagavad-Gītā. We are saying “namas te sārasvate deve gaura-vāṇī-pracāriṇe” and that is Prabhupāda. It’s his own description of being established in his mission. He described himself as servant of Bhakti Siddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākur. His mission was to preach the words of Lord Caitanya—Gaura Vāṇī. If we see practically, Śrīla Prabhupāda’s preaching was based almost entirely or at least strongly on Bhagavad-Gītā. He would again and again recite Bhagavad-Gītā. One time he said, “So this is the perfect lecture!” Here all preachers are here. Do you want to know what Prabhupāda said the perfect lecture was?
[Devotees: “Yes, yes, yes!”] Quite a lot of you said yes.
He said, “Point 1: You are not that body. Bhagavad-Gītā and (Point 2) Lord Caitanya came to teach us to chant Hare Kṛṣṇa. So if you include these two things, then the lecture is perfect.” This Bhagavad-Gītā is so important. I remember I was in the Los Angeles temple during the time when Bhagavad-Gītā was actually minimized. It was the time of the Gopī–Bhāva Club. Anybody heard of that? Somebody heard. Okay. If you haven’t, that’s great [laughter]. We will keep it that way. Anyway, the idea is that there was a bunch of devotees, who were saying that we just have to hear very, very high topics. They didn’t consider Bhagavad-Gītā worthy of their hearing, and when Śrīla–Prabhupāda came to hear of this, he really chastised very heavily. He said that these people should be stopped, and if they don’t stop, they should leave our movement. He said this kind of speaking will stop the preaching work. Śrīla Prabhupāda again and again quoted from Bhagavad-Gītā in lectures. He made it the basis of the philosophy that he gave us, and he really, really, really wanted us to understand Bhagavad-Gītā. We may read many books, but Bhagavad-Gītā should be our life and soul. As Prabhupāda said, we should know Bhagavad-Gītā as a lawyer knows the law books. We study it again and again, and again and again. To point out the very first instruction Kṛṣṇa gives to Arjuna, it’s that, “You are not that body, you are spirit soul.” So we can ask ourselves, “Have we understood that? Have we realized that instruction?” If not, we should keep studying Bhagavad-Gītā.
Actually so much is there in Bhagavad-Gītā; it is an untapped gold mine. The more we study deeper, the deeper our realizations go. Just consider how much trouble the Lord Himself went to speak Bhagavad-Gītā. Actually this whole elaborate history of Mahābhārata and the war of Kurukśetra; practically speaking, all these different things were arranged, so that in the middle He could speak Bhagavad-Gītā. Just like His Holiness Indradyumna Mahārāja puts on the festival of India, and we have dancers, and we have martial artists, and it’s a whole circus. It’s a whole carnival. But, practically considering, the whole thing is orchestrated just to get people to hear a little about the Bhagavad-Gītā. It’s a very elaborate arrangement, just to make people hear Bhagavad-Gītā and hear the Mahāmantra.
Kṛṣṇa did a similar thing when He appeared here 5,000 years ago. There was a huge battle. So many different considerations, so many different personalities and Arjuna was there as Kṛṣṇa’s best devotee. Kṛṣṇa put him in illusion, just so that He could speak to him, and He wanted to deliver him from ignorance, but that actually was not necessary. More importantly He wanted to deliver us from ignorance and suffering—fear, illusion and anxiety. He wanted to deliver us from the ocean of suffering. How merciful is Kṛṣṇa? Just try to understand how merciful Kṛṣṇa is. This book Bhagavad-Gītā is our book. It’s really our book; it’s just for us.
There are many other Vedic literatures that we certainly should read and try to understand. But especially Bhagavad-Gītā is meant for conditioned souls to free us from illusion, anxiety, lamentation and suffering. He spoke this knowledge to relieve us from suffering. How much we should take shelter of Bhagavad-Gītā? Unfortunately many times when we are suffering, we take shelter of everything else. We take shelter of psychiatrists and so many things, but actually we can take shelter of Him. Bhāgavatam says [SB 2.1.4]:
dehāpatya-kalatrādiṣv ātma-sainyeṣv asatsv api ….
There are various fallible soldiers which generally we take shelter of. Do you know what they are? Deha or body; we want to become strong—well, sometimes. Dehāpatya: family members, wife. Then, maybe we want to take shelter of a strong nation, a military force. But these things can’t actually protect us. There is a famous recording. Śrīla Prabhupāda was in his quarters in Los Angeles and just across the highway there was a karate studio. Prabhupāda was sitting there, and he was listening to all these karate guys going, “Hi-yah! Hi-yah!” Prabhupāda said, “What is this?” So devotees explained to him, and then he said, “This Hi-yah!’–will not save you at the time of death.”
We need to have faith in the immortal words of Bhagavad-Gītā. It’s not something to read when we have some spare time or something to speculate on. But it’s actually a shelter. It’s a shelter for our soul, and if we take it seriously, like that, as our life and soul, then when we read Bhagavad-Gītā, Kṛṣṇa will speak to us. This is the mystery of Vedic literature.
Some might say, “Well, but Kṛṣṇa doesn’t talk about Rasa–Līlā. He doesn’t talk about the spiritual world; He doesn’t talk about our Siddha–Svarūpa. He is just speaking basic things.” But the point is—Kṛṣṇa is there speaking, and if we hear from Him repeatedly, He can reveal everything to us. It’s not just a book with some facts and figures, it’s Kṛṣṇa speaking. So if we read in this way, then we will find great shelter and repeated realizations in Bhagavad-Gītā. As Kṛṣṇa says Himself [BG 18.58]:
atha cet tvam ahaṅkārān
na śroṣyasi vīṇāṅkṣyasi
mac-cittaḥ—“You just become conscious of Me.” We need to become conscious of Kṛṣṇa. That’s the purpose of the International Society for Kṛṣṇa Consciousness, we could say. We can be traced to different sources, but this is also the one source. Kṛṣṇa is saying, mac-cittaḥ: “Become conscious of Me” and what will happen—”Sarva-durgāṇi mat-prasādāt tariṣyasi”—you will cross over all obstacles, every obstacle you will cross over, mat-prasādāt—by My grace. It’s the grace of Kṛṣṇa.
If we read Bhagavad-Gītā, we become conscious of Kṛṣṇa. Then by His grace, He helps us. Not by our own strength. Then He says, “atha cet tvam ahaṅkārān”—What is the alternative to doing this? You will be lost by acting according to your false ego. It’s very interesting actually. He uses this word, “na śroṣyasi”—if you don’t hear from Me, then you will be lost. Our spiritual life very much depends on repeatedly hearing; repeatedly hearing the Mahāmantra:
And repeatedly hearing the Bhagavad-Gītā, and then Kṛṣṇa will speak to us. Actually everything is there in the Mahāmantra. Rādhārāṇī is there, the spiritual world is there. It’s just a question of freeing our hearts of anarthas and then everything is revealed by the grace of the Lord. Śrīla Prabhupāda placed so much emphasis on this Bhagavad-Gītā, and he was always preaching Bhagavad-Gītā.
I was thinking that just as Arjuna fought here 5,000 years ago, Śrīla Prabhupāda also came here and fought. Do you know that? Śrīla Prabhupāda fought a battle here. This was in 1974, and he actually was recovering from very, very serious illness—very serious. Devotees around the world were performing 24 hours Kīrtanas for his welfare.
He was just barely recovering from his illness and he got an invitation to come here to Kurukśetra, because they were having Gītā-Jayanti. First of all celebrating Bhagavad-Gītā. So he was still very ill and he asked the devotees, “Should I go?” He would do it sometimes. The devotees all consulted and said, “No, it’s too hard to drive.” “It’s a hard drive—you agree, right?” “And you are still too ill.” Then he said, “Okay.” But later he called all the devotees, and he said, “We are going to Kurukśetra, because we must go and speak on Kṛṣṇa Consciousness.” You all read in Śrīla-Prabhupāda-līlāmṛta that many times he had to defend Kṛṣṇa. He had to fight for Kṛṣṇa and defend Bhagavad-Gītā.
In Indor when Śrīla Prabhupāda went there, they were speaking so many different strange philosophies in the name of Bhagavad-Gītā. In an introduction to Bhagavad-Gītā, Śrīla Prabhupāda says that when they asked, “What’s the need of for another Bhagavad-Gītā, when there are already hundreds of Bhagavad-Gītās in English?” He said that, “I actually haven’t found even one Bhagavad-Gītā that presents Kṛṣṇa’s message. They are all presenting somebody else’s opinions.” That’s the idea. Kṛṣṇa wanted to tell us something. He had a point; He wasn’t just like talking casually. He had something He wanted to communicate. But Prabhupāda could see, in course of time, that what Kṛṣṇa wanted to actually tell us— no one was saying that. They were using Bhagavad-Gītā to say what they wanted to say. So many different strange philosophies, you are probably familiar with some of them. One of them was that when Kṛṣṇa says, “Surrender unto Me,” they say, ”It’s not to Kṛṣṇa that we should surrender, but to the unborn within Kṛṣṇa”—very tactful. In other words, what they are saying is, “You don’t have to surrender. You don’t really need it.” Another said, “This is just an allegory.” We were discussing in the car, “Well, this is not an allegory.” Kurukśetra is a real place, and here we are. The real battle took place here. It’s not an allegory.
Anyways, Śrīla–Prabhupāda was invited to speak at Kurukśetra, and he was sitting there listening to these different Sādhus, saying so many things. They were speaking about peace and love, and how we should cooperate, and no one was speaking about Kṛṣṇa. Actually, before I came in contact with the Kṛṣṇa Consciousness Movement, I read a Bhagavad-Gītā that didn’t mention Kṛṣṇa or Arjuna—wow! [Laughter] Small oversight! It’s one little tiny detail.
Anyway, they were talking, and no one was speaking about Kṛṣṇa. Śrutakīrti Prabhu describes that Prabhupāda was becoming angrier and angrier. His foot was tapping, and his jaw was clenched, and at one point without any introduction he just stood up and roared. It was in Hindi, so the devotees couldn’t actually understand what exactly he was saying. But Prabhupāda was just roaring like a lion. They understood one part of what he said, “sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja”—like this. Afterward, he was asking the devotees, “Did you understand what I was saying?” and they said, “Not exactly, but we think we got the point.”
Okay, anyway, we can understand that Prabhupāda fought for Kṛṣṇa and fought to give us Kṛṣṇa’s real message. But let’s understand truly what Kṛṣṇa wanted to tell us. We are so fortunate to have Bhagavad-Gītā. We are fortunate to get pure knowledge. It’s so rare in this world to get pure spiritual knowledge, and this knowledge even becomes sweeter by the purports of Śrīla Prabhupāda. When we read Bhagavad-Gītā, we are also associating with Śrīla Prabhupāda. He said that these purports are his devotional ecstasies, so we should desire to read Bhagavad-Gītā again and again and again.
Please, please, I am begging you. Please, understand Bhagavad-Gītā. Most of the time, when we have difficulties in our life, in all honesty, it’s just because we haven’t understood the Bhagavad-Gītā. Really. Really. Anyways, Hare Kṛṣṇa!
We should read this again and again, and I will conclude. This is Śrīla Prabhupāda’s conclusion to his introduction to Bhagavad-Gītā, and he is quoting another work called Gītā–Māhātmya which glorifies the Bhagavad-Gītā. He says, “In conclusion, Bhagavad-Gītā is a transcendental literature which one should read very carefully. Gītā-śāstram idaṁ puṇyaṁ yaḥ paṭhet prayataḥ pumān. If one properly follows the instructions of Bhagavad-Gītā, one can be freed from all miseries and anxieties of life .… bhaya-śokādi-varjitaḥ [Gītā-Māhātmya 1]”
So bhaya means fear, śokā means lamentation and so on. Varjitaḥ—one becomes free from these things. Sound good? Have you heard any advertisement on TV for a product that gives this kind of claim? It’s bogus; other claims of these products are not bold enough. Understand: one will be free from all fears in this life and one’s next life will be with Kṛṣṇa.
naiva santi hi pāpāni
“If one reads Bhagavad-Gītā very sincerely and with all seriousness, then by the grace of the Lord, the reactions of his past misdeeds will not act upon him.” (Gītā-Māhātmya 2). Again we have to understand that our problem will be solved, Kṛṣṇa gave us the solution.
Then Prabhupāda quotes the, “Sarva-dharmān parityajya …” verse.
jala-snānaṁ dine dine
“One may cleanse himself daily by taking a bath in water, but if one takes a bath even once in the sacred Ganges water of Bhagavad-Gītā, for him the dirt of material life is altogether vanquished.” (Gītā-Māhātmya 3) – Jaya!
gītā su-gītā kartavyā
kim anyaiḥ śāstra-vistaraiḥ
yā svayaṁ padmanābhasya
“Because Bhagavad-Gītā is spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one need not read any other Vedic literature.” This is “kim anyaiḥ śāstra-vistaraiḥ“ that indicates, “What’s the need for any other book?”
“This one book, Bhagavad-Gītā, will suffice, because it is the essence of all Vedic literatures and especially because it is spoken by Kṛṣṇa Himself.” (Gītā-Māhātmya 4). I am skipping ahead.
“This Gītopaniṣad, Bhagavad-Gītā, the essence of all the Upaniṣads, is just like a cow, and Lord Kṛṣṇa, who is famous as a cowherd boy, is milking this cow. Arjuna is just like a calf, and learned scholars and pure devotees are to drink the nectarean milk of Bhagavad-Gītā.” (Gītā-Māhātmya 6)
This is the cow of Bhagavad-Gītā. We should repeatedly drink this wonderful milk which is milked by none other than Kṛṣṇa Himself.
He concludes, “ekaṁ śāstraṁ devakī-putra-gītam”: there should only be one scripture: the Gītā spoken by the son of Devakī and “eko devo devakī-putra eva”: there should be only one God:
īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ
anādir ādir govindaḥ
This is the one Supreme Lord—Kṛṣṇa. “eko mantras”: there should be one mantra, tasya nāmāni yāni”: His names:
“karmāpy ekaṁ tasya devasya sevā”: and there is only one work—to engage in the devotional service of Lord Kṛṣṇa.
So we are very, very, very, very, very, very, very fortunate. [Laughter] 10 times fortunate. I was just considering my birth in this world, and I don’t know how I am here chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa and at Kurukśetra. It’s inconceivable! It’s causeless mercy. We should take advantage, and we should also think, “Why we are here?” We can pray to Lord Kṛṣṇa and to Arjuna to understand deeply this message that Kṛṣṇa gave him.
This message of Bhagavad-Gītā will enter our hearts and enlighten us. Actually Śrīla Prabhupāda said, “Arjuna managed to find time to hear Bhagavad-Gītā in the middle of the battle…” Well. “…So what Arjuna’s business do we have that we can’t hear Bhagavad-Gītā?”
Jaya- Śrīla Prabhupāda ki – Jaya!
Śrī Kṛṣṇa Bhagavān ki –Jaya!
Pārtha-sārathi ki –Jaya!
Śrīmat-Bhagavad-Gītā ki Jaya!
Jaya-Jaya Śrī Rādhe…………………….….. Śyāma!