THE BHAGAVAD GITA
Excerpts from God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita
by Paramahansa Yogananda
The Battle of Life
"On the holy plain of Kurukshetra (dharmakshetra kurukshetra), when my offspring and the sons of Pandu had gathered together, eager for battle, what did they, O Sanjaya?"
— The Bhagavad Gita I:1
The blind king Dhritarashtra (the blind mind) enquired through the honest Sanjaya (impartial introspection): "When my offspring, the Kurus (the wicked impulsive mental and sense tendencies), and the sons of the virtuous Pandu (the pure discriminative tendencies) gathered together on the dharmakshetra (holy plain) of Kurukshetra (the bodily field of activity), eager to do battle for supremacy what was the outcome?"
Sanjaya means, literally, completely victorious; "one who has conquered himself." He alone who is not self-centered has the ability to see clearly and to be impartial. Thus, in the Gita, Sanjaya is divine insight; for the aspiring devotee, Sanjaya represents the power of impartial intuitive self-analysis, discerning introspection. It is the ability to stand aside, observe oneself without any prejudice, and judge accurately. Thoughts may be present without one's conscious awareness. Introspection is that power of intuition by which the consciousness can watch its thoughts. It does not reason, it feels—not with biased emotion, but with clear, calm intuition.
This is an important point. The timeless message of the Bhagavad Gita does not refer only to one historical battle, but to the cosmic conflict between good and evil: life as a series of battles between Spirit and matter, soul and body, life and death, knowledge and ignorance, health and disease, changelessness and transitoriness, self-control and temptations, discrimination and the blind sense-mind. The past tense of the verb in the first stanza is therefore employed by Vyasa to indicate that the power of one's introspection is being invoked to review the conflicts of the day in one's mind in order to determine the favorable or unfavorable outcome.
From the moment of conception to the surrender of the last breath, man has to fight in each incarnation innumerable battles— biological, hereditary, bacteriological, physiological, climatic, social ethical, political, sociological, psychological, metaphysical—so many varieties of inner and outer conflicts. Competing for victory in even encounter are the forces of good and evil. The whole intent of the Gita; is to align man's efforts on the side of dharma, or righteousness. The ultimate aim is Self-realization, the realization of man's true Self, the soul, as made in the image of God, one with the ever-existing, ever conscious, ever-new bliss of Spirit.
The first contest of the soul in each incarnation is with other soul seeking rebirth. With the union of sperm and ovum to begin the formation of a new human body, a flash of light appears in the astral world, the heavenly home of souls between incarnations. That light transmits a pattern which attracts a soul according to that soul' karma—the self-created influences from actions of past lives. In each incarnation, karma works itself out partly through hereditary forces the soul of a child is attracted into a family in which heredity is in conformance with the child's past karma. (p.4-9)
The Gita therefore points out in its very first stanza the primary necessity to man of nightly introspection, that he may clearly discern which forces — the good or the evil — has won the daily battle.
The vastness of the import of the first stanza of the Bhagavad Gita is glimpsed when we thus see how it is to be applied in practical experience.
God, through Krishna, or the soul, talks to Arjuna, the devotee: "O Arjuna, each night ask your impartial introspection (Sanjaya) to reveal to your blind mind (Dhritarashtra): 'The impulsive mental and sense tendencies, and the self-disciplined offspring of the soul's discrimination, assembled on the bodily field of sensory activities and spiritual activities, eager for psychological battle, what did they do?' Tell all My future devotees to keep each night, like you, a mental vigil-diary in order to assess their daily inner battles, and thereby to better resist the forces of their blind mental impulses and to support the soldiers of discerning wisdom." (p.48)
Each worldly person, moralist, spiritual aspirant, and yogi—like a devotee — should every night before retiring ask his intuition whether his spiritual faculties or his physical inclinations of temptation won the day's battles between
good and bad habits;
temperance and greed;
between self-control and lust;
honest desire for necessary money and inordinate craving for gold;
forgiveness and anger;
joy and grief;
moroseness and pleasantness;
kindness and cruelty;
selfishness and unselfishness;
understanding and jealousy;
bravery and cowardice;
confidence and fear;
faith and doubt;
humbleness and pride;
desire to commune with God in meditation and the restless urge for worldly activities;
spiritual and material desires;
divine ecstasy and sensory perceptions;
soul consciousness and egoity.