Still, to this day, the Bhagavad-Gita is one of the most influential yoga texts in the world. Marking a key point in the evolution of yoga, the Bhagavad-Gita simply presents life from a practical viewpoint. In addition to explaining each individuals place in the world and the meaning of life, the text focuses on how to develop yourself spiritually; this property is thought to have led many great thinkers such as Mahatma Gandhi, Henry David Thoreau, and Nicola Tesla to be influenced by the historic text.
The Bhagavad-Gita, or the Gita as it’s often referred to, is one of the most treasured spiritual texts in the whole of India. Though alone it comprises of 700 verses, the Gita was written to form part of the magnificent text known as the Mahabharata. Simply put, the Gita is believed to be a record of a conversation between Prince Arjuna and his friend Sri Krishna. Set around the time of a great war, the text begins with the prince asking Krishna for guidance. At the back of Arjuna’s mind, he knows that if he chooses to partake in the battle then friends and family will ultimately be lost, which results in him being faced with a crisis between his personal life and his ethics and a leader. The conversation between him and Krishna leads on to them talking about the nature of the soul, each individuals meaning in life, and the path of yoga.
While we know that the Bhagavad Gita was composed around 400 BCE, it still remains unclear who actually wrote the renowned text. Traditionally, though, the credit seems to go to a man called Vyasa, who is thought to be more of a spiritual legend rather than a historical figure. Though the Gita today is part of the texts included in the Mahabharata, it was thought to be originally written as an independent document. The nature of the story is unlike the rest of the texts included in the collection, which all have the same characteristics.
Composed during a time of social change in India, the Gita is believed to reflect the increased urbanisation, higher trade activity and a varsity of social conflict. Focusing mainly on one’s place in ever-changing society, the historical text is thought encourage thoughts and actions of serenity, calmness and how to integrate important social and spiritual values into the modern life. While the Gita is highly spiritual, it has the ability to be interpreted on many different levels including moral, spiritual, and practical; hence why it is still so well-loved to this day, even in the West.
Still popular today, the Gita promotes and discusses the original yoga practice. Many yogis feel that flicking through the Gita enables them to connect on a deeper level with the meaning behind the art, and honour yoga gurus of the past by practising the craft correctly. The Gita encourages individuals to live a life of serenity and inner peace, without instructing them to turn into a glorified hermit; unlike many of the other sacred texts containing the teachings of yoga. The Gita informs us that this is not necessary, and one’s inner happiness is the most important thing; advising us that that the quickest path to reaching the divine is by practising Karma-Yoga. After establishing a basic knowledge in Karma Yoga, one can move onto concentrating on meditation, which Krishna believes will help on to develop into a better person. One of the many reasons that the Gita is so highly praised today, is how easy it is to integrate the teachings into everyday life, without having to devote your entire existence to the spiritual beliefs. Focusing heavily on yogic philosophies such as karma, reincarnation, Maya and moksha, the Gita advises us how to apply these philosophies into normal life, leading us onto the right path to attain eternal happiness.
Although all this makes a good point, why exactly is the Bhagavad-Gita so popular still in yoga today? The word yoga actually translates to ‘linking with god’, which implies that the traditional practice of yoga should involve some kind of spiritual element. In the third chapter of the Gita, Krishna explains two different forms of spirituality that one can link with yoga. These are referred to as the active life and the contemplative one.
In the time that the Gita was written, many spiritualists believed that a life of spirituality could only be attained by losing the burden of one’s active life. In correspondence to this belief, the Gita was intended to inform society that this is in fact, not the case. In the text, Krishna teaches the prince that it is not so much about ridding yourself of active life but adapting your actions in order to be able to combine the two. Practicing yoga with a contemplative approach can be more difficult than practising with an active one, as it is much harder to detach yourself from everyday objects and allow the mind to fully focus. Over the years, this anecdote has taught people that although contemplative life is necessary, active life boasts practicality and helps one to succeed in the ever-changing world; ultimately blessing one with a lifetime of longevity and happiness. Simply put, the Bhagavad-Gita is still popular within the practice of yoga today due to the connections it boasts with our spiritual ancestors. Including teachings from the ancient text in classes ensures that a connection with God is remained, and is thought to help students connect with the practice on a deeper level both spiritually and physically.
Whether you choose to devote your entire lifestyle to the ancient beliefs behind the practice of yoga, or you just enjoy putting on your yoga gear in your spare time to encourage inner-peace, there is no doubt that the Bhagavad-Gita holds some interesting points about the meaning of life, death and everything in between.
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