The Bhagavad Gītā is an endearing dialog (saṁvād) between two friends—the warrior prince, Arjuna, and the Lord in human form, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. So, if you want to understand the true import of the Gītā, you have to befriend Śrī Kṛṣṇa. There is no room for contention, vivād, among friends.
It is probably the only scripture in the human history where the reader is not asked to accept anything on faith. Every question is examined insightfully and diverse perspectives are presented for reflection. It offers food for thought without interfering with the intellectual appetite of the reader.
At every step, the freedom of choice of the listeners/readers is respected. After the entire teachings of the Gītā has been imparted, Śrī Kṛṣṇa tells Arjuna at the very end, ‘…now that the most profound wisdom has been shared; deeply ponder over it and do as you wish (18.63).’ Do as you wish not do as I say. Teachers open the door; we all have to enter by ourselves.
Throughout, Arjuna asks good questions (paripraśnena) and Śrī Kṛṣnạ answers them lovingly and objectively, without becoming upset or deprecating. The student has humility and respect for the teacher and the teacher has caring concern for the wellbeing of the student. This makes it a great treatise on the art and science of effective communication.
The beauty of the Gītā lies in its ability to harmonize the spiritual and the temporal, in the art and science of attaining the highest good (param śreyas) while remaining fully engaged in the everyday practical matters. This blend of the spiritual and the practical is the key to the Gītā’s universal appeal over the centuries.
The Gītā employs a very special teaching methodology. It presents the highest teachings—the “big picture”—first. Arjuna’s was confused about his duty and wanted to know ‘the right thing to do’ (śreyas). Śrī Kṛṣṇa starts the teaching with the summun bonum, highest good (param-śreyas)—the nature of the Self. Arjuna was greatly worried about the outer kingdom; Śrī Kṛṣṇa points him to the inner Kingdom—the treasure of fullness of being (puraṇattvam).
So, if you want to understand the Gītā, you have to take the stand in the highest principle of existence—the Immutable, Supreme Self.
You have to [under] stand at the same height from which the Gītā was discoursed. You have to examine your belief system in the light of the truths presented in it rather than scrutinizing its truths in the light of your pre-existing notions. You have to be mindful of the inveterate confirmation bias and premature cognitive commitment. You have to have the courage to be on the side of the truth, rather than insisting for the truth to be on your side.
This is the most important key to understanding any profound work of philosophy, including the Gītā.
~An excerpt from the author’s forthcoming book, Bhagavad Gītā and Leadership: A Catalyst for Organizational Transformation (Palgrave MacMillan, New York, NY: 2018).