Perhaps the most profound text in the canon of Hindu literature is The Bhagavad-Gita, a sacred text, which most translators call "Song of the Lord." It's a philosophical discourse between a warrior named Arjuna and the god Krishna.
The Bhagavad-Gita belongs to the sixth book of a martial epic, known as Mahabharata, and The Bhagavad-Gita stands out as the most popular narrative of the entire collection. Divided into 18 teachings, the text begins on a battlefield, where Arjuna expresses pity at the prospect of battling his kinsmen and friends. He pleads with his charioteer Krishna for insight on proper conduct; and this is where the philosophical rapport begins and the divine mentor patiently relates the secrets of equanimity.
Each teaching touches upon a topic designed to facilitate understanding. Krishna is presented as a patient and well-meaning teacher, who lists the advantages and disadvantages of following his counsel. The poetic narrative is sometimes very cryptic; a familiarity with sacred aspects of Hinduism clarifies some concepts. The book is a concoction of mythology and sagacity; and the reader is well served by a reflective reading pace. Many of the proverbial verses are as challenging as riddles. However, the simple-structured verses offer insight:
Truly free is the sage who controls
his senses, mind, and understanding,
who focuses on freedom
and dispels desire, fear and anger.
(Fifth Teaching, v. 28)
The narrative proposes the means by which perfect peace can be attained; and throughout the book, there are guidelines intended to initiate the process of equanimity. There is a meditative aura about The Bhagavad-Gita. The steps required to reach inner bliss are sometimes vague, and sometimes quite obvious. I liken the book to a well from which one can heave buckets of wisdom. However, the bygone centuries have not tainted the book's messages. The text invites a reader to reassess his or her concept of self. The impulse to understand, self, others, and the world in which we life, is readily encouraged. Also, throughout the book, knowledge is a key to comprehending the essence of being.
It is interesting to note that a large helping of The Bhagavad-Gita mirrors both Buddhist and Christian sentiments; and parallels are easily discernible.
To a Western mentality, the book may appear somewhat esoteric, but there is something of the universal to be discovered in these pages. Great minds--H.D. Thoreau, R.W. Emerson, and T.S. Eliot to name a few--have discovered in the narrative a fountain of inspiration. Every reader can benefit; and much of the advice has the power to initiate in the reader a reassessment of former ideas and ideals. The Bhagavad-Gita can nourish a portion of the searching soul.