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Don't fantasise, just listen || (2020)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
7 min
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Questioner: I’m reading the Bhagavad Gita for the first time. I know people who have read the Bhagavad Gita multiple times, yet they continue being the same. And if one goes to them, they have their own interpretations of the Gita. They tell me that the five Pandavas stand for this, the battlefield stands for that, and then they keep telling me of all the symbolic meanings.

Do such interpretations have any value? Is there anything apart from Shri Krishna-Arjuna Saṃvad which is important in the Gita? I want to know the right way of understanding and relating the Gita to my life. Please suggest what should be one's attitude towards the verses. How do I get the most out of this scripture?

Acharya Prashant: When Krishna is there to tell you things directly, why are you bringing in your own hyper-intelligent interpretations? You want to exceed Krishna or what? You are trying to see that in Krishna’s words which even he did not see. You are trying to fill the verses with a great meaning that the verses themselves would be surprised to hear.

Somebody says, "The five Pandavas stand for five senses." Right. Great. Just because Bheem is so nosy, you turned him into a nose! Somebody says, “You know what, the battle never took place; it is all symbolic!” And why does the fellow say this? Because this bugger is afraid to fight. This bugger has some fabulous concept of non-violence, and to defend that concept he says, “You see, Krishna could have never supported bloodshed.” His concept of non-violence says, "Violence is about shedding blood, and non-violence is about not bruising somebody’s body, that is non-violence. Don’t do this to the other, this is non-violence."

So, if you show the Gita to him, he says, “Oh! you didn’t get it! The battle never really happened! Krishna is the Heart, Arjuna is the eye.” There are so many other parts of the body. You can keep picking unfortunate warriors and allot them to all kinds of body parts and get handsome revenge in the process. That’s the best way to defame somebody, equate him to a particular body part.

If that were the case, why won’t Krishna put it like that in a very straightforward way? Why won’t it be disclosed to you right away? Why must there be a need for thick and heavy symbolism?

Don’t remember whether it was Freud or Jung, but, you know, that was the time when psychoanalysis was really hot and new, and everything was seen in a symbolic way; it was becoming quite a fad. So, this is that, this is that, and you know, you have dreams and every bit of the dream is to be interpreted as containing the secrets of the subconscious, and the electric pole is a phallic symbol—"So, there is a pole in front of my house. It tells that you are addicted to the phallus. Otherwise, why would you see a pole in front of your house?"

So, some gentleman or lady comes to, I think it was Freud, and says, “You know, in my dreams, I was smoking a cigar. What does that mean?” Might have been a lady, would have expected that Freud would tell her that “Lady, you desperately need that which the cigar represents”, and then Freud said, “Baby, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

Similarly, a man is just a man, not a nose. Sometimes five Pandavas mean five Pandavas, not five senses. Sometimes Duryodhana and Dushashana are just people, not just fictitious symbols of something else.

When you have Krishna present to guide you through the Gita, all you need to do is to follow him. Don’t let your little brain go berserk. Don’t inject all kinds of fantastic meanings into the Gita. Remember that Krishna is already there. Have some respect. Let him tell you what he means. Don’t imagine, don’t speculate. He is there to clarify. Why are you coming up with all kinds of guesswork?

If everything is symbolic, why won’t Krishna tell you of the symbols? Why would he hide stuff from you? Or does he have some kind of a hidden agenda? Is he there to clarify, or conceal? He is there to reveal, not conceal, correct? And if his intention is to teach, then he’ll try to keep his teaching as simple, clear and straightforward, as possible. Is that not obvious? Or is he an ancient sadist who likes tormenting people with intricate and esoteric puzzles? — "So 700 verses of the Gita and each of them is a puzzle." No.

The Gita is not a puzzle to be solved. The Gita is a song to be loved. The Gita is an instruction to be followed. The Gita is a lesson to be learnt. The Gita is clarity to be had.

Don’t unnecessarily bring in complexities where there are none; as if we are already short of complexities. You have enough complexities already, don’t needlessly add to them.

Then, you have asked in your question, “What’s the right way to read the Bhagavad Gita?”

That’s the right way. Simply pay attention to Krishna. Isn’t that a great respect to the master, the eternal lover, Krishna — just to pay attention to him, attend to what he is saying? Don’t bring yourself in between. Don’t bring your personal subjective interpretations in between. And man has done a lot of injustice to Gita and other scriptures as well; all kinds of interpretations exist. On the Gita itself, at least a dozen different established commentaries exist, each of them trying to interpret Gita in their own personal way.

So, somebody is an ardent follower of Bhakti ; he decides to translate even the word ‘ buddhi ’ as ‘devotion’. If you look at some of the very popular commentaries on the Gita in circulation today, that’s the kind of evil injustice you will find being done. In the verse, you will find Krishna saying ‘ buddhi ’, and the commentator has translated it as ‘devotion’. Why? Because the person or the organization who is doing this massacre believes in the path of devotion. So, to show their own path as supreme, they are prepared to violate even Krishna. They are saying, “We are bigger than even Krishna; we will distort the words of even Krishna”, and they call themselves as Krishna devotees.

The ego cannot bow down in front of anybody. Even the devotee's ego will say, “I’m bigger than Krishna, so I will decide what the words of Krishna mean.” Don’t let that happen to you.

If you want to listen to yourself, then you don’t need the Gita. And when you go to Krishna, listen to Krishna, not to yourself.

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