History and Story Behind the Bhagavad Gita Part 1

About the religious book the Bhagavad Gita, history of the famous holy book of the Hindu religion.

STORIES BEHIND THE HOLY BOOKS OF THE WORLD

THE BHAGAVAD GITA

Religion: Hinduism.

Publication Date: c. 200 B.C.

How Written: The Bhagavad Gita was probably written by the sage Vyasa, whose name is mentioned in the Gita ("Song"), as an inspired, devotional work rather than as a strictly philosophical treatise. However, it does serve to expound the precepts of yoga, which distinguish the new Hindu way from either the old Vedic rituals (which were largely limited to the wealthy because of the nature of the sacrifices and other elaborate rites) or Buddhism (which advocates complete renunciation of the world in contrast to the Gita's calling for action without ego involvement). To this day the Bhagavad Gita is the most popularly read Hindu work, especially outside of India; and attests to the power of the new religion as it came into being.

The Gita is actually part of a larger body of writings, just as the Gospels are only part of the Bible. In the case of the Gita, the larger work is the Mahabharata. It describes a battle between two factions of the Kuru tribe for the throne. The blind King Dhritarashtra is told the story of the battle by his counselor Sanjaya, who is granted psychic vision and hearing for the purpose of narrating the details of the faraway battlefield where the Pandavas (headed by Prince Arjuna) and the Kauravas (headed by Duryodhana) meet. The Lord Krishna (Bhagavad means Lord), acting as Arjuna's charioteer, oversees Arjuna's duty and gives him the full teaching about action without attachment, knowledge of the truth, and devotion to the Higher Self, in the personage of Krishna in this case. This battle is considered to be a metaphor for the battlefield within each person's being and the need for understanding and compassion as weapons against those qualities which do not bring us to the Ultimate Reality. However, the battle is also considered to be a historic event, possibly dated around 3100 B.C. Some scholars say that the Gita was written immediately after the battle, though most disagree. It is more likely that the cult of Krishna came into being around that time and that the Gita as a literary work did not arise until the models for it--the hymns of the Rig Veda and the treatises of the Upanishads--had already preceded it by many centuries.

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