ELIT2055 H1 World Literature
December 1, 2009
Examining the Underlying Complexity of the Bhagavad-Gītā
The Bhagavad-Gītā has been an influential work in the Hindu religion since its completion in the first century B.C.E. Likely written in response to the growth of both Buddhism and Jainism in this time period, the Bhagavad-Gītā displays a new light towards how the lower castes in society can ascend to higher castes. Eventually those in the lower castes can reach the grand state of nirvana (Jeste and Vahia 198). Prior to the Bhagavad-Gītā, this possibility seemed unachievable to Hindus excluded from the Brahman caste. Numerous teachings are showcased throughout the text in the advice Krishna gives to Arjuna, leading Arjuna to the correct decision concerning his dilemma over whether or not to fight his brethren. By following these lessons, individuals of the lower class can climb the Hindu social ladder, giving followers of Hinduism similar ways to achieve good karma when compared to other impeding religions of that era. Interestingly, the Bhagavad-Gītā was likely written by priests and teachers of the Brahman caste. The creation of the work cost them some of their supremacy over the religion due to the greater appreciation for those of the lower caste. However, this individual or group of individuals probably wrote the Bhagavad-Gītā to stop the dilution of the Hindu religion as well as to address essential human characteristics as the world’s first philosophers and, perhaps, psychologists. With this intent in mind, the Bhagavad-Gītā applies to the Hindu religion as well as mankind. Insightful analysis of the Bhagavad-Gītā shows that it functions more as an allegory with numerous layers as opposed to literal Hindu scripture.
The Bhagavad-Gītā describes Arjuna in such a way as to depict his position in society while demonstrating how a warrior should respond to the situation presented in the text. Additionally, Arjuna is intended to represent any man of that time period torn between his own decisions versus those expected of a higher power. Arjuna is meaningfully characterized as part of the warrior class, helping people better understand the messages portrayed throughout the text. He is troubled by an inner conflict deciding upon what to do with the battle that is about to ensue between the Kauravas and the Pandavas. This inner conflict resonates with people because it is very similar to the decision one must make regarding something immensely important in one’s life. The feeling of helplessness illustrated by Arjuna shows how a greater being must help individuals with making difficult decisions by instilling certain morals and values within them. As the story progresses, Arjuna begins to symbolize what all good men will figure out; that is, the proper way to follow Krishna and improve their karma. This idea is essential in the Hindu faith, but also describes how any individual should go about making decisions in life through appeal to a higher power. Arjuna must show evidence of his specific characteristics to create a common connection to exhibit that what is occurring in the Bhagavad-Gītā equates to what happens in real life. Without this connection, it would have been very difficult for people to adopt the new teachings in the Bhagavad-Gītā.
Reinforcing Arjuna’s character, words used throughout the Bhagavad-Gītā, such as wisdom, sage, and wise, function in the superficial context of the scripture as well as show the importance of wisdom on numerous levels. A careful examination of the text reveals numerous levels of wisdom, ranging from low, medium, and high (Jeste and Vahia 203). This advancement in wisdom not only mirrors the religious Hindu belief in progression from a lower caste to a higher caste, but also suggests that gaining wisdom can help one achieve a higher status and more success on earth. The basic goal promoted in the Bhagavad-Gītā is that...