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Sri Aurobindo and the Bhagavad Gita

{written by : Santosh Krinsky}

Article word count : 1006 -- Article Id : 1186
Article active date : 2008-11-29 -- Article views : 7610

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Article is about :
The Bhagavad Gita is one of the premier spiritual scriptures of the world, stemming from the great Hindu tradition. Sri Aurobindo's commentary on this great text is widely recognized for its clarity and power. It is a tremendous help for spiritual seekers of all traditions.

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“Sri Aurobindo considers the message of the Gita to be the basis of the great spiritual movement which has led and will lead humanity more and more to its liberation, that is to say, to its escape from falsehood and ignorance, towards the truth.” Thus has the Mother described Sri Aurobindo’s relationship to the Bhagavad Gita.

Sri Aurobindo assigned a key role to the spiritual synthesis developed by the Gita as a guidebook for sadhana and spiritual development. He considered the Gita to be important, not so much for its philosophical, scholastic or academic values, however great they might be, but for the help it provides for humanity to achieve perfection and spiritual welfare.

Clearly Sri Aurobindo saw the action of the Bhagavad Gita to extend far beyond the role it plays in Hinduism. He felt that it transcended its status as a scripture of Hinduism in its practical value for all spiritual seekers, regardless of their particular religious background or path.

It is the practical application of the Bhagavad Gita as a textbook for spiritual development and yogic practice that clearly was the focus that Sri Aurobindo placed on this central text of the Sanatana Dharma.

Sri Aurobindo’s relationship to the Bhagavad Gita was intensified during the early years of the last century while India was in the midst of its epic struggle for independence from the British Raj. At a certain point in time, Sri Aurobindo, as one of the outspoken leaders of that independence movement was arrested and put on trial. During his time in the Alipore jail, the Gita spoke to him and his world-view was radically transformed. He began to see the enormous spiritual energy at work in the Gita and to experience the reality of the omnipresence, the oneness, of the entire manifested world. Later, at a famous speech he gave at Uttarpara after his acquittal and release, he provided his own understanding of what happened to him during his time in custody:

“I looked at the jail that secluded me from men and it was no longer by its high walls that I was imprisoned; no, it was Vasudeva who surrounded me. I walked under the branches of the tree in front of my cell but it was not the tree, I knew it was Vasudeva, it was Sri Krishna whom I saw standing there and holding over me his shade. I looked at the bars of my cell, the very grating that did duty for a door and again I saw Vasudeva. It was Narayana who was guarding and standing sentry over me. Or I lay on the coarse blankets that were given me for a couch and felt the arms of Sri Krishna around me, the arms of my Friend and Lover. This was the first use of the deeper vision He gave me. I looked at the prisoners in the jail, the thieves, the murderers, the swindlers, and as I looked at them I saw Vasudeva, it was Narayana whom I found in these darkened souls and misused bodies. Amongst these thieves and dacoits there were many who put me to shame by their sympathy, their kindness, the humanity triumphant over such adverse circumstances.” (Sri Aurobindo, Uttarpara Speech)

The goal of any spiritual sadhana is to transform one’s life, the way one sees and understands life, action, cause and effect, and consequence. The Gita, by providing its teaching on a battlefield, embraces all the contradictions and struggles we face in life. By providing tools for awakening devotion, developing the mental understanding and guiding life action, the Gita provides an access point for people regardless of their individual strengths or inclinations. By cutting through rigid doctrinal approaches and emphasizing the need for a transformation in consciousness, the Gita liberates itself from being a text for Hindus alone. Rather, the Gita is a text that has practical application regardless of one’s particular religious or spiritual background.

Starting from the crucial conflict we all have to face as we go through life, the conflict of differing moral and ethical codes, the conflict of survival, and the conflict of value choices we are confronted with each and every day, the Gita finds a way to widen our viewpoint, awaken our aspiration, and illumine our action. The battlefield of Kurukshetra is really a map of the battlefield within the psyche of each one of us. The Gita calls us to embrace and transform rather to simply renounce and deny the vital action of life.

Sri Aurobindo’s Essays on the Gita (1995, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, WI, is his systematic approach to the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita. A more concise approach is provided in Bhagavad Gita and its Message (1995, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, WI, which provides the Sanskrit text, translation and relevant commentary from Essays on the Gita interwoven appropriately as footnotes to the actual text.

In modern times great philosophers and noted humanists such as Thoreau, Emerson, Schopenhauer, and of course Mahatma Gandhi and many others have noted the inspiration they received from the Gita. It is a text that, perhaps more than just about any other, provides seekers the world over with guidance and direction, and in that sense, the Gita is an able representative of the Hindu religion, in its highest and widest sense, to the world.

While there are many commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Aurobindo’s Essays on the Gita have been acknowledged for their clarity, power and spiritually dynamic energy, infused by his own practice of the yoga of the Bhagavad Gita and his formative experiences during his stay in Alipore jail during the independence struggle. This helps infuse real life energy into the Gita and helps make it accessible to all of us.

While Sri Aurobindo clearly developed his own extensive yogic path and direction, known as the Integral or Purna Yoga, the central significance and value of the Bhagavad Gita has always been a core factor in the practice of Sri Aurobindo’s yoga.

Author Bio :
Santosh Krinsky is one of the founders of the Institute for Wholistic Education ( and teaches classes on integrating spirituality into daily life with special emphasis on Sri Aurobindo's teachings (

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