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Bhagavad Gita Interpretation By Sri Aurobindo

Sri Aurobindo has written Essays on the Gita in English, a classic containing two series of 48 essays on various themes, developing through chapter after chapter in the Gita. These essays, which can be loosely terms as interpretation of Bhagavad Gita by Sri Aurobindo, are all at once expository, penetrative and comprehensive, bringing home to the reader the profound and close meaning of the principles and teachings of the Gia as they emerge in the colloquy between Arjuna and Bhagavan Sri Krishna.

Sri Aurobindo holds that the Gita is more a spiritual discourse than a philosophical discussion. Also the Gita is a great book of synthesis, a philosophical synthesis in which Samkhya, Yoga and Vedanta meet and unite into an integral metaphysics, and also a yogic synthesis in which all the disciplines of sadhana enter into an integral yoga. Because of the catholicity of its synthesis, the commentators of the Gita have variously interpreted it according to their preferential leanings and, in their divergence, they all agree to differ.

The peculiarity that the Gita’s vast and life-embracing spiritual teaching has emerged in the situation of war is regarded by Sri Aurobindo as especially significant in that the life of man itself represents a battlefield in which human personality in its crisis turns to the divine for help and guidance, and the divine responds by uplifting the human nature to spiritual heights of divinity.

Sri Aurobindo accepts the historicity of the Mahabharata besides the metaphorical significance of the Gita. He considers the radical crisis of Arjuna in the battlefield as necessarily relevant to the entire teaching of Sri Krishna even as he regards that crisis to be universally human, not confined to a single individual. Hence herein lies the universality of the teachings in the Bhagavad Gita.

The problem of Arjuna is social, emotional and ethical; teachings of Bhagavan Sri Krishna, however, are significantly supra-social, supra-ethical, supra mental and spiritual. This is subtly suggestive of the truth that the crises of human consciousness can find a solution by transcending into super-human consciousness. Thus, the Gita develops into a Yoga Shastra, the discipline of orienting the whole of human life towards the Supreme Divine, for realizing union with the Eternal. This yoga of the Gita, according to Sri Aurobindo, develops into a discipline of uniting with the Supreme Reality, a synthesis of the ways of action, and knowledge and love, known as karma yoga, jnana yoga and bhakti yoga.

While in almost all interpretations of the Bhagavad Gita highest importance is given to either karma yoga or jnana yoga or bhakti yoga, the other two being treated as subordinate, in Sri Aurobindo’s interpretation each one of the three is implied in the others and fulfilled by them, so that the yoga of the Gita is a synthesis, an integral, composite yoga in which all three yogas are equally important, and each one is inseparable from the others.

Another special feature of Sri Aurobindo’s interpretation is that it brings out the truth that the Gita’s yoga in its spiritual accent does not negate a life of activity in the world. On the contrary, it prescribes active participation by the yogin in the affairs of the world as offerings to the Supreme Bhagavan and hence they become divya karma (divine works).

Sri Aurobindo specifically brings home the point about the Gita’s emphasis on active life of social or humanitarian considerations based on spiritual principles so that one’s activities lead to dynamic identification with God and become a conscious expression of the identity which holds together the multiplicity of the world in its loka sangraha (divine embrace). Life is not to be renounced but to be elevated to divinity or transformed with help of divine grace.