The Book that has Influenced Me Most:
Bhagavad Gita is the book that has influenced me most. It has changed my life as it has changed the life of millions of people of all religions and in all countries. Mr Nehru once remarked that the three greatest influences in his life were the Gita, Gandhi and Buddha. I first read Gita in the English translation of Sir Edwin Arnold, called The Song Celestial. Later, I read Gandhiji’s simple translation of the Gita.
Gandhiji was a devout follower of the Gita. He called Gita ‘my mother’. At another place, he called it a ‘mine of diamonds’. Gandhiji said, “Today the Gita is not only my Bible or my Quran, it is more than that- it is my mother. I lost my earthly mother who gave me birth long ago, but this eternal mother (Gita) has completely filled her place by my side ever since. She has never changed, she has never failed me. When I am in difficulty or distress, I seek refuge in her bosom”.
The immortal message of the Gita was given by Lord Krishna to Arjuna, at the battlefield of Kurushetra (in Haryana). The armies of the Kauravas and Pandavas stood facing each other on the battlefield. Arjuna was the leader of the Pandavas; Lord Krishna was his charioteer. Arjuna was torn by doubts. As a warrior, his duty was to fight. But the Kauravas were his own kith and kin. Should he kill his own relatives and friends? Lord Krishna gave him the inspiring message of action; play up, play up, play up the game. Do your duty, never mind the result.
The central teaching of the Gita is action, full-blooded action, but desireless action. One must do the right action, but one should not bother about the result. Leave the fruit of your action. Take the case of a student. His business is to do his duty and work very hard. But he should not bother what the result in the examination would be. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Again, let no one consider renunciation (leaving the fruit) to mean want of fruit for the renouncer”. Renunciation means the absence of hankering after fruit. As a matter of fact, he who renounces reaps a thousand-fold. He who is ever brooding (thinking) over the result often loses nerve in the performance of duty.
Gita is the gospel of action. He who gives up action falls; he who only renounces the fruit rises. Some people preached Sanyasa. The Sanyasi rejects the world and goes to the jungles in search of God. The Gita does not teach us to turn a Sadhu or run away from the world. The ideal of Gita is a man who lives in the world, who does all actions of Dharma, but who does not bother what the result or the fruit would be. The preaching of Giat is: To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield. Service of the people and doing one’s duty are the best prayer to God. Gita is a book of practical religion; it has given solace to untold millions.
Also, Gita lays great stress on the immortality of the soul. Arjuna was hesitating to kill his enemies on the battlefield. Krishna told him, “The soul never dies”. Only the body dies. The soul is birthless and deathless. We all lived in the last birth; we are living now, and we shall be living in the next life. Thus the circle of life and death goes on. Death is meaningless. The soul changes the body, just as a man changes his clothes. Changing one’s clothes is no misfortune, and so change from one birth to another is no cause for worry. When one kills another, no one kills and no one is killed.
Arjuna asked Krishna to show him the divine form or the shape of God. “Who is God?” asked Arjuna. Krishna replied, “I”; meaning thereby that man is cast in the image of God. Lord Krishna showed him his godly shape: that Infinite shape had thousands of heads, hearts, arms, feet and hands. The meaning is that the masses, who have thousands of heads, hearts, hands, etc. are the image of God. The service of the masses is the worship of God.
Gita is a part of the great Hindu epic, Mahabharata. It contains a lakh of verses. The land of Kurushetra is hallowed by the feet of Krishna, by the chariot of Arjuna and by the immortal message of the Gita. Millions of religious-minded people flock to Kurushetra, particularly on the occasion of the solar eclipse. At the place where once Lord Krishna gave his message, a new Sanskrit University is rising.
Gita is the pride of India. It enables the world to discover its soul. Gandhiji writes thus about his first acquaintance with the Gita: “I devoured the contents from cover to cover. The last 19 verses of the second chapter have since been inscribed on the tablet of my heart. They contain for me all knowledge”. India is the spiritual leader of the world and Gita is the leading-most spiritual book of India. Like a light-house, it has shown the way to thousands of ships of life wandering on the dark sea of this world.