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  • Writer's pictureJitendra Savanur

Timelessness of Krishna’s timely guidance

Krishna’s timely guidance refers to His speaking the Bhagavad Gita to enlighten a distraught and nonplussed Arjuna. Of course, there are innumerable instances in the scriptures and Puranas where Krishna’s timely guidance to His dear devotees worked wonders; however we shall stick to the Bhagavad Gita specifically in this article. Arjuna had lost all composure and was unable to decide whether to fight his own kith and kin and taint his victory with the blood of his own family members and teachers. To quell this confusion, he approached Krishna in the mood of a disciple and requested Him to enlighten him about the best course of action according to dharma. Arjuna’s reasoning for not fighting the war was quite laudable since it reflected his genuinely compassionate nature, which is very natural to a pure devotee of the Lord. Indeed, Lord Krishna’s divine instructions were there for Arjuna, just when he needed them most. And we all know the events which followed. Arjuna rose beyond his predicament and picked up his bow after hearing the Gita. He fought diligently, only to emerge victorious eventually.


Just like Arjuna, we all have been or will be faced by trying circumstances in life, where in we may not be sure about the right stance to take. For many such people, including me, the Gita wisdom came as a life transforming gift, which gave a different perspective to life altogether, providing us with the strength to face the situation. The world is replete with examples of how people received a Bhagavad Gita just at the right time in their life and how by reading it, they took to the process of bhakti yoga, thereby transforming their lives by setting foot on their journey to life’s perfection.


Gita’s timelessness


However, Gita’s timely guidance is just one aspect of it. The fact that it has and will continue to provide timely guidance to anyone at any place or time points to a very interesting fact. Gita’s timelessness. Although it was spoken to Arjuna in Dvapara Yuga at the battlefield of Kurukshetra, it is and will continue to be relevant for all time to come, otherwise it may not have intrigued the scholarly minds and devout spiritualists today, who have spent years of study to understand the Gita. The principles of Gita are thus timeless, although specific applications of those principles may vary according to time, place and circumstance and how to apply those principles is taught to us by the expert saints or acharyas belonging to that particular era, who come in the unbroken succession of saintly teachers. It is indeed a challenge for these saints, since there is always a scope for misinterpretation of the Gita by unscrupulous men to fit their own agendas.


Also, the battlefield setting of the Gita is very significant. The trying situations which we face in life are nowhere comparable to the sheer magnitude and impact of the situation faced by Arjuna. He was in a battlefield, with the opposing army arrayed before him, ready to fight. It was like a do or die situation for him. Thus, if Arjuna, in such a pressing circumstance, can take to the process of yoga, it leaves little or no scope for us to attribute our life’s circumstances to avoid taking to this process. When I started practicing bhakti by staying with devotees, many of my relatives told me that graduating with good grades and settling in life is much more important for me than going after God, that once I’m nicely settled in life, I can think of doing some spiritual things. But if we have to follow the Gita in its true spirit, then the urgency implied by it has to be taken into consideration too. When Srila Prabhupada, who was then known as Abhay Charan De was told by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati to spread the teachings of Lord Chaitanya to the western world, Abhay argued that it made sense for India to first become independent and then the message of Mahaprabhu can be spread, otherwise who would listen to India, which was under the British reign. To that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta said, “Krishna consciousness cannot wait.  There are always ups and downs in the material world, but Krishna consciousness cannot wait.” Thus, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati pointed to the timelessness and urgency of Krishna Consciousness. The message of Krishna is independent of the independence or dependence of India on the British.


Understanding the Gita's timeslessness


Let us see some points which indicate the timelessness of the Bhagavad Gita.

Krishna Himself talks about the Gita’s timelessness when he tells Arjuna in the first verse of the fourth chapter, imaṁ vivasvate yogaṁ, proktavān aham avyayam, vivasvān manave prāha, manur ikṣvākave 'bravīt (The Personality of Godhead, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvān, and Vivasvān instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikṣvāku.) So if Arjuna is being given the same knowledge which was given to Vivasvan millions of years ago, indeed it is timeless. Also, Krishna is referring to this knowledge as ‘imperishable’, which again indicates its timelessness. The next verse further strengthens this stand, evaṁ paramparā-prāptam, imaṁ rājarṣayo viduḥ, sa kāleneha mahatā, yogo naṣṭaḥ parantapa (This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.) This verse also reflects the importance of a living tradition, which provides the seeker a culture where he can practice and grow in bhakti in an organic way.

Another verse which is very eye-opening is,


mātrā-sparśās tu kaunteya,

śītoṣṇa-sukha-duḥkha-dāḥ,

āgamāpāyino 'nityās,

tāṁs titikṣasva bhārata (BG 2.14)


which translates as, “O son of Kuntī, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” Given the kind of ravenous enjoyment in the form of intoxication, illicit activities etc. which not only take a toll on the individual, but also people around him, on one hand, and the extreme forms of lamentation, of which suicide is the pinnacle, on the other, the importance of not getting carried away too much by the situations external to us, be they good or bad, is gaining quite some momentum in today’s fast-paced world.


It is very interesting to note that Krishna talks about the way to understand Gita in the Gita itself, in the verse, tad viddhi praṇipātena, paripraśnena sevayā (BG 4.34), which translates as ‘Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.’ This principle holds true in any walk of life, be it music, be it arts, or engineering etc. Unless we approach someone who is already in knowledge about these fields, it is very tough, almost impossible to understand the nuances of the field of study and to gain sufficient mastery over it.


The timelessness of Gita is further proved, when we observe the lives of people who lived by it. One such example, in the modern times, was that of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, also known as Kedarnath Dutt, who was a district magistrate in the late 1800s. He exemplified sincerity both in his spiritual life and his occupational duties. He was so good at being the magistrate, that the British promptly rejected his resignation, when he wanted to dedicate his life for his spiritual mission. They built a railway track from his house to the courts where he served, especially meant for his commute. In the realm of spirituality, the whole Gaudiya Vaishnava community is grateful to him for his great contribution of revealing to us the actual place of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s divine birth in this world. It was Srila BhaktiVinoda Thakur, by whose tireless endeavors, the first book about Lord Chaitanya, ‘Sri Chaitanya: His life and Precepts’, reached the western world. And needless to say, his songs and poems are literary and devotional masterpieces, relished and revered by the entire Gaudiya Vaishnava community. Indeed, he exemplified the Gita, where Krishna recommends a perfect balance between one’s occupational duty and one’s constitutional duty.


The conclusion


From these and many more examples, the timelessness of the Gita and scriptures as a whole becomes quite evident. We owe a great deal to the saintly teachers, one of whom was Srila Prabhupada, for making this message intelligible to us. This acts as a much needed push for us all to take to the life-transforming words of the Gita. Thus, by assimilating the its timelessly timely guidance, we can uplift ourselves and march swiftly towards life’s perfection. Rightly so, the Gita ends with the following verse by Sanjaya, which holds true, timelessly:


yatra yogeśvaraḥ kṛṣṇo

yatra pārtho dhanur-dharaḥ

tatra śrīr vijayo bhūtir

dhruvā nītir matir mama


Wherever there is Kṛṣṇa, the master of all mystics, and wherever there is Arjuna, the supreme archer, there will also certainly be opulence, victory, extraordinary power, and morality. That is my opinion. (BG 18.78)

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