But from my own reading of it, it seems to brim with wisdom and encouragement for the truth seeker. Aside from a few dodgy verses, which are easy enough to identify, the whole thing is truly an excellent work. Anyway, I thought I would post a few of the highlights, for discussion, and also for anyone who hasnt read it to get a flavour.
The Bhagavad Gita is part of the Mahabharata, one of the two major epics of Indian literature. The Mahabharata is the story of a civil war, in the middle of which is a huge battle.
At the start of this battle, one of the generals (Arjuna), asks his charioteer (Krishna) to take them out between the two armies, and they proceed to have a philosopical discussion. This discussion is the Bhagavad Gita.
In familiar format, Arjuna takes the role of Questioner (Student etc.), and Krishna takes that of Answerer (Master etc.), and they proceed to discuss various issues, starting with the nature of action/non action. This issue is first because (this being a civil war) Arjuna knows people on both sides of the battlefield, and he doesnt want them to die.
He loves both sides equally (basically the same as the "love everything equally" problem), so he cannot choose. Arjuna feels so strongly about it, he says he would rather just let himself be killed, because then at least he knows he hasnt done anything wrong. But Krishna seems happy to get lofty...
"Thy tears are for those beyond tears, and are thy words words of wisdom? The wise grieve not for those who live; and they grieve not for those who die - for life and death shall pass away." Ch2.11
"If any man thinks he slays, and if another thinks he is slain, neither knows the ways of truth. The eternal in man cannot kill: the eternal in man cannot die.
He is never born, and he never dies. He is in Eternity: he is for evermore. Never-born and eternal, beyond times gone or to come, he does not die when the body dies." Ch2.19-20
"For all things born in truth must die, and out of death in truth comes life. Face to face with what must be, cease thou from sorrow." Ch2.27
"Not by refraining from action does man attain freedom from action. Not by mere renunciation does he attain supreme perfection.
For not even for a moment can a man be without action. Helplessly are all driven to action by the forces born of Nature." Ch3.4-5<hr>
"There is a war that opens the doors of heaven, Arjuna! Happy the warriors whose fate is to fight such war.
But to forgo this fight for righteousness is to forgo thy duty and honour: is to fall into transgression."Ch2 32-33
"In death thy glory in heaven, in victory thy glory on earth. Arise therefore, Arjuna, with thy soul ready to fight.
Prepare for war with peace in thy soul. Be in peace in pleasure and pain, in gain and in loss, in victory or in the loss of a battle. In this peace there is no sin.
This is the wisdom of Sankhya - the vision of the Eternal." Ch2.37-39<hr>
"No step is lost on this path, and no dangers are found. And even a little progress is freedom from fear.
The follower of this path has one thought, and this is the End of his determination. But many branched and endless are the thoughts of the man who lacks determination." Ch2.40-41
"The three Gunas of Nature are the world of the Vedas. Arise beyond the three Gunas, Arjuna! Be in Truth eternal, beyond earthly opposites. Beyond gains and possessions, possess thine own soul." Ch2.45
"When thy mind leaves behind its dark forest of delusion, thou shalt go beyond the scriptures of times past and still to come.
When thy mind, that may be wavering in the contradictions of many scriptures, shall rest unshaken in divine contemplation, then the goal of Yoga is thine." Ch2.52-53
"And do thy duty, even if it be humble, rather than another's, even if it be great. To die in one's duty is life: to life in another's is death." Ch3.35<hr>
"Desire has found a place in man's senses and mind and reason. Through these it blinds the soul, after having over-clouded wisdom.
Set thou, therefore, thy senses in harmony, and then slay thou sinful desire, the destroyer of vision and wisdom.
They say the power of the senses is great. But greater than the senses is the mind. Greater than the mind is Buddhi, reason, and greater than reason is He - the Spirit in man and in all.
Know Him therefore who is above reason, and let his peace give thee peace. Be a warrior and kill desire, the powerful enemy of the soul." Ch3.40-43<hr>
"(But) He who has no faith and no wisdom, and whose soul is in doubt, is lost. For neither this world, nor the world to come, nor joy is ever for the man who doubts.
He who makes pure his works by Yoga, who watches over his soul, and who by wisdom destroys his doubts, is free from the bondage of selfish work.
Kill therefore with the sword of wisdom the doubt born of ignorance that lies in thy heart. Be one in self harmony, in Yoga, and arise, great warrior, arise." Ch4.40-42<hr>
I will end up posting pretty much the whole book if I carry on, so I'll leave it there. But I thought I would post a couple of the dodgy verses, as these seem to be the only ones that could perhaps give the impression that effort is not required. I found these verses to be so easily misinterpretable as to be pretty worthless, if not plain wrong.
"As the Spirit of our mortal body wanders on in childhood, and youth and old age, the Spirit wanders on to a new body: of this the sage has no doubts." Ch2.13
"As a man leaves an old garment and puts on one that is new, the Spirit leaves is mortal body and then puts on one that is new." Ch2.11<hr>
These verses are clearly supporting literal reincarnation of the soul (Spirit), which I've always thought there was no real evidence for, or even reason for (though if it were true, it wouldnt really make any difference to me). But an unpleasant side effect of the belief in literal reincarnation is the idea that the seeker can just do a little bit this lifetime (usually enough for the cessation of their major sufferings), because their soul will get there eventually.
This seems (to me at least) to be the only way in which the Bhagavad Gita could let people "off the hook" of seeking truth, and there are probably only 5 or 6 verses like this in the whole thing. Overall, I really did think it was an excellent book, and I wonder how Rhett (and presumably other people) have got such a negative opinion of it. Perhaps you are judging it by its effects, which is fair enough, but people can ignore the most glaring truth if they just dont want to hear it.