Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bhagavad Gita for Christians

Last night I came home from choir practice,walked to my bookshelf, pulled out the Bhagavad Gita, and read for awhile. Why in the heck is a Christian like me drawn to this ancient holy book of the Hindu's? Simple. It's good.

I have a popular translation by Stephen Mitchell. He's translated other religious books, too, and he's very talented. I recommend it highly.

OK. What is it that I love about the Bhagavad Gita? First, the initial scene, which finds Krishna (God) educating Arjuna, the prince. Arjuna faces a terrible dilemma: how can he kill his enemies, since they too are men with homes and families? Arjuna concludes that he would rather die than fight, but Krishna convinces him that, for him, fighting the battle is the right thing come what may. It's an interesting argument that you need to read for yourself.

Secondly, the Gita defines God better than any other book. If you want to contemplate God, chapter 7 of the Gita will take you to another place of awe, adoration, and comfort. "All worlds, all beings, are strung upon me like pearls on a single thread." "Those who know me, and the nature of beings, of gods, and of worship, are always with me in spirit, even at the hour of their death."

Last, the Gita has a unique analysis of human nature. What is wisdom, what is freedom, why is selfish desire to be resisted? How does one find peace? I find the answers illuminating. "He who is pure, impartial, skilled, unworried, calm, selfless in all undertakings - that man is the one I love best." The Gita calls us to a lives of purpose and positive action, but as acts of worship rather than a striving for outcomes and pleasure.

Like other religious books including the Bible, the Gita has cultural influences that moderns see as strange. The most noticeable is the strong support for a caste society even though the Gita also sees equality in humankind. It's a paradox. Yet this one area of oddity is far overshadowed by the incredible wisdom within its pages.

Try the Gita when you have the luxury of some quiet time and you feel relaxed and contemplative. It's one more of the many ways God has tried to reach us folks - even us Christians.

4 comments:

ThomasLB said...

My favorite translation is by Ranchor Prime. He does a good job of simplifying and explaining the bits that sound strange to Western ears.

I haven't read Stephen Mitchell's translation of the Gita (yet), but I have read his translation of Gilgamesh. He's a very talented translator.

Ron Davison said...

What I still haven't read could fill libraries - and does. What little I know of the Hindu faith comes from childhood conversations with buddies (we had a large population of Sikhs in our town in northern CA) and people like Joseph Campbell.
Have you watched any of
http://meaningoflife.tv/
It's a great source for insights into religion, culture, and science. I think you'd enjoy it.

Dave said...

All of you guys, LF, Thomas and Ron are going to drag me into back into my teens and twenties, when I was fully open to inguiry and learning.

When I read you, collectively, I realizes that I'm not as open to the world as I should be.

Keep making me think. Thanks, LF.

Ron Davison said...

Dave,
in all, I suppose it's better to be drug back to your teens and twenties than to be drugged throughout the whole of your teens and twenties.