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Gita: A Timeless Guide for Our Time

A lotus flower in bloom

What is it about the Bhagavad Gita, a 700-verse Hindu Sanskrit scripture, that has captivated and inspired many of the world’s most brilliant scientists, musicians, poets, thinkers, and spiritual teachers?

The Gita is beloved by so many. John Coltrane recorded it. George Harrison sang it. Philip Glass composed it. Leonard Cohen lived it. Emerson admired it at Walden Pond. And Beethoven scribbled one of its verses in his personal diary.

Celebrities from Julia Roberts and Jim Carrey to T.S. Elliot and J.D. Salinger are familiar with its verses. The minds of Eckhart Tolle, Schrodinger, and Oppenheimer were awed by its philosophical beauty. Thoreau said that in comparison to the Gita, “our Shakespeare seems sometimes youthfully green.” And Mahatma Gandhi, one of the foremost leaders of modern times, attributed his political success to the Gita, saying that “nothing delights me so much as the music of the Gita.”

What is it about the Bhagavad Gita, a 700-verse Hindu Sanskrit scripture, that has captivated and inspired many of the world’s most brilliant scientists, musicians, poets, thinkers, and spiritual teachers?

The Gita (meaning Divine Song) has maintained its status as a revered spiritual text for over two and a half millennia. It is timeless in part because it eloquently captures the core of not only Indian philosophy, but also the spiritual essence of all religions and schools of inner development. Aldous Huxley fittingly called this common essence the “Perennial Philosophy.” The Gita is further unique in that it manages to capture and convey these deepest truths

  • through a simple, direct dialogue,
  • in a melodious, poetic form that speaks to the heart and avoids over-intellectualization, and
  • while retaining a pragmatic, down-to-earth approach. The Gita is thus relevant to living in the modern world, here and now. Across centuries, across continents, and across cultures, these unique aspects of the Gita have made it an uplifting guide to happiness, meditation, and inner growth.

Alongside the Bible and Koran, the Bhagavad Gita (dated around 500 BCE) is one of the world’s most printed and read books. Comprising merely 700 verses, in song format, it is recognized as capturing the essence of all of the voluminous scriptures of India—the Vedas, Upanishads, and Mahabarata (over 110,000 verses combined).

The Gita is a dialogue between a disciple and his master. The disciple, Indian prince Arjuna, is called to fight a defensive battle against vicious family members who aim to kill him. Shaken by this moral dilemma, Arjuna seeks the counsel of his teacher and friend, Krishna, who is also God incarnate. Set amidst this dramatic battlefield backdrop, Krishna leads the prince from his worldly starting point of despondency to a captivating, brilliantly clear account of the meaning of life, the source of suffering, and the paths to happiness and self-fulfillment. Countless musicians and artists have found inspiration in the Gita because it not only addresses life’s most profound questions, but does so in a poetic style of mesmerizing melody.

Offering powerful antidotes for the rampant materialism and unethical business practices that plague our society today, the Gita teaches us to view our journey through life as one of spiritual growth. The “trick,” according to the Gita, is to be active in the world while rooting ourselves in the knowledge that our happiness does not depend on any external achievement or gain. Our real “battle,” the Gita reminds us, is not a conflict between ourselves and external challenges, but rather an internal struggle of the soul between our higher divine nature and our lower egotistical tendencies and desires.

Though obscure to many, the Gita has had a profound effect on social and civil rights movements around the world. Nelson Mandela credits its poetic verses of wisdom with helping him to survive prison, and Gandhi considered the Gita the very center of his civil rights movement. Martin Luther King in turn was profoundly affected by Gandhi’s Gita-inspired nonviolence movement. “If we could change ourselves,” said Gandhi, “the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.” Its poetic verses gradually bring about changes in the way we view and act in the world, empowering us to do good and to be transformed in the process. The Gita teaches us that to change the world around us, we must first change the world within.

A new translation of this work is available from Isaac Bentwich. Watch the book trailer, then enter to win a copy of Gita: A Timeless Guide to Our Time. Be one of the first 500 people to register and receive a FREE eBook! Register today!

Sponsored by: Gita: A Timeless Guide for Our Time

The Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu Sanskrit scripture, has captivated and inspired many of the world’s most brilliant scientists, musicians, poets, thinkers and spiritual teachers. Gita: A Timeless Guide for Our Time is a translation for modern times that is sure to inspire you.

About the Author

Isaac Bentwich

Isaac Bentwich M.D. is a medical doctor trained in Western and Ayurvedic medicine, a longtime teacher of yoga and meditation, and...

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