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Why Study the Bhagavad Gita?
kim anyaih sastra-vistaraih
Praising the Bhagavad-gita, this verse says that the Gita has to be studied well, gita-sugita kartavya; what will you
gain by studying other books in detail, kim anyaih sastra-vistaraih? This verse presents the Gita as a book to be
studied, a book containing everything that one has to know through the scriptures [Vedas]. It doesn't belittle the
efficacy or the necessity of studying other scriptural books; it only points out that the study of the Gita amounts to
the study of other scriptures.
The source books of the spiritual wisdom [of India] are the four Vedas: rig-veda, yajur-veda, sama-veda, and
atharva-veda. The Vedas are fulfilled in the last portion called Vedanta or Upanishads. Another famous Sanskrit
verse likens these Upanishads to a cow and the Gita becomes the cow's milk: sarvopanisadogavah, dogdha
gopala-nandanah partho vatsah sudhibhokta dughdham gitamrtam mahat. The Gita, the milk, is milked by Lord
Krishna himself, who is presented as an avatar of the Lord in the Mahabharata and in the Bhagavata. He is the one
who is teaching the Gita to Arjuna. Arjuna serves as the calf to whom the milk, the message of the Gita, is given.
What Constitutes a Scripture?
A scripture is something that has a message with a lasting, universal value. What is relevant now, may not be
relevant later; nor may it have been relevant before. A scripture's message should be relevant to me as an
individual and to you; it should be relevant to anyone at any time and place. Only when a message addresses
certain problems that are always there for a human deing does it have lasting relevance. Because the Vedas and
the Gita have that kind of a message, they are a scripture.
The Gita Contains Two Main Topics
The Gita is recognized and highly respected by the scholars and the devoted lay public in India because of its two
main topics: yoga-sastra and brahma-vidya. Together they form the body of knowledge which is very important
for every individual.
The knowledge meant to make a person mature as an individual is called yoga-sastra. A mature individual is
one who is free from conflicts, fear, agitation, guilt, and hurt.
Brahma-vidya is knowledge of the whole, the knowledge that liberates a person. A person who has become
mature by yoga has something more to accomplish - total freedom, generally called moksha. To know
Brahman is to know the truth of oneself as the whole, as complete. The discovery of this fact frees you from
all sense of limitation and isolation.
So the first message of the Gita, yoga-sastra, helps you to gain maturity as a person, as an individual. It
helps one to become relatively composed, tranquil, alert and free - in short, a cheerful person. You are then
fit to gain brahma-vidya, knowledge that you are the whole, knowledge that frees you from the notion of
being a small, limited, mortal being. These two topics of the Gita, which form the very essence of all four
Vedas, make the Gita a scripture with a message that is relevant for everyone.