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Updated on December 1, 2016

Gita Jayanti Celebrated December 10th

Ajuna had a conflict he was dealing with as he stood on the battlefield of Kurukshetra with Krishna. He was reluctant to fight against members of his own family. He asked profound questions concerning life and death. Krishna answered him and expounded upon the philosophy of yoga found in many other prior Hindu texts. Krishna expounded and compiled these concepts which had been lost knowledge. Today yoga is a very popular practice and philosophy in America.

The Bhagavad Gita is a section (or poem) within the larger text known as the Mahabharata which was written by Vyasa. The latest date for the Gita is June 21, 1311. A total solar eclipse occurred at this time as mentioned in the Mahabharata. The location of the battlefield was 35 degrees north latitude. The Sapta Rishis (Great Bear) was in Magha (Regulus) on the Solstice.

The Gita has greatly influenced American literature, values and political history. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Redford, T.S. Eliot, Sunita Williams, President Obama and Philip Glas are just some of the well known Americans who were influenced by the Gita. It has 700 verses and has been translated into 80 languages. Its philosophy is very practical and down-to-earth in its approach to spirituality.

Henry David Thoreau, author of Walden, was greatly influenced by the Gita. He lived at Walden Pond for two years. In 1845 he wrote in his diary, "I owed--my friend and I owed--a magnificent day to the Bhagavad Gita." It was the first of books; it was as if an empire spoke to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us." Thoreau protested the Spanish Civil War by spending a night in jail for refusing to pay the war tax. Finally one of his friends bailed him out of jail by paying the tax. He and Emerson were called Transcendentalists. In Thoreau's writings he criticized rationalism and materialism of the 18th century America. He equated Walden Pond with the "sacred water of the Ganges." Thoreau liked the section of the Gita in which Krishna says to Arjuna that is better to act. Inaction was not encouraged by Krishna. The Gita clearly does not glorify violence. Krishna asks Ajuna to merely do his duty as a warrior for the greater good in the situation. Krishna had been the Divine Peace Maker by trying to negotiate a compromise, but the Kurus would not compromise at all. They were very much like the Tea Party of modern America. The crown prince was a tyrant and had to be stopped from causing more harm to India.

His friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson, also admired the Gita. He was introduced to the Gita by Cousin who lectured on this famous dialog between Krishna and Arjuna. He was impressed with the concept of illusion, or maya, found in the Gita. Illusion is necessary for God to participate in the world and in life.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was introduced to the ideas of Gandhi when he attended Crozier Theological Seminary. He liked Gandhi's use of ahimsa (or non-violence) which is found in the Gita. A self-actualized person lives the concept of ahimsa, or first do no harm. Eventually Dr. King read the Gita because it influenced Gandhi greatly in all his actions. The American Civil Rights Movement owes it genius to Gandhi and the Gita.

Our own President Obama was greatly influenced by the Gita. In his book, The Audacity of Hope, he says this about the Gita: "In my mother's mind, a working knowledge of the world's greatest religions was a necessary part of any well rounded education. In our household the Bible, the Koran and the Bhagavad Gita sat on the shelf alongside books of Greek, Norse and African mythology." Krishnalaulya Dasi attended school with Obama. She gave him a copy of the Bhagavad Gita As It Is right after his inauguration. Diwali became a national holiday during Obama's tenure as President. He greatly admired Gandhi and has a picture of him in the White House. He values many of the ideas in the Gita.

The political history of our country was greatly influenced by the concepts found in the Gita. Gandhi was greatly admired by many great Americans as well as the Gita. Our Civil Rights Movement has been greatly influenced by the concept of ahimsa found in the Gita. Our values of acting against injustice is part of our history. We say it is better to act, like Krishna.

We are now in a time when darkness and light are occurring side by side. People are standing up against racism, intolerance and sexism. This part of America does not tolerate those forms of darkness. Some people are celebrating white supremacy, racism and sexism, so there is this divide between the darkness and the light. In Hinduism we believe the light will eventually overcome the darkness. As Gandhi says, "Be the change you want to see in the world." Happy Gita Jayanti!




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