The Bhagavad Gita (‘Sung By The Lord’, about 500 BC) is a mystical section of the huge verse epic Mahabharata, and it is often called the Bible of India. Much of the religious instruction in the epic, like that of the still more ancient Vedas themselves, is concerned with how to worship and act so as to bring about rewards in the form of an ideal social order, individual prosperity, and a future in Heaven. The basis is devout action in faith. A few verses in the Gita refer to this ‘trading’ religion as it is called, and the whole Gita has been taken in this sense.
But India’s greatest philosopher-yogin, S’ankara, wrote a famous commentary on the Gita, in which he showed that its purpose is quite different. The declared central purpose of the Gita is quite different. It shows the way to realize freedom from limitations of individuality, to confront, and finally become, the Cosmic Spirit in its manifesting and then in its transcendent form. The basis is experiment.
For instance, action is minutely analysed as creating restriction and suffering; it is shown how passion and sense of personal struggle distort action and make it inefficient. It becomes badly directed and has to be forced, creating outer friction; then the inner fears and hopes create inner friction. These experiments can be done in small way, and if they confirm what has been said, it seems reasonable that the deeper meditation experiments can be confirmed also. In activity, there is a much higher state where there is no sense of a personal ‘I do’; cosmic energy expresses the cosmic purpose – the ultimate welfare of all beings