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Where the two paths meet: Krishna's message in the Bhagavad Gita

There are two paths in human life — Pravritti, the path of action and progress and Nivritti, the path of inward contemplation and spiritual perfection.

Through Pravritti, a welfare society is established by improving the economy and political systems. Progress in society necessarily implies concerted efforts of its people. Cooperation, togetherness and mutual love and understanding are the hallmarks of Pravritti, leading to a state called Abhyudaya. This leads to a healthy nation and a healthy world order.

Through Nivritti, a value-oriented life is achieved, which is based on the inner spiritual dimensions of humanity. The hallmarks of Nivritti are change in attitude towards one’s own self, towards life and situations, towards other people, work and the concentration and purification of mind. This leads to a state called in our scriptures as Nihshreyasa.

Spiritual growth

This progress and material development on the individual and social planes have to be accompanied by inner spiritual growth based on a universal value system. Knowing one’s true nature is as much a necessity, if not more, as external material progress. Without the spiritual dimension, the boat of human progress becomes sail less and without material progress it is rudderless. A boat in order to serve its purpose needs both rudder and sail.

That philosophy of life will be the best which caters to this two-fold requirement. The Bhagavad Gita preached by Sri Krishna, it is widely accepted, impartially deals with both these aspects and presents a balanced philosophy of life. As a result, it is a scripture with universal acceptance.

The Bhagavad Gita is an embodiment of the principles of the Vedas. It is a reassertion of the truths, revealed by the Lord in ancient times, which were rendered ineffective due to progressive worldliness in man. As a cosmic policy, the Gita has revived them, playing its destined role in the world process. Adi Sankaracharya, in his short introduction to his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, writes about cosmology as is stated in the ancient scriptures. The world has evolved from God, the Supreme Divine Being, as undifferentiated nature, and then followed differentiated nature comprising the various universes in which is included this earth with its seven continents. This evolution is followed by organic and human evolution. As an aid to the human stage of evolution, the Vedic message of Pravritti and Nivritti, that of action and inward meditation characterised by spiritual knowledge and renunciation, has been created by God Himself and imparted to the divine beings, the Prajapatis and the Kumaras respectively.

These two ways of life are the wheels on which human evolution moves and this is precisely the message of the Bhagavad Gita. This great teaching of Sri Krishna to combine the two paths, will make for overall human development and continued sustenance of the world order. By following the Gita, we will be inhabitants of a world of efficiency, productivity and good human relations.

Another truth to be noted is that the Pravritti field of life is not beyond the pale of spirituality. Nivritti is spiritual life and so is Pravritti: this is the approach of the Bhagavad Gita to human life. We had somehow set this idea aside during the last few centuries taking shelter in a lop-sided philosophy of life, in which again we ended up unsuccessful. This idea has now been brought to the forefront of human spiritual outlook in the recent years by Swami Vivekananda. As Sister Nivedita puts it, ‘If the many and the One be indeed the same Reality, then it is not all modes of worship alone, but equally all modes of work, all modes of struggle, all modes of creation, which are paths of realisation. No distinction, henceforth, between sacred and secular. To labour is to pray. To conquer is to renounce. Life is itself religion…’

This philosophy of Sri Krishna, whom Swami Vivekananda describes as ‘the sanest man ever born,’ is now rising to its feet. This idea will spearhead the religious movement of mankind in the coming centuries.

Swami Yadavendrananda belongs to Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Chennai


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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 10:48:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/what-is-krishnas-message-to-mankind/article24818967.ece

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