Excerpts from Paramahansa Yogananda's highly acclaimed two-volume commentary, God Talks With Arjuna—The Bhagavad Gita: Royal Science of God-Realization
The timeless and universal message of the Gita is all-encompassing in its expression of truth.
Bhagavad Gita means "Song of the Spirit," the divine communion of truth-realization between man and his Creator, the teachings of Spirit through the soul, that should be sung unceasingly…. The underlying essential truths of all great world scriptures can find common amity in the infinite wisdom of the Gita's mere 700 concise verses.
The entire knowledge of the cosmos is packed into the Gita. Supremely profound, yet couched in revelatory language of solacing beauty and simplicity, the Gita has been understood and applied on all levels of human endeavor and spiritual striving—sheltering a vast spectrum of human beings with their disparate natures and needs. Wherever one is on the way back to God, the Gita will shed its light on that segment of the journey.
The ancient sacred writings do not clearly distinguish history from symbology; rather, they often intermix the two in the tradition of scriptural revelation. Prophets would pick up instances of the everyday life and events of their times and from them draw similes to express subtle spiritual truths. Divine profundities would not otherwise be conceivable by the ordinary man unless defined in common terms. When, as they often did, scriptural prophets wrote in more recondite metaphors and allegories, it was to conceal from ignorant, spiritually unprepared minds the deepest revelations of Spirit.
Thus, in a language of simile, metaphor, and allegory, the Bhagavad Gita was very cleverly written by Sage Vyasa by interweaving historical facts with psychological and spiritual truths, presenting a word-painting of the tumultuous inner battles that must be waged by both the material and the spiritual man. In the hard shell of symbology, he hid the deepest spiritual meanings to protect them from the devastation of the ignorance of the Dark Ages toward which civilization was descending concurrent with the end of Sri Krishna's incarnation on earth.
The words of Lord Krishna to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita are at once a profound scripture on the science of yoga, union with God, and a textbook for everyday living. The student is led step by step with Arjuna from the mortal consciousness of spiritual doubt and weakheartedness to divine attunement and inner resolve.
The Bhagavad Gita—a comprehensive metaphysical and psychological treatise—describes all experiences that will come to the spiritual traveler on the path of emancipation…. the positive states the devotee is striving toward [and] the negative states that try to intimidate the devotee and turn him from his goal. "Forewarned is forearmed!" The devotee who understands the route he must travel will never feel unsure or dismayed at inevitable opposition.
The timeless message of the Bhagavad Gita does not refer only to one historical battle, but to the cosmic conflict between good and evil: life as a series of battles between Spirit and matter, soul and body, life and death, knowledge and ignorance, health and disease, changelessness and transitoriness, self-control and temptations, discrimination and the blind sense-mind....
The devotee should analyze his daily mental and physical actions to determine just how much of his life is ruled by the ego's ignorance (delusion) and body consciousness, and how much he is able to express of the soul's wisdom and divine nature.
Yoga meditation is the process of cultivating and stabilizing the awareness of one's real nature, through definite spiritual and psychophysical methods and laws by which the narrow ego, the flawed hereditary human consciousness, is displaced by the consciousness of the soul.
Each person has to fight his own battle of Kurukshetra. It is a war not only worth winning, but in the divine order of the universe and of the eternal relationship between the soul and God, a war that sooner or later must be won.
In the holy Bhagavad Gita, the quickest attainment of that victory is assured to the devotee who, through undiscourageable practice of the divine science of yoga meditation, learns like Arjuna to hearken to the inner wisdom-song of Spirit.
[Lord Krishna's] life demonstrates the ideal not of renunciation of action—which is a conflicting doctrine for man circumscribed by a world whose life breath is activity—but rather the renunciation of earth-binding desires for the fruits of action.… Man should so train his mind by constant meditation that he can perform the necessary dutiful actions of his daily life and still maintain the consciousness of God within....
Sri Krishna's message in the Bhagavad Gita is the perfect answer for the modern age, and any age: Yoga of dutiful action, of nonattachment, and of meditation for God-realization. To work without the inner peace of God is Hades; and to work with His joy ever bubbling through the soul is to carry a portable paradise within, wherever one goes.
The path advocated by Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita is the moderate, medium, golden path, both for the busy man of the world and for the highest spiritual aspirant. To follow the path advocated by the Bhagavad Gita would be their salvation, for it is a book of universal Self-realization, introducing man to his true Self, the soul—showing him how he has evolved from Spirit, how he may fulfill on earth his righteous duties, and how he may return to God. The Gita's wisdom is not for dry intellectualists to perform mental gymnastics with its sayings for the entertainment of dogmatists; but rather to show a man or woman living in the world, householder or renunciant, how to live a balanced life that includes the actual contact of God, by following the step-by-step methods of yoga.
In the beginning of creation and the advent of man, the Infinite impregnated His intelligent creative Cosmic Energy (Maha-Prakriti or Holy Ghost) with not only the power of repulsion—the individualizing of Cosmic Consciousness into souls and a universe of matter—but also with the power of recalling souls from their prodigal wanderings in matter back to unity with Spirit. All things come from, are made of and sustained by, and ultimately resolve into this intelligent Cosmic Energy, and thence into Spirit. Ascension follows in reverse the exact course of descension. In man, that course is the inner highway to the Infinite, the only route to divine union for followers of all religions in all ages. By whatever bypath of beliefs or practices a being reaches that singular highway, the final ascension from body consciousness to Spirit is the same for everyone: the withdrawal of life and consciousness from the senses upward through the gates of light in the subtle cerebrospinal centers, dissolving the consciousness of matter into life force, life force into mind, mind into soul, and soul into Spirit. The method of ascension is Raja Yoga, the eternal science that has been integral in creation from its inception.
The Kriya Yoga technique, taught by Krishna to Arjuna and referred to in Gita chapters IV:29 and V:27–28, is the supreme spiritual science of yoga meditation. Secreted during the materialistic ages, this indestructible yoga was revived for modern man by Mahavatar Babaji and taught by the Gurus of Self-Realization Fellowship/Yogoda Satsanga Society of India. Babaji himself ordained me to spread this holy science of God-union....
Any devotee who will emulate Arjuna—epitome of the ideal disciple—and perform his rightful duty with nonattachment, and perfect his practice of yoga meditation through a technique such as Kriya Yoga, will similarly draw the blessings and guidance of God and win the victory of Self-realization.
As God talked with Arjuna, so will He talk with you. As He lifted up the spirit and consciousness of Arjuna, so will He uplift you. As He granted Arjuna supreme spiritual vision, so will He confer enlightenment on you.
We have seen in the Bhagavad Gita the story of the soul's journey back to God—a journey each one must make. O divine soul! like Arjuna, "Forsake this small weakheartedness (of mortal consciousness). Arise!" Before you is the royal path.