I have begun reading The Bhagavad Gita translated by Eknath Easwaran, a spiritual leader I greatly admire.
In the past, I’ve not had much desire to read the Gita because I read it focuses on war. In fact, I am against war that my novel Emily’s Shadow is not only a fantast novel, but also an anti-war novel.
The Gita does begin with a battle, but it is at a metaphorical level a battle of the soul with its shadow (to put it in Jungian terms).
I found myself reading the initial words and names with very little understanding, aware that this culture is not my foundational tradition. Yet, as I read a chronology of names, I was reminded of the Biblical chronologies, which signify a grounding in a particular cultural and religious tradition. It made me think how important it is to practice and learn faith language, so that we are grounded in the litanies and liturgies, songs and celebrations. If we are Christians, then or course, we must be in Christian community, struggling with putting into practice the teachings of Christ. Buddhists need to learn the wisdom and teachings of Buddha. Hindus need their rich Indian traditions of Brahman, Atman, and Divine Mother. Moslems need to struggle with the practices of Islam. All have merit. All reveal ourselves to ourselves.
There is so much to learn from all spiritualities, and though I am but a student and learner, I saw much in the opening chapter of the Gita that paralleled Bibical truths. For instance, Sri Krishna, who is the representation of God, is Arjuna’s charioteer. In other words, God takes the form of a servant, just as Jesus does. Arjuna is all men struggling. Ultimately, Arjuna wants to lay down his weapons, and does so, because he does not want to fight his relatives, evil though they might be. In fact, he sees himself in them. This reminds me of our battle with our interior demons. Arjuna is like the Christian desert fathers and mothers confronting their enemies who would prevent their union with God. It is the shackles of our own emotional hangups of anger, fear, jealousy and so on that must integrated into the reality of the human condition which is both dark and light. We see we contain the seeds of anger and despair, rather than allowing these things to create destruction, we nod to them and accept them in ourselves, allowing them to grow us by helping us recognize we are not better than anyone else, not worse either.
All people are our relatives, our ancestry, and it seems to me when we can embrace the world’s cultural diversity, not by submerging ourselves, or latching on to other religious beliefs, but rather by becoming tolerant, being accepting, opening wide to learn from those not like ourselves, then we will move one small step closer to the new Jerusalem of Christian tradition.