So 30th November, 2017 was “Gita Jayanti” or the Birthday of the Bhagavad Gita.
If anyone mentions the word ‘Bhagavad Gita’ or ‘Mahabharata’, we instantaneously conjure the above image in our mind. The synopsis of this image
is that Lord Krishna as the charioteer safely steers Arjuna into victory in the battleground. However there is more symbolic meaning attached to this image than what it merely appears to be.
Upon deeper analysis, we can break the image down into 6 main components with certain psychological implications as explained in the highly acclaimed Kathopanishad, which are as follows:
- THE CHARIOT– The chariot represents our physical body (Tanu)
- KRISHNA THE CHARIOTEER– Lord Krishna represents our higher cognitive abilities, especially in the face of adversity i.e. the intellect (Buddhi)
- ARJUNA– Arjuna represents the self
- HORSES– The horses represent our senses and limbs (Indriyagalu) by virtue of which we perceive and move ahead in our lives. These have no restraint and without a rein/lagaam can wander off in any direction
- THE REIN of the horses- The reins in the hands of Lord Krishna controlling the horses represents our mind (Manasu).
- THE BATTLEGROUND– the battleground represents our life (Jeevana). Our life is a continuing and continual process of daily battles fought-won and lost!
In our daily lives, our senses and limbs (Indriyagalu) are exposed to a variety of objects and experiences and impact our mind (Manasu) in various ways. So how is it that our mind functions well enough to always make the best decision for us?
This query can be explained by virtue of Sigmund Freud’s theory of personality about the id, ego and the super-ego parts of psyche/mind.
The id (I over everyone and everything else) part of the psyche is the set of uncoordinated instinctual trends, in other words is like a small adamant child discharging wild energy to seek instant gratification of one’s demands.
The super-ego (everyone and everything over me) is that part of the psyche which is critical and moralizing, in other words it is like an elderly, wise and highly ideological individual.
Now the id with its need for instant gratification and super-ego with its repressive, critical, guilt-provoking and moralizing beliefs although essential, make it difficult to lead a fulfilling life. Since if the id is dominant in an individual, then s/he will be frowned upon by society whereas if the super-ego is dominant then the individual is most likely to be very unhappy due to constant repression of desires. Both are self-detrimental in nature if dominant in each and every situation in one’s life.
So therefore to lead a happy and fulfilling life an individual should follow the much appreciated middle path which is governed by the ego (I in relation to present environment) part of psyche, which is the organized and realistic part of psyche that mediates between desires/wants/needs and control. At times, it is important to be self-centered and at a few other times it is important to rigidly stick to one’s principles. But at most times, it is of paramount importance to be diplomatic.
An individual should realize when to switch on which part of the psyche to face the problem at hand efficiently. This comes with experience and is unique to every individual and situation and is governed by one’s intellect (Buddhi). Intellect is defined as “the global capacity available within an individual that enables him/her to understand principles, truths, facts etc. to effectively and productively solve the problem at hand.” It is thus, this intellect which enables us to switch on a particular part of our mind/psyche to behave in a particular manner, so as to satiate our needs or win our own personal battles in a most effective manner. One may be born with a high level of intellect, but one’s ability to effectively solve problems at hand is primarily shaped by one’s own unique experiences in addition to spiritual guidance by a competent guide.
This concept can be clearly seen in the Bhagawad Gita, wherein Arjuna was so consumed by despondence about the fact that he had to cross swords with his own kinsmen (dominant superego) that he initially cast his weapons aside and refused to fight.
The following is a small excerpt from the Gita which aims at resolving Arjuna’s confusion regarding his participation in the war:
Lord Krishna: “Karmanyevaadhikaarasto ma phaleshu kadaachan,
Ma karmaphalaheturbhurmah te sangho stvakarmaani.”
Loosely translated the aforementioned verse means, “You have a right to perform your prescribed duty (destroying evil), but you are not entitled to aspire for the materialistic fruits of action. At the same time you must never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities (death of kinsmen/ Kauravas), and never get attached to not doing your duty.”
While we can’t pinpoint as to which particular point in the Gita convinced Arjuna to fight, he eventually rationalised with himself (dominant ego) with the help of Lord Krishna (intellect) and led his side to victory by choosing to fight in the battle against his own kinsmen.
Therefore we can conclude that, in this battleground of Life, it is our senses and limbs which are governed by the Mind and Intellect that control our Self and guide our Body to a state of victorious well-being.