“Ishvara (the Supreme Lord), jiva (the living entity), prakriti (nature), eternal time and karma (activity) are all explained in the Bhagavad-gita. Out of these five, the Lord, the living entities, material nature and time are eternal.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, Introduction)
Not only is the Bhagavad-gita a thorough presentation of the science of self-realization, but it is completely honest as well. No relevant subject matter is hidden from view. Though considered a religious book by the less intelligent, in the Bhagavad-gita there is no mention of a specific faith. There is no proper name ascribed to followers of the science as it is presented, as the rules exist and operate regardless of one’s knowledge of them. The fact that all sides are discussed further substantiates the teacher’s standing as the highest authority figure.
The teacher who speaks the Bhagavad-gita is Shri Krishna. In the timeline of our history, He is a personality who appeared on this earth some five thousand years ago. He was the rightful son of Vasudeva and his wife Devaki. Since He was shifted to Gokula in His youth, Krishna accepted Nanda Maharaja and Yashoda as foster parents. Krishna’s elder brother was Balarama, His uncle King Kamsa, and His cousin the great warrior Arjuna.
It was to this Arjuna that the Bhagavad-gita was directed, and it was only after help was sought. Krishna did not impose this highest knowledge, the king of education, the secret of all secrets, upon His dear friend who happened to also be His cousin. This presentation was not concocted on the spot; it dated all the way back to the beginning of creation.
imaṁ vivasvate yogaṁ
proktavān aham avyayam
vivasvān manave prāha
manur ikṣvākave ‘bravīt
“The Blessed Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku.” (Bhagavad-gita, 4.1)
The word “creation” brings to mind religion, faith, and the automatic dismissal of science, which studies the perceptions of the nature around us. But in fact Krishna’s presentation is very scientific. It starts off with the fundamental truth of the difference between matter and spirit. This is understood at the local level with the distinction between matter and individuality. The individual gets its identity from spirit soul and not from the body, which is temporary. That body continuously changes, like from boyhood to youth and then to old age. At the time of death, the individual within shifts to a completely different body.
dehino ‘smin yathā dehe
kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā
dhīras tatra na muhyati
“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.13)
It is only after several important topics are covered do we come to learn of Krishna’s true identity, as the Supreme Lord. This title is difficult to understand, so the point is reemphasized in different ways. Krishna is the light of the sun, the sacred syllable om, the fragrance of the earth and the taste of water. These are Krishna’s truthful statements, but Arjuna also confirms the Lord’s high position through words of praise.
paraṁ brahma paraṁ dhāma
pavitraṁ paramaṁ bhavān
puruṣaṁ śāśvataṁ divyam
ādi-devam ajaṁ vibhum
āhus tvām ṛṣayaḥ sarve
devarṣir nāradas tathā
asito devalo vyāsaḥ
svayaṁ caiva bravīṣi me
“Arjuna said: You are the Supreme Brahman, the ultimate, the supreme abode and purifier, the Absolute Truth and the eternal divine person. You are the primal God, transcendental and original, and You are the unborn and all-pervading beauty. All the great sages such as Narada, Asita, Devala, and Vyasa proclaim this of You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me.” (Bg. 10.12-13)
Arjuna also points to other authorities of the Vedic tradition who support the claim of Krishna’s divinity. Some of these are contemporaries and some are historical figures from the past. Still, if one does not want to take the word of Krishna or Arjuna, they can make a study of the presentation itself to assess where it stands in comparison to other presentations.
Krishna’s teachings cover all sides of an existence. The religious aspect is surely there. “Surrender to a divine figure. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to be saved. Get salvation through consciousness of the origin of all.”
There is more to it than just faith, however. Krishna covers the opposing argument, namely that there is no God. He explains why the atheist thinks the way they do. They believe that everything comes together through randomness, that there is no difference between matter and spirit. Though there is intelligence to all aspects of life, including in the supporting nature, the foolish think that sex alone is responsible for generating life and that with death everything ends.
Krishna discusses the Supreme Controller, the living entity, the material nature, time and fruitive activity. None of these topics are sectarian. They apply to all people in all time periods. They apply to people of all faiths and all languages. As each topic is so complex, from studying all of them you get an idea of the behavior and traits of all creatures. You get the reason for the creation, the purpose to the human life, and the proper understanding of happiness and sadness.
Do competing philosophies feature the same comprehensiveness? When studying material science, do the topics of time, the individual and the material nature get covered? Do the experts at least present Shri Krishna’s teachings, which are also known as Vedanta? Do they lay everything on the table and allow the student to choose for themselves?
iti te jñānam ākhyātaṁ
guhyād guhyataraṁ mayā
yathecchasi tathā kuru
“Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.63)
Krishna is Ishvara, which means He has the most control to wield. Though He knows that all philosophies besides devotion to Him are flawed to some degree, He does not force His way upon anyone. He delivered the Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna and then left the choice up to him. When Arjuna continued in bhakti-yoga, which is the ultimate conclusion of the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita, he did so of his own volition. He made an educated decision, which pleased the supreme controller very much.
Any other philosophical, religious, or scientific presentation must conceal the confidential knowledge of the Bhagavad-gita in order to get followers. If everything were laid on the table, Krishna’s philosophy would win amongst sober individuals since it presents all sides. It gives every person a chance to understand themselves and where they fit into the larger picture. As Krishna is the most honest, He is the one most worth following.
By competitors always something concealed,
Not with Krishna, in Gita everything revealed.
Highest knowledge in Arjuna to confide,
Thoroughly covering main topics five.
Will others this opportunity give,
So that with educated decision to live?
Honesty more support to case lending,
That Krishna is God, others only pretending.