“Bhagavad-gita is also part of the Mahabharata, and it is full of the Lord’s instruction for the less intelligent class of men. Some less intelligent men say that Bhagavad-gita is not meant for householders, but such foolish men forget that Bhagavad-gita was explained to Arjuna, a grihastha (family man), and spoken by the Lord in His role as a grihastha.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.3.14 Purport)
Question: “Shri Krishna spoke the Bhagavad-gita to the people of the time. I’ll acknowledge that the audience wasn’t limited to just Arjuna, the famous bow-warrior and hero of the Bharata War. Still, the people who heard the Divine instruction were part of the Hindu culture. They lived a certain way. They were not barbarians. They didn’t kill animals and roast them just for the fun of it. They followed rituals and time-tested traditions. Keeping this in mind, shouldn’t the distribution of the Bhagavad-gita be limited today? Why should that sacred work be shared with people outside of that ancient culture?”
Do you know someone with an addiction problem? Not to something benign like video games or watching television. A person who cannot go a day without indulging in alcohol or taking illegal drugs – they have a hard time taking advice. No matter how serious we get when talking to them, they don’t listen at all. They know they are harming themselves; it’s not like they are totally ignorant. Still, they don’t listen to what we tell them.
Have you ever tried to explain something complex to a simple person? A good example is physics to a child in elementary school. What will your explanation do? You can give the best presentation, with slides and visual demonstrations, and you’re still wasting your time. The child doesn’t yet have the maturity to understand what you are saying. They need to go through the many years of schooling in order to reach your level. Then, if they are interested, they become a receptive audience.
These two examples are comparable with the issue of sharing Vedic teachings. The Bhagavad-gita is the most famous work of the Vedic tradition, which today is commonly known as Hinduism. The word “Hindu” is from the outsider’s perspective. The Vedas make no mention of this word. The truths presented have nothing to do with faith or religion. The entire system is known as dharma, which is the essential characteristic of something. You can never remove the dharma of the soul, which is the basic identifying force within all living things. Since you can’t remove dharma, the truths centered around dharma become part of a science. In this way we know that the Vedas are not a religion in the typical sense.
The Bhagavad-gita is short in comparison to the book inside which it is found. The sole focus is philosophy, like an afterschool classroom conducted by the brightest teacher. This classroom features only one student, who is most eligible to attend the special session. That eligibility comes from his lack of envy towards the teacher.
idaṁ tu te guhyatamaṁ
yaj jñātvā mokṣyase ‘śubhāt
“The Supreme Lord said: My dear Arjuna, because you are never envious of Me, I shall impart to you this most secret wisdom, knowing which you shall be relieved of the miseries of material existence.” (Bhagavad-gita, 9.1)
In the present time period, adherence to dharma is low. Dharma translates to “religiosity” or “virtue” when looking at the principles and practices that help to maintain the essential characteristic of the individual. When viewed as a table, dharma today has only one leg remaining. Some symptoms of the collapse of this table are the widespread violence toward innocent animals, lack of regulation in sex life, overindulgence in intoxicants, and the denial of the existence of a Supreme Controller.
For these reasons a person may think it unwise to share the spotless wisdom of the Bhagavad-gita. Why waste your time speaking to someone who is drunk? Why teach renunciation to someone who only thinks about where and how much to eat at their next meal? Why teach about the soul and karma when everyone is only concerned about satisfying their senses, content to live like animals?
We need only look to the words of the Gita itself. The wisdom was not specifically targeted to renounced ascetics, yogis and religious men. Indeed, Arjuna himself was of the warrior class, which is the second highest in the four divisions. Both Krishna and Arjuna were married men, leaving them open targets for the ad hominem attack. “Why should I listen to someone preaching renunciation when they were themselves attached to women?”
The Gita is delivered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who confidentially identifies Himself as such to Arjuna. As the conversation is included in the famous Mahabharata composed by Vyasadeva, the divine nature of Krishna is for everyone to know. The speaker of the Gita is not bound by the laws of material nature. He does not need to explicitly practice renunciation. His marriage to a special queen is a sign of His endless mercy. He will do anything for His devotees, the people who love Him.
The devotees can be found in any type of body. Even if they are so low that they eat dogs, they are still eligible for salvation. They are candidates for practicing the regulative principles of bhakti-yoga, which start with giving up meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex. They may not be able to understand the difference between matter and spirit, but they can at least associate with the Divine through sound. This is easily done through chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
The Mahabharata was heard by all classes of men. It was composed specifically for the less intelligent, who are not so keen on hearing philosophical discourses. Undoubtedly in the present time period the general population is not as pure as they were five thousand years ago, but the truths of sanatana-dharma, the Vedic science, are evergreen. Anyone who is willing to listen with an open mind has the chance for rescue. Even if they are bewildered, it is not a disqualification. Arjuna too was in doubt, but due to his lack of envy he received special mercy. Non-envious souls can similarly be found today, anywhere in the world.
Since without enviousness to believe,
Gita’s words Arjuna to receive.
Not that renounced yogi a must,
Or that married man not to trust.
Similar souls anywhere to be found,
Even if currently in sins abound.
Krishna’s divine nature for all to hear,
From Gita clouded consciousness cleared.