“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)
na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin
nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ
ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ‘yaṁ purāṇo
na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre
Friend1: The Bhagavad-gita. It’s a lot to take in, wouldn’t you say?
Friend2: It depends.
Friend1: On what?
Friend2: Your starting point. If you are completely in material life, thinking only of what to eat next, where to go on vacation, which new pub to visit – then sure, your claim is valid.
Friend1: Haven’t you described practically everyone in this world?
Friend2: No, that’s not the case at all. Some people live more renounced than others, even without knowing about the Bhagavad-gita. You know about the four kinds of people that approach Krishna in devotional service?
Friend1: Yes. The person who desires wealth, the inquisitive, the distressed, and the jnani.
Friend2: The jnani is the person who is already in knowledge. They know the difference between matter and spirit. Anyway, the listing of the four groups means that there is variety. Not everyone approaches the Supreme Personality of Godhead from the same starting point. The Bhagavad-gita is identical to Krishna, so that means that there is variety in the kinds of people who first read the book.
Friend1: Okay. Maybe I’m just thinking of it from my perspective, based on the people that are around me. I see what you’re saying, though. I’ve heard it said that the Bhagavad-gita is like the foundation, similar to the introductory class in a university education on the subject of spirituality.
Friend2: Right. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the author of the translation and commentary known as Bhagavad-gita As It Is, describes the book as the ABCD of spiritual life. It’s the basics. Everyone should know the truths presented by Krishna to Arjuna.
Friend1: Here is a confusion that I’d like you to clear up. I see many books that claim to describe the Bhagavad-gita in a more understandable way. Their book will say it is for beginners, for people who aren’t yet ready to read the full Bhagavad-gita.
Friend1: What’s your opinion of that?
Friend2: There’s already an introduction given by Shrila Prabhupada in his book.
Friend1: So you’re saying that’s enough? Wouldn’t a beginners book be helpful?
Friend2: To be honest with you, I think it’s nonsense.
Friend1: Really? Why?
Friend2: If at one time you take everything that is taught, then I can see how it can be overwhelming. There is no insistence, however, that the book be read in a single day. Take your time. Krishna already lays out the work perfectly, as if knowing that not everyone will understand the entirety at the beginning.
Friend1: It’s okay for the beginner to start reading it? There’s no harm in just jumping right in?
Friend2: Take a look at the second chapter. Krishna reveals the presence of the soul and explains its properties. He tells Arjuna that for the soul there is no death. What everyone laments over is actually the body. The spirit within leaves the body after death. A person who knows the soul laments neither for the living nor the dead.
Friend1: I see.
Friend2: Let me ask you this. Are those statements about the soul difficult to understand?
Friend1: Not really.
Friend2: Then why do you need a separate book for beginners? Just stay on the second chapter if you are overwhelmed. Concentrate on those wonderful verses. Try to really grasp what they mean. When you are ready, move on.
Friend1: I can’t argue with you there. What if a person never advances beyond that? Are they doomed?
Friend2: To attempt to understand the spiritual science is a form of yoga, which is connecting with the Divine. In the Gita itself, Krishna assures the aspiring yogi that there is no loss or diminution in the effort. Picking up the book and reading just a single verse represents a tremendous step forward, one that every person should take.
Bhagavad-gita book in hands to take,
From just one verse real advancement to make.
Progress in this human life to see,
Knowing about the soul, who is really me.
By length and complexity not to dismay,
With time, on second chapter just stay.
For beginner to advanced already laid out,
Highest value to man, of this no doubt.