Report by Dr. Beloo Mehra
I had the great blessing and privilege to attend the Svadhyaya study camp on Srimad Bhagavad Gita, conducted by Sri Aurobindo Foundation of Indian Culture (SAFIC), Sri Aurobindo Society during October 10 to 22, 2016. The workshop was conducted by Dr. Sampadananda Mishra, Director, SAFIC, at the Society’s office in Puducherry. With his profound mastery of the Sanskrit language, his deep study of the Bhagavad Gita and other Indian scriptures, and his approach to the study of scriptures as a true sadhak and devotee, the workshop became a pilgrimage of sorts for almost every participant. It was a deep immersion into the amritam, the sweet nectar that is the teaching of the Gita.
Patiently, Dr. Mishra took us through each verse of each chapter, explaining the translation, deeper meaning and often the detailed analysis of each of the difficult Sanskrit words. This gave us a rare opportunity to learn a bit of the Sanskrit language through our study of the Gita. The collective chanting of each chapter after its study helped us develop an aesthetic appreciation of the beauty of the poetry of the Bhagavad Gita, the Divine Song.
The various questions and discussion points raised by participants kept the entire workshop experience dynamic and vibrant. Also, the learning experience became more relevant and integral as Dr. Mishra wove in a variety of anecdotes and insights from several other Indian scriptures as well as stories told by different sages and spiritual masters. At several places, he would read from or point to the relevant passages from Sri Aurobindo’s Essays on the Gita, which helped deepen our understanding.
Dr. Mishra pointed out in his introductory session that because Sri Aurobindo himself has said that the Gita was placed in his hands by Sri Krishna, and that the entire Essays on the Gita was written with a silent mind, inspired from above, a deep study of Essays on the Gita makes the study of the Bhagavad Gita more complete, more integral. However, the study of any scripture, particularly the Gita is only the beginning. The real task is to live the teaching, to practice the teaching.
Srimad Bhagavad Gita is one of those rarest scriptures of the world in which lie the deepest and lasting solutions to most of our life’s day-to-day problems. This universal and timeless role of the Gita has been confirmed again and again by spiritual masters, philosophers, thinkers all across the world and in various times. The solution lies in sincerely practicing the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita.
The Bhagavad Gita brings to us the essence of all the experiences and teachings found in the Upanishads and Vedas. Just as the Upanishads mark a culmination or fruition of Vedic knowledge, the Gita is considered as another grand synthesis of all Upanishadic and Vedic knowledge.
“The Upanishads are like the herd of cows, the son of the cowherd (Krishna) is the milker, Partha (Arjuna) is the suckling calf, and men of purified, subtle intellect the drinkers, enjoyers of the supreme nectar, the milk of the Gita.”
After the Bhagavad Gita, the next grand integral synthesis is found in the work of Sri Aurobindo.
Sri Aurobindo, in his Essays on the Gita, speaks of the universal and temporal aspect of any scripture. He further adds, “In the Gita there is very little that is merely local or temporal and its spirit is so large, profound and universal that even this little can easily be universalised without the sense of the teaching suffering any diminution or violation; rather by giving an ampler scope to it than belonged to the country and epoch, the teaching gains in depth, truth and power” (CWSA, Vol. 19, p. 6).
To truly study the Gita, or in fact to study any spiritual scripture, the devotee or seeker has to be a real adhikari. An adhikari is one who has developed the necessary capacity of having a subtle intellect and a purified understanding; only such a seeker can gain true benefit from the study of the scripture. The scripture is misunderstood in the hands of one who has not risen to this status of adhikari. Sri Krishna himself warns Arjuna in the last chapter of the Gita when he says not to reveal the secret teaching of the Gita to anyone who has no inner aspiration, no tapasya, and no sraddha (devotion) for the Lord. Tapas and Sraddha are thus the two fundamental conditions for the seeker to raise himself or herself to the position of a true adhikari for the teaching of the Gita. The workshop encouraged us to approach the study of Srimad Bhagavad Gita with an aspiration for light, guidance and for help in making our lives truly beautiful. Not intending to be a scholastic or academic study of the Gita, this Svadhyaya camp was carefully and consciously designed to help participants seek the essential and living message of the Gita, which humanity must seize for its perfection and its highest spiritual welfare.
Concluding Session: The Gita Yagna
On the final day of the workshop we had the blessing and privilege to participate in a Gita Yagna, which was performed with all the sincere devotion for and as an offering to Lord Sri Krishna. The yagna was performed by Dr. Mishra, with the help of other members of SAFIC who did supremely beautiful work in arranging all the details for the yagna.
This was done at the serene location of Sharanam, Centre for Rural Transformation, situated on the western outskirts of Puducherry. This place serves as the headquarters of the Sri Aurobindo Society’s rural development programme, SARVAM (Sri Aurobindo Rural & Village Action & Movement), active in the villages of western Tamil Nadu.
In this open, beautifully designed and ecologically sensitive space, the soul-satisfying invocation of the Divine, the chanting of the uplifting mantras and the entire yagna purified the whole environment, outer and inner. The group also recited the entire 18 chapters of the Gita along with Dr. Mishra. Elevating sounds of this collective chanting created a deeply reverent and enriching feel to the whole experience of the Svadhyaya camp.
After all the participants, one by one, offered the purna-ahuti, the final offering of the ghritam, in the yagna, prasad was distributed. This was followed by a simple, delicious sattwic meal for all.
The Gita Yagna was the best possible culmination of the 10-day workshop on Srimad Bhagavad Gita. I am grateful to the organizers for planning all the minute details of this yagna with such meticulous attention, care and affection. The experience left me deeply touched and inspired.
I am deeply grateful to Sri Krishna, and to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother for blessing me with this opportunity to be a part of this Svadhyaya camp on the Gita.
– Dr. Beloo Mehra is a workshop participant
Feedback of Participants
“The teacher’s vast knowledge of Indian scriptures and Sri Aurobindo’s works. This really helped the learning of Gita, more alive and meaningful. Dr. Mishra’s examples, stories and references from other scriptures were very helpful.”
– Dr. Beloo Mehra
“It is inspiring and a delight to see others in the Indian culture so passionate and devoted to the teachings of Gita and the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.”
– Angela Sun
“Word by word and sentence by sentence analysis and explanation. Any queries asked anytime were explained without hesitation.”
– Subhash Ghatak (On what he liked most about the workshop)