Updated: Jan 10
My journey of self-discovery and healing was rife with spiritual literature. Whatever I found, I made sure to pick it up and add it to my collection - not as a sort of egotistical material boast, but in the thought that I may need it later on in my journey, or at very least, that as I progress I would better understand it (which I have to say, is the case with a-lot of spiritual texts).
Today I am looking at one such text: The Bhagavad Gita.
The Bhagavad Gita (The Song of God) is a 700 verse Hindu scripture that is part of the ancient Indian Sanskrit epic: Mahabharata. The gita is a commonly referenced work amongst the Advaita Vedanta (non-duality) circles - a school of Hindu philosophy best left for another discussion.
The Gita details an internal battle closely resembling the battle we see within ourselves: the dark and light, shadow and conscious, demonic and divine. For this newseltter, I am only going to look at the symbolism behind the major elements and characters of the work.
The work begins with a dialogue between prince Arjuna (pictured in the chariot), and his charioteer Krishna - a scene highly doused in symbolism referring to our nature and internal development.
Arjuna and his charioteer Krishna, holding the reins to his four (often depicted as five) white horses.
There are five distinct elements to the image (and story):
1. The horses
2. The reins
3. Arjuna (the passenger)
4. Krishna (the charioteer)
5. The chariot
Let's take a brief look at the symbolic nature of each element, and how it pertains to our self development. 1. The horses. This is often depicted as five horses representing the five senses - taste, touch, smell, sight and sound. They are the force pulling the chariot. This lends the importance to whom it is at the reins - the one in control, which in this case is Krishna. Important to note in this case is that the horses are white - a colour in archetypal terms that represent purity. We see this image echoed in many stories throughout time, most notably (in my opinion) in the highly symbolic story of St. George and the Dragon. We may see the white horse, in this context, as the senses, or desire of the senses as purified - brought under conscious control and direction.
St. George and the Dragon. Properly in control of his body, desire and senses (the white horse), St. George is able to confront and slay the unknown and dark within him (ignorance and chaos).
2. The reins. Here, this represents the mind - focus, concentration, desire. The mind is heavily dependent on the information filtered through the senses, and enjoys a symbiotic relationship with them. Like the horses, it requires an entity to take control, to steer and guide it into a direction we see fit. More importantly, to provide an orientation toward that which we focus on. Of importance to note in the Gita is who it is that has control of the reins, and what they represent. 3. Arjuna. The embodied individual soul. The one we believe to be in charge of the whole show, yet the one susceptible to doubt, fear, desire and all other worldly influences. This is plainly seen in the Gita, from the opening lines of Arjuna's doubts and discussion with Krishna. Yet, with his unyielding faith in his rightful charioteer (Krishna), Arjuna is lead into battle (both figuratively and literally) on his way to the discovery of Self. 4. Krishna. The Self, Higher Self (Atma). Think of this as our deepest, pure intuition, our highest Self that contains the knowings of our highest good and thought. For us to progress to the place we wish to be, it is our Higher Self, free from worldy distraction and influence, that will take us there, when given the reins. It needs a proper relationship with our intellect and reason, but must not conform to it's every desire and fear. Much like Christ imparted on his disciples: "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." Matthew 6:24 5. The Chariot Representing the body, complete with it's abstract elements of mind and senses. It is the body that houses the internal battle and and it is through the body that we experience this life.
I will leave this post with the following two quotes (both of Krishna) from the Bhagavad Gita. These quotes succinctly strike the core of the discussed symbolism of the Gita.
“The happiness which comes from long practice, which leads to the end of suffering, which at first is like poison, but at last like nectar - this kind of happiness arises from the serenity of one's own mind.”
“The peace of God is with them whose mind and soul are in harmony, who are free from desire and wrath, who know their own soul.”