To comprehend the Gita, focus on its original originality

Many people interested in the Bhagavad-gita often wonder, “It has so many interpretations. How do I understand which is the best?”

The Gita itself points to the answer, outlining (04.02) how its wisdom was traditionally received in spiritual lineages of teachers that extend back to its original speaker. It further points (04.03) to the need for reviving such lineages, thereby conveying that they are the best sources for understanding its wisdom.

Why are they the best sources?

Because they preserve the original originality of the Gita.

Our contemporary thought enthrones a particular brand of originality: the finding of some insight that no one has ever found before, an insight that one can then claim as one’s original insight. This cult of originality has spawned numerous interpretations of the Gita that are at times as much in keeping with its original spirit as promiscuity is in keeping with chastity.

The currently fashionable connotation of the word “originality is only one of its meanings – and a recent one at that. Foundationally, originality pointed the other way, to that which was as close to the origin as possible. This connotation is still evident in the usage “original water”, referring to water close to its pristine condition.

The Gita is essentially a map for navigating the journey of life, as are road-signs for navigating an expressway. Once we recognize the map-like role of the Gita, we can easily understand that its best interpretation will not be the one that discovers new, hitherto unthought-of meanings of the road-signs, but the one that finds the intended meaning of those who originally put those signs on the road.

It is this original originality of the Gita that the spiritual lineages preserve and make accessible, enabling us to get the maximum benefits of Gita study.

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 04 Text 02

“This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.”


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