Topic: daily coping with problems, stress, anxiety, depression, persistent thoughts, lack of interest in life, inability to concentrate, pain, etc.
Therapeutic goals: to provide a feeling of relief for any problem or stressful tension, to manage anxiety or persistent pain, compulsive thoughts and worries, but also to strengthen joy, gratitude, the ability to experience the moment, or a sense of fulfillment
Recommended age group: 12-90+
Form of work: individual, group
Brief content of the work: The magic of resting in an instant
The Bhagavadgita is part of the Mahabharata, an ancient Indian epic, but is considered a separate book and is often referred to as one of the most important sacred texts of Hinduism. In any case, we can perceive it as a glimpse into the world of thoughts of another culture. The spiritual message of the Bhagavadgita lies in its references to forbearance, modesty and love of God. However, its deep philosophy rests in the context of major Indian currents of thoughts. And although it might seem that this philosophy deals only with “eternal truths” that are of interest only to scholars and philosophers, this is not quite so. The Bhagavadgita offers even an ordinary person insight into the essence of solving everyday duties and worries.
The basis is the idea that the temporal limitation of profane forms of life causes them to be illusory. This illusion (falsehood, delusion, appearance) is the cause of all human suffering. The Indian concept of maya (often translated as illusion, cosmic illusion, mirage, magic, sequence of transformations, unreality, etc.) corresponds perfectly with this phenomenon. Maya is an illusion in the sense that its essence lies in temporal binding. Buddhism and to some extent yoga deal with this illusoryness by looking for an “escape” from the wheel of life, trying to escape from it, defeat the time-bound form and become part of being (the timeless state). But is it possible to defeat time and thereby induce a state of being while we live our lives (in time)? Is it possible to leave the wheel of life (karma) even if we have to solve the tasks that life brings us in a human body? It is in the Bhagavadgita that we encounter the questions of how to resolve the paradoxical situation created by the dual nature of man, who on the one hand finds himself in time and on the other hand knows that he will be lost if he succumbs to temporality, and whether there is a path that leads to the timeless level in this world, here and now, in the living moment.
In the Indian imagination, it sometimes happens that beings come into the world who are extremely spiritually advanced. They are called avatars and their role is to help people on the path to realization.. In the Bhagavadgita, there is a conversation between the noble Arjuna of the Pandavas and Krishna, the avatar of the god Vishnu. The most fundamental question that winds through the Bhagavadgita is: can Arjuna participate in killing in war, especially when it comes to his friends and relatives, even if this terrible participation in worldly deeds is contrary to the doctrine of breaking free from the cycle of life and death? To Arjuna, Krishna reveals a teaching whose message lies in the necessity of understanding the character of god (absolute reality) and following his actions.
Krishna points out that if he as god were to cease to act, all life would cease to exist, for he sustains the world by his activity. In the same way, Arjuna also has to make decisions in his life and follow his decisions with certain actions, otherwise his life would lose its meaning. Krishna’s message to the people is that one should follow the god by imitating his deeds; god creates and maintains the world, but does not further participate in it.
This idea also has its name in Indian philosophy, it is phalatrshnavairagya, i.e. “rejecting the fruits of your actions” and not the world as such “Do not appropriate the fruits of your actions. The reward must not be a motivation for you to act! But don’t even indulge in inaction!” (II, 47) The Bhagavadgita thus tries to justify all activities and human deeds, because unless a person uses their ‘fruits’, he turns all actions into sacrifices, i.e. transpersonal energy that helps maintain cosmic order. A person must detach himself from his actions and their consequences, act interpersonally, without desires, as if he were someone else’s representative. Action that is not bound by our further participation in it leads to freedom.
A person who acts in this way finds the important knowledge of absolute reality and the essential Self (atman) which leads him to realize that the two are one. This Self appears freely only if a person frees his mind from the positive or negative assessment of his actions, which is a real obstacle to knowing the true reality. Liberation is a condition for acting in accordance with one’s dharma – one’s own moral and ethical path. Following one’s own unique path connects one with absolute reality and allows one to live one’s life unconditionally, freely, truthfully and truly authentically (following the dharma); following someone else’s path can be dangerous. “It is better to do one’s duty, even if imperfectly, than to do another’s duty well. It is better to perish on one’s own path, because another’s path is dangerous. (III, 35)
Absolute reality (God) can also be perceived as the principle of transcendence consciousness; that as human beings we are part of something greater that transcends us (atman). And this frees us from time-bound reality and allows us to participate in the “timeless”, the eternal present.
As we mentioned in Indian philosophy (as well as in the Bhagavadgita), life is bound by temporal (profane) forms of false life in maya, but even though maya (illusion) manifests itself through time, its important aspect is also creativity. The Indian imagination depicts this idea with the aspect of the god Vishnu (Krishna), who is both the creator and the sustainer of the universe. In the Bhagavadgita, Krishna advises Arjuna to follow his actions, which lie in the fact that god combines both being and non-being within himself and that all creation emanates from him. With the help of prakrti, he gradually created the world, but this activity did not bind him, he remained only an observer of his own creation.
The everyday reality of man is that he has to face the results of his own decisions (what he creates). This means that he takes a certain attitude towards his own actions, judges them in a certain way, as a result of which he experiences various emotions, feelings and thoughts, and they affect him in turn. Krishna points out that it is these emotions, feelings and thoughts that cause us suffering, not our actions themselves. The idea of the inner observer becomes key. In contemporary psychology, there is a trend called Mindfulness. This direction is based on the later, Buddhist tradition and is based on the philosophy around the concept of sati, the meaning of which is most often translated as recollection. But what should we remember, what have we forgotten? In mindfulness psychology, it is the practice of constantly reminding oneself of the present moment (non-time). They are techniques of self-awareness in the situation in which I find myself here and now. Mindfulness cannot be reduced to meditation, even though meditation is one of the techniques of mindfulness practices.
But why do we mention mindfulness, and what does it have to do with the teachings of the Bhagavadgita? These are the common principles: acceptance, awareness of the present and constant awareness of one’s own inner reality. In short, these are the laws of illusoryness, temporality and transpersonality, which we discussed above. The technique of remembering anchors us in the present moment (it helps us transcend our own temporality), while by not judging it we get into a state of acceptance of reality as it is (we transcend the illusory). By becoming aware and internalizing, we create an observer in our own consciousness who does not participate emotionally and is not interested in any other way (transpersonal principle). We observe, but do not judge, our inner thoughts and emotions. We thus give space to a different type of consciousness, which, by not judging, liberates, transcends our personal self, which is trapped in time. And that is the important message of the Bhagavadgita.
By reading this work, we can intellectually delve into its deep message, but also enrich our inner world with images of another culture. The Slovak version of the Bhagavadgita by Milan Polášek is really high quality, as the author has been actively and theoretically devoted to yoga for years, for which he had a deep understanding. During the translation, he worked with various sources and supplemented it with notes. This interesting and valuable text can be used in bibliotherapy in various ways. It is also an excellent helper in the practice of personal growth. In simplicity, this story can also be offered to children. It is suitable for anyone who does not mind its spiritual overtones. The story can be worked perfectly in the context of mindfulness psychology and its techniques, which, if properly explained, are accessible to everyone, as these are not complex processes and a guide is not necessarily needed for their daily application.
Description of experience from own work with a literary work:
In 2018, I experienced an unpleasant condition where my head was very dizzy every day, all day, for almost three months. The doctors didn’t understand what was happening to me and I couldn’t help myself. As a result, among other things, I suffered from very anxious conditions. I tried to find relief in different ways. It was important for me to manage the anxiety, which only worsened the whole situation. I remembered how I was writing an article about the Bhagavadgita, and how much this work appealed to me with valuable insights. I read it in English and Slovak (I recommend the Slovak version).
However, it was impossible for me to read in that state, so I found the Czech version of the audiobook of the Bhagavadgita on youtube.com. I listened carefully to the whole book little by little, day by day, with my eyes closed. Later, a friend, with whom I shared the ideas of the story and we could discuss them together, also recommended mindfulness techniques, various meditations focused on the body and breathing practices, with which she had her own experience. I slowly incorporated them into my daily routine. In practice, it looked like I played an excerpt from the Bhagavadgita several times a day, and with the newfound hope that the book instilled in me, I immersed myself in breathing exercises and meditations. This helped me step by step to consolidate the role of an observer in my consciousness. Over time, even as I slipped into anxiety, I was able to observe these states without involvement, and thus they lasted for shorter and shorter periods of time. Gradually, I began to notice that the vertigo sometimes subsided, or was not so strong, until finally it disappeared completely.
This experience strengthened my ability to believe in my own mental resilience and to deal with the concept of an observer. I can say that the techniques used have become my daily ritual and I definitely reach for them in moments of strong emotional tension, or when my thoughts build a non-existent apocalyptic future, or I fall into anxiety, fear and hopelessness. However, negative emotions and thoughts leave at shorter and shorter intervals, and my inner world is mostly filled with calm joy and confidence. And which other message of the Bhagavadgita do I perceive as important? It is an encouragement to creativity, action and love for life as such.
Barker, Meg. 2010. Mindfulness. In Barker Meg; Vossler, Andreas and Langdridge, Darren eds. Understanding, Counseling and Psychotherapy. London: Sage, 167-187 pp.
Čaputová, Barbora. 2017. Teória vykúpenia: [Redemption Theory:] Mircea Eliade and Hermann Hesse. In Philological studies 3. – Nümbrecht : Kirsch-Verlag, 163-176 p. ISBN 978-39-43906-37-0
Eliade, Mircea. 1996. Dějiny náboženského myšlení. [History of religious thought.] II. Prague: Oikoymenh
Elaide, Mircea. 1999. Jóga, nesmrtelnost, svoboda. [Yoga, Immortality, Freedom.] Prague: Argo
Polasek, Milan. 1997. Doslov. [Verbatim.] In the Bhagavadgita, a conversation between God and man. Bratislava: HEVI s.r.o.
It has not undergone language editing!
The recommendation created by:
Mgr. Barbora Čaputová, PhD.Workplace: Spojená škola Bratislava, Slovakia, Last update: December 30, 2022
The recommendation from Slovak to English translated by: Mária Trechová, Workplace: PRO SKIZP – Association for support of Slovak Chamber of Physicists, Laboratory Diagnosticians, Language Speech Therapists and Therapeutic Pedagogues, c. a. Bratislava, Slovakia
Recommended citation method:
Čaputová, Barbora. 2022. Professional reference of the literary work Bhagavadgita, God’s conversation with man. In Kotrbová, K. et al: Biblioterapia.sk. Bratislava: PRO SKIZP – Association to support the development of the Slovak Chamber of Clinical Physics, Laboratory Diagnosticians, Language Speech Therapists and Therapeutic Pedagogues, 2023. ISBN 978-80-974667-0-1 Available on: https://www.biblioterapia.sk/en/publikacia/professional-reference-of-a-literary-bhagavadgita/
Warning: The content may be contraindicated for persons who are clearly anchored in other religiosity, or they do not tolerate Hindu and Buddhist religiosity well, so it is recommended to find out the person’s religious orientation before recommending this work. In the case of a person’s openness to multi-religiousness and multi-cultural penetration or overlapping, it is still recommended not to impose the publication, but to offer it as one of the possibilities of personal growth and self-development.
The contribution was created thanks to support from the European Union Erasmus+ program, Key action 2 – Cooperation between organizations and institutions, KA210 – Small partnerships for cooperation in the field of education and training. Project name “Prototype of online teaching aid for bibliotherapy”, project number 2022-1-SK01-KA210-VET-000082483. It represents the opinion of the author and the European Commission and author is not responsible for any use of the information contained therein.