Srimad Bhagwad Geeta, one of the most popular and most inspiring Hindu scriptures, is believed by devout Hindus to be the word of God. In its 18 chapters, this Divine Song discusses in detail different spiritual practices. The book emphasises the purifying nature of karma or righteous action. The main theme is that righteous action burns sin as fire burns garbage. He who is constantly engaged in righteous action, is delivered of all his sins, both past and present.
The entire book contains a delicate and subtle balance between faith and free will. In the following shloka, Ishwara, the Supreme Being, is presented as the cause of all activity:
Ishwarah sarvabhootaanaam hriddeshe Arjun tishthati,
Bhraamayan sarvabhootaani yantraaroodani maayayaa.
Meaning: Ishwarah, the Supreme Being, is present in every heart and directs and coordinates its movements (read thoughts) in the same way as a machine directs and coordinates the movement of its various parts.
The shloka emphasises Ishwarah as the energising principle of life. Ishwarah is always with us and within us. The shloka implies that all we need to do is to the listen to His voice within us.
This is what Gandhiji called his inner voice. Whenever he had difficulty deciding complex and ticklish issues relating to India’s freedom struggle, he would sit silent and listen to his inner voice. And he inevitably got the answer!
Although Ishwarah is present in the human heart to direct and advise, yet the choice of action is left to the human being. At the end of Srimad Bhagwad Geeta, Lord Krishna, having imparted knowledge to Arjun, says:
Iti te gyaanam aakhyaatam guhyaat guhyataram mayaa,
Vimrisya etat aseshena yathechhasi tathaa kuru.
Meaning: I have told you the most secret of knowledge.
Now it is for you to think deeply about it and take your own decision.
Although Lord Krishna is the incarnation of Ishwarah, he does not insist upon Arjun to obey him blindly. Arjun must understand by deep meditation the wisdom imparted to him. The words “vimrisya” and “aseshena” are significant. Vimrisya means “examine it from every angle” and aseshena means “exhaustively, leaving nothing more to be examined”.It is exhaustive examination alone that leads one to distinguish the right from the wrong. True faith arises from a foundation of doubt. Exhaustive examination of doubt results in an understanding of its emptiness. Noise leads to an appreciation of the musical note. Doubt gradually results in a sense of its own non-existence. The breeze of faith that blows gently on our being after we have been exhausted by breathlessness in the vacuum of doubt gives greater peace because we now feel convinced that the breeze is not a figment of our imagination. We now know the difference between the suffocating emptiness of doubt and the stable moorings of faith.