“Sanjaya was a student of Vyasa, and therefore, by the mercy of Vyasa, Sanjaya was able to envision the Battlefield of Kurukshetra even while he was in the room of Dhritarashtra. And so, Dhritarashtra asked him about the situation on the battlefield.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 1.1 Purport)Download this episode (right click and save)
In the world of video games there is something known as an Easter egg. You’ve been playing the game for a long time. You think you know the ins and outs. You think you have everything down. Then one day you discover something new. It’s a hidden treasure that’s just been waiting to be found. The feature is not officially documented, and not everyone knows about it.
Though the words of the Bhagavad-gita are there for everyone to see, several relevant verses stand out and become the primary focus of discussion. There is even a specific string of verses that are considered to be the essence of the Gita. If you were to only read a few verses, these are the ones that give you an idea of what the speaker Krishna is trying to get across in His conversation with the warrior Arjuna.
Since the work contains the words of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, there is endless nuance and variety to the collective, which compared to other scriptural texts is rather short in length. More and more comes to the reader as they progress in their understanding of the charioteer of Arjuna. Thus the more they read the Bhagavad-gita, the more information they find; things they may not have given so much attention to in the beginning. Though these items aren’t really hidden in the true sense of the word, they are treasures nonetheless.
1. Spiritual television
Some love it. Others hate it. They happily refer to it with the moniker, “the idiot box.” You can spend hours sitting in one place and staring at it. You feel a range of emotions without having to move. You don’t need to pay much attention, either; passive entertainment.
The invention of the television was groundbreaking. It allowed images from one place to be transmitted across the globe. Millions of people could simultaneously watch a single event. This happens yearly with the final game of the National Football League season. Known as the Super Bowl, though the game is played in a stadium holding upwards of 100,000 people, there are millions more watching at home through the magic of television.
From the Bhagavad-gita we see that there was something like spiritual television even five thousand years ago. No satellites were required. Electricity was not needed. The potency through asceticism and the goodness of one person allowed it to happen. Known as Vyasadeva, he is the compiler of the majority of Vedic literature.
He composed the Mahabharata, which is the history of great Bharata, which today is known as India. The Bhagavad-gita is within the Mahabharata, and so Vyasadeva knew everything that happened on the battlefield. Though he wasn’t present on the chariot with Krishna and Arjuna, he saw everything through spiritual television. He passed on this ability to Sanjaya, who was the servant of the king named Dhritarashtra. The Bhagavad-gita is told through the conversation between Sanjaya and Dhritarashtra.
2. King Janaka
One of the major topics of the Bhagavad-gita is karma. This is fruitive activity. Action and reaction. Karma is important to know. Why is one person born into wealth and another into poverty? Why are some people better at certain things than others? Since the results are due to past actions, from previous lives even, karma explains the variety.
karmaṇaiva hi saṁsiddhim
sampaśyan kartum arhasi
“Even kings like Janaka and others attained the perfectional stage by performance of prescribed duties. Therefore, just for the sake of educating the people in general, you should perform your work.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.20)
Karma also means “prescribed duty.” Do your work as a matter of duty; don’t be attached to the results. Shri Krishna described this to Arjuna since the warrior was contemplating abandoning his duty out of sentiment. Krishna gave the example of King Janaka, who worked with detachment. This is a hidden treasure of the Gita because there is not much discussion about this famous king. He is one of twelve mahajanas mentioned in the Shrimad Bhagavatam by Yamaraja. These great souls are authorities on devotional service.
Janaka was also known as Videha, or one who is without a body. He looked like a normal person, but he was special due to his dispassion. He was detached from outcomes, which is difficult for a king to accomplish. Yet his enlightenment didn’t prevent him from carrying out the duties of king. Since he was sinless, since he was so pure in consciousness, he became the father to Sita Devi, who is an incarnation of the goddess of fortune. From Janaka’s example we learn that a person doesn’t necessarily have to renounce everything and live in a cave in order to practice spiritual life.
3. Time travel
Wouldn’t it be neat to go back in time and relive select moments from childhood? Wouldn’t it be great to witness historical events in person and then know for sure what exactly took place? How about travelling into the future to see what life will be like long after we have left? These are simply fantasies, as time travel of this kind is impossible.
Even still, the Bhagavad-gita has some elements of time travel. In explaining the spiritual science to Arjuna, Krishna mentions that the teachings were originally spoken to the sun god, Vivasvan. Arjuna was perplexed, since the sun god was around at the beginning of the creation. How could Krishna have spoken to him that many years back?
Arjuna’s charioteer, friend and cousin then explained that many births both of them have had. Krishna could remember them but Arjuna could not. This one truth reveals how we can go back in time. We have indeed lived before. The issue is that we can’t remember those past lives. Only Krishna can, since He is God.
amī ca tvāṁ dhṛtarāṣṭrasya putrāḥ
bhīṣmo droṇaḥ sūta-putras tathāsau
sahāsmadīyair api yodha-mukhyaiḥ
vaktrāṇi te tvaramāṇā viśanti
kecid vilagnā daśanāntareṣu
sandṛśyante cūrṇitair uttamāṅgaiḥ
“All the sons of Dhritarashtra along with their allied kings, and Bhishma, Drona and Karna, and all our soldiers are rushing into Your mouths, their heads smashed by Your fearful teeth. I see that some are being crushed between Your teeth as well.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.26-27)
Krishna also allowed Arjuna to travel into the future. The main cause of Arjuna’s hesitation was the fear of killing people from the opposing army who were dear to him. These included the grandfather Bhishma and the teacher Drona. To make the case for action all the more convincing, Krishna gave a glimpse into the future. Arjuna saw a vision in which all the soldiers from the other side were rushing into Krishna’s mouths. This indicated that practically everyone would die anyway, whether Arjuna acted or not. By continuing forward, Arjuna would get to act as Krishna’s instrument, to effect the change that time was already set to deliver. This is a hidden treasure of knowledge because it shows that the future is already determined. Every person who takes birth must die. We are already dead in a sense; it is just that the result has not yet manifested.
4. The flag of Hanuman
Arjuna’s chariot has certain decorations and one of them is a flag bearing the image of Shri Hanuman. The Ramayana is a famous work of the Vedic tradition that deals with the life and activities of Shri Rama, whose name is in the very title. Another hero of the Ramayana is Hanuman, who has an entire section dedicated to his heroic exploits. Hanuman is a real-life person, and he is also a symbol of perseverance, strength, courage and victory in devotion. He is known most for his unflinching devotion to Rama.
Now Rama was again there on the battlefield; this time in the form of Krishna. Hanuman made his way there also, represented on the flag of the chariot. Arjuna was to act in the same way as Hanuman; carrying out the Lord’s orders. One devotee helping another, Hanuman was there to provide moral support. The devotees are never alone; they always have the past acharyas, teachers, and servants helping them in one form or another.
5. The way to become forever dear to God
Since the time travel facilitated by Krishna showed that death is a guaranteed event, it would make sense to try to find out the purpose to life. What is the best way to use the time that we do have in this body? I am living right now, so what should be my goal? The natural tendency of the living entities is to ask things from God. He is almighty, after all. Even Arjuna asked Krishna to be his teacher because he was in distress. As the Supreme Lord is all-pervading, He most certainly hears the prayers offered to Him. He is willing to grant requests, but He uses discrimination.
Another hidden treasure of the Bhagavad-gita is the information it provides on how to become dear to God. Going beyond asking Him for things, what can we do to please Him? This is the real objective of an existence, because Krishna’s pleasure automatically means our pleasure. If we are dear to Him, it means that He will never leave us. He will stay within our consciousness.
Krishna lists several qualities and abilities that make a person dear to Him. He tells Arjuna to abandon all kinds of dharma, or systems of religion, and just surrender unto Him. He says that any person who explains the supreme science that is the Gita to other devoted souls becomes extremely dear to the Lord. Thus the formula for pleasing the most important person, God Himself, is given in the Bhagavad-gita. There can be no information more valuable than this.
From many times Gita to read,
New treasures uncovered indeed.
Janaka on bhakti an authority,
Renounced, but giving duty priority.
Spiritual television and travelling in time,
Way to understand the future of mine.
Most important how to Krishna to become dear,
Objective of valuable human life made clear.