In stark contrast to the discordance and inadequacy of the man without harmony, is the serenity and composure of the sthita prajana, the man who has seen the reality of the world around him and his own role within it, and has his faculties and senses firmly in control. The Gita is most persuasively evocative in portraying the qualities of such a person. He is impartial to joy and sorrow, gain or loss, victory or defeat, failure or success. He neither exults nor hates. He is unmoved in fortune or misfortune, honour or disgrace. He is calm, controlled and poised and possessed of a quietness of mind. Forever content, he is autonomous in his source of delight which is his inner self.
He is beyond fear and anger and envy and greed. He has conquered cravings and passion and is free of desires, expectations and vain hopes. At peace with himself, his detachment is imbued with a transparent tranquility. Imperturbable, unwavering and still, his composure is not shaken by others, while others find peace in his presence. His contemplative calm is suffused by good will for all. His entire demeanour and personality is like a lamp ‘whose light is steady for it burns in a shelter where no winds come’. The joy that radiates from his being is effortless, untainted by the strain and tension of denial and discipline.
In its pervasive idealization of the harmonious person, the Gita at one point appears to ride roughshod over issues of social equality and equity. It is of course true that the Gita, while enjoying the reverence due to a religious text. was also a social document, reflecting in part the prevalent views of thinking of the period when it was written. The writing of the Gita is generally ascribed by historians to the period between AD 150 to AD 350 although there are scholars who have dated it as far back as 500 BC. It is possible that the text was not written by one individual but that portions were additions or accretions by people whose motivation could very well have also been the preservation and perpetuation of their class interest. In any case, in Hindu religious texts, the intrusion by the Brahminical class of portions which give divine sanction to a social order congruent with their interests, was not uncommon.
It does seem likely, therefore, that the reference to the four varnas in the Gita, and its exhortation that the individual should acquiesce in their inflexible inequity, was included for such a purpose. Krishna was used as a mouthpiece for giving divine sanction to entrenched vested interests representing the Brahmin-Kshatriya coalition. To the same class would belong the following shloka in section 9: Tor all those who come to me for shelter, however weak or humble or sinful they may be—women or Vaishyas or Shudras—they all reach the Path supreme.’ The textual chastity of the Gita has been blemished by such crude attempts to make it a vehicle for social biases and prejudice. The interpolatory nature of the attempt is also quite obvious. The shloka cited above fits in poorly with the general tenor of the section to which it belongs, and is even more out of place when seen against the totality of the Gita’s perspective. More than anything else, to make Sringaramurtirnam Krishna pronounce women as ‘sinful’ is, to say the least, disingenuously laboured, if not patently ludicrous.
This being said, it would be unfair to damn the text as a whole for the unacceptable aberrations of a small segment of it. It is indeed a rare religious text that completely transcends the limitations of the thinking of its time, or is totally oblivious to the social circumstances of the period when it was penned. There is, besides, another aspect to be considered. Perhaps, the Gita was deliberately less than sensitive to notions of social justice and egalitarianism because these concepts, while unquestionably valid in themselves, were not the primary focus of its concern.
The Gita was seeking to essay the attributes of a life enduringly free from the viruses of anxiety and tension. Its aim was to give man a panacea for his perpetually destabilizing interaction with the world around him. Given this frame of reference, it is not inconceivable that, for the Gita, contentment was a higher goal than the agitation of mind that necessarily accompanies the struggle to change the parameters conditioning our daily existence. Of course, it would be wrong, even for a moment, to postulate that the Gita was consciously articulating a passive acceptance of injustice. Krishna asked Arjuna to pick up his bow and fight because the Kauravas represented injustice. But in motivating him to do so, he appealed to his duty as ordained by his vocation in life, namely that of a warrior. He did not tell him to organize a yagna to pray for the defeat of evil, as he vvould for instance have exhorted a priest to do. Nor did he give him ‘revolutionary’ advice to give up his status in life to take up the battle through any and whatever means available. To this extent, Krishna was a person of his phenomenal time and place.