The Poetic and Literary Value of the Gita

See the source imageAs is the case with other scriptures, the Gita contains beautiful and didactic poetic moments, parables and comparisons. For example, when Sri Krishna shows his Universal Form at end of chapter 11, he assumes the form of Lord Time (Kala, which is an aspect of Shiva the Destroyer in the Hindu Trinity), swallowing all the victims of the Kurukshetra War that were about to die in the battlefield. The Black Goddess of death and destruction Kali is Kala’s Shakti, or feminine aspect. The idea that Time is swallowing all of nature, that all things are dying as Time passes, also finds a mythical outlet in Chronos swallowing his own children in Greek myth.

The Gita contains a somewhat parallel teaching to the Quran, which says that a day for Allah is 1,000 human days. A Day of Brahma equals 1,000 age cycles, and inscribed in this cosmological model is a mythical theme that reminds us of theories concerning the Big Bang being part of a never-ending cyclical process that births new cosmos. When Brahma sleeps, the universe is not manifest. When he awakes, it is manifest. Cyclical cosmological models are more accurate ways to describe nature than linear ones.

By human calculation, a thousand ages taken together is the duration of Brahma’s one day. And such also is the duration of his night. When Brahma’s day is manifest, this multitude of living entities comes into being, and at the arrival of Brahma’s night they are all annihilated. Again and again the day comes, and this host of beings is active; and again the night falls, O Partha, and they are helplessly dissolved. – BG 8:17-19

Like Lucretius’ fortress of the soul metaphor, the Gita furnishes many metaphors for yoga and the tranquil wisdom it helps to cultivate, comparing the mind to a candle that does not flicker, or an ocean that constantly receives water but remains the same.

As a lamp in a windless place does not waver, so the transcendentalist, whose mind is controlled, remains always steady in his meditation on the transcendent Self. – BG 6:19

A person who is not disturbed by the incessant flow of desires—that enter like rivers into the ocean which is ever being filled but is always still—can alone achieve peace, and not the man who strives to satisfy such desires. – BG 2:70


About hiramcrespo

Hiram Crespo is the author of 'Tending the Epicurean Garden' (Humanist Press, 2014) and 'How to Live a Good Life' (Penguin Random House, 2020), and founder of He's also written for The Humanist, Eidolon, Occupy, The New Humanism, The Secular Web, Europa Laica, AteístasPR, and many other outlets.
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