You would not find the Bhagavad Gita in the self help section of a library or a book store. It is good that it is so. A book of the stature of Bhagavad Gita should not be reduced to the level of popular, (maybe even best seller) self help books which give a feel good message when you read and are shallow and misleading when you probe deeper. But if you ever get to understand the core message of Bhagavad Gita, you will find that this is the self help book you have been looking for all your life.
There are reasons why I say so. Self help books focus on one thing – how to get what you want. Self help authors and motivational gurus suggest various seemingly easy and short cut methods to achieve what you want. But they don’t tell you what you should want. Bhagavad Gita does so. It tells you what should be the highest goal of a human being.
It is important first of all to know what you want. Quite often people work hard for years for something, but after they get it they become more frustrated. They wish they should not have desired to achieve that.
Secondly, when you only prescribe ways for getting what you want, it can be utilised for good purpose as well as evil purpose. It can also be utilised for pure selfish purpose which would come at the general good of the society. In fact many self help books encourage you to be selfish and recommend unethical methods to achieve your goal.
These so called motivational authors call their books self help books. But tell me about any self help book where first of all some idea about ‘self’ is given. The fact is that they themselves may not be knowing what self is all about. Bhagavad Gita fulfills this shortcoming. It gives you some idea about your innermost core which is elusive to the conscious mind but can be experienced in deep meditation. Let me assure you, if you don’t have the proper perspective about the ‘self’, no amount of tips, tricks, and hacks will be of any long term use to you.
We are all interdependent, not only from human society point of view, but also from the point of view of our surroundings consisting of living and non-living elements. We cannot progress in isolation. Self help books rarely talk about your position in the cosmic order of things. These books never give you the big picture. Remember that if your actions are not aligned with the big picture of things, the selfish goals you achieve by using the unethical and near- unethical tips and tricks of self help books will frustrate you in the long run even after you get all your desires fulfilled.
In an earlier post also while explaining the fallacy of the self help books I had recommended Bhagavad Gita as one of the few books that I have come across to be of real help. But, to understand the core message of Bhagavad Gita there are practical difficulties. There are thousands of translated versions of Bhagavad Gita available in various languages. If you do not have expertise in Sanskrit, you will not know how wide off the mark many of such translations and their commentaries are. Even knowing Sanskrit is not enough. To understand Bhagavad Gita one should have basic knowledge of various systems of Indian philosophy known as Darshanas.
While going through various books on Bhagavad Gita in the three languages that I can read and write I found that many of the interpreters did not have any experience in yoga or meditation. Such people who set out to interpret Bhagavad Gita do great injustice to the book.
In spite of all the shortcomings it is worthwhile to try the Bhagavad Gita in whatever versions you may land your hands on. These days of course you have many online versions. It may be useful to compare two to three versions to enable you to at least get the core versions. By the way my own version is also underway. From time to time while going through various versions of the Bhagavad Gita I have made notes of insights gained. My advantage is that I can fairly understand Sanskrit even though I am no expert in it.