The path of Bhagavad Gita is not the path of compulsion. It is rather the path of free will. It is the path of self-realisation where honest and considered opinion of the individual is not only not despised but is valued highly. No dogma is thrust upon the throat of the gullible. Everyone has to find the truth, in his own way.
After imparting all-encompassing materialistic and spiritual knowledge, Shri Krishna at the end of his discourse told Arjuna :
‘ I have thus described to you this wisdom, which is more secret than all secrets. Think about it seriously, and then do as you wish’
After explaining pros and cons of everything, Krishna asks Arjuna to do as he wished to do. It implies that God does not impose his will on anyone. One has to think for himself and act for himself. God has granted free will to man so that he can make an appropriate choice.
After throwing ample light on different aspects of life, elaborating the desirable and undesirable traits of human behaviour ; and also explaining different paths of self-realisation, Krishna leaves the decision to Arjuna’s choice.
But that choice cannot be an impulsive choice. It has to be a well considered decision. That is why Krishna asked Arjuna to reflect fully upon the wisdom imparted to him, and then decide what to do and what not to do. Krishna did not ask Arjuna to follow his teachings blindly. He was given the freedom of examining his advice critically and then apply the understanding so gained to the situation at hand.
The symbolism of Krishna not wielding any weapon also suggests that the Divine seeks co-operation of man not by coercion, but by persuasion. Krishna asked Arjuna to introspect and then decide the right course of action. He did not say that since he was the God, Arjuna would have to follow his command or otherwise he would rot in the hell.
The God can only illumine the path, but he cannot force the man to walk on that. He can teach man. He can guide him. He can advise him. He can support him whenever he falters. But neither would God compel man to act nor would he ever act on his behalf. One has to act for oneself. Moreover, one has to oneself face the consequences of his nobel or evil deeds. No one else would ever come to suffer for one’s sins.
Why is the wisdom declared by Krishna called more secret than all secrets ? Gita has discussed in detail the concepts such as Atman, Pramatman and Brahman. Such spiritual knowledge which is so profound cannot be realised through direct perception. Hence, it has been termed as secret knowledge.
To conclude, God is ever willing to offer his grace to man. But to get it, one has to deserve it. Therefore, one must choose his path of liberation with care and walk on it willingly and with full conviction.
Due to the free will so granted to man, it can be said that the teachings of Bhagavad Gita are liberating and not binding.
Vijay Singal, author of ‘Bhagavad Gita – Saying it the simple way’