So I finished the Baghivad Gita the other day. Primary observation: (warning, rank cultural insensitivity ahead) Krishna is an ass.
The whole book is a justification of blind, unquestioning obedience to spiritual authority and to the role established by your station in life. Even the bonds of love must be subordinated to the call of sacred duty. It is more virtuous do a lousy job of living in your given position in life, than to ever seek to change that position.
But even worse, it is a rejection of individual responsibility for actions. The story, of course, begins with Arjunas reluctance to go into battle against his cousins. Krishna’s admonishment is simple and clear: from his point of view they are already dead; so Arjuna may as well be be his tool in killing them. By submitting himself to sacred duty, Arjuna absolves himself of any responsibility for their deaths. This is restated later in the book: even killing is not killing if it is done with the right attitude of devotion to Krishna. This is the kind of philosophy which is used to justify massacres in the name of religion.
I was surprised also to find that Krishna explicitly describes the Calvanist idea of predestination. According to him, some creatures are born with good souls and some with evil, and there is nothing they can do about it.
Krishna, like Guatama Buddha, has some good things to say about surrendering attachments. But in Krishna’s version there is no room even for compassion. There is no room for love or for a deep experience of life; a true devotee of Krishna is utterly dispassionate and aloof, and experiences all sensations as alike.
In short, it is a philosophy optimized for keeping a nation of stratified casts in their place and content with their lot. I question it’s relevency to modern life except as a historical artifact. Whatever the transcendentalists, not to mention so many other spiritual seekers through the ages, saw in it is lost on me. Those who have been enchanted by it’s exoticism, to the extent of taking pilgrimages to India to learn from spiritual masters there, all seem to have conveniently ignored the material misery which it’s teachings have wrought upon the people of that land. Not all of India’s woes can be chalked up to it’s string of conquerors. Where human connection is rejected as illusion and weakness, there human life is cheap and cruelty commonplace.