The Bhagavad Gita is a Sanskrit text from the Bhishma Parva of the great Indian epic, Mahabharata.
The content of the text is a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna taking place on the battlefield of Kurukshetra just prior to the start of a climactic war. Responding to Arjuna's confusion and moral dilemma, Krishna explains to Arjuna his duties as a warrior and Prince, reveals to him profound spiritual truths and initiates him in the methods of karma yoga. The Gita has been described as a concise guide to Hindu philosophy and also as a practical, self-contained guide to life. During the discourse, Krishna reveals his identity as the Supreme Being Himself Bhagavan, blessing Arjuna with an awe-inspiring glimpse of His divine absolute form.
The discourse on the Bhagavad Gita begins before the start of the climactic battle at Kurukshetra. It begins with the Pandava prince Arjuna, as he becomes filled with doubt on the battlefield. Realising that his enemies are his own relatives, beloved friends and revered teachers, he turns to his charioteer and guide, Krishna, for advice.
Krishna counsels Arjuna on the greater idea of dharma, or universal harmony and duty. He begins with the tenet that the soul is eternal and immortal. BG 2.12 "...you have always existed. It is not that 'all of us', I and you, shall cease to be 'in the future', i.e., beyond the present time; we shall always exist. Even as no doubt can be entertainted that I, the Supreme Self and Lord of all, am eternal, likewise, you (Arjuna and all others) who are embodied selves, also should be considered eternal." Any 'death' on the battlefield would involve only the shedding of the body, but the soul is permanent.
Arjuna's hesitation stems from a lack of right understanding of the 'nature of things,' the privileging of the unreal over the real. His fear and reticence become impediments to the proper balancing of the universal dharmic order. Essentially, Arjuna wishes to abandon the battle, to abstain from action; Krishna warns, however, that without action, the cosmos would fall out of order and truth would be obscured.
In order to clarify his point, Krishna expounds the various Yoga processes, and understanding of the true nature of the universe. Krishna describes the yogic paths of service, karma yoga; of knowledge, jnana yoga; and of devotion, bhakti yoga. Fundamentally, the Bhagavad Gita proposes that true enlightenment comes from growing beyond identification with the temporal ego, the 'False Self', the ephemeral world, so that one identifies with the truth of the immortal self, the soul or Atman. Through detachment from the material sense of ego, the Yogi, or follower of a particular path of Yoga, is able to transcend his/her illusory mortality and attachment to the material world and enter the realm of the Supreme: "by the strength of yoga, with an undeviating mind, engages himself in remembering the Supreme Lord in full devotion, will certainly attain to the Supreme"
It should be noted, however, that Krishna does not propose that the physical world must be forgotten or neglected. Indeed, it is quite the opposite: one's life on earth must be lived in accordance with greater laws and truths, one must embrace one's temporal duties whilst remaining mindful of a more timeless reality, acting for the sake of action without consideration for the karmaphal (karmic fruits, whether bitter or sweet). Such a life would naturally lead towards stability, happiness and, ultimately, enlightenment.
To demonstrate his divine nature, Krishna temporarily grants Arjuna the boon of cosmic vision and allows the prince to see Krishna's 'Universal Form' as the cosmic divine. He reveals that he is fundamentally both the ultimate essence of Being in the universe, and also its material body, called the Vishvarupa ('World Form').
In the Bhagavad-Gita Krishna refers to the war about to take place as 'Dharma Yuddha', meaning a righteous war for the purpose of justice. In Chapter 4, Krishna states that he incarnates in each age yuga to establish righteousness in the world: "to reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear"
The Gita consists of 18 chapters.
- 1. Arjuna bids Krishna to move the chariot between the hosts. As he sees his relatives on the side of the Kurus, he loses courage.
- 2. Krishna teaches that only the body may be killed, while the eternal self is immortal. He appeals to Arjuna's warrior ethos that should force him to kill even his relatives in equanimity.
- 3. Arjuna aske why he should act if the most important is knowledge, not action. Krishna stresses the importance of doing the necessary without attachment in the interest of worldly order.
- 4. Krishna reveals that he has lived through many births, always teaching Yoga for the protection of the pious and the destruction of the impious.
- 5. Arjuna asks if it is better to forgo action or to act. Krishna answers that both ways may be beneficient, but that Karma Yoga is superior.
- 6. Krishna describes the correct posture for meditation and how to reach Brahman through proper action.
- 7. Krishna teaches Jnana Yoga
- 8. Krishna describes Brahman
- 9. Krishna teaches panentheism, "all beings are in me".
- 10. Krishna enumerates names of gods, mythical beings and famous heroes and explains Vibhuti.
- 11. On Arjuna's request, he is given darshan, a vision of Krishna in his true "universal form" viśvarūpa, an epiphany of a being facing every way and emitting the radiance of a thousand suns, containing all deities and all beings.
- 12. Krishna describes the process of devotional service Bhakti Yoga.
- 13. on the all-transcendant nature of God.
- 14. on the three gunas of Samkhya philosophy
- 15 description of tree symbolic of the gunas, which has its roots in the heavens and its foilage on earth, representing. This tree should be felled with the "axe of detachment".
- 16. Krishna distinguishes human traits of divine and of inferior nature.
- 17. on the triple division of religion in thought, deed and ingestion, corresponding to the three gunas.
- 18. Dharma must always be upheld, one must perform one's duty in renunciation. Arjuna follows the recommendation of Krishna and joins the battle.