The Bhagavad Gita



1. Means ‘Bhagavan’ – God, ‘Gita’ – Song/chant, therefore ‘the song of God.’

2. The Gita is taken from the epic poem the MAHABHARATA composed by the poet VYASA. It comprises of the myths, legends, folk lore, and the religious and philosophical history of India and has over 100,000 metrical verses.

3. The Mahabharata focuses on two blood related families who are against each other. The PANDAVAS are the good guys and the KAURAVAS are the bad guys. The P’s lost their kingdom to the K’s after being cheated by a K uncle. They then wander through India for 13 years with a promise that their lands will be returned after this time. The 5 P brothers return after the exile but the Ks refuse to keep to the original agreement and the two families go to war.


1. The Gita is taken from chapters 23-40 of the Mahabharata of the section called the BHISMA PARVAN.

2. The two armies face each other 100,000 on the Ks side & 70,000 on the Ps. The story is related to the blind K king by his chief minister.

3. One of the P brothers is called ARJUNA one of the heroes of the Gita and his companion, his charioteer is the God, KRISHNA. Arjuna does not know at the outset that he is a God.

4. Initially Arjuna (in the first chapter) refuses to take part in the battle and the remaining 17 chapters recount Krishna’s attempts to make him fulfill his duties.

5. Arjuna at the end fights in the battle which lasts 18 days and he kills one of the Ks chiefs. The works ends with the leader of the Ps, Arjunas brother being crowned King.

6. The Gita attempts to blend together the three traditions of :



1. On seeing the two armies Arjuna is unsure what to do because on the other side are friends, relatives – family. If he destroys them he is destroying FAMILY and if he destroys family then the DHARMA, the traditional laws of the family will die – women will be corrupted and the VARNAS will be thrown into confusion:

‘Thus by these deeds of the destroyer of the family, deeds which produce a confusion of the varnas, the laws of the varnas are broken, and with that the eternal family laws are abolished.’

Arjuna symbolises the difficulties that man faces, the battlefield is the heart of every person and the problems we face, while Krishna symbolises God.

2. Arjuna faces three dilemmas, family, personal & a dilemma of action:


i.) If Arjuna fights then the family is destroyed

ii.) If Arjuna doesn’t fight the family is also destroyed

iii. Arjuna must either fight or not fight

iv.)Therefore either way the family is destroyed.

Krishna says the wise man does not worry about the living or the dead.


i.) If Arjuna fights then he will be fighting his family, and then he is doomed.

ii.) If Arjuna does not fight then he will have failed to protect his family, then he is doomed.

iii.)Arjuna must either fight or not fight

iv.)Therefore, he is doomed.


i.) Krishna could in his argument be referring to the JIVA – soul, personality saying this will survive the death of the body, also the ATMAN- that lives in all beings and can never die. He is using a Brahmanical argument:

’Just as the dweller in this body has passed from childhood to youth to old age, in just the same way shall that One pass on eventually to another body. The wise man is not deceived in this matter.’

LIKEWISE – ’These material bodies of the eternal, indestructible and immeasurable embodied Dweller within are themselves unreal. Therefore, fight, Oh Arjuna.’

ii.) Arjuna as a soldier does not quite understand the philosophical interpretations (Upanishadic) which Krishna is giving him, therefore Krishna turns to a more Brahminical/Vedic interpretation, these are to appeal to his ARYAN – material nature:

¨ Duty-calls argument, as a warrior (KSATRIYA) it is his duty (DHARMA) to fight a just war [Yet this does not help Arjuna against the family dilemma]. ’Further looking to your own duty as a warrior you must not falter. For there is nothing better for a Ksatriya than a just war.’

¨ Heaven-can-be-yours argument

’The chance to fight is an open door to heaven for you. Fortunate indeed, Oh Arjuna, are those warriors who get such a chance.’

¨ Sin-will-be-yours argument

’But now if you will not engage in this just war, if you will not perform your duty and instead abandon that duty and honour, then you will surely fall into sin.’

¨ Shame-will-be-yours argument

’{if you do not fight) men will tell again and again of your eternal dishonour, and for one now held in high regard, such disgrace is worse than death.’

¨ Krishna finishes by saying:

’If you die fighting, you shall win heaven; and if you live and conquer, you shall win earth. Therefore, arise, Oh Arjuna, resolve to fight.’

iii.) Yet these arguments fail again for Arjuna’s dilemma is still based around the family and is duty to protect/serve it. Whatever action he takes he would seem to have a problem.


i.)The difficulty with action is that whatever we do there is a problem, i.e.:

¨ If one does evil acts (such as destroying members of one’s own family) then this produces evil results that entail bondage and rebirth”

¨ If one does good acts (such as doing one’s duty and protecting members of one’s own family) then this produces good results that also entail bondage & rebirth.”

¨ One must either do evil acts or good acts¨ Therefore, whatever one does, bondage and rebirth are the results.

ii.) Previously, Krishna talked over reaching the Brahminical heaven through good acts – which did not solve Brahmanical Samsara – therefore Krishna now changes his argument to a discussion about action & Karma:

’But now hear from me of the knowledge of the method of yoga, joined with which, Oh Arjuna, you shall let loose the bonds of Karma.’

iii.) Karma Yoga, is how Krishna solves the third premise of the dilemmas, fight or not fight (the personal dilemma), doing evil or good acts (the dilemma of action). It is Karma Yoga a way of acting, ‘actionless action’ which solves the dilemmas:

’Those whose souls are filled with desires, intent only on heaven as their goal, their way offers only rebirth as the result of their actions. They offer only various rituals for obtaining their goals of pleasure and power.’

The Vedas have the three gunas as their concern.

Be free from these three binding qualities. Oh, Arjun. Be free from the pairs of apposites, attached only to the truth, free from gaining and coveting things, attached only to Atman.

The Vedas are as much use to an enlightened Brahmin as a tank of water is placed flooded on all sides of water.’

Desire and the Gunas are what cause bondage and heaven is only a temporary release from Samsara – Krishna then talks about the yoga which will lead all to liberation:

’Let your concern be with action alone and never with the fruits of action. Do not let the results of action be your motive, and do not be attached to inaction. Firmly fixed in yoga, Oh Arjuna, perform your actions renouncing attachments, indifferent to success and failure. This balanced indifference is called (karma) yoga.

For mere action is inferior by far to the yoga of unattachment, Oh Arjuna. In this attitude of unattachment seek your refuge. Pitiable, indeed, are those whose motive is the fruit of action. Those endowed with unattachment leave behind in this world both good and evil. Therefore, unite yourself to(karma) yoga. (Karma) yoga is, indeed, skill in action. The wise, united to unattachment, renounce the fruits which action produces, and freed thereby from the bondage of rebirth, they go to that place free from pain.’

iv.) What Krishna is saying is by letting go of the desire for the results of one’s actions – karmic results normally generated by the actions cease to exist. If they cease to exist then the law of Karma can not be applied to the action and does not then lead to rebirth and bondage. Therefore the dilemma of action is solved together with personal dilemma.


i.)Action has three parts: – MOTIVE, ACT & CONSEQUENCE

¨ MOTIVE: The motive is the desire that starts the act and brings about results. It can be good or bad (Remember old man crossing the road).

¨ ACT: This is the activity of putting the motive into the world. To judge whether the acts are good or bad then we need to have awareness of moral rules which judge the actions which we perform

¨ CONSEQUENCES: if there are no such rules then we can judge it by the consequences which they bring. The consequences can be short or long range. The consequences of the act will produce good or bad karma dependent upon the outcome.

ii.) Karma yoga looks to show it is possible to act without desire for the consequences and therefore you do not accumulate good or bad karma, rebirth then ceases when eventually there is no good or bad karma left to be rewarded or punished.


i.) Arjuna asks Krishna what this person is like who has achieved this – spontaneous, natural, karmaless action.

ii.) He calls the Karma Yogi a JIVANMUKTA:

’He who has no attachments towards anything, and who, having gotten this or that good or evil, neither delights in it nor hates it, then his mind is steadfast.’

iii.) Krishna also sets in motion the idea of a second way to liberation through BHAKTI yoga:

’Restraining all his senses, let him sit, his attention fixed on ME. He whose senses are thus under control, his mind is steadfast.’


i.) Krishna as the incarnation of Vishnu is God and therefore worthy of worship, which is called BHAKTI YOGA

ii.) In utter devotion to God the BHAKTA – devotee, surrenders everything, desire for, attachment to & consequence of actions – therefore attaining the same ends as Karma yoga, it also opens liberation to the lowest caste:

’Arjuna, you must me that my devotees never perish…For those who take refuge in me, even though they are born from a womb of sin, even though they are women, vaisayas , or even sudras, they go to the highest goal.’

iii.) Therefore Bhakti yoga is open to all human beings – the goal of the Bhakta is Lord Krishna:

’By bhakti he comes to know Me, what My measure is and Who / am in truth. Then having known Me truly he enters into Me immediately.’

iv.) The bhakta identifying with Krishna means the self is no longer separate from God. The actions performed by the devotee now are the actions of God – therefore they have no karma associated:

’Mentally surrender all of your actions to Me, alone, intent on Me, alone resorting to the yoga of the mind, have your thoughts set on Me, alone. Thus focusing all your thoughts on Me, alone, you will overcome all problems by My grace…..’


i.) The two yogas offered in the Upanishads also are described in the Gita, helping to blend all the traditions. Krishna describes to Arjuna the art of simple meditation (Dhyana):

’Closing all external objects, focusing the eyes between the eyebrows, making equal the inhalation and exhalation of the breath through the nostrils, The yogi who meditates with his senses, mind and reason controlled, who is intent on moska and who has cast out desire, fear and anger, he is liberated forever.’

ii.) He goes on to describe Jnana yoga:

’Only through the destruction of ignorance by Jnana (knowledge) only by that will true knowledge shine forth like the sun, revealing the highest Self (Atman) Thinking on That (Atman), merging with the self with That, making That the sole aim and object of devotion, they reach a state from which there is no returning, their sins destroyed by true knowledge.’


i.) The Gita does not mix the four yogas – the different yoga also depends on the individuals gunas, but Krishna gives a basic path:

‘For Jnana is better than the practice of concentration; but better than Jnana is Dhyana; and better than Dhyana is the renunciation of the fruits of action (Karma), for with this renunciation there comes immediate peace.

GOES ON TO SAY – ‘By Dhyana some percieve Atman in the self by the self. Others by the yoga of knowledge; and others by Karma yoga see Atman.’


1. The first problem – Arjuna is to get him to do his duty which is done.

2. The second real problem in the Gita is the problem of Duhkha – suffering in the world. It appears 16 times in the Gita in significant passages.


i.) Karma – desire or lust

ii.) Ignorance

iii.)Krodha – Hatred


i.) The solution lies in Moksha – Liberation or release, through absorption into Brahman or spending eternity with Krishna:

SPENDING ETERNITY – ‘Merge your mind with Me, be My Bhakta, sacrifice to Me, prostrate yourself before me, and you shall come to Me. I promise this to you truly, for you are ever dear to me.’

ABSORPTION SOLUTION – ‘Thinking on That (highest Self), merging the self with That, making That the sole aim and object of their devotion, they reach a state from which there is no returning, their sins destroyed by true knowledge.


i.) Karma Yoga

ii.) Bhakti Yoga

iii.) Dhyana Yoga

iv.) Jnana Yoga