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TUTORIAL - Bhagavad-gita

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<center>TUTORIAL - Bhagavad-gita


<img src=http://home.primus.ca/~caitanya/BhagavadGita.jpg></center>



<font color=red>This is a major portion of a guide for studying the Bhagavad-gita. It was prepared by SubhAnanda dAsa brahmacArI, Bh.S. (Editor, Bhaktivedanta Book Trust)</font></CENTER>




Bhagavad-gItA, a philosophical poem comprising seven hundred Sanskrit verses, is one of the most important philosophical and literary works known to man. More commentaries have been written upon the GItA than upon any other philosophical or religious text in history. As a classic of timeless wisdom, it is the main literary support for the oldest surviving spiritual culture in the world--that of India's Vedic civilization. Not only has the GItA directed the religious life of many centuries of Hindus, but, owing to the pervasive influence of religious concepts in Vedic civilization, the GItA has shaped India's social, ethical, cultural and even political life as well. Attesting to India's nearly universal acceptance of the GItA, practically every sectarian cult and school of Hindu thought, representing a vast spectrum of religious and philosophical views, accepts Bhagavad-gItA as the summum bonum guide to spiritual truth. The GItA, therefore, more than any other single historical source, provides penetrating insight into the metaphysical and psychological foundation of India's Vedic culture, both ancient and contemporary.


The influence of Bhagavad-gItA, however, is not limited to India. The GItA has deeply affected the thinking of generations of philosophers, theologians, educators, scientists and authors in the West as well Henry David Thoreau reveals in his journal, "Every morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad-gItA … in comparison with which our modern civilization and literature seem puny and trivial."


The GItA has long been considered the essence of Vedic literature, the vast body of ancient scriptural writings that forms the basis of Vedic philosophy and spirituality. As the essence of the 108 UpaniSads, it is sometimes referred to as GItopaniSad.


Although widely published and read by itself, Bhagavad-gItA originally appears as an episode of the MahAbhArata, a great historical epic, in which it occupies chapters 25 through 42 in the BhISma Parva. Authorship of the MahAbhArata is traditionally attributed to the great sage VedavyAsa (SrIla VyAsadeva). It was VyAsa, "the literary incarnation of God," who, according to orthodox Vedic historiography, put the eternal Vedic wisdom into writing at the onset of the Kali-yuga, the current age of spiritual darkness. After compiling the four principal Vedas, the UpaniSads and the VedAnta-sUtra, he decided to compile the PurANas and the MahAbhArata for the benefit of the common people who could not sufficiently assimilate the lofty philosophical teachings of the earlier works. By exposure to the philosophical conclusions of the Vedas through the medium of ostensibly historical narrations, the common man would more readily understand and benefit from Vedic truth. Thus, Bhagavad-gItA, the essence of Vedic wisdom, was injected into the MahAbhArata, an action-packed narrative of an important era in ancient Indian politics.


Bhagavad-gItA comes to us in the form of a battlefield dialogue between Lord SrI KRSNa and the warrior Arjuna. The dialogue occurs just before the onset of the first military engagement of the KurukSetra War, a great fratricidal war between the Kauravas and the PANDavas to determine India's political destiny. (Details of the historical background of the war are described in the brief essay "Setting the Scene," which precedes the chapter summaries.) Arjuna, forgetful of his prescribed duty as a kSatriya (warrior) whose duty is to fight for a righteous cause in a holy war, decides, for personally motivated reasons, not to fight. KRSNa, who has agreed to act as the driver of Arjuna's chariot, sees His friend and devotee in illusion and perplexity and proceeds to enlighten Arjuna regarding his immediate social duty (varNa-dharma) as a warrior and, more important, his eternal duty or nature (sanAtana-dharma) as an eternal spiritual entity in relationship with God. Thus the relevance and universality of KRSNa's teachings transcend the immediate historical setting of Arjuna's battlefield dilemma. KRSNa speaks for the benefit of all souls who have forgotten their eternal nature, the ultimate goal of existence, and their eternal relationship with Him.


As we read the GItA, we read a narration by SaJjaya, a disciple of VyAsadeva's, to the blind King DhRtarASTra, the father of the impious Kauravas. Situated far from the battlefield, SaJjaya relates the holy discourse as it is revealed to him by VyAsadeva through supernatural vision.


Who Is KRSNa?


GItA means "song," and Bhagavad refers to bhagavAn, a Sanskrit term meaning "God, the possessor (vat) of all opulence (bhaga)."1 Bhagavad-gItA, therefore, is the Song of the All-opulent One, or the holy teachings spoken by KRSNa, who is God Himself. In the GItA, KRSNa's position is made very clear: "I am the source of everything; from Me the entire creation flows." [bg. 10.8] "There is no truth superior to Me."3 "By all the Vedas, I am to be known." [bg. 15.15] Arjuna prays, "You are the Supreme Brahman, the ultimate … the Absolute Truth and the eternal divine person. You are the primal God, transcendental and original,…" [bg. 10.12] and "You are the original personality, the Godhead.… Knowing everything, You are all that is knowable." [bg. 11.38] Throughout the GItA, KRSNa is called puruSottama (the Supreme Person), parabrahman (the Supreme Brahman), Adi-deva (the original Lord), paramezvara (the supreme controller) and so on. Other Vedic sources similarly define KRSNa as the Supreme Absolute Truth, inclusive of all forms and aspects of God, and as the original source of the creation, of the impersonal Brahman, of all living entities, of ViSNu, BrahmA and Siva (and of all other demigods), of all avatAras, and so on.


It is important to note, in this connection, that the humanlike form of KRSNa visible to Arjuna on the battlefield is not a material, carnal form "assumed" or "manifested" by KRSNa for the world of men. According to the text, the form seen by Arjuna is KRSNa's own original form, purely spiritual and transcendental. But although KRSNa is visible to all those present, only those with eyes "tinged with devotion" can understand that He Himself is the "Supreme Person," the Godhead. The universal form (vizva-rUpa) revealed by KRSNa to Arjuna in the Eleventh Chapter is not in any sense a higher manifestation of KRSNa, but only a temporary display of His controlling power as eternal time (kAla) in the cosmic universe. After revealing His magnificent and panoramic universal form, KRSNa manifests His own primordial humanlike form, and Arjuna, who has been terrified by the spectacular vision, becomes pactfied.


The GItA tells us that KRSNa's abode is in the spiritual world, from which He descends, periodically, to reestablish religion: "Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise in irreligion--at that time I descend Myself. To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium."7 As related in the MahAbhArata, KRSNa descended to the earth in His selfsame spiritual form, just prior to Kali-yuga, to lighten the military burden created by impious, politically ambitious kings. By His divine plan, all such demoniac forces were assembled at one place (the Battlefield of KurukSetra) and annihilated in the colossal and devastating war. Soon after enthroning the PANDavas, who ruled as saintly kings (rAjarSis), KRSNa returned to His eternal, spiritual abode. While present on the earth, KRSNa also performed numerous pastimes as a cowherd boy in the pastoral setting of VRndAvana and as a royal prince in the majestic city of DvArakA.8 These are related principally in the BhAgavata and ViSNu PurANas, as well as in later famous works such as Jayadeva GosvAmI's GItA-govinda and the works of the GosvAmIs, the great medieval VaiSNava scholars and disciples of SrI Caitanya. With these understandings of the identity of the speaker of the GItA, the GItA itself becomes more comprehensible.


How to Approach the GItA


The academic study of religion (whether in the philosophical, historical, social or psychological disciplines) has seen a recent trend toward approaching its subjects with some degree of empathy. Since religio-philosophical concepts are most often experientially based, it is increasingly evident that to gain more than stereotyped or superficial knowledge, the student or researcher must approach the subject not as a hostile critic but as a cautious sympathizer, as unhampered as possible by his own academic or personal prejudices. This is how we should approach the GItA.


Especially when dealing with Vedic spiritual philosophy, which is never theoretical but always aimed at practical transformations of consciousness and perception, we should approach with philosophical introspection. Indeed, intellectual astuteness without sincere eagerness to understand truth has always been considered, in Vedic culture, ineffectual in the realm of spiritual knowledge. The mysteries of transcendental wisdom are revealed to one who has firm faith in God and guru: "Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed."9


In the traditional Vedic system of education, the disciple always approaches the guru in an attitude of submission and faith. After choosing a qualified guru, he submits himself for instruction in a humble, non-arrogant way, as Arjuna does in the GItA itself: "Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me clearly what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me." [bg. 2.7] Frequently, throughout the text, KRSNa reminds Arjuna that He is revealing confidential truths because of Arjuna's faithful, nonenvious attitude. At the conclusion of His teachings, He instructs Arjuna further, "This confidential knowledge may not be explained to those who are not austere, or devoted, or engaged in devotional service, nor to one who is envious of Me." [bg. 18.67]


Although we ourselves may not be approaching the GItA as disciples but as critical students, if we study it in a mood of critical introspection and philosophical inquisitiveness, our experience of the GItA will be more penetrating.




Throughout Bhagavad-gItA, we are concerned with the existential position of the individual living entity (the self or soul) and his relationship with the phenomenal world and with God. The real self is not the body but the soul, which is spiritual, eternal and unchanging. He is eternally a distinct, individual, conscious being, never losing or "merging" his unique identity into any other being or existence. The individual self (called in Sanskrit the jIva) is eternally a part of God (insofar as everything is the creation or energy of God), but he is not himself God. He is of the same spiritual nature as God, but whereas God is infinite, he is infinitesimal. God is the Creator, he is created; God is the predominator, he is predominated; God is the maintainer, he is maintained.


In his original pristine state, the soul resides in the eternal spiritual world, where he enjoys an intimate relationship with God. Just as the intrinsic qualities of fire are heat and light and the intrinsic nature of water is liquidity, the soul's eternal religion or nature (sanAtana-dharma) is bhakti--pure devotional love and service to God. As the hand by nature serves the whole body, the jIva, who is constitutionally part of God, serves the complete whole. SanAtana-dharma is dissimilar to the Western concept of "religion," which indicates faith or belief that is potentially subject to change with time and circumstances; sanAtana-dharma indicates the eternal, unchanging function of the eternal jIva in his eternal relationship with God.


Because bhakti (devotional service) cannot be forcibly imposed but must, rather, be a voluntary and natural expression of the soul, God endows the jIva with free will. By improper exercise of his minute free will, however, the soul may choose to ignore God's predominance. So choosing, he is placed in the service of God's own "inferior" or "external" energy (mAyA), which illusions the jIva, causing him to forget his eternal, spiritual identity as God's servant. There are consequently two possible statuses for the soul--the "liberated" state (free from the influence of mAyA) and the "conditioned" state (illusioned by mAyA). Thus the jIva is the "marginal" energy of God, being subject, potentially, to both of God's energies--matter and spirit.

When illusioned, the jIva descends to the material world. The world of matter is real, yet unreal. It exists, but its existence is temporal, although appearing substantial and permanent. Although the material energy (prakRti) is eternal, it assumes an infinite variety of temporary shapes and forms, which constitute merely a shadow of the reality of the spiritual world.


Entering the material world, the fallen jIva takes birth in a material body, which, under the influence of mAyA, he thinks to be his self. Thus embodied, the jIva, forgetful of his higher, spiritual identity, indulges his mind and bodily senses in temporary, material phenomena in an aimless pursuit of pleasure. The material world is a dramatic stage on which the illusioned jIva can act out, under the spell of mAyA, his artificial role as the puruSa (enjoyer or predominator) of prakRti (material nature). In his original identity, the jIva is to serve and be "enjoyed" by God, but in his illusioned state he wants to act independently of God as the false lord of the material realm. Although he thinks himself independent of God, he is in actuality controlled by God through the agency of God's "external" energy.


The material nature is divided into three "modes," or guNas (literally, "ropes"): sattva (goodness), rajas (passion) and tamas (ignorance). Acting individually or in various combinations, these guNas bind the soul to a particular mentality and course of worldly action. Under the law of karma, he enjoys or suffers the results of his actions. According to his actions and mental state, the law of karma awards him a new body after he leaves the present one. Although the soul is unborn and undying, upon leaving the body he is said to die, and upon entering a new one he is said to take birth. In this manner, entangled within a complicated network of actions and reactions, he transmigrates from body to body, experiencing the bitter and sweet fruits of his actions in an endless succession of rebirths. Thus imprisoned within saMsAra, the wheel of repeated birth and death, the jIva perpetually suffers the miseries offered by his foreign, material existence.


After a long evolutionary ascent through the different species of plant and animal life, the soul finally enters a human form. By properly using the higher philosophical intelligence afforded by his human body, the bound jIva can analyze his existential position (as soul distinct from matter). With higher understanding of the self, he can extricate himself, by the discipline of yoga, from his bondage to the material world. Bhagavad-gItA teaches that to purify the materially contaminated consciousness is the goal of human life. In pure consciousness, the jIva acts in harmony with the will of God and is therefore happy. When, in the illusion of identifying with the material body, one acts in disharmony with the Supreme Will, one suffers the results of his sinful actions. The goal of yoga, therefore, is to liberate the jIva from his mistaken identification with the material body and the material world and to reconnect him to God (yoga literally means "link"). Yoga involves withdrawing the mind and senses from sense objects and, through unattached action, meditation, philosophical speculation or devotion (depending on which system of yoga one employs), gradually detaching oneself from the mundane world and ultimately realizing the self and his relationship with God.


Although there is some mention of aSTAGga-yoga ("the eightfold path"), the GItA deals primarily with three important systems of yoga: karma-yoga ("the yoga of action"), jJAna-yoga ("the yoga of knowledge") and bhakti-yoga ("the yoga of devotion"). In karma-yoga, one acts in selfless duty to the Supreme, sacrificing the fruits of one's work to God. This purifies the actor and releases him from material entanglement. In jJAna-yoga, one gradually cultivates spiritual knowledge by philosophical induction, exercising the intellect to differentiate between matter and spirit. Bhagavad-gItA introduces these yoga systems not exactly as self-sufficient paths, but as a progressive "yoga ladder," the highest rung being bhakti-yoga. The paths of karma-yoga, jJAna-yoga and dhyAna-yoga are prescribed as the various preliminary aspects of a single way to approach God: bhakti, selfless devotional love.


In the GItA, God possesses three principal features--Brahman, ParamAtmA and BhagavAn. Brahman, the object of pantheistic philosophies, is the impersonal, all-pervasive aspect of God. ParamAtmA ("Supersoul") is the localized form of God situated within the hearts of all embodied jIvas, eternally accompanying them as the indwelling maintainer, witness, permitter and guide. BhagavAn is the complete form of God and is identified in the GItA with KRSNa Himself, the speaker of the GItA. As such, KRSNa is not the embodiment of any higher, abstract principle or force, but, as He repeatedly informs Arjuna, is PuruSottama, the "Supreme Person," the cause of all causes, the creator, maintainer and annihilator of the universe (although transcendental to it) and the supreme object of worship. He descends periodically, in His original spiritual form (or in the form of an avatAra, or incarnation), to deliver the pious and to reestablish the principles of religion. The supreme principle of religion for the jIva is to surrender voluntarily unto Him and become His loving devotee.


As the speaker of the GItA, KRSNa commands Arjuna, at the conclusion of His teachings, to abandon all temporary dharmas (social duties, religious performances and methods of spiritual elevation) and simply surrender, with love, unto Him. Bhakti, therefore, is the ultimate and highest purpose of the jIva. Even while still materially embodied, the jIva can meditate on KRSNa, worship Him, glorify Him, serve Him and thus attain divine love for Him. When passing from the body, the devotee meditates on KRSNa, who then liberates His faithful devotee from material bondage. The liberated jIva then returns to KRSNa's supreme abode in the spiritual world to render eternal loving service to Him.




The principal narrative of the MahAbhArata concerns the war between the Kauravas, the hundred sons of DhRtarASTra, led by Duryodhana, and, on the opposing side, their cousins, the PANDavas, or sons of PANdu, led by their eldest brother, YudhiSThira.

PANdu and DhRtarASTra were the sons of King VicitravIrya, a descendant of King Bharata, a former ruler of the world, from whom the name MahAbhArata is derived. DhRtarASTra was the elder, but because he was born blind, the throne that otherwise would have been his devolved upon his younger brother. PANDu, however, died at an early age, and his five sons--YudhiSThira, BhIma, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva--came under the partial guardianship of DhRtarASTra. DhRtarASTra had never accepted his brother's preeminence, and, wishing his own sons rather than the sons of PANDu to rule the world, he plotted against the lives of the PANDavas and their widowed mother, PRthA (KuntI). The PANDavas, however, repeatedly escaped his atrocities, mainly due to the loving protection of KRSNa, who was KuntI's nephew and thus also a relative.


Ultimately, Duryodhana, a clever politician and the chief son of DhRtarASTra, cheated the PANDavas of their kingdom (and their freedom) in a gambling match. After thus being forced to spend thirteen years in exile, the PANDavas returned and requested their kingdom from Duryodhana, who bluntly refused. The PANDavas, duty-bound as kSatriyas to engage in some form of political administration, reduced their demands to a mere five villages. When this meager request was refused, Arjuna and his brothers resorted to arms, setting the scene for what would prove to be a devastating global war. YudhiSThira was the eldest of the PANDavas, and it was to place him on the throne--or to oppose him--that great warriors from all corners of the earth assembled. As a final gesture to avoid war, YudhiSThira sent KRSNa to propose a truce, but KRSNa found Duryodhana determined to rule the world in his own way.

Whereas the PANDavas, men of the highest religious and moral stature, recognized KRSNa as the Supreme God Himself, DhRtarASTra's impious sons did not. Yet KRSNa offered to participate in the war according to the desire of the antagonists. As God, He would not personally take a hand; but whoever so desired might avail himself of KRSNa's army--and the other side could have KRSNa Himself, as an adviser and helper. Duryodhana, the political genius, snatched KRSNa's armed forces, while YudhiSThira was equally eager to have KRSNa Himself.


In this way, KRSNa became the charioteer of Arjuna, taking it upon Himself to drive the fabled bowman's chariot. This brings us to the point at which Bhagavad-gItA begins, with the two armies arrayed and ready for combat.



Observing the Armies on the Battlefield of KurukSetra


The First Chapter of Bhagavad-gItA is a prelude to the rest of the text. As the narration from the MahAbhArata continues, the opposing armies (those led respectively by the PANDavas and the Kauravas) now stand poised for the first battle of the great KurukSetra War. After the tumultuous blowing of conchshells from both sides, signaling the beginning of the battle, Arjuna requests KRSNa, who has consented to act as Arjuna's chariot driver, to draw his chariot between the two armies. Arjuna then sees, to his horror, his fathers, grandfathers, teachers, uncles, brothers, sons and friends in the ranks of both armies, prepared for battle. Overwhelmed with sorrow to see his intimate relatives, teachers and friends assembled in such a militant spirit, Arjuna, feeling compassion, becomes despondent and decides not to fight.



Contents of the GItA Summarized


The philosophical teachings of Bhagavad-gItA--KRSNa's instructions to the warrior Arjuna--begin in this chapter. Bewildered and perplexed as to the proper course of action, Arjuna submits himself as KRSNa's disciple and asks for instruction: "Now I am confused about duty and have lost all composure because of weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me clearly what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me."


KRSNa begins His teachings by presenting SAGkhya philosophy--the analytical study of matter and spirit (11–30). To alleviate Arjuna's horror at the thought of killing his relatives, KRSNa contrasts the eternality of the soul (the real self) with the temporality of the material body (the soul's outer covering). The soul (AtmA) is eternal. It continues to exist after the death of the material body: "For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain."(20) At death, the soul transmigrates to a new body: "As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones."(22) The wise man is he who, knowing the self to be the eternal soul, is never disturbed by the change of body ("death") and is unconcerned with the temporary pleasures and pains of the material body. Such a person is eligible for liberation from material embodiment. Since the real self is eternal and never subject to death, Arjuna should not lament his having to kill the temporary, external body in the course of discharging his duty as a kSatriya (soldier). Furthermore, his duty, as a kSatriya, is to fight in the battle: "Considering your specific duty as a ksatriya, you should know that there is no better engagement for you than fighting on religious principles; and so there is no need for hesitation." (31)


KRSNa then explains the "art of work," karma-yoga. By acting out of selfless duty to the Supreme (without desire for the fruits of action), one attains liberation from material bondage (39–53). Arjuna then asks KRSNa to enumerate the characteristics of one who is self-realized and situated in detached, transcendental consciousness (54). In the remainder of the chapter, KRSNa elaborately describes the sthita-prajJA, the person fixed in consciousness of the Supreme. Such a person, fully cognizant of his spiritual identity and separateness from matter, is not interested in material pleasure. Thus he controls his outward senses. With controlled senses and with mind and intelligence fixed on the Supreme, he is unaffected by material dualities such as happiness and distress, loss and gain. Such a person, at the end of the present body, attains the spiritual world (55–72).





At the opening of the Third Chapter, Arjuna is confused by KRSNa's instructions in the previous chapter. He has misconceived that KRSNa's telling him to control his senses and fix his mind and intelligence on the Supreme is incompatible with the performance of action. Therefore he questions why KRSNa is requesting him to engage in warfare (1–2). In response, KRSNa explains karma-yoga, the performance of actions free from desire for selfish, fruitive gain and dedicated to the Supreme (KRSNa) (3–35).


Karma, or fruitive work, brings both material enjoyment and material suffering. Whether the results of action are pleasant or unpleasant, however, they bind one to the bondage of repeated birth and death in the material world. KRSNa explains further that inaction is insufficient to save one from material reactions (and subsequent bondage to the material world). By nature, everyone is forced to act. Even to maintain the physical body, one must work. Therefore, one should work in a way that will not further entangle one in material bondage, but will lead to ultimate liberation. That art of work is karma-yoga--working and acting under the direction of the Supreme (ViSNu or KRSNa) for His satisfaction: "Work done as a sacrifice to ViSNu has to be performed, otherwise work binds one to this material world. Therefore, O son of KuntI perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain unattached and free from bondage." (9) As described in later chapters of the GItA, karma-yoga gradually elevates one to bhakti-yoga, or pure devotional service to KRSNa.


Next follows a discussion of yajJa (sacrifice)--duties, prescribed in the Vedas, which gradually purify and elevate the performer from fruitive to spiritual activities (10–16). One who is fully self-realized no longer needs to perform such duties, for he is already fully purified and thus his duty is self-illuminated by the Lord. He should continue, however, to perform duties non-fruitively, to set a good example for those attached to the fruits of work (17–29). Concluding His instructions on karma-yoga and yajJa, KRSNa commands Arjuna: "Surrendering all your works unto Me, with mind intent on Me, and without desire for gain and free from egoism and lethargy--fight." Then KRSNa sums up why he should (30–35).


In the last section of this chapter, Arjuna asks, "By what is one impelled to sinful acts, even unwillingly, as if engaged by force?" (36) KRSNa answers that it is lust (material desire)--the "destroyer of knowledge and self-realization"--which incites sinful acts, and He prescribes the method to conquer it: sense regulation inspired by spiritual self-knowledge. The senses (indriyas), mind (manas) and intelligence (buddhi) are the repositories of lust. Knowing the self to be transcendental to the material senses, mind and intelligence, "one should control the lower self by the higher self and thus--by spiritual strength--conquer this insatiable enemy known as lust." (37–43)



Transcendental Knowledge


In the previous chapter, karma-yoga (non-fruitive action) and yajJa (sacrifice) were recommended for spiritual elevation. Now, in the Fourth Chapter, KRSNa explains that jJAna-yoga--elevation to God consciousness through the cultivation of spiritual knowledge--is higher, because both karma-yoga and yajJa culminate in such transcendental knowledge. Transcendental knowledge--knowledge concerning God, the jIva (individual soul) and their eternal relationship--is elaborated in this chapter of the GItA.


KRSNa first mentions the history of the oral transmission of the GItA (originating with Himself) through disciplic succession (paramparA). Because in time the succession was broken, KRSNa is now speaking the GItA again to Arjuna, who, as KRSNa's devotee, is qualified to understand "the transcendental mystery of this science." (1–3) In the following verses, KRSNa explains His transcendental nature as the Supreme Lord and the reason for His periodic descents to the mundane realm (to reestablish dharma, or religious principles) (4–8). One who understands the transcendental nature of His appearance and activities attains liberation (9). Those who take refuge in Him are purified by such knowledge and achieve love for Him (10). KRSNa reciprocates with the jIvas in accordance with their degree of surrender unto Him (11).


In verses 14 through 24, KRSNa again explains the intricacies of action and how, by being situated in transcendental knowledge, one becomes free from karmic reactions. The learned man, in full knowledge that his self is spiritual and subordinate to the Supreme, renounces self-interested actions and acts only for the Supreme. Giving up all sense of proprietorship over his possessions and acting only for the bare necessities of life, he is unaffected by the reactions of work.


KRSNa describes different types of sacrifice recommended in the Vedas (25–32) and states that they all culminate in transcendental knowledge (33). He then reveals the process for attaining transcendental knowledge (by approaching a self-realized guru), and He explains what that ultimate knowledge is (that all jIvas are part of KRSNa) (34–35). Transcendental knowledge destroys karmic reactions and brings attainment of "the supreme spiritual peace" (36–39). Those without faith in transcendental knowledge, however, attain neither happiness nor God consciousness (40). In conclusion, KRSNa commands Arjuna to destroy his doubts by spiritual knowledge: "Armed with yoga," he tells Arjuna, "stand and fight." (41–42)



Karma-yoga--Action in KRSNa Consciousness


In the Third Chapter, KRSNa explained that a person in knowledge is absolved of the need to perform prescribed duties. And, in the Fourth Chapter, He told Arjuna that all sacrificial work culminates in knowledge. At the end of the Fourth Chapter, however, KRSNa advised Arjuna to fight. Now Arjuna, perplexed by KRSNa's stressing the importance both of work in devotion and of inaction in knowledge, asks KRSNa to state definitively which of the two paths is more beneficial (1). He is confused because, to him, work and renunciation appear incompatible. To clear up Arjuna's confusion, KRSNa explains, in the Fifth Chapter, that devotional work in full knowledge has no material reaction and is therefore the same as renunciation of work. Of the two, however, devotional work is better (2).


KRSNa then describes the characteristics of one who works in such an unattached manner, sacrificing the fruits of work to Him (3–17). Such a devotional worker, purified by transcendental knowledge, realizes that he is a spiritual entity. Since he is transcendental to his body, mind and senses, he does not identify with their actions. Performing actions yet renouncing their fruits unto the Supreme Lord, he is "not affected by sinful action, as the lotus leaf is untouched by water." (10) Thus he attains peace. Such an unattached actor becomes situated in transcendence, or brahma-nirvANa. Such a paNDita, or wise person, is fixed in perfect knowledge of the self and the Supreme. He sees all beings with equal vision, and he is cognizant of their spiritual nature beyond the external, material body. He works for their ultimate spiritual welfare and is unattached to the dualities of pleasure and pain. He is not attracted to material sense pleasure, but enjoys the pleasure within, concentrating on the Supreme (18–28).


In conclusion, KRSNa states that one who knows Him as the ultimate goal of all sacrifices and austerities, as the Supreme Lord of all the worlds and as the best friend of all living beings attains relief from material suffering (29).





In Chapter Six, KRSNa outlines the path of dhyAna-yoga (technically called aSTAGga-yoga, "the eightfold path"), a mechanical meditative practice meant to control the mind and senses and focus one's concentration on ParamAtmA (Supersoul), the form of KRSNa within the heart. After stating the importance of controlling the mind (5–6), KRSNa describes one who has done so--the yogI, or transcendentalist (7–9). KRSNa then summarizes the methodology and ultimate goal of the aSTAGga-yoga system. Sitting postures, breathing exercises and sense and mind control culminate in samAdhi, or consciousness fixed on the Supersoul (10–19). A yoga-yukta, one who has attained perfection in yoga, has a steady mind, fixed on the Supreme. He is liberated, his mind is peaceful, his passions are quieted, he experiences "boundless transcendental happiness," and he is never shaken, even in the midst of the greatest difficulties. Thus he is freed from all miseries resulting from the soul's contact with matter (20–32).


Arjuna complains, however, that the system of aSTAGga-yoga is too difficult to practice: "For the mind is restless, turbulent, obstinate and very strong, O KRSNa, and to subdue it is, it seems to me, more difficult than controlling the wind." (33–34) KRSNa replies that controlling the mind is indeed difficult, but "it is possible by constant practice and by detachment." (35–36)


Arjuna then inquires about the fate of the yogI who falls from yoga practice before attaining perfection (37–39). KRSNa replies that such an unsuccessful yogI, taking a future auspicious birth (in a wealthy, pious or wise family), resumes his practice and, after many births of such practice, attains perfection (40–45).


The conclusion of this Sixth Chapter and of the entire first section of Bhagavad-gItA is stated in two final verses: "A yogI is greater than the ascetic, greater than the empiricist and greater than the fruitive worker. Therefore, O Arjuna, in all circumstances, be a yogI. And of all yogIs, he who always abides in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all." (46–47) Yoga (linking with the Supreme) is thus superior to asceticism (tapasya), fruitive work (karma) and empiricism (jJAna). And of all paths of yoga (karma-yoga, jJAna-yoga, aSTAGga-yoga, haTha-yoga, rAja-yoga, etc.), bhakti-yoga (loving devotional service to KRSNa) is declared to be the culmination, the highest.



Knowledge of the Absolute


In the first six chapters of Bhagavad-gItA, the distinction between spirit (the living entity) and matter has been established. The living entity (jIva) has been described as a non-material, spiritual soul capable of elevating himself from material self-identification (ahaGkAra) to spiritual self-realization, by different types of yoga (the sAGkhya, karma, jJAna and aSTAGga systems). These yoga systems form a gradual progression culminating (at the end of Chapter Six) in bhakti-yoga (devotional service to KRSNa). The middle section of the GItA (chapters seven through twelve) is chiefly concerned with KRSNa Himself (PuruSottama, "the Supreme Personality of Godhead") and the eternal relationship of the jIvas with Him, based upon bhakti-yoga.


The Seventh Chapter is concerned with knowledge of KRSNa, the process of attaining that knowledge, and the end result of such attainment. The first three verses serve as a prelude in which KRSNa says, in essence, "Devotion to Me brings full knowledge of Me. Now I shall give you all material and spiritual knowledge, although knowledge of Me is a rare attainment." KRSNa begins by defining His two principal energies: the "inferior" energy (matter, or aparA prakRti), consisting of eight material elements, and His "superior" energy (spirit, or parA prakRti), consisting of the jIvas who are now entangled in matter (4–5). He is the "origin and dissolution" of both energies and is the Supreme Truth (6–7). KRSNa then delineates how He is manifest within all phenomena: He is "the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon … the intelligence of the intelligent" and so on (8–12). There are four kinds of atheists who do not surrender unto Him and four kinds of pious men who do (15–18). Those who are wise, knowing Him to be everything and the supreme cause, surrender unto Him (19). The foolish (materialists), on the other hand, surrender to demigods to attain immediate fruitive benefits, which are limited and temporary (20–23). Also unintelligent are those who conceive KRSNa's personal form to be material. His personal form, covered by yogamAyA, His personal covering potency, is never manifest to them (24–26). In the final four verses, KRSNa concludes that those who are pious and intelligent and who aspire for liberation from material bondage seek refuge in Him in devotional service, knowing Him to be the Supreme Lord. Such persons, KRSNa says, "can, with steadfast mind, understand and know Me even at the time of death" (and thus attain His transcendental abode in the spiritual world) (27–30).



Attaining the Supreme


The Eighth Chapter of the GItA is almost exclusively concerned with the moment of death--the moment of the jIva's passing from the material body. At the beginning of the chapter, Arjuna asks KRSNa seven questions: "Arjuna inquired: O my Lord, O Supreme Person, what is Brahman? What are fruitive activities? What is the material manifestation? And what are the demigods? Please explain this to me. How does this Lord of sacrifice live in the body, and in which part does He live, O MadhusUdana? And how can those engaged in devotional service know You at the time of death?" (1–2) KRSNa replies to the first seven questions very briefly (3–4), for He has earlier dealt with them at length. But His reply to the last question (concerning remembrance of KRSNa at the time of death) continues to the end of the chapter.


KRSNa tells Arjuna that whoever leaves the body remembering Him attains His abode (5). The quality of one's consciousness at the time of death determines one's next destination (6). Since the content of one's thoughts and memories at death is influenced, in turn, by one's consciousness and activities during life, KRSNa instructs Arjuna to think of Him constantly, even in the course of his prescribed duties (7–8). By such constant meditation, one reaches KRSNa after quitting the body. In verse nine, KRSNa instructs how one should meditate on Him. In the next four verses (10–13), KRSNa describes the arduous aSTAGga-yoga method of meditation on KRSNa for the attainment of spiritual planets. KRSNa then concludes that He is attained most easily by one who is unflinchingly devoted to Him (the bhakti-yogi) (14). After reaching KRSNa in the spiritual world, the bhakti-yogI never returns to the material world, which is full of miseries (15–16). Beyond the material world, which is perpetually created and destroyed, is the transcendental world, KRSNa's eternal and supreme abode, upon attaining which one never returns to the material world (17–21). One attains this supreme destination, KRSNa reiterates, by pure devotion (22). Next, KRSNa describes how different kinds of yogIs leave their bodies at particular auspicious moments to attain elevation to celestial planets or liberation. The bhakti-yogI, however, is indifferent to such processes (23–27). In conclusion, KRSNa declares that His devotee, the bhakti-yogI, is not bereft of the results of other systems of spiritual advancement. At the time of death, he returns to KRSNa in the transcendental world (28).



The Most Confidential Knowledge


Earlier in Bhagavad-gItA, knowledge concerning the difference between the soul and the body has been described as "confidential." Now, in the Ninth Chapter, rAja-vidyA ("the king of knowledge") and rAja-guhyam ("the most confidential knowledge")--knowledge concerning the eternal, constitutional function or activity of the soul--is explained. That eternal, constitutional function (sanAtana-dharma) is described throughout the GItA, and in the Ninth Chapter in particular, as bhakti, or transcendental devotional service to KRSNa, "the Supreme Personality of Godhead" (PuruSottama).


In the beginning of the chapter, KRSNa says that He will now impart "the most secret wisdom," which will relieve Arjuna (whose firm faith in KRSNa qualifies him to receive these teachings) from all miseries (1–3). KRSNa then explains that the whole cosmic creation rests within Him. Yet although He is the source, maintainer and controller of the universe, He remains transcendental and detached from it (4–10). KRSNa next describes the fools (mUDhas), ignorant of KRSNa's transcendental supremacy, who deride His personal humanlike form, and He contrasts them with the great souls (mahAtmAs), aware of His divinity, who worship Him with devotion (11–14).


KRSNa then describes different types of worshipers--worshipers of impersonal Brahman, of demigods and of the universal form--and He describes Himself as the actual and ultimate object of worship (15–21), the protector of His devotees (22) and the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices to the demigods (23–24). Other worshipers attain the abodes of their objects of worship, but "those who worship Me will live with Me." (25)


In the final verses of Chapter Nine, KRSNa talks about His devotees. By making Him the object of all actions, offerings and austerities, His devotee is freed from the bondage of karma and attains Him (26–28). Although impartial, KRSNa favors those who serve Him in love (29). Even if a devotee does ill, he is still to be considered saintly, for he is "properly situated"; the process of devotional service itself will elevate him to righteousness and ultimate perfection (30–31). Furthermore, even persons considered to be of lower classes can attain KRSNa by seeking shelter in Him, what to speak of those of high birth (32–33). In conclusion, KRSNa declares that one who is completely devoted to Him attains Him: "Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, become My devotee, engage your body in My service, and surrender unto Me. Completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me." (34)


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The Opulence of the Absolute


Beginning with the Seventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gItA, KRSNa has explained His different energies (matter and spirit). Here, in the Tenth Chapter, He explains to Arjuna His specific opulences, manifested in His all-pervasive energies.


KRSNa begins by asserting that those who are wise, knowing Him as the Supreme Lord and the original source of everything, are freed from all reactions to sins. They engage themselves in pure, motive-less devotional service to Him (2–8). The sublime characteristics of such pure devotees are then described (9). KRSNa dispels the ignorance of those who are so devoted and leads them to Him (10–11). Verses 8 through 11, traditionally known as catuH-zlokI (the four verses), are considered the essence of the GItA's teachings. Those who know KRSNa as the Supreme Lord and fully surrender unto Him in pure devotion are directly enlightened by Him and shown the way to attain Him.


Arjuna emphatically declares his acceptance of KRSNa as the Supreme Absolute Truth, and his total acceptance of all that KRSNa has thus far instructed (12–15). Then he requests KRSNa to describe in detail His divine opulences "by which You pervade all these worlds and abide in them." (16–18) KRSNa's ensuing description of His principal opulences continues to the conclusion of the chapter. Of lights He is the radiant sun, of bodies of water the ocean, of immovable things the Himalayas. He is the wisdom of the wise, the strength of the strong, the splendor of the splendid. All wondrous phenomena manifesting great power, beauty, grandeur and sublimeness, in the material or spiritual world, are simply fragmental manifestations of His divine energies and opulence. KRSNa, thus being the cause of all causes, is the supreme object of worship for all beings (19–41).


In the final verse of the chapter, KRSNa says that more important than knowledge of His separate opulences is the understanding that these and all things exist due to His entering them as Supersoul (ParamAtmA), by which He pervades and supports the entire universe (42).



The Universal Form


In this chapter of the GItA, KRSNa directly reveals to Arjuna His virAT-rUpa, or "universal form." By this revelation, KRSNa confirms Arjuna's realization that KRSNa is the cause of all causes and, specifically, the source of the material universes.


The chapter begins with Arjuna's declaration that after hearing KRSNa's confidential instructions (in the previous several chapters), he has now been freed from illusion. This indicates that he has now fully accepted KRSNa as the Absolute Truth and the source of everything, and not as a mere human being (1). However, although Arjuna accepts KRSNa as the Supreme, he fears that others, in the future, may not. He therefore requests KRSNa: "O greatest of all beings, O supreme form, though I see here before me Your actual position, I yet wish to see how You have entered into this cosmic manifestation. I wish to see that form of Yours." (3) To establish KRSNa's divinity conclusively, Arjuna thus requests KRSNa to reveal His gigantic form of the material universe (2–4). KRSNa assents to showing Arjuna His majestic and terrifying universal form and grants him divine vision with which to see it (5–8).


KRSNa then reveals the spectacular form (9–49) in which Arjuna, stunned and astonished, can see "the unlimited expansions of the universe situated in one place, although divided into many, many thousands" (13). Arjuna, his hairs standing on end, describes the vast and effulgent form and offers prayers of glorification (14–25). He sees also in the universal form the entire opposing army, along with his own soldiers, rushing into KRSNa's many mouths, meeting their doom (26–30). Arjuna then urgently implores KRSNa to explain the great form (31). In reply, KRSNa informs Arjuna that according to His plan, nearly all the soldiers present will be slain in the battle. Although this plan will ultimately be executed with or without Arjuna's participation, Arjuna should act as KRSNa's instrument in the great fight and thus be assured of victory (32–34). Arjuna, overwhelmed, glorifies KRSNa as the original master, the refuge of the universe, and the cause of all causes (35–40), and he begs KRSNa to forgive him for his familiar dealings in the past (41–44).


Disturbed by the vision of KRSNa's universal form, Arjuna then entreats KRSNa to return to His four-armed (NArAyaNa) form (45–46). After informing Arjuna that Arjuna was the first person ever to have seen this universal form (47–48), KRSNa resumes His four-armed form and then finally His original two-armed form, thus pacifying Arjuna (49–51). KRSNa then explains that His beautiful two-armed form is inconceivable even to the demigods and is beyond understanding by Vedic study, penance, charity and worship (52–53). KRSNa concludes the chapter by declaring that His transcendental, personal humanlike form can be directly understood only by pure devotional service (bhakti) and that pure bhaktas (devotees), who are "friendly to every living entity." attain His eternal association (54–55).



Devotional Service


In the preceding chapters, KRSNa explained the personal, impersonal and universal conceptions of the Supreme, as well as the different yoga systems for approaching the Supreme. In the Twelfth Chapter, KRSNa asserts that bhakti-yoga, loving devotional service, is the highest and most expedient process of spiritual realization. He also delineates the sublime characteristics of those who follow this supreme path.


This chapter, like others, begins with a question by Arjuna. Although KRSNa has previously established worship of His personal form as the supreme mode of worship, and devotion to Him as the highest yoga, Arjuna now wants to make sure he has fully understood. In the first verse, therefore, he asks KRSNa to state whom He considers more perfect--those engaged in His devotional service or the worshipers of the unmanifest Brahman, the impersonal, all-pervasive feature of KRSNa (1). KRSNa replies: "He whose mind is fixed on My personal form, always engaged in worshiping Me with great and transcendental faith, is considered by Me to be most perfect." (2) KRSNa tells Arjuna that the worshipers of the impersonal conception of the Absolute Truth eventually achieve Him, but because this is an indirect process, it is much more difficult (3–5). He assures Arjuna that for those fixed in pure devotion to Him, He is "the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death." (6–7) He instructs Arjuna to fix his mind and intelligence on Him and, by this simple method, attain Him (8). For those unable to fix their attention, spontaneously and undeviatingly, upon Him, KRSNa explains the indirect process by which they can attain that state by gradual steps, beginning with the cultivation of knowledge (jJAna), proceeding to meditation (dhyAna), to renunciation of the fruits of action (karma-phala-tyAga), to sacrifice of the fruits of work (karma-yoga), and finally to the execution of the regulative, remedial principles of bhakti-yoga (sAdhana-bhakti) (9–12).


In the final section of the chapter, KRSNa relates the qualities and characteristics of His pure devotee, repeating at the end of each description that such a devotee "is very dear to Me." The devotee is free from material desires, material dualities and false ego. Having made KRSNa the supreme goal of life, the devotee engages in His service with determination, his mind and intelligence in complete harmony with KRSNa (13–20).



Nature, the Enjoyer and Consciousness


The Thirteenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gItA is concerned with the distinction and interrelationship between the body, the soul and the Supersoul (ParamAtmA). The body is known as kSetra, or the field of activities for the soul, and it consists of twenty-four material elements. The soul residing within the body is known as kSetra-jJa, or "the knower of the field of activities." The symptoms of life and ultimately all movement within the material world are due to the interaction of the soul with matter. Beyond the kSetra-jJa, the individual knower of the body (the soul), is the supreme kSetra-jJa, the Supersoul, who is the supreme knower within all bodies. Although the Supersoul exists as one, He appears separately in all bodies (as the sun simultaneously appears, in reflection, in many different reservoirs of water). He eternally accompanies the individual soul as the indwelling witness, permitter and maintainer. Of these two "knowers of the field" of activities, the jIva (individual infinitesimal soul) is fallible, being subject to the contaminating and illusioning influence of matter, whereas the Supersoul is infallible, being immune to matter's influence. This chapter concludes that one who can analytically understand the entire material manifestation as a combination of the soul with material elements, and who can see, beyond them, the Supreme Soul (Supersoul), becomes eligible for liberation from the material world to the spiritual world.


As the chapter begins, Arjuna inquires about six items: prakrti (material nature), puruSa (the enjoyer), kSetra (the field), kSetra-jJa (the knower of the field), jJAna (knowledge), and jJeya (the end of knowledge) (1). KRSNa defines kSetra and kSetra-jJa, respectively, as the body and the soul (2). He then states that He is the knower in all bodies, and He defines knowledge as the understanding of these three (the body, the individual soul and the Supersoul) (3). Next, He lists the twenty-four material elements that constitute the field of activity, represented by the body (4–7). He then enumerates the items that constitute the process of knowledge, this process being nondifferent from the process of spiritual advancement whereby the embodied soul is liberated from the bondage of matter (8–12). KRSNa next describes jJeya ("the knowable") to be the Supersoul, existing in all moving and nonmoving things. The Supersoul is one although divided, He is the unattached maintainer of all living beings, He is transcendental to the modes of nature (although He is the master of the modes), and He is beyond the purview of the material senses (13–19). Next, KRSNa describes prakRti (material nature, consisting of the three modes) and puruSa (the living entity), and He discusses the cause and nature of the jIva's material entanglement (20–24). In the next two verses, He mentions different paths for realization of the Supersoul--dhyAna, sAGkhya, karma-yoga, and the path of receiving knowledge from authorities (25–26).


In the final verses of the chapter, KRSNa elaborates on the essential theme of the chapter: the interrelationship between matter, soul and Supersoul. All actions, He says, are due to the combination of kSetra and kSetra-jJa (body and soul), beyond which is the Supersoul. The soul and Supersoul are both eternal and transcendental to the body (27–34). In conclusion, KRSNa declares that one in knowledge, who sees the distinction between the body and the soul and who understands the process of the soul's liberation from the body, "attains to the supreme goal." (35)



The Three Modes of Material Nature


As explained in the Thirteenth Chapter, the jIva is entangled in the material world because of association with the three modes of material nature. In this Fourteenth Chapter, KRSNa explains what the modes of nature are, how they act, how they bind and how one is liberated from their influence.


In the beginning of the chapter, KRSNa declares to Arjuna that He will now, again, reveal "this supreme wisdom, the best of all knowledge," by understanding which one can attain to "the transcendental nature" and be freed from the repetition of birth and death (1–2). KRSNa first explains that all living beings take birth within this material world when He injects them into the material nature. He is therefore the "seed-giving father" of all the different species of life in the material world (3–4). Material nature consists of three modes: sattva (goodness), rajas (passion) and tamas (ignorance). These modes condition the living entity who takes birth in the material world (5). KRSNa defines and explains the general characteristics and symptoms of the modes and how they condition and bind the jIva, and He describes the fate of differently conditioned jIvas after death (6–18). One can transcend the influence of the three modes and attain KRSNa by understanding the working of the modes and understanding that KRSNa is transcendental to them (19). When one transcends the modes, he attains freedom from the distresses of birth, old age and death and can "enjoy nectar even in this life" (20). Arjuna next asks KRSNa three questions: "What are the symptoms of one who is transcendental to the modes of nature?What is his behavior?" and "How does he transcend the modes?" (21) KRsNa answers the first two questions in verses 22 through 25. In essence, a person who has transcended the modes of nature, having realized his own self to be spiritual and transcendental to matter, is unconcerned with and unaffected by the actions and reactions of the material world. He is freed from all material dualities, such as pleasure and pain, honor and dishonor, and he does not engage in any fruitive actions. In answer to Arjuna's third question, KRSNa says that one transcends the modes by performing bhakti-yoga (devotional service). And when one transcends the modes, he attains to the level of Brahman, the preliminary spiritual position, characterized by freedom from material contamination (26). In the final verse of the chapter, KRSNa declares that He is the basis or source of Brahman (27). Therefore, when one has attained the level of Brahman (i.e. freedom from the contamination of the modes of nature), he becomes qualified to engage in the devotional service of Parabrahman (the Supreme Brahman), KRSNa.



The Yoga of the Supreme Person


In the last several chapters, KRSNa has recommended bhakti-yoga as the most expedient method by which Arjuna may extricate himself from the entanglement of the material world. The basic principle of bhakti-yoga is detachment from material activities and attachment to the transcendental devotional service of KRSNa. Now, the Fifteenth Chapter begins by describing how to break attachment to the material world (and attain the spiritual world), and it ends with KRsna's emphatically declaring that the truth of His being the Supreme Personality of Godhead (PuruSottama) is the essence of the Vedic scriptures. One who understands this engages in bhakti-yoga (devotional service to Him).


At the very beginning of the chapter, the material world, with its fruitive activity (karma) and entangling results, is compared to a complexly entwined banyan tree. The various parts of the tree (roots, branches, twigs, leaves, fruits, etc.) are compared to fruitive activity, piety and impiety, the senses, the sense objects, the results of fruitive activities, the Vedic hymns for elevation, the different planetary systems, and so forth. By performing fruitive activities (based on the desire for sense gratification), the entangled jIva is forced to wander from branch to branch (i.e. from body to body, planet to planet) in this tree of the material world. KRSNa then declares that "one who knows this tree is the knower of the Vedas." In other words, the ultimate purpose of Vedic knowledge is to understand this entangling "tree" of the material world and to extricate oneself from it (1–2).


Next, KRSNa describes the means of extricating oneself and attaining the spiritual world: "Using the weapon of detachment, one must cut down this banyan tree with determination. Thereafter one must seek that situation from which, having gone, one never comes back. One must surrender to that Supreme Personality of Godhead from whom everything has begun and is extending since time immemorial." KRSNa then describes the surrendering process and gives a brief description of the spiritual world (3–6).


In the next verses, KRSNa describes the conditioned living entities in the material world and how they are transmigrating from one body to the next. Such living entities are KRSNa's eternal "fragmental parts." According to his mentality, the bound jIva develops a particular gross material body equipped with a particular set of senses, with which he enjoys a particular set of objects. KRSNa asserts that the foolish cannot understand this process of transmigration, but the wise can (7–11).


Throughout the rest of the chapter, KRSNa discusses His own supreme transcendental nature (12–20). He enumerates some of His manifestations in the material world by which He maintains everything and all living beings. He is the source of the sun, moon and fire; He is the power of the planets to float in orbit; He is the digestive force in every body; He is the Supersoul in the hearts of all living beings; and He is the source and ultimate object of the Vedas (12–15). KRSNa explains that there are two classes of beings: the "fallible" (the conditioned souls in the material world) and the "infallible" (the liberated souls in the spiritual world). Beyond them is He Himself, who maintains both the material and spiritual worlds (16–17). Thus He is "celebrated both in the world and in the Vedas as that Supreme Person [PuruSottama]." (18) Whoever knows Him as such is "the knower of everything," and thus he engages in undeviating devotional service to Him (19). KRSNa concludes by declaring that knowledge of His paramount stature and the rendering of service to Him is the essence of the Vedic scriptures. Such understanding leads to wisdom and perfection (20).



The Divine and Demoniac Natures


In this chapter, KRSNa describes and compares two kinds of qualities and those who possess them. The divine or transcendental (daivic) qualities, in the mode of goodness, are conducive to spiritual progress; the demoniac (asuric) qualities, in the modes of passion and ignorance, conversely, are detrimental to spiritual progress, and they lead to lower birth and further material bondage. Those who possess divine qualities live regulated lives, abiding by the authority of scripture, and attain perfection; those possessing demoniac qualities act whimsically (without reference to scripture) and are bound by material nature.


First, KRSNa lists twenty-three transcendental qualities "born of the godly atmosphere" (1–3) These qualities, as previously mentioned, are auspicious for progress on the path of liberation from the material world. KRSNa then gives Arjuna a synopsis of the qualities of the demoniac (viz., arrogance, pride, anger, conceit, harshness and ignorance). KRSNa states that the transcendental qualities lead to liberation whereas the demoniac qualities lead to bondage. He assures Arjuna that he need not worry, for he has been "born with transcendental qualities." KRSNa thus encourages Arjuna by indicating that Arjuna's involvement in the battle is not demoniac, for he is not acting under the influence of anger, false prestige or harshness. According to the scriptural injunctions governing his social order, fighting in a religious war is godly activity whereas refraining from such duty would be demoniac, or irreligious (4–5).


KRSNa then gives a graphic description of the demoniac. Essentially, the demoniac are atheists and materialists who violate the scriptural injunctions guiding human behavior, both socially and spiritually. Such persons conceive the world to have no foundation or purpose, and thus they tend toward whimsical and destructive activities. For them, the ultimate goal of life is gratification of the senses. They are attracted by impermanent, material things. Bound by multitudinous material desires, they obtain money by any means. They are conceited, lusty, complacent and impudent, and there is no end to their anxiety (6–18). Such demoniac persons take birth in various lower species of life and "sink down to the most abominable position of existence," wherein they can never approach KRSNa (19–20). Every sane man, KRSNa cautions, should give up lust, anger and greed, the "three gates leading down to hell." By escaping these, one can elevate oneself to self-realization and "the supreme destination" (21–22).


KRSNa concludes by saying that one who lives whimsically, without following the regulations of scripture (meant to elevate a person to spiritual realization), attains neither perfection nor happiness, whereas one who understands Vedic scriptural regulations and guides his life accordingly is gradually elevated (to spiritual perfection) (23–24).



The Divisions of Faith


In the Fourteenth Chapter KRSNa explained to Arjuna that the way to transcend the three modes of material nature is to perform devotional service (bhakti-yoga) to Him. KRSNa concludes Chapter Fifteen by declaring that His supreme divinity and worship of Him are the confidential essence of Vedic knowledge. Then, in the Sixteenth Chapter, He stresses that in order to be elevated spiritually, one should act according to the regulations of Vedic scripture.


Now, at the opening of this chapter, Arjuna inquires about the position of one who concocts some method of worship according to his own imagination, ignoring scriptural regulations. Is that kind of faith in goodness, passion or ignorance? (1) In response, KRSNa explains that there are three types of faith, corresponding to and evolving from the three modes of nature (2–6). He then describes the characteristics of four items--food, sacrifice (yajJa), austerity (tapasya) and charity (dAna)--according to each of the three modes. Sacrifice, penance and austerity in the lower modes (ignorance and passion) are performed for selfish, temporary, material benefits, such as the attainment of wealth, honor and power. The same acts performed in goodness, however, are executed according to duty and scriptural regulations, without fruitive intentions and for the purpose of purification and elevation (7–22). In the final verses, KRSNa explains, in essence, that acts of sacrifice, austerity and charity should be performed for His satisfaction only. Referring to the traditional Vedic system of sacrifice, wherein the words OM tat sat (indicating the Supreme Absolute Truth) are uttered by brAhmaNas to please the Supreme, KRSNa explains that sacrifice, penance and charity, when performed for His satisfaction, become a means for spiritual advancement. Acts of faith performed without faith in the Supreme and in violation of the scriptures (i.e. in passion and ignorance) yield only impermanent, material results and are therefore useless. Worship or faith in the mode of goodness, however, based on scriptural regulation and performed out of duty, purifies the heart of the performer and leads to pure faith and devotion for KRSNa. That faith (i.e. devotion for KRSNa) is nirguNa, or transcendental to the modes of nature (23–28).



Conclusion--The Perfection of Renunciation


The Eighteenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gItA is both a synopsis and the conclusion of all the GItA's teachings. Since the GItA stresses renunciation of material activities (and engagement in spiritual elevation), Arjuna asks KRSNa to explain definitively the purpose of renunciation (tyAga) and of the renounced order of life (sannyAsa) (1). In reply, KRSNa reiterates that renunciation does not mean giving up all actions, since this is impossible for the embodied soul. It means, rather, giving up fruitive actions and instead performing prescribed duties without attachment to their results. For those who are not renounced, the fruits of action (desirable, undesirable and mixed) accrue after death, whereas for the renounced there are no such results to suffer or enjoy. Thus a wise renouncer is liberated from the bondage of karma (2–12).


KRSNa then explains how one can act without material reactions. He cites SAGkhya philosophy, which delineates five factors that contribute to the accomplishment of all actions, viz. the place of action, the performer, the senses, the endeavor and the Supersoul. One who thinks himself the exclusive factor in actions (not considering the other factors, especially the Supersoul, the final cause) is in ignorance (and becomes entangled by the fruits of his work). But when one acts, according to the direction of the Supersoul, without personally motivated desires, his actions do not entail material reactions. KRSNa thus indicates to Arjuna that if Arjuna acts according to His directions, Arjuna will not be the actual slayer, nor will he suffer the consequences of killing in the battlefield (13–18).


The three modes of nature predominate in different aspects of human psychology and endeavor. Knowledge, action, workers, intelligence, determination and happiness each have three types, as regulated by the three modes. KRSNa systematically analyzes these (19–40).


According to the material modes one has assumed, one conforms to one of the four occupational divisions of human society: brAhmaNas (teachers and priests), kSatriyas (rulers and warriors), vaizyas (farmers, traders, etc.) and zUdras (laborers). KRSNa enumerates the respective qualities and duties of each of the four social divisions (varNas) and explains that by adhering to the duties prescribed by one's own occupational division, and by offering the results of one's work to the Lord, one can attain perfection. By working in accordance with his social duty (which is determined by the modes of nature), the conditioned soul can ultimately transcend the modes. Therefore, it is in Arjuna's best interest to act according to kSatriya principles and fight in the battle, for KRSNa's satisfaction (41–48).


KRSNa concludes that one can attain the highest perfection of renunciation by control of the mind and by complete detachment from material things and material enjoyments (49).


KRSNa next explains the stage following renunciation: attainment of Brahman, the preliminary stage of transcendence. This state, based upon spiritual knowledge, is characterized by joyfulness resulting from freedom from material desire and duality. "In that state," KRSNa says, "one achieves pure devotional service unto Me." (50–54)


KRSNa then imparts to Arjuna the decisive conclusion of all His teachings: the ultimate duty of the jIva is to surrender unto Him in pure, transcendental love and devotion. Only by devotion can KRSNa--the Supreme Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead--be understood. By understanding KRSNa, one can enter into the kingdom of God (55). Acting always under His supreme protection, always conscious of Him, His devotee transcends all obstacles of conditional life and reaches the spiritual kingdom by His grace (56–58). KRSNa warns Arjuna that even if he neglects His divine instructions and, under the influence of illusion, avoids his duty, he will still be compelled to fight by his conditioning as a kSatriya (59–60). Realizing KRSNa as the Supersoul in the heart, the supreme controller and director of the wanderings of all living entities, Arjuna should fully surrender unto Him and thus have transcendental peace and attain the eternal abode (61–62). After instructing Arjuna to deliberate on this very confidential knowledge (i.e. surrender to KRSNa's form as Supersoul) (63), KRSNa imparts "the most confidential part of knowledge," the supreme instruction, the essence and conclusion of the GItA: one must relinquish all religious processes and duties (viz. karma-yoga, jnAna-yoga, dhyAna-yoga, the socio-religious duties of the social orders, attainment of Brahman and ParamAtmA, etc.) and simply surrender unto KRSNa as His pure devotee in eternal, transcendental loving service--the eternal and supreme dharma. "Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me, and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend. Give up all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall protect you from all sinful reactions. Therefore you have nothing to fear." (65–66)


In the next verse, KRSNa states the qualifications for understanding the GItA: the hearer must be austere, devoted, non-envious and engaged in KRSNa's service (67). One who imparts KRSNa's teachings is KRSNa's most dear servant and attains pure devotion to Him (68–69). One who studies the GItA "worships Me by his intelligence," and one who hears its teachings with faith is freed from all sins (70–71).


In the final climax to the narrative of Arjuna's dilemma, KRSNa inquires, "Have you heard this with your mind at perfect attention? And are your ignorance and illusion now dispelled?" Arjuna confidently answers, "My dear KRSNa, O infallible one, my illusion is now gone. I have regained my memory by Your mercy, and now I am steady and free from doubt and am prepared to act according to Your instructions." (72–73)


In a brief epilogue, SaJjaya, who has been narrating the entire conversation to DhRtarASTra, rejoices in ecstasy at having heard the sacred dialogue. His hairs standing on end in joy, he concludes, "Wherever there is KRSNa, the master of all mystics, and wherever there is Arjuna, the supreme archer, there will also certainly be opulence, victory, extraordinary power, and morality. That is my opinion." (74–78)



<center><font color=red>Our thanks to SubhAnanda dAsa brahmacArI for the above tutorial</font></center>

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Thank you for that very infomring tuttorial.

I understand that the Bhagavad-gita is very important to the lives of Hindu's, as a source of guidance, and becasue it contains many of the beiefs of Hinduism.

However, how influential really is it to the lives of Hindus, and why is it, furthermore, so important?


~Thank you

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I can not speak for everyone here but I know that if I could only have one book - it would be Bhagavad Gita As It Is.


The essence of Bhagavad Gita is contained in the tenth chapter in the following four verses:



I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.


Text 9

The thoughts of My pure devotees dwell in Me, their lives are surrendered to Me, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss enlightening one another and conversing about Me.


Text 10

To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.


Text 11

Out of compassion for them, I, dwelling in their hearts, destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance.


Krishna tells us in these verses that He is the origin of everything, the wise will engage in His loving service, always think of Him and find great pleasure in always discussing His attributes. Thus, Krishna will give full enlightenment destroying their ignorance.


By reading Bhagavad Gita we come to know Krishna. What could be more important than that??

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Chapter 10, Verse 20.

I am the Self, O Gudakesa, seated in the hearts of all creatures. I am the beginning, the middle and the end of all beings.


Chapter 10, Verse 21.

Of the Adityas I am Visnu, of lights I am the radiant sun, I am Marici of the Maruts, and among the stars I am the moon.


Chapter 10, Verse 22.

Of the Vedas I am the Sama-veda; of the demigods I am Indra; of the senses I am the mind, and in living beings I am the living force [knowledge].


Chapter 10, Verse 23.

Of all the Rudras I am Lord Siva; of the Yaksas and Raksasas I am the Lord of wealth [Kuvera]; of the Vasus I am fire [Agni], and of mountains I am Meru.


Chapter 10, Verse 24.

Of priests, O Arjuna, know Me to be the chief, Brhaspati, the lord of devotion. Of generals I am Skanda, the lord of war; and of bodies of water I am the ocean.


Chapter 10, Verse 25.

Of the great sages I am Bhrgu; of vibrations I am the transcendental om. Of sacrifices I am the chanting of the holy names [japa], and of immovable things I am the Himalayas.


Chapter 10, Verse 26.

Of all trees I am the holy fig tree, and among sages and demigods I am Narada. Of the singers of the gods [Gandharvas] I am Citraratha, and among perfected beings I am the sage Kapila.


Chapter 10, Verse 27.

Of horses know Me to be Uccaihsrava, who rose out of the ocean, born of the elixir of immortality; of lordly elephants I am Airavata, and among men I am the monarch.


Chapter 10, Verse 28.

Of weapons I am the thunderbolt; among cows I am the surabhi, givers of abundant milk. Of procreators I am Kandarpa, the god of love, and of serpents I am Vasuki, the chief.


Chapter 10, Verse 29.

Of the celestial Naga snakes I am Ananta; of the aquatic deities I am Varuna. Of departed ancestors I am Aryama, and among the dispensers of law I am Yama, lord of death.


Chapter 10, Verse 30.

Among the Daitya demons I am the devoted Prahlada; among subduers I am time; among the beasts I am the lion, and among birds I am Garuda, the feathered carrier of Visnu.


Chapter 10, Verse 31.

Of purifiers I am the wind; of the wielders of weapons I am Rama; of fishes I am the shark, and of flowing rivers I am the Ganges.


Chapter 10, Verse 32.

Of all creations I am the beginning and the end and also the middle, O Arjuna. Of all sciences I am the spiritual science of the self, and among logicians I am the conclusive truth.


Chapter 10, Verse 33.

Of letters I am the letter A, and among compounds I am the dual word. I am also inexhaustible time, and of creators I am Brahma, whose manifold faces turn everywhere.


Chapter 10, Verse 34.

I am all-devouring death, and I am the generator of all things yet to be. Among women I am fame, fortune, speech, memory, intelligence, faithfulness and patience.


Chapter 10, Verse 35.

Of hymns I am the Brhat-sama sung to the Lord Indra, and of poetry I am the Gayatri verse, sung daily by Brahmanas. Of months I am November and December, and of seasons I am flower-bearing spring.


Chapter 10, Verse 36.

I am also the gambling of cheats, and of the splendid I am the splendor. I am victory, I am adventure, and I am the strength of the strong.


Chapter 10, Verse 37.

Of the descendants of Vrsni I am Vasudeva, and of the Pandavas I am Arjuna. Of the sages I am Vyasa, and among great thinkers I am Usana.


Chapter 10, Verse 38.

Among punishments I am the rod of chastisement, and of those who seek victory, I am morality. Of secret things I am silence, and of the wise I am wisdom.


Chapter 10, Verse 39.

Furthermore, O Arjuna, I am the generating seed of all existences. There is no being--moving or unmoving--that can exist without Me.


Chapter 10, Verse 40.

O mighty conqueror of enemies, there is no end to My divine manifestations. What I have spoken to you is but a mere indication of My infinite opulences.


Chapter 10, Verse 41.

Know that all beautiful, glorious, and mighty creations spring from but a spark of My splendor.


Chapter 10, Verse 42.

But what need is there, Arjuna, for all this detailed knowledge? With a single fragment of Myself I pervade and support this entire universe.



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Chapter 7, Verse 1.

Now hear, O son of Prtha [Arjuna], how by practicing yoga in full consciousness of Me, with mind attached to Me, you can know Me in full, free from doubt.


Chapter 7, Verse 2.

I shall now declare unto you in full this knowledge both phenomenal and noumenal, by knowing which there shall remain nothing further to be known.


Chapter 7, Verse 3.

Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth.


Chapter 7, Verse 4.

Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego--all together these eight comprise My separated material energies.


Chapter 7, Verse 5.

Besides this inferior nature, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is a superior energy of Mine, which are all living entities who are struggling with material nature and are sustaining the universe.


Chapter 7, Verse 6.

Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for certain that I am both its origin and dissolution.


Chapter 7, Verse 7.

O conqueror of wealth [Arjuna], there is no Truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread.


Chapter 7, Verse 8.

O son of Kunti [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.


Chapter 7, Verse 9.

I am the original fragrance of the earth, and I am the heat in fire. I am the life of all that lives, and I am the penances of all ascetics.


Chapter 7, Verse 10.

O son of Prtha, know that I am the original seed of all existences, the intelligence of the intelligent, and the prowess of all powerful men.


Chapter 7, Verse 11.

I am the strength of the strong, devoid of passion and desire. I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles, O Lord of the Bharatas [Arjuna].


Chapter 7, Verse 12.

All states of being--be they of goodness, passion or ignorance--are manifested by My energy. I am, in one sense, everything--but I am independent. I am not under the modes of this material nature.


Chapter 7, Verse 13.

Deluded by the three modes [goodness, passion and ignorance], the whole world does not know Me who am above the modes and inexhaustible.


Chapter 7, Verse 14.

This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.


Chapter 7, Verse 15.

Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons, do not surrender unto Me.


Chapter 7, Verse 16.

O best among the Bharatas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto Me--the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.


Chapter 7, Verse 17.

Of these, the wise one who is in full knowledge in union with Me through pure devotional service is the best. For I am very dear to him, and he is dear to Me.


Chapter 7, Verse 18.

All these devotees are undoubtedly magnanimous souls, but he who is situated in knowledge of Me I consider verily to dwell in Me. Being engaged in My transcendental service, he attains Me.


Chapter 7, Verse 19.

After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.


Chapter 7, Verse 20.

Those whose minds are distorted by material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures.


Chapter 7, Verse 21.

I am in everyone's heart as the Supersoul. As soon as one desires to worship the demigods, I make his faith steady so that he can devote himself to some particular deity.


Chapter 7, Verse 22.

Endowed with such a faith, he seeks favors of a particular demigod and obtains his desires. But in actuality these benefits are bestowed by Me alone.


Chapter 7, Verse 23.

Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are limited and temporary. Those who worship the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but My devotees ultimately reach My supreme planet.


Chapter 7, Verse 24.

Unintelligent men, who know Me not, think that I have assumed this form and personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is changeless and supreme.


Chapter 7, Verse 25.

I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My eternal creative potency [yoga-maya]; and so the deluded world knows Me not, who am unborn and infallible.


Chapter 7, Verse 26.

O Arjuna, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, I know everything that has happened in the past, all that is happening in the present, and all things that are yet to come. I also know all living entities; but Me no one knows.


Chapter 7, Verse 27.

O scion of Bharata [Arjuna], O conqueror of the foe, all living entities are born into delusion, overcome by the dualities of desire and hate.


Chapter 7, Verse 28.

Persons who have acted piously in previous lives and in this life, whose sinful actions are completely eradicated and who are freed from the duality of delusion, engage themselves in My service with determination.


Chapter 7, Verse 29.

Intelligent persons who are endeavoring for liberation from old age and death take refuge in Me in devotional service. They are actually Brahman because they entirely know everything about transcendental and fruitive activities.


Chapter 7, Verse 30.

Those who know Me as the Supreme Lord, as the governing principle of the material manifestation, who know Me as the one underlying all the demigods and as the one sustaining all sacrifices, can, with steadfast mind, understand and know Me even at the time of death.






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Hare Krishna


I just discovered a version of Bhagavad Gita As It Is,

in PDF Format (it beats scrolling)..


Click to download: <font color="blue"> Gita </font color>


more here: E-Veda





<font color="red"> HARE </font color> <font color="orange"> KRISHNA </font color> <font color="red"> HARE </font color> <font color="orange"> KRISHNA KRISHNA KRISHNA </font color> <font color="red"> HARE HARE

</font color> <font color="red"> HARE </font color> <font color="blue">RAMA </font color> <font color="red"> HARE </font color> <font color="blue"> RAMA RAMA RAMA </font color> <font color="red"> HARE HARE </font color>




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When gHari first posted this tutorial I printed it out and put it with my study materials. I refer to it often - finding it very helpful.


The internet can be a great help - look at all the vedic scriptures that are now at our fingertips. More than I could ever find in my local library or afford to purchase!

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