The Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita opens with blind King Dhritarashtra asking his secretary, Sanjaya, to narrate the battle for control of Hastinapura between his sons, the Kauravas, and their cousins, the Pandavas. The Kauravas are not the rightful heirs to the kingdom, but they have assumed control, and Dhritarashtra is trying to preserve it for his son Duryodhana. Sanjaya tells of Arjuna, who has come as leader of the Pandavas to take back his kingdom, with Krishna first as his charioteer until Arjuna surrenders to Lord Krishna and requests the Lord to instruct him.

Arjuna believes that killing is evil and that killing one’s family is the greatest sin of all and therefore puts down his weapons and refuses to fight.  Consequently Lord Krishna starts to explain to Arjuna why it is his dharmicthe moral transformation of human beings or behaviors considered necessary for the maintenance of the natural order of things duty to fight and how he must fight in order to restore his karmadeeds, actions.

Lord Krishna talks about reincarnationCompare with Quantum Physics under Science and The Gnostic Gospels under Religion and explains the eternal cycle of birth, suffering, death and rebirth. The purpose of this cycle is to allow a person to work off their karmaCompare with Theosophy under Philosophy and Self-Healing, Yoga and Destiny under Spiritual Development, accumulated through lifetimes of action. If a person completes actions selflessly, in service to God, then they can work off their karma, eventually leading to enlightenment. If people act selfishly, then they keep accumulating karmic debtCompare with To Know Yourself under Spiritual Development.

Krishna presents three main concepts for achieving enlightenment– renunciation, selfless service, and meditationCompare with The Yoga Sutras under Spiritual Development. All three are elements for achieving ‘yoga,’ the union with the Divine. Krishna says that the truly divine human does not renounce all worldly possessions or simply give up action, but rather finds peace in completing action in the highest service to God and without being attached to the outcomeCompare with The Four Agreements (the fourth) under Spiritual Development. As a result, a person must be aware of the three qualities of the mind – the three gunas – and avoid their traps: rajas (activity, anger), tamas (ignorance, lethargy), and sattva (existence, reality).

Sattva could be the hardest trap to overcome because it could captivate one with its bliss attained on this stage. It entails qualities such as harmoniousness, calmness of mind, a highly developed consciousness, the ability to control one’s emotions, prevalence of the state of subtle and joyful love, absence of egocentrism and violence. Krishna emphasizes that one has to go higher than sattva, to mergence with God, and this calls for new efforts, new struggle with oneself. It is impossible to bypass the sattva guna. It is impossible to merge with God without mastering the qualities inherent to this guna.

Krishna says that he who achieves divine union with him in meditation will ultimately find freedom from the endless cycle of rebirth and death.

Arjuna suddenly understands enlightenment when Krishna appears to him in his divine state, and now has complete faith in the yogic path. At that point Krishna reveals to him that love comes from a person’s selfless devotion to the divine, in addition to an understanding that the body is subject to endless rebirth until humans let go of their body’s cravings and temptations and aversions to end that cycle.

The Gita ends with Krishna telling Arjuna he must choose the path of good or evil, as it is his duty to fight the Kauravas for his kingdom. That way he is correcting the balance of good and evil, fulfilling his dharma, and offering the deepest form of selfless service. After hearing the instructions of Sri Krishna, Arjuna is ready to fight.

Sanjaya, after narrating this conversation to Dhritarashtra, predicts victory for Arjuna, the supreme archer, for he is surrendered to Krishna, the master of all mystics

There are numerous versions, commentaries and summaries online.  I have purchased the kindle edition of  Bhagavad Gita: The Song of God. The appendix of this edition contains an explanation of the cosmology of the Gita and explains concepts such as Brahman, the three aspects of Ishwara, Prakriti and points out that Hinduism accepts the belief in many divine incarnations, including Krishna, Buddha and Jesus, and foresees that there will be many more. I also have read the interpretation by Swami Chinmayanada which is excellent but very detailed.

You can find a more detailed summary of the Gita here. This review is inspiring and I found this site helpful for my summary.

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