An article by
Sri Swami Sivananda, the founder of Divine Life Society
The Bhagavad Gita is a dialogue between Lord
Krishna and Arjuna, narrated in the Bhishma-Parva of the Mahabharata. It
comprises eighteen chapters of a total of 701 Sanskrit verses. Considerable
matter has been condensed and compressed within these verses. On the
battle-field of Kurukshetra, Lord Krishna, during the course of His most
interesting and instructive talk with Arjuna, revealed the profound, sublime and
soul-stirring spiritual truths, and expounded to him the rare secrets of Yoga,
Vedanta, Bhakti and Karma. All the teachings of Lord Krishna were subsequently
recorded as the Song Celestial or the Bhagavad Gita by Sri Bhagavan Vyasa for
the benefit of humanity at large. The world is under a great debt of gratitude
to Sri Vyasa who has presented this Celestial Song to humanity for their daily
conduct in life, spiritual uplift and Self-realisation. Only those who are
self-controlled and are endowed with faith can reap the full benefit of the
Gita, which is the Science of the Soul.
In the whole world-literature there is no book
so elevating and so inspiring as the Gita. India is held in high esteem by the
Westerners on account of the Gita. Mahatma Gandhi once visited one of the
biggest libraries in London and asked the librarian: "What spiritual book
is most often issued?" The librarian replied: "It is the Gita."
The Gita is very popular throughout the world. It has been translated into
almost all the major languages of the world.
Everyone of you should study very carefully the
Gita, a sublime and soul-stirring book that can bestow on you supreme peace,
immortality and eternal bliss.
There are countless commentaries on the Gita at
the present day. A volume can be written on each verse. A busy man with Karmic
tendencies will be benefited by "Gita Rahasya", the commentary of Sri
Bala Gangadhara Tilak; a man of devotion by studying Sridhara’s commentary;
and a man of reason by Sri Sankara’s commentary.
Glory of the Gita
The Gita is a unique book for all ages. It is a
book that comes under the category of Prasthanatraya, the authoritative
books of the Hindu religion. The Gita is the Immortal Song of the Soul, which
bespeaks the glory of life. The instructions that are inculcated by Lord Krishna
are for the whole world. It is a standard book on Yoga for all. The language is
as simple as it could be. Even a man who has an elementary knowledge of Sanskrit
can go through the book. It deals with the four Yogas, viz., Karma Yoga, Bhakti
Yoga, Raja Yoga and Jnana Yoga.
The Gita is the cream of the Vedas. It is the
essence of the Upanishads. It is the universal scripture for all people of all
temperaments and for all times. It is a wonderful book with sublime thoughts and
practical instructions on Yoga, devotion, Vedanta and action. It is a marvellous
book, profound in thoughts and sublime in heights of vision. It gives peace and
solace to the souls who are afflicted by the three fires (Taapas) of this
mortal world (Samsara), viz., Adhyatmika (afflictions caused by
one’s own body), Adhibhautika (those caused by beings around one) and Adhidaivika
(those caused by the gods).
The teachings of the Gita are broad, universal
and sublime. Its teachings do not belong to any cult, sect, creed, particular
age, place or country. They are meant for the people of the whole world at
large. The teachings are based on the Upanishads, the ancient wisdom of the
seers (Rishis) and sages. It teaches a method which is within the reach of all.
It has a message for the solace, peace, freedom, salvation and perfection of all
The Gita-gospel was given over five thousand
years ago on the battle-field of Kurukshetra, by Lord Krishna to Arjuna. The
whole world is a big battle-field. The real Kurukshetra is within you. The
battle of Mahabharata is still raging within you. Ignorance (Avidya) is
Dhritarashtra. The individual soul is Arjuna. The Indweller Who dwells in your
heart is Lord Krishna, the charioteer. The body is your chariot. The senses (Indriyas)
are the horses. The mind, egoism, senses, Samskaras (mental impressions),
Vasanas (latent tendencies), cravings, Raga-Dvesha (likes and
dislikes), lust, jealousy, greed, pride and hypocrisy are your dire enemies.
The Gita gives you practical lessons to
regulate your daily life and conduct. It tells you how to overcome the above
enemies, how to develop the divine virtues which will help you to attain
God-consciousness. The message of the Gita is the message of sacrifice, love and
duty. Love all. Share what you have with others. Do your duties well. Rise above
petty likes and dislikes. Keep open the portals of your heart by removing
selfishness, greed and lust, so that the Supreme Lord Himself may come and dwell
therein. These are the lessons of the Gita.
The Need For A
As the Gita contains subtle and profound
teachings, you should study it under a qualified teacher, a Brahma-nishtha Guru,
with great faith, single-minded devotion and purity. Then only the truths of the
Gita will be revealed unto you like the Amalaka fruit in the hand. Good
commentaries like Swami Madhusudana’s Gita, Sri Swami Sankarananda’s Gita,
Sri Sankara’s commentary, etc., written by realised sages, will be of immense
help to you.
Lord Krishna speaks from different levels of
consciousness. Therefore, the help of a teacher is necessary if you wish to know
the right significance of the Slokas. You cannot rightly comprehend the meaning
of the verses of the Gita without the help of a teacher. Otherwise, you will be
like the man who brought a horse before one who asked for ‘Saindhava’ when
he was taking his food. ‘Saindhava’ means ‘salt’ as well as ‘a
Study of the Gita alone is sufficient for the
purpose of daily Svadhyaya (scriptural study). You will find a solution
here for all your doubts. The more you study with devotion and faith, the more
you will get deeper knowledge, penetrative insight and clear right thinking.
Even if you live in the spirit of one verse of the Gita, all your miseries will
come to an end and you will attain the goal of life—Immortality and Eternal
The eighteen chapters of the Gita are divided
into three sections, illustrative of the three terms of the Mahavakya or
the Great Sentence of the Sama Veda, Tat-Tvam-Asi (That Thou Art). In
accordance with this view, the first six chapters deal with the path of action
or Karma Yoga and the nature of "Thou" or the Tvam-Pada. The
next six chapters explain the path of devotion or Bhakti Yoga and the nature of
"That" or Tat-Pada. The last six chapters treat of the path of
knowledge or Jnana Yoga and the nature of the term "Art" or Asi-Pada
which establishes the identity of the individual and the Supreme Soul,
The Teaching of
Man is a composite of three fundamental
factors, viz., cognition, feeling and will. There are people with three kinds of
temperaments, viz., the active temperament, the emotional temperament and the
rational temperament. So, there are the three Yogas, viz., Jnana Yoga for the
man of enquiry and self-analysis or rational temperament, Bhakti Yoga for the
man of emotional temperament, and Karma Yoga for the man of active temperament.
One Yoga is as efficacious as the other.
The Gita, therefore, formulates the theory of
the three Margas (paths), viz., the Jnana Marga, the Bhakti Marga and the
Karma Marga, to suit to people of all temperaments. According to the teaching of
the Gita, there is no conflict among the three. The Gita harmonises wonderfully
the philosophy of action, devotion and knowledge. All the three must be
harmoniously blended if you wish to attain perfection. You should have the head
of Sri Sankara, the heart of Lord Buddha and the hand of Raja Janaka. The three
horses of this body-chariot—action, emotion and intellect—should work in
perfect harmony. Only then will this body-chariot move smoothly and you can
reach the destination safely and quickly. Only then can you rejoice in the Self
within. Only then can you sing the song of Soham (I am He). Only then can
you be in tune with the Infinite. Only then can you hear the soundless voice of
the soul and enjoy the sweet internal music of the Self.
The central teaching of the Gita is the
attainment of the final beatitude of life or perfection or Freedom (Moksha)
by doing the duties of life or one’s Svadharma. The Lord says to Arjuna:
"Therefore without attachment, do thou always perform action which should
be done; for by performing action without attachment man reaches the
The Gita emphasises again and again that one
should cultivate an attitude of non-attachment or detachment. It urges
repeatedly that one should live in the world like the lotus-leaf, which is
unaffected by water. He who acts placing all actions in the Eternal, abandoning
attachment, is as unaffected by sin as a lotus-leaf by water — Padmapatramivambhasa.
Attachment is due to Moha. Attachment is the
offspring of the quality of Rajas. Non-attachment is born of Sattva. Attachment
is an Asuri-Sampat, demoniacal quality. Non-attachment is a Daivi-Sampat,
divine attribute. Attachment is born of ignorance, selfishness and passion.
Attachment brings death. Non-attachment is wisdom. Non-attachment brings
freedom. Practice of detachment is a rigorous discipline indeed. You will have
to practise it again and again. You may tumble down like a baby who is just
learning to walk, but you will have to rise up again with a smile and a cheerful
heart. Failures are not stumbling blocks, but stepping-stones to success. Try to
dwell always in your own Self. Abide in your own Self. Abide in your centre.
Think of the Self constantly. All attachments will die automatically. Attachment
to God or Atman is a potent antidote to annihilate all worldly attachments. He
who has no attachment can really love others. He has pure love or divine Prema.
Therefore, without attachment, constantly perform action which is duty, for, by
performing actions without attachment, man verily reaches the Supreme.
By the grace of Bhagavan Vyasa this unique
Gospel of the Gita was revealed to the world by Sanjaya on the eleventh day (Ekadasi)
of the bright half of the Margasirsha month (December) according to the Hindu
almanac. This day is celebrated as the Gita Jayanti or the Birthday of the
Srimad Bhagavad Gita, throughout India by all admirers and lovers of this
wonderful treasure of wisdom.
Worship the Srimad Bhagavad Gita as a holy
scripture. Study a chapter from it daily. But, stop not with that. Live in the
spirit of the teachings of the Gita. Mere talk and lecture will not help you in
any way. You may know the whole of the Gita by heart; you may deliver lectures
on the Gita for hours together; and yet, you may not have a ray of the wisdom of
the Gita. What is wanted is regular practice of the teachings of the Gita.
Become intensely practical. Let the Gita guide
your thoughts, prompt your speech, and rule your actions. Then your whole
attitude towards life will be gradually changed. You will become a God-man with
God-vision. You will no more be perturbed by success or failure, pleasure or
pain, loss or gain. You will attain courage, strength, peace and bliss in this
very life, right where you are. May the blessings of Lord Krishna be upon you