The Bhagavad Gita
The Bhagavad Gita, “The Song of
the Lord,” is the chief devotional text of most Indians. This text is part of a
larger epic of Mahabharata, an ancient story that took literary form between
the fifth BCE and third century CE. The Gita refers to dharma, which is the
right ordering that supports the cosmos. Dharma is equivalent to natural law
and conscience. In the Gita, a Pandava brother Arjuna loses his will to fight
and has a discussion with his charioteer
I. The Bhagavad Gita; text, context, and interpretation.
A. The Bhagavad Gita (“the Song of the Lord”) is the chief devotional book of most Indians. Franklin Edgerton and Barbara Stoller Miller have produced English translations that I recommend.
B. The Bhagavad Gita is part of the larger epic of Mahabharata, an ancient saga that took literary form between the fifth century BCE and the third century CE.
1. The Gita, like many teachings about dharma, dates from between 200 BCE and 200 CD.
2. The setting of the Gita is the eve of an expected battle between the five Pandava brothers and their cousins, the Kauravas, who have cheated the Pandavas of their rightful knogdom.
Pandava brother Arjuna loses the will to fight. He engages in dialogue with his
C. The epic Mahabharata, the epic Ramayana, and the eighteen Puranas (“old stories”) are called smriti (the “remembered” tradition), as distinct from shruti (the “heard” or revealed tradition). The Gita was passed orally from one generation to the next, almost as shruti.
D. Commentaries on the Gita have been produced by Shankara (eighth century CE), Ramanuja (eleventh century CE), and B. G. Tilak, M. Gandhi, A.D. Bhaktivedanta, and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (twentieth century).
II. On the Field of Dharma
A. The first words of the Gita are: dharmakshetre Kurukshetre, “on the field of dharma, at Kurukshetra …” These words are spoken by the blink king to his minister Sanjaya, who will describe to him the impending battle.
B. Dharma is the right ordering that supports the cosmos. It is equivalent to natural law, social order, the sense of duty that attaches to each caste or narna, and the right ordering of the human heart (i.e., conscience).
1. “Dharma, when it is protected, protects.”
2. Infractions of dharma have led to the impending battle between the Pandavas and Kauravas.
C. On the verge of battle, Arjuna confronts the challenge of reconciling the conflicting obligations imposed by dharma.
1. He is torn between his duties as kshatriya and the Pandavas and as kinsman of the Kauravas.
III. Three themes in the Bhagavad Gita: knowledge (jnana), action (karma), and love (bhakti)
acquires this wisdom by cultivating steadiness of mind, which
3. Attainment of the mental stability requires practice, especially yoga postures (“stopping the whirlpools of the mind”), which help to concentrate the mind. The body is a vehicle for helping the mind come to repose.
B. Action: Acting without getting enmeshed in the results of action.
or goals of life are
3. On the field of dharma, one should act without passion (nishkama) and without desire for the fruits of action (nishphalaratha). Through yoga, one can cultivate a disinterestedness in or detachment from the outcome of action.
C. Love: Dedicate your action in devotion to God.
1. God – Bhagavan – is the supreme reality that is both ultimate and personal.
responds with love to
6. Love can subvert dharma; there is no need to consider dharma when one consecrates one’s acts to God.
Bhagavata Purana is the
Gita Govinda is the story of Radha
expanded myth of