Bhagavad Gita is explained in Bhishma Parva (chapters 23-40) of the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. It is an epic poem in Sanskrit. 'Bhagavad Gita’ means "the song of the God". The word Bhagavad pertains to Bhagavan, the God (the Lord Krishna, an avatar of Lord Sri Vishnu) and Gita is the poem. The Bhagavad Gita refers to itself as an 'Upanishad', and is sometimes called Gitopanisad.
The Bhagavad Gita starts with the King Dhritarashtra, the blind king of Kauravas, asking his advisor, Sanjaya, to narrate him the details of the epic war between his sons, the Kauravas and their cousins, the Pandavas, at Kurukshetra arena.
At the battlefield, Arjuna, the third of the Pandavas and the spearhead of the Pandavas’ offensive, requests Lord Krishna to be his charioteer, to which the Lord agrees. Arjuna sees his gurus, cousins, relatives and friends who take up positions on the opposite side readying for the inevitable battle. Arjuna becomes overwhelmed at the thought of death and destruction to his near and dear ones. He turns emotional and discards his bow and other weapons. He tells Lord Krishna that he cannot fight and kill his gurus and cousins and relatives for the sake of their kingdom. He pleads with Lord Krishna that he cannot perform the Kshatriya Dharma, the Duty of a Warrior in the battle. Lord Krishna gives succor to Arjuna and reveals to him that Atma the Soul is immortal, and that death is just the discarding of the body. Lord Krishna tells him that true enlightenment comes from freeing oneself from Ego, the inevitable ‘ I ’ inside a body, and that one must realize the Truth of the Atma, the ultimate Divine Consciousness.
The cause of all misery is the stirring of the mind caused by want and desire. The goal of realizing Self is through the Yogas of meditation, action, devotion and knowledge.
The study of Gita deals mainly with three Yogas:
- Understand the Karma Yoga. It deals with the selfless nature of a person’s deeds and actions. It is basically doing one's duties in life without worrying about results. It should be selfless action, the results of which should not affect one’s deeds or actions. It is called Nishkam Karma Yoga (the Yoga of Selfless Action). When a man focuses on the objects of his senses, affinity to them is generated. This affinity produces desire and desire begets anger. Anger gives rise to bewilderment; bewilderment induces loss of memory; loss of memory destroys intelligence; and finally the human being perishes.
- Get enlightened with Jnana Yoga. This Yoga is about the Knowledge pertaining to the Creation. Jnana Yoga deals with the knowledge to discern what is real and what is eternal. Knowledge leads one on the path to God.
- Fill your life with Bhakthi Yoga. Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of devotion and spiritual knowledge about the Creator. Bhakthi Yoga is Devotion to Lord Krishna. Absolute identification with God frees one from reincarnation. It helps one to get Moksha, the Salvation.
The essence of the above Yogas for understanding Bhagavad Gita is the following:
Your duty is to do right things consciously. Try with sincere efforts. Accept with humility all consequences. Realize that you are not the cause for any consequences. Do not expect any returns. Your aim should not be to expect any returns for your efforts and actions. At the same time, do not shirk from doing your duties.
You arrived into this world without any encumbrances or any baggage and you leave this world without them. So, you lose nothing. Whatever you acquired here is procured here. And whatever you give here is gotten only here. Whatever that is yours today belonged to someone else yesterday, and tomorrow somebody else may get it.
Here everything is Maya, an illusion. It’s a self-created one. Break free from this illusion. Whatever has to happen is bound to happen. Death is inevitable for any living being. Worrying about it is unwise.
Decimate your inner jealousies. Stampede your egoism. Banish violence and follow non-violence. Keep aloof from anger and separate emotions from your thinking. You may not help others, but do not cause any harm to others. Religion cleanses the mind. Religion without humanism is no religion. Have trust in God; help the masses.
Bhagavad Gita enjoins you to realize self, the meaning of it in absolute sense. Understand that only human beings are capable of attaining Moksha (the Salvation) eventually, freeing them from the life-death-life cycle. Setting yourself up on spiritual course must be the aim of your life.