The Gita is a doctrine of universal truth. Its message is universal, sublime, and nonsectarian although it is a part of the scriptural trinity of Sanaatan Dharm, commonly known as Hinduism. The Gita is very easy to understand in any language for a mature mind. A repeated reading with faith will reveal all the sublime ideas contained in it. A few abstruse statements are interspersed here and there, but they have no direct bearing on practical issues or the central theme of Gita. The Gita deals with the most sacred metaphysical science. It imparts the knowledge of the Self and answers two universal questions: Who am I, and how can I lead a happy and peaceful life in this world of dualities. It is a book of yog, the moral and spiritual growth for mankind based on the cardinal principles of Hindu religion.
The message of the Gita came to humanity because of Arjun’s unwillingness to do his duty as a warrior because fighting invxolved destruction and killing. Nonviolence or Ahimsaa is one of the most fundamental tenets of Hinduism. All lives, human or non-human, are sacred. This immortal discourse between the Supreme Lord, Krishn, and His devotee-friend, Arjun, occurs not in a temple, a secluded forest, or on a mountain top but on a battlefield on the eve of a war and is recorded in the great epic, Mahaabhaarat. In the Gita Lord Krishn advises Arjun to get up and fight. This may create a misunderstanding of the principles of Ahimsaa if the background of the war of Mahaabhaarat is not kept in mind. Therefore, a brief historical description is in order.
In ancient times there was a king who had two sons, Dhritaraashtr and Paandu. The former was born blind; therefore, Paandu inherited the kingdom. Paandu had five sons. They were called the Paandavs. Dhritaraashtr had one hundred sons. They were called the Kauravs. Duryodhan was the eldest of the Kauravs. After the death of king Paandu the Paandavs became the lawful king. Duryodhan was a very jealous person. He also wanted the kingdom. The kingdom was divided into two halves between the Paandavs and the Kauravs. Duryodhan was not satisfied with his share of the kingdom. He wanted the entire kingdom for himself. He unsuccessfully planned several foul plays to kill the Paandavs and take away their kingdom. He unlawfully took possession of the entire kingdom of the Paandavs and refused to give back even an acre of land without a war.
All mediation by Lord Krishn and others failed. The big war of Mahaabhaarat was thus inevitable. The Paandavs were unwilling participants. They had only two choices: Fight for their right as a matter of duty or run away from war and accept defeat in the name of peace and nonviolence. Arjun, one of the five Paandav brothers, faced the dilemma in the battlefield whether to fight or run away from war for the sake of peace. Arjun’s dilemma is, in reality, the universal dilemma. Every human being faces dilemmas, big and small, in their everyday life when performing their duties. Arjun’s dilemma was the biggest of all. He had to make a choice between fighting the war and killing his most revered guru, very dear friends, close relatives, and many innocent warriors, or running away from the battlefield for the sake of preserving the peace and nonviolence. The entire seven hundred verses of the Gita is a discourse between Lord Krishn and the confused Arjun on the battlefield of Kurukshetr near New Delhi, India, in about 3,100 years BCE. This discourse was narrated to the blind king, Dhritaraashtr, by his charioteer, Sanjay, as an eye-witness war report.
The central teaching of the Gita is the attainment of freedom or happiness from the bondage of life by doing one’s duty. Always remember the glory and greatness of the creator, and do your duty efficiently without being attached to or affected by the results, even if that duty may at times demand unavoidable violence. Some people neglect or give up their duty in life for the sake of a spiritual life while others excuse themselves from spiritual practices because they believe that they have no time. The Lord’s message is to sanctify the entire living process itself.Whatever a person does or thinks ought to be done for the glory and satisfaction of the Maker. No effort or cost is necessary for this process. Do your duty as a service to the Lord and humanity and see God alone in everything in a spiritual frame of mind. In order to gain such a spiritual frame of mind, personal discipline, austerity, penance, good conduct, selfless service, yogic practices, meditation, worship, prayer, rituals, and study of scriptures, as well as the company of holy persons, pilgrimage, chanting of the holy names of God, and Self-inquiry are needed to purify the body, mind, and intellect.
One must learn to give up lust, anger, greed, and establish mastery over the six senses (hearing, touch, sight, taste, smell, and mind) by the purified intellect. One should always remember that all works are done by the energy of nature and that he or she is not the doer but only an instrument. One must strive for excellence in all undertakings but remain calm in success and failure, gain and loss, and pain and pleasure. The ignorance of metaphysical knowledge is humanity’s greatest predicament. A scripture, being the voice of transcendence, cannot be translated. Language is incapable and translations are defective to clearly impart the knowledge of the Absolute. In this rendering, an attempt has been made to keep the style as close as possible to the original Sanskrit poetry and yet make it easy to read and understand. An attempt has been made to improve the clarity by adding words or phrases within parentheses in the English translation of the verses. The translations of one hundred and thirty-three (133) key verses are printed in bold for the convenience of beginners.We suggest that all our readers ponder, contemplate, and act upon these verses. The beginners and the busy executives should first read and understand the meaning of these key verses before delving deep into the bottomless ocean of transcendental knowledge of the Gita. It is said that there is no human mind that cannot be purified by the repeated study of the Gita — just one Chapter a day.
Sanjay said: Lord Krishn spoke these words to Arjun whose eyes were tearful and downcast, and who was overwhelmed with compassion and despair. (2.01) The Supreme Lord said: How has the dejection come to you at this juncture? This is not fit for a person of noble mind and deeds. It is disgraceful, and it does not lead one to heaven, O Arjun. (2.02) Do not become a coward, O Arjun, because it does not befit you. Shake off this trivial weakness of your heart and get up for the battle, O Arjun. (2.03)
Arjun continues his reasoning against war
Arjun said: How shall I strike Bhishm and Dron, who are worthy of my worship, with arrows in battle, O Krishn? (2.04) It would be better, indeed, to live on alms in this world than to slay these noble gurus, because by killing them I would enjoy wealth and pleasures stained with their blood. (2.05) We do not know which alternative — to fight or to quit — is better for us. Further, we do not know whether we shall conquer them or they will conquer us.We should not even wish to live after killing the sons of Dhritaraashtr who are standing in front of us. (2.06) My senses are overcome by the weakness of pity, and my mind is confused about duty (Dharm). I request You to tell me, decisively, what is better for me. I am Your disciple. Teach me who has taken refuge in You. (2.07) I do not perceive that gaining an unrivaled and prosperous kingdom on this earth, or even lordship over the celestial controllers (Devas) will remove the sorrow that is drying up my senses.
(2.08) Sanjay said: O King, after speaking like this to Lord Krishn, the mighty Arjun said to Krishn: I shall not fight, and he became silent. (2.09) O King, Lord Krishn, as if smiling, spoke these words to the distressed Arjun in the midst of the two armies. (2.10) Teachings of the Gita begin with the true knowledge of spirit and the physical body The Supreme Lord said: You grieve for those who are not worthy of grief; and yet speak words of wisdom. The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead. (2.11) There was never a time when these monarchs, you, or I did not exist, nor shall we ever cease to exist in the future. (2.12) Just as the living entity (Atma, Jeev, Jeevaatma) acquires a childhood body, a youth body, and an old age body during this life; similarly, it acquires another body after death. The wise are not deluded by this. (See also 15.08) (2.13) The contacts of the senses with the sense objects give rise to the feelings of heat and cold, and pain and pleasure. They are transitory and impermanent. Therefore, learn to endure them, O Arjun, (2.14) because a calm person – — who is not afflicted by these sense objects, and is steady in pain and pleasure — becomes fit for immortality, O Arjun. (2.15)
The spirit is eternal, body is transitory
The invisible Spirit (Sat, Atma) is eternal, and the visible world (including the physical body) is transitory. The reality of these two is indeed certainly seen by the seers of truth. (2.16) The Spirit (Atma) by which all this universe is pervaded is indestructible. No one can destroy the imperishable Spirit. (2.17) Bodies of the eternal, immutable, and incomprehensible Spirit are perishable. Therefore, fight, O Arjun. (2.18) One who thinks that Atma (Spirit) is a slayer, and the one who thinks Atma is slain, are both ignorant. Because Atma neither slays nor is slain. (2.19) The Spirit (Atma) is neither born nor does it die at any time. It does not come into being, or cease to exist. It is unborn, eternal, permanent, and primeval. The Spirit is not destroyed when the body is destroyed. (2.20) O Arjun, how can a person who knows that the Spirit (Atma) is indestructible, eternal, unborn, and immutable, kill anyone or cause anyone to be killed? (2.21