Bhagavad-gita As It Is

The Bhagavad-gita (“Song of God”), which forms eighteen chapters in the epic Mahabharata, presents the core of the Vedic philosophy in a relatively brief seven hundred verses. Celebrated and revered for its profound message, it is the one book turned to by philosophers, yogis, and transcendentalists of nearly all paths of Vedic spirituality. In the West it early inspired, among others, the American Transcendentalists Emerson and Thoreau and has been looked to ever since for its perennial wisdom. It is the essential Vedic text for spiritual realization.

Just on the verge of the historic Battle of Kurukshetra, the warrior Arjuna loses his nerve. Totally distraught and ready to give up on life, he turns to his friend and charioteer, Krishna, for advice, “What should I do?” The conversation that follows touches on all of life’s big questions: what is the purpose of life? What happens when we die? Is there a reality beyond this time-bound, physical plane? What is the ultimate cause of all causes? Krishna comprehensively answers all of Arjuna’s questions and then reveals His own identity as none other than the Supreme Personality of Godhead, appearing on earth to usher in a new era of spiritual understanding.

Throughout the Gita Krishna teaches that the essence of all human pursuit – and the ultimate goal of all pious work, meditation, and austerity – is to develop an attitude of loving service to the Supreme Person. His ultimate instruction, “surrender to Me,” challenges Arjuna – and any reader of the Bhagavad-gita – to transcend religion and belief and to enter the realm of bhakti – devotional service – which alone can fully satisfy the self.

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The Bhagavad-gita is a conversation between Arjuna, a supernaturally gifted warrior about to go into battle, and Krishna, his charioteer. In the course of giving Arjuna all manner of spiritual and material advice, Krishna explains karma, the self, the Supreme Self, the purpose of yoga, the difference between our self and our material body, how our environment affects our consciousness, and how to attain the perfection of life.

The Gita appears as a central chapter in the Mahabharata, the history of greater India. It is the essence of Vedic knowledge and one of the most important books of Vedic literature.

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  • Setting the scene
    – A look at the historical and political context in which the Battle of Kurukshetra took place and the Bhagavad-gita was spoken.
  • The Bhagavad-gita As It Is
    – The version of the Gita which has enhanced the spiritual lives of so many of its readers.
  • Chapter Summary
    – A bird’s eye view of the topics covered in the Bhagavad-gita.
  • Read/listen/study
    – Additional online resources for exploring this great literature.

We like to quote our sources. This page is based on the following:

  • Bhagavad-gita, 11.55, Purport: “The Bhagavad-gita is meant to show how one can understand his spiritual existence and his eternal relationship with the supreme spiritual personality and to teach one how to go back home, back to Godhead. . .”
  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1.4.25, Purport: “The purpose of the Mahabharata is to administer the purpose of the Vedas, and therefore within this Mahabharata the summary Veda of Bhagavad-gita is placed. . . the philosophy of the Vedas in the form of the Bhagavad-gita, is spoken by the Lord Sri Krishna. . . The Bhagavad-gita is the essence of all Vedic knowledge.”
  • Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Introduction: “The Bhagavad-gita is the narration or the philosophy on the science of God, spoken by Krishna Himself. Srimad-Bhagavatam is the narration about the activities and transcendental pastimes of Krishna.”
  • Scholars’ Appreciations of Bhagavad-gita As It Is: “If truth is what works. . .there must be a kind of truth in the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, since those who follow its teaching display a joyous serenity usually missing in the bleak and strident lives of contemporary people.”