The Bhagavad Gita is one of the most important Hindu scriptures. It is revered as a sacred scripture of Hinduism, and considered as one of the most important philosophical classics of the world. The teacher of the Bhagavad Gita is Krishna, who is revered by Hindus as a manifestation of the Lord Himself, and is referred to as divine one. Below is a synopsis of the Bhagavad Gita.
Chapter 1 - The War Within
The Gita begins on a battlefield, the war is between opposing sides of one family. Arjuna asks his charioteer Krishna to drive out into the middle of the battlefield where he falls into despair. He does not want to go into battle against his family members.
The remainder of the poem is the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna.
Philosophically, we see the battle as a spiritual struggle between good and evil. Arjuna is asked to fight his lower self. He throws his hands up and wants to give up as the battle is too much for him.
Chapter 2 - Self-Realisation
48: Perform work in the world, Arjuna, as a man established within himself – without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat. For Yoga is perfect evenness of mind.
Chapter 3 - Selfless Service – Karma Yoga – Selfless Action
If we choose to remain in society we must engage in some activity. Activity is governed by the gunas (tamas, rajas and sattva).
It’s the motivation behind our actions that is important. If we act with selfish motives we remain tied to the material world. If we learn to act without selfish motives we can be free from the law of karma (action / reaction). The aim is to learn selfless service.
3 At the beginning of time I declared two paths for the pure heart: jnana yoga, the contemplative path of spiritual wisdom, and karma yoga, the active path of selfless service.
27 All actions are performed by the gunas of prakrati. Deluded by identification with the ego, a person thinks, “’I am the doer.”’ But the illuminated man or woman understands the domain of the gunas and is not attached. Such people know that the gunas interact with each other; they do not claim to be the doer.
Chapter 4 - Wisdom in Action
Krishna tells Arjuna to offer everything up to Brahman. He explains levels of reality. There is an empirical reality: the earth, sun, ocean, flowers and trees. There is a subjective reality which is the projection we create in our mind from our experiences. Ultimately there is only one reality expressed in different ways, Brahman.
Krishna explains to Arjuna that when he acts from a place of spiritual wisdom, he is free. He can still remain part of the world and renounce the false sense of self.
Chapter 5 - Renounce and Rejoice
Arjuna still has doubts, he believes renunciation is the better path for a spiritual life and for liberation (moksha). Krishna explains that the life of renunciation is extremely difficult without action. Karma yoga is not simply a practice you perform on occasion it is a way of life and a way to reach moksha.
Krishna introduces meditation, as a way to develop stability in the mind.
Chapter 6 - The practice of meditation
Krishna instructs Arjuna in the practice of meditation. Arjuna tells him he cannot still his busy mind. It is too difficult a task. Krishna recognises the task as difficult he says the mind can be conquered through regular practice and detachment
Chapter 7 – The Yoga of Wisdom and Realisation
This chapter contrasts jnana (the highest form of knowing) and vijnana (realization) with spiritual ignorance (moha). Krisha introduces prakrati, the world of form. The world of form is governed by the 3 states of the gunas which make up maya. Beyond this, there ia a higher nature which supports the whole universe.
Krishna recognizes that is is easy to get lost in the world of form, maya, and lose the unchanging infinite source, and offers devotion as a way to find the divine in the ordinary.
Chapter 8 - The Eternal Godhead
Arjuna asks about Brahman and what happens at death. Krishna explains that death does not grant moksha. Prayers and rituals alone cannot grant moksha. Only direct knowledge of Brahman brings liberation.
Chapter 9 - The Royal Path
The Royal Secret is revealed. Anyone who has love for the Divine, for all creatures will reach the ultimate goal of peace and union.
27 Whatever you do, make it an offering to me – the food you eat, the sacrifices you make, the help you give, even your suffering. 28 In that way you will be freed from the bondage of karma, and from its results both pleasant and painful. Then, firm in renunciation and yoga, with your heart free, you will come to me.
Chapter 10 - Divine Splendor
Krishna reveals himself as Bhagavan, the magnificent Lord. He reveals his divinity to Arjuna.
42 Just remember that I am, and that I support the entire cosmos with only a fragment of my being
Chapter 11 - The Cosmic Vision
Krishna allows Arjuna to see the fullness of Bhagavan through cosmic vision. Arjuna is filled with joy but also fear at seeing the truth.
Chapter 12 - The Way of Love
The focus in this chapter is the importance of devotion and faith in spiritual development. Spiritual development is motivated by devotion.
2 Those who set their hearts on me and worship me with unfailing devotion and faith are more established in yoga.
Chapter 13 - The field of the Knower
Duality is discussed here. The difference between:
- prakrati or the field including the body, the mind and ego
- Purusha, the knower or the self
Chapter 14 - The forces of evolution
The qualities of prakriti known as the gunas is explaned.
- Sattva – combines goodness, purity, light, harmony, balance. Sattva is the highest level.
- Rajas – movement, energy, passion. It may express itself as anger, greed, ambition or motivation. It may be positive or negative. In terms of evolution it is considered higher than tamas.
- Tamas – inertia, sloth, darkness, laziness. It’s considered the lowest form of evolution.
The three gunas make up everything in nature. They are always changing, differing in intensity and degree. We are always aiming for Sattva. Liberation occurs beyond the gunas, beyond prakrati, in the realm of Purusha.
Chapter 15 - The Supreme Self
We are reminded that Krishna lives in the highest realm, in the world below, a part of the eternal is within each creature.
16 In this world there are two orders of being: the perishable, separate creature and the changeless spirit. 17 But beyond these there is another, the supreme Self, the eternal Lord, who enters the entire comos and supports it from within.
Chapter 16 - Two Paths
Krishna describes two paths. He lists the divine qualities which move us towards liberation and the demonic qualities which enslave.
Chapter 17 - The Power of Faith
Krishna goes into more detail of the gunas and the characteristics belonging to each nature. He highlights the importance of faith or Shraddha.
Chapter 18 - Freedom and Renunciation
The Gita is essentially a handbook for living a spiritual way in the world.
This can be achieved through:
- · Jnana yoga - the path of knowledge.
- · Bhakti yoga - the path of devotion
- · Karma yoga - the path of selfless action
We can find peace through renunciation and skillfully living our Dharma.
73: You have dispelled my doubts and delusions, and I understand through your grace. My faith is firm now, and I will do your will.