Bhagavad Gita Synopsis

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

This chapter contains the essence of the whole teaching. It is an overview of the next 16 chapters.

The concept of Atman is introduced. Arjuna is reminded of the eternal Atman and that this is more important than the physical world. The various definitions of Yoga are given. Yoga is evenness of mind, detachment, freedom. Meditation is given as the practice for Self-Realisation.  Arjuna’s task is to act from a place of truth without attachment and desire.

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.

38 Nothing in the world purifies like spiritual wisdom. It is the perfection achieved in time through the path of yoga, the path which leads to the Self within.
41 Those established in the Self have renounced selfish attachments to their actions and cut through doubts with spiritual wisdom. They act in freedom.

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.

6 Perfect renunciation is difficult to attain without performing action. But the wise, following the path of selfless service, quickly reach Brahman.
27 Closing their eyes, steadying their breathing, and focusing on the centre of spiritual consciousness, 28 the wise master their senses, mind and intellect through meditation. Self-realisation is their only goal.

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

10 Those who aspire to the state of yoga should seek the Self in inner solitude through meditation. With body and mind controlled they should constantly practice one-pointedness, free from expectation and attachment to material possessions.
26 Wherever the mind wanders, restless and diffuse in its search for satisfaction without, lead it within; train it to rest in the Self.

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.

4 Earth, water, fire, air, akasha, mind, intellect and ego – these are the divisions of my prakrati.
5 But beyond this I have another, higher nature, Arjuna; it supports the whole universe and is the source of life in all beings.
12. The states of sattva, rajas and tamas come from me, but I am not them. These three gunas deceive the world: people fail to look beyond them to me, supreme and imperishable.

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.

12 Remembering me at the time of death, close down the doors of the senses and place the mind in the heart. Then, while absorbed in meditation, focus all the energy upwards to the head.
13 Repeating in this state the divine name, the syllable Om that represents, the changeless Brahman, you will go forth from the body and attain the supreme goal.
16 Every creature in the universe is subject to rebirth. Arjuna, except the one who is united with me.

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.

45 I rejoice in seeing you have never been seen before, yet I am filled with fear by this vision of you as the abode of the universe.
55 Those who make me the supreme goal of all their work and act without selfish attachment, who devote themselves to me completely and are free from ill will for any creature, enter into me.

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
1 The body is called a field, Arjuna; the one who knows it is called the Knower of the field. This is the knowledge of those who know. 2 I am the Knower of the field in everyone, Arjuna. Knowledge of the field and its Knower is true knowledge.
5 The field, Arjuna, is made up of the following: the five areas of sense perception: the five elements; the five sense organs and the five organs of action; the three components of the mind: manas, buddhi, and ahamkara; and the undifferentiated energy from which all these evolved. 6 In this field arise desire and aversion, pleasure and pain, the body, intelligence and will.
19 Know that prakriti and Purusha are both without beginning, and that from prakriti come the gunas and all that changes.
21 Purusha, resting in prakriti, witnesses the play pf the gunas born of prakriti. But attachment to the gunas leads a person to be born for good or evil.
22 Within the body the supreme Purusha is called the witness, approver, supporter, enjoyer, the supreme Lord, the highest 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.

18 Those who live in sattva go upwards; those in rajas remain where they are. But those immersed in tamas sink downwards.
19 The wise see clearly that all action is the work of the gunas. Knowing that which is above the gunas, they enter into union with me.

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.

3 Our faith conforms to our nature, Arjuna. Human nature is made of faith. A person is what his shradda is.
4. Those who are sattvic worship the forms of God: those who are rajasic worship power and wealth. Those that are tamasic worship spirits and ghosts.

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.

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About the Author

Liama Aesha has been a Shiatsu Practitioner for 17 years and a Yoga Teacher for 10 years.

She owns her own clinic and Yoga studio in Dee Why. She believes in empowering her clients with the knowledge to understand their own health and to give them the best tools to use as and when they require.

Registered Member of Shiatsu Therapy Association, Australia.
Registered Level 2 Teacher with Yoga Australia
Registered Yoga Therapist with Yoga Australia


Training Certified with Yoga Australia