Gita Jayanti Special: All you need to know about Bhagavad Gita

The day on which the Bhagavad Gita was revealed is celebrated as the Gita Jayanti festival. This day let’s look into some interesting aspects of Bhagavad Gita.

Gita Jayanti or the anniversary of the day on which the Bhagavad Gita was revealed is celebrated as the Gita Jayanti festival. This day is the 11th day of the waxing moon of the Mārgashīrṣha month of the Hindu calendar, and falls in the months of November-December of the Gregorian calendar. On this day, Hindus worship Krishna, perform Pujas, sing the Gita ārati, chant the entire Gita, or even perform a Yajna while chanting each verse of the Gita collectively.

Let us now look into some interesting aspects of Bhagavad Gita.

1. What does the name ‘Bhagavad Gita’ mean?

The title of this beloved Hindu scripture literally means “The Divine Song” or the “The Song of the Lord”. This holy book of Hindus presents an eternally relevant dialogue between a human representative (Arjuna) and the Supreme Being (as Krishna). The Bhagavad Gita is often referred to simply as the ‘Gita’ in short. Many other Gitas exist in the Hindu scriptural tradition, but when the word ‘Gita’ is used, it denotes our Bhagavad Gita, because of its pre-eminence over all the other Gita named scriptures.

The Gita is not a one sided monologue. In the Gita, Arjuna expresses many doubts, asks many questions, and Krishna does not force him to accept the answers that he gives to Arjuna. He merely asks Arjuna to think about the answers, and then act as he wishes, if they make sense to him.

Arjuna does not ask these questions just out of curiosity, or with arrogance or just to humor Krishna. He asks them because he is faced with a very difficult situation in his life, and he wants to know how he can take the right decision. He asks these questions with a lot of humility, love and with a genuine desire to know the truth.

Krishna answers all the questions of Arjuna. He does not put down Arjuna anytime. He talks to Arjuna as a loving and an understanding friend. He gives Arjuna not just ‘one right answer’. Instead, He offers Arjuna many different possible solutions with their pros and cons, but also says what his own preference is. Eventually, Arjuna agrees to Krishna’s preferred solution and wins the war of Dharma against Adharma.

Because of message of the Gita is relevant for all humanity in all times, Krishna is considered the teacher par excellence, and is termed as ‘Jagadguru’ or ‘Teacher of the World.’

Everyone can draw some good teaching from the Gita, whether we are believers or atheists, whether we are Hindus or non-Hindus, intelligent or stupid, rich or poor, man or woman. Its teachings can help you whether you are happy or sad, in need or not in need, in a desert or in a rain forest, in a crowd or alone, whether you are praised by others or hated, and whether you love others or hate them.

The Gita teaches us how to transform from an average human being to an extra-ordinary human being, and then become Divine. The Gita tells about the true nature of this Universe. It teaches us something even more important – and that is, who WE are. It teaches us about our relationship to Bhagavān and to the Universe. How we should live our daily lives, the correct attitude, and what is really important and what is not important in life.

2. Importance of the Bhagavad Gita in Hinduism:

The Bhagavad Gita has been considered one of the most important scriptures of Hindus for over 2000 years. The scripture is almost universally regarded by Hindus as the epitome of all the spiritual teachings of the Vedas and the Upanishads and is read by millions of Hindus for inspiration and solace to this day. Many Hindus memorize all of its 700 verses, or at least selected chapters and verses to draw upon their teachings and to teach others. Many Hindus believe that if you study and understand the Gita, then there is not much need to read the hundreds of other scriptures that we have.

The importance of the Bhagavad Gita is indicated in the Hindu tradition by several popular verses, one of which says that whosoever seeks recourse to Gita, Ganga, Gāyatrī and Govinda – the 4 Gs, is freed of the cycle of birth and death. Another verse states that all the Upanishads are cows, and Lord Krishna is the milkman who has extracted their teaching in the form of the milk of Bhagavad Gita.

3. Gita as a part of the Mahābhārata

The Mahabharata is the longest poem in the world and has approximately 100,000 verses. The Bhagavad Gita is a part of this much larger scripture – the Mahabharata. It forms chapters 23-40 in the Bhishma Parvan, which is the 6th of the 18 books of the Mahabharata. The Gita has 700 verses in the standard version. In fact, the Gita is located right at the center of the 100,000 verses of the Mahabharata, and is literally the heart of the Mahabharata.

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The Mahabharata is a giant epic that describes the events leading to the great civil war in the Indian subcontinent. There were two sets of royal cousins – the righteous five Pāṇdavas and the unrighteous hundred Kauravas. Yudhishthira, the eldest Pāṇdava prince, should have inherited the kingdom of Hastinapura, which is around 50 miles east of Delhi. But his blind Uncle Dhritarashtra (the father of Kauravas), with his eldest evil and arrogant son Duryodhana wanted to rule instead. To prevent a conflict, the kingdom was divided into two parts. The original capital and eastern half was given to Duryodhana to rule. The western barren half around Delhi was named Indraprastha and was given to the Pāṇdavas to rule.

By dint of their hard work and under the guidance of Krishna, the Pāṇdavas became very prosperous and powerful. The jealous Duryodhana could not tolerate the happiness of Pāṇdavas. Through trickery, Duryodhana banished the Pāṇdavas into 13 years of exile and usurped their half of the kingdom as well. But when the Pāṇdavas came back to reclaim their kingdom after 13 years as per the original agreement, Duryodhana told Krishna that “I will not give even as much land to the Pāṇdavas as can stay on the tip of a needle.” Earlier, Duryodhana had even tried to kill the Pāṇdavas through several foul means.

The Pāṇdavas, encouraged by their mother Kunti and by Krishna, decided to fight the unrighteous Kauravas, who were led by Duryodhana. As preparations for the war began, all the kings and princes of the Indian subcontinent started joining one or the other of the two parties – that of the Pāṇdavas and the Kauravas. Bhagavān Krishna sided with the Pāṇdavas at the request of Arjuna, but the entire army of Krishna was handed over to Duryodhana upon latter’s request.

Almost 4 million soldiers gathered at the battlefield of Kurukshetra which is north of Delhi. When the two armies faced each other and before the fighting began, Arjuna asked Krishna to take him to a spot between the two armies. He wanted to see whom he will be fighting. When he saw that his cousins, dear Uncles, teachers and even some friends were in the opposite camp, he was suddenly filled with a mixture of guilt, fear, compassion and doubt. He asked Krishna as to how he can fight his own loved ones even though they were unrighteous, and had tried to kill him and his brothers in the past. Arjuna said that it would be perhaps better to just give everything to Duryodhana and retire to a forest as an ascetic. Torn between the desire to fight for justice, and just become an ascetic, he asked Krishna as to what would be the correct thing to do. This is when Bhagavān Krishna revealed to him the beautiful scripture of Bhagavad Gita.

Did You Know?

The civil war of Mahābhārata killed millions of people in Bhārata. Almost 2000 years later, in the early 7th century CE, a Chinese traveler named Hieun Tsang visited India. The Hindus showed him the site of the war, and the traveler recorded in his diary that he could still see bones scattered over the plain.

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In Kurukshetra, there is a banyan tree that is said to mark the spot where the Gita is revealed. It is said that Krishna and Arjuna stood next to the tree, which became immortal by hearing the Divine words. Due to this, it has survived even today. Close to the tree is a pond called ‘Jyotisar’ (the pond of light). Hindus go even today on a pilgrimage to Jyotisar and to the holy tree.

4. Why was the Bhagavad Gita revealed on a battlefield? Why Krishna advises Arjuna to fight and not make peace? Is it a War-Mongering Book?

There is a very practical reason why the Gita was revealed in a battlefield. It is very easy to preach and sermonize while we are sitting on a couch in a million dollar mansion. But real life is much more difficult. In fact, the most difficult and stressful situation that we can come across is in a war, where we are not sure whether we will survive or not, and when we have to fight against someone whom we have loved. The fact that Krishna’s teaching worked and enlightened Arjuna to take the right decision means that the Gita should work for us in our less stressful, and easier real life situations as well. What is the use of revealing a scripture in a comfortable situation, which has no relationship to the challenges that we can face in our day to day lives?

Krishna and Pāṇdavas did try to stop the war and asked for just 5 villages. But Duryodhana went back on his word. In fact, he tried to imprison Krishna! Duryodhana also tried to kill the Pāṇdavas many times through foul means. The message of the war of Mahabharata is that sometimes war is in fact a necessary evil. Just for the sake of peace, we should not stop fighting for our rights because the evil and unrighteous people will not let us live and prosper even if we try to ignore them. As an example, the world tried to ignore Hitler till he started threatening all the countries around Germany. And then, the world had no choice but to fight and defeat him.

The Gita is not a war-mongering book. In fact, Krishna tells Arjuna that he should not fight a war for selfish reasons. Instead, he should fight a war only so for a higher purpose, and for justice. When we fight wars and compete against others for selfish reasons, we also have to reap the fruit of the paapam involved in wars and competition. But when we fight and compete for a higher purpose in life in a detached manner, then it results in the purification of mind and Bhagavān grants us Moksha.

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5. Arjuna as the Student of God

In many ways, Arjuna was an Average-Joe, like all of us. He had some bad habits, and some good habits. But he had a very good heart. Most people would not have the moral hesitation to fight a war or compete for their rights even if that means causing pain to others. But Arjuna was a very sensitive person. Krishna realized that Arjuna would be an ideal person to reveal the Gita. Thanks to Arjuna, and thanks to Veda Vyasa, who recorded it, we received the teachings of Bhagavad Gita from God.

Arjuna was an ideal student for many reasons:

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    • Arjuna chose God above worldly power and riches: Before the war, Arjuna as well as Duryodhana went to Krishna to get Him on their side. Krishna announced that He will not lift any weapon and will not fight. But still, the two could choose between Him and his mighty army. Duryodhana immediately asked for the army of Krishna. But Arjuna said – “My Lord, it has been my desire that I should make you my charioteer. I do not need any army.” So, Arjuna chose Bhagavān to guide him as his charioteer and did not care for the mighty army. Most of us foolishly choose worldly attractions over Bhagavān. Life is all about choices. More often than not, we behave like Duryodhana and think that our success lies in choosing wealth, power and popularity even at the expense of compromising with honesty and justice. But those of us who are like Arjuna will always chose Dharma over all these worldly temptations. The war that Arjuna fought resulted in a victory for his side even though his army was much smaller than Duryodhana’s. In the battle of life too, the genuinely truthful, honest, loving, and compassionate achieve great success (in the next life if not now) than those who just care for power, money and fame.
    • Arjuna was as persistent and hard working. Once, all the Pāṇdava and Kauravas complained that their Guru favored Arjuna too much. Drona decided to test all of them. He sent Arjuna for an errand. As soon as he left, Drona started teaching the other princes how to take aim at the exact leaf and shoot it successfully with an arrow and bow. Then, all of them left that site even before Arjuna returned. When Arjuna returned to that spot, he found a lot of split leaves and immediately realized that he must have missed that important lesson. So in his free time, he started target practicing using the leaves as his target. In this way, Arjuna soon made up for the missed lesson. When the princes learned how Arjuna worked hard to make up for the missed lesson, they realized why their teacher used to treat Arjuna as his favorite student.
    • Arjuna was very attentive and focused: Once, Guru Drona asked all the Kauravas and Pāṇdavas to shoot the eye of a mock bird on a tree with a bow and arrow. He asked them as to what they could see while taking aim. Everyone said – “I can see the trees, you, the leaves and the bird.” But Arjuna said – “Guru-ji. I can see only the eye of the bird.” Not surprisingly, Arjuna turned out to be the best archer.
    • Not addicted to Eating or to Sleeping: Once while Bheema, the glutton brother, was eating, the lamp blew out and it became dark. Bheema was of course still able to eat. So Arjuna thought – “If Bheema can eat in the dark, should I not be able to aim and hit my target in the dark, if the target makes a sound?” He immediately stopped eating and started practicing archery skills in the dark. But this was a difficult skill to master. So Arjuna even cut on his sleep time to practice even more. In the course of time, Arjuna learned to shoot in the dark by following the sound of his target! In fact, one of Arjuna’s names was ‘Gudākesha’, which has several meanings, one of which is “He who has mastered sleep.”
    • Arjuna was willing to leave his family for learning: When the Pāṇdavas had to live several years in the forest due to Duryodhana’s trickery, Arjuna decided to use his time constructively and learn some new skills, and the science and art of using more advanced weapons. So he left his family for a year to go to learn weaponry from Bhagavān Shiva after an arduous journey away from his family.
    • Arjuna was very humble, sincere and was willing to acknowledge his faults and learn from them. In fact, Arjuna confessed to Krishna, “Overcome by faint-heartedness, confused about my duty (Dharma), I ask you: Please tell me that which is truly better for me. I am your student. Please teach me, who has taken refuge in you.” Gita 2.7
    • Arjuna was very respectful to his teacher and followed his instructions. Drona had been humiliated by King Drupada. When the princes ended their education, Drona asked for a tuition fee – capturing Drupada alive and bringing him to Drona. Arjuna followed his Guru’s request and did what his Guru wanted, risking his own life.

6. Dating of the Bhagavad Gita

The Gita was revealed on the first day of the 18 day long Mahābhārata war at Kurukshetra. There is a lot of controversy as to when the war happened. From a traditional Hindu perspective, the dating of Bhagavad Gita does not matter because unlike Abrahamic religions (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) that are based on historical events, Hindu Dharma is based on eternal principles. These principles are not dependent on any historical connection and can be discovered by anyone at any time, they can be experienced by any one or revealed again to any person any time in human history. Yet, some dates have been suggested by the Hindu tradition as well as by modern scholars. They are:

  • 32nd BCE.
  • 24th BCE
  • 15th BCE
  • 10th BCE

 

However, as some scholars argue, this does not mean that the Gita in its current state was finalized right around the war. The Mahābhārata itself was written and expanded after the war. Scholars disagree as to whether the Gita was included originally in the Mahābhārata or whether it was added on later. Or whether the Gita was a shorter scripture in the beginning and then expanded to the current form. Scholars have again proposed several different dates for when the Gita was written down in its present form. These dates vary from 32nd Cent BCE to 2nd cent CE!

For our purposes, we will assume that the Gita was revealed around 15th cent. BCE because archaeologists have dated the remains of Dwārakā (the capital of Krishna) to around that time. In reality, all these discussions are futile and we cannot fix the date of Gita with the given lack of evidence. Nor can we prove decisively whether the Gita was a shorter book that was expanded later. All these debates simply do not matter to someone who merely wants to understand the overall message of the Gita. Therefore, we shall just assume, for convenience, that the Gita was completed in its present form (with very few if any changes) shortly after the Mahābhārata War.

Some factors that lead the present author towards this conclusion regarding the date of the Gita are:

  • A Buddhist manuscript dated to 150 AD (‘Spitzer manuscript’) from Turfan (Sinkiang, China) says that the Buddha (6th BCE) had studied the Mahabharata.
  • Panini in Pakistan (6th BCE) mentions Krishna as the teacher of Arjuna.
  • Krishna and other characters of the Mahabharata are mentioned in much more ancient scriptures of Hindus and Buddhists like the Jatakas, Chhandogya Upanishad and Nirukta.
  • Quotations from the Gita are found in ancient scriptures like Nirukta (chapter 14) and Baudhayana Grihya Parishesha Sutra.

7. Translations and Explanations of the Gita

The Gita is the second most translated scripture in the world, after the Bible. There are more than 700 commentaries and translations of the Bhagavad Gita. There are more than 225 commentaries on the Gita in Sanskrit alone.

The oldest surviving translation of the Gita is in Javanese, an Indonesian language. This translation covers less than 100 verses and is more than 1000 years old. Alberuni too wrote an Arabic translation of portions of the Gita in the 11th cent. CE.

Literally dozens of Hindu scholars and saints wrote their own commentaries and explanations on the Bhagavad Gita in the last 1500 years or more. Most of them are in Sanskrit. The oldest commentary that survives is that of Adi Shankaracharya (~700 AD) and tries to show that the scripture teaches the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta. However, it is clear from this commentary that there existed several ancient commentaries on the Gita but none of these have survived today.

Shankaracharya is closely followed in time by Bhatta Bhaskara, who interprets the Gita according to the school of Bhedābheda Vedanta. Other prominent Sanskrit commentaries on the Gita are by Ramanujacharya (following Vishishtadvaita Vedanta), Madhvacharya (following Dvaita Vedanta), Vedanta Deshika (super-commentary on Ramanujacharya’s commentary), Shridhara Swami (following Advaita Vedanta with a strong flavor of Bhakti) and Madhusudana Saraswati (Advaita Vedanta with a strong flavor of Bhakti).

Around the beginning of the 13th cent. AD, Sant Jnaneshvara of Maharashtra wrote a beautiful verse commentary on the Gita in an olden form of the Marathi language. In our own times, Mahatma Gandhi wrote an explanation on the Gita. The longest commentary on the Gita is perhaps the one in Marathi by Vāmana Pandit (~17th cent.) and it has approximately 70,000 verses.

Literally hundreds of translations and beautiful commentaries on the Gita in English, Hindi and many other languages have appeared since 1750 AD. Because of its importance in Hinduism, every important Hindu thinker and philosopher feels the need to write a commentary on this scripture from his or her own perspective, or as a self-study exercise.

The two largest publishers and distributors of the Bhagavad Gita in the world are: ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) founded by Srila Prabhupāda Bhaktivedānta; and the Geeta Press of Gorakhpur (India). Just as many hotel rooms in the United States has a copy of the Bible, there is an ongoing effort by ISKCON to place copies of the Gita in hotel rooms as well.

8. The Other Gitas of Bhagavān Krishna

There are more than 30 Hindu scriptures titled as ‘Gita’. But of these, only five are attributed to Krishna:

  1. The Bhagavad Gita (“Song of the Lord”) in the Mahābhārata, Book VI (Bheeshma Parva) in 18 chapters.
  2. The Kāma Gita (“The Gita of Desire”) in the Mahābhārata, Book XIV (Āshvamedhika Parva) in 3 chapters, revealed to Emperor Yudhishthira. It teaches us that it is not sufficient to win the battles of this world. More important and difficult is winning the battle in our mind between evil and good, and between sorrow and cheerfulness. Through a story, it emphasizes that we can win external battles only if we win the war of minds (ours as well as those of others). This short Gita can be considered as an elaboration of Bhagavad Gita’s verses 1.1 to 2.11.
  3. The Anu Gita (“The Follow Up Gita”) in the Mahābhārata, Book XIV (Āshvamedhika Parva) in 36 chapters, revealed to Arjuna. This Gita has more than 1000 verses, and comprises of several short dialogues and stories that Krishna recollects for the sake of Arjuna after the war is over, at the latter’s request. The Anu Gita elaborates much more on themes that are ignored or are covered in lesser detail in the Bhagavad Gita, like the path and philosophy of meditation (Dhyāna Yoga), the wisdom of Sāmkhya (Jnāna), the duties of different stages of our life etc. However, Krishna does say to Arjuna in the beginning of Anu Gita that the Bhagavad Gita in itself is sufficient to take us to Brahman (the Supreme Being).
  4. The Uddhava Gita (“Gita revealed to Uddhava”) is a much later scripture that is a part of Bhāgavata Purāṇa, Book XI. It was revealed by Krishna just before he was leaving the earth finally to return to the abode of Vishnu, to his friend and cousin Uddhava. This Gita explains Yoga, Bhakti, ethical principles, characteristics of a Sādhu, vegetarianism, etc., in great elaboration. Moreover, it also emphasizes that we should try to see the commonalities between different viewpoints expressed in the Vedic tradition, because Rishis often say the same thing in different ways. It has more than 1000 verses in 24 chapters. Another name of this scripture is the Hamsa Gita (“Song of the Swan”) because the swan symbolically stands for purity, and the ability to distinguish between the good and the bad. And it is literally the ‘Swan Song’ (last discourse) of Krishna.
  5. The Uttara Gita (“The Latter Gita”) in three chapters contains a lot of details on various Yogic disciplines and also emphasizes that the caste of a person depends not on his birth but on his character. This Gita has a commentary on it by Gaudapādāchārya, who was the Guru of the Guru of Shankaracharya. Some scholars consider this Gita as well as the commentary to be spurious because it is not quoted by any Hindu scholar in the past. This Gita claims to belong to the Mahabharata. But so far, no manuscript of the Mahabharata is seen to contain it. Therefore, it is unclear as to who wrote it but regardless, it seems to be an ancient work.

If we want to read only one of the above Gitas, it should be the Bhagavad Gita. If a second one, then perhaps the Uddhava Gita. And thereafter, the Anu Gita and the Kāma Gita (which is quite short), and finally the Uttara Gita, to understand the philosophy of Krishna. Collectively, they are approximately 3000 verses. However, as emphasized in the Anu Gita itself, the Bhagavad Gita is itself sufficient to take us to Brahman.

9. The Different Versions of the Bhagavad Gita:

  • The standard text of the Bhagavad Gita has exactly 700 verses. This is the text that was used by Shankaracharya for his commentary in the 7th CE, and his is the oldest commentary available today.
  • Several manuscripts add a single verse by Arjuna at the beginning of chapter 13, bring the number to 701.
  • Then, manuscripts found in Kashmir have an additional 15 or so verses and half verses, that are also included in the commentaries of Kashmirian scholars like Abhinavagupta (950 – 1020 CE) or even earlier in the commentary of Bhaskara (7th – 8th?). However, these extra verses do not really add anything new to the teachings of the Gita.
  • The exact wording of the verses of the Gita also varies a bit here and there in different manuscripts. This is in fact true for all ancient scriptures of the world (except for the Vedas). But again, these textual variations do not really amount to much and are not significant in any way.
  • A modern version (from 20th published from Gondal in Gujarat) claims to have 745 verses. Its authenticity has been challenged. And again, these 45 extra verses do not add anything new to the message of the Gita.
  • Another modern version (again, from the 20th, published by the Suddha Dharma Mandala) has another version in 745 verses, and unlike all the other versions, it divides the scripture into 26 instead of into 18 chapters. This text is not accepted by any scholar as being genuine.

Therefore, for our purposes, we will largely stick to the text of 700 verses that was followed by Shankaracharya. In the standard version of 700 verses, 574 are spoken by Lord Krishna, 84 by Arjuna, 41 by Sanjaya and 1 by King Dhritarashtra. Most scholars prefer to follow this text.

The Gita has 18 chapters which have different titles. However, different commentators and different manuscripts either sometimes omit these titles or give different titles for the same chapter. This is taken to mean that the addition of titles to these chapters took place at a later time, and that the chapters did not have names originally. Moreover, these titles often do not necessarily reflect the actual contents of these chapters faithfully.

There are two types of meters in the Gita: The Anushtubh (642 verses) and the Trishtubh (58 verses).

10. The Bhagavad Gita and the Number ‘18’

  • The Gita is a part of the Mahābhārata that has 18 books. The Gita too has 18 chapters.
  • The Gita was recited at the beginning of a war that lasted 18 days.
  • In chapter 1 of the Gita, Sanjaya enumerates exactly 18 warriors in the side of the Pāṇdavas, who won the war.
  • In Hindu Dharma, there are 18 major Smritis (codes of Dharma); 18 major Purāṇas (narratives about Devas), 18 minor Purāṇas (ibid.).

Why is the number 18 found so frequently in Hindu Dharma?

  1. It is the ‘numerical value’ of ‘Jai’ or victory of Dharma over Adharma.
  2. The number ‘1’ denotes Bhagavān, and ‘8’ denotes the 8 root materials (Prakritis) from the Hindu tradition from which this Universe is made.

There are several other reasons why ‘18’ and ‘108’, ‘1008’ are holy in Hindu Dharma but a detailed discussion of the same is beyond the present scope.

11. The Bhagavad Gita: A Summary

 Arjuna said to Lord Krishna:

Overcome by faint-heartedness (a sinking feeling), confused about my duty (Dharma), I ask you: Please tell me that which is truly better for me. I am your student. Please teach me, who has taken refuge in you. Gita 2.7

The Blessed Lord Krishna replied:

[BRAHMAN IS THE SUPREME BEING]

I am the final Destination (Goal), the Provider, the Master of all, the Witness of everything, the Abode (in which the whole universe resides), worth seeking shelter of, and the Friend of all. And I am the origin and the Dissolution, the Foundation of everything, the Resting Place and the immortal cause of everything. Gita 9.18

[OUR TRUE NATURE IS DIVINE]

An eternal portion of My own Self becomes the soul of creatures in the world of living things. It attracts the five senses and the mind as the sixth (which lords over these senses) – all these six are comprised of non-living matter. Gita 15.7

[SEE THE DIVINE IN ALL CREATURES]

The wise see the same (Brahman) with an equal eye, in a learned and humble brāhmaṇa, in a cow, in an elephant, in a dog, and even in a dog eater (outcast). Gita 5.18

[WE ARE THE ETERNAL ATMA, NOT THIS PERISHABLE BODY]

The soul is never born and it does not ever die. The soul is not something that exists at one time and then vanishes the next. The soul is not something that did not exist at one time and then took birth and came into being subsequently. It is unchanging, eternal and primeval and it is not destroyed when the body is destroyed. Gita 2.20

Weapons cannot cleave the soul, fire cannot burn it. Water does not wet (or drown) it not does wind dry it. Gita 2.23

[DOCTRINE OF REBIRTH – WE NEVER DIE]

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Just as a human casts off worn out clothing and puts on new, the soul too casts off old bodies and enters into new ones. Gita 2.22

Just as the soul dwelling in the body passes through childhood, youth and old age; in a similar manner, it travels from one body to another. Therefore, the wise do not get deluded over these changes. Gita 2.13

When the soul enters a body, it becomes the master of that body. And when it leaves the body (at death), it takes the mind and senses along with it, just as the wind takes fragrances from their sources (the flowers). Gita 15.8

[BHAGAVAN IS IMPARTIAL]

All beings are equal in my eyes. There is none especially hateful to me, nor one who is especially dear to me. But all those who worship me with devotion are in Me, and so am I in them. Gita 9.29

[THERE IS HOPE FOR EVERYONE]

Even if a person of the vilest conduct starts worshipping me with single-minded devotion, he too must be counted amongst the good, because he has resolved well. Gita 9.30

[GOD SAVES ANYONE WHO APPROACHES HIM]

Whosoever takes refuge in me, even if they are lowly born (due to the sins of their previous lives), and be they women, or Vaishyas or Shudras – they will all attain the Highest Goal. Gita 9.32

[TRUE DEVOTION IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EXTERNALS]

Whosoever offers to Me with devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit or even water – that offering of love, of the pure of heart I accept eagerly. Gita 9.26

[MANY WAYS TO REACH GOD – FREEDOM OF WORSHIP]

In whatsoever way men approach Me, even so do I bless them. For whichever path that men make take in worship, they will all come to Me. Gita 4.11

[WHO IS ESPECIALLY DEAR TO BHAGAVAN?]

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In My view, that Yogi is the best who puts himself in the place of others at all times, and seeing his own identity with them, he is able to experience their pain and pleasure. Gita 6.32

He who has no hatred for any living being, who is friendly and also compassionate instead, who is free of the feeling of ‘I’ and ‘mine’, even minded in pleasure and pain and ever forgiving and forbearing. Gita 12.13

He who is alike to enemy and friend, also to good or bad reputation; He who is the same in pleasure or pain, in heat or cold and who is free from all attachments. Gita 12.18

He who considers insult and praise alike, who is silent (restrained in speech), content with whatever comes his way (through his own effort), has no abode (i.e., is not tied to home or family) and is firm in mind and full of devotion – that man is extremely dear to me. Gita 12.19

[LIVING ETHICALLY AND SPIRITUALLY]

Absence of fear, purity of mind, steadfastness in the path of meditation, Charity, control over one’s sense organs, performance of Vedic sacrifices, study of Holy Scriptures, austerity and straightforwardness… Gita 16.1

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Ahimsa, truthfulness, absence of anger, renunciation, peacefulness, absence of backbiting or crookedness, compassion towards all creatures, absence of covetousness, gentleness, modesty (decency), absence of fickleness (or immaturity)…. Gita 16.2

Vigor and energy, forgiveness, fortitude, cleanliness, absence of hatred and no exaggerated self-opinion – These belong to the One who is born to achieve Divine Wealth, O Bhārata. Gita 16.3

Ostentation, arrogance, excessive pride and a tendency to demand respect, anger, harshness and indeed ignorance – these are the endowments of him who is born with the demoniac wealth. Gita 16.4

[LAW OF KARMA, FREEDOM IS OUR TRUE DESTINY]

Divine wealth leads to Freedom, whereas the demoniac wealth results in bondage. Do not grieve, because you are born naturally with the divine wealth (and therefore destined for freedom). Gita 16.5

[CONTROL YOUR WANTS TO ATTAIN PEACE AND HAPPINESS]

He attains peace into whom all desires enter as waters enters the ocean, which filled from all sides, remains unmoved; but not to him who wants to have (more and more) desires. Gita 2.70

[PRACTICE MODERATION IN ALL THINGS]

Meditation (Yoga) becomes the destroyer of sorrow for him whose food (eating habits) and recreation are temperate, whose efforts and activities are controlled, and whose sleep and waking are regulated. Gita 6.17

[ENGAGE WITH GOOD, DISENGAGE FROM EVIL]

Arjuna, without doubt, the mind is difficult to discipline because it is restless. But it can be restrained through constant engagement in good things (abhyāsa) and constant detachment from bad things (vairāgya). Gita 6.35

[SCRIPTURAL TEACHINGS SHOULD BE OUR GUIDE IN OUR ACTIONS]

Let scripture be the means by which you determine what should be done and what should not be done. After knowing the commands of the scripture, it is your obligation to perform your duties while you live in this world. Gita 16.24

[GOD SETS AN EXAMPLE THROUGH DIVINE INCARNATIONS]

Whenever there is a decline of Dharma and ascendancy of Adharma, I bring Myself into being, i.e., I assume a physical body. Gita 4.7

To protect the virtuous, destroy the evil doers and to re-establish the rule of Dharma, I come into being in every age. Gita 4.8

[WE TOO SHOULD SET AN EXAMPLE FOR OTHERS]

Whatsoever a great man does, the same is done by others. Whatever standard he sets, the world follows. Gita 3.21

[DO YOUR DUTY WITH A HIGHER PURPOSE]

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The unlearned performs their duties from attachment to their work. Therefore, the wise and learned too should perform their duties, but without any attachment and only with the desire to promote harmony and welfare in the world. Gita 3.25

[BE STRONG, BELIEVE IN SELF-HELP]

Let a man lift himself by himself; because we alone are our own friend and we are also our own enemy. Gita 6.5

[DO YOUR DUTY SELFLESSLY, WITHOUT EXPECTING REWARDS]

You have control over doing your duty alone, and never on the fruit of your actions. Therefore, do not live or do your duty that is merely motivated by fruits of your actions. And do not let yourself get drawn into the path of non-action. Gita 2.47

[TAKE PRIDE IN WHATEVER YOU DO]

One should not give up the work suited to one’s nature, though it may be defective, for all enterprises are clouded by defects, just as fire is covered with smoke. Gita 18.48

[ALL WORK IS IMPORTANT]

One’s duty, even if devoid of merit, is better than the duty of another, well done. Doing action ordained by one’s own nature, one does not incur any sin. Gita 18.47

[CORRECT MENTAL ATTITUDE IN DOING OUR DUTY]

Steadfast in Yoga, and abandoning attachments, perform your actions and duties. Face all accomplishments and failures with an even mind, because yoga means evenness of mind. Gita 2.48

[WHEN WORK BECOMES WORSHIP]

(For a person who is immersed in spirituality) The act of offering is Brahman. The offering itself is Brahman. By Brahman is it offered into the fire, which is Brahman too. He who realizes Brahman while performing all actions, indeed reaches Brahman. Gita 4.24

[WE ARE INSTRUMENTS OF GOD]

The Lord resides in the hearts of all beings, causing them to revolve (i.e., go about their tasks) through his Māyā as if they were mounted on a machine. Gita 18.61

[GOD’S PROMISE TO US]

Abandoning completely all duties (i.e., dedicating them to Me), seek refuge in Me alone. I will liberate you from all evil, therefore do not grieve. Gita 18.66

[SPREAD THE GOOD WORD]

He who teaches this most exalted and supreme secret – this scripture (Gita) to My devotees, while having the highest devotion to Me, will come to Me alone – let there be no doubt about this. Gita 18.68

Arjuna said:

O Lord! You are Imperishable, the Supreme Being that we should seek to know. You are the ultimate shelter of the entire universe. You are the relentless protector of eternal Dharma. I believe that You are that Being Who has existed since eternity. Gita 11.18

By Your grace, my delusion is gone; and I have gained recognition of who I am and what is my duty. I now stand firm with my doubts dispelled and will do as You say. Gita 18.73

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Vishal Agarwal is an independent scholar residing in Minneapolis (USA) with his wife, two children and a dog. He has authored one book and over fifteen book chapters and papers, some in peer reviewed journals, about ancient India and Hinduism. He and his wife founded the largest weekend school teaching Hinduism to students, and also a teenager organization to keep them engaged in Dharma. Vishal has participated in numerous interfaith forums, and has represented Hindus and Indians in school classrooms and in seminars. Vishal is the recipient of the Hindu American Foundation’s Dharma Seva Award (2010), the Global Hindu Academy’s Scholar award (2014) and service awards from the Hindu Society of Minnesota (2014 and 2015). He is very strongly engaged in the social and Dharmic activities of the Indian and Hindu communities of Minnesota, and has authored a series of ten textbooks for use in weekend Hindu schools by children from the ages 4-14. Professionally, Vishal is a biomedical Engineer with graduate degrees in Materials Engineering and Business Administration (MBA). His scientific and statistical training enables him to bring precision and a high level of rigor in his research – qualities that are very often missing in contemporary publications on Indology and in South Asian Studies.