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Bhagavad Gita: An Introduction

yoga and Hindu tradition
yoga and Hindu tradition

The Bhagavad Gita – The Celestial Song – is part of the epic Mahabharata. It is a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna. The hero Arjuna seeks Krishna's counsel as he finds himself in the eve of battle. The battlefield here is a metaphor for human life with its many ups and downs. Krishna gives Arjuna advice for material and spiritual life – finding a relationship with God (Ultimate Consciousness).

The Bhagavad Gita is composed of 18 chapters. Each chapter is called a yoga. The first six chapters are called Karma Yoga as they talk about individual consciousness attaining union with Ultimate Consciousness through actions. The second six chapters speaks about Bhakti Yoga and speaks about the individual consciousness attaining communion with Ultimate Consciousness by the path of devotion. The last six chapters are called Jnana Yoga and they speak about the individual consciousness attaining union with the Ultimate Consciousness by way of the intellect.

Selected Verses from the Bhagavad Gita:


  • As the soul passes physically through childhood and youth and age, so it passes on to the changing of the body. The self-composed man does not allow himself to be disturbed and blinded by this.

  • The material touches, O son of Kunti, giving cold and heat, pleasure and pain, things transient which come and go, these learn to endure, O Bharata.

  • The man whom these do not trouble nor pain O lion-hearted among men, the firm and wise who is equal in pleasure and suffering, makes himself apt for immortality.

  • That which really is, cannot go out of existence, just as that which is non-existent cannot come into being.

  • The end of this opposition of 'is' and 'is not' has been perceived by the seers of essential truths.

  • Know that to be imperishable by which all this is extended. Who can slay the immortal spirit?

  • Finite bodies have an end, but that which possesses and uses the body is infinite, illimitable, eternal, indestructible. Therefore fight, O Bharata.

  • He who regards this (the soul) as a slayer, and he who thinks it is slain, both of them fail to perceive the truth. It does not slay, nor is it slain.

  • This is not born, nor does it die, nor is it a thing that comes into being once and passing away will never come into being again. It is unborn, ancient, sempiternal; it is not slain with the slaying of the body.

  • Who knows it as immortal eternal imperishable spiritual existence, how can that man slay, O Partha, or cause to be slain?

  • The embodied soul casts away old and takes up new bodies as a man changes worn-out raiment for new.

  • Weapons cannot cleave it, nor the fire burn, nor do the waters drench it, nor the wind dry.

  • It is uncleavable, it is incombustible, it can neither be drenched nor dried. Eternally stable, immobile, all-pervading, it is for ever and for ever.


  • For none stands even for a moment not doing work, everyone is made to do action helplessly by the modes born of Prakriti.

  • Who controls the organs of action, but continues in his mind to remember and dwell upon the objects of sense, such a man has bewildered himself with false notions of self-discipline.

  • He who controlling the senses by the mind, O Arjuna, without attachment engages with the organs of action in Yoga of action, he excels.

  • But the man whose delight is in the Self and who is satisfied with the enjoyment of the Self and in the Self he is content, for him there exists no work that needs to be done.

  • He has no object here to be gained by action done and none to be gained by action undone; he has no dependence on all these existences for any object to be gained.

  • Therefore without attachment perform ever the work that is to be done (done for the sake of the world, lokasangraha, as is made clear immediately afterward); for by doing work without attachment man attains to the highest.


6. Though I am the unborn, though I am imperishable in my self-existence, though I am the Lord of all existences, yet I stand upon my own Nature and I come into birth by my self-Maya.

  • Works fix not themselves on Me, nor have I desire for the fruits of action; he who thus knoweth Me is not bound by works.

  • Whose inceptions and undertakings are all free from the will of desire, whose works are burned up by the fire of knowledge, him the wise have called a sage.

  • Who has faith, who has conquered and controlled the mind and senses, who has fixed his whole conscious being on the supreme Reality, he attains knowledge; and having attained knowledge he goes swiftly to the supreme Peace.

  • He who has destroyed all doubt by knowledge and has by Yoga given up all works and is in possession of the Self is not bound by his works, O Dhananjaya.

  • Therefore arise, O Bharata, and resort constantly to Yoga, having cut away with the sword of knowledge this perplexity born of ignorance.


  • The Blessed Lord said: Renunciation and Yoga of works both bring about the soul's salvation, but of the two the Yoga of works is distinguished above the renunciation of works.

  • He should be known as always a Sannyasin (even when he is doing action) who neither dislikes nor desires; for free from the dualities he is released easily and happily from the bondage.

  • But renunciation, O mighty-armed, is difficult to attain without Yoga; the sage who has Yoga attains soon to the Brahman.

  • He who is in Yoga, the pure soul, master of his self, who has conquered the senses, whose self becomes the self of all existences (of all things that have become), even though he does works, he is not involved in them.

  • 8-9. The man who knows the principles of things thinks, his mind in Yoga (with the inactive Impersonal), "I am doing nothing"; when he sees, hears, tastes, smells, eats, moves, sleeps, breathes, speaks, takes, ejects, opens his eyes or closes them, he holds that it is only the senses acting upon the objects of the senses.

  • He who, having abandoned attachment, acts reposing (or founding) his works on the Brahman, is not stained by sin even as water clings not to the lotus-leaf.

  • Therefore the Yogins do works with the body, mind, understanding, or even merely with the organs of action, abandoning attachment, for self-purification.

  • By abandoning attachment to the fruits of works, the soul in union with

  • Brahman attains to peace of rapt foundation in Brahman, but the soul not in union is attached to the fruit and bound by the action of desire.

  • 18. Sages see with an equal eye the learned and cultured Brahmin, the cow, the elephant, the dog, the outcaste.