Introduction to the Bhagavad Gita
ॐ अज्ञानतिमिरान्धस्य ज्ञानाञ्जनशालाकया
चक्षुरुन्मीलितं येन तस्मै श्रीगुरवे नमः
I offer my respectful obeisance unto my spiritual master, who has opened my eyes, which were blinded by the darkness of ignorance, with the torchlight of knowledge.
I am kṛṣṇadaasa, a servant of Krishna and I welcome you all to this wonderful spiritual journey through the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita.
I am not a Saint or a Swami. I am just a humble practical minded devotee who has spent over 20 years studying, analyzing and applying the principles taught in the Bhagavad Gita.
In 2017 I published a book about the actionable items extracted from the Bhagavad Gita. It was well received by the general population and many of them wanted me to dive deeper into the Gita and explain the practical aspects in simpler terms.
I also conduct Bhagavad Gita classes for ordinary people and occasionally record my teachings for students who are not able to attend some of the sessions. I received feedback that the recordings were extremely helpful as they were able to play it repeatedly at the time of their convenience and found it very engaging and enlightening. That is what prompted me to start this podcast series and I hope that it helps everyone similarly. If you are interested in attending the new batch of Bhagavad Gita sessions starting on 7th January, 6PM PST, please contact me through the contact page of my website Contact Me
The initiative is totally non-profit and the website does not even have any advertisements. It is all for the service of the community.
The word ‘bhagavad’ refers to God and ‘Gita’ refers to song. So, in essence, the Bhagavad Gita is the song of God.
The Bhagavad Gita is part of the epic Mahabharata, which happened approximately 5000 years ago when God had incarnated as Lord Krishna on earth. The Lord participated in this war to set an example that we should always stand up against injustice (adharma) and not rest until we have established justice (dharma). Although the term Dharma is used to represent justice in this context, the word also means ‘a way of life’. The Mahabharata is thus called the battle between Dharma and Adharma where God took the side of Dharma and led it to victory over the very powerful enemy on the side of Adharma.
Swami Vivekananda says, “He who runs away from the material world to spend time in the caves of the Himalayas to meditate and die, has missed the way. He who plunges headlong into the vanities and foolishness of the material world, also has missed the way”
So, if we run away from the material world, we have lost the and if we plunge into the material world then also we have lost the way then how do we find the way? That is what Shri Krishna teaches beautifully in the Bhagavad Gita.
Before the start of the war, Arjuna, who was fighting on the side of Dharma and who had Krishna himself as his Charioteer, had many doubts and questions regarding Dharma, Adharma, Karma, Soul, etc. and the Lord answers his questions in great detail, for the sake of all of humanity and this conversation is documented by the great sage Vyasa and came to be known as the Bhagavad Gita.
The Vedas are the most ancient scriptures available to humanity and the Upanishads are also ancient texts that are part of the Vedas and considered to be the scriptures that explain the purpose of the Vedas. The combined body of knowledge contained in the Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita is generally referred to as Vedanta.
There are 11 primary Upanishads and many smaller Upanishads and it has a lot of theoretical knowledge which takes years to study and fully comprehend. The Brahma Sutras are even more obtuse and they require a lot more study.
The Bhagavad Gita contains the essence of all the Upanishads as well as the truths taught by the Brahma sutras. The Bhagavad Gita provides the practical science for applying the philosophy of the Upanishads and Brahma sutras to solve human problems. For this reason, it is called yoga shastra.
In the Bhagavad Gita, there are 700 verses in 18 chapters, full of beautiful and timeless ideas which were relevant not only 5000 years ago, but also relevant to the times in which we are currently living. The Bhagavad Gita is in the form of a dialogue between Sri Krishna and the great warrior Arjuna. It is actually more of a series of questions and answers where Arjuna has many compelling questions and Sri Krishna provides all the answers in very authentic and practical terms.
The Bhagavad Gita covers 5 major pillars: Īśvara (the Supreme Lord), jīva (the living entity), prakṛti (nature), kāla (eternal time) and karma (activity).
Sri Krishna showered His kindness and grace upon Arjuna by encouraging him to question His teachings and then patiently and very kindly answering all the questions in great detail. Sri Krishna encourages us to use our intellect and not blindly follow any teachings or philosophies. In fact, the Bhagavad Gita is the first and probably only religious text which says that there are many ways to reach and realize God.
The Bhagavad Gita demonstrates very beautifully and practically, the theoretical statement made in the Rig Veda, Ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti, which means “that which exists is One: sages call it by various names”
Please note that in ancient times, the word ‘religious’ referred to the aspect of humans finding out their true essence, who are we? What is the purpose of life? Etc. This will make more sense when we realize that during the times of the Bhagavad Gita, there was no other religion in the country that we now call India.
Another important aspect of the Gita is that each chapter is called some yoga. Which means, we are supposed to practice the teachings of each chapter just like we will practice any yoga. It is not meant to be just theoretical knowledge. The Bhagavad Gita has to be studied and practiced in our day to day lives. This is precisely the reason why the Bhagavad Gita is disclosed in the middle of a battlefield, to signify that we are supposed to utilize the learning in the battlefield of our day to day lives.
Before starting the study of the Bhagavad Gita, I would like to mention a couple of verses from Gita Dhyana Ślokas, which consist of nine Meditation Verses about the glorious nature of the Gita.
They provide a beautiful description of the nature of the Gita in verse 4.
Sarvopanişado gavo dogdha gopalanandanah; Partho vatsaḥ sudhiḥ bhoktā dugdham gitāmṛtam mahat
All the Upanișads are the cow; the milkman is the cow herd boy (Sri Kṛṣṇa); Pārtha, or Arjuna, is the calf; men and women of purified intellect are the drinkers of the milk and the supreme nectar, Gītā, is the milk.
And in verse 5 it says:
Vasudeva sutam devam kamsa-cāṇūra-mardanam; Devaki-paramanandam kṛṣṇam vande jagad-gurum
‘The divine son of Vasudeva, the destroyer of (the evil doers) Kamsa and Cāṇūra, the supreme bliss of mother Devaki – I salute that Kṛṣṇa, the guru of the world.
Śri Kṛṣṇa did not come to the earth to teach just an ethnic group or nation or race. He came for all humanity, and that is why the verse refers to Krishna as Kṛṣṇam vande jagad-gurum, the guru of the world.
The purpose of the Gita, the reason it was given by Krishna to humanity, is to help people get rid of their worldly suffering, find peace of mind, true happiness, and achieve self-realization and God-realization.
The famous poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said “I owed a magnificent day to the Bhagavad-Gita. It was the first of books; it was as if an empire spoke to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us.”
And Mahatma Gandhi said “When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and I see not one ray of hope on the horizon, I turn to Bhagavad-Gita and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. Those who meditate on the Gita will derive fresh joy and new meanings from it every day.”
It is my sincere hope and wish that we all are able to derive knowledge, motivation and divine guidance through the study of the Bhagavad Gita and progress on the path towards peace, joy and self realization.
With this in mind, let us start our journey of the 1st chapter of the Bhagavad Gita in my next article.
You can also listen to this introduction as a podcast over here.
(Servant of Krishna)
Aka +Vinayak Raghuvamshi