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The Bhagavad Gita

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Prince Arjuna faced a dilemma that many face sooner or later--whether to take action that is necessary yet morally ambiguous. The difference is that Arjuna's action was to wage war against his own family. With the armies arrayed, Arjuna loses his nerve. Krishna, his charioteer and incarnation of divine consciousness, begins to teach him the nature of God and of himself, that Arjuna can attain liberation through union with God, and that there are several available paths. And so the most famous and revered of all Hindu Scriptures goes on to teach the paths of knowledge, devotion, action, and meditation, becoming the seed for all the Hindu systems of philosophy and religion that followed. For all of its profundity, Eknath Easwaran manages to translate the Gita in easy prose that neither panders nor obscures. Coupled with his thorough introduction, Easwaran's version comes off on all the levels it should: as a guide to action, devotional Scripture, a philosophical text, and inspirational reading. So what does Arjuna finally do? He follows his dharma, of course, as we all must. --Brian Bruya

294 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 401

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About the author

Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa

194 books514 followers
Krishna Dvaipāyana Vyāsa, also known as Vyāsa or Veda-Vyāsa (वेदव्यास, the one who classified the Vedas into four parts) is a central and revered figure in most Hindu traditions. He is traditonally regarded as the author of the Mahābhārata, although it is also widely held that he only composed the core of the epic, the Bhārata. A significant portion of the epic later was only added in later centuries, which then came to be known as the Mahābhārata. The date of composition of this epic is not known - It was definitvely part of the traditions in Indian subcontinent at the time Gautam Buddha (~500 BCE) which would suggest it having been already around for atleast a few centuries. It was chiefy put down in the written form only somewhere between 300 BCE to 300 CE.

As the name would suggest, Vyāsa is believed to have categorised the primordial single Veda into its four canonical collections. He is also considered to be the scribe of Purānās, ancient Hindu texts eulogizing various deities, primarily the divine Trimurti God in Hinduism through divine stories.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,825 reviews
Profile Image for Francisco.
Author 22 books54.9k followers
November 22, 2012
Goodreads should have a shelf for "continually reading". I think I have about six different translations of the Bhagavad Gita but I often end up with Eknath Easwaran's for its simplicity. This is the book I re-read when I am writing a novel. It keeps everything in perspective by reminding me to offer my effort to God, to see my work as a service to others, and to not worry about what happens after that.
Profile Image for Nandakishore Mridula.
1,242 reviews2,256 followers
January 26, 2016

On the battlefield of GoodReads, the mighty reviewer Arjuna picked up his trusty pen, Gandeeva, and addressed his charioteer (who was none other than Lord Krishna):

- O Kesava! Take me to the middle of the battlefield, between the opposing armies of Authors and Reviewers, so that I may see who I am fighting against.

And Krishna did so.

But Arjuna, seeing all his favourite authors arrayed against him, was suddenly loath to fight. - O Krishna! he said. How will I use my cruel pen to tear into these dear ones? How will I lay bare their plots, deconstruct their sentences, and take their grammar apart? No, I do not want the glory and likes obtained by such a heinous act! Better a brain-death, reading trash, than such sin! And he threw his pen down.

Krishna smiled and stood up.

- O Partha! Such faintheartedness is not worthy of a warrior like you! Do you think that you destroy books through your reviews? Banish such foolishness from your mind!

Those reviewers who think that they are destroying books, and those authors who believe their books are getting destroyed through reviews, both are equally mistaken: for books are neither created nor destroyed through reviews.

For the book which is published, oblivion is certain: and for that which goes out of print, rebirth is certain. But the story never dies: like human beings change worn clothes, it only changes publishers and dust jackets.

The narrative cannot be destroyed by weapons: it cannot be burnt by fire (read Fahrenheit 451!), it is not drowned in water. It is eternal.

So your karma, O Kaunteya, is to do the review without worrying about its fruits. Do not think of the likes you are going to get: do not worry whether the author is going to find you out and conk you on the head: do not trouble your mind about whether people will be put off from reading the book because of your review. Go into it without attachment: this is the way of the Kshatriya. This is "Nishkama-Karma", the way to eternal glory!

Hearing this, Arjuna was heartened. He picked up his pen, and started to review with renewed vigour.

Review inspired by Manny
Profile Image for Fergus, Quondam Happy Face.
968 reviews17.6k followers
May 17, 2023

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Brahma”

It’s the dawning of the Final Day - the day of Armageddon. The final confrontation between the massed forces of Good and Evil. And naturally, we are all terrified.

“I, Arjuna, am drenched in angst. I can find no meaning in life or in the cataclysmic approaching battle...

“For that battle will pit friend against friend, brother against brother, the Devils of the Pit against Angels from the Realms of Glory - the Fulness of Being itself against the Void of Nonbeing.

“Death is not only possible, but imminently likely.”

But then the Lord - or Krishna, in this Hindu version of that battle - steps in.

He comforts Arjuna with the knowledge that life and death are mere dreams we all must dream. That the battle itself is a dream. But, it’s a dream we must participate in.

And face - head on.

Back when I was young, I pretended I was a player in the battle of life.

Only after a while I was overwhelmed by the cruel, cold logic of the noonday devils of the adult world. And I was desperately struggling to hold onto my dreams!

I read the Gita and learned it was ALL a dream. And if all personalities were empty of selfhood, why worry?

And that escape mechanism worked for a while.

But in midlife, the fast and furious pace of my career started to burn me out. The world was now so in-your-face for me, that I looked for a new retreat - and found it in the elevated, circular thinking of the postmodernists.

Both strategies did their part to protect me from the nightmares of the noonday devils and the garish predawn bêtes noires that my sleeping subconscious dredged up from my past.

The two strategies were soporific sedatives.

So I pursued my career to its successful conclusion, with full retirement benefits.

Then, full stop.

Finally, retirement! - and I could no longer ignore the Problem of Evil with either Hindu semantics or intellectual circularity. That bred anxiety - an anxiety that hung on.

So I looked for something much more substantially positive for my reawakened mind, and found it in the faith of my youth.

And rejoined the Battle I had so long ago deserted.

Only by now - the battle had become an ARMAGEDDON. But, you know, I had known that long ago, when I effected my first vain escapes... I had just forgotten how fierce the fighting was.

In an immoral world, moral action is imperative. We HAVE to fight.

But years and years of avoidance had produced a sleeping vacuum where my seriousness about life had previously been. Much the same as some of my readers. Deep sleep is contagious.

But I was now serious again. Deadly serious.

So now, instead of staying a make-believe player, I became a tiny participant in one Huge Eternal Battle.

I took a stand, even though I saw that my own impact all along had been minuscule, and was likely to remain so - especially from my renewed vertigo-inducing perspective.

And it was only then, in the thick of the struggle, that it dawned on me that it’s far better during the charge to let the Lord (He is known as Krishna, the charioteer here) do the driving!

Simple faith can work wonders.

And it can give you Peace.

THEN we can see the true face of the Master Charioteer, who then sets our frayed nerves at ease. THEN we can see the Vast Enemy face to face - the same enemy, as it tells us, that is doomed to defeat on that final day of days.

The enemy that now (get this!) seems almost inconsequential in power...

For that predawn cauchemar that was so terrifying is now just an outlandish magic lantern show cast on the wall of the mind by the Shadow.

And the Tempter’s hulking granddaddy, the Noonday Devil, with all his cold, relentless logic, is just a scrap pile of ulterior motives - mercilessly exposed in the clear, bright dawn of a new day.

And the battlefield?

It’s been fully levelled, and our opponents - exposed for what they are - appear somewhat at loose ends in their attempts to seem their old terrifying selves.

The worst part for them, of course, is that now they no longer have a hiding place in this vast battlefield, or a place to dive to cover from the fiery chariot wheels of the Lord.

For His victory is certain...

And the old fears, dreads and anxieties?

They‘re now just harmless, broken curios in the enemy’s worn back of tricks, out of which myriad dust motes dance in the brilliance of the day.

The Shadow’s power is vanquished to the winds.

And, suddenly, the great Battle of Armageddon is just a part of another day’s well-paying work in the fields of the Lord.

Because, now we are free of our long inner turmoil.

And on the wind is written: Peace is at hand!
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.5k followers
September 7, 2021
भगवद्गीता = The Bhagavad Gita = The Song of God, Anonymous

The Bhagavad Gita, often referred to as the Gita, is a 700 verse Hindu scripture in Sanskrit that is part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata (chapters 23–40 of the 6th book of Mahabharata).

The Gita is set in a narrative framework of a dialogue between Pandava prince Arjuna and his guide and charioteer Krishna.

At the start of the Dharma Yudhha (righteous war) between Pandavas and Kauravas, Arjuna is filled with moral dilemma and despair about the violence and death the war will cause in the battle against his own kin.

He wonders if he should renounce and seeks Krishna's counsel, whose answers and discourse constitute the Bhagavad Gita.

Krishna counsels Arjuna to "fulfill his Kshatriya (warrior) duty to uphold the Dharma" through "selfless action".

The Krishna–Arjuna dialogues cover a broad range of spiritual topics, touching upon ethical dilemmas and philosophical issues that go far beyond the war Arjuna faces. ...

سرود خدایان هندو = The Bhagavad Gita, Anonymous

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «بگودگیتا»، «باگاوادگیتا»؛ «بهاگاواد- گيتا - كتاب مقدس هندوان همراه با مقدمه ای در باره مبانی فلسفه م مذاهب هندی»؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و چهارم ماه ژوئن سال 1996میلادی

عنوان: بهاگاواد- گيتا - كتاب مقدس هندوان همراه با مقدمه ای در باره مبانی فلسفه م مذاهب هندی؛ مترجم: محمدعلی موحد؛ تهران، ترجمه و نشر کتاب، سال1344؛ در 202ص؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، خوارزمی، 1374؛ عنوانهای فارسی: بگودگیتا، باگاوادگیتا

مهمترین و اسرارآمیزترین بخش از حماسه ی «��ندی»، موسوم به «ماهابهاراتا»ست؛ که از دو کلمه ی «بهَگَوان» به معنی خداوند، و «گیتا» به معنی سرود و نغمه تشکیل شده؛ و شامل هجده فصل (فصلهای بیست و پنج تا چهل و دوم، بخش ششم «ماهابهاراتا») و حدود هفتصد بیت است، نخستین ترجمه ی همین کتاب را به فارسی «داراشکوه بابری؛ شاهزاده گورکانی هند» از سال 1024میلادی تا سال 1069میلادی» در سده 11هجری، با عنوان فصلی از «مهابهاراتا، بهگود گیتا سرود الهی»، انجام داده‌ است، و شادروان «محمدرضا جلالی نائینی» آن را تصحیح، و در سال 1359هجری در کتابخانه «طهوری» به چاپ رسانده است؛

براساس متن «مَهاباراتا» دو برادر، «دیریتاراشترا» و «پندو»، پادشاهی سرزمین «هستیناپورا» را به ارث می‌برند؛ مادر «دیریتاراشترا» به هنگام نکاح با حکیم خدازاد، «ویاسا»، از ترس چهره وی، چشمانش را بسته بود، و در نتیجه فرزند آنان «دیریتاراشترا» نابینا زاده می‌شود؛ از اینرو برادرش «پندو» وارث پادشاهی می‌گردد، و پسران وی، «یودیشتیرا»، «بیما»، «آرجونا»، «ناکولا» و «سَهدِوا» سران خاندان «پندواس» را تشکیل می‌دهند، که به راستی و درستکاری، مشهور می‌شوند؛ از آنسو پسران «دیریتاراشترا»، که افزون بر صد تن بودند، خاندان «کارواس» را تشکیل می‌دهند، که عموماً به بی‌رحمی، و هوس‌رانی، گرایش داشتند؛ هنگامیکه «پندو» در جوانی درمی‌گذرد، «پندواس‌»های یتیم، تحت قیومت عموی خود «دیریتاراشترا»، با «کارواس‌»ها در یک خانه، و تحت آموزش آموزگاران یکسان، بزرگوار می‌شوند؛ در این بین «بیشما»، پدرجد خاندان مسئولیت مراقبت از آن‌ها، و پاکمرد خدازاد، «دوروناچاریا»، وظیفه ی آموزش شگردهای جنگاوری به بچه ‌ها را، عهده ‌دار میشوند؛ هر پنج «پندواس» به جنگجوهای بی بدیل، و جوانمرد تبدیل شدند، که «آرجونا» سرآمد آنان بود؛ «کارواس»‌ها و بخصوص سردسته مکارشان، «دوریودانا»، از فرط بخل و حسد به «پندواس‌»ها، مدام اسباب آزار و نابودی ایشان را، فراهم می‌کردند؛ در هنگام تاج‌گذاری «یودیشتیرا»؛ ارشد «پندواس‌»ها به عنوان وارث شاهنشاهی، «دوریودانا»، با مکر و حیله ‌ای دور و دراز مانع شده، و خود و برادرانش قدرت را قبضه میکنند؛ این رویداد سبب آشوب، بین دو خاندان میگردد، و تلاش بزرگان و خردمندان، به ‌ویژه «کریشنای» سرور، برای برقراری آشتی بی‌ثمر میماند؛ در حالیکه امید به صلح کمرنگ می‌شود، شبح جنگی عظیم، از دور نمایان میگردد؛ سران نظامی دو خاندان، «آرجونا» و «دوریودانا»، هر دو کوشش در جلب پشتیبانی «کریشنا» مینمایند، چون او صاحب نیرومندترین ارتش بود؛ «کریشنا» تجسم انسانی خداوند، و بزرگترین آموزگار «یوگا» است؛ سرانجام هنگامیکه مأموریت وی، برای صلح شکست می‌خورد، آغاز جنگ را فرمان می‌دهد، و در پاسخ درخواست «آرجونا» و «دوریودانا» اعلام می‌کند که ارتشش را به یکی از آن‌ها می‌دهد، و دیگری را در جنگ، به عنوان مشاور، و همدم همراهی خواهد کرد، بی‌آنکه خود هیچ دخالتی در جنگ کند؛ «دوریودانا» ارتش، و «آرجونا» همدمی را برمیگزینند؛ در پاسخ به دعوی دو خاندان، از تمام تبارها و سرزمین‌های سرتاسر شاهنشاهی، جنگجوها، شهسواران، شاهزادگان، و پادشاهان، همه و همه، به ارتش‌های دو طرف میپی��ندند و در دشت مقدسی به نام «کوروشترا»، در برابر هم صف ‌آرایی میکنند؛ دشت «کوروشترا» محل پیشکش نذورات و قربانی‌ها برای خدایان بود، و گفته می‌شد همه ی رازهای آفرینش در آن مدفون است

قیم نابینای ��اهنشاهی «دیریتاراشتترا»، که به علت وابستگی بیش از اندازه به فرزندانش، چشم بصیرت خود را نیز از دست داده بود، هنگامی که آگاه می‌شود «لرد کریشنا» به عنوان همدم و مشاور، ارابه «آرجونا» را در جنگ هدایت خواهد نمود، فوراً از بابت پیروزی پسرش «دوریودانا» دچار تردید می‌گردد و از بیم آنکه مبادا «دوریودانا»، تحت تأثیرات معنوی دشت «کوروشترا»، حاضر به تسلیم نیمی از شاهنشاهی به «پندواس»‌ها شود، طالب نظارت بر جنگ می‌شود؛ «ویاسا»، حکیم خدازاد دربار، پیشنهاد بخشیدن چشمی خارق‌العاده را به وی می‌کند، که با آن تمام رویدادهای گذشته، حال و آینده دیده می‌شد؛ اما «دیریتاراشترا» که تاب دیدن صحنه‌ های کشته شدن فرزندانش در جنگ را ندارد، پیشنهاد را رد می‌کند، و به جای وی، منشی ‌او، «سَنجایا» مشمول این لطف «ویاسا» می‌گردد؛ به واسطه این قدرت خدائی، حوادث جنگ در قلب «سنجایا» آشکار می‌شود؛ داستان «بهگود گیتا» از پرسش «دیریتاراشترا» از «سنجایا»، در باب رویدادهای جنگ آغاز می‌شود

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 26/07/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 15/06/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Leonard Gaya.
Author 1 book860 followers
June 20, 2021
Horses kick and neigh restlessly. Horns blare, drums rumble across the field of Kurukshetra. Mighty warriors clench their jaws, their blades eager to draw blood. Krishna drives Arjuna’s chariot between the opposing armies to shoot the first arrow. But Arjuna looks around and sees his brothers, cousins, uncles, teachers, friends, and compatriots. They will all be killed. His heart drops, his legs give out, he drops his bow — time freezes. Arjuna and Krishna now sit between the two suspended armies. Arjuna asks Krishna for advice, and Krishna starts to talk: he teaches Arjuna about Atman and Brahman, about jnana, bhakti, karma and raja yoga, about Purusha, prakriti and the three gunas, about acting and selflessly renouncing the fruits of action, about meditation, moksha and his divine nature. He talks for a long time, and his heart radiates like a thousand suns. This is the Bhagavad Gita.

Western literature abounds in pre-battle moments like this one. For instance, Hector taking leave of his wife and son (The Iliad, VI, 440-493) or King Henry V galvanising his soldiers at Agincourt (Henry V, IV, 3). But there is nothing quite like the Bhagavad Gita — this sudden cliffhanger and suspension of epic action, giving way to an extensive ethical and metaphysical deliberation. Imagine Hector sitting down to discuss at length with Apollo about the ultimate meaning of life and the cosmos; or say, Arthur and Merlin, conversing about Neoplatonism, or Harry and Falstaff debating on Montaigne, or even Frodo and Gandalf stopping to talk about Freud and Marx before the gates of Mordor! Nothing like this ever happens, at least not to such an extent.

At any rate, Krishna’s teachings are a landmark of Hindu religious and philosophical culture, in keeping with the Vedas and the Upanishads, only comparable in monotheistic religions with the Book of Job or the Sermon on the Mount. However, some of these ancient teachings may have travelled very early on down the Westward trade routes — perhaps during the Macedonian empire of Alexander? And so, the similarities with Western philosophy are pretty striking. We can find parallels, for instance, with Stoicism: Krishna’s teachings on leading one’s life according to the dharma is not very different from that of ancient Stoics, stating that one must act in conformity with the logos. Similarly, Krishna’s precept of karma yoga — renouncing the results of one’s actions — is comparable to the Stoic eudaimonistic doctrine — focusing on what you can control (and surrendering what you can’t).

Indeed, the Gita is a trove of wisdom and spiritual insights that has influenced prominent thinkers such as Emerson, Aldous Huxley, Hermann Hesse and personalities like Mahatma Gandhi. Nowadays, the Gita is also a staple read for yoga practitioners and quite a few New Age movements and adepts of magical thinking worldwide. However, as with most religious texts, the Gita could also be misread and abused to serve questionable political aims and fundamentalist ideologies.

For a modern reader, in a world where concentration camps and nuclear armageddon are always a menace, Krishna’s martial teachings may sound deeply disturbing. The precept to act and forgo the outcomes or rewards of action can be subtly bent and altered for propaganda and harmful purposes: demand that people obey orders unquestioningly and perform their duties callously. The leaders of Nazi Germany picked up the Gita (as well as Wagner, Nietzsche and many other crowns of civilisation) to do just that. Most “holy wars” and jihads work much in the same way, with the blessing of some religious authority. Any totalitarian regime or unscrupulous corporation could do the same again today.

At the other end of the spectrum, Eknath Easwaran was a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi. His edition and introduction interpret the Gita with a pacifist outlook, as an allegory of “the war within” and focuses almost entirely on the mystical aspects of the text, contrasting Krishna’s arguments with some of the most prominent texts of Western mysticism: Meister Eckhart, John of the Cross and Teresa of Ávila — in this sense, the beatific vision in ch. 11 of the Gita is unparalleled, even when compared with the end of Dante’s Paradiso.

All in all, Easwaran’s prose translation smoothes the rough edges of the Sanskrit original, simplifying the many names, designations and typographic quirks that might feel confusing, and provides a set of valuable commentaries for each section, to make the argument accessible and intelligible for the modern reader. Other editions, like J.A.B. van Buitenen’s translation or the more recent one by Bibek Debroy (the Gita is included in volume 5 of his massive ten volumes translation of the entire Mahabharata), are excellent as well. Still, they may take a bit more effort to get into.
Profile Image for Michael.
274 reviews762 followers
October 12, 2009
Hey, how pretentious am I? I just gave a four-star review to a fucking holy text. And now I'm going to review it. And I will swear in my review. I'm just asking for it, aren't I?

When comparing this one to the other holy books I've read and/or skimmed, I found this one quite insightful. As a professed athiest, this one probably speaks to me the most. The Bhagavad Gita is actually a section of the Mahabharata, which is, to simplify (because that's all I have researched enough to do), the story of a war. During this war, one of the characters* is visited by god. Hilarity ensues. Just kidding. Actually, he has a conversation with god, and god drops some deep shit on him. There's some delicious irony about this conversation taking place on a battlefield after much death and before some more of it. But, where would someone need to speak to god more?

Anyway, I consider myself a little tiny bit spiritual, and the wisdom in this book can be translated into athiestic terms. And, it didn't seem self-contradictory. When it comes to holy writ, these are things I like. But, as it is a brief text, you come out of it knowing only slightly more about Hinduism than you knew before. In comparison, I felt after reading Chuang Xi, or however we're spelling his name these days, that I had a pretty damn good understanding of Taoism. After reading this one, I have only the vaguest of understandings of Hinduism. But, it isn't really about the religious tradition as much as it's about gleaning little bits of insight into the human condition. In that context, it is a very good read.

*Yes, I'm calling them "characters." Sue me. I'm not a Hindu.
Profile Image for Warwick.
824 reviews14.5k followers
December 26, 2015

I read the Bhagavad Gita with the same mixture of moral unease and as it were anthropological delight that all great religious books excite in me. I find it so fascinating to gain these direct insights into how our species has, for millennia, grappled with the same questions of existential purpose and ethic responsibility; but the answers put forward by most pre-modern societies were, though beautiful, astounding and imaginative, also often cruel and inflexible and governed by values that now seem completely alien. Most of all, of course, they are fundamentally authoritarian (and if the word ‘fascistic’ were not so inflammatory I might use that).

Culturally, religious texts really benefit from their longevity. Much as I object to a lot of Biblical content, the cadences of Tyndale and the Authorized Version are a part of my linguistic DNA; Bible translations are prime among the literary masterpieces of the language I've inherited. If you speak an Indic language then the same may be true for you of the Bhagavad Gita, in which case I can only apologise for the crass analysis that is about to follow, which is based on my completely uninformed encounter with Juan Mascaró's 1962 translation.

So the thing is: on the face of it, the story of the Bhagavad Gita is really quite unpleasant. We join the action in medias res (the poem is just one small part of the vast Mahabharata), and Prince Arjuna is surveying the battlefield ahead of what promises to be a bloody clash against an enemy force made up of his own family members and beloved friends. He asks advice from the god Krishna, and over several philosophical verses the two of them have what amounts to the following conversation:

ARJUNA: I really don't want to do this.

KRISHNA: You must.

ARJUNA: But if we go ahead with this battle, loads of people will die on both sides. It all just seems so pointless. These men are my friends, my teachers, my relatives. Wouldn't it be better if we just called it all off?

KRISHNA: Don't be so selfish. It is your duty to kill them whether you feel happy about it or not.

ARJUNA: It just…it feels really wrong…

KRISHNA: Look at it this way: all these people are going to die anyway. ‘I am all-powerful Time which destroys all things, and I have come here to slay these men. Even if thou dost not fight, all the warriors facing thee shall die.’ So it might as well be now; what's another twenty or thirty years to a god?

ARJUNA: Well, nothing, probably, but I expect it means quite a lot to them…

KRISHNA: The highest moral precept of all is to do your duty. So: do it.

ARJUNA: Oh my god…this is horrible… *kills everyone*

Now, this is presented primarily as a handbook for overcoming internal tensions – a lesson on how to deal with crippling doubt and indecision. And much of it is indeed quite moving and thought-provoking; but I just found the context chilling. I was completely on Arjuna's side, I didn't want him to be won over by Krishna's arguments, and part of me kept fantasising about a humanist rewrite where Arjuna told Krishna to get stuffed and the Kurukshetra War never happened.

Setting the plot aside, of course, there is a huge amount of rewarding meditation here on how people should think and behave in order to achieve some measure of calm in their lives, especially when they know they have to go through with something unpleasant. A lot of this can still be read with profit now – and this focus on how to deal with things mentally seems very unusual to me. After all, every religion stresses the importance of submission to a deity, but I can't think of comparable passages from other faiths which offer so much guidance on (for want of a better term) the mental-health implications of this for believers. So it really is a very interesting text, despite how off-putting I found the initial set-up.

There is also a lot of quite beautiful poetry here, which makes me very curious to read some other parts of the Mahabharata. I particularly loved Krishna's long riff on his own glory and omnipresence, which runs through flora, fauna, vocabulary, geography and much more besides…

I am the cleverness in the gambler's dice. I am the beauty in all things beautiful. I am the victory and the struggle for victory. I am the goodness of those who are good.

Yes, but unfortunately also – as with all religions – the badness of those who are bad.

Profile Image for فؤاد.
1,056 reviews1,719 followers
December 12, 2019
در روز جنگ، «اَرجوناى» پهلوان سوار بر ارابه‌اى كه «كريشنا» مى‌راند به ميان معركه مى‌رسد، و درست هنگامى كه بايد سرنوشت جنگ را يكسره كند، دلش از اين همه خونريزى به درد مى‌آيد و مى‌گويد: اگر مرا بكشند بهتر از آن است كه من ايشان را بكشم.

در اين هنگام كريشنا، كه در حقيقت ايزد «ويشنو» است كه در قالب انسانى تجلّى يافته، ارجونا را با والاترين اسرار برهمايى آشنا مى كند: كشتن و كشته شدن هر دو مربوط به «مايا» و جهان نمودهاست، اما به جهان «بود» مرگ راه ندارد، ذات واحد همهٔ موجودات نه نابود مى‌شود، نه تغيير مى‌كند؛ نه مى‌كشد، نه كشته مى‌شود. در نتیجه ارجونا نباید از کشتن بیزار باشد.

همچنان که آدمی دلق ژنده بر می‌کند و جامۀ نو می‌پوشد
جان نیز تن‌های فرسوده را فروهلد و در تن‌های تازه جای گیرد
نه حربه در آن کارگر افتد
نه آتش آن را بسوزاند
نه آب آن را تر کند
نه باد آن را بخشکاند
نه زخم پذیرد، نه بسوزد، نه تر شود، نه بخشکد
جان نه کشته شود، نه بکشد

پس ای فرزند «بهاراتا» بجنگ!

گفتگو به موضوعات مختلف عرفانی مى‌کشد و در آن میان کشف و شهودی رخ می‌دهد: ارجونا از كريشنا مى‌خواهد چهرهٔ حقيقى خود را بنمايد، و كريشنا به صورت ايزد ويشنو در مى‌آيد، با هيئتى عظيم، با صدهزار دست و صدهزار چشم و صدهزار دهان، همهٔ شكل‌هاى جهان در او جمع شده. ارجونا از هيبت او به خاك مى‌افتد و تقاضا مى‌كند به همان صورت انسانى برگردد، زيرا طاقت ديدن چهرهٔ حقيقى او را ندارد.

سرور بزرگ یوگا این بگفت و صورت والای الهی خویش را به «پارتا» باز نمود
صورتی بود با دهان‌ها و چشمان بسیار
و عجایب گوناگون
و زیورهای آسمانی بی شمار
چنان که اگر هزاران خورشید یکباره در آسمان نورافشانی کنند
شاید مثالی از روشنایی آن وجود عظیم تواند بود
و آن جا، پسر «پاندو»، عالم را با همۀ کثرات آن در قالب خدای خدایان متحد و یکی دید

مراقبه در مقابل عمل
رنه گنون، در کتاب بحران دنیای متجدد توضیح می‌دهد که فرهنگ‌های شرقی از جمله فرهنگ هندی، بر خلاف غربیان، اصالت را نه به عمل بلکه به درون‌نگری و مراقبه می‌دهند. زیرا عمل مربوط به جنبۀ ظاهری و گذرا و در نتیجه فناپذیر جهان است، اما مراقبه و درون‌نگری مربوط به جنبۀ باطنی و ناگذرا و فناناپذیر جهان است.

اما اشتباه است اگر فکر کنیم باطنی‌گرایی هندویی به معنای بی عملی است. هندیان از اهمیت عمل غافل نیستند، هر چند آن را تابع مراقبه می‌داند، همان طور که ظاهر را تابع باطن می‌دانند، و تنها به واسطۀ مراقبه، ضرورت عمل را اثبات می‌کند. گنون سپس برای نمونه به کتاب گیتا اشاره می‌کند، که در آن کریشنا، ارجونا را به عمل کردن و جنگیدن تحریک می‌کند، اما دلیلش کاملاً عرفانی است: این که هر عملی می‌تواند به مراقبه تبدیل شود، اگر با بی‌دلی خاص مراقبه انجام شود.

بر توست که کار کنى، لیکن نه براى ثمره آن
در پى ثمر عمل خود مباش
دل در ترک عمل نیز مبند
در یوگا استوار باش
عمل کن و از نتیجه چشم بپوش
و دل از قید موفقیت یا شکست فارغ دار
همین فراغ دل، «یوگا» خوانده مى‌شود

آن که در عمل، ترک عمل را تواند دید
و در ترک عمل، عمل را
خردمند واقعی است

این نگاهی مهم و بی سابقه به عبادت در تاریخ دین است: عبادت یک مناسک خاص نیست، هر عملی می تواند عبادت باشد اگر با یک حال نفسانی خاص همراه باشد.
August 2, 2018
The man who sees me in everything
and everything within me
will not be lost to me, nor
will I ever be lost to him.

He who is rooted in oneness
realizes that I am
in every being; wherever
he goes, he remains in me.

When he sees all being as equal
in suffering or in joy
because they are like himself,
that man has grown perfect in yoga. (c)
He is the source of light in all luminous objects. He is beyond the darkness of matter and is unmanifested. He is knowledge, He is the object of knowledge, and He is the goal of knowledge. He is situated in everyone's heart. (c)
For the senses wander, and when one lets the mind follow them, it carries wisdom away like a windblown ship on the waters. (c)
Set thy heart upon thy work, but never on its reward. (c)
The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead. There was never a time when you and I and all the kings gathered here have not existed and nor will there be a time when we will cease to exist. (c)
Profile Image for Karla Becker.
28 reviews4 followers
March 30, 2017
I can read this book over and over and still gain so much from it. It contains such timeless truths, especially in light of today, such as,

"They alone see truly who see the Lord the same in every creature, who see the deathless in the hearts of all that die. Seeing the same Lord everywhere, they do not harm themselves or others. Thus they attain the supreme goal."
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,113 reviews44.4k followers
July 8, 2017
Religion is a contentious topic. Many people are strongly opposed to it. This is especially so with young people in the modern world. Society has slowly been drifting away from its sacred texts for many centuries. I’m, of course, generalising very heavily here. There are still parts of the world that are devoutly religious, but the prominence of this is unmistakably reducing and will continue to reduce as time goes on. People raised by religious parents often grow up to become non-believers. Society is moving on.

In the western world, at least as far as I have seen in England, people with faith are slightly ridiculed, again often at the expense of the young and immature. The Christian bible and its churches are seen as kooky and outdated. Jehovah Witness’ are practically hated because of their canvasing techniques. The Muslim faith with its Mosques and The Koran are seen as distinctively foreign by those that do not follow Islam. There are huge knowledge gaps about faiths such as Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Judaism within the general population. I don’t recall ever being taught much about them, perhaps just one lesson at school on each faith whilst the rest of the time we learnt about Christianity and a little bit about the Muslim faith. I honestly think I learnt more about different religions from watching The Simpsons as a child.

I am an agnostic. I will never have faith (I lean towards Buddhism, though I don’t consider it a religion: it’s more a way of life, a philosophy.) I consider myself fairly educated, but my education on matters of faith is rather poor. I think it would be rather ignorant to presume that there is not some wisdom in faith even if you are an atheist. So here I am reading a book of Hindu scripture. I’ve started reading Mahatma Ghandi’s autobiography and this popped up very early on. And to my shame I’d never even heard of it. So I had to buy a copy and see what it was all about. I thought it might allow me some insight into the formation of his early character.

He spoke of being inspired by the story when he was very young, though he later lost his faith in the story. The Gita is a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna before a great battle. Krishna gives some sage advice, advice about life, death and everything in between. There are some real pieces of wisdom in here, ideas of karma and non-attachment. But herein lies the rub, acceptance is the key; acceptance of the place of God in the life of man. Krishna says:

Become My devotee, always think of Me, act for Me, worship Me, and offer all homage unto Me. Surrender unto Me alone. Do not fear sinful reactions.

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That’s seems slightly (how shall we put it?) odd. Essentiality, Arjunja is having a moral crisis. He does not want to kill his brothers, his friends, his teachers and his countryman. Such a thing is nasty and evil, Arjunja says. Krishna excuses such a thing on the basis that it is his will for the battle to occur. But is that a good thing?

This is a clear debate between man and god, of man’s morals being sacrificed for the acceptance of a higher power. Arjunja, ethically speaking, made the wrong decision. But, spiritually speaking, at least, according to this text, such actions are excusable. Dare I say it, but this text felt like a tool for cultural brainwashing. Soldiers and generals who read this would care less about the horrors of war if they knew it would not affect their chances of reincarnation. They would shed blood with little to no remorse. Krishna achieves his aims.

Such a thing is beyond terrible, and such ideas have been used by men in power for centuries to justify countless wars across many faiths. As a student of literature, I have an invested interest in all literature. But I also have a very critical mind. The most convincing parts about this book were the reasons Arjunja proposed for not going to war. I’m glad I read this religious text, and I will be reading more in the future but I will be aprroaching them like I would any other story.

An article on the reduction of faith in England: https://www.theguardian.com/world/201...
Profile Image for Alok Mishra.
Author 23 books1,184 followers
March 27, 2019
Well, to all the readers who are baffled by the 'opinions' and 'interpretations' of the authors here, who are supposedly the translators with a 'Rudimental' knowledge of the original language in which the text is present, please read The Bhagavad Gita by the Indian sages and authors who were (and are) well-versed in Sanskrit. I would recommend the one by Sri Paramhansa Yogananda or by A C Bhaktivedanta. You will, then only, revel in the full knowledge and the depth.
And to some of the 'readers' who are deeming this book as some holy text or limiting it to one religion, Hinduism, please, let me know where the world Hinduism is mentioned in this work. The Bhagavad Gita is for all - Sri Krishna loves all - those who love him are loved and those who don't love him are loved equally - he is, was and will be. We are, have been and shall be. Nothing ends - nothing begins. Sri Krishna is nothing and everything!
Profile Image for Brett C(urrently overseas again).
784 reviews165 followers
May 31, 2022
I read this one alongside the 'Bhagavad-gita As It Is' by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada Complete Edition published by the Krishna Books, Inc. This big difference with this version is that it reads as a narrative. Also this one published by Nilgiri Press mirrors the same books ('The Dhammapada' and 'The Upanishads') in structure, content layout, and book design.

There is a lengthy introduction (pgs. 7-67) and discusses various opening topics to include The Gita and Its Setting, The Upanishadic Background, Yoga Psychology, The Essence of The Gita, and Faith and Spiritual Evolution.

The story of Arjuna and Krishna is broken down into 18 chapters. Each chapter has an introduction that explains the topic related to the Gita segment and have various titles include The War Within, Self-Realization, Selfless Service, The Practice of Meditation, The Way of Love, The Forces of Evolution, and The Power of Faith.

I think this version and the 'Bhagavad-gita As It Is' are both very good in their own right. This version is clearly written and reads very quickly. The A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada version reads very scholarly and is ideal for the academic. But both versions have the spiritual components to make any person better with themselves and in society.

Eknath Easwaran translation: "Bound by their greed and entangled in a web of delusion, whirled by a fragmented mind, they fell into a dark hell." pg. 240

'As It Is' translation: "Thus perplexed by various anxieties and bound by a network of illusions, one becomes too strongly attached to sense enjoyment and falls down into hell." pg. 739
Profile Image for Trevor.
1,291 reviews21.7k followers
April 30, 2023
I’ve been meaning to read this for a very long time. And, to be honest, this wasn’t at all what I was expecting it to be. One of the things I know about Hinduism is that there are millions of gods – so, I was expecting this to be a bit like Ancient Greek religion – with lots of lustful, angry, self-righteous gods causing endless trouble. That this book makes it clear that there is really only one god, in multiple aspects, took away that expectation from the start.

My other main experience with religious texts is the Bible. And I’m not going to pretend I’ve had a fun time reading the Bible. The god of the Old Testament is decidedly not someone I would want to spend eternity with – or even a wet weekend. It would be hard to come up with someone more obnoxious and capricious. Sure, he becomes a little more rational when he gives birth to himself as his own son, but much of the New Testament after the gospels seems to rely solely on the argument that this is all true and so we are to believe or burn for all time. It is certainly not ‘philosophy’, in any real sense.

And that’s what I found interesting about this book. And while I don’t agree with all of the philosophy, I was able to see how this might have influenced Greek philosophical thought and definitely how it influenced western modernism.

I loved the setting of this. There is going to be a terrible battle tomorrow, and a great warrior is talking with Krishna about the fact that he really doesn’t want to fight in that battle, since he will be fighting members of his own family. He can’t help feel that whatever he does in the morning, he will be committing a great evil. Recently, I read something by a Jungian psychologist that said you become an adult when you realise that you have two paths before you, but that both lead to ends you do not want – but you have to choose anyway. Well, that’s where our hero is situated.

I think the core message here is that we spend too much time obsessed with finding ways to meet our desires. But that while desires, as such, seem like great benefits if we were to achieve them, but that really they turn to ashes as soon as they are achieved, or worse, they turn into their opposite. That is, a life spent in pursuit of desire is one that ends in a kind of squalor. And while our desires lead us to waste our lives, or rather, destroy them – the path out of this is through service to others beyond our desires and without an expectation of reward.

Now, I really like that. I think the world would be a better place if there was more of that attitude in it. That is so much better than ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. I’ve never particularly liked the calculation at the heart of that moral maxim.

I also liked the discussion of opposites in this and how one turns into the other.

All that said, the idea of service also turned into its opposite for me when Krishna shows himself in all his manifest difference – mostly as a god devouring the lives of all people. A part of the message here seemed to be, do not worry about who you kill tomorrow on the battle field, remember, all are going to die anyway, and the cycle of life is a burning of karma while striving towards enlightenment. I don’t know. I find that turning away from life to be the opposite of what I would like to think of as enlightenment. And that is, a life of service disinterested in the normal rewards.

I also found a lot of the language confusing here and struggled to remember which new word I'd never encountered before meant. I would really need to read this all again and much more slowly, but I'm not all that convinced I would get enough out of such a close reading that would repay the effort.

Like most religious texts, I don’t really understand the spiritual aspects. They leave me confused and also more than a little cold. All the same, I felt this was much more interesting than many of the other religious texts I have read. Decidedly less fun that the Greeks, but I think I could have a laugh with Krishna in a way I've never thought I might be able to have a laugh with Jesus. And I think laughter is grossly underrated in religious circles.
Profile Image for Holly.
529 reviews62 followers
July 15, 2013
Has a book ever literally called to you by falling off the shelf and into your hands? When the Bhagavad Gita came through the book drop while I was working at the library, I recognized the title instantly without remembering why it was familiar, at least initially. All I knew was that I was going to take it home and read it immediately. What I learned from the introduction is that Bhagavad Gita is Sanskrit for “Song of the Lord” and is India’s best known scripture. If none of that rings a bell, then the name Mahatma Gandhi will. As it says in the publisher’s summary, Gandhi used it as his personal guidebook.

I read the Penguin Classics edition translated by Juan Mascaro first and while I found his language rich and beautiful at times, I prefer this edition by Ekneth Easwaran, which is clear and straightforward. My favorite chapter is probably chapter 12 “The Way of Love” because of its parallels to Christianity. Just as Paul does in 1 Corinthians 13:8 (“Charity/Love never faileth”), the Gita places love above knowledge and miracles. The last chapter, “Freedom and Renunciaton,” is also satisfying. I identify strongly with the idea of becoming closer to God by renouncing the rewards of work and self-will. Overall, reading the Gita has inspired me to seek the truth in all religions and spiritual philosophies. Finding the principles in the Gita that are common to my own beliefs was enlightening. Any recommendations of what to read next would be appreciated. I’ll end this review with my favorite verses:

“That devotee who looks upon friend and foe with equal regard, who is not buoyed up by praise nor cast down by blame, alike in heat and cold, pleasure and pain, free from selfish attachments, the same in honor and dishonor, quiet, ever full, in harmony everywhere, firm in faith – such a one is dear to me.” (12:18,19)

“Be fearless and pure; never waver in your determination or your dedication to the spiritual life.” (16:1)

“Make every act an offering to me; regard me as your only protector. Relying on internal discipline, meditate on me always. Remembering me, you shall overcome all difficulties through my grace.” (18: 57, 58)

“Be aware of me always, adore me, make every act an offering to me, and you shall come to me; this I promise; for you are dear to me.” (18:65)

Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
653 reviews7,016 followers
December 1, 2015

How to Read The Ancient Texts

To know how we should approach the great Classical works of antiquity, we can look to Ben Jonson’s formulation in "Discoveries":

"I know nothing can conduce more to letters, than to examine the writings of the ancients, and not to rest in their sole authority, or take all upon trust from them; provided the plagues of judging, and pronouncing against them, be away; such as are envy, bitterness, precipitation, impudence, and scurrile scoffing.

For to all the observations of the ancients, we have our own experience: which, if we will use, and apply, we have better means to pronounce. It is true they opened the gates, and made the way, that went before us; but as guides, not commanders."
Profile Image for Bionic Jean.
1,227 reviews1,062 followers
June 7, 2022
This is a simplified version of the Bhagavad Gita (Sanskrit: भगवद्गीता) or “Song of the Lord”. The work is often referred to simply as the “Gita”. Prashant Gupta begins,

“Here is the “Song Divine” or “Bhagwad Gita” for our young readers who resemble Arjuna in so many respects. It will serve them as a permanent and trustworthy companion in performing their various vocations and duties in life. It will lift them up in moments of depression.”

The Bhagavad Gita is a commentary on the “Upanishads”. There are about 108 of these Upanishads altogether: chapters which deal with the ultimate reality of life and death. The Gita has been described as the “milk of the Upanishads”, where the “Upanishads” are the “cows”.

First Prashant Gupta explains the concept of “Gita” as the Divine Mother, who looks after the welfare and uplifting of all humanity:

“Lord Krishna has milked these treasure houses of supreme wisdom [the “Vedas”] for the benefit of mankind. The Gita is the nectar, like milk, which can be consumed easily by one and all ... perfect and balanced food ... easily digestible ... if it remains undigested it becomes poison ... when the body becomes a victim of disease, the mind too loses its capacity to think clearly ... the intellect gets clouded as did happen with Prince Arjuna on the battle field of Kurukushetra.”

Thus we start with a metaphor, and learn that the entire work is presented in metaphor. Prashant Gupta rejects the idea that the Bhagavad Gita speaks only to those of the Hindu faith:

“The Gita does not belong to any particular religion ... [It] is the Bible of mankind. Nowhere does the word ‘Hindu’ occur in it. It talks to man as such. He who reads it is uplifted to a higher realm of happiness ... The Gita does not differentiate between and man and man on the basis of caste, colour, creed, religion or sex. So the Christians, the Muslims, the Buddhists, the Zoroastrians and the Hindus can derive eternal and everlasting happiness and bliss by pondering over the verses of the Gita.”

The Universal Self seated in the heart of all beings

There are 18 “Upanishads” (chapters) comprising 700 “slokas” (verses) in the Bhagavad Gita: a scripture or Bible which is part of the Hindu epic the “Mahabharata”. The “Mahabharata” is an ancient text predating the Christian era, thought to be written by the Sage Vyasa Veda, somewhere between the fifth century and the second century BCE. Prashant Gupta tells us that the Bhagavad Gita is:

“the essence of the four Vedas and the sweet kernel of the “Mahabharata” which is known as the Fifth Veda”.

It occurs in the middle of the “Mahabharata” epic. Furthermore, he says, it tells us how to live upon this Earth: how to behave and act with others, and how to perform our duties as human beings in different walks of life:

“Do you know the literal meaning of the word ‘Krishna’? It means that which is lying dormant or hidden in the innermost dark recesses of your heart. Krishna means black and dark. The Krishan consciousness is lying dormant within us ... it is none but Lord Krishna who pervades every atom of the Universe. He is there in the wind, in the oceans, on the earth, in the sky and in the sun. The neutrons and the protons are actually activated by the magic of His presence. He is the Presiding Deity of the Whole Universe ... He alone is Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent.”

“The Gita is there to move us from darkness to light; from falsehood to truth, and from death to Immortality!”

Prashant Gupta explains the “Mahamantra” - “TAT-TWAM-ASI” or “That Thou Art”. “Twam”: the soul “Tat”: God.

“You are that - God and nothing else”.

There are three steps:
1. “I am His”
2. “He is Mine”
3. “He and I are One”

Prashant Gupta briefly tells the background story of the characters who will appear in the Bhagavad Gita.

King Yudhishthir, the Dharamraja, ruled over the powerful kingdom of Indraprastha. He was helped by his four brothers; they were the five sons of Pandu and therefore called the “Pandavas”, and were very righteous and virtuous. But their cousin Duryodhana was jealous, and wanted to rule the kingdom for himself. His uncle Shakuni, too, was greedy and cunning. He persuaded his nephew to play a game of dice, saying that he would make the dice fall in such a way that Duryodhana would always win.

Duryodhana adopted this plan, and one by one all the brothers gambled away their fortunes, until eventually the entire kingdom was lost, and the brothers became slaves:

“This episode teaches us a great lesson. One must never gamble as there is no limit to the loss one may suffer in it.”

But yet another dice game was played, as Shakuni pretended to promise the chance for King Yudhishthir to win back the kingdom. Of course this game was lost too, and the five brothers were all further exiled for twelve years.

The Pandavas underwent great ordeals, but each stayed on the path of “dharma” (righteousness), and all five brothers returned in the thirteenth year.

The first “sloka” (verse) of the Bhagavad Gita, describes Khurukshetra as Damarkshetra; the Karva and Pandava armies are arrayed against each other ready to fight. This description is highly symbolic. The battlefield represents the human body or heart, and the war being fought is the battle in each one of us, between the forces of good and evil in our hearts.

The main stories in the “Mahabharata” up to now have been covered in this book. Sanjaya, the counsellor of the Kuru king Dhritarashtra, returns from the battlefield and narrates the details of the “Mahabharata” war. He tells what has happened to Dhritarashtra, the blind king. Duryodana (the nephew, who years earlier had usurped the kingdom) praised his own army, and asked all of them to protect the great warrior Bhishma, and the battle commenced:

“Arunja requested Lord Krishna to drive forth his chariot between the two armies so that he may behold with whom he is going to fight.”

When he realises that his enemies are his own relatives, friends, and teachers Prince Arjuna is filled with doubts. In despair he turns to his guide and charioteer, Lord Krishna (“God Incarnate Lord Shri Krishna”) for advice:

Lord Krishna urges Arjuna to fulfil his duty as a warrior and establish “Dharma”, (righteousness, or holy duty). The warrior’s dharma is heroism. Energy, dedication and self-sacrifice, is the dharma of the “Kshatriya” (warrior). Krishna responds to Arjuna's confusion and moral dilemma, explaining Arjuna’s duties as a warrior and prince by elaborating on a variety of philosophical concepts, through the form of stories. These stories are allegorical, and similar to parables. This section comprises the Bhagavad Gita. Thus the Bhagavad Gita is a narrative, presented as a dialogue between the Pandava prince Arjuna and Krishna’s response via a series of battle stories:

“A great symbolism goes on in the Gita in almost every verse. It conveys a deeper message than what it seems to deliver in a literal sense.”

So, in metaphor, Arjuna (representing the ego) sits back in his chariot (representing the human body) and abandons his “Gandiva” or bow, (metaphorically giving up all instruments and tools of activity). The white horses (representing our five sense-organs: the ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose, enabling us to gain knowledge - to hear, touch, see taste and smell) are held back well under control by the pulled reins (the mind). This enables the Charioteer (the Pure Intellect, or our higher self, represented by Lord Krishna) to guide Arunja (the ego) to be victorious in the battle of Mahabharta, (just as we will each be victorious in the battle of our life and gain divine strength).

“Dharma” has a number of meanings. Fundamentally, it means “what is right”. At the start Krishna responds to Arjuna's despondency by asking him to follow his “swadharma”, or the dharma which belongs to a particular individual. Traditionally every person is believed to be unique in nature. It is Arjuna’s true inner nature to be a warrior, and that is why it is right for him to fight for what is right. “Dharma” is his way to establish righteousness.

The idea that we all have our own “swadharma” is inherent in the caste system. Prashant Gupta explains about dharma, and the basis of the caste system:

“Each one of us has been alloted a battlefield of our own to act ... the field of our duty. If I am a man of learning and love knowledge above everything else, my battlefield is confined to books, schools, colleges, students, debates, discussion, reading, writing, preaching and the like. I cannot and should not go to the cricket-field as a batman to get my head struck with a bouncer.”

I smiled broadly at this part, and hope it finally justifies my skiving off sport at school (although I suspect not). But I interpret this to mean “follow your own star” - a predisposition rather than a strict predestiny.

“To begin with, the so-called caste system was perfectly scientific in its approach. It was based upon the physical, mental and intellectual abilities of the persons concerned. Birth alone was not the deciding factor but the worth of an individual was to decide whether he should be called a ‘Brahman’ or a ‘Vaishya’ or a ‘Sudra’ or a ‘Kshatriya’.”

A Brahman is a learned person, interested in gaining more knowledge and teaching. A Sudra is interested in serving others. A Vaisha is a trader, who knows the secrets of trade and agriculture: “interested in worldly possession from the core of his heart”. A Kshatriya can defend the weak, the innocent and the poor, and has a mission to eliminate exploitation, injustuce, tyranny, torture and crimes from society.

The concept of “caste” therefore, originally meant the character or characteristics of the individual. “One could change his caste by changing his character through tireless efforts.”

Throughout the story we see diverging attitudes concerning the different methods of attaining “moksha” or liberation. Liberation is not something that can be acquired or reached. The goal of “moksha”, is something that is always present as the essence of the self, and can be revealed by deep intuitive knowledge. It can be viewed as a synthesis of knowledge, devotion, and desireless action, forming what is appropriate for each person. The Bhagavad Gita was introduced to the world through Sanjaya, who sees and knows all the events of the battlefield. Sanjaya is Dhritasashtra’s advisor and also his charioteer.

The Bhagavad Gita presents a synthesis of the concept of Dharma and yogic ideals. “Yoga” means a joining together, and in the Bhagavad Gita it refers to the skill of union with the ultimate reality, or the Absolute:

“The Gita joins us with the Supreme Reality which has no beginning and end. That is why the Gita has been called Yoga Sastra.”

Another interpretation of the word “yoga”, since the root meaning is “yoking” or “preparation”, could be “spiritual exercise”, conveying the various nuances in the best way.

The setting of the Bhagavad Gita in a battlefield, is usually interpreted as an allegory for the ethical and moral struggles of the human life. Its call for selfless action inspired many leaders of the Indian Independence Movement. Mahatma Gandhi, called the “father” of the Indian Nation and the architect of its Independence, referred to it as his “spiritual dictionary”:

“The Gita is my mother. I lost my earthly mother who gave me birth long ago. But this eternal mother has completely filled her place by my side ever since. She has never changed; she has never failed me. Whenever I am in difficulty or distress, I seek refuge in her bosom.”

There is evidence to show that old manuscripts originally had 745 verses, rather than 700. These Upanishads - the verses themselves - are composed with similes and metaphors. They are poetic, using mostly the range and style of the Sanskrit “chandas”, a particular poetic metre.

The Sanskrit editions of the Bhagavad Gita name each chapter as a particular form of yoga. Each of the eighteen chapters is designated as a separate yoga because each chapter, like yoga, “trains the body and the mind”. These eighteen chapters of the Bhagavad Gita can be seen as a progressive order, by which Krishna leads Arjuna up the ladder of Yoga from one rung to another.

Prashant Gupta says that the Bhagavad Gita offers a practical approach to liberation in the form of “Karma yoga”. To follow the path of Karma yoga, action is necessary. However, the action is to be undertaken without any attachment to the work or desire for results. The work is done for itself, and not for any rewards. The object of the Bhagavad Gita is to show the best way for each individual to attain self-realisation. This can be achieved by selfless action, and controlling all mental desires and tendencies to enjoy sensory pleasures. When we dwell on things of the material world - sensory things - we become attached to them. From this springs desire, and anger when they are not realised. This results in bewilderment, then loss of memory, and the destruction of intelligence. Thus, he says, we perish.

Desire, the Bhagavad Gita says, degrades you:

“The moment you desire, you plan your downfall. It is our desire that invites all our worries, agonies, sufferings, headaches, heartaches and hellish turmoils. That is why Lord Krishna lays the greatest stress on desireless or unattached Action throughout the whole Gita. It is known as Karmyoga or the Yoga of selfless Action.”

“The moment we work with the motive or desire of getting a reward, efficiency in work is lost ... ‘Get lost in your work!’ If the secret of work, or Karmyoga is properly understood and digested, a player will become a better player, a teacher will become a better teacher, a doctor will become a better doctor, a cook will become a better cook and a warrior shall shine forth the mightiest one as happens in the case of Arunja.”

“When a sensible man ceases to see different identities, which are due to different material bodies, he attains to the Brahman conception. Thus he sees that beings are expanded everywhere.”

“One who knowingly sees this difference between the body and the owner of the body and can understand the process of liberation from this bondage, also attains to the supreme goal.”

OM - omnipresence of God

The Bhagavad Gita is one of the hardest books to interpret. There are differences even in describing where it comes in “The Mahabharata”: the fifth “Veda”, or treasure house of wisdom (a sort of holy text book). It is sometimes said that the “Veda” is eternal. The word “Veda” derives from “Vid”, to know. Clearly this word too has nuances of meaning. It can mean a holy instruction manual, or both the knowledge of Divinity lurking inside us, and the technique for bringing it out to be manifested. When it is said to be “eternal”, it indicates the Divine Spark within and without, which Prashant Gupta likens to electricity, which is there whether we have discovered it or not.

There are numerous commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita, each differing from the rest in one essential point or another. I enjoyed this book, but even though it is intended as a simple explanation I still floundered, much as young Arunja, finding the esoteric concepts incredibly difficult to grasp, and alien to Western philosophical tradition. Some, such as the fall of “Bishma”, where Arunja seemed to hide behind a woman, “Shikhandin”, so that his enemy would be too chivalrous to strike at him, seemed to me the opposite of noble behaviour. Clearly I have not picked up all the connotations here. Plus, as always in religious scriptures, the names of people, tribes, cultures and concepts can seem overwhelming to someone not inculcated into the religion or belief system from birth, and the endless battles rather monotonous. I have attempted to distil what I feel is the author’s personal take on the Bhagavad Gita in this review. For example, he says:

“I do not believe that Krishna transformed Himself into His Cosmic Form, but He only helped Arujna to gain the necessary inward adjustments so that he might see what was already there in Krishna.”

In this book Prashant Gupta has attempted to explain the difficult Eastern philosopical concepts using simple and familiar language:

“The mystery surrounding religion has been revealed in such a way as will be of practical importance in the work-a-day world for one and all. A loving and careful study of this work shall confer happiness and prosperity on the readers. Lord Krishna is ever smiling to bless them!”

This is a worthy attempt at a beginners’ guide, and it is a very attractive book. The text is in 44 chapters, varying in length from half a side to a dozen or more pages. The illustrations by shri N.K. Vikram are quite beautiful, using traditional Hindu stylised images and vivid authentic colours. There are plenty of them, each filling slightly over half a page of this large format book. The book ends with a couple of pages of “pearls of wisdom” or maxims derived from the Gita.

“The Gita is the greatest philosphical poem of the world. This song divine is being sung in every heart ceaselessly, but we have no ears to listen to it. The ears and all other senses need to be tuned to catch the divine message being delivered within our own bosoms.”

“The publisher hopes and trusts that the readers of the Bhagwad Gita shall inherit the best in Indian culture and Sanatam Dharma. They will prove and asset to themselves as well as to the entire humanity.”

(“Sanatam Dharma” or हिन्दू धर्म, “eternal order”, is an alternative name for the Hindu religion.)

“‘Keep smiling’ seems to be Krishna’s philosophy expressed in two words”

“Desireless activity will lead to self-realisation and bliss.”

“Work is worship”
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,686 followers
May 4, 2019
"I am death, shatterer of worlds,
annialating all things"
- Bhagavad Gita, tr Stephen Mitchell


I’ll review later as it sinks deeper in.
I need some time to chew on it.
And, yes, perhaps just let go and
let the book be --
what it already is.
Profile Image for Alex.
1,418 reviews4,381 followers
December 12, 2016
The Bhagavad Gita is the most famous part of The Mahabharata, India's national epic. It's a dialogue between the warrior Arjuna and the god Krishna. They're standing between two armies; Arjuna has friends and relatives on both sides, and he asks Krishna whether he should fight. Their conversation immediately veers wildly off course, resulting in them talking philosophy for what must be hours right in the middle of a battlefield while all the other soldiers are probably like wtf dude, is this seriously the best time for allegorical fig trees.

red rover red rover

The decision comes down to dharma, which (very loosely) means innate duty. "It is the dharma of grass to grow, of birds to fly, and of warriors to fight," explains my introduction. This is basically Aesop's Farmer and the Viper parable (or the more modern scorpion-and-frog one). It more or less works out if you believe in reincarnation, but I don't and besides I disagree with the concept of warriors, so this is not my jam. Dharma will later be used to justify the caste system:
Service to others, the innate
Attribute of the class of serfs

And obviously that isn't going to speak to modern readers. Our ethics evolve but our texts keep saying the same thing, and that's the problem with taking ancient texts too seriously.

But that's not to say that I found nothing valuable here. In the discussion of duty, Krishna says:
Better to do one's own duty
ineptly, than another's well.

I do my own duty ineptly all the time, so it's great to know that I'm nailing it.

And there's a lot of talk about not being too attached to "sense-objects," which means your shit, so this is basically a very early argument for the Kondo method.

And there's this, which is maybe the prettiest description of god I've ever read:
This universe is strung on me
as pearls are strung upon a thread.

I don't believe, but I dig that.

It's a pretty poem, and I'll take some of its ideas with me, and I'll leave some of them behind. That works, right?
Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
653 reviews7,016 followers
December 1, 2015

Some glory in their birth, some in their skill,
Some in their wealth, some in their body’s force,
Some in their garments, though new-fangled ill,
Some in their hawks and hounds, some in their horse;
And every humor hath his adjunct pleasure,
Wherein it finds a joy above the rest.
But these particulars are not my measure;
All these I better in one general best.
Thy love is better than high birth to me,
Richer than wealth, prouder than garments' cost,
Of more delight than hawks or horses be;
And having thee, of all men’s pride I boast;

Wretched in this alone, that thou mayst take
All this away, and me most wretched make.

~ Sonnet 91 - Shakespeare's Sonnets
Profile Image for amin akbari.
297 reviews126 followers
December 13, 2019
به نام او

کتابی که خیلی از خواندنش لذت بردم و به واسطه متون دینی و عرفانی خودمان احساس قرابت شگرفی با آن داشتم، خصوصا کلام امیرالمومنین، خیلی از بخشهای کتاب مرا به یاد نهج البلاغه انداخت.
ترجمه بسیار خوب استاد موحد هم بر هرچه خواندنی تر شدن کتاب کمک کرد ، ضمن اینکه مقدمه مفصل کتاب هم بسیار خواندنی و مفید بود.
این کتاب بعد از سالها نایاب بودن در یکی دو ماه اخیر با قیمت مناسب توسط نشر خوارزمی باز نشر شد، لذت خواندنش را از دست ندهید.

بخشهایی از کتاب:

و آن که از رنگ تعلق رسته است
و از بند نیک و بد جسته
و دل در معرف بسته
هرچه کند از بهر خدا کند
زنجیر کار او گسیخته بود
او هرچه کند خدا بود
احسان او خدا بود
قربانی او به وسیله خدا در آتش خدا بسوزد
و چون در هر کار که کند خدا را ببیند به خدا برسد

وداها برای برهمنی که به درجه معرفت رسیده باشد
چنان است که سبویی آب در درون دریا
بر توست که کار کنی لیکن نه برای ثمره آن
در پی ثمره عمل خود مباش
و دل در ترک عمل نیز مبند

اندیشه درباره اشیا موجب تعلق خاطر شود
و از تعلق آرزو زاید
و از آرزو خشم پدید آید
و خشم مایه تشویش گردد
و تشویش نسیان آرد
و نسیان خرد را تباه گرداند
و تباهیِ خرد موجب هلاک باشد

پس ای قویدست، آن که حواس خود را یکباره از اشیا بریده باشد
صاحب یقین بود.

بدان سان که دود آتش را فروپوشد
و غبار آینه را
و رحم مادر جنین را
حرص نیز معرفت را فروپوشد

و نادان خودخواه چنین انگارد که کننده کار همه اوست

عمل که نه برای خاطر خدا باشد مایه گرفتاری است
پس ای فرزند کنتی کار برای خدا کن نه برای ثمره و پاداش آن
Profile Image for Calista.
3,870 reviews31.2k followers
May 15, 2020
The classic epic poem of 700 verses about Hindu theology.

Like most text, this is giving ways to live a better, healthier life and to find a way to be at peace in this life. This is a conversation between Arjuna and Lord Krishna and Arjuna asks questions while Krishna gives the answers.

I read about a teaching a day and tried to take my time, but it's something to contemplate more than simply read. I should spend some more time with this. I did appreciate what it had to say
Profile Image for Robert.
3 reviews2 followers
March 30, 2008
It's our expectations that make us unhappy. As Gandhi explained, the Gita is built around the idea that we are not entitled to the fruits of our actions. It's the expectations we form from our actions that lead us astray. It's enough to act according to your yoga. Simply act, without having expectations of what our action will get us.

We have two yogas we can practice: the yoga of action or the yoga of contemplation. Once you understand what your yoga is, then you can act accordingly within your nature. Our happiness should derive from the successful practice of our yoga, not from the results we think it should bring us. That stuff about a thousand noonday suns, and being Death, Shatterer of Worlds is just crazy scary to impress the great unwashed about how serious Krishna is about this shit.

Focus on your yoga, dude.
Profile Image for Justin Evans.
1,525 reviews795 followers
July 7, 2017

why do you love this book? This book is awful. It's very smart, yes, and of course a great classic. But I want you to imagine a dialogue between Jesus and Charlemagne in which Charlemagne says he doesn't want to kill all the Germans because, well, they're his relatives, and it seems a bit silly. And Jesus counters this by saying I AM FREAKING GOD DO WHAT THE F*** I TELL YOU YOU HAVE NO OPTION ANYWAY LOOK I HAVE STARS IN MY BELLY!!!! and follows it up by saying that he, Jesus, determines everything and there is no free will but you *should* do the following things in order to really get to know Jesus.

Now, obviously I'm being polemical here. The BG has some very nice individual moments; it's a philosophical masterpiece akin to Boethius or Job; and, most remarkably for me, it essentially says that everything a benighted Westerner like myself thinks of when I think of Hinduism is wrong. The step from polytheism to monotheism is pretty much the greatest intellectual leap ever made, and who the heck am I to say that someone who makes that leap thousands of years before I was even born is only worth three stars?

Someone who thinks that determinism makes no sense in a religion, that Krishna is kind of a self-centered lunatic ("I AM THE CLARIFIED BUTTER! I AM THE HERB!"), and that justifying war by saying that if you're a warrior, you're logically compelled to kill your kin and besides, we have no option, is horrific.

And yet the hippies love this stuff. Almost as if they were really just repressing their inner Charles Manson.
Profile Image for Aydin Mohseni.
35 reviews65 followers
November 20, 2010
What struck me most about the Bhagavad Gita in comparison to the other religious texts with which I'm familiar, inter alia, the Bible and the Qur'an, was two-fold:

Firstly that the Gita was written frankly for a more sophisticated audience (as the intricacy of the ontological explanations demonstrates).
That is to say, where as the Old and New Testaments could be said to have been written for
a semi-literate nomadic tribe, and the lowest-rung on the ladder of Roman society respectively, and the Qur'an, again, for a predominantly non-literate society, the arguments and explanations provided by Sri Krishna to Arjuna in the Gita are transparently aimed at a more educated aristocratic or clerical class.

And secondly, that while submission of spirit, and performance of social duty, in line with traditional religious best practices, are fundamental doctrines, that the focus on the individual free thought, and the multiplicity of paths to enlightenment are, for me, absolutely fascinating in their dramatic distance from the monotheistic traditions (which, perhaps, may also be attributed, to a good degree, to the first observation.)

I'll be opening up the Ramayana soon, and am looking forward to digging deeper into the history, philosophy and practice of Hinduism.
Profile Image for Kris.
21 reviews
June 8, 2012
I enjoyed this teaching in one long, lovely sitting...after having practiced the Ashtanga Yoga Primary series, sitting in a cafe with my jasmine tea while a thunderstorm pounded outside. A powerful read/lesson. I've tried to read other translations before, but Mitchell's really resonated with me.

"...The undisciplined have no wisdom,
no one-pointed concentration;
with no concentration, no peace;
with no peace, where can joy be?

When the mind constantly runs
after the wandering senses,
it drives away wisdom, like the wind
blowing a ship off course..."

-Bhagavad Gita (2.66-67)
Profile Image for Ken.
Author 3 books925 followers
October 8, 2021
Hermann Hesse led me to fill another one of those gaping holes in my reading resume -- The Bhagavad Gita. And I'm glad he did because it contained some surprises. First of all, how eminently approachable it was. Part of that might be due to Eknath Easwaran's smooth-as-Jif translation, but the bulk of the credit goes to the story of Arjuna and Krishna's long talk about life, death, good, evil, happiness, despair, rebirth, transcendence of rebirth, and so on.

I'm no fan of introductions, especially those over 70 pages, but Easwaran's succinct background material on India and Hinduism is must reading for getting into the Gita. On top of that, the 18 chapters are preceded by short introductions by Diana Morrison, each providing a road map of where we're about to go. It made the reading that much smoother.

As I read, I was most amazed at the commonalities with other religions -- the emphasis on love, selflessness, service, self-discipline against our own sensual desires. Dead ends, yet oh so tempting in the material, God-less world.

And a God-less world is increasingly scary to consider when you consider all the positives religions have provided in their basic scriptures. As moral compasses, they are amazingly similar, given their disparate histories and geographies and appearances in time.

And now, a few decades later, I can understand the Beatles' (especially George Harrison's) fascination with Krishna. The verses are beautifully written and vaguely familiar. I grew up on Bible verses, and bits like this from Krishna sounded so similar to my ear, which has heard so often the words of Christ:

"That one I love who is incapable of ill will, who is friendly and compassionate. Living beyond the reach of 'I' and 'mine' and of pleasure and pain, patient, contented, self-controlled, firm in faith, with all their heart and all their mind given to me -- with such as these I am in love."

Lovely, yes, and sad, too, knowing there are similar verses in other faiths' books, then reading the front pages of the newspapers and accounts of people, whipped up by "leaders" (both political and "religious" -- accent on quotes) who are intent on hatred and selfishness and division for the advancement of their own pockets and power trips. Perhaps they need to get back to the basics of scriptural texts, too.
Profile Image for Sidharth Vardhan.
Author 23 books685 followers
August 9, 2016
'Just do it and don't hope.'

Rarely can we call a religious book over rated while being sympathetic to the religion itself (all religious books are by definition over rated, that is in their nature); but if there ever was one book that was most over rated it would be this one. The book gained popularity only during British rule.

The book in its narrative smashes together glorifying accounts of Krishna and a wide array of Indian philosophies. With so much of subjects covered, the philosophy of this book is made so flexible and loose that you can read it to draw whatever conclusion you wish to draw.

Arjun's killing of his relatives and Gandhi's path of non-violence - both find justification in the book. You can destroy the world if you do so selflessly. Robert Oppenheimer quoted it (wrongly) while he talked about the decision to drop atom bomb.

'Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.'

The central idea that 'It is duty to act and the results are not to desired' is a good one and as near as truth we can get, when we are worried about success of actions (and is reason for all my stars).

However, as to what actions must be taken (what is right thing to do?), the book is ambiguous.

Krishna's answer to question of ethics is selfless action (there are others discussed too, but this one is most popular and only one I'll discuss). He wants you to do everything that is required of you (i.e., your Dharma, which by the way, is famously said to be 'subtle' somewhere else in Mahabharata) but take no enjoyment in actions. (Drink your whisky but try not to enjoy it.) Anything(good or bad), including murders is forgiven to those who act selflessly.

And what is reward of being good(Krishna's definition)? Gita like all Hindu texts is based on this most pessimistic (and silent) assumption that there is something inherently wrong with world and one must get out of it as quickly as possible - and since God (with capital 'G') is continually recycling our souls, we must find our exit in methods told in the book itself. You follow Krishna's instructions and you are relieved of cruel world.

Still, I suggest reading Gita if you base your life on Karma because chances are you don't understand it - most people take Karma to mean a balance of actions and reactions. Karma is far from Newton's third law; and you are not rewarded according to your actions. You may be a good guy and still suffer and you may be the bastard who own the wall street. Krishna was smart enough for to understand that.

Nowhere Gita says you are center of world and the equations are build around you. It says, much like Adidas, 'Just do it'. In one sentence, we can summarize the whole book as 'Just do it and don't hope.' A nice thing to say if you friend wants to propose his love but not when he is planning to kill her upon being rejected.
Profile Image for Roy Lotz.
Author 1 book8,176 followers
January 12, 2015
This book is really remarkable. Although short, an awful lot of material is covered, laying out a whole worldview in a few pages. On a purely literary level, the Gita is marvelous—striking poetic imagery coupled with an epic frame narrative. There is even some comic-book coolness, like when Krishna reveals his universal form.

On a philosophical level, I was surprised by how familiar the ideas seemed—Krishna is the all-pervading presence from which all bounties flow, distrust sensual pleasures, act out of duty and not gain, etc. This may be partially the translation, and I also might be interpreting this through a specific lens, but these are doctrines easily found in the West. Why, it almost sounds like Christianity! (I say this after reading Confucius’ Analects, which struck me as far more ‘foreign’ in its sensibilities.) In fact, while working through this little book, I was continually reminded of Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura, another sublime and sophisticated philosophical poem.

Another surprising aspect of this book is how readerly it is. Because I knew little about it, I expected the Gita to bear the telltale signs an oral tradition—repetitiveness, flat characters, an absence of philosophical niceties—like the Iliad, Beowulf, and the Old Testament. To the contrary, the Gita is clearly the product of a literate culture, and contains a sophisticated philosophical system.
Profile Image for Olivier Delaye.
Author 2 books212 followers
October 15, 2021
This was a dense albeit intriguing read that, in all honesty, was a bit of a slog to get through. Even after listening to it twice (I know, I tend to do that to myself!), I’m not sure whether I grasped the full meaning of it with all its spiritual/religious ins and outs. And this is coming from a yoga and meditation devotee who’s read the Bible, the Quran, and the Torah. I seldom read poetry but when I do I always try to go for the crème de la crème, and even if the Bhagavad Gita is certainly that, I guess I was just expecting more from it. Like, more enlightenment or something. But, hey, maybe I should give it another go another time, and maybe then I will have a different opinion about it. Books are like people. You can only welcome them into your life when the time is right and you are ready to do so.

EDIT: I did give it another go 4 years later... hence my upgrading it from 3 stars to 4.
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