THE BHAGAVAD GITA

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Bhagavad Gita means “The Song of the Lord”.

It was spoken by Lord Krishna who is considered Bhagavan (the Supreme Personality of Godhead) to his friend Arjuna just prior to the Battle of Kurukshetra. Present day Kurukshetra is located one hundred miles north-west of New Delhi.

It is composed of seven hundred Sanskrit verses, divided into eighteen chapters.

It is often published with commentary as well as the original text. Traditionally commentary was restricted to realised souls (i.e. strict practitioners). Their purpose was to elucidate on the text rather than detract from its original meaning.

It forms part of the Sixth Chapter of the Mahabharata (one of the two Hindu epics and the longest poem in the world, comprised of 100,000 four-line stanzas).

It is part of the smriti (“remembered”) section of Vedic scripture, and, along with the rest of the Mahabharata and the Puranas, comprises what is sometimes called the “fifth Veda”. Some consider it one of the Upanishads, and it therefore also goes by the name Gitopanishad.

Scholars usually attribute its compilation to the first millennium B.C.E., and its present form to as late as 300 C.E. Tradition, however, generally dates the narration, and its compilation, to about 3000 B.C.E., just prior to the onset of Kali-yuga (the present age of hypocrisy and quarrel).

It is the most popular scripture for Hindus in Britain today.

The book is customarily treated with great respect. It is generally neither placed on the floor, nor touched with the feet or dirty hands. Copies are sometimes reverently wrapped in silk cloth.

The Gita (as it is often called) is traditionally used for personal study and group recitation. One or several verses may also form the basis of a pravachan (religious lecture). Verses, particularly from the Second Chapter, are usually recited at the funeral ceremony. Many Hindus will know at least some verses, in Sanskrit as well as in their native tongue, and children are still encouraged to learn them.

Bhagavad Gita is a philosophical treatise, discussing basic concepts such as atman (the soul), Brahman (the Supreme), and samsara (reincarnation). It describes the different paths of liberation, principally karma (action), jnana (knowledge) and bhakti (devotion). Although there are many interpretations of the text, most scholars acknowledge the pre-eminent position Shree Krishna gives to the process of bhakti.

Suggestions for Using Bhagavad Gita As It Is in Schools and Colleges.

The following suggestions may be useful to teachers, older pupils and higher-education students. Though the first section refers specifically to the Bhagavad Gita As It Is (hardcover), the references will naturally be appropriate to any version of the book.

Bhagavad Gita As It Is is available from ISKCON Educational Services at the address shown overleaf.

Useful Features of the Bhagavad Gita As It Is

A concise précis of each chapter (c.f. Contents)
A useful summary of the Mahabharata (c.f. Setting the Scene page xiii)
The purports to the first and final verses may also be useful for contextualising the message of the Gita.
Fourteen colour plates, illustrating the text.
Original Sanskrit script (called Devanagari – the language spoken in the cities of the Demigods).
Roman transliterations and a pronunciation guide.
Index (some editions), glossary and an index of Sanskrit verses.

Chapter and Verse References

Only the most important concepts and topics, along with the main references, are included below. For a more comprehensive list, please consult the Index.

Atma (soul) 2.12, 2.13, 2.20, 2.23, 5.18
Avatar (“descent”) 4.7-8
Bhakti (devotion) 5.7, 9.14, 9.26-34, 10.8-11, 18.55, 18.65
Brahman (spirit) 8.3, 13.14, 14.26-27
Deva (demigods) 7.20-23, 9.25
Dharma (duty, religion, etc.) 2.4, 3.8-25, 8.7, 18.47, 18.66
Guna (the three qualities) 14.5-20
Guru (spiritual teacher) 2.7, 4.34
Ishvara (God) 7.7-12, 9.4-10, 10.12, 11.18
Jnana (knowledge) 4.34-42, 9.2, 18.19-22
Karma (work) 4.19, 8.3, 18.12
Maya/ Moha (illusion) 2.7, 3.27, 18.73
Moksha/ Mukti (liberation) 2.15, 3.9, 5.26, 8.11-16, 12.6-7, 13.24, 15.6
Sampradaya (disciplic succession) 4.1-2
Samsara (reincarnation) 2.13, 2.22, 2.27, 8.6, 14.14-15, 15.7-11
Varna (caste, social divisions) 2.31, 3.35, 4.13, 18.41-44
Yoga (communion) 2.61, 6.11-47
Death/ Bereavement 2.11, 2.30, 8.6, 8.23-28
Family 1.39-43
Food/ Fasting 3.13, 17.7-10
Meditation 6.19, 6.20-23, 6.26, 8.8-15
Natural World/ Creation 7.4-5, 7.8-11, 9.7-8, 10.8, 10.18-41, 15.12-15
Self-realisation 2.54-72, 5.9-29, 6.20-23, 12.13-20
Symbols (Om, lotus) 5.10, 8.13, 10.25
Time 8.17, 11.32
Values 13.8-12, 16.1-3, 16.21
Worship 4.12, 7.20-23, 9.25-26, 9.34, 17.4