The Bhagavad Gita, translated as “Song of God” in English, is one of the most important Hindu Sanskrit scripture (Saunders, 1928). A well-regarded text of Hinduism, Bhagavad Gita is also considered as one of the most essential religious scriptures in history. The text is a component of the Mahabharata that comprises 700 words (Sinha 1987). Bhagavad Gita’s greatest guru is Krishna, also known as Bhagavan or the Divine One, is revered by the Hindus as the highest expression pf the Lord Himself. Bhagavad Gita is commonly known as The Gita (Saunders, 1928).
The Gita is mainly conversations of Krishna and Arjuna that took placed before the start of Kurukshetra war. Arjuna is confused and having moral dilemma because of the war. Using the philosophies of Yoga and Vedanta, Arjuna’s duties as a warrior and prince were explained to him by Krishna. This made the Gita as being considered as a brief guide to the philosophy of Hinduism (Zaehner, 1966). During the conversation, the identity of Krishna was revealed as the Supreme Being Himself and blessed Arjuna with the vision of Krishna’s divine universal form (Sinha 1987).
Because the Bhagavad Gita is a Upanishad or a Vedantic text, it is also called as Gitopanishad and Yogopanishad. It is also included in the Smriti scriptures because it is drawn from the Mahabharata. It is sometimes referred as a mokshahsatra or text of liberation for in deals with fixed paths to emancipation (Sinha 1987).
Gita is believed to exist in the pre-Christian era. However, the date and the author of the text are not identified to assurance. Bhagavad Gita can be found in the 25th to 42nd chapter of Mahabharata. Because of this, the authorship of Gita is credited to the known compiler of Mahabharata, Vyasa. Numbers of scholars believed that it is between fifth century and second century B.C. that the scripture is written. The teachings of Hinduism are passed through generations, encompassing thousands of years, orally. That is why scholars strongly believed that the text of Bhagavad Gita is much older before it was written to paper (Zaehner, 1966).
Bhagavad Gita started before the commencement of the battle at Kurukshetra. The Pandava prince, confused and full of doubts, asks his guide Krishna for suggestion. The whole text of Bhagavad Gita can be summarized into the enlightenment of five basic concepts or “truths.” These are the Ishvara or The Supreme Controller, Jiva or the soul, Praktri or matter, dharma or duty and kala or time (Sinha 1987).
Krishna advices Arjuna on the importance of dharma or the universal harmony and duty. He starts his advice by saying that ‘death’ on the war only involves the falling of the mortal body, but what is important is that the soul is permanent. Krishna discusses that atman or the soul is immortal and everlasting. Arjuna desires to stop the battle to refrain from action. But Krishna cautions that if there is no action, this will lead to the fall of the cosmos and will be out of order, resulting to the obscurity of the truth (Sinha 1987).
To further expound his point, Krishna explains the numerous methods of Yoga. He also argues that a person should have a deeper understanding of the true nature of the universe. Most importantly Bhagavad Gita puts forward that the true enlightenment arrives from nurturing further than the worldly personal ego and the “False Self”. Through this, one will be able to identify himself with the ‘immortal self,” the supreme soul or Atman. Only when a person is detached from hi worldly personal ego, he can transcend and enter into the kingdom of the Supreme (Sinha 1987).
A practitioner should also be reminded that Krishna does not mean to forget or neglect the physical world in order to transcend. In reality, Krishna proposes that a person should live his physical life following the superior laws and paths of life. One should always put into consideration the effects of every action he/she is doing. Every service a person is doing should not be in consideration of something else but doing it towards a life of happiness, contentment and finally, enlightenment (Sinha 1987).
Krishna grants Arjuna a temporary celestial vision to show his divine state. Krishna shows that he is both the ultimate form of Being and the material form called Vishvarupa. The war in Bhagavad Gita was refered by Krishna as the “Darma Yuddha” or the righteous war for the achieving justice (Sinha 1987).
Although there are religions that separated but originated from Hinduism, they are still common on major themes of Hinduism such as Dharma, Samsara, Karma, Moksha and various forms of Yoga. Bhagavad Gita influenced the notion of God of Hinduism. Hindu God is known as Vishnu, describes as Krishna in Vaishnava (Zaehner, 1966).
Hindus also strongly believes in karma as describe in some phrases in Bhagavad Gita. It is commonly known as the ethical law of cause and effect that consists of actions, works or deeds. Karma connects mutually the ideas of free will and destiny. Every action done correspond impressions or sanskaras. These impressions will be retained by a person after death, and will be carried over into his/her next life. This is now the concept of reincarnation of one’s qualities, traits and characteristics (Zaehner, 1966).
Some of the acts defined by the Bhagavad Gita are being practiced nowadays by modern Hindu. Part of the daily rituals by some Hindu usually starts by worshiping before bathing. They also recite scriptures, chant mantras, meditate and sing devotional songs (Saunders, 1928).
The Gita also gives insights on Yoga. It defines Yoga as a personal view detached from worldly things. The Gita articulates the disunity among the physical senses and the insight of cosmic order. In the framework of Bhagavad Gita, Yoga is a united point of view, peace of mind, ability in action and the skill to keep accustomed to the wonder of the Self and the Supreme Being (Zaehner, 1966). Krishna said that the roots of all human sufferings and disunity are the disturbance of the mind produced by egotistic and material desire. He only proposed that in order to emancipate from worldly desire, a person should continuously restraint the mind and take on an elevated form of action. A person should free his mind from its complexities and learn to focus on the magnificence of the Self (Johnson 1994).
The ancient and religious text of Bhagavad Gita will still be one of the most important scripture of our history. Whether be taken as a historical or religious account, the teachings of the text stand through time and had already influenced millions of people around the globe. Although still debated upon the origins and authenticity of the Gita, the scripture is indeed a major thread on oriental philosophy. Failure to read and understand the basics of Bhagavad Gita is a major failure for a student studying philosophy.
Johnson, W. (1994) The Bhagavad Gita. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Saunders, K. (1928) The Gospel for Asia: A Study of Three Religious Masterpieces Gita,
Lotus, and Fourth Gospel. New York: Macmillan.
Sinha, P. (1987). The Gita as It Was: Rediscovering the Original Bhagavadgita. La Salle, IL:
Zaehner, R. (1966) Hinduism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.