The Gita is a doctrine of universal truth. Its message is universal, sublime, and non-sectarian although it is a part of the scriptural trinity of Sanātana Dharma, commonly known as Hinduism. The Gita is very easy to understand in any language for a mature mind. A repeated reading with faith will reveal all the sublime ideas contained in it. A few abstruse statements are interspersed here and there, but they have no direct bearing on practical issues or the central theme of Gita. The Gita deals with the most sacred metaphysical science. It imparts the knowledge of the Self and answers two universal questions: Who am I, and how can I lead a happy and peaceful life in this world of dualities? It is a book of yoga, the moral and spiritual growth for mankind, based on the cardinal principles of Hindu religion.
The message of the Gita came to humanity because of Arjuna’s unwillingness to do his duty as a warrior because fighting involved destruction and killing. Nonviolence or Ahimsā is one of the most fundamental tenets of Hinduism. All lives, human or non-human, are sacred. This immortal discourse between the Supreme Lord, Krishna, and His devotee-friend, Arjuna, occurs not in a temple, a secluded forest, or on a mountain top but on a battlefield on the eve of a war and is recorded in the great epic, Mahābhārata. In the Gita Lord Krishna advises Arjuna to get up and fight. This may create a misunderstanding of the principles of Ahimsā if the background of the war of Mahābhārata is not kept in mind. Therefore, a brief historical description is in order.
In ancient times there was a king who had two sons, Dhritarāshtra and Pāndu. The former was born blind; therefore, Pāndu inherited the kingdom. Pāndu had five sons. They were called the Pāndavas. Dhritarāshtra had one hundred sons. They were called the Kauravs. Duryodhana was the eldest of the Kauravas.
After the death of king Pāndu the Pāndavas became the lawful king. Duryodhana was a very jealous person. He also wanted the kingdom. The kingdom was divided into two halves between the Pāndavas and the Kauravas.
Duryodhana was not satisfied with his share of the kingdom. He wanted the entire kingdom for himself. He unsuccessfully planned several foul plays to kill the Pāndavas and take away their kingdom. He unlawfully took possession of the entire kingdom of the Pāndavas and refused to give back even an acre of land without a war. All mediation by Lord Krishna and others failed. The big war of Mahābhārata was thus inevitable. The Pāndavas were unwilling participants. They had only two choices: fight for their right as a matter of duty or run away from war and accept defeat in the name of peace and nonviolence. Arjuna, one of the five Pāndava brothers, faced the dilemma in the battlefield whether to fight or run away from war for the sake of peace.
Arjuna’s dilemma is, in reality, the universal dilemma. Every human being faces dilemmas, big and small, in their everyday life when performing their duties. Arjuna’s dilemma was the biggest of all. He had to make a choice between fighting the war and killing his most revered guru, very dear friends, close relatives, and many innocent warriors, or running away from the battlefield for the sake of preserving the peace and nonviolence. The entire seven hundred verses of the Gita is a discourse between Lord Krishna and the confused Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra near New Delhi, India, in about 3,100 years BCE. This discourse was narrated to the blind king, Dhritarāshtra, by his charioteer, Sanjaya, as an eye-witness war report.
The central teaching of the Gita is the attainment of freedom or happiness from the bondage of life by doing one’s duty. Always remember the glory and greatness of the creator, and do your duty efficiently without being attached to or affected by the results, even if that duty may at times demand unavoidable violence. Some people neglect or give up their duty in life for the sake of a spiritual life while others excuse themselves from spiritual practices because they believe that they have no time. The Lord’s message is to sanctify the entire living process itself. Whatever a person does or thinks ought to be done for the glory and satisfaction of the Maker. No effort or cost is necessary for this process. Do your duty as a service to the Lord and humanity and see God alone in everything in a spiritual frame of mind. In order to gain such a spiritual frame of mind, personal discipline, austerity, penance, good conduct, selfless service, yogic practices, meditation, worship, prayer, rituals, and study of scriptures, as well as the company of holy persons, pilgrimage, chanting of the holy names of God, and Self inquiry are needed to purify the body, mind, and intellect. One must learn to give up lust, anger, greed, and establish mastery over the six senses (hearing, touch, sight, taste, smell, and mind) by the purified intellect. One should always remember that all works are done by the energy of nature and that he or she is not the doer but only an instrument. One must strive for excellence in all undertakings but remain calm in success and failure, gain and loss, and pain and pleasure.
The ignorance of metaphysical knowledge is humanity’s greatest predicament. A scripture, being the voice of transcendence, cannot be translated. Language is incapable and translations are defective to clearly impart the knowledge of the Absolute. In this rendering, an attempt has been made to make it easy to read and understand. We have tried to improve the clarity by adding words or phrases within parentheses in the English translation of the verses. The translations of one hundred and thirty-three (133) key verses are printed in underlined bold for the convenience of beginners. We suggest that all our readers ponder, contemplate, and act upon these verses. The beginners and the busy executives should first read and understand the meaning of these key verses before delving deep into the bottomless ocean of transcendental knowledge of the Gita. It is said that there is no human mind that cannot be purified by the repeated study of the Gita --- just one chapter a day. This book is dedicated to all my gurus whose blessings, grace, and teachings have been invaluable. It is offered to the greatest Guru, Lord Krishna, with love and devotion. May the Lord bless those who repeatedly read this with peace, happiness, and the true knowledge of the self