All glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga
Observing the Armies
also known as
The Dejection of Arjuna
When the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna placed the chariot between the opposing armies, Arjuna, seeing his family members, friends, relatives and revered teachers all ready to do battle and sacrifice their lives, was exceedingly moved to pity. Failing in strength, his mind bewildered, his body trembling and losing hold of his famed bow ‘Gandiva’ he fell victim to a great despondency of spirit and sat down on his chariot in deep melancholy, having lost the will to fight.
Useful Acronym to remember the chapter contents:
The spiritual journey usually starts with a doubt. Over the years, our friends, family, society and the media paint the perfect picture of “success” and we subsequently shape our lives in determined pursuance of it. At a certain point, however, we begin to doubt whether that “perfect life” is achievable or will actually make us happy. We begin to question the materialistic goals, aspirations and milestones of success that have become deeply ingrained within us. Could there be some deeper purpose to life? While this initial doubt can often bring great uncertainty and confusion, it can also bring us to the start of our spiritual journey. It is this very doubt that Arjuna expresses at the onset
of this sacred conversation.
D Dhritarashtra & Duryodhana
O Ominous result
T Turning point
D - Dhritarashtra & Duryodhana (Verses 1-12) – Innumerable soldiers have assembled on the battlefield of Kurukshetra due to the obstinacy and deep-rooted material aspirations of these two characters, bent on usurping their cousins’ kingdom. Sitting in his palace, King Dhritarashtra inquires about the latest events on the battlefield, while his son Duryodhana is busy firing up his army as it prepares for fratricidal war. Dhritarashtra is physically blind, but he and his son are also blinded by greed, envy and material desire. When the individual starts to think in terms of “I, me and mine”, primarily interested in selfish gain and personal aggrandizement, then anxiety, frustration and disappointment are inevitable. Unfortunately, one who is materially entangled becomes oblivious to the ill-effects of his actions.
O - Ominous result (Verses 13-20) - Despite Duryodhana’s boastful words, the ominous result of this confrontation is made clear from the onset. Too many signs indicate his inevitable defeat. Those who stand on the side of purity and righteousness are always victorious, regardless of whether the worldly odds seem stacked against them. One who is a carrier of goodness is never overcome by evil.
U - Uncertainty (Verses 21-27) - Despite knowing that he defends virtue, Arjuna is still uncertain about fighting his opponents, who are also his relatives. The chariots are readied, arrows are drawn, battle cries are sounded, but Arjuna wants to take a final look at the armies. He requests Krishna, who assumes the role of his charioteer, to drive to the middle of the battlefield so he can satisfy his curiosity. To his credit, despite the intensity of the situation, Arjuna takes time to reflect. Life may be crammed with responsibilities and pressing issues, but attendance to such demands should not be at the expense of quality spiritual introspection. Unfortunately, the chronic disease of modern
man is the excuse of “no time” when it comes to such soul-searching.
B - Bewilderment (Verses 28-30) – Foreseeing the imminent suffering and death that is the inevitable consequence of war, Arjuna begins to analyse his predicament. At this stage, bereft of broader spiritual vision, his uncertainty intensifies and he becomes bewildered. When one lacks an understanding of his spiritual identity, his relationship with God, and the critical purpose behind this world, one inevitably becomes disturbed and frustrated by life’s challenges.
T - Turning point (Verses 31-42) – Arjuna justifies his decision to retreat from fighting: 1) It would be cruel and heartless to prematurely terminate the lives of so many soldiers; 2) Even an unrivalled kingdom would bring no happiness, since he’d be bereft of the company of his near and dear ones; 3) One would surely accrue sinful reaction as a result of such brutal violence; 4) The wholesale killing involved would destroy the family unit and social structure, causing havoc for future generations. Thus, his mind overwhelmed by grief, Arjuna sets aside his weapons and resolves not to fight.
Questions on Chapter 1
Bhagavad-gita: The Hidden Treasure of the Sweet Absolute
With commentary of Srila B.R Sridhar Maharaj Sanskrit and English
Bhagavad- Gita As it Is
Translation and commentary by Srila AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj Prabhupad
Srila BS Govinda Maharaj chanting the Bhagavad-gita in the original Sanskrit
I wish to acknowledge the use of the acronyms in this guide as taught to me by Sutapa Das of ISKCON
Chapter 1 sloka to learn:
dharma-kṣetre kuru-kṣetre samavetā yuyutsavaḥ
māmakāḥ pāṇḍavāś chaiva kim akurvata sañjaya 
dhṛtarāṣṭraḥ uvācha–Dhṛtarāṣṭra said: (he) sañjaya–O Sañjaya; dharma-kṣetre kuru-kṣetre–at the holy land of Kurukṣetra; māmakāḥ–Duryodhan and party; pāṇḍavāḥ cha–and Yudhiṣṭhir and party; samavetāḥ–who assembled; yuyutsavaḥ–desirous of battle; eva–thereafter; akurvata kim–did what? 
1 Dhṛtarāṣṭra said: O Sañjaya, what happened when my sons and the sons of Pāṇḍu assembled for battle at the holy place of Kurukṣetra?
The Constitution of the Soul
also known as
Contents of the Gita Summarised
Seeing Arjuna dispirited and dejected, the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna encouraged him saying that his despondency was due to his over-attachment to his kith and kin, elders and preceptors. Understanding this he should give up his weakness of heart and rise to the occasion. Helpless and bewildered, Arjuna surrenders himself fully at the feet of the Lord and prays for enlightenment as to his duty at this critical juncture. The Lord being compassionate to his friend advises him to lament neither for the living or the dead because the soul, which is immortal is completely distinct from the perishable body. Krishna goes on to explain about the individual soul (jivatma) and the Supersoul (Paramatma). Arjuna and all the others assembled on the battlefield are individual souls and He, the Supreme Lord Krishna, is the Supersoul or Paramatma. All have existed eternally and will continue to exist in future as they have existed in the past and exist now. The jivatma is an atomic part and parcel of the Paramatma. The duty of the jivatma in its free state is to worship and serve the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna with unalloyed devotion, while to duties of the jivatma in its bound state are prescribed in the Scriptures according to his acquired nature and qualities. This system is known as Varnashram-dharma. Then for one who’s nature in this world is that of a warrior (Ksatriya) to fight for a righteous cause is the most beneficial course of action. To do one’s duty selflessly is called Niskama-karma-yoga. When all self-serving desire is eliminated and the mind is free from the bondage of the world, the soul attains Brahma-nirvana or complete liberation in the spirit. When situated in such a state free from mental speculation and filled with self –bliss he is known as Sthita-prajna or having attained true serenity. Such a soul has full mastery over his senses and when he becomes enlightened by the transcendental knowledge of his eternal relationship with the Lord, thirst to enjoy this world automatically ceases.
Useful Acronym to remember the chapter contents:
The second chapter, entitled Sankhya Yoga, “The constitution of the Soul” or “Contents of the Gita summarised”, is a succinct overview of the entire philosophy. Arjuna approaches Krishna in a mood of humility and desperation, prompting Krishna to present the most fundamental aspect of spiritual wisdom. Krishna then explains the practical application of such wisdom, and concludes by delineating the symptoms of one who has fully realised such truths. In this way Krishna summarises the spiritual journey from beginning to end. In one sense, however, there is no “end” to the spiritual journey because this is the point at which real life begins.
T Two Duties
G – Guru (Verses 1-10) - Determined not to fight, but simultaneously torn and confused, Arjuna approaches Krishna. “I am in dire need of guidance,” he humbly submits, “please enlighten me so I can mitigate my miserable condition.” Through Arjuna’s example we learn the first fundamental step in spirituality; one must approach a guru who comes in an authentic lineage of teachers and who has mastered the spiritual art. Most things in life require guidance and instruction under a qualified teacher and the spiritual discipline is no different. One may argue that everything they require for their spirituality is contained within, and while this may be true, we still require help to reawaken that pure inner consciousness. As the saying goes, “One who accepts
himself as a guru, accepts a fool for a disciple!”
I - Identity (Verses 11-30) - Krishna begins by teaching Arjuna the most fundamental understanding of spiritual life; as the driver operates a car or as the bird lives in a cage, we, the spirit soul, are similarly utilising his body. Although living within the body, we are simultaneously different from it, temporarily operating it to perform activities, fulfil our desires and interact with the world around us. Until we realise our true identity as spirit soul, we undergo the process of reincarnation, accepting unnatural material bodies and the subsequent sufferings and distresses of life in this material world. This is the first teaching that the guru imparts; knowledge of who we really are. While it may seem elementary and basic, such wisdom has seldom been understood and truly realised. This answer to the eternal question of “who am I?” can set the soul free. It is an answer that is worth hearing again and again.
T - Two Duties (Verses 31-53) - One may then ask how such knowledge practically affects our day-to-day life in the “real” world. Krishna addresses this by delineating the two essential duties of the jiva-soul. Dharma loosely translates as “duty” but in a deeper sense refers to intrinsic characteristics and qualities of something that cannot be avoided, neglected or negated under any circumstance. Firstly, the soul has a sva-dharma, a worldly duty which consists of responsibilities towards family, friends and society. Secondly, the soul has a sanatana-dharma, an eternal spiritual duty which comprises of one’s relationship with God, nature and all spirit souls. One must execute such dharma side-by-side. Many individuals neglect their sanatana-dharma, becoming too preoccupied with their sva-dharma. On the other extreme, individuals can prematurely reject their sva-dharma and falsely try to absorb themselves in sanatana-dharma. The most progressive path is to be fully alert to both duties, and in doing so lead a happy and balanced material and spiritual life.
A - Atmarama (Verses 54-72) - What is the result for someone who performs such duties with determination and enthusiasm? Such a person becomes an atmarama - a spiritually realised soul who finds pleasure in the self. Krishna explains how the atmarama is unaffected by happiness or distress, gain or loss, honour or dishonour. Transcending the dualities of this world, such a spiritualist rids himself of qualities such as fear, attachment, and anger, and remains absorbed in spiritual delight and transcendental consciousness.
Questions on Chapter 2
Chapter 2 slokas to learn:
na tv evāhaṁ jātu nāsaṁ na tvaṁ neme janādhipāḥ
na chaiva na bhaviṣyāmaḥ sarve vayam ataḥ param 
(iti) tu na eva–It is not a fact that; aham–I; na āsam–did not exist; jātu–ever before; (iti) na–nor is it that; tvam na–you did not exist; (iti na)–nor is it that; ime janādhipāḥ–all these kings; na–did not exist; cha–and; (iti na) eva–nor is it that; sarve vayam na bhaviṣyāmaḥ–we will all no longer exist; ataḥ param–hereafter. 
12 Never was there a time when you, I, or all these kings did not exist. Just as we exist in the present, so have we existed in the past, and shall continue to exist in the future.
dehino ’smin yathā dehe kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā
tathā dehāntara-prāptir dhīras tatra na muhyati 
yathā–As; asmin dehe–in this body; dehinaḥ–of the embodied living being; kaumāram–childhood; yauvanam–youth; jarā–and old age; (bhavati)–occur; tathā–so also; deha-antara prāptiḥ–the attainment of yet another body; (bhavati)–occurs. dhīraḥ–The wise; na muhyati–are not deluded; tatra–by that. 
13 As the living being passes through the bodily changes of childhood, youth, and old age, it similarly attains another body at death. The wise are not deluded by this.
mātrā-sparśās tu kaunteya śītoṣṇa-sukha-duḥkha-dāḥ
āgamāpāyino ’nityās tāṁs titikṣasva bhārata 
(he) kaunteya–O Arjuna, son of Kuntī; mātrā-sparśāḥ tu–material contact—the engagement of the senses with their objects; śīta-uṣṇa-sukha-duḥkha-dāḥ–produces cold and heat, pleasure and pain sensations. (te) āgama-apāyinaḥ–These come and go; anityāḥ–and are temporary. (ataḥ)–Therefore; (he) bhārata–O Arjuna; titikṣasva–endure; tān–them. 
14 O son of Kuntī, the engagement of the senses with their objects produces the sensations of cold, heat, pleasure, and pain. But these effects are temporary—they come and go. Therefore, O Bhārat, you must endure them.
The Path of Action
Everyone is born for a life of activity, actions done for the pleasure of Vishnu, the Supreme Lord, without any selfish motive do not bind a person to the world. For those who are self-contented and self- controlled, no action is necessary but for those who are still striving to master their mind and senses then action is unavoidable. In this case one should practice selfless action. Deluded by the ego and under the influence of Maya or illusion, the bound soul considers himself the doer of actions which are in reality carried out by the three-fold qualities of nature (satva, rajas and tamas or goodness, passion and ignorance). In this deluded consciousness one is attached to the fruits of action considering they are his due. But when one dedicates all of his actions to the Lotus Feet of the Supreme Lord without desiring any fruit thereof, he attains perfection. This is also known as Niskama-karma-yoga. Such a state of pure consciousness is not attainable by those who are driven by sensual desire. Either love or hatred of any sense perception is a great obstacle to realising the self and God. Sensual experience must be tempered by Yukta-vairagya or properly adjusted application of everything and person towards the service of the Supreme Lord with no self-serving motive. Desire is manifest through the senses but the mind is superior to the senses and superior to the mind is the intelligence or reasoning faculty. Superior to the intelligence is the soul and superior to the soul is the Supersoul. Knowing this one should learn to control his mind with the help of pure intelligence and conquer his sensual desires using the sword of transcendental knowledge. Lust is the most dangerous and subtle enemy of man. To defeat this enemy one should be well-armed with sambanda-jnana or the transcendental knowledge of the self, of Godhead and of Maya or illusion and their inter-relationship. The greatest and most precious gift given by God to the soul (jivatma) is free will. The proper use of free will grants us the opportunity of becoming free from the world and attaining our ultimate liberation while misuse of our free will is the cause of our bondage and ultimate descent into the misery of a hellish consciousness.
Useful Acronym to remember the chapter contents:
A tree produces many fruits, but selflessly offers them to others. All year round, the tree dutifully offers shade and shelter regardless of mistreatment by man or animal. Even when a tree is cut, it grows back with determination and strength, ready to serve the world again. The life and qualities of a tree give us profound insight into the art of living in this world while simultaneously remaining completely aloof. Chapter Three defines the practice of karma-yoga — the technique of achieving spiritual connection with God through our daily work. Describing the life of a true karma-yogi, the Bible also affirms, “Be in the world but not of the world”
T Tyaga (Renunciation)
R Rungs (on the Yoga Ladder)
E Enemy of the soul
T – Tyaga (Renunciation) (Verses 1-9) – At first, Arjuna displays the typical confusion of an immature spiritualist. He thinks spirituality means retirement from active life and the adoption of asceticism in strict seclusion. Often, the easiest response in times of difficulty is one of escapism. Worldly life entails awkward dealings with money, possessions, people and career to name but a few. How can such a lifestyle be compatible with spiritual goals? Krishna explains that true renunciation does not entail a mere abandonment of worldly duties. True renunciation is to give up the mentality that one is the “controller” and “enjoyer” of all his deeds. Thus, by offering the results of one’s daily work (money, knowledge, influence etc.) to God, knowing God to be the ultimate enjoyer and controller, one achieves a real state of renunciation.
R – Rungs (on the Yoga Ladder) (Verses 10-16) – To work without any selfish motivation whatsoever is undoubtedly an advanced stage of spiritual realisation. Thus, Krishna explains how to progress to such a level. He describes a “yoga ladder” with different rungs which represent progressively higher levels of understanding. On the lowest level an individual is solely interested in materialistic enjoyment and has no spiritual inclination. One stage higher is karma-kanda, where one still desires materialistic enjoyment but now tries to achieve it via religious observances. When one realises the futility of material enjoyment they progress to sakama-karma-yoga, where one begins to offer a portion of his results to God but still maintains some selfish motivation. At the next stage of niskama-karma-yoga one accepts whatever necessities he requires to maintain himself and offers everything else to God. Those who progress to this level of spirituality break free from all karmic implication and become peaceful and liberated.
E – Exemplary (Verses 17-35) - Thus, karma-yoga is outlined as the practical process by which one overcomes his material attachments through working in the world. So what about one who has achieved perfection through karma-yoga? Do they need to continue working? Can they retire and simply meditate on God now that they are free of all selfish motivation? Krishna explains how perfected spiritualists continue working in the world for the sole purpose of setting the proper example for others to follow and be inspired by.
E – Enemy of the soul (Verses 36-43) - After hearing about this practical and logical process, the natural reaction is an enthusiastic resolve to dedicate oneself to it. But Arjuna asks Krishna, “In life, even though I know the best course of action, what is it that impels me time and time again to act improperly and against my good intelligence?” Krishna then explains the root cause of this phenomenon is the eternal enemy of the aspiring spiritualist - lust! The inherent quality of the soul is to love; to selflessly serve without any personal agenda. However, when the soul descends to this world that pure love perverts into lust, and one ceaselessly tries to enjoy in a self-centred way without proper regard for others. The way of lust impels one to seek immediate gratification and abandon activities that actually benefit them. In this way, lust cheats one of a progressive and happy life and offers only meagre, instantaneous and temporary gratification in return.
Questions on Chapter 3
Chapter 3 slokas to learn:
tasmād asaktaḥ satataṁ kāryaṁ karma samāchara
asakto hy ācharan karma param āpnoti pūruṣaḥ 
tasmāt–Therefore; asaktaḥ (san)–being unattached to the fruits of your actions; satatam–always; samāchara–perfectly perform; kāryam karma–prescribed duties; hi–since; karma ācharan–by performing these duties; asaktaḥ–without attachment; pūruṣaḥ–a person; āpnoti–attains; param–liberation, param-bhakti—pure devotion. 
19 So perform your prescribed duties without attachment. By selflessly executing one’s duties a person attains liberation. (True liberation is the state of pure devotion, attained in the maturity of selfless action.)
prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
ahaṅkāra-vimūḍhātmā kartāham iti manyate 
karmāṇi–Actions; kriyamāṇāni–are effected; sarvaśaḥ–in all ways; guṇaiḥ–(by the senses, impelled) by the modes; prakṛteḥ–of material nature; (tu)–but; ahaṅkāra-vimūḍha-ātmā–one deluded by bodily ego; manyate iti–thinks thus; aham kartā–“I am the doer.” 
27 All actions in the world are in every respect effected by the modes of material nature (which impel the senses). But a man deluded by bodily identification thinks, “I alone am accomplishing this work.”
kāma eṣa krodha eṣa rajoguṇa-samudbhavaḥ
mahāśano mahā-pāpmā viddhy enam iha vairiṇam 
śrī-bhagavān uvācha–The Supreme Lord said: eṣaḥ kāmaḥ–It is this desire to enjoy the mundane; eṣaḥ krodhaḥ–transformed into anger. rajo-guṇa-samudbhavaḥ–It arises from the mode of passion, and from that desire, blind anger is born. viddhi enam–Know such desire to be; mahā-aśanaḥ–never satisfied; mahā-pāpmā–greatly wrathful; vairiṇam–and the worst enemy of the living being; iha–in this world. 
37 The Supreme Lord replied: It is the desire to enjoy the mundane that induces a person to commit sin, and in different situations it produces anger. It is utterly insatiable, extremely malicious, and the worst enemy of the living being in this world.
The Path of Knowledge
When religion has been corrupted and irreligion prevails in the name of religion and when the saintly are persecuted by the wicked for propagating the path of Divine Love, the Supreme Lord Krishna advents Himself in the mundane world, to protect his devotees, vanquish the demonic and re-establish true religion. Those who are fortunate to realise His advent and His pastimes to be fully Divine are released from the bonds of Maya and are not born again. By acquiring true knowledge of the self and of Godhead, a person becomes purified, his desire to enjoy the world dissolves, his devotion to the Lord is established as he takes absolute shelter of Him and he attains unalloyed spiritual bliss in the plane of Divinity. The Lord reciprocates with His devotee in proportion to the degree of his surrender. Jnana-yoga or the spiritual knowledge of the relationship between the jiva soul and the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna, Reality the Beautiful, brings about freedom from all sins and destroys the pollution of selfish action. This transcendental knowledge is acquired by those who have realised the Absolute Truth by submissive spirit, honest enquiry and obedient temperament. It ends all doubt, prejudice and ignorance and establishes one in the plane of real liberation. There is nothing more holy than transcendental knowledge of the self and the Supreme Lord and this knowledge is the fruit of niskama-karma-yoga. When performed with firm faith, controlled senses and steadfast attachment to Lord Krishna, one ultimately attains to eternal bliss.
Useful Acronym to remember the chapter contents:
Spiritual knowledge is known as sruti – “that which is heard”. In bygone ages, people would hear such knowledge, remember it, assimilate it, and perfectly communicate it to the next person without any adulteration. Chapter Four is entitled “The Path of Knowledge” for it is this knowledge which outlines how one can establish their divine connection with God. The famous Vedic aphorism thus encourages, “Aim to see God through the ears rather than the eyes’.
E Eternal education
A Accurate Understanding
R Removing Reactions
E - Eternal education (Verses 1-10) - Just as every gadget comes with an instruction manual, this entire universe comes with guidelines which enlighten one about its purpose and function. Such guidelines are found in the ancient scriptures, which contain knowledge of divine origin, imparted at the time of creation. Krishna explains how this eternal educational system was originally set up by Him. This system perpetuates in the universe through qualified and saintly persons, who impart spiritual knowledge to the masses in a dynamic, relevant and practical way. Thus, the material creation is essentially a university wherein we rediscover our relationship with God. As the creator and
maintainer, Krishna periodically appears in the world to re-inject spirituality, remove materialistic influences and ensure the smooth functioning of the universe.
A - Accurate Understanding (Verses 11-15) - Most people know something about religion, and something about God, but their understanding can often be quite hazy and confused. However, when transcendental knowledge is received through the eternal educational system one gains an accurate understanding. In three verses, Krishna clears up three common misunderstandings of Eastern spirituality. Verse 11 addresses the misconception that all spiritual paths lead to the same destination – Krishna explains that while there is unity in diversity, there are also different gradations of spiritual elevation. Verse 12 addresses the misconception that Eastern scriptures talk of polytheism and the worship of many “gods” - Krishna re-emphasises the monotheistic stance that there is only one God. Verse 13 addresses the concern that the caste system is unfair and exploitative - Krishna
outlines the true criteria and purpose of such classification.
R – Removing Reactions (Verses 16-24) - While transcendental knowledge helps one to clear up philosophical doubts, it also helps one to clear up their “karmic bank balance”. Karma is a universal law of nature – for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. While “bad karma” is obviously undesirable, Krishna further explains that even “good karma” should be avoided since it also binds one to material existence. Beyond good and bad are activities performed on the spiritual platform, that is, action which yields no material reaction and ultimately frees one from the anxieties and entanglements of this world. Such action is known as akarma.
S – Sacrifice (Verses 25-42) - In order to acquire, understand and realise transcendental knowledge one must make a sacrifice. While material knowledge is dependent on calibre, spiritual knowledge is dependent upon character. Sacrifices help refine one’s character so they become eligible to achieve this knowledge. One of the biggest sacrifices is to relinquish one’s pride by humbly submitting oneself before the bona fide Guru. By faithful service and sincere enquiry within such a relationship, the heart becomes fertile ground for spiritual knowledge to blossom.
Questions on Chapter 4
Chapter 4 slokas to learn:
yadā yadā hi dharmasya glānir bhavati bhārata
abhyutthānam adharmasya tadātmānaṁ sṛjāmy aham 
(he) bhārata–O Arjuna; yadā yadā hi–whenever; glāniḥ–a decline; dharmasya–of religion; (cha)–and; abhyutthānam–an uprising; adharmasya–of irreligion; bhavati–occurs; tadā–then; aham sṛjāmi–I appear, seemingly like a being born in this world—I make My advent; ātmānam–Myself. 
7 O Bhārata, whenever there is a decline of religion and an uprising of irreligion, I personally make My advent.
paritrāṇāya sādhūnāṁ vināśāya cha duṣkṛtām
dharma-saṁsthāpanārthāya sambhavāmi yuge yuge 
paritrāṇāya–For the deliverance; sādhūnām–of saintly devotees; (tathā)–and; vināśāya–for the vanquishing; duṣkṛtām–of miscreants; saṁsthāpana-arthāya cha–and for firmly establishing; dharma–dhyān (meditation), yajana (performance of sacrifice), paricharyā (worship), and saṅkīrtan (congregational chanting of the Holy Names) all centred on Me; (aham)–I; sambhavāmi–appear; yuge yuge–age after age. 
8 I appear age after age to deliver the saintly devotees, vanquish the miscreants, and firmly establish true religion.
janma karma cha me divyam evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ
tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti mām eti so ’rjuna 
(he) arjuna–O Arjuna; yaḥ–one who; vetti–knows; evam–thus; tattvataḥ–the reality; me–of My; divyam–spontaneous, divine; janma karma cha–birth and activities; saḥ–he; tyaktvā–upon giving up; deham–the body; na eti–does not accept; punaḥ janma–rebirth. mam eti–He attains Me. 
9 O Arjuna, one who comes to know thus the truth of My Pastimes of divine birth and activities, does not undergo rebirth. After giving up this body, he attains Me. (My grace is revealed to him as My personal transcendental joyful potency, hlādinī-śakti. His heart is melted in divine love, and he attains My eternal devotional service.)
tad viddhi praṇipātena paripraśnena sevayā
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ jñāninas tattva-darśinaḥ 
tat–Such knowledge; viddhi–should be known; praṇipātena–by submission, obeisances; paripraśnena–by relevant inquiry; sevayā–and by sincere service. jñāninaḥ–Those learned in the scriptures; tattva-darśinaḥ–endowed with divine revelation of the Supreme Absolute Truth; upadekṣyanti–will impart; jñānam–knowledge; te–to you. 
34 You will be able to attain knowledge by satisfying the divine master with submission, relevant inquiry, and sincere service. The enlightened souls who are learned in scriptural knowledge and endowed with direct realisation of the Supreme Absolute Truth will impart divine knowledge to you.
The Path of Renunciation of Action
One who is neither attached to or disgusted by the fruits of action, who is steady and free from the dualities of this world is said to be a true Karma-sannyasin. Such a soul is easily released from all bonds of action. Purified by the fire of transcendental knowledge the Niskama-karma-yogi realises himself to be a completely spiritual entity quite independent of his body, mind and senses. He knows that his senses perform all physical actions impelled by his perverse ego and that this false identity vanishes as soon as transcendental knowledge takes root in the heart. Outwardly performing all actions while inwardly renouncing the fruits of those actions he attains peace, undisturbed by his own actions as well as the actions of others. Those who possess the faculty of equal vision or sama-darshan see the eternal existence of the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna within all beings and are known as Pandit in the true sense of the word. The knower of Brahman enjoys everlasting bliss in the realisation of his own self and of Godhead. He is naturally indifferent to sensual pleasures which are factually the cause of suffering. He maintains an attitude of detachment in all his actions performed to maintain his existence and is thus purified. He patiently withstands the forceful impulses generated by lust and anger and aspires for inner fulfilment and enlightenment. Touching the spiritual plane he attains to Brahma-nirvana or inexhaustible joy. Knowing Lord Krishna as the only enjoyer and the object of all sacrifices and austerities, the Lord of all creation and the only friend of all beings, one comes to the platform of eternal peace and happiness.
Useful Acronym to remember the chapter contents:
We are active beings constantly making plans for the future. Our thoughts manifest in actions, repeated actions form habits, those habits make up our character, and that character determines our destiny. As Teilhard de Chardin famously commented, “We are not human beings on a spiritual journey, but rather we are spiritual beings on a human journey.” Every journey starts with a step and in Chapter Five Krishna explains how to take steps in the right direction. There are steps leading to further entanglement in worldly complexities, but there are also steps leading to a life of liberation, freedom and tranquillity.
S Stay in the world
T Three doers
E Equal Vision
S - Stay in the world (Verses 1-12) - Arjuna is still confused. DespiteKrishna’s explanations in Chapter Three, Arjuna still considers work and renunciation to be mutually exclusive paths. Thus, Krishna elaborates on how an individual who works in a spiritual consciousness is automatically elevated to the platform of renunciation. If one engages in righteous work, offering the results to God, and all the while keeping alert to the ultimate goal, then such work becomes worship. For most people it would be premature and detrimental to sever themselves from worldly relationships and duties in pursuance of spiritual perfection. Thus, the path of Niskama-karma-yoga offers a progressive means of spiritual development while simultaneously staying in the world. Just as a lotus leaf is surrounded by water but remains completely dry, one can stay in the world and still remain aloof from its influences.
T - Three doers (Verses 13-16) - While living in this world, however, one can easily assume the mentality that they are the director, the controller and the breadwinner. In reality, Krishna explains that there are three doers in any activity; the individual soul, the Supersoul, and material nature. What to speak of controlling the results of our activities, we are barely in control of even the physical and mental tools with which we perform those activities. The individual soul can only desire. That desire is then sanctioned by God (who resides within the heart as the Supersoul) and then the ability to perform that activity comes from material nature, which arranges the necessary facilities.
Just as an infant lacks the ability to ride a bike but can still pretend to do so with the help of stabilisers, in this world, the individual soul is constantly supported by the Supersoul in the heart who provides all the knowledge, inspiration and facilities to function.
E – Equal Vision (Verses 17-26) - Since the Supersoul resides in every living being, the advanced spiritualist is able to see every life form, be it plant, animal, or human, as a temple of God. In this way, utmost respect is given to every living being. Different bodies with different qualities are produced according to one’s past actions, yet each entity is of the same spiritual quality. Thus, the spiritualist is not only free of racism, nationalism, ageism and sexism, but also “species-ism!”
P – Peace (Verse 29) – This chapter emphasises the temporary nature of our stay in this world. We come into this world with nothing and we leave with nothing. In the interim, our claims to proprietorship and attachments to various objects create fear, insecurity and conflict. Change is a constant theme in this world – our relationships are changing, the environment is changing, our possessions are changing, and our desires are also changing. To the extent that we develop a sense of detachment, understanding the Supreme Lord to be the proprietor and ourselves as simply caretakers, to that extent we can experience a sense of peace within. Interestingly, it is this inner peace that brings about global peace; a community of individuals who are free from
attachment, greed, envy, and covetousness is what this world really needs.
Questions on Chapter 5
Chapter 5 sloka to learn:
vidyā-vinaya-sampanne brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śuni chaiva śvapāke cha paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśinaḥ 
sama-darśinaḥ eva–Those who see with equanimity, who see Brahma, transcendence; vidyā-vinaya-sampanne–in a learned and humble; brāhmaṇe–brāhmaṇ; gavi–a cow; hastini–an elephant; śuni cha–and a dog; śvapake cha–or a chaṇḍāl (dog-eater or outcast); (kathyate)–(such seers) are to be known as; paṇḍitāḥ–truly learned. 
18 The enlightened souls see transcendence within all living beings, whether the humble and learned brāhmaṇ, the cow, the elephant, the dog, or the dog-eater. Therefore, they are to be known as paṇḍit—men of true wisdom.
The Path of Meditation
One who is attached neither to action or its fruits is a Sannyasin and a Yogi in the real sense. Real asceticism is neither enjoying or renouncing the objects of the senses but rather it is essentially employing them in the service of the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna with perfect dispassion. Yogis are of two kinds., the aspirant who aims to perform all action for spiritual purification and, the master of yoga who is perfect in yoga practice and is always situated in transcendence and is tranquil in all respects. The aspirant achieves perfection by the practice of Niskama-karma. One can never be a yogi if he desires enjoyment as the fruit of his action. Remaining attached to worldliness all so called yoga practice is a sham. One must elevate himself by his mind and not degrade himself. The mind is the greatest friend of those who are self-controlled but the same mind is the greatest enemy of those who cannot master it. The yogi is always satisfied within and sees all mundane opposites with equal vision. He is moderate in all things, concentrates his consciousness on the Supreme Visnu and is fixed in realisation of the self and the Paramatma in all beings consequently attains eternal bliss in Samadhi. By means of regulating the mind through meditation and withdrawing the senses from their objects, the yogi becomes still and free of desire and being situated in the self is freed from the delusion of Maya. When the knowledge of his eternal relationship with Lord Krishna fully awakens in him he lives an eternal life of loving service to Him in the ever-blissful abode of Vraja.
Arjuna express doubt that due to the fickle nature of the mind, one could ever attain to such equilibrium in yoga as described by the Lord and goes on to say that it is easier to control the wind than to control the mind. The Lord admits this is true but says that though determined practice and appropriate detachment (yukta-vairagya) it is possible. Even if one is unsuccessful in yoga he will not be lost but will be born in the family of yoga practitioners after enjoying the heavenly planes and again his practice will continue from where he left off and he will attain perfection. The Lord says a yogi is always superior to those engaged in austerity (tapasvis), to those striving for knowledge (jnanis) and those absorbed in action (karmis). And of all yogis, the bhakti-yogi who is absorbed in loving devotion, his heart overflowing with Love for Sri Krishna is the best of all.
Useful Acronym to remember the chapter contents:
At the end of Chapter Five, Krishna briefly mentioned the system of
astanga-yoga – the strict, regulated, focused regime of an ascetic yogi. In
the present day, millions of people worldwide practice elements of this
path, primarily as hatha-yoga and pranayama, which offers benefits for
physical and emotional wellbeing. In this chapter, the path of astanga-yoga
is explained in its entirety. Essentially, Krishna’s establishes
that the “eight stage path” is fraught with difficulties. Therefore in an age
surcharged with temptation and distraction, the easiest (and topmost)
path of self-realisation and spiritual perfection is bhakti-yoga.
E Enemy or Friend?
S Success and failure
E – Enemy or Friend? (Verses 1-9) – During our sojourn in this temporary world we are perpetually accompanied by the “voice within”. Yes, we have all experienced it, the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other, each giving their own advice to the confused person in between. The mind is that voice within; essentially a storehouse of memories and experiences that offers options to the individual. An uncontrolled mind will agitate, misguide and entangle the soul within this world, forcing us to succumb to our lower nature of lust, anger and greed. The controlled mind, on the other hand, acts as a friend on our spiritual journey, helping us make progressive and healthy choices which bring us closer to God. When one controls and befriends the mind, one experiences tranquillity, peace and freedom from the duality
of happiness and distress.
A – Astanga-yoga (Verses 10-36) - One way to control the mind is through the process of astanga-yoga (which includes dhyana-yoga, the practice of meditation). Krishna explains the ancient path as it was practised in bygone ages. Living in seclusion, practising celibacy, and under strict regulations of eating and sleeping, the yogi would sit in a perfectly erect position, focusing his consciousness on the Supreme Soul within. Despite mental and bodily distractions, the yogi would meditate in this way for many years, maintaining stillness and complete silence. Hearing about this strict discipline, Arjuna admits his amazement – “This practice seems impractical and unendurable!” he exclaims, “to discipline the mind is more difficult than controlling the wind!” Krishna reasserts that disciplining the mind is essential and that it is possible through appropriate practice and detachment.
S – Success and failure (Verses 37-45) - Hearing about the difficult astanga-yoga process raises a new concern for Arjuna. What happens if one faithfully takes to this yogic process, but later falls away without perfecting his spiritual consciousness? The unsuccessful spiritualist is seemingly left in “no-man’s land” having failed to attain spiritual satisfaction and simultaneously squandered his opportunities for worldly pleasure. Krishna appeases all such fears by explaining that whoever takes up a genuine spiritual process is eternally benefited even if they don’t perfect it. If we don’t complete it in one lifetime, we carry on in the next life from the same point, and the individual thus evolves towards spiritual perfection.
Y – Yogi (Verses 46-47) - After summarising the arduous process of dhyana (meditation) and astanga-yoga, the chapter concludes with a ray of hope. Krishna reaffirms that the perfection and goal of all yoga systems is to help the individual become fully conscious of God at all times. While all yoga systems are certainly beneficial, the easiest, most efficient and essential path is known as bhakti-yoga (the yoga of devotion). In this age, the primary practice of bhakti-yoga is mantra meditation - chanting the names of God (Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare / Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare). Through this process, any person from any background can attain spiritual perfection and experience all the benefits described in this chapter and elsewhere.
Questions on Chapter 6
Chapter 6 slokas to learn:
pārtha naiveha nāmutra vināśas tasya vidyate
na hi kalyāṇa-kṛt kaśchid durgatiṁ tāta gachchhati 
śrī-bhagavān uvācha–The Supreme Lord said: (he) pārtha–O son of Kuntī; na vidyate–there is no; tasya vināśaḥ–loss for him, he is not denied the happiness of the heavenly plane; iha eva–in this world; na (vidyate)–and there is no; (tasya vināśaḥ)–loss for him, he is not denied the chance of the fortune to see the Supersoul; amutra–in the next life, i.e. in the supramundane plane; hi–since; (he) tata–O dear one; kaśchit–any; kalyāṇa-kṛt–person engaged in virtuous actions; na gachchhati durgatim–does not suffer an ill fate. 
40 The Supreme Lord said: O Arjuna, son of Kuntī, there is no loss for the unsuccessful yoga practitioner as he is not denied the happiness of the heavenly plane in this world, nor is he denied the chance of the fortune to see the Supersoul in the transcendental realm. This is so, O dear one, because a person who performs virtuous actions never suffers an ill fate.
yoginām api sarveṣāṁ mad-gatenāntar-ātmanā
śraddhāvān bhajate yo māṁ sa me yuktatamo mataḥ 
sarveṣām yoginām api–Of all types of yogīs on the paths of karma, jñān, tapasyā, aṣṭāṅga-yoga, bhakti, etc.; yaḥ–one who; śraddhāvān–with firm faith in the holy scriptures which corroborate the superexcellence of devotion for Me; antaḥ-ātmanā–and with heart; mat-gatena–fully dedicated to Me; bhajate mām–renders service to Me by engaging in the devotional practices based on hearing and chanting My glories; saḥ–such a devotee; yuktatamaḥ–is foremost. (iti)–This is; me–My; mataḥ–opinion. 
47 The best of all yogīs is the devotee who has full faith in the authoritative pure devotional scriptures, and who adores Me with all his heart, hearing and singing My divine glories, rendering all services unto Me. This is My opinion.
Knowledge and Realisation of the Supreme
The best of all yogis is he who worships the Lord with devotional love. Who follows the path of Bhakti with steadfast attachment to Krishna attains a thorough knowledge of the absolute truth in all its sweetness. Having reached the human form of life one should use this rare opportunity to search out the cause of all existence. In the pursuit of this knowledge hardly one realises the truth of Krishna Consciousness and comes to know the all-blissful form of Shyamsundar—the Beautiful Reality that transcends Brahman and Paramatma.
The Lord explains His threefold potencies of Yoga-maya (His internal bliss giving, enlightening energy), Maha-maya (His external deluding energy) and Tatastha or Jiva-shakti (His marginal energy consisting of the innumerable individual souls). The Jiva-shakti is superior to the mundane world of Maha-maya but being marginal and atomic has the tendency to be overcome by Maha-maya due to the misuse of his minute independence or free-will.
The Lord further says that there is nothing equal or superior to Him and nothing can exist independent of Him being the source and resting place of all that be. The Maya potency is His divine energy and so none can cross of her unless they surrender absolutely to Him and Him alone. Four kinds of impious people never surrender to the Lord and four kinds of pious souls come to take shelter in Him and realising His aspect of Vasudev, the all-pervading Supreme Lord within everything and everything being in Him the worship and serve Him forever. Such a person is indeed a Mahatma or great soul in the truest sense. Worshipping the Supreme Lord with exclusive devotion, free from all mundane desire they attain to pure Love. On the other hand, those who desire only transient and petty fruits worship the Devatas or demigods not understanding that even those petty fruits are in fact only received by Lord Krishna’s grace as the gods and goddesses are only the empowered agents of the Lord for universal management. Those who worship the minor gods go to them while those who worship the Lord of all gods, Lord Krishna go to Him for all eternity.
Ultimately the Supreme Absolute Truth cannot be comprehended by the limited faculty of human understanding as He remains forever concealed by His internal potency. As such the fallen souls think of Him as the unmanifest Brahman but He remains ever-existent as the gorgeous Shyamasundar, blackish like a new raincloud even when he descends in this mundane plane. Those who practice pure devotional service unto Him, free from the dualities of this world and purged of all sin, realise this wondrous transcendental form even at the time of death.
Useful Acronym to remember the chapter contents:
Whether it’s your next holiday destination, the choice of university for your studies, or the restaurant for next week’s birthday party, most things in life require some research. While we may value our gut feelings, we simultaneously utilise our intelligence and exercise discrimination. The same goes for spirituality. It is not simply a sentimental impulse or practice; it requires intelligent research and information gathering. It is an affair of the head and the heart. Einstein once stated that religion without philosophy was simply sentiment, and in more acute situations, downright fanaticism. In Chapter Seven, entitled “Knowledge and Realisation of the Supreme”, Krishna delineates certain philosophical truths to instil confidence and conviction in the process of bhakti-yoga.
A Accept or Reject
H – Hearing (Verses 1-3) - Modern thinkers often posit a notion of proving everything empirically, rejecting anything which cannot be directly perceived by our senses. While this may seem a logical, objective and rational approach, it does have inherent limitations. How do you understand those things beyond your immediate perception? For example, if you wanted to find out what BBC1 was showing tonight,the most obvious approach would be to consult a TV guide. You could subsequently verify by actually watching the programmes. In other words, we can’t depend on our sensory experience to provide all the answers. Accepting a “higher authority” opens up new opportunities to experience the truth directly. Krishna begins this chapter by stressing the absolute necessity of hearing from spiritual sources, to understand universal realities. This is known as the descending path of knowledge.
E – Everywhere (Verses 4-12) - By hearing from authorised spiritual sources one can acquire profound knowledge of the divine. In answer to the common challenge “Can you show me God?” Krishna cites the analogy of pearls strung on a thread. The pearls are perfectly strung and arranged as a necklace, while the thread remains completely invisible. Similarly, God designs, creates and sustains the entire universe yet remains invisible to the immature observer. The extreme intricacy and sophistication of the creation, however, naturally indicates the presence of higher intelligence. Krishna further explains how He is the essence of everything within the creation – the taste of water, the light of the sun and the ability in man. In this way, through the eyes of knowledge,
one can learn to see God everywhere.
A – Accept or Reject (Verses 13-19) - If God can be perceived everywhere and His existence is so strikingly obvious, why is there still wholesale denial of Him? Resisting forceful compliance, Krishna endows each individual with the free will to “fly their own plane”and decide where to repose their faith. He describes the four types of people who reject God due to their preoccupation in worldly life, and the four types of people who do accept God, albeit with different degrees of selfish intent. In conclusion, it’s a rare soul in this world who is able to approach God free of ulterior motives, and enter into a selfless relationship of love. That level of spiritual purity, Krishna says, may take thousands of births!
D – Demigods (Verses 20-30) - Practically speaking, even a mere acceptance of God is a propitious achievement in this age. This acceptance, however, is not enough – one must gain an accurate and precise understanding. If you were to be operated on, you would insist the surgeon be well-versed in the details and intricacies of the process. It is, after all, a matter of life and death. Similarly, to simply believe in God is not enough; one must understand His nature and personality. Towards the end of the chapter, Krishna establishes monotheism and distinguishes ‘demigods’ as powerful entities in charge of universal affairs, who are in no way, shape or form equal to God. Such dangerous misconceptions are cleared up as they have the potential to impede the spirit of pure devotion.
Questions on Chapter 7
Chapter 7 slokas to learn:
raso ’ham apsu kaunteya prabhāsmi śaśi-sūryayoḥ
praṇavaḥ sarva-vedeṣu śabdaḥ khe pauruṣaṁ nṛṣu 
(he) kaunteya–O son of Kuntī; aham asmi–I am present; rasaḥ–by My power as the essential taste; apsu–of water. (aham asmi)–I am present; prabhā–by My power of radiance; śaśi-sūryayoḥ–in the moon and sun. (aham asmi)–I am present; sarva-vedeṣu–in all the Vedas; praṇavaḥ–as the origin of the Vedas, Oṁkār. (aham asmi)–I am present; śabdaḥ–as the element of sound; khe–in the ether. (aham asmi)–I am present; pauruṣaṁ–as masculinity; nṛṣu–in men. 
8 O son of Kuntī, I am the taste of water, I am the radiance of the sun and the moon. I am Om, the fundamental vibration in all the Vedas, I am the sound in the ether, and I am the masculinity in men.
daivī hy eṣā guṇamayī mama māyā duratyayā
mām eva ye prapadyante māyām etāṁ taranti te 
eṣā–This; daivī–supramundane (alluring); māyā–external potency; mama–of Mine; guṇa-mayī–composed of the three modes of material nature; hi–certainly; duratyayā–is difficult to cross. (tathāpi)–However; ye–those who; prapadyante–take shelter; mām eva–in Me alone; te–they; taranti–are able to cross; etām–this almost insurmountable; māyām–māyā, illusion. 
14 My alluring, ‘trimodal’, illusory potency is practically insurmountable. However, those who take shelter in Me can overcome this powerful obstacle.
bahūnāṁ janmanām ante jñānavān māṁ prapadyate
vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti sa mahātmā sudurlabhaḥ 
ante–After; bahūnām–many; janmanām–births; jñānavān–the enlightened person (by the fortune of sādhu-saṅga, devotional association); iti–thus realising; sarvam–everything, the entire world of moving and stationary beings; vāsudevaḥ–is of the nature of Vāsudev, Śrī Kṛṣṇa; prapadyate–he surrenders; mām–unto Me. saḥ–Such; mahātmā–a great soul; su-durlabhaḥ–is very rare. 
19 After many births, the enlightened soul (blessed with devotional association) realises that everything is of the nature of (subordinate to) Vāsudev, and thus he surrenders unto Me. Such a great soul is very rare.
antavat tu phalaṁ teṣāṁ tad bhavaty alpa-medhasām
devān deva-yajo yānti mad-bhaktā yānti mām api 
tu–But; tat phalam–that fruit; teṣām alpa-medhasām–of those unwise worshippers of the demigods; bhavati–is; antavat–temporary. deva-yajaḥ–The worshippers of the demigods; yānti–reach; devān–the respective demigods; mat-bhaktāḥ api–and My devotees; yānti–reach; māṁ–Me. 
23 But the fruit obtained by those unwise worshippers of the demigods is temporary. They reach the gods they worship, but My devotees come to Me.
The Merciful Absolute
The Supreme Lord says that the eternal and unchangeable form of Aksara (imperishable absolute reality) is Para-Brahman or the Transcendental all-blissful Shyamasundar form. He then explains Adhyatma (the soul), Karma (action), Adhibuta (worldly plane) and Adhidaiva (celestial plane). He who remembers the Supreme Lord at the time of death surely attains to His blissful abode. But who meditates on some other object or being at the time of death attains to that plane in their next birth. The Lord then explains that Aksara or the Parama-purusha is attained by deep meditation with unswerving attention while vibrating the primeval sound Om, knowing the Lord’s Holy Name as one and the same with him. The lord then explains the difference between karma-misra bhakti, jnana-misra bhakti and yoga-misra bhakti—mixed devotion—and suddha-bhakti or unadulterated, pure, loving devotion. All the worlds including the heavenly Brahma-loka are subject to the cycle of transmigration of the soul. But one who takes absolute shelter in the Lord through the path of purest bhakti is never born in this mundane world again. Rather they attain to the highest and ultimate end of divine Love in His all joyful realm of unending happiness and soul’s fulfilment beyond measure.
Useful Acronym to remember the chapter contents:
It is a sign of sanity and wisdom if one takes time to contemplate their death. During special festivals, Latin Americans hang skulls in their houses to remind themselves. Yogis in India meditate on the banks of the Ganges where open-pyre funerals are being conducted. Although many would consider it morbid to contemplate death, it is nevertheless a real situation that nobody wants to experience but that everyone has to face. The Bhagavad-gita outlines four such unavoidable predicaments: birth, disease, old age, and ultimately death. We often forget the inevitability of death, and thus, in Chapter Eight entitled “The Merciful Absolute”, Krishna deals with this very subject.
E End of life
A Attaining the Supreme
D – Doubts (Verses 1-4) – Doubting is a function of intelligence and at no point in the Bhagavad-gita does Krishna reprimand Arjuna for asking so many questions. On the contrary, He encourages Arjuna to intelligently contemplate all His answers and subsequently make his own decisions. This chapter opens with Arjuna’s doubts and questions on several spiritual concepts. Krishna concisely answers seven of Arjuna’s eight questions immediately, and then prepares to answer the final question - “How can one attain a spiritual destination at the time of death?” The rest of the chapter is solely dedicated to answering this essential inquiry.
E – End of life (Verses 5-8) - Imagine you are going to watch a movie and you meet someone who just saw it. “You’ll never guess what happens,” they say... before they even finish that statement you’ll interject and stop them; after all, knowing the end spoils the whole film. Similarly, for those engaged in worldly pursuits, hearing about, contemplating and accepting “the end” (death) is not the most inspiring reflection. It simply spoils their “movie of life” in the here and now. For a spiritualist, however, “the end” is not a depressing thought since his concept of life and its purpose is much broader. For one who is born, death is certain, and for one who dies, birth is around the corner. Krishna explains how a person’s thoughts at death sum up their consciousness and
aspirations cultivated throughout life. Thus, one’s state of mind at the time of death determines their next situation. For those who remember God at death, they reach the kingdom of God.
A – Attaining the Supreme (Verses 9-22) - The entire world is a temporary university specifically created to dispense life lessons. When one becomes frustrated by the pursuits of this world, they realise that happiness lies in another realm. As spiritual beings, life in a complex world of matter is an incompatible situation. While the material world is rubber-stamped as a constantly changing place of misery, the spiritual world is distinguished as being eternal and all-blissful. There are many painstaking ways in which different spiritualists conduct their lives in order to attain that supreme destination, and having attained it one never returns to this temporary realm again.
D – Devotion (Verses 23-28) – Since various spiritual practices are discussed in this chapter, Krishna concludes by outlining the most effective process to attain the Supreme. Bhakti-yoga, the path of active service to God in a mood of devotion, is described as the topmost spiritual path. In an age of rampant materialism and temptation coupled with individual weakness and lack of spiritual aspiration, a highly practical and powerful spiritual process is required. Through bhakti-yoga anyone can experience an incredibly fulfilling spiritual connection in a very short time. If one is thus able to saturate their consciousness in God, they will be sure to attain the supreme destination regardless of all the technicalities and intricacies that other spiritual processes may stress.
Questions on Chapter 8
Chapter 8 sloka to learn:
ābrahma-bhuvanāl lokāḥ punar āvartino ’rjuna
mām upetya tu kaunteya punar janma na vidyate 
(he) arjuna–O Arjuna; ābrahma-bhuvanāt–from Brahmaloka, the highest plane in the universe, downwards; lokāḥ–all planes or their residents; punaḥ āvartinaḥ–by nature repeatedly return; tu–but; (he) kaunteya–O son of Kuntī; mām upetya–reaching Me, atttaing My shelter; na vidyate–there is no; punaḥ janma–rebirth. 
16 O Arjuna, from the plane of Lord Brahmā downwards, all planes or their residents are subject to return. But, O Kaunteya, there is no rebirth after reaching Me.
The Hidden Treasure of Devotion
The Lord reveals to Arjuna the topmost secret constituting the supreme lore, the zenith of all religion, which gives the clue to the acquisition of true knowledge of the self and of the Godhead. Those without faith cannot reach Lord Krishna as faith is the foundation of all transcendental knowledge. The Lord is the efficient cause of the universe, the material world manifesting from His Maya potency and the living beings from His marginal jiva potency. All creation both sentient and non-sentient are in Him but the Lord remains eternally independent and distinct from them. Wondrous is His transcendental sovereign position. He is the support, in-dweller and preserver of all beings. All beings rest in Him at the time dissolution and are again manifest at a new creation but still He remains untouched and detached from all these actions being beyond his Maya-prakriti. The beautiful Lord Krishna is forever resplendent in His humanlike form of ideal gorgeousness and eternity even when He descends to this plane. The foolish mistake His form to be mundane and transient not knowing Him to be the Lord of lords, the supreme absolute person. His true devotees, however worship Him with pure intelligence and single devotion, incessantly singing of His glories—His name, His form, His qualities and His deeds in the association of the sadhus and attain His eternal loving service in the all-blissful realm. The worshippers of impersonal Brahman, the worshippers of the Universal forms, the performers of sacrifices and the knowers of the Vedas as well as those who desire to drink the nectar of the gods and enjoy heaven and the worshippers of the pantheon of minor gods all attain their respective goals by the mercy of Krishna alone and are all bound to revolve within this mortal world. The Lord however takes all responsibility to provide for and protect His unalloyed devotees who want nothing in this world. The Lord happily accepts whatever is offered to Him with love, be it a leaf, flower, fruit or water. Such gifts of loving hearts gives the greatest pleasure to the Lord whereas even the most precious and rare articles are rejected by the Lord if they are motivated only by pomp and show. The worshippers of the ‘gods’ attain to the ‘gods’ but the Lord’s devotees go to Him. All things—what you eat, what you offer in sacrifice, what you give and the vows you keep—do them as an offering to Krishna and you will be freed from all reaction both good and bad and will, being linked to the Lord in love, come to Him. The Lord is equal to all but those who whole-heartedly and ardently love Him and serve Him with unflinching faith, the Lord reciprocates such love with His Love. Those who are given cent percent to the cultivation of His loving service, even if they are addicted to sinful habits are really to be regarded as ‘sadhu’. Whosoever maintains no judgement towards the Lord’s devotees and declares this truth that the Lord’s servants are never vanquished will themselves quickly become virtuous and attain to eternal joy. There are no bars or exclusions from real devotion, even those who may be regarded by society to be low-born— they too can attain the supreme goal if they take full refuge in the Lord. So, Krishna says, “Always think of me, be My devotee, worship Me and bow down to Me. In so offering yourself to me and taking shelter in Me alone, you will come to Me.”
Useful Acronym to remember the chapter contents:
Just as a pearl is hidden within a shell, or as a king travels surrounded by an entourage, the essence of the Bhagavad-gita is hidden in the middle of the conversation. In the Ninth Chapter, Krishna outlines the “king” of all knowledge and the most secret of all secrets. He explains the essence of the Bhagavad-gita, the perfection of spiritual practice, and the ultimate goal of life.
I Inconceivable relationships
G Glories of Bhakti
K – Knowledge (Verses 1-3) - Krishna explains that the knowledge He is about to impart is the most confidential, since it illuminates the true position and nature of the soul in relation to God. There is a notion that belief in God is intellectually immature or philosophically naive. However, logical and rational analysis of the complexity, design and intricate engineering of this creation, makes plain that there must be some conscious intelligence behind it. To categorically deny this suggests a stubborn, irrational and illogical predisposition toward atheism. Thus, Krishna explains that the knowledge He is about to impart is state-specific - one must be non-envious and faithful to
understand it. Faith is not opposed to knowledge, but is actually a prerequisite for receiving it.
I – Inconceivable relationships (Verses 4-10) - An idea is conceived within the mind. A child is conceived within the womb. In other words, a concept is contained within something. However, since the qualities and characteristics of the Lord are unlimited, they cannot be contained within any boundaries, and thus God’s activities and relationships are deemed inconceivable. In this section, Krishna begins to impart knowledge of his inconceivable relationships with the universe and all living entities. While this knowledge gives an indication of the character, greatness and capacity of God, it also exposes our inability to comprehend such matters through mundane logic and reason.
N – Non-worship (Verses 11-25) - Even after Krishna explains the opulences and qualities of His personal form, there are many who misunderstand the Supreme. Because Krishna appears in the “humanlike” form, some deem Him an ordinary human being and believe a personal form of God to be an elementary and infantile concept. Others believe that God manifests innumerable forms represented by the various demigods, each of whom are worthy of worship. Others cannot perceive of anything beyond this universe, and therefore consider the cosmos to be the supreme object of worship. All such persons sidestep the worship of the Supreme Personality, whom one can see face-to-face and have a relationship with. While some claim that all paths lead to the same destination, Krishna highlights that He awards different results to a person’s worship based on their motivation and understanding.
G – Glories of Bhakti (Verses 26-34) - In this way, Krishna establishes the personal form of God to be the highest and most complete manifestation of the Supreme. The greater something is, the higher the qualification to achieve it. To get into a good university you need higher grades. To buy a bigger house you need greater funds. Similarly, to approach God in the most intimate and personal way, one requires the greatest qualification – complete purity of consciousness, free of any tinge of selfish motivation. Krishna explains that such purity is characterised by constant spiritual absorption with mind, body and word, where one’s entire life becomes a spiritual offering saturated with love and devotion. This is Krishna consciousness, and this is the essential teaching of the Bhagavad-gita - to always remember Krishna and never forget Him.
Questions on Chapter 9
Chapter 9 slokas to learn:
avajānanti māṁ mūḍhā mānuṣīṁ tanum āśritam
paraṁ bhāvam ajānanto mama bhūta-maheśvaram 
ajānantaḥ–Not knowing; param–the transcendental; bhāvam–nature, reality; mama āśritam mānuṣīm tanum–of My form of human features; mūḍhāḥ–ignorant persons; avajānanti–considering Me a mere mortal, blaspheme; mām–Me; bhūta-mahā-īśvaram–the Supreme Lord of all beings. 
11 Not knowing the transcendental nature of My form of human features, ignorant persons blaspheme Me, the Supreme Lord of all beings, considering Me a mere mortal.
moghāśā mogha-karmāṇo mogha-jñānā vichetasaḥ
rākṣasīm āsurīñ chaiva prakṛtiṁ mohinīṁ śritāḥ 
(te)–They; (bhavanti)–remain; mogha-āśāḥ–with vain hopes; mogha-karmāṇaḥ–vain actions; mogha-jñānāḥ–vain knowledge; (cha)–and; vichetasaḥ–vain thoughts; śritāḥ–adopting; rākṣasīm–the ignorant; āsurīm cha–and passionate, demoniac; prakṛtim eva–nature; mohinīm–causing their delusion, their downfall. 
12 Their hopes, acts, knowledge, and thoughts all in vain, such persons acquire the ignorant and demoniac nature, which leads to their downfall.
mahātmānas tu māṁ pārtha daivīṁ prakṛtim āśritāḥ
bhajanty ananya-manaso jñātvā bhūtādim avyayam 
tu–But; (he) pārtha–O son of Pṛthā, Arjuna; āśritāḥ–taking refuge in; daivīm prakṛtim–the godly nature; mahā-ātmānaḥ–the great-hearted, the devoted souls; jñātvā–knowing; mām–Me; bhūta-ādim–as the origin of all that be; (cha)–and; avyayam–imperishable; bhajanti–worship, adore; (mām)–Me; ananya-manasaḥ–whole-heartedly. 
13 But, O Pārtha, the great-hearted souls take refuge in the divine nature, and they whole-heartedly worship and adore Me, knowing Me as the eternal origin of all.
satataṁ kīrtayanto māṁ yatantaś cha dṛḍha-vratāḥ
namasyantaś cha māṁ bhaktyā nitya-yuktā upāsate 
satatam–At all times, in all places and circumstances; mām kīrtayantaḥ–singing the glories of My divine Name, form, etc.; yatantaḥ–striving to learn spiritual truths of My transcendental nature, personality, etc.; dṛḍha-vratāḥ cha–and unfailingly following the devotional observances such as Ekādaśī and regular chanting of the Holy Name; namasyantaḥ cha–offering obeisances unto Me and following all the practices of devotion; (te)–they; upāsate–worship; mām–Me; bhaktyā–with devotion; nitya-yuktāḥ–earnestly aspiring for their eternal relationship with Me. 
14 They continually chant My glories, strive to learn spiritual truths about Me, and faithfully follow the devotional practices. Bowing to Me and worshipping Me with devotion, they aspire for their eternal relationship with Me.
patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ yo me bhaktyā prayachchhati
tad ahaṁ bhakty-upahṛtam aśnāmi prayatātmanaḥ 
yaḥ–For one who; bhaktyā–with devotion; prayachchhati–offers; me–Me; patram–a leaf; puṣpam–a flower; phalam–fruit; toyam–water; aham–I; aśnāmi–partake of that—I affectionately accept; tat–that; bhakti-upahṛtam–devotional offering; (tasya)–of that person; prayata-ātmanaḥ–of clean heart. 
26 If one offers Me with devotion a leaf, flower, fruit, or water, I affectionately accept that offering of the clean hearted devotee.
api chet sudurāchāro bhajate mām ananya-bhāk
sādhur eva sa mantavyaḥ samyag vyavasito hi saḥ 
chet–If; api–even; sudurāchāraḥ–a person of sinful practices; bhajate–serves; mām–Me; ananya-bhāk–with exclusive devotion (giving up all other endeavours such as karma and jñān); eva–certainly; saḥ mantavyaḥ–he should be regarded; sādhuḥ–as a saintly person; hi–because; saḥ samyak vyavasitaḥ–his resolve is perfect. 
30 If even a very sinful person serves Me exclusively with devotion, he should be regarded as saintly, for his resolve is perfect.
kṣipraṁ bhavati dharmātmā śaśvach-chhāntiṁ nigachchhati
kaunteya pratijānīhi na me bhaktaḥ praṇaśyati 
 (saḥ)–He (who dedicates himself to Me); kṣipram–swiftly; bhavati–becomes; dharma-ātmā–a person of virtuous practices; nigachchhati–and attains; śaśvat–constant; śāntim–peace, relief from obstacles. (he) kaunteya–O son of Kuntī; pratijānīhi–declare; (iti)–thus; me–My; bhaktaḥ–devotee; na praṇaśyati–is never vanquished. 
 (he) kaunteya–O son of Kuntī; pratijānīhi–promise and declare it; (iti)–that; me bhaktaḥ–My devotee; na praṇaśyati–is never vanquished. (saḥ)–That person who proclaims this; kṣipram–swiftly; bhavati–becomes; dharma-ātmā–virtuous, religious; nigachchhati–and attains; śaśvat–constant; śāntim–peace, joy. 
31 He swiftly becomes a person of virtuous practices and attains constant peace. O son of Kuntī, declare to the world that My devotee is never vanquished!
31 O son of Kuntī, declare to the world that My devotee is never vanquished. One who declares this swiftly becomes virtuous and attains eternal joy.
The Divine Glories of the Lord
The Supreme Lord Krishna establishes that He is the primeval origin of all the gods and the great sages of yore even though they are unable to comprehend His divine descent into the world. Whosoever knows Him as the one unborn, beginingless, fountainhead of all that exists and realises the transcendental nature of His eternal, all beautiful, humanlike form and knows this to be above both His aspects as the indwelling supersoul (Paramatama) and the all-pervading impersonal feature (Brahman) is purged of all sin and released from the delusion of Maya. All the qualities of the living beings; intelligence, knowledge, freedom from delusion, forbearance, truth, happiness, unhappiness, etc., all have their origin in Him. The seven ancient sages, the four fabled brahmacharis, and the fourteen Manus are all born of Lord Brahma and empowered by the Lord. The human race is their progeny. Those who worship the Lord with firm faith and unadulterated devotion, knowing Him to be the cause and origin of all that be are truly enlightened in transcendental knowledge. The Lord then gives the Chatur-sloki or the four essential root verses of the Gita (8-11) beginning with aham sarvasya prabhavo. These verses encapsulate the nucleus of the whole Gita. He begins by declaring that He is Krishna, the Sweet Absolute, the cause of all and that those who realise this embrace the eternal path of divine love and adore Him forever. Those fully surrendered devotees constantly speak about Him and enlighten and enliven one another in the ecstasy of their shared realisations. Such devotees come to the Lord in the deepest intimacy of Love inspired by irresistible desire for spiritual union with Him. Feeling the heart-break of their separation from Him, the sweet Lord illuminates their hearts with His all-loving presence of joyful communion with Him.
Arjuna then asks the Lord to describe His opulences so that he can always be absorbed in thought of Him. The Lord replies that His glories are unlimited so He will tell him of some of the principal divine manifestations in this world. He is the Vishnu of the Adityas, the Sun, the Moon, the Sama Veda, Indra the king of gods, sage Kapila, devotee Prahlad, warrior Parasuram, Mount Sumeru, the ocean and the syllable Om. Flower-bearing spring is He, valour, victory, perseverance, truth, the silence of secrets and the wisdom of the wise. Vasudev of the Vrishnis and Arjuna of the Pandavas. He is the beginning, the middle and the end of all. The science that deals with God, the soul and matter and their inter-relationship—He is that. In other words, whatever is remarkable in this world due to its grandeur, its might, its glory, its sublimity or its beauty, you should know that to be a manifestation of His divine splendour. The Lord concludes by saying there is no need to further elaborate His wondrous glories as He pervades and supports the entire creation with just a fraction of Himself in His expansion as the Paramatma.
Useful Acronym to remember the chapter contents:
When discussing the subject of spirituality among different audiences, certain reservations invariably seem to surface. People complain that they cannot see God at work, that He is not manifest in person before their eyes, and that they have no direct experience of His existence. “Show me God,” the sceptics posit, “and then I’ll believe in Him.” In Chapter Ten, Krishna explains how the spiritualist can simultaneously perceive God as the source of the creation and also see God within the creation. However, this requires more than an intellectual understanding. It actually calls for transformation of one’s consciousness and revelation from within.
S Source of Everything
E Essence of Gita
S – Source of Everything (Verses 1-7) - Modern science is founded upon the methodology of ascending knowledge, where one attempts to understand reality in its fullest extent by empirical research and experimentation. Krishna makes a simple but powerful rebuttal of such an approach. He explains how something which has been created cannot understand its source independently. For example, if one wanted to ascertain the identity of their father using a purely experimental approach, it would be highly impractical and most likely inconclusive. However, if one accepted the testimony of their mother first, and subsequently experimented, such an approach would more likely be successful. In the same way, all material and spiritual creations have their source in Krishna, and one who approaches Him can get scientific insight into their identity and purpose. Later, Krishna will explain how such knowledge can actually be directly perceived.
E – Essence of Gita (Verses 8-11) - These four verses contain the essence of the Bhagavad-gita, and describe spirituality in its three essential stages. The first stage is entitled sambhanda, or knowledge of one’s relationship with God and the universe. The second stage is the practice and application of such knowledge in one’s daily life, technically known as abhideya. The third stage is the mature fruit of such practice, which is pure spiritual consciousness and unbounded love of God. This is known as prayojana. Thus, the Bhagavad-gita is
actually a spiritual science since there is hypothesis (sambandha), experiment (abhideya) and observation / conclusion (prayojana). These four verses (8-11) give a roadmap of spirituality from beginning to end.
E – Everywhere (Verses 12-42) - Arjuna is satisfied by Krishna’s explanations and requests Him to elaborate further on His characteristics and qualities. In response, Krsna describes the most prominent among His limitless, all pervading opulence. By doing this He explains how one can actually think about Him, meditate on Him and see Him everywhere. It is not that Krishna is physically all the things He mentions, but rather that He is the source of the opulence of these things - their strength, fame, wealth, and so on. After naming 82 opulences, Krishna concludes by stating that these simply hint at His glory since He pervades and supports the entire universe with a mere fragment of His energy.
Questions on Chapter 10
Chapter 10 slokas to learn:
ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavo mattaḥ sarvaṁ pravartate
iti matvā bhajante māṁ budhā bhāva-samanvitāḥ 
aham prabhavaḥ–I am the Supreme Absolute Truth, Svayam Bhagavān or the original Supreme Lord, the cause; sarvasya–of all causes, including Brahma, Paramātmā, and Bhagavān. sarvam–All activity in the universe of matter and spirit, and the Vedas and allied scriptures; pravartate–arise; mattaḥ–from Me. matvā–Realising; iti–this deep truth; budhāḥ–persons of fine theistic intelligence; bhāva-samanvitāḥ–in their divine relationship of servitude, friendship, etc.; bhajante–worship, adore; mām–Me. 
8 I am Kṛṣṇa, the Sweet Absolute, the origin of all. The entire universe of material and transcendental play, activity, purpose, and the Vedas and allied scriptures which give guidance—all evolve from Me alone. Realising this hidden treasure, persons of fine theistic intelligence surpass the mundane and embrace the path of love divine, rāga-marg, and adore Me forever.
mach-chittā mad-gata-prāṇā bodhayantaḥ parasparam
kathayantaś cha māṁ nityaṁ tuṣyanti cha ramanti cha 
mat-gata-prāṇāḥ–Those who have dedicated their lives to Me; mat-chittāḥ–who always think of Me; mām kathayantaḥ cha–and talk about Me; bodhayantaḥ parasparam (santaḥ)–enlightening one another with the nectar of their devotional realisations; nityam–are ever; tuṣyanti cha–satisfied; ramanti cha–and ecstatic. 
9 Always thinking of Me, those surrendered souls converse about Me, enlightening one another with the nectar of their devotional realisations, ever content and ecstatic in their divine natures.
teṣāṁ satata-yuktānāṁ bhajatāṁ prīti-pūrvakam
dadāmi buddhi-yogaṁ taṁ yena mām upayānti te 
teṣām prīti-pūrvakam bhajatām–To those loving devotees; satata-yuktānām–who are always engaged in My service; (aham)–I; dadāmi–give; tam–that; buddhi-yogam–inspiration; yena–by which; te–they; upayānti–can come; mām–to Me. 
10 To those devotees who are always lovingly engaged in My service, I give the divine inspiration by which they can come to Me.
teṣām evānukampārtham aham ajñāna-jaṁ tamaḥ
nāśayāmy ātma-bhāva-stho jñāna-dīpena bhāsvatā 
anukampa-artham–Out of compassion; teṣām eva–for them; aham–I; ātma-bhāva-sthaḥ–appearing within their hearts; nāśayāmi–destroy; bhāsvatā jñāna-dīpena–with the shining lamp of knowledge; tamaḥ–the darkness; ajñāna-jam–born of ignorance. 
11 Out of compassion for them, I, situated within the hearts of all living beings, dispel the darkness of ignorance with the radiance of knowledge.
11 Being conquered by the love of those devotees who in their unalloyed loving devotion become afflicted by the all-devouring darkness born of their pangs of separation from Me, I illuminate their hearts with My presence, destroying the darkness of their pain of separation.
The Vision of the Universal Form
The Virat-rupa or the Universal Form of the Lord is described in this chapter. The Lord with eyes, ears, faces, arms and feet, marvels, dresses, ornaments and divine weapons everywhere, shows His all-pervading Universal Form of the Supreme Lord. Arjuna beholds all beings emanating from the Lord and simultaneously entering His mouths and are completely absorbed in Him. He is unable to perceive any beginning, middle or end to this Virat-rupa. Seeing this Arjuna loses his equilibrium and in great fear he observes the assembled great warriors Bhisma, Drona, Karna and all the other kings and chiefs of both sides entering the mouths of the Universal Form and are crushed between His terrible jaws. Overwhelmed with fear in seeing this dreadful form Arjuna prays to the Lord and entreats Him to withdraw this frightful Virat-rupa and again assume the agreeable humanlike form that was familiar to him. Thereafter the Lord consoles Arjuna by firstly showing His four armed Visnu form and then His two armed form of Reality the Beautiful, Shyamasundar which even a glance of that form is coveted by the gods like Brahma and Shiva. No amount of Vedic study, performance of sacrifice, giving in charity or severe austerity is sufficient to behold that all-attractive humanlike form. But he who worships Him with single-minded devotion, bears no malice to anyone and who has transcended the dualities of the world, is enabled to realise His eternal, transcendental, all-blissful, ever youthful, exquisitely beautiful form of Sri Krishnachandra in the divine realm.
Useful Acronym to remember the chapter contents:
The Sanskrit word rupa means “form”. One of biggest theological debates among great thinkers has gone on for centuries; the question over whether God is personal or impersonal. Some argue that accepting a personal form of God amounts to anthropomorphic projection of our qualities onto Him. Krishna, however, confirms in numerous passages of the Bhagavad-gita that He manifests in many ways, impersonally and personally. He also categorically states that the personal is the original form and the basis of the impersonal. This is further confirmed in this chapter after Krishna displays another of his innumerable forms known as the vishva-rupa, the universal form.
U Universal Form
P Prayers of Arjuna
A Armed Form
R – Request (Verses 1-4) - Arjuna requests to see the universal form. One may ask why he makes such a request since he can see Krishna and is completely satisfied (as confirmed in the previous chapter). Clearly Arjuna doesn’t have any personal agenda in seeing the universal form, but he requests the vision for other reasons. Firstly, he wants to prove without doubt Krishna’s position as the source of everything, and secondly set a standard for anyone in the future who claims to be God to show similar opulence. Unfortunately, our modern world is nevertheless plagued with so-called incarnations and God-men claiming to be the latest saviours of society by dint of the fact that they have mustered up some popularity or mastered a few magic tricks.
U – Universal Form (Verses 5-14) - Krishna grants Arjuna’s request and shows His universal form. While God is the source of this universe, He is simultaneously the universe itself in the sense that He is present within His own creation. For example, in my writings you can probably understand something about me – the effect (writings) tell us something about the cause (the author) and in that sense the cause is present within the effect. Similarly, God is the source of the universe, but is simultaneously encompassing the universe – that is the universal form. It’s not that God is the sum of the parts, but rather that everything is contained within God. In that fearful vision of the universal form, Arjuna could see all living beings, all material objects, and the entirety of past, present and future.
P – Prayers of Arjuna (Verses 15-45) - Arjuna falteringly prays to the universal form, awed by the greatness of Krishna, and begs forgiveness for having previously treated Him with familiarity and friendship. Most religious traditions do not go beyond this majestic understanding of God – God who is the creator, the all-knowing and the infallible. It often leads to a fearful exchange with God, lacking intimacy, sweetness and personal relationship. Having seen enough, Arjuna anxiously requests Krsna to once again reveal His two-armed form so that he can again relish the intimacy of that interaction.
A – Armed Form (Verses 46-55) – Arjuna requests to see the manusimrupa, the human-like form of Krishna, around whose neck is swinging a garland of flowers beautified with the moon-locket, whose two hands are adorned with the flute and jewelled ornaments, and whose graceful threefold-bending form attracts the minds of His devotees. Ancient Sanskrit texts describe Krishna as raso vai sah – the very embodiment of affectionate relationships, loving relish, and transcendental sweetness. God is a person who is full of colour, character and bliss. He knows how to have a good time and is much more interested in relishing the sweetness of pure love than the ritualistic worship of those who
approach Him in awe and reverence.
Questions on Chapter 11
Chapter 11 slokas to learn:
na tu māṁ śakyase draṣṭum anenaiva svachakṣuṣā
divyaṁ dadāmi te chakṣuḥ paśya me yogam aiśvaram 
tu–But; anena–with these; svachakṣuṣā eva–present eyes of yours; (tvam)–you; na śakyase–cannot; draṣṭum–see; mām–Me. dadāmi–(So) I give; te–you; divyam–divine; chakṣuḥ–eyes. paśya–Behold; me–My; aiśvaram–opulences; yogam–of divine potency. 
8 But you cannot see Me with these eyes, so I give you divine vision. Behold My divine opulences.
namaḥ purastād atha pṛṣṭhatas te
namo ’stu te sarvata eva sarva
sarvaṁ samāpnoṣi tato ’si sarvaḥ 
(he) sarva–O embodiment of all existences; namaḥ–my obeisances; te–unto You; purastāt–from the front; atha–and; pṛṣṭhataḥ–from the rear. namaḥ astu–I offer obeisances; te–unto You; eva–indeed; sarvataḥ–from all directions. (he) ananta-vīrya–O Lord of infinite potency; amita-vikramaḥ–of immeasurable prowess; tvam–You; samāpnoṣi–pervade; sarvam–all; tataḥ–therefore; asi–You are; sarvaḥ–all. 
40 O embodiment of all existences, my obeisance unto You from the front, behind, and all directions. O Lord of unlimited potency and immeasurable prowess, You pervade all, therefore You are all.
The Path of Devotion
This chapter begins with a question as to the which is the best, the worship of the Aksara or the indefinable impersonal Brahman or that of the absolute person, Lord Sri Krishna. The Lord replies that those who worship Him, fixing their minds on Him, meditating on Him with devotion, faith and concentration, they are the best knowers of yoga. Those who restrain their senses and meditate on the unknown and unknowable impersonal Brahman also attain the Lord eventually but this path is beset with difficulties and severe ordeals and tribulations compared to the path of devotion. The Lord personally delivers his devotees from the ocean of unending birth and death and he extols Arjuna to therefore fix his mind on Him with all faith. He then instructs us that if this is too difficult then practice repeated remembrance of Him and if this is again too much then one should offer all of one’s actions to the Lord. If this too is not feasible then at least practice renunciation of the desire for the fruits of one’s action. The Lord then describes the qualities of his dear devotees. They hate no-one and are friendly and compassionate to all; they are humble, indifferent to mundane duality, wholly harmonised, firm and devoted, calm and collected, self-satisfied and wholeheartedly follow the path of devotion. Such devotees are exceedingly dear to the Lord.
Useful Acronym to remember the chapter contents:
Although Chapter Twelve is the shortest chapter in the Bhagavad-gita, it
contains essential wisdom which warms the heart of the reader. Entitled “The Path of Devotion”, this chapter discusses devotional service, the
stages one may undergo to achieve it, and the qualities of the devotee
who has perfected it. “God” essentially means “the supreme controller”
– but in this chapter we gain insight into the more cherished aspects
of God’s personality and the disposition of the devotee who is fully in
love with Him.
D Devotee’s Disposition
G – Godhead (Verses 1-7) - In response to a question by Arjuna, Krishna again picks up the discussion of impersonalism. It seems to be a recurring theme in the conversation, and one may question why.
The essence of our being is to be happy (anandamaya bhyasat) and the essence of such happiness is experienced in loving relationships. For a relationship to exist there must be a subject, object and reciprocity, but impersonal notions of “oneness” kill all three and therefore cheat the individual of true happiness. Krishna explains that a personal approach to God through bhakti-yoga (devotional service) is more practical in the immediate term and more fulfilling in the long term. While those who tread the impersonal path of spirituality undoubtedly receive spiritual merit, their progress is piecemeal and a great deal more troublesome. Thus, one reason our Acharyas continually refer to Krishna as the “Personality of Godhead” is to remind us that God is ultimately a person who must be approached as such.
O – Options (verses 8-12) – Here, Krishna demonstrates His magnanimity and understanding. Having delineated the topmost practice of bhakti-yoga, He goes on to offer other options, recognising that some may find it difficult to immediately embrace the devotional path. Progressive steps towards such a devotional spirit include the practice of regulated spirituality, worship through one’s daily work, and the cultivation of knowledge. The spiritual path is not all or nothing and one can begin their journey according to what is feasible and realistic.
D – Devotee’s Disposition (Verses 13-20) - As one embarks on the spiritual journey, they begin to develop saintly qualities. Krishna
concludes the chapter by elucidating the disposition of perfected
devotees. They exhibit qualities such as tolerance, determination,
satisfaction and equanimity of mind, and their purity of consciousness is clear to all. Devotees endowed with such endearing character traits conquer the heart of Krishna, who becomes bound by their spotless devotion. Such are the dealings within the transcendental realm – where even the unconquerable supreme controller becomes a captive of love.
Questions on Chapter 12
Chapter 12 sloka to learn:
kleśo ’dhikataras teṣām avyaktāsakta-chetasām
avyaktā hi gatir duḥkhaṁ dehavadbhir avāpyate 
teṣām–For those; avyakta-āsakta-chetasām–of minds attached to the unmanifest; (bhavati)–there is; adhikataraḥ–greater; kleśaḥ–struggle; hi–as; avyaktā gatiḥ–the way of attaining the unmanifest, the impersonal Brahma; avāpyate–is attained; duḥkham–with difficulty; dehavadbhiḥ–by the embodied soul. 
5 Persons whose minds are attached to the impersonal Brahma must undergo a greater struggle, as the path of attaining the impersonal Brahma is difficult for the embodied soul.
Distinction Between Matter and Spirit
Our body is known as Ksetra (the field of action) and he who knows the body is called Ksetrajna. The Lord is also known as Ksetrajna in the absolute sense. Krishna tells Arjuna that qualities such as humility, forbearance, pridlessness, honesty, self-control and detachment constitute real knowledge. He then mentions the indwelling spiritual principle situated in the hearts of all and present everywhere and at all times as That which is to be known. He further explains that both Maya and the living beings are eternal and Maya or Prakriti is the cause and effect of all phenomenon in this world and the living beings (purusa) are the cause of their own suffering and enjoyment due to their attachment and interaction with Prakriti. As well as these principles of Prakriti and purusa within the body there exists a third principle or the Parama-Purusa, the witness and sanctioner of everything, the Supreme Lord known as Paramatma or the Supersoul. Whoever knows this Supreme Person, whether by meditation, inner enlightenment or the yoga of selfless action, never has to take birth again in this material world. Everything that comes into existence in this world is produced by the union of prakriti and purusa. If one sees the Supreme Lord situated equally in all things, is without self-deception and understands that the spirit-soul or jivatma proper is situated in a dormant state and therefore does nothing and understands that everything is the interaction of the material elements, then he is truly in knowledge. And the Supreme Lord although always fully present as the indwelling monitor, He also does nothing and is never affected by any action. Just as the Sun illuminates everything but is never tainted thereby so the Supreme Lord pervades everything but remains fully transcendental. The knower of the body (ksetra) is the jiva, the knower of Prakriti (material nature) is Paramatma and those who have spiritual vision can understand the path of the jivas liberation from Prakriti or Guna-Maya and ultimately attain the Lord’s lotus feet in His all-blissful abode.
Useful Acronym to remember the chapter contents:
The final six chapters focus on divya-jnana - transcendental wisdom which helps one become detached from materialistic aspirations and simultaneously attached to Krishna. Chapter Thirteen covers topics previously discussed, but explores them in a more analytical way. Thus, wise readers can take advantage of the logical presentation made by Krishna to strengthen their conviction and deepen their understanding
W Wise Questions
I Items of knowledge
S Soul & Supersoul
W – Wise Questions (Verses 1-7) - Arjuna asks Krishna to define six subjects: prakrti (nature), purusa (the enjoyer), ksetra (the field of activities), ksetra-jna (the knower of the field), jnanam (knowledge and the process of knowing), and jneyam (the object of knowledge). These subjects are key constituents of Vedic philosophy and Krishna therefore spends the entire chapter defining and discussing them. Arjuna, although an established transcendentalist, plays the part of a materially entangled individual so he can pose questions for the benefit of humanity. His astute enquiries create the opportunity for Krishna
to offer answers to life’s most profound mysteries. Krishna begins by defining ksetra and the ksetrajna.
I – Items of knowledge (Verses 8-12) - These verses describe how the ksetra-jna (spirit soul) can disentangle himself from the ksetra (body) by cultivating jnana (knowledge). Since true knowledge is revealed within the heart of a deserving person, the real method of acquiring knowledge is the cultivation of divine qualities, of which humility is foremost. Knowledge is not about information and memorisation, but rather about exemplary personal character and practical behaviour. One who nurtures a saintly disposition experiences a change of heart which disentangles the eternal soul from its deep rooted identification with the body – its temporary dress.
S – Soul & Supersoul (Verses 13-19) - Having described the ksetra, ksetra-jna and jnanam, Krishna now describes jneyam, the object of knowledge. The purpose of knowledge is to realize the soul and the Supersoul, who are eternally individual but at the same time intimately connected. It is the prerogative of the soul to understand the Supersoul, but the Supersoul is sometimes described as avijneyam, or unknowable. How to reconcile this? Empirical researchers who try to fathom the Supreme using mundane logic and material sense perception are invariably baffled, and the Supersoul within remains unknowable to them. However, those who approach the subject matter with the proper attitude, ready and willing to gain insight through the eyes of great teachers, can surely realise the Supersoul, the object of all knowledge.
E – Enjoyer (Verses 20-35) - The chapter concludes with descriptions of the final two terms – prakrti and purusa. The conditioned soul desires to control and enjoy matter (prakrti) and it is this enjoying spirit that binds him to the material world. The Supersoul, however, is the actual enjoyer (Parama-purusa) and everything (material nature and the individual souls) is ultimately meant for His enjoyment. Just as pouring water over the root of a tree energizes the trunk, branches, and twigs, similarly, offering worship and service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead for his pleasure and satisfaction, automatically brings satisfaction to all living entities, including ourselves.
Questions on Chapter 13
Chapter 13 sloka to learn:
upadraṣṭānumantā cha bhartā bhoktā maheśvaraḥ
paramātmeti chāpy ukto dehe ’smin puruṣaḥ paraḥ 
paraḥ puruṣaḥ–The Supreme Person; upadraṣṭā–witness; anumantā–sanctioner; bhartā–support; bhoktā–maintainer; mahā-īśvaraḥ cha–and Supreme Lord; asmin dehe–within this body; api uktaḥ–is also described; iti cha–as; paramātmā–Paramātmā, the Supersoul. 
23 The Supreme Person—the witness, sanctioner, support, guardian, and almighty Lord within this body, is known as Paramātmā, the Supersoul.
ya evaṁ vetti puruṣaṁ prakṛtiñ cha guṇaiḥ saha
sarvathā vartamāno ’pi na sa bhūyo ’bhijāyate 
yaḥ–One who; evam vetti–thus knows; puruṣam–the Supreme Person; prakṛtim cha–and material nature; guṇaiḥ saha–with its modes; saḥ–he; vartamānaḥ api–though present; sarvathā–in any situation; na abhijāyate–is not born; bhūyaḥ–again. 
24 Thus, one who truly knows the Supreme Person and material nature with its modes, will never in any circumstances have to take birth again.
The Three Divisions of Material Nature
The Devotees of the Lord attain the highest stage in the realm of devotion when they take recourse in the prime essence of all knowledge. The mundane Prakriti known as the great Brahman is the womb in which the Supreme Lord impregnates the seed of all that be and is therefore the cause of all living and moving beings. The Lord then explains the nature of the triple qualities of Maya and their actions on the fallen souls (baddha-jiva). These qualities prove to be bondage to the jiva until (s)he transcends them through embracing the ultimate divine knowledge and worshipping the Lord with Love. The Lord expounds the characteristics of those who are free from the triple modes of nature as being above mundane love and hatred, pleasure and pain, praise and blame and sees earth, stone and gold equally. They are fixed in devotion and worship the Lord with pure Love and are alone fit to know the nature of Reality the Beautiful. Lord Krishna concludes by stating that He is the mainstay of Brahman, the sole receptacle of everlasting immortality, eternal divine Love and bliss in His super-excellent sports in His sweet abode of ecstasy.
Useful Acronym to remember the chapter contents:
In Chapter Fourteen, Krishna introduces a very interesting model known as the “three modes of material nature”. These three qualities permeate everything we see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. Our lifestyle, attitude and behaviours also fall under these modes. Through closer analysis, we can perceive how people are functioning in this world with a mistaken belief of freedom, when in actuality they are impelled to act according to these influences. Therefore, unless one is able to transcend these modes of nature, they act to perpetually trap one in this material world.
T Three Modes
R Race for prominence
A Actions in the modes
P Pure Life
T – Three Modes (Verses 1-9) – “Mode” is a translation of the Sanskrit word guna, which literally means thread or rope. The three modes influence a person’s character, behaviour and approach to life. For example, if Goodness (sattva) predominates, one will aspire for (and generally achieve) long-term happiness even if one experiences temporary inconveniences. The person overtaken by Passion (rajas) frantically seeks immediate short-term gain and doesn’t expect much more out of life. On the other hand, the person dominated by Ignorance (tamas) rarely achieves happiness at all. In this way the material world is populated by living entities in different conditions of life.
R – Race for prominence (Verses 10-13) - The modes compete with one another for supremacy within an individual. In the cycle of a single day, different modes may achieve prominence at different times. In general, Goodness clarifies and pacifies the individual since it motivates joy, wisdom, altruism and kindness. Passion is said to confuse and provoke the individual, invoking qualities of greed, anger and frustration. Ignorance is said to obscure and impede one’s life, often resulting in over-sleep, indifference, laziness and inertia.
A – Actions in the modes (Verses 14-18) – Reincarnation is the process by which a soul receives a new material body on the basis of activities performed in the present body. Our activities are a result of the decisions we make, and our decisions are ultimately based on the modes which we are being influenced by. Thus, Krishna predicts the future destination of an individual based on the predominant mode in their life. In short, those situated in Goodness go upward to the higher planes; those in Passion live on the earthly plane; and those in Ignorance go down to the hellish planes.
P – Pure Life (Verses 19-27) - Through these various descriptions we can approximate what combination of the modes we are personally affected by. The chapter concludes by explaining the ideal state that ensures a successful human life and after-life. Although Goodness is said to be the most progressive of the three, it still implicates one in the cycle of karma. To become completely free of karmic reactions one must transcend even the mode of Goodness, and become situated on the spiritual platform. This is only possible by engaging in bhakti-yoga with unflinching determination, taking inspiration and support from those who have already transcended the three modes. Krishna explains the character of such perfected transcendentalists who enjoy nectar even in this life.
Questions on Chapter 14
Chapter 14 sloka to learn:
brahmaṇo hi pratiṣṭhāham amṛtasyāvyayasya cha
śāśvatasya cha dharmasya sukhasyaikāntikasya cha 
hi–For; aham pratiṣṭhā–I am the basis; brahmaṇaḥ–of the Absolute Truth; avyayasya cha–and of the inexhaustible; amṛtasya–nectar; śāśvatasya cha–and of the eternal; dharmasya–divine Pastimes; aikāntikasya sukhasya cha–and of the ultimate ecstasy of divine love. 
27 I am the basis of the Absolute Truth, the inexhaustible nectar, the eternal Pastimes, and the ultimate ecstasy of divine love.
The Supreme Person
Lord Sri Krishna proceeds to compare Samsara (the world) with the Asvattha or the Peepul tree. This tree is to be uprooted by means of non-attachment and thereafter the realm of no return is to be sought. One should surrender himself to the Parama-Purusha or the supreme Absolute Person fully and unconditionally. Those who are free from mundane opposites can reach that unchangeable and blissful region which is the eternal abode of the Supreme Lord. When a soul departs from the body he takes with him the five subtle senses and the mind, which is the sixth, and together they are transported to another body. He himself is an eternal minute part of the Supreme Lord and that Lord dwells within the hearts of all. From Him comes knowledge, remembrance and forgetfulness. The Supreme Lord is the One to be known by the Vedas and it is He who is both the author and knower of Vedanta. There are two purashas – the ksara or the changeable and the Aksara which is the Brahman and Paramatma progressively superior conceptions of the unchangeable and then a third supreme Purusha who is known as Purusottama or Bhagavan. He is superior to both Brahman and Paramatma and thus He is proclaimed as the Supreme Personality of Godhead by the Vedas. As long as one conceives of Brahman and Paramatma as equal to the conception of Bhagavan—the sole object of worship—pure devotion does not arise. But once the true conception of the Supreme Lord Purusottama awakens in the unalloyed existence of the jiva then pure devotion or Parama Bhakti is irrevocably established there.
Useful Acronym to remember the chapter contents:
Imagine someone checks into their holiday hotel room and then begins painting the walls, buying new furniture, refitting the bathroom and hanging up family pictures. It sounds ludicrous—you don’t make arrangements for long-term comfort in a temporary residence. This world is likened to a hotel room within which people make complicated plans for security and enjoyment. In Chapter Fifteen Krishna uses a wonderful analogy to create detachment within the spiritualist and fuel his desire to re-enter his real home in the spiritual realm.
H Home or Hotel?
O On and On, Over and Over again
M Maintainer of body, mind, soul
E Essence in 3 verses
H – Home or Hotel? (Verses 1-5) – Just as a peepul tree has a reflection in water, the spiritual world also has its reflection—the material world. While they may look similar from a distance, the spiritual world is where reality, substance and true satisfaction is found. On the other hand, the reflected tree of the material world is complicated, intricate and completely topsy-turvy since the roots are upwards and the branches downwards. Bird-like individuals frantically search for juicy fruits on the reflected tree, but the substance which brings satisfaction seems to be lacking. Krishna urges the reader to cut down this illusory tree with the weapon of detachment and end the futile endeavours for permanent fulfilment in the temporary phantasmagoria.
O – On and On, Over and Over again (Verses 6-11) - Krishna then gives a glimpse of the spiritual world, showing how its nature is perfect, complete and fully satisfying to all. Once having gone there, one never returns to this world. Here in the material realm, an individual hops from tree to tree, acquiring various material bodies based on the worldly desires they cultivate throughout life. At the time of death, through the subtle workings of reincarnation, one receives a body which is tailor-made to facilitate such desires. Man proposes, God disposes. Thus, different life situations are meant to teach us a simple lesson - we are looking for the right thing (happiness), but we are looking in the wrong place.
M – Maintainer of body, mind, soul (Verses 12-15) - One who is entangled within the reflected tree of material existence can develop his Krishna consciousness by appreciating Krishna as the maintainer on all levels. Krishna maintains our gross physical body by arranging fundamental resources that provide the energy of life. He also maintains our subtle capacities by facilitating knowledge, remembrance and forgetfulness. And finally, perhaps most importantly, Krishna maintains our spirituality by offering ways and means to achieve self-realisation and escape the dangerous cycle of repeated birth and death.
E – Essence in 3 verses (Verses 16-18) - Previously Krishna summarized the Bhagavad-gita in four verses, and now He again summarises the teachings in three verses. Fallible living entities (ksara) have dropped into the tree of material existence due to an independent desire to enjoy. These are different from infallible living entities (aksara) who never leave the spiritual realm due to their undeviated desire to be with the Lord. Beyond both entities is the Supreme Lord. Thus, in yet another passage, Krishna reinforces that the living entity never becomes God, since even liberated souls have their separate identity in the spiritual world.
Questions on Chapter 15
Chapter 15 slokas to learn:
na tad bhāsayate sūryo na śaśāṅko na pāvakaḥ
yad gatvā na nivartante tad dhāma paramaṁ mama 
tat mama–That is My; paramam–all-illuminating; dhāma–holy abode; gatvā–having reached; yat–which; (prapannāḥ)–the surrendered souls; na nivartante (tataḥ)–never return from there. sūryaḥ–The sun; na bhāsayate–cannot illuminate; tat–that; na śaśāṅkaḥ–nor the moon; na pāvakaḥ–nor fire. 
6 The surrendered souls reach My eternal abode, never to return to this world. Neither sun, nor moon, nor fire—nothing can illuminate that all-illuminating supreme abode.
sarvasya chāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭho
mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanañ cha
vedaiś cha sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva chāham 
aham cha sanniviṣṭaḥ–I am situated as the indwelling monitor, the Supersoul; hṛdi–within the heart; sarvasya–of all beings. (jīvasya)–The living being’s; smṛtiḥ–remembrance; jñānam–knowledge; apohanam cha–and the disappearance of both; mattaḥ–arise from Me; aham eva cha vedyaḥ–and I alone am the object to be known; sarvaiḥ vedaiḥ–by means of all the Vedas. aham eva vedānta-kṛt–In the form of Vedavyās, I am the revealer of the Vedānta; veda-vit cha–and the knower of the meaning of the Vedas. 
15 I am situated (as the Supersoul) within the heart of all souls, and from Me arises the soul’s remembrance, knowledge, and forgetfulness (according to his actions). I alone am the Sweet Absolute to be known through all the Vedas. I am the revealer of the Vedānta—Vedavyās, and I am the knower of the Vedas.
The Godly and Ungodly Natures
The Supreme Lord, Krishna describes the qualities of the godly and demoniac. The godly qualities emancipate while the ungodly bind the soul. Correspondingly these two types of natures are embodied by two different type of living beings, the godly and the ungodly. The godly are prone to self-control and moderation while the ungodly are indulgent and seek sensual gratification, are impure in body and mind and consider the world nothing but the product of sexual union with no ultimate purpose other than mundane enjoyment and is clearly devoid of God. Holding this view, the godless incite the destruction of the world by their nefarious actions. Addicted to sensuality, their minds distracted and enthralled by ephemera they doom themselves to perdition. Self-obsessed, indolent, proud of their material wealth, accomplishments and so-called position in the world they perform sacrifice and give charity only in name disregarding any scriptural regulations or honesty. The three doors leading to hellish consciousness are lust, anger and greed and those who desire their eternal benefit must shun these by all means and rise above. The fundamental path to transcendence is to lead a purely devotional life in obedience to the Scriptures for the sole purpose of satisfying the Lord. Whoever acts according to their own whims and dictates of their mind, ignoring the advices of the saints, never attains true success, happiness or the supreme destination.
Useful Acronym to remember the chapter contents:
The dog is an unpredictable animal. Though widely acclaimed as man’s best friend, the dog also has a reputation for brutal, unprovoked attacks. Such contradictory behaviour is a sign of our times. In previous ages, the distinction between divine and demoniac people was very clear – they lived at a distance from each other and rarely mixed. In modern times, however, the dividing line has disappeared to the extent that the divine and demoniac coexist within the same individual! In Chapter Sixteen, Krishna describes the qualities of saintly persons and the weaknesses of the demoniac, systematically exposing attitudes and behaviours that destroy one’s spirituality.
D Divine or Demoniac
O Opinions & Outlook of Demons
G Gates to hell
D – Divine or Demoniac (Verses 1-6) - On the “tree of the material world”, divine qualities are said to elevate us whereas demoniac qualities result in degradation. These are the result of nature and nurture. While we undoubtedly carry impressions from previous lives, our willpower, determination and activities in this life can significantly alter that nature. Krishna describes 26 divine qualities and the six major demoniac qualities.
O – Opinions & Outlook of Demons (Verses 7-20) - To reassure Arjuna that he is of divine nature, Krishna distinguishes the activities, mentality and qualities of one who has demoniac propensities. Such miscreants are cast into repeated births in undeveloped, lower species of life. While this may sound like the harsh and judgmental God of dogmatic religion, Krishna explains how such treatment is the most progressive course of action to gradually uplift such individuals. Demoniac philosophy, mentality and activities generate immeasurable anxiety for the individual and cause great disruption in the wider society. It is a case of hate the disease not the diseased.
G – Gates to hell (verses 21-24) - Krishna warns that lust, anger and greed are the three root qualities that lead one to hell. Such hellish planes are not eternal prisons for the errant soul, but places of reformation where stern lessons help one to realign their vision. For one who wants to avoid such shock treatment, the scriptures act as a guidebook for gradual purification and ultimate perfection. They recommend a regulated lifestyle by which one can easily transform selfishness to selflessness, lust to love and quarrel into cooperation.
Questions on Chapter 16
Chapter 16 slokas to learn:
tri-vidhaṁ narakasyedaṁ dvāraṁ nāśanam ātmanaḥ
kāmaḥ krodhas tathā lobhas tasmād etat trayaṁ tyajet 
idam tri-vidham–These three kinds of; dvāram–doors; narakasya–of hell; ātmanaḥ nāśanam–lead to self-destruction: kāmaḥ–lust; krodhaḥ–anger; tathā lobhaḥ–and greed; tasmāt–so; etat trayam–these three; tyajet–must be abandoned. 
21 Lust, anger, and greed are the three doors of hell leading to self-destruction, so they must be abandoned.
etair vimuktaḥ kaunteya tamo-dvārais tribhir naraḥ
ācharaty ātmanaḥ śreyas tato yāti parāṁ gatim 
(he) kaunteya–O Kaunteya; naraḥ–a person; vimuktaḥ–liberated; etaiḥ–from these; tribhiḥ tamaḥ-dvāraiḥ–three doors of darkness; ācharati–acts; śreyaḥ–for the benefit; ātmanaḥ–of the soul. tataḥ–By that; yāti–he reaches; parām–the supreme; gatim–goal. 
22 O Kaunteya, one who is liberated from these three doors of darkness strives for the benefit of the soul, by which he attains the supreme destination.
The Three Types of Faith
Arjuna asks Lord Krishna whether the faith of those who infringe the laws of the Scriptures is Sattvik, Rajasik or Tamasik, even if they perform their daily worship with faith. The Supreme Lord answers that faith is of three kinds characterised by Sattva or goodness, Rajas or passion and Tamas or ignorance. All beings have faith and their faith varies according to their nature. Men of Sattvik faith worship the gods, men of Rajasik faith worship the yakshas (nature spirts) and those of Tamasik faith worship ghosts. Men of ungodly or wicked temperament perform severe austerities inspired by egotism and pride and torture themselves within and without. The Lord then explains three types of food, sacrifice, austerity and charity corresponding to the three qualities previously mentioned. Duties performed with a faith based on any of these three mundane qualities will still always be saguna and hence ultimately inconsequential. But when the same duties are carried out with pure devotional faith in God then they are nirguna and hence purify the heart. Pure faith is the keynote of all Scripture. For this reason the brahmins perform all yajnas (sacrifices), dana (charity), tapas (austerity) with the words ‘Om Tat Sat’ as the invocation of their faith. Conversely sacrifice, charity, austerity or any action that is not performed with faith in the Supreme is always to be known as untruth or asat and never brings auspiciousness in this world or the next.
Useful Acronym to remember the chapter contents:
In the previous chapter Krishna described two extremes; the divine and the demoniac. Day-to-day experience, however, reveals that we actually have many faces and are not necessarily one or the other. Life is generally not black or white, but usually different shades of grey. The faces that we present on a daily basis reveal something about our faith – the things we trust, believe and place value upon. Chapter Seventeen describes how a person’s affiliation to a particular mode of nature will determine the type of faith they have.
E Enjoyer of everything
F – Faith (Verses 1-7) – Although religious people are often referred to as “people of faith”, the reality is that everyone has faith. We all put faith in traffic lights, doctors, and even banks to name but a few - without faith you couldn’t function in this world! To have faith means to see opportunity, reward and value in something even though it may not be immediately experienced. Therefore, according to one’s faith one identifies objects of adoration and reverence and begins to worship them in different ways. In accordance to this, individuals adopt worldviews, lifestyles and character traits. Krishna begins a discussion of this by giving examples of diet and sacrifices.
A – Austerities (Verses 14-19) – In order to achieve anything in this world, one must undergo some austerity. We sacrifice immediate pleasure and comfort for the purpose of long-term benefit. People who place faith in different things, perform different austerities in life. Krishna explains beneficial austerities pertaining to the body, mind and words, and also the varying motivations with which one may perform them.
C – Charity (verses 20-22) - The innate quality of the soul is to serve and thus we find a charitable disposition within everyone to a greater or lesser extent. According to one’s own faith, they make efforts to help others. Krishna discusses the different types of charity and explains that to truly benefit people, charity must be performed within certain parameters.
E – Enjoyer of everything (Verses 23-28) – Throughout this chapter Krishna discusses all His themes with reference to the modes of nature. It is essential to understand that all activities, even those performed in Goodness, will always yield karmic reactions to the performer and thus bind him to repeated existence in this world. But is there a way out? In Vedic hymns, God is defined as the supreme enjoyer by the three words om tat sat. Thus, if our sacrifices, penance, and austerities are dedicated to the Supreme, done for His pleasure and favour, then such activities yield permanent benefit and ultimate freedom. With this kind of transcendental aim all our activities become liberating instead of entangling.
Questions on Chapter 17
Chapter 17 slokas to learn:
oṁ-tat-sad iti nirdeśo brahmaṇas tri-vidhaḥ smṛtaḥ
brāhmaṇās tena vedāś cha yajñāś cha vihitāḥ purā 
iti–These; tri-vidhaḥ–three words: om-tat-sat–Om Tat Sat; smṛtaḥ–are known in the scriptures as; nirdeśaḥ–indicating; brahmaṇaḥ–Brahma, the Supeme Spirit. purā–In ancient times, at the universal manifestation; brāhmaṇāḥ–the brāhmaṇs; vedāḥ cha–the Vedas; yajñāḥ cha–and sacrifices; vihitāḥ–were manifested; tena–by these three words. 
23 The scriptures say that the words Om Tat Sat indicate Brahma, the Supreme Spirit. At the time of the universal manifestation, the brāhmaṇs, the Vedas, and sacrifices were manifested by these three words.
aśraddhayā hutaṁ dattaṁ tapas taptaṁ kṛtañ cha yat
asad ity uchyate pārtha na cha tat pretya no iha 
(he) pārtha–O Arjuna; yat–whatever; hutam–sacrifice is offered; dattam–charity is given; tapaḥ taptam–austerity is endured; cha–and; kṛtam–action is performed; aśraddhayā–without faith; tat–that; uchyate–is described; asat iti–as asat, untruth; (yataḥ tat)–because that; (phalati)–fructifies; na u iha–neither in this world; na cha pretya–nor the next. 
28 O Pārtha, sacrifice, charity, and austerity or any action performed without faith in the Supreme is known as asat, or untruth. Such works cannot bring an auspicious result, either in this world or the next.
The Path of Liberation
This chapter begins with a question by Arjuna as to the difference between the principles of Sannyas (renunciation) and Tyaga (detachment). The Supreme Lord replies that Sannyas is the disinterested performance of all duties, setting aside all fruitive and selfish actions, while Tyaga consists in ignoring the results of all fruitive actions. In Sannyas all selfish actions together with all fruitive actions must be abandoned but in Tyaga one should not refrain from doing all these duities but one should work without seeking to enjoy the fruits thereof. The Lord then proceeds to mention three kinds of Tyaga: Sattvika, Rajasa and Tamasa and their characteristic features. Then He comes to the five causes of accomplishment of actions without which no activity can be done. He who possesses real insight and is with pure intention is not bound by the consequences of his actions either good or bad. There are three kinds of incentives to action; knowledge, the knowable and the knower, and there are three basic instruments of action; the senses, the deeds and the performer. Then the Lord explains three kinds of knowledge (jnana), action (karma) and performers of actions (karta), three kinds of intelligence, three kinds of determination and three kinds of happiness—all of which are governed by yhte three modes of material nature. Neither the human beings of this plane or the gods of the heavenly planes are actually free from these threefold Mayic qualities. However, whosoever surrenders unconditionally to the Lord can alone easily cross over the insurmountable illusion. The Lord then describes the respective duties of the Brahmins (intellectual or priestly), Ksatriyas (warriors or administrators) and Vaisyas (farmers or traders) and Sudras (labourers) according to their innate qualities and natures. Lord Krishna explains that real success in life is to consecrate all actions based on one’s inborn nature along with their concomitant fruits at the Lotus Feet of the Supreme Lord. It is far better to perform one’s ordained duty imperfectly than to perform that which is assigned to another even if that is done perfectly. The Lord then explains how a jivasoul can attain to the Absolute by the performance of his actions dedicated to the Lord and He describes the qualities of such a person. Krishna then states that such a soul attains divine love by the path of pure devotion. He then tells Arjuna that because he is so dear to Him, He will again tell the most confidential of all teachings, the Hidden Treasure of the Sweet Absolute. He unashamedly exhorts Arjuna (and us all) to always think of Him, give his heart to Him, worship Him and bow down to Him. The result of this, He explains will be that he (we) will surely come to Him united always in Love. This Krishna promises with the greatest affection. He then issues His clarion call to all souls, “Give up whatever you conceive of as your duty, your religion, your obligations of this world and just surrender exclusively to Me. Have no fear, I will absolve you of everything.” This is the ultimate conclusion of the Bhagavad-gita—unconditional surrender or Saranagati which is the very keynote of Prema-Bhakti.
Useful Acronym to remember the chapter contents:
Chapter Eighteen is essentially a final summary of the Bhagavad-gita. After systematically outlining various spiritual truths, Krishna offers
His paramam vacah – His supreme advice; one should take up bhaktiyoga, the most essential spiritual practice outlined in every chapter of this conversation. Thus, one is offered the opportunity of permanent happiness and fulfilment by the achievement of Krishna consciousness, considered the perfection of renunciation. In such consciousness, an individual can smile in the face of all situations and circumstances, confident that the smiling Krishna is his constant companion and eternal friend.
S Summary of Karma-yoga
M Modes of nature
I Ideal Worker
L Love of God
E End Result
S - Summary of Karma-yoga (Verses 1-18) - The Eighteenth chapter begins by addressing the “frequently asked question” that seems to pop up again and again. If working in this world seems to attract karmic reaction and implicates us in a web of worldly complexity, is it not safer that we give up work altogether? Krishna disagrees and reiterates that activity is not bad per se. The root of entanglement is the false ego with which we perform the activity, thinking ourselves the controller and enjoyer. In reality, there are five causes which bring success to any activity – the individual soul, the body, the senses, the endeavour, and ultimately the Supersoul. Since we are only one of the five we should never have an over-valued estimation of ourselves. Thus, by working
in a spirit of detachment, offering the fruits of labour towards a transcendental goal, one can function in this world and simultaneously remain completely aloof.
M – Modes of nature (Verses 19-40) – Looking around us, the reality is that most people are deeply engrossed within this material world. Krishna pins this down to the modes of material nature that entangle each person according to their individual mentality. He explains how the modes influence our knowledge, our actions, our understanding, our determination and ultimately our sense of happiness.
I – Ideal Worker (Verses 41-55) - So what is the solution? On one hand we are expected to be aloof and unattached workers but in reality we have a conditioned nature influenced by the modes, which implicates us in worldly life. Krishna therefore explains the system of varnasrama, where one engages their inherent nature in different types of work. Four divisions are outlined – the brahmana (intelligent class), ksatriya (martial class), vaisya (mercantile class) and sudra (labourer class). One need not artificially imitate another man’s duty, but rather embrace what is natural and inborn. By engaging our nature and discharging work in a spirit of God consciousness, we purify ourselves of material propensities and live a happy and peaceful life.
L – Love of God (Verses 56-66) - In conclusion, all the activities, practices and elements of spirituality, are ultimately aimed at achieving pure love of God. The highest realisation in transcendental knowledge is to re-establish one’s eternal loving relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Srila AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj Prabhupad wonderfully sums this up in his commentary to verse 18.65: “The most confidential part of knowledge is that one should become a pure devotee of Krishna and always think of Him and act for Him. One should not become an official meditator. Life should be so moulded that one will always have the chance to think of Krishna. One should always act in such a way that all his daily activities are in connection with Krishna. He should arrange his life in such a way that throughout the twenty-four hours he cannot help but think of Krishna. And the Lord’s promise is that anyone who is in such pure Krishna consciousness will certainly return to the abode of Krishna, where he will be engaged in the association of Krishna face to face.”
E - End Result (Verses 67-78) – Knowledge and understanding of the Bhagavad-gita is dependent upon one’s consciousness. Only one who approaches these sacred teachings with proper mood and lifestyle will be able to fully comprehend the deep and profound meanings. By hearing and studying this conversation with such favourable temperament, one perceives the spiritual dimension as a tangible reality and his life becomes exciting and wondrous at every step. Thus, to share this wisdom with society at large constitutes the greatest welfare work in the entire universe.
Questions on Chapter 18
Chapter 18 slokas to learn:
bhaktyā mām abhijānāti yāvān yaś chāsmi tattvataḥ
tato māṁ tattvato jñātvā viśate tad-anantaram 
bhaktyā–Through devotion; (saḥ)–he; abhijānāti–can well know; mām–Me; tattvataḥ–in reality; yāvān–as far as being the Master of all opulences; yaḥ cha (aham) asmi–and that which I am. jñātvā–Thus knowing Me; tattvataḥ–in truth; (saḥ)–he; tat-anantaram–thereafter; tataḥ–by the potency of that devotion; viśate–enters; mām–My eternal Pastimes (nitya-līlā), non-different from Me. 
55 Through devotion, he realises that I am the Lord of all potencies and the Sweet Absolute. Then, realising his divine relationship with Me, he enters the company of My intimate associates who are non-different from My very self.
sarva-karmāṇy api sadā kurvāṇo mad-vyapāśrayaḥ
mat-prasādād avāpnoti śāśvataṁ padam avyayam 
api–Although; sadā–ever; kurvāṇaḥ–active; sarva-karmāṇi–in all duties; mat-vyapāśrayaḥ–My surrendered souls; avāpnoti–attain; śāśvataṁ–the eternal; avyayam–immutable (flourishing); padam–plane (of service); mat-prasādāt–by My grace. 
56 Although ever active in all duties, those who have taken refuge in Me attain, by My grace, the eternal, indestructible plane (of service).
man-manā bhava mad-bhakto mad-yājī māṁ namaskuru
mām evaiṣyasi satyaṁ te pratijāne priyo ’si me 
bhava–Be; mat-manāḥ–of mind dedicated to Me; mat-bhaktaḥ–devoted to Me; mat-yājī–be My worshipper; namaskuru–and offer obeisance—offer yourself; mām–to Me; (tarhi)–then; eva–certainly; eṣyasi–you will come; mām–to Me. satyam–Truly; pratijāne–I promise this; te–to you; (yataḥ tvam)–as you; asi–are; priyaḥ–dear; me–to Me. 
65 Think of Me always, devote yourself to Me, worship Me, and bow to Me, and surely you will come to Me. I promise you this, because you are dear to Me.
sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śuchaḥ 
parityajya–Totally rejecting; sarva-dharmān–all kinds of religion; śaraṇam vraja–take shelter; mām–of Me; ekam–alone. aham–I; mokṣayiṣyāmi–will liberate; tvām–you; sarva-pāpebhyaḥ–from all kinds of sins. mā śuchaḥ–Do not despair. 
66 Give up all kinds of religion and surrender to Me alone. I will liberate you from all sins. Do not despair.