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?
Srimad Bhagavad-gita Study Group
- Chapter 2 -
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.
Srimad Bhagavad-gita Study Group
- Chapter 3 -
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.
Srimad Bhagavad-gita Study Group
- Chapter 4 -
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.
Srimad Bhagavad-gita Study Group
- Chapter 5 -
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.
Srimad Bhagavad-gita Study Group
- Chapter 6 -
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.
Srimad Bhagavad-gita Study Group
- Chapter 7 -
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 6 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.