Srimad Bhagavad-gita Study Group

 - Chapter by Chapter -

The Gist of Each Chapter

Chapter 1 — Sainya-darshan — Observing the Armies

Also known as — Arjuna-vishada-yoga — The Dejection of Arjuna

This chapter describes the dejection of Arjuna upon seeing the belligerent forces assembled for battle. Overcome by grief and confusion Arjuna surrenders to Lord Krishna and asks for His counsel.

Chapter 2 — Sankhya-yoga — The Constitution of the Soul

This chapter deals with Sankhya-yoga or that branch of knowledge dealing fully with Karma (action) and Jnana (knowledge). The nature of the eternal soul is described along with the process of transmigration. Here Bhakti is faintly indicated.

Chapter 3 — Karma-yoga — The Path of Action

This chapter deals with Niskama-karma-yoga or desireless action dedicated to the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna, leading to transcendental knowledge of the Lord and one’s own self.

Chapter 4 — Jnana-yoga — The Path of Knowledge

This chapter explains Jnana-yoga and extols the superiority of transcendental knowledge as the best means to attain freedom from mundanity and further elaborates on the principle of Niskama-karma-yoga as the path to attaining this knowledge of transcendence.

Chapter 5 — Karma-sannyas-yoga — The Path of Renunciation of Action

This chapter deals with the renunciation of action and the fruits of action. Both the true Jnanin or Karma-sannyasin and the Niskama-karma-yogin having attained the true knowledge of the Atma (individual-spirit), Brahman (impersonal all-pervading aspect of God), Paramatan (indwelling oversoul, the Lord as witness within all) and Bhagavan (the ultimate personality of Godhead in His fullness) are able to attain eternal bliss situated in Brahma-nirvana.

Chapter 6 — Dhyana-yoga — The Path of Meditation

Here the Lord explains the different paths of development in the attainment of transcendental knowledge, Niskama-karma-yoga (dedicated selfless action) then Dhyana-yoga (contemplation on God) and then Astanga-yoga (or the eightfold path of yogic practice) and ultimately Bhakti-yoga (loving devotion) which aims at the union of Divine Love which is the summun bonum of human life.

Chapter 7 — Jnana-vijana-yoga — Knowledge and Realisation of the Supreme

Here it is explained that Bhakti is based on Sraddha (sublime faith) and is impelled or awakened by the association of the saintly devotees of the Lord who know the Lord Sri Krishna as the Supreme Absolute Truth, Reality the Beautiful, one without a second. The souls bondage to the world is the result of attachment to sense-objects born of illusion (maya). The souls emancipation is only possible through the culture of Suddha-bhakti or pure devotion. When the soul is convinced of the path of highest good he can attain perfection in spiritual practice through recourse to Sravan (hearing), Kritan (chanting) and Smaran (meditating) in relation to Lord Krishna, conceiving of himself as the eternal servant of the Lord.

Chapter 8 — Taraka-brahma-yoga — The Merciful Absolute

The Lord describes here the super-excellence of unalloyed devotion and of the eternal realm of inexhaustible spiritual bliss where once one is established there, no traveller ever returns to this world of mortality.

Chapter 9 — Raja-guhya-yoga — The Hidden Treasure of Devotion

The sum and substance of this chapter is that pure devotion is the means of attaining Divine Love, the ultimate end and fulfilment of existence. The pure self unfettered by the three modes of nature is fit to practice this pure devotion and Lord Sri Krishna is only object of worship of all jiva-souls being the Lord of all-beauty, truth and harmony. As long as this essential principle is hidden from the fallen souls then they will look to all and every other means of attaining fulfilment however injurious to their eternal spiritual health and are destined to suffer the misery of this plane of life. But those who are situated on the path of devotion, even if they are observed to do wrong in the eyes of society or if their habits are impure and improper they should nevertheless be considered as being sadhus in the real sense and therefore superior to a perfect Karmin, Jnanin or Yogin. Krishna says His devotees never meet with destruction because their ultimate desire is Love divine and today or tomorrow Krishna will give that to them. Those who understand this and proclaim it to the world, they too will become established in pure devotion.

Chapter 10 — Vibhuti-yoga — The Divine Glories of the Lord

In this chapter Krishna explains how He is the cause of all causes and all manifestations of goodness, holiness, godliness, grandeur, power and loveliness are only fragments of His divine magnificence. Furthermore, the super-excellence of Krishna’s divine loveliness as the original, eternal, source of all beauty embodied as Shyamasundar excels all manifestations in any sphere, mundane or spiritual and is the cause of the highest worship and adoration in love which the paramahamsa (swanlike) devotees engage in forever. This is explained in detail in the four root verse of the Gita (8-11) found in this chapter and known as the Chatuh-sloki, the ontological substance of the whole book encapsulated here.

Chapter 11 — Visva-rupa-darshan-yoga — The Vision of the Universal Form

Essentially this chapter describes Arjuna’s vision of the Lord’s Universal Form which is an extraordinary, inconceivable and terrifying vision of the Lord’s mystical opulence wherein Arjuna perceives everything that be, emanating and again entering into the Lord’s person via innumerable mouths, arms, bodies, forms and manifestations which have no beginning, middle or end. He sees himself there as well as all the warriors assembled for battle and sees them all entering into the Lord’s terrible jaws and being crushed to pieces like moths drawn inevitably into the fire. So overwhelmed with fear at seeing this vision Arjuna asks the Lord to again show His Vasudeva-rupa by seeing which Arjuna regains his composure and his heart becomes peaceful.

Chapter 12 — Bhakti-yoga — The Path of Devotion

The gist of the twelfth chapter is that Bhakti or pure devotion is the path of the saints and is ever-blissful and the fruit of true Love, the only means to attaining the highest end of spiritual existence. Bhakti is both the means and the end.

Chapter 13 — Prakriti-purusa-viveka-yoga — Distinction Between Matter and Spirit

In essence this chapter explains that there are two knowers of the field of action (ksetrajnas). One is the individual soul or the jivatma and the other the Paramatma, the Supreme Lord. The jivatma being inherently bound by Maya (illusion) suffers and enjoys transient pleasure and pain because of desiring to exploit Prakriti (nature) and thus being caught in the web of action and reaction because of mundane misidentification. 

Chapter 14 — Gunatrya-vibhaga-yoga — The Three Divisions of Material Nature

In this chapter Krishna teaches us not to be a slave of the triple qualities of Maya, but to transcend them by connecting ourselves with the Nirguna plane through the practice of devotion inspired to render eternal service with a loving heart to the Supreme Lord Sri Krishnachandra in the all blissful abode of Vraja which is the ultimate goal of all existence.

Chapter 15 — Purusottama-yoga — The Supreme Person

Here the Lord further reiterates the distinction between spirit and matter and that he who knows this distinction as well as having the proper understanding of the threefold manifestation of the Aksara-purusa, i.e. Brahman, Paramatman and Bhagavan, actually knows the supreme principle of Purusottama or the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Chapter 16 — Daivasura-sampad-vibhaga-yoga — The Godly and Ungodly Natures 

Krishna explains the natures of those who are faithful and godly as distinct from those who are faithless and ungodly. The gist of this chapter is that faith in God leads one to perfect bliss, while disbelief leads one to perdition.

Chapter 17 — Sraddhatraya-vihaga-yoga — The Three Types of Faith

A Jiva attains to final beatitude when all his qualified actions such as Yajna (sacrifice), Dana (charity), Tapasya (austerity), Ahara (food choice), etc., are done with exclusive faith in the Supreme Lord, imbued with the transcendent nature implicit in the unfettered soul.

Chapter 18 — Moksa-yoga — The Path of Liberation

In the final chapter of the Gita, Lord Krishna explains the most secret of all spiritual knowledge, that pure devotion based on absolute surrender is the only genuine function of the jiva. Above action, renunciation of action, renouncing the fruits of action and even selfless action, absolute surrender, Saranagati is the keynote of this chapter and indeed the whole teaching of the Gita. In the final estimation Lord Krishna extols us all to abandon all religion, duty and obligation to all and anyone and just submit unconditionally to Him, the sweet Absolute and without fear we can rely on Him to take full charge of us and bring us to Him to be joined with Him eternally now and forever in the sweetest home of our soul, Sri Vrindavan Dham.