1 Lesson 1
is a doctrine of universal truth.
Its message is universal, sublime, and
non-sectarian although it is a part
of the scriptural trinity of Sanaatan
Dharm, commonly known as Hinduism. The
Bhagavad-Gita is very easy to understand
in any language for a mature mind. A
repeated reading with faith will reveal
all the sublime ideas contained in it.
A few difficult verses are interspersed
here and there but they have no direct
bearing on practical issues or the central
theme of Bhagavad-Gita. The Bhagavad-Gita
deals with the most sacred metaphysical
science. It imparts the knowledge of
the Self and answers two universal questions:
who am I and how can I lead a happy
and peaceful life in this world of dualities.
It is a book of yog---the moral and
spiritual growth---for mankind based
on the cardinal principles of Hindu
The message of Bhagavad-Gita
came to humanity due to Arjun's unwillingness
to do his duty as a warrior, because
fighting involved destruction and killing.
Nonviolence or Ahimsaa is one of the
most fundamental tenets of Hinduism.
All lives, human or non-human, are sacred.
This immortal discourse between the
Supreme Lord, Krishn, and His devotee-friend,
Arjun, occurs not in a temple or a secluded
forest or on a mountain top but in a
battle field on the eve of war and is
recorded in the great epic, Mahaabhaarat.
In Bhagavad-Gita Lord Krishn
advises Arjun to get up and fight.
This may create a confusion of the principles
of Ahimsaa if the background of the
war of Mahaabhaarat is not kept in mind.
Therefore, a brief historical description
is in order.
In ancient times there was a king who
had two sons, Dhritaraashtr and
Paandu. The former was born blind;
therefore, Paandu inherited the kingdom.
Paandu had five sons. They were called
the Paandavs. Dhritaraashtr had
one hundred sons. They were called the
Kauravs. Duryodhan was the eldest of
the Kauravs. After the death of king
Paandu, the Paandavs became the lawful
king. Duryodhan was a very jealous person.
He also wanted the kingdom.
The kingdom was divided into two halves
between the Paandavs and the Kauravs.
Duryodhan was not satisfied with his
share of the kingdom. He wanted
the entire kingdom for himself. He unsuccessfully
planned several foul plays to kill the
Paandavs and take away their kingdom.
He unlawfully took possession of the
entire kingdom of the Paandavs and refused
to give back even an acre of land without
a war. All mediation by Lord Krishn
and others failed. The big war of Mahaabhaarat
was thus started. The Paandavs were
unwilling participants. They had
only two choices: fight for their right
as a matter of duty or run away from
war and accept defeat in the name of
peace and nonviolence. Arjun, one of
the five Paandav brothers, faced the
dilemma in the battlefield whether
to fight or run away from war for the
sake of peace.
Arjun's dilemma is, in reality,
the universal dilemma. Every
human being faces dilemmas, big or small,
in their everyday life in course of
performing their duties. Arjun's dilemma
was the biggest of all. He had to make
a choice between fighting the war and
killing his most revered guru, very
dear friends, close relatives, and many
innocent warriors or running away from
the battle field for the sake of preserving
the peace and nonviolence.
The entire seven hundred verses
of the Gita is a discourse between Lord
Krishn and the confused Arjun in the
battle field of Kurukshetr near Delhi,
India, about 5,000 years ago.
This discourse was narrated to the blind
king, Dhritaraashtr, by his charioteer,
Sanjay, as an eyewitness war report.
The central teaching of the
Bhagavad-Gita is the attainment of freedom
or happiness from the bondage of life
through performing one's duty.
Always remember the glory and greatness
of the creator and do your duty efficiently
without being attached to or affected
by the results even if that duty may
at times demand unavoidable violence.
Some people neglect or give up their
duty in life for the sake of a spiritual
life while others excuse themselves
from spiritual practices on the ground
that they have no time.
The Lord's message is to sanctify
the entire living process itself.
Whatever a person does or thinks ought
to be done for the glory and satisfaction
of the Maker. No effort, cost, or change
of one's belief or religion is necessary
for this process. Do your duty
as a service to the Lord (or humanity)
and see God alone in everything in a
spiritual frame of mind. In
order to gain such a spiritual frame
of mind personal discipline, austerity,
penance, good conduct, selfless
service, meditation, worship, prayer,
rituals, and study of scriptures are
needed to purify the intellect. There
is no human mind and intellect that
cannot be purified by a repeated study
of the Bhagavad-Gita.
One must learn to give up lust,
anger, greed, and establish mastery
over the six senses (touch, taste, smell,
sight, hearing, and mind) by the purified
intellect. One should always
remember that all works are being done
by the energy of nature and that he
or she is not the doer but only an instrument.
One must strive for excellence in all
undertakings but maintain equanimity
in success and failure, gain and loss,
and pain and pleasure.
Ajnaan, the ignorance of metaphysics
(the transcendental knowledge, or Self-knowledge)
is humanity's greatest predicament.
The language is incapable and translations
are defective to clearly impart
the knowledge of the Self. In this rendering
an attempt has been made to keep the
style as close as possible to the original
Sanskrit poetry and yet make it easy
to read and understand. An attempt has
been made to improve the clarity by
adding words or phrases. The
simpler 133 key verses out of 700 total
verses (in 18 Chapters) of the Bhagavad-Gita
are selected for this introductory correspondence
course for the beginners and busy people
as well as for the daily reading of
the Gita. The beginners should
first read and understand the meaning
of these simpler key verses before delving
deep into the bottomless ocean of transcendental
knowledge of the Bhagavad-Gita.
Dr. Ramananda Prasad now offers
his deft translation to the holy mount
of Bhagavad Gita. His renderings are
elegantly simple, easy to understand,
and unencumbered by commentary. "
--- HINDUISM TODAY, July 1990
Some of our students write:
“This course is the clearest presentation
of the basic principles to be learned
from the Gita.” “I no longer
see everything with the eyes of my mind,
but with my heart.” “Had
I taken this course earlier, I would
not be in the prison today.”
HOW TO GET
MOST OUT OF THIS COURSE
You should devote at least
20 minutes to every lesson.
Read and contemplate on the meaning
of the verses and reread it everyday.
free to call us at (510) 791-6953 on
Mondays between 6 and 8 PM, California
time, or write to us to clarify the
meaning of the verses.
Students may ask for FREE "Pocket
size Bhagavad-Gita" when you mail
your answers to the last Quiz II (must
send a SASE with three stamps with the
request). We do not have finances to
send you a free book (“The Bhagavad-Gita”,
Price $18 includes S&H) at this
This translation is being used
in the American Universities. This service
of the International Gita Society (IGS)
of California, is absolutely free.
No donation is ever asked from our students
of the Bhagavad-Gita, because we do
not intend to build any more Ashrams,
or Temples. Our aim is to try
to make every home an Ashram by placing
the Holy Gita there for the people to
read, ponder, and practice in their
everyday life. All you invest
is your time and effort to gain the
knowledge of the Supreme. If lessons
helped you, please tell your friends.
Write to us for spiritual guidance.
This course is designed for
the busy people, young adults, executives,
professionals, students, as well
as all those who want to get introduced
to Bhagavad-Gita. Young children or
persons below 11th grade level will
need parents' or some help. IGS's help
is there just for the asking.
After seriously completing this course
you will be able to read, understand,
discuss the subject matter of Gita,
and pursue further study on your own
using "Pocket size Bhagavad-Gita",
but feel free to ask us for help in
understanding certain difficult verses
Total number of lessons is
8, or only 13 pages.
With best wishes for your spiritual
Chapter 2 - TRANSCENDENTAL
The Supreme Lord said: O Arjun, you
speak like a wise, but grieve for those
who are not worthy of grief. The wise
should not lament for the living or
for the dead. (2.11) NOTE: Numbers
inside the parenthesis are the Chapter
number and Verse number, respectively,
of the Gita. Because, just
as the soul acquires a childhood body,
a youth body, and an old age body during
this life, similarly, the soul acquires
another new body after death. The wise
should not become bewildered by the
thoughts of unavoidable death.
The one who thinks that Atmaa (Spirit,
soul) is a slayer, and the one who thinks
that the soul is slain, both are ignorant.
Because, the soul neither slays nor
(2.19) Just as a person puts on a new
dress after discarding the old one,
similarly, Atmaa (Spirit) acquires a
new body after giving up this body.
Does one moan getting a new dress? (2.22).
Other metaphors used for the body are:
a vehicle, an abode, and a cage for
Atmaa, the spirit soul.
All beings, O Arjun, have a formless
or subtle body before birth, and after
death. They have a physical body only
in between the birth and the death.
What is there to grieve about? (2.28)
Just do your duty to the best
of your abilities and without becoming
discouraged by the thoughts of outcome
or the outcome itself that may be success
or failure, gain or loss, victory or
defeat. By doing your duty with this
attitude, you will not incur any sin
or Karmic bondage. (2.38)
To a God-realized person Vedas, the
books of knowledge, are as useless as
a reservoir of water when there is floodwater
available everywhere. A scripture
is no longer needed after one has already
realized God. A scripture is only an
aid in God-realization. (2.46) One
has the ability and privilege to do
one's respective duty, but has no control
over the results. The fruits of work
should not be the motive.
Also, one should never remain
inactive. (2.47) (Everybody in India
remembers this verse in Sanskrit!) Remember
the Lord and do your duty to the best
of your ability.
Abandon attachment to, and worry
for the fruits of your work, and remain
calm in both success and failure.
One may expect desirable results, but
should be fully prepared for the undesirable
also. The calmness of mind is
called yog. (2.48) (The fear
of failure, due to being attached to
the fruits, robs work efficiency.
Work is done more efficiently when one
is not bothered with the outcome, good
or bad, of the results) A KarmYogi (or
the one who does his or her duty as
mentioned above in verse 2.48) gets
liberation from both vice and virtue
in this life itself. Therefore,
try to be a KarmYogi. Working without
greed for the fruits of work is called
KarmYog, Sevaa, or the selfless service.
(The mark of a genius lies in the ability
to handle pair of opposites such as
working with detached attachment) (2.50)
A person whose mind is not disturbed
by sorrow, who does not long for pleasures;
and who is free from greed, attachment,
fear, and anger; such a person is called
a yogi or sage of steady mind. (2.56)
KarmYogis are not attached to anything.
They are neither delighted by getting
desired results nor upset by undesired
results, because, their mind is always
calm and steady. (2.57)
One should learn to focus or
fix one's mind on God only after bringing
the mind and senses under control.
One's intellect becomes sharp whose
mind and senses are under control. (2.61)
One develops a liking for harmful sensual
pleasures by thinking about sense enjoyments.
The desire for sense pleasures comes
from thinking about sense pleasures.
Anger comes when desire is not fulfilled,
and greed (for more pleasures) comes
after desire is fulfilled. (2.62) The
uncontrolled mind steals away the intellect
as the storm takes away a boat on the
sea from its destination. Therefore,
a spiritual aspirant must control the
mind and senses and never let the senses
or the mind control you. (Material
desires keep one away from Jnaan (Self-knowledge)
that leads to nirvaan, or salvation)
(2.67) One attains peace in whose mind
desires enter without creating any disturbance
as river waters enter the ocean without
creating a disturbance in the ocean.
The metaphor of ocean has been used
for the mind of a yogi. The one who
desires material pleasures is never
peaceful, because, desires do not end
with fulfillment, it increases.
(2.70) (Lord Buddha said: Selfish desire
is the root of all evils and misery.)
This Chapter gives Self-knowledge (Jnaan,
the metaphysics); the marks of a Self-Realized
(SR) yogi, and the necessity and advantages
of controlling the six senses (sight,
hearing, smell, taste, touch, and the
3 - PATH OF KARMYOG - LESSON 2
The Supreme Lord said: There
are two methods or paths of spiritual
practice: (1) The path of spiritual
knowledge (or JnaanYog) for the intellectuals,
and (2) The path of unselfish work (or
KarmYog, Sevaa) for the average person.
Those who control their six
senses by their intellect, and engage
themselves in unselfish work or Sevaa
are considered superior. (3.07)
Human beings incur the reaction of works
(called the Karmic bondage) if the work
is done with selfish motives. Therefore,
O Arjun, do your duty to the best of
your abilities as a service to God and
the society without the desire or greed
for enjoying the fruits of your labor.
The one who does not help to keep the
wheel of creation in motion by selfless
service, and who rejoices temporary
sensual pleasures, that person incurs
sin and lives in vain, O Arjun. Acting
in your own selfish interest is sinful.
(3.16) Therefore, always perform your
duty to the best of your abilities and
without any personal motive or attachment
to the results.
One can attain the Supreme by
selfless service (Sevaa), because it
awakens the dormant spiritual (Kundalini,
Chakra) power within us. (3.19) King
Janak and others attained nirvaan (Self-Realization)
by KarmYog alone. You should also perform
your duty with a view to help the society
and set an example for others.
The universal welfare or working
for a noble cause (as a hobby) is the
true service to God. (3.20) The
wise one should not disturb the mind
of the ignorant persons who work with
selfish motives to enjoy the fruits
of work. The wise should inspire them
by setting example of working for the
benefit of the whole society and not
just for one's own family. (3.26) All
works are being really done by the power
and energy of God in accordance with
His laws, but, due to ignorance of spiritual
knowledge we think that we are the doer.
(We are just an instrument in the hands
of the divine power) (3.27) Do your
duty and dedicate all works to God with
a spiritual frame of mind; and become
free from desire, ego, and mental grief.
(3.30) Likes and dislikes for material
objects and sensual pleasures remain
in our senses.
Let no one come under the grip
of likes and dislikes, because, they
are two major stumbling blocks on the
path of God-realization. (Likes and
dislikes are destroyed when one discovers
the worthlessness of material pleasures,
and develops detachment for it after
the onset of Self-knowledge (Jnaan)).
(3.34) Inferior natural work is better
than superior unnatural work.
Death in carrying out one's duty is
useful. (3.35) (One evolves by the work
best suited to one's own nature, or
inborn tendencies. Walking uphill,
vocationally, due to peer or parental
pressure is very stressful or destructive.
By following a very easy career path,
one may not be able to support a family.
Therefore, cut down luxuries, lead a
simple life, and develop a hobby of
Sevaa to balance both the spiritual
and the material needs of life. A
balanced life is a happy life. (Deepak
Chopra calls this as the very effective
"Law of Least Effort")
Supreme Lord said: The unsatisfied desire
produces anger. The satisfied desire
breeds greed for more. Thus desire is
a great devil, because, it can never
be fully satisfied. (3.37) As
the fire is covered by smoke, as a mirror
by dust, and as an embryo by the womb,
similarly, the Self-knowledge (Jnaan)
gets covered by the veil of lust (Kaam).
The lust for material and sensual enjoyment
is called Kaam or Vaasanaa in Sanskrit.
(3.38) Senses, the mind, and the intellect
are the seat of desires. The desire
deludes a person by veiling the Self-knowledge.
Therefore, one must purify the intellect
by Sevaa, and establish control over
the mind and senses. (3.40) Spirit (Atmaa)
is superior to both mind and intellect.
One must not soil one's Atmaa by sinful
temporary pleasures of the senses. One
should first strengthen and purify the
intellect by Sevaa, spiritual practices,
and meditation; then control the
mind and senses by the purified intellect,
and establish control over lust (Kaam),
the mighty devil of material and sensual
Defines what is KarmYog (KY), describes
the necessity and importance of KY in
spiritual journey; tells that people
should teach others by their personal
example; all works are really done by
the nature or God using us as His instruments;
Kaam or the selfish desire is the greatest
enemy for the seekers of Truth; and
teaches how to control insatiable desires
with the help of trained and purified
Chapter 4 - PATH
OF KNOWLEDGE - LESSON 3
Whenever there is a decline
of Dharm (or the righteousness) and
the rise of Adharm (or the unrighteousness)
then I incarnate Myself, O Arjun. I
incarnate in every age for the protection
of the good, for the destruction (or
transformation) of the wicked, and for
the establishment of Dharm. (4.07-08)
(Another very important verse to remember)
The four divisions of labor in human
society, based on individual aptitude,
were created by Me. Though I am the
author of this system of division of
labor, one should know that I do nothing
and I am eternal. (4.13) (The lord has
created people with multitude of skills
to run all the affairs of the world)
The one who sees inaction in
action, and action in inaction, is a
wise person. Such a person
is a yogi and has accomplished everything.
(Also see 3.27) (4.18). (To see inaction
in action and vice versa is to understand
that the Lord does all the work indirectly
through His power by using us. He is
the inactive actor. We are actively
inactive, because we cannot do anything
without the flow of His power. Therefore,
we are not the doer, just an instrument
in His hands.) A KarmYogi abandons
the attachment to the fruits of work,
is always contented, and depends on
no one but God. Though engaged
in activity, a true KarmYogi is not
held responsible for his action, and
therefore does not incur Karmic
bondage. (4.20) The oblation or offering
of grain in the fire sacrifice is Brahm
(or Brahman, the Absolute, Spirit, Atmaa,
the cause of all causes) and the clarified
butter is also Brahm. The fire as well
as the one who offers is also Brahm.
Brahm shall be realized by one
who always considers everything as Brahm.
God is in everything, so everything
is God or Brahm (4.24). Those
who perform selfless service obtain
the nectar of knowledge (Jnaan), in
due course of time, as a result of their
sacrifice and attain eternal Brahm.
Acquiring of spiritual knowledge
is superior to any other material activity
such as austerity and charity, because,
spiritual knowledge is the goal and
the end result of KarmYog. (4.33) Acquire
this knowledge by sincere inquiry and
service to a Self-Realized guru, and
the faith in guru, god, and the scriptures.
The wise who have realized the truth
will give you the knowledge, Jnaan.
(4.34) As the fire reduces wood to ashes,
similarly, the fire of Jnaan reduces
one's all accumulated Karm, the root
cause of soul's transmigration, to ashes
and one is freed from the cycles of
repeated birth and death, O Arjun. (4.37)
The spiritual knowledge is automatically
revealed when one's mind and intellect
become purified by KarmYog. KarmYog
leads one to Self-knowledge (Jnaan),
the supreme purifier. (4.38)
Chapter Summary: Gives
the purpose of the incarnation of God
in human form such as Raam, Krishn,
Buddh, Mahaaveer, Moses, Christ, Muhammad,
Naanak, and many others. Describes the
nature and the practice of KY; and the
supremacy of Jnaan, that cuts the bonds
of Karm, in the process of God-realization.
Chapter 5 - PATH
The wise see no difference between
Samnyaas, the renunciation of selfish
activities, and KarmYog, the performance
of one's worldly duty as a Sevaa. The
renunciation or Samnyaas, according
to the Bhagavad-Gita, does not mean
leaving this world and living in the
forest. (5.04) Both, the KarmYogi and
the Samnyaasi living in the forest,
reach the same goal. One who
can see the path of renunciation and
the path of Sevaa as the same, really
understands. Selfless service (Sevaa)
is Samnyaas. (5.05) Samnyaas is the
goal, and KarmYog is a means to achieve
the goal. Samnyaas is, therefore, difficult
to attain without KarmYog. A KarmYogi
sage attains Brahm. (5.06)
One who does all work as an offering
to the lord, without greed and attachment
to the fruits of work, is untouched
by sin (or the Karmic reaction) as a
lotus leaf is untouched by water. (5.10)
A KarmYogi, abandoning the attachment
to the fruit of work, attains nirvaan.
Those who are attached to the fruits
of work become bound by Karm and reincarnate.
(5.12) A Self-Realized (SR) person looks
at the rich or the poor, learned or
uneducated, saint or sinner, untouchable,
even a cow, an elephant, or even a dog
with equal respect. (5.18) A person
enjoys eternal bliss whose mind is not
attached to sensual pleasures; who has
discovered the joy of spiritual knowledge;
and whose mind is in union with God
through meditation. (5.21)
: Defines who is a Samnyaasi (renunciant)
and a KarmYogi; describes the marks
of a Self-realized person or a true
Chapter 6 -
PATH OF MEDITATION - LESSON 4
When there is no desire for
sensual pleasures, or attachment to
the fruits of work, and one has renounced
all selfish desires, then one is said
to have attained yogic perfection. (6.04)
One can elevate or degrade
oneself by one's own mind. The
mind can become one's best friend, or
the worst enemy. The mind becomes
a friend to the one who has control
over it, and becomes an enemy for the
one who is controlled by the mind, because
the uncontrolled mind will take one
for a ride on the dark streets of sin.
(6.05-06). (Guru Naanak said:
"Master the mind and you master
the world") One who is
impartial towards everybody, including
friends, enemies, neutrals, haters,
relatives, non-relatives, saints,
sinners, rich, poor, and criminals is
considered superior. (6.09)
The yogi practices meditation for the
purification of mind by controlling
the roving thought waves of the mind
and focusing the mind on God. (6.12)
Sit in meditation (or Dhyaan)
by holding the spine, neck, and head
erect, and steady in a comfortable
position. Close the eyes, and focus
the eyes and mind gently at the heart
or the forehead, take few deep breaths
and chant any mantra, or the sound of
O...o..o m....m ....(orally or mentally).
Wheresoever this restless and unsteady
mind wanders away during meditation,
one should gently bring it back to the
contemplation of God. The yoking of
mind with God is called yog. (6.26)
A yogi perceives the same Self (or spirit)
abiding (or present) in everybeing,
and all beings abiding in the Self.
Those who see Me in everything and see
everything in Me, are not separated
from Me and I am not separated
from them. (6.30) One is considered
the best yogi who regards everybeing
like himself, and who can feel the pain
and pleasures of others. One should
consider all living beings as one's
own parents, brothers, sisters, children.
The Supreme Lord said: Undoubtedly,
O Arjun, the mind is restless and difficult
to control, but it can be subdued by
sincere spiritual practice such as meditation,
and by detachment. (6.35) The
unsuccessful yogi is instinctively carried
towards God in the next life by virtue
of the impressions of yogic practices
of previous lives. No spiritual effort
is ever wasted. (6.44) I consider one
to be the most devoted of all the yogis
who lovingly remembers Me with faith,
and whose mind is ever absorbed in Me.
Defines yog, teaches how to meditate
and control the mind, gives the benefits
of meditation and the destiny of unsuccessful
Chapter 7 - KNOWLEDGE
OF THE ABSOLUTE
The matter is My lower energy. My other
higher energy is the spirit by which
this entire universe is sustained,
O Arjun. (7.05) All creatures are born
from a combination of matter and spirit.
Brahm is the origin as well as the support
of the entire universe. (7.06) There
is nothing higher than Brahm.
Everything in the universe is sustained
by Brahm as jewels in the necklace are
supported by the thread. Brahm is present
in all creatures and supports them.
(7.07) My divine power (Maayaa) consisting
of the three modes (Gunas) or states
of mind is difficult to overcome. Only
those who surrender unto Me cross over
this Maayaa. (7.14) (See more on Gunas
in Chapter 14)
The four types of virtuous people
worship Me, O Arjun. They are: the distressed,
the seeker of Self-knowledge, the seeker
of wealth, and the wise who knows the
Supreme. (There is nothing wrong in
praying to God for health, wealth,
and Self-knowledge) (7.16)
The wise surrender to Me by realizing
(after many births) that everything
in the universe and the world is nothing
but a manifestation of Brahm. Such a
great soul is very rare. The Vedas declare
that all this universe is nothing but
Brahm. (7.19) People worship the deity
with faith and fulfill the wishes through
the deity. I am the one who really fulfills
those wishes through the deity. The
image of deity helps to draw God's power.
(7.22) The ignorant does not know God
as the unborn and eternal. Human senses
and intellect cannot comprehend the
transcendental form and personality
of Brahm, because God cannot be perceived
by our senses (7.25). Brahm
appears in the form of great souls such
as Raam, Krishna, Buddha, Mahaaveer,
Jesus, Muhammad, Naanak and many other
great teachers from time to time as
Chapters 7 and 8 discuss Brahm or the
metaphysics, and tell us how to understand
God and attain nirvaan through metaphysics,