PART 1 Lesson 1
The "Bhagavad-Gita" is a doctrine of universal truth. Its message is universal, sublime, and non-sectarian although it is a part of the scriptural trinity of 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 religion.
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.
Please feel 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 time.
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 or concepts.
Total number of lessons is 8, or only 13 pages.
With best wishes for your spiritual progress.
Chapter 2 - TRANSCENDENTAL KNOWLEDGE
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. (2.13)
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 is slain.
(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.)
Chapter Summary: 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 mind)
Chapter 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. (3.03)
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. (3.09)
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 pleasures. (3.43)
Chapter Summary: 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 intellect.
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. (4.31)
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 OF RENUNCIATION
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)
Chapter Summary: Defines who is a Samnyaasi (renunciant) and a KarmYogi; describes the marks of a Self-realized person or a true yogi.
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). (6.13)
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. (6.29)
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. (6.32)
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. (6.47)
Chapter Summary: Defines yog, teaches how to meditate and control the mind, gives the benefits of meditation and the destiny of unsuccessful yogis.
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 needed.
Chapter Summary: Chapters 7 and 8 discuss Brahm or the metaphysics, and tell us how to understand God and attain nirvaan through metaphysics, Jnaan.
IMPORTANT NOTES ON PRONUNCIATION OF SANSKRIT WORDS and NAMES
The alphabet 'a' at the end of English transliteration of Sanskrit words should be pronounced very softly, or should not be generally pronounced; but never pronounced as ‘aa’, except in Sanskrit poetry or in chanting.
For example, the word 'Rama' should be pronounced as Raam (r=m=), not as Raamaa (r=m==), except in chanting. We have, therefore, dropped all “a”s from the end of Sanskrit words in these lessons to correct the long formed habit of mispronunciation of Sanskrit terms in the West which has spread even to India!!
For example we have written Karm instead of usual Karma. In English we never write or pronounce ‘Davida’ for ‘David’, do we?, then why write ‘Krishna’ for ‘Krishn’ or ‘Raama’ for ‘Raam’? However, correct pronunciation of any foreign language is difficult, but has no bearing on understanding the teachings.
I have been in the USA for 38 years, and written books in English, yet some people don’t understand my spoken English!! Don’t worry. Sanskrit by itself will not lead you to Self-realization!! Just be sincere and serious in contemplating on the meanings of the verses and practice in your daily life. We are here to help you in your search for the Truth.
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