Bhagavad-gita (The song of God)

The Bhagavad-gita is universally renowned as the jewel of India's spiritual wisdom. Spoken over 5,000 years ago by Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, to His intimate disciple Arjuna, the Gita's seven hundred mantras provide a definitive guide to the science of self-realization.

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is uniquely qualified to present the English translation and commentary on Bhagavad-gita. He is the world's foremost Vedic scholar and teacher, and he is also the representative of an unbroken chain of fully self-realized spiritual masters (Guru disciplic succession) beginning with Lord Krishna Himself and is presented as it is--without the slightest taint of adulteration or personal motivation, pure transcendental knowledge devoid of false ego and pride.

Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth. (ch 4 mantra 34)

The Bhagavad-gita is the post graduate study of the science of self-realization; a complete & perfect systematic philosophy, logical, rational & highly sophisticated, the E=MC2 of transcendental knowledge.

In this world, there is nothing so sublime and pure as transcendental knowledge. Such knowledge is the mature fruit of all mysticism. And one who has achieved this enjoys the self within himself in due course of time. (ch 4 mantra 38)

This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of  spiritual wisdom. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed. (ch 9 mantra 2)

When, however, one is enlightened with the knowledge by which nescience (ignorance) is destroyed, then his knowledge reveals everything, as the sun lights up everything in the daytime. (ch 5 mantra 16)

According to the Vedas (India’s ancient sacred texts) “animal” life leaves off and “human” life begins when one begins to enquire in to the ultimate purpose of our existence, the meaning of life. Who am I? Where have I come from? Is there life after death? What is this material world and what is its purpose? Is there a Supreme Divine Being?....and so on and so on.

The first 2 aphorisms of the Vedanta-Sutras enjoin us to pursue the Spiritual Path -

“Athato brahma jignasur” – now that I have attained to this rare human form of life let me enquire into brahman (spirit)

“Aham brahmasmi” – I am an eternal spiritual being, the soul.

The Vedas enjoin: Do not leave the world in the way in which you entered ignorance and darkness. The human form of life is a rare gift not to be wasted in chasing after impermanent, temporary goals and pursuits. Come out of the darkness and into the light. Traverse the spiritual path and seek out permanent Spiritual Enlightenment.

According to the ancient Vedic text, Gita Mahatmya, the study of the Bhagavad-Gita -

(1) frees one from all stress, anxiety, fears & miseries

(2) frees one from karmic reactions

(3) purifies the consciousness & induces a state of pure transcendental happiness

(4) is all the knowledge required to attain to self realization

(5) prepares one to return to the spiritual world

 The Bhagavad-gita is the post graduate study of the science of self-realization; a complete & perfect systematic philosophy.

Because we, the spirit souls, in our original pure state of consciousness, exist at every moment in a state of perfect knowledge and unlimited, blissful happiness, it is therefore natural for us to be searching to experience this pure and perfect state again and again. Everyone wants to find true everlasting happiness and true love. Everyone wants to be learned and intelligent.....because it is our original real nature. Underneath the facade and when you strip away all the outer coverings it is who we really are. Eternal, perfect beings.....always blissfully joyful...with love for everybody and for everything. Lighting up ourselves and lighting up the world around us.

But under the spell of illusion, in our quest for happiness and fulfilment, generally we act on the basis that we are these material bodies and that these goals can be achieved by material endeavours alone without the need for any spiritual component and are thus primarily engaged in seeking out material advancement, wealth and sensual pursuits with little regard or interest in transcendental knowledge.

However the Bhagavad-Gita and the Vedic text’s explain the futility of such endeavours. Perfect knowledge and happiness exists and is real but can never be achieved through any material means. The happiness achieved through such material pursuits is incomplete, transitory and temporary and thus not perfectly satisfying. One can only find some momentary relief and pleasure from such material endeavours. But as the soul is spiritual by nature only eternal perfect spiritual pursuits can satisfy the needs of the soul and revive our original pure consciousness.

There are 5 broad fields of knowledge examined in the Gita -

(a) jiva-atma – the individual spiritual self

(b) prakrti – material nature

(c) karma and re-incarnation

(d) kala – time

(e) param atma – the supreme spirit

The relationship between (a) and (e) is the subject matter of the yoga system (yoga means to link or connect – the connection of the self and the supreme self in a spiritual union)

The 4 divisions of yoga revealed through the Gita -

(a) jnana yoga – the cultivation of spiritual knowledge(ch 4)

(b) karma yoga –renunciation of the fruits of action (ch 3 and 5)

(c) dhyana yoga – transcendental meditation (ch 6)

(d) bhakti yoga – the awakening of pure love and devotion to  the Supreme and the ultimate goal of the yoga system (ch 12)

(a)         Jiva- atma – the spirit soul

In the beginning of chapter 2 of the Gita Krishna explains to Arjuna the eternal nature of the individual spiritual self (jiva-atma).

“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain”. Bhagavad-gita  (2.20)

“The soul can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor can he be burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind”. Bhagavad-gita  (2.23)

“This individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble, and can be neither burned nor dried. The soul is everlasting, all-pervading, unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same”. Bhagavad-gita (2.23)

The atma (soul) in its original pure state, before contacting the material energy, exists eternally in a state of infinite pure love, knowledge and bliss -

sat-eternal: cit-full of knowledge: ananda - purely blissful and joyful connecting to the Love Supreme: - this is the original nature of the soul.

However the sat-cit-ananda quality of the atma has become covered over by the influence of the material energy, which bewilders the living entity and deludes him – “All living entities are born into delusion, overcome by the dualities of desire and hate”. Bhagavad-gita  (7.27)

Accordingly, we are no longer experiencing our original pure spiritual nature. The inner perfection of the soul has become hidden, concealed by layers and layers of “material coverings” due to our association with the material energy since time immemorial. Like the uncared for mirror becomes covered by dust and loses its essential quality of reflectivity or the pure water, H20, falling from the sky becomes contaminated by the elements it mixes with on the ground – the path of spiritual realization as outlined in the Gita is akin to the distilling of water to return it to its original purity or wiping all the dust off the mirror so one can see one’s true reflection.

It is the process of purifying the self – cleansing the consciousness so that the original, perfect sat-cit-ananda quality of the soul can be fully uncovered and awakened.

In our everyday life we are constantly engaged in a hard struggle to win over the stringent laws of material nature. Although always striving for happiness and working hard for success in our endeavours, against our will, we are constantly being affected, harassed and thwarted in such endeavours by so many obstacles and difficulties and by negative feelings and emotions that cause us sorrow, pain and unhappiness....worry, stress, anxiety, fear, envy, greed, hate, lust etc. . These feelings and emotions are artificial external impositions on the self. They do not represent who “I am” as a spiritual person.

On the other hand the spiritual process outlined in the Gita is not an artificial external imposition on the self but the lifting of the veil, removing the material layers which covers our true spiritual identity.

The spirit soul is encaged within a machine called the body comprising the gross material body made of the 5 material elements, earth, water, fire, air and ether Bhagavad-gita (7.4) and the astral or subtle body Bhagavad-gita  (7.5).

The astral body is comprised of three components with their respective functions –

The mind – wherein the functions of thinking, feeling and willing takes place.

The intelligence – the power of discriminating between the functions of the mind.

The ego – higher than mind and intelligence is ego, the point of self-identification, the next door neighbour to the soul.

Through the functions of ego we identify as being one of three things –

1)    the gross material body

2)    the mind and intelligence

3)    the soul

This point of identification at the point of ego is of prime importance because it will determine one’s direction in life. Which road will one take? What a tragedy that at the end of one’s life one looks back and realizes that he has taken the wrong road.

Through gross bodily identification one will travel the “materialistic path” in pursuance of material advancement, happiness and sensual pursuits.

If one identifies the self with the mind/intelligence one will centre one’s life on philosophical and mental pursuits.

If one identifies the self as a spirit soul then one will travel on the “spiritual path” and pursue spiritual goals.

Identifying with the gross or subtle bodies is called false ego and identification of one’s self as being spiritual is called real ego.

Characteristics of the “pure” self

Arjuna asks Krishna what are the symptoms of one whose consciousness is merged in transcendence? Bhagavad-gita  (2.54)

Krishna replies – Bhagavad-gita  (2.55-58)

(1) He has no desire for sense gratification which arise from mental concoction.

(2) His mind is pure and finds satisfaction in the self alone.

(3) His mind is not disturbed even amidst the threefold miseries

(4) He is free from –

     (a) attachment and aversion

     (b) fear

     (c) anger

(5) He has complete control over his senses and is able to withdraw his senses from sense objects just as a tortoise draws its limbs within the shell when sensing danger.

(6) Has given up all sense of proprietorship and is devoid of false ego.  Bhagavad-gita (2.71)

In the 6th chapter, mantras 20-23 Krishna further describes the consciousness of one who has attained perfection in self-realization –

(1) One enters “samadhi” where one’s mind is completely restrained from material mental activities.

(2) One can see the self by the pure mind and rejoice and relish in the self.

(3) One is situated in boundless transcendental happiness and bliss, realized through transcendental senses.

(4) One is completely free from all anxieties and miseries arising from material contact.

(5) One sees the truth and never departs from the truth.

The learned transcendentalist sees the presence of the soul in all life forms and thus never occasions hurt or harm to any living entity. He views with compassion and kindness all living beings despite their outward dress, their bodies. Thus he lives in complete harmony with the world around him, Mother Nature and all of the residents of planet earth whether in the body of a human being or an animal, an aquatic, bird, insect, trees or plant.

“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned & gentle saint, a cow, an elephant, a dog & a dog eater”.    Bhagavad-gita  (5.18)

When one is situated in one’s original pure spiritual consciousness the following 26 transcendental qualities become manifest in one’s nature –

“Fearlessness, purification of one’s existence, cultivation of spiritual knowledge, charity, self-control, study of the Vedas, austerity and simplicity; non-violence, truthfulness, freedom from anger; renunciation, tranquillity, aversion to fault finding, compassion and freedom from covetousness; gentleness, modesty and steady determination; vigour, forgiveness, fortitude, cleanliness, performance of sacrifice, freedom from envy and freedom from the passion for honour”.   Bhagavad-gita (16.1-3)

Control of the mind and senses

To advance on the spiritual path one must bring the mind and senses under control.   Bhagavad-gita (3.43)

“The senses are so strong and impetuous, O Arjuna, that   forcibly carry away the mind even of a man of discrimination who is endeavouring to control them”. Bhagavad-gita  (2.60)

“As a strong wind sweeps away a boat on the water, even one of the roaming senses on which the mind focuses can carry away a man's intelligence”.   Bhagavad-gita (2.67)

Arjuna said: “O Krishna, the system of yoga which You have summarized appears impractical and unendurable to me, for the mind is restless and unsteady”.   Bhagavad-gita  (6.33)

 “For the mind is restless, turbulent, obstinate and very strong, O Krishna, and to subdue it, I think, is more difficult than controlling the wind”. Bhagavad-gita (6.34)

“Lord Sri Krishna said: O mighty-armed son of Kunti, Arjuna, it is undoubtedly very difficult to curb the restless mind, but it is possible by suitable practice and by detachment”. Bhagavad-gita (6.35)

The mind is so strong and obstinate that it overcomes the discriminating intelligence, although the mind is supposed to be subservient to the intelligence. For a person in today’s practical world who has to fight so many opposing elements, it is certainly very difficult to control the mind, more difficult, in the words of Arjuna, than controlling the raging wind.

Therefore, one must control the mind by detaching it from material absorption and engaging it constantly on the spiritual platform and ultimately in the transcendental loving service of the Supreme Divine. Thus engaging one’s mind fully in spiritual consciousness, on the transcendental plane, there will remain no other engagements to agitate the restless and unsteady mind.

“As a lamp in a windless place does not waver, so the transcendentalist, whose mind is controlled, remains always steady in his meditation on the transcendent self”.   Bhagavad-gita  (6.19)

“Those who are on this path are resolute in purpose and their aim is one. The intelligence of those who are irresolute is many-branched”. Bhagavad-gita  (2.41)

The eight fold yoga system

To appreciate Yoga as a science one needs to understand where asana (yogic postures) and natural health and fitness techniques in yoga are coming from.

Basically these techniques are coming from the Astanga Yoga system described in the Vedas and later systemized by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras.

The practice of astanga progresses one on the spiritual path and ultimately culminates in Bhakti-yoga, the yoga of Divine love.

Astanga Yoga means "eightfold" and includes yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and then Samadhi.

"Yama" and "Niyama" are the first steps in the yoga process and are often neglected in many “abbreviated" yoga systems.

"Yama" means rejecting that which is unfavorable to our yoga advancement.

Yama is categorized under the following precepts -

(1) Non violence and compassion for all

(2) Truthfulness

(3) Celibacy

(4) Non-stealing

(5) Abstention from greed

In the Srimad Bhagavatam (3.28.1) purport by Srila Prabhupada he states that there are four prohibited activities for making spiritual advancement - [meat-eating, illicit sex, intoxication, and gambling] which directly relate to the above precepts.

"Niyama"- ( A code of living) Accepting that which is favorable for our advancement in yoga-following the rules and regulations prescribed in the Vedas and in particular to observing the following disciplines-

(1) Purity, cleanliness, both internal and external

(2) Contentment or “self - satisfaction”

(3) Performance of austerities for spiritual elevation

(4) Study of Spiritual texts

(5) Devotion and submission to the Supreme Divine

"Asana" is the stretching exercises and practicing the sitting postures we see in the Hatha-yoga, Raja-yoga, and other yoga systems.

"Pranayama" is the breathing exercises we see in some yoga systems.

Pratyahara- is controlling the mind and the senses.

 Dharana - concentration of the mind on one object and its field.

“Dhyana” -  deep, steady meditation

Samadhi is trance or total enlightenment.

Patanjali explains that the target of all yoga is Visnu or Krishna. Astanga-yoga is therefore part of a spiritual practice because its ultimate goal is realization of Krishna the Supreme Divine Being. Ultimate success in practicing yoga is to become self realized, to achieve spiritual enlightenment free from all material bodily designations. This is the ultimate perfection of practicing yoga.

If one is in Krsna consciousness (spiritual consciousness) from the very beginning, all these eight items are automatically performed. One does not require to practice them separately.

We also see the "Yoga Ladder" in the concept of Astanga Yoga. The Yoga Ladder or "Yoga Ruruksa" begins with Karma-yoga, Jnana-yoga, dhyana-yoga and then Bhakti-yoga.

(b) Prakrti – material nature

The material world is fundamentally a place of suffering.

In Sanskrit it is called “kuntha”- The world of anxiety.  The spiritual world is called “vaikuntha” – The place where there is no anxiety.

The fundamental underlying principle of the material world is sex desire (lust) – the attraction between the male and female principles - both gross and subtle. Subtle sex desire is manifested in the desire for profit, adoration and distinction.

“As fire is covered by smoke, as a mirror is covered by dust, or as the embryo is covered by the womb, the living entity is covered by different degrees of lust”.   Bhagavad-gita  (3.38)

“The living entities pure consciousness is covered by his eternal enemy in the form of lust, which is never satisfied and which burns like fire”.   (Bhagavad-gita  3.39)

 She is a cruel master. Trying to satisfy material desires is like pouring oil on a fire. Initially the fire abates but shortly thereafter flames up even more.

 “The senses, the mind and the intelligence are the sitting places of this lust, which veils the real knowledge of the living entity and bewilders him”.   Bhagavad-gita  (3.40)

Endeavours to satisfy material lusty desires invariably leads to frustration and disappointment ultimately resulting to increasing degrees of anger and greed. And Krishna warns – “Lust, anger and greed are the three gateways to “hellish” existence. Every sane man should give these up, for they lead to the degradation of the soul.

The man who has escaped these three degrading gates, O son of KuntÄ«, performs acts conducive to self-realization and thus gradually attains the supreme destination”.   Bhagavad-gita  (16.21-22)

Because the state of pure blissful consciousness is our original nature, we are always searching out permanent unlimited happiness, love and knowledge. Unfortunately, we are looking for it in the wrong place, the material world. We are searching out water in the desert which appears as a mirage but has no substance. Like a fish out of the water we do not belong in this material world. We are strangers in a strange land. Only when we experience happiness, love and knowledge unlimitedly and eternally can we become fully satisfied – until then our journey does not end. “Thus we meet with good and evil amongst the various species”.

Modern western culture teachers us that happiness is to be obtained by the external journey whereas the Bhagavad-gita teaches us to journey “within” to experience the true beauty and glory of the self.

“One whose happiness is within, who is active within, who rejoices within & is illumined within is the perfect transcendentalist”. Bhagavad-gita  (5.24)

“A person who is not disturbed by the incessant flow of desires – that enter like rivers into the ocean, which is ever being filled but is always still – can alone achieve peace, and not the man who strives to satisfy such desires”.   Bhagavad-gita (2.70)

“One who is not in transcendental consciousness can have neither a controlled mind nor steady intelligence, without which there is no possibility of peace. And how can there be any happiness without peace”. Bhagavad-gita  (2.66)

The psychology of action

“While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them and from such attachment lust develops –

and from lust anger arises –

from anger complete delusion arises –

and from delusion bewilderment of memory –

when memory is bewildered, intelligence is lost –

and when intelligence is lost one falls down again into the material pool”.

Bhagavad-gita (2.62-63)

Happiness in the material world centres around the fantasies and concoctions of the mind. But when we act our dreams and aspirations in real time we always come up short.....we are short changed. We create the perfection in our mind but it never translates into reality on the physical plain. And even if we were able to realize our “dreams” still we would not be fully satisfied and satiated because no amount of material pleasure can satisfy the spiritual self.

And ultimately in the material world all our desires, plans and aspirations are vanquished by the time factor.

“An intelligent person does not take part in the sources of misery, which are due to contact with the material senses. Such pleasures have a beginning and an end, and so the wise man does not delight in them”.    Bhagavad-gita  (5.22)

Whatever is achieved on the material platform will be vanquished in time and thus, in the end, life in the material world ends in tragedy. The transcendentalist is always conscious of the effects of the time factor and thus sees the ultimate futility of all material endeavours and consequently is not a participant in the “world of dreams.”  He sees his real life is on the spiritual platform.

“Material energy consists of the three modes of material nature which conditions the eternal living entity and bewilders him”. Bhagavad-gita (14.5)

The three modes are always competing for supremacy, and a combination of these three modes influence and control the actions of the living entity.  

The permutations and combinations of the three modes of material nature results in an infinite variety of manifestations & variations just as the three primary colours (red, yellow and blue) mix to create an infinite colour spectrum.

The Bhagavad-gita (14.8-14) describes the nature and effects of the three modes of material nature as follows-

When one is under the influence of the mode of goodness (sattva guna) one is illumined with knowledge, one’s mind is peaceful, one is happy and content and one acts piously invoking an auspicious future through creating good karma.

The mode of passion (raja guna) is born of unlimited desires and longings leading to great attachment, fruitive activity, hankering and intense endeavour. Lust and greed increases. There is little peace of mind when under the influence of the mode of passion.

The mode of ignorance (tama guna) leads to “darkness”, is delusional resulting in indolence, inertia, illusion, excessive sleep and madness.

On the material plane, at every moment, everyone is under the influence of the modes of nature. We consider that we are “the boss of the wash”, free to make our own choices and forge our life according to our desires and that we have control over our decisions and destiny. However, the Bhagavad-gita dispels this illusion and declares otherwise, revealing that we are conditioned and controlled at every moment under the influence of the three modes of material nature. Our thoughts, our feelings, our choices are all shaped and controlled by the particular mode that we have come under the influence of at any particular time or period in our lives.

“Everyone one is forced to act helplessly according to the impulses born of the modes of material nature”. Bhagavad-gita (3.5)

“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature”.  Bhagavad-gita (3.27)

One’s attraction and aversion, likes and dislikes will be governed, determined by the influence of the modes of nature that one is being influenced and controlled by. In chapters 16, 17 and 18 Sri Krishna further elaborates on this principle, giving specific examples to illustrate the effects of the modes of nature on the individual.

For example in chapter 17 mantras 8-10 He describes one’s attraction to different types of food –

“Foods dear to those in the mode of goodness increase the duration of life, purify one’s existence and give strength, health, happiness and satisfaction. Such foods are juicy, fatty, wholesome, and pleasing to the heart.

Foods that are too bitter, too sour, salty, hot, pungent, dry and burning are dear to those in the mode of passion. Such foods cause distress, misery and disease.

Food prepared more than three hours before being eaten, food that is tasteless, decomposed and putrid, and food consisting of remnants and untouchable things is dear to those in the mode of darkness”.

And again, charity influenced by the modes of nature are described as follows –

“Charity given out of duty, without expectation of return, at the proper time and place, and to a worthy person is considered to be in the mode of goodness.

But charity performed with the expectation of some return, or with a desire for fruitive results, or in a grudging mood is said to be charity in the mode of passion. And charity performed at an impure place, at an improper time, to unworthy persons, or without proper attention and respect is said to be in the mode of ignorance”.   Bhagavad-gita (17.20-22)

And again, happiness influenced by the modes –

“That which in the beginning may be just like poison but at the end is just like nectar and which awakens one to self-realization is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness.

That happiness which is derived from contact of the senses with their objects and which appears like nectar at first but poison at the end is said to be of the nature of passion.

And that happiness which is blind to self-realization, which is delusion from beginning to end and which arises from sleep, laziness and illusion is said to be of the nature of ignorance”. Bhagavad-gita (18.37-39)

In this way Sri Krishna analyses the effects of the three modes of material nature in specific situations including one’s speech, work, knowledge, faith and so on.

After elaborately explaining the three modes of material nature and their effect on our consciousness and lives Krishna tells Arjuna to rise above the modes, not to be influenced by them. Although one is within this material body, by advancement in spiritual knowledge and performing actions on the transcendental, spiritual platform one can be free from the influence of the modes of nature. When one is freed from the influence of the modes of material nature, one becomes firmly established on the transcendental platform and enjoys the blissful happiness of spiritual life.   Bhagavad-gita (14.20)

The material world is ultimately perceived as a place of suffering.

Although material happiness is there, it is temporary and limited and accordingly is never fully satisfying.

And in the material world under the influence of the modes of nature there is ever present the 4 absolutes of suffering – (1) birth (2) death (3) old age (4) disease.

Combined with this is the misery and suffering caused by the constant harassment of the 3 fold miseries –

           (1) adhyatmic – suffering of the mind & body

           (2) adhydaivic – miseries caused by material nature

           (3) adhybaultic – suffering caused by other living entities

“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place”. Bhagavad-gita (8.16)

(c) Karma & Re-incarnation

Karma -

                               “As you sow, so shall you reap.”

               “He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.”

The principle of karma and re-incarnation was prominent in early Christian theology but was removed from official church doctrine in the 4th century on the insistence of the Roman Emperor Justinian at the council of Nicea.

He argued that if people thought they had more than one life then they would be inclined to take it “spiritually easy” in this life on the principle of why do today what you can put off ‘till tomorrow.

Every action one performs attracts a karmic reaction. This is a similar principle to the law of physics that for every action there is an equal & opposite reaction. What goes ‘round, comes around.

We are tightly bound up by the stringent laws of material nature.

We enjoy or suffer in the future the results of our present actions and we are enjoying or suffering now as a result of previous activities performed, not only in this life but in previous lives as well, even though we have no re-collection of having performed these acts.

Thoughts do not attract a karmic reaction.

Only when thoughts are translated in to action does the law of karma take effect.

Broadly speaking activities which are beneficial and auspicious attract good karma whereas actions which are harmful and cause suffering and pain produce bad karma.

As the law of karma only accrues where the individual has the freedom of choice thus only in the human form does the living entity have the power to make moral choices which makes us responsible for our actions and thus attracts the law of karma.

In all other species of life one is forced to act according to the body one has and thus without the power to make moral choices, karma does not accrue.

Karma does not apply to the actions of a child whose ability to make moral choices is severely restricted.

On the material plane one cannot escape the past which invariably comes back to haunt us. However by pursuing a spiritual life one negates the effect of past karma and does not create future karma; in other words one become karma free. Immediately one feels a great relief as the heavy weight of our past misdeeds is lifted off our shoulders and an auspicious future is assured.

Re-incarnation – transmigration of the soul

 “As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change”. Bhagavad-gita  (2.13)

“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones”.  Bhagavad-gita (2.22)

According to one’s work in life, the consciousness one develops through out life and ones accrued karmic reactions will determine the next body one is awarded through the agency of the stringent laws of material nature.

Of course the cumulative effect of the thoughts and actions of one's life influences one's thoughts at the moment of death; therefore the actions of this life determine one's future state of being.

“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body that state he will attain without fail”.  Bhagavad-gita (8.6)

If one is transcendentally absorbed, meditating on the Supreme Divine, Sri Krishna, then his next body will be transcendental (spiritual), not physical.

“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt”. Bhagavad-gita  (8.5)

Whilst entrapped within the material world the eternal soul transmigrates in an evolutionary process through the different species of life. In sanskrit this is called “samsara”- the wheel of birth and death.

“The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas”. Bhagavad-gita (15.8)

The astral body (mind, intelligence and ego) accompanies the soul in its sojourn through the species.

For those travelling on the spiritual path any progress that is made on that path is never lost and carries with the soul even after the demise of the body. A favourable human life is guaranteed in the next life and they begin their spiritual quest once again from the point where they have left off in this life. Similarly in this life they are starting their spiritual quest from the point that they left off in their previous life. This transcendental evolution of the soul continues life after life until spiritual perfection is achieved and they return to the spiritual world.

“One who is progressing on the spiritual path but does not attain perfection takes his birth in a family of transcendentalists who are surely great in wisdom.

On taking such a birth, he revives the divine consciousness of his previous life, and he again tries to make further progress in order to achieve complete success.

By virtue of the divine consciousness of his previous life, he automatically becomes attracted to the yogic principles – even without seeking them.

And when the seeker engages himself with sincere endeavour in making further progress, being washed of all contaminations, then ultimately, achieving perfection after many births of practice, he attains the supreme goal”.   Bhagavad-gita (6.42-45)

(d) Kala – time

Above the three modes of material nature there is invincible eternal time, and by a combination of these modes of nature and under the control and purview of eternal time there are activities which are called karma. The living entities, material nature, the Supreme Divine and time are all eternal, whereas karma is temporary. Everything is controlled by Kala, time, a forceful representative of the Supreme within the material universe and Krishna explains that “Time I am, destroyer of the worlds”. Bhagavad-gita  (11.32)

This mantra was quoted by the chief scientist on the Manhattan project in 1945 in the desert of New Mexico on witnessing the explosion of the first atomic bomb.

Ultimately in the material world all our desires, plans and aspirations and eventually our own material bodies are vanquished by the time factor. A transcendentalist thus is always conscious of the destructive effects of time and accordingly does not engage in activities or pursuits of a temporary, transitory nature that have a beginning and an end. He only engages in spiritual activities which are beyond kala, not effected by time. Activities which have an eternal benefit that will carry with the soul even after the demise of the material body and expedite our transference to the all perfect eternal spiritual world beyond time and material space. Activities that will lead in time to our achieving spiritual perfection even in the present body and qualify us to enter that all perfect transcendental abode. Bhagavad-gita (5.22)

Krishna gives the universal time frame revealing that this material universe that we inhabit has a life span of is 311 trillion & 40 billion earth years. Bhagavad-gita  (8.17) and currently we are approximately160 trillion years in, 6:32 on the universal time clock.

Time is relative. In the celestial realms of the universe residents live for millions of years, while most residents of this planet, less than 100 years, while some living entities like the amoeba live for only a few seconds yet for each of them their life span appears to be the same. The moment that we die externally appears to be only a moment but for the dying person time virtually stops as his whole life unfolds before him as if watching a movie. Our lives appear to be so long yet they are like the blink of the eye, a will of the wisp, only a flash in eternal time.

(e) Param atma – The Supreme spirit

In the Bhagavad-gita and throughout the Vedic literatures it is established that the original source of everything, the creator and maintainer of all, is a person, not an impersonal energy or force but a person and that person is revealed to be Sri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead and each of us has an eternal unique loving relationship with Him. Of course, although a person, He is not a person like us. His form is purely spiritual and unlimited and He has inconceivable powers, energies and attributes. By His will alone millions of universes are created and in time are destroyed.

The individual souls (atmas) in their original pure state of consciousness possess the same divine qualities as Sri Krishna but to an infinitesimal degree whereas Sri Krishna possesses those same qualities to an unlimited, infinite degree.

Just as the drop of water in the ocean has the same qualities as the ocean but to a microscopical degree. Simile we have the same qualities as the Supreme who possesses divine qualities to an infinite degree and we, in comparison, to a minuscular degree.

The sun and particles of sunshine are qualitively the same, both possessing the qualities of heat and light however quantitively the sun possesses those qualities, comparatively, to an infinite degree, whereas the particles of sunshine possess those qualities to an infinitesimal degree.

So the individual souls visa-a-vis the Supreme Soul, Sri Krishna.

Throughout the chapters of the Bhagavad-gita Krishna reveals Himself, His powers, energies and forces.

The source of all material & spiritual worlds

“Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for certain that I am both the origin and the dissolution”. Bhagavad-gita  (7.6)

“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts”. Bhagavad-gita  (10.8)

No truth superior

“O conqueror of wealth, there is no truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread”. Bhagavad-gita (7.7)

Not under the modes of material nature

“Deluded by the three modes [goodness, passion and ignorance] the whole world does not know Me, who am above the modes and inexhaustible”.   Bhagavad-gita  (7.13)

Omniscient – knows everything – past, present & future

“O Arjuna, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, I know everything that has happened in the past, all that is happening in the present, and all things that are yet to come. I also know all living entities; but Me, no one knows”.   Bhagavad-gita (7.26)

Omnipresentall pervading         

“By Me, in My un-manifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them”.   Bhagavad-gita  (9.4)

OmnipotentAll powerful

“The whole cosmic order is under Me. Under My will it is automatically manifested again and again, and under My will it is annihilated at the end”.   Bhagavad-gita  (9.8)

“Arjuna said: You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the ultimate abode, the purest, the Absolute Truth. You are the eternal, transcendental, original person, the unborn, the greatest. All the great sages such as Närada, Asita, Devala and Vyäsa confirm this truth about You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me”.  Bhagavad-gita  (10.12-13)

Bhakti yoga – the path to divine love & devotion

The Bhagavad-gita is foremost and primarily a work on bhakti, the yoga of perfect, pure, spiritual love centred on the process of performing selfless devotional service.

Lord Krishna Himself states in the last verse of Chapter Six, “Of all yogis, he who always abides in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all”.

Even those who are entangled in the complexity and chaos of modern materialistic life can begin the uncomplicated practice of bhakti yoga which purifies the mind and puts one in touch with the Supreme Consciousness.

Bhakti is the ultimate goal of the yoga system – the yoga of selfless, ecstatic, devotional service to the Supreme, Sri Krishna. All the other forms of yoga gradually evolve, transforming, in steady progression, into bhakti leading to perfect spiritual love. That divine love must be completely pure, devoid of any tinge of self-interest or selfish desire and must be continuous, not even interrupted for a moment in time. This perfectional stage in sanskrit is called Krishna prema, pure, perfect love for the Supreme. And when one has achieved this topmost platform of perfect love then one’s love becomes loves everyone and everything as one sees the true inter connectivity of everything in relation to the Supreme Divine, Sri Krishna and one becomes qualified to return to the spiritual World.

Transcendental loving devotional service for the Supreme Sri Krishna is the natural inclination of every living being. The instinct is dormant in everyone, but due to the association of material nature, the modes of passion and ignorance have covered this from time immemorial.

Once commenced, the flow of devotional service takes place like the flow of a river. As the river flows on till she reaches the sea, similarly pure devotional service flows by the association of pure devotees till it reaches the ultimate goal, namely, transcendental love of Godhead. Such a flow of devotional service cannot stop. On the contrary, it increases more and more without limitation.

The flow of devotional service is so potent that one becomes liberated from the influence of the modes of passion and ignorance. These two qualities of nature are thus removed, and the living being is liberated, being situated in his original spiritual position of pure unalloyed goodness (suddha sattva) and on giving up this material body returns to his “real” home in the Spiritual World.

Ignorance in material existence is compared to darkness, and in the Bhagavad-gita and the Vedic texts the Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna is compared to the sun. Wherever there is light there cannot be darkness. To become associated with the supreme light is to dissipate all ignorance. By ignorance only, the conditioned soul wrongly thinks that both he and the Supreme are products of material nature. But in fact the Personality of Godhead and the living beings are transcendental, and they have nothing to do with the material nature.

The spiritual world is called “vaikuntha” – The place where there is no anxiety.

Everything is purely spiritual by nature - sat (eternal) – cit ( full of knowledge) ananda (ever increasing dynamic pure bliss & love).  There is no dull matter, material qualities or material desire. Everything is eternally conscious & cognisant.

Only by pure, unalloyed love (bhakti) can we return to our original home in the spiritual world. Throughout the Gita Sri Krishna elaborates in great detail on the bhakti yoga process preparing us for the transcendental journey back Home, back to Godhead -

“One can understand Me, as I am only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness by such devotion, he can enter into the Spiritual Kingdom”.   Bhagavad-gita  (18.55)

“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: Now hear, O son of Prtha, how by practicing yoga in full consciousness of Me, with mind attached to Me, you can know Me in full, free from doubt”.   Bhagavad-gita  (7.1)

“O son of Partha, those who are not deluded, the great souls, are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service because they know Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible”.   Bhagavad-gita  (7.13)

“Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend”.  Bhagavad-gita  (18.65)

 “The thoughts of My pure devotees dwell in Me, their lives are fully devoted to My service, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss from always enlightening one another and conversing about Me”.  Bhagavad-gita  (10.9)

“To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me”.  Bhagavad-gita  (10.10)

“To show them special mercy, I, dwelling in their hearts, destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance”.  Bhagavad-gita (10.11)

“Always chanting My glories, endeavouring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion”.   Bhagavad-gita (9.14)

“Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer or give away, and whatever austerities you perform—do that, Arjuna, as an offering to Me”.   Bhagavad-gita  (9.27)

“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him”.   Bhagavad-gita  (9.29)

“That very ancient science of the relationship with the Supreme is today told by Me to you because you are My devotee as well as My friend and can therefore understand the transcendental mystery of this science”.   Bhagavad-gita (4.3)

“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: My dear Arjuna, because you are never envious of Me, I shall impart to you this most confidential knowledge and realization, knowing which you shall be relieved of the miseries of material existence”.  Bhagavad-gita  (9.1)

“Persons who have acted piously in previous lives and in this life and whose sinful actions are completely eradicated are freed from the dualities of delusion, and they engage themselves in My service with determination”.   Bhagavad-gita  (7.28)

“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear”.  Bhagavad-gita  (18.66)

In the 12th chapter of the Gita Krishna gives the sequence of spiritual evolution on the path to enlightenment –

“Just fix your mind upon Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and engage all your intelligence in Me. Thus you will live in Me always, without a doubt.

My dear Arjuna, O winner of wealth, if you cannot fix your mind upon Me without deviation, then follow the regulative principles of bhakti-yoga. In this way develop a desire to attain Me.

If you cannot practice the regulations of bhakti-yoga, then just try to work for Me (karma yoga), because by working for Me you will come to the perfect stage of pure bhakti.

If, however, you are unable to work in this consciousness of Me, then try to act giving up all results of your work and try to be self-situated.

If you cannot take to this practice, then engage yourself in the cultivation of spiritual knowledge (jnana yoga)”.   Bhagavad-gita  (12.8-11)

Gradually through engaging in the lower stages of spirituality one will gradually evolve to bhakti and to the platform of Divine Love and attain perfection in self-realization and become fully enlightened.

 Summary - Bhagavad-gita in a nutshell

1)    By sincerely cultivating the authentic spiritual path as presented in the      Bhagavad-gita we can become free from stress, anxiety and worry and achieve a state of pure, unending, blissful consciousness.

2)    The material world is fundamentally perceived as a place of suffering despite the transitory pleasures and joys of life which are temporary, limited and thus not completely satisfying, for the soul is yearning for perfect, unlimited, everlasting happiness.

3)    Modern contemporary culture teachers us that happiness is to be obtained by the external journey, it is out there, whereas the Bhagavad-gita teaches us that perfect, true happiness is already there, within you, so make the inward journey to awaken and experience the true beauty and glory of the inner spirit self.

4)    By pursuing a spiritual life according to the principles of the Bhagavad-gita one negates the effect of past karma and does not create future karma and on perfecting one’s practice becomes free from the endless cycle of birth and death (re-incarnation).

5)    We can perfectly understand the knowledge of self-realization through the guidance and instructions of a genuine spiritual master (guru) – one who has attained perfect spiritual enlightenment and is free from false ego, selfish motives and self-interest.

6)    Each of us is not the material body but an eternal spirit soul, part and parcel of the Supreme Divine, Sri Krishna. As such we are all eternal, loving servants of Krishna and are interrelated and interconnected with one another and all living beings through him, our common father. This is the true principle of universal brotherhood.

7)    Krishna is the eternal, all-knowing, omniscient, all powerful and all-attractive Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the original source of everything, the creator of the universe and the seed giving father of all beings and the sustaining energy of the creation.

8)    Rather than living in a self-centred way, the “secret to real” happiness is through acting with love for the pleasure of the Supreme Divine, Sri Krishna by which we also become perfectly satisfied and completely happy. This is known as bhakti yoga, the path of devotional service, which culminates in prema bhakti, pure, perfect, divine love.

9)    The ultimate purpose and goal of one’s life as revealed through the Bhagavad-gita is to become self-realized, to travel the path of enlightenment to achieve spiritual perfection in this life and return to our eternal home, the Spiritual World (Vaikuntha). There to be with the Supreme Divine, Sri Krishna, where we enjoy eternal life full of perfect, pure, spiritual love and infinite bliss. This is the highest purpose of all existence and the ultimate destination of the soul.