Some of the most important slokas (verses) are reproduced below:
“Whence has this dejection come upon thee at this critical hour, for this is unworthy of noble people, bringing neither heaven nor fame.”
—Chapter 2, verse 2
Thus, in the very beginning of this greatest of Hindu scriptures, the Lord utters a clear and unambiguous message: to be firm, to be courageous, and to fight for right action at all costs. Personal and family considerations are not of much importance for noble people when the question of righteousness is at stake.
“Just as the soul in this body passes through childhood, youth, and old age, so does it pass into another body; the steadfast is not deluded.”
—Chapter 2, verse 13
Hindu spirituality believes in the eternal nature of the soul. The physical body is considered but a tool with which the soul can perform, through eons of births.
“Your right is to work only, but never to be attached to the fruits thereof. Let the fruit of action be not your object, nor let your attachment be to inaction.”
—Chapter 2, verse 47
The Supreme Lord exhorts man that he should let go of attachment to the lower self and material gains, and instead, unite with the Divine. Working vigorously for a spiritual duty, without any selfish motive, is regarded as the most worthy achievement in life. In Gita, detachment is not in renouncing the work, but rather it is essentially the act of giving up something of lower value so we can be free to grasp the higher.
“But a man of disciplined mind, though moving about amongst the objects of the senses but with his senses under control, is free from likes and dislikes, and thereby attains tranquility.”
—Chapter 2, verse 64
In this important verse, there is a clear directive of how a person may attain peace of mind by controlling the sensual desires, and then how to move further toward surrendering oneself to the Divine.
“The virtuous that partake of what is left after sacrifice are absolved of all sins. Those who eat for the sake of nourishing their bodies alone eat only sin.”
—Chapter 3, verse 13
Work has been assigned as duty in Hindu scriptures. Our daily work is also to be taken as a form of worship—the yagna. This philosophy is based on the spiritual principle that we all are but one family. As in the home, the householder first takes care of the needs of other family members before paying attention to his own needs.
“For whatever a great man does, the same is done by others as well. Whatever standard he sets, people follow.”
—Chapter 3, verse 21
Those who are the elders in the family and community, those who are teachers, and those who are leaders have an additional responsibility to set a good example for others. They need to perform good and noble acts so that they may inspire others to do likewise.
“Let a man lift himself by himself; let him not degrade himself, for the self alone is the friend of the self and self alone is the enemy of the self.”
—Chapter 6, verse 5
In the Bhagavad Gita, more than in any other religious scripture, taking full responsibility for one’s actions is explained. Man alone must meditate and exercise his free will to free himself from the lower, sensual world to reach the higher, spiritual life.
“Having set in a place his firm seat …”
“Concentrating the mind and controlling the functions of mind and senses, he should practice yoga for self-purification.”
“Let him firmly hold his body, head, and neck erect and still…” “Serene in mind and fearless … his mind brought under control and fixed in Me.”
“Ever contended, the yogi of subdued mind attains lasting peace consisting of Supreme Bliss.”
—Chapter 6, verses 11–15
In these verses are given the complete instructions for performing meditation and yoga. It is through the meditation (dhyana and sadhana) that one reaches the Divine, abandoning the worldly thoughts. It is to the immense recognition of the ancient Hindu sages that millions of people around the world sit and meditate precisely according to these directions.
“But the yogi, who strives with diligence, cleansed of all sins, perfecting himself through many lives, and then attains to the highest goal.”
—Chapter 6, verse 45
Hindu philosophy believes in the continuity of the soul journey through eons of birth and death cycles until it becomes perfected after becoming free from all sins and evils. The body is used as a working place to purify the soul, to make it fit for the final ascent into the Divine.
“At the time of death, with mind full of faith and devotion, meditating on me, he reaches the Supreme Divine.”
—Chapter 8, verse 10
The Lord emphasized the importance of meditating on God at the time of death, thus starting the great tradition among Hindus to become more religious and spiritual in the later part of their lives.
“He who has no ill will to any being who is friendly and compassionate, free from egoism and attachment, even minded in pain and in pleasure, and forgiving.”
—Chapter 12, verse 13
If we love God with all our heart, see Him in all beings, and do not worry about the rewards thereof, we shall usher peace and joy in our life.
“Fearlessness, purity of heart, steadfast in the divine knowledge, charity, self-restraint, sacrifice, study of the scriptures, austerity, honesty, and integrity—these are the divine virtues of the spiritual person.”
—Chapter 16, verse 1
“Nonviolence, harmlessness, absence of anger, renunciation, equanimity, abstinence of malicious talk, compassion, freedom from greed, gentleness, modesty, absence of fickleness.”
—Chapter 16, verse 2
“Splendor, forgiveness, courage, cleanliness, purity, absence of animosity, freedom from vanity—these are all some more qualities of the person endowed with divinity.”
—Chapter 16, verse 3
Thus, Hindu philosophy has offered a long list of moral and spiritual values for mankind in these most precious verses of the Bhagavad Gita. The Bhagavad Gita has been hailed all around the world as the torchbearer of spiritual virtues.
“The happiness, which may be like poison in the beginning and like nectar in the end, born of blissful knowledge of the Self, that happiness is sattvic.”
—Chapter 18, verse 37
The Lord again narrates the ancient Upanishad teaching. We may not be tempted by what appears sweet in the beginning, nor may we reject that which is bitter. The material and sensual rewards often appear tempting and attractive in the beginning. The joy and bliss of the spiritual and virtuous deeds are more important.
In Bhagavad Gita, a person is directly held responsible for his behavior and action. In Gita, more than in any other religious scripture, taking full responsibility for one’s actions is explained. Man alone must meditate and exercise his free will to liberate himself from the lower, sensual world towards the higher, spiritual life. Some have the tendency to think that by just completely surrendering to God, all their problems would be solved and wishes fulfilled. Gita teaches the great lesson of work in the spiritual and virtuous manner and to perform all the duties most sincerely and diligently.
Bhagavad Gita also puts a very pointing finger on the elders and leaders of the community. The elders need to be more careful and responsible in all their behavior.
Gita lays down detailed instructions for performing meditation and yoga. It is through meditation (dhyana and sadhana) that one reaches the Divine, after successfully abandoning worldly thoughts. The Lord emphasized the importance of meditating on God at the time of death, thus starting the great tradition among Hindus to become more religious and spiritual in the latter part of their lives.
Bhagavad Gita thus culminates the spiritual teachings of Vedas and Upanishads, by expending a more direct approach, presenting God in human form (Lord Krishna) to deliver the message in its most authoritative and convincing manner. Even so, God has also been presented in a new manner as a very close friend and well-wisher. God even drives the vehicle, the chariot of Arjuna in the war-front to demonstrate the most intimate and informal relationship between the being and the Creator! Arjuna remains most humble and obedient before Lord Krishna, recognizing the Lord as the Supreme power above anything. These innovative modifications and variations in Gita conform to the dynamic character of Hindu philosophy.