Category Archives: Religion

Why I was impressed by the Bhagvat Gita.

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I think its safe to say I am an agnostic person. I pray sometimes (and I think I should be doing it more often), but not to a god – just to a higher power. When I read the Bhagvat Gita, I was expecting to disagree with it completely. For those of you who don’t know The Bhagvat Gita is a part of the Gita, which is the holy Hindu book (equivalent to The Bible for Christianity).

However, upon reading it I was surprised. It doesn’t repeatedly go on about prayer or what you should do to impress God; it speaks of ‘the self’. The book is about deeper, more profound and arguably more “real” stuff. Here is my take on why everyone should take a look at it. You don’t have to read it like your life depends on it, but at least skim through it. As a completely liberal person, I was impressed that I could connect to a religious book. Maybe some more people ought to give it a chance. So here it is:

The Bhagavat Gita is the written record of the words of Lord Krishna who teaches Arjuna that it is his inherent duty”[1] to fight. Arjuna finds himself in a dilemma because it requires that he fight his own blood. Through the length of the Bhagavat Gita Krishna explains to Arjuna the laws that govern the Earth and the means to reach Krishna. While doing so he repeatedly speaks of one’s mind and psyche. The Bhagavat Gita is not a set of rules or doctrines to follow, but a theology that stresses heavily on the role of the mind, not mere actions or karma. The text is theological as it is the words of God as regarded by Hindus across the world. Although the book has continuous references to psychology because of its emphasis on one’s self, thoughts and beliefs, it is not limited to psychology, as it is completely directed towards God. Krishna imparts knowledge on how to control one’s mind rather than physical control or renunciation. Essentially, the book speaks of attainment of God through the mind.

The Bhagvat Gita begins with a quandary in Arjuna’s mind and this remains the central idea through the book. It is interesting that Lord Krishna refers to Arjuna as ‘The Great Arm’ because it brings out an important irony. Although Arjuna is an immensely skillful warrior, he is not keen on the war that shows the extent to which his mind controls his body. This irony reflects the superiority of the mind over the body underlining that the physical being is not a complete entity without one’s mind. Krishna speaks of the same, telling Arjuna that “it is just these bodies of the indestructible, immeasurable, and eternal embodied self that are characterized as coming to an end.”[2]  It is clear that Krishna wants Arjuna to understand that the mind or the soul of a person is the constant element in one’s existence and it is through the mind that one can come to terms with oneself and solve any points of conflict.

The importance of will complements the emphasis on one’s mental state. Lord Krishna, who is “the beginning, the middle and the end of creatures”[3] knows of the end of the Kurukshetra and that it is Arjuna’s destiny to fight, yet, he takes a human form to convince Arjuna of why his destiny is correct. Humans aren’t just puppets of their destiny, but the destiny is ours by will and our will is already our destiny. This shows that the will of the person is crucial, and it is the intention and not the act that matters. Hinduism is a religion based on the logic of the mind, which is underpinned by belief. There is also a differentiation between one’s will, intention and desire. Will is consent or willingness to perform a certain action and can be good or bad depending on if it is in sync with one’s destiny or going against nature. Intention is crucial as it is the primary factor in making a decision. Desire for consequence is going against nature because if you start demanding from the universe, you will be unable to attain the end. “The disciplined man, having abandoned the result of action, attains complete peace; the undisciplined man, whose action in impelled by desire, and who is attached to the result, is bound.”[4] These are explanations of the psychological variations of the mind and these explanations form a psychological map for the reader, which can be regarded as the lessons of the Bhagavat Gita.

The Bhagavat Gita is a path for mortals to attain nirvana, or the peace and ultimate end that is represented by Krishna. It is intriguing how the book does not simply speak of sinning and morals but instead a natural course in life which you either adhere to through awareness and meditation or live in ignorance. Krishna’s preaching is mostly psychological with references to action, may they be positive or negative. The ‘knowers’ are those who have achieved awareness and know of Krishna, as he explains, “for those whose understanding is limited, the reward is limited”. Their minds are not polluted by thoughts of conflict because they have attained a level of peace and balance that is necessary to submit to Krishna. The “duality which arises from desire and hatred”[5] causes delusion in one’s mind which takes us away from Krishna. Such elements discussed by Krishna emphasize on the varying states of mind indicating that the way to God is through the stable mind. Action is not neglected by Krishna since it is controlled by the mind at all times and there is value to the action that roots from thought. “For no one ever, even for a moment, exists without acting;”[6] The message of the Gita, then, is more to one’s mind than physical existence.

Krishna goes on to make intelligible that he is present in everything that the earth is made of, weather it is real matter or abstract elements like thoughts. This is missing from other theologies like the story of Genesis. When God creates the Earth, he creates all the organisms and physical entities like the wind and mountains but the story does not include the psyche of humans. Krishna preaches freedom of the mind from materials and ego, but does not neglect the nature of man and the cycle of life that is his destiny. Krishna is death and Nirvana, two possible ends to a mortal’s life. Complete submission of the mind will lead a man to Krishna and a tranquil state of contentment, possibly even enlightenment.

Like the Quran, the Bible and other theological texts, the Bhagavat Gita aims to make one believe in the power of God, and a definite end. The difference lies in the psychological nature of the book and the word of a God that revolves around the nature of the human mind, it’s variation and it’s control. It is a theology that is a part of a war story but does not focus on the battle, explains the indestructible soul and the “unsteady mind”[7] which can be improved through submission to Krishna. The Bhagavat Gita is integrated in a way that its theological message depends on the understandings of its psychological explanations, combining into a theological as well as psychological text.


[1] Johnson, W. J., trans. The Bhagavad Gita. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2008. Print. Pg. 9

[2] Johnson, W. J., trans. The Bhagavad Gita. Pg 8

[3] Johnson, W. J., trans. The Bhagavad Gita. Pg. 46.

[4] Johnson, W. J., trans. The Bhagavad Gita. Pg. 24.

[5] Johnson, W. J., trans. The Bhagavad Gita. Pg. 35.

[6] Johnson, W. J., trans. The Bhagavad Gita. Pg. 17.

[7] Johnson, W. J., trans. The Bhagavad Gita, Pg. 30.