Bhagwad Gita: The Teachings of Bhagwad Gita (8829 Words)

Bhagwad Gita: The Teachings of Bhagwad Gita!

Modern age is an age of science. Hence some persons doubt in the utility of Gita in the present times.

But as a matter of fact, perhaps it is in the present age alone that Gita is most urgently needed. It can be said without exaggeration that most of the acute problems of men at present can be solved by following the teachings of Gita.

The essential nature of human beings does, not change with the change of time. The Gita is based upon the fundamental principles of human nature and hence it will always be a source of inspiration to human beings.


In the present age many philosophers, politicians and scientists, have been inspired by Gita. According to William Von Humboldt, “Gita is the most beautiful, perhaps the only philosophical song existing in any known tongue.”

Mahatma Gandhi wrote in Young India, “I find in Bhagwad Gita which I even miss in the Sermon on the Mount. When disappointment stares me and all alone I see not one ray of light, I go back to the Bhagwad Gita. I find a verse here and a verse there and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of tragedies.

My life has been full of external tragedies and if they have left no visible mark, no indeliable scar on me, I owe it all to the teachings of the Gita.” Tilak wrote Gita Rahasya to enlighten the modern world through Gita. Annie Besant and Sri Aurobindo have also interpreted Gita in the context of the modern age.

BHAGAVAD GITA AS IT IS - I AM The Twin Flame 11-11

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In the modem times when all the efforts of world peace seem to rest on the walls of sand, Gita’s teaching of world brotherhood may very well guide humanity. — The ultimate end according to Gita is the consolidation of society. Gita has not only preached for the welfare of human beings but even that of all living beings as such Gita has that liberality which is characteristic of Indian thought.

Gita synthesized selfishness with altruism by seeing God everywhere. The circumstances in the present times are however different from those in the times of Gita. In the context of Gita, Arjuna was tending towards renunciation. The modern men, however, tend in the opposite direction. But the need of Gita for the modern man is no less than it was for Arjuna, since both require a balance. Gita has advocated integral perfectionism.

It refutes all one-sided developments. It preaches “renunciation through activism.” As a matter of fact, Gita is beyond the distinctions of space and time. All the different types of temperament may attain peace through it. Its teachings have reached every country and have found place among thoughtful persons everywhere.

Gita and the Upanishads:

The relation of Gita and the Upanishads has been only too well known to the Indian philosophers. According to the Vaisnaviya Tantrasara “The Upanishads are like cow, Krishna like a milkman, Arjuna like the calf that is sent to the udders of the cow before milking and the Bhagwad Gita like the milk-nector that is churned from the udders of the cow”.


Thus it has been traditionally well known that Gita is the essence of the philosophy of the Upanishads. As a matter of fact, the Upanishads are so deep, multiple and extensive that it is difficult for ordinary man to find out his duties in the world by their study. Hence it is Gita alone which is helpful to the ordinary man in understanding his duties. Thus Gita has a very important place in Indian philosophy.

There are some phraseological and ideological similarities found between the Upanishads and Bhagwad Gita.

Some phraseological similarities between the two can be found as follows:

1. It has said in the Kasthopanisad that, “The Atman is never born nor is ever killed, he never comes from anything, nor becomes anything, he is unborn, imperishable, has existed from all eternity and is not killed even when the body is killed.” This verse from the Kathopanisad has been almost exactly reproduced in Bhagwad Gita II.20.

2. In the Kathopanisad, it has been said that, “When a killer thinks he is killing and the killed thinks he is being killed, neither of them verily knows, for the Atman is neither killed nor ever kills.” This verse has been reproduced in Bhagwad Gita II. 19.

3. The following verse from Kathopanisad has been paraphrased and adopted in Bhagwad Gita II. 29.

“The Atman is not even so much as heard of by many that even after hearing him people do not know him that the seeker of the Atman is a miracle, that the obtainer of him must have exceeding insight, that he who comes to know after being instructed by such a wise man is himself a miracle.”

4. The following verse from Kathopanisad has been exactly reproduced in Bhagwad Gita. VIII. 13.

“What word the Vedas declare, the ascetics busy themselves about, what word inspires the life of spiritual discipleship, that word briefly I tell thee is Om.”

5. The conception of Deva-Yan and Pitra-Yan, the path of the gods and the path of the fathers, which the Upanishads followed from the Vedas was handed over by them to the Bhagwad Gita. In chapter VIII, 24-25, Bhagwad Gita tells us like the Upanishads that “Those who move by the path of the gods move towards Brahman, while those who go by the path of the fathers return by the path by which they have gone.”

Besides these phraseological similarities, Bhagwad Gita has many ideological similarities with the Upanishads. The theme of the Setasvatara Upanishads and the importance of devotion and worship has been borrowed by Gita. The philosophy of Karma Yoga of Bhagwad Gita has been based upon a verse from the Isavasyopanisad, in which it has been said that “a man who spent his life time only in doing actions, it is only then that he may hope to be untainted by action.”

The description of the cosmic form of God in the XIth chapter of the Bhagwad Gita has its root in the Mundakopanisad, where the cosmic person with fire as his head, the sun and moon as his eyes, the quarters as his ears, the Vedas as his speech, air as his Prana, the universe as his heart and the earth as his feet, is described. The Bhagwad Gita has retained the psychological categories, mentioned in the Upanishads and simplified its scheme.

In the Bhagwad Gita (III. 42) it has been said that beyond the senses is the mind, that beyond the mind is intellect, and that beyond intellect is the Purusa. In the Kathopanisad, we find a more elaborate scheme of psychological and metaphysical existence, which is such that it is beyond the senses or the mind, beyond the objects is mind, beyond the mind is intellect, beyond intellect is Mahata, beyond the Mahata is the Avyakta and finally beyond the Avyakata is the Purusa, beyond whom and outside whom there is nothing else. The emotional attitudes and the devotional impulses exhibited in the Upanishads, became the foundation stone for the theistic mystic philosophy of the Bhagwad Gita.

The Bhagwad Gita, however, differs from the Upanishad text and maintains an almost antagonistic position in the description of the Asvattha tree. The Asvattha tree has been described in the Kathopanisad. Exactly the same description one finds in the Vth chapter of Gita. But whereas the Kathopanisad describes the Asvattha tree as Brahman and imperishable, Gita takes it as the world and unreal and hence preaches for its up-rooting.

It should be remembered here that Gita is not merely a repetition of the philosophy of the Upanishads; it has developed much on its basis. If the philosophy of Gita were identical with that of the Upanishads, there was hardly any need for its creation. As a matter of fact, the methods of the Gita and the Upanishads are very much different.

The dialectical spirit of the Upanishads is not found in Bhagwad Gita. In the Upanishads it often becomes difficult to understand the real means due to confliction and sometimes contradictory senses. In the Gita, the various essentials in the Upanishads have been beautifully harmonised so that the enquirer may not find any difficulty to understand the reality.

This essentially was the purpose of the Gita. In the beginning of the Bhagwad Gita, Arjun requests Sri Krishna to tell him some definite path and in the end of Gita he clearly understands his duty and prepares to follow it. In the Upanishads one finds the three paths of knowledge, action and devotion.

But either none of them has been established as the best or sometimes the path of knowledge is held to be better than others. Gita is more practical and synthetic than the Upanishads. It emphasizes more on action and devotion. It has synthesized activism and renunciation.

The Central Teaching:

Perhaps no other subject is so clear and side by side so much subject to discussion in Indian philosophy as the central teaching of Bhagwad Gita. Gita has been regarded as the most important scripture in Indian literature. Hence most of the eminent philosophers in India have commented upon Gita and tried to propagate their own views through it.

Thus, one finds a wide difference of opinion regarding the central teaching of Gita. Some persons think that it presents different paths without synthesizing them. But such persons forget that if it is so, there was no need of Gita after Upanishads. Again, the aim of Bhagwad Gita was to show a definite and clear path to Arjuna and Arjuna admitted that all his doubts have been removed after hearing Gita.

Then how can it be said that Gita has no central teaching? It is, however, true that Gita has not established any of the three paths of knowledge, devotion and action as superior than others. Gita presents the path of Niskam Karmayoga, in which the knowledge, devotion and action are synthesized and the intellect, emotion and will attain their highest culmination.

The Niskam Karmayoga is the central teaching of Gita, its meaning, however, requires a clarification. But before the discussion of this central teaching of Gita, it is relevant to critically discuss the various views of different philosophers, regarding the central teaching of Gita. In Gita one may easily find some apparently contradictory remarks.

It is due to this apparent contradiction that the different commentators have established widely different isms on the basis of Gita. But by examining this problem from the integral and spiritual standpoint these apparently contradictory remarks appear to be complementary. In the integral vision, the mutually contradic­tory views are seen as complementary.

Various Interpretations:

According to Samkara the central teaching of Bhagwad Gita is knowledge. Samkara does not admit action and devotion as necessary for knowledge and holds them as subordinate to it. According to him, one may attain liberation only by the knowledge of Reality. On the other hand, Ramanuja maintains that devotion is better than knowledge and action and the latter are not essential for the former.

According to Madhvacharya devotion is the central teaching of Gita. Ballabhacharya has also advocated this view and so is the view of Nimbarkacharya as well. Mahatma Gandhi has emphasized devotion, but laid excessive emphasis on the moral values.

All these views either empasize knowledge or devotion. B.G. Tilak, the author of Gita Rahasya, however, maintains Karma Yoga as the central teaching of Gita and subordinates both knowledge and devotion to action. Like Sri Aurobin­do, Tilak occupies a place among the foremost commentators on Gita. Hence, it is relevant to discuss his views critically and in details.

Tilak’s Interpretation:

To support his view regarding the central teaching of Gita, Tilak in his Gita Rahasya, quotes a verse from Nyaya Philosophy, meaning “The beginning and the end, the occasional repetition, the novelty of the subject, the immediate result of the work, the subsidiary matter and finally the argumentation in support, are the seven ways of determining the aim of a particular work.” According to Tilak in Gita all these speak in favour of activism.

1. The occasion of Gita’s teachings:

The occasion on which the need for the preaching of the Gita arose is very much significant to determine its central purpose. It was a question of war. To regard a consideration of ultimate philosophical questions as falling within the main aim of Gita is plainly ignorant. Gita was required to convince Arjuna that fighting is his supreme duty and it is for this conviction that Sri Krishna has elaborated his teachings in more than 700 verses.

2. Result of Gita’s preachings:

After hearing the teaching of Gita, Arjuna became prepared to fight. Pointing out to this end of the Bhagwad Gita, Tilak remarks that after hearing Gita, Arjuna neither became a recluse nor a dancing devotee, but what he did was to begin a bold fight. Thus by the analysis of the end of Bhagwad Gita, Tilak proves that its aim is action.

3. Occasional Repetition:

Again, Tilak points out that during the whole course of Bhagwad Gita, Krishna has been repeating the same goal of activism which is its central teaching. The argument is continually interspersed with the constant refrain “therefore fight”.

4. Novelty of Gita’s preaching:

But the most important factors to decide the central teaching of Gita is the novelty of its subject. It is due to this that Shri Krishna presented Gita even though the essential principles had been already explained by the Upanishads Gita, stood for the propagation of activism. Before the origin of Gita, there were two paths wide apart from one another, i.e., pravritti, and nivritti activism and renunciation.

Some followed one while some followed another. The novelty of the Gita consists in pointing out to a golden mean between these two extremes of activism and renunciation. Thus, Gita finds a via media between this world and another. This novelty of the subject points out that the central teaching of the Gita was activism.

5. The immediate result of Gita’s preachings:

Now, what was the immediate result of the teaching of Gita by Lord Krishna, Arjuna declared that his mind is now clear about his duties and that he will fight. He agreed to do as the Lord asked him to fight. This makes the whole thing clear about the purpose of the Gita.

6-7. Subsidiary matter and Arguments in Support:

Besides the above mentioned significant points, the subsidiary matter and the argumentation in support also prove that the central aim of Gita was action. The whole chain of beautiful arguments presented with sound logic aimed to convince Arjuna of fighting.

The cosmic vision, the distinction of the eternal and non-eternal, the description of self, the elaboration of the different types of actions, etc., are subsidiary elaborations of this central teaching of Gita. Thus Sri Krishna has tried to convince Arjuna about actions from the beginning to the end of Gita.

In the beginning he presented a pragmatic and common sense argument by saying the if you die, you will reach the heavens and if you win, you will enjoy the kingdom of the earth. But when this pragmatic argument did not convince Arjuna, Sri Krishna preached the immortality of soul.

But when all arguments failed to convince Arjuna about action, Sri Krishna showed him his cosmic form and thus made him realise that the real doer is the God himself and man is merely an instrument in his hands and so his duty is only to follow divine commands.

Tilak’s view is one-sided:

Tilak’s view has been supported by many other thinkers including Swami Krishnanand and Prof. Deussen. But it may be seen in sequence that the conclusion to which Tilak arrived, though based on sound premises, is equally one-sided. Gita undoubtedly preaches action, but this action is not the ordinary action as we take it. It is Niskam Karma.

Niskam does not mean action without desire or detached action. It is rather to act according to God’s will. Acting according to God’s will is possible only in the stage of identity with God. Hence Niskam Karma means to act as a successful instrument in Divine hands through complete identity with God.

Such action will not breed bondage. In this stage, however, it is not the action which is so much important, but rather self surrender and identification with God. Identity with God is impossible without devotion and complete self surrender. In the absolute integral identity, the contribution of intellect is equally necessary. Hence this knowledge cannot be rejected.

Thus to reach the stage of Sthita-Prajna, the ideal man in Gita, a synthesis of knowledge, devotion and action, thought, emotion and will through identity with God is necessary. The actions of the ideal man according to Gita are not for himself, but for God. Even the actions according to one’s own Varna and Ashram, are also for God, because it is He who has “established the Varnashram system. This integral identity with God leads to divine transformation of man by which he may become a successful instrument to fulfill divine purpose in the world.

Bhagwad Gita:

Spiritual seeing is always whole and integral. In it the contradictories become complementaries. Thus in Gita the apparently contradictory paths of knowledge, devotion and action are really complementary to each other. This synthesis is neither a pragmatic compromise nor a golden mean, nor an organic relation.

It is the status of spiritual unity. It cannot be understood or explained by intellectual concepts. One may only say that here the will, the thought and the emotions, all become homogeneous, transformed and divine. Thus Gita takes man to a stage where all the aspects of his personality are integrated, transformed and divinised.

Knowledge of Brahman and Science of Yoga:

In order to understand the central teachings of Gila one must look into Gita itself. At the end of every chapter in Gita, it has been called, “the knowledge of Brahman, the science of Yoga.” Thus Gita is a science of Yoga. A science means a systematic study of a certain subject. Thus as a science of Yoga, Gita systemati­cally studies yoga. Hence the central teaching of Gita is yoga. The knowledge of Brahman is the basis of this yoga, but the basis in not more important than edifice. It only points out that Gita is based upon a sound metaphysical foundation.

Meaning of Yoga:

Hence to understand the central teaching of Gita, let us clarify the meaning of the term yoga. Here also one finds various interpretations by various commen­tators. To grasp at the truth in all this variety of opinions one should keep his eyes steadily on the Gita itself. The word Yoga has been derived from the root ‘yuj’ which means union or identity.

It is due to this that Ramanuja has so much emphasized the union of the individual self and God. This view of Ramanuja is not untrue, but it is necessary to point out here that in the absolute union, the self and the God become one while Ramanuja does not admit such a complete identity between individual and God even at the highest stage. Action, as it may be seen in sequence, is an important aspect of yoga in Gila. Hence, the devotional interpretation will be incomplete.

According to Sri Krishna, “Yoga is perfection in action.” It is by this alone that one may attain the ultimate end i.e., realization of God or the consolidation of the society. It is here that God may be realised and the social good may be attained. As a matter of fact, consolidation of society is an essential aspect of God realization in Gita, because the man who has realised God should work as the divine instrument in the world to achieve divine purpose.

Niskam Karma Yoga:

Hence the central teaching of the Gita is Niskam Karma Yoga. The meaning of the Niskam Karma Yoga must have been clear by now. Niskam does not mean without personal desire, since an action without motive is not psychologically possible. It means an action in identity with the divine will or to be a successful instrument in the hands of divine power.

Karma in Gita means acting according to one’s own Varna and Ashram. Gita believes in the Varna-Ashram system. It has been established by God himself that he is the initiator of the Varna system in society. Thus, Gita has given a divine sanction to the scientific principle of division of labour in society.

This division of labour was not hereditary. It was based upon one’s own temperament and capacity. As Carlyle has said, “Know what you can do, and do it like a Hercules.” Thus Gita has synthesized modern psychological finding with the spiritual truths. The actions according to one’s own Varna and Ashram, however, are not for the individual or for the society, but for God.

Gita does not believe in Kant’s dictum of “duty for duty”. It preaches duty for deity. Yoga in Gita means identity with God and this identity with God is the ultimate end of Gita. But the concept of identity is dynamic and the man does not seem to be inactive after realising God. As a matter of fact, he becomes even more active than ever, due to his union with the original source of energy.

Thus Niskam Karma Yoga is favorable to the physical, psychological and spiritual nature of man. It synthesises selfishness with altruism. It harmonises the good of the individual with that of society. It fulfills the good in this world and the good in the world to come. Thus Gita has preached a life of Yoga, established in divine self consciousness in which the man, forgetting all other rights and duties, passes his life as a divine instrument, working in the hands of God.

After giving all reasoning to Arjuna Sri Krishna asked him to leave all other Dharmas and to find shelter in Him. He promised that Arjuna will be relieved of all sins and that he should not bother about his destiny. Hence the interpretations of the central teaching of Gita as given by Samkara or Ramanuja do not seem to be appropriate.

Similarly, the meaning of the Yoga does not appear to be Patanjali Yoga because Arjuna was himself prepared to renounce the world and become a recluse while Sri Krishna stopped him from doing this precisely. It is true that Gita has admitted Patanjali Yoga as helpful in the control of the mind, but the eight-fold yoga is merely a means.

In Gita, Yoga is not an anti-thesis of activism. As Annie Besant points out, “Everywhere in this scripture of Yoga there is the urging to action of the most violent type.” Curiously enough, Yogeshwar Krishna preached Gita in the battle-field and not in the secluded corner of a forest as a Patanjali Yogi might do.

Karma Yoga and Karma Sanyasa:

Hence, Gita prefers Karma Yoga to the renunciation of Karma. According to Gita, “Both renunciation and Karma Yoga may lead to liberation and yet Karma Yoga is better than renunciation of Karma. But this does not mean that action is the central teaching.

Gita’s teaching is very clear in this respect. “Yogi is better than ascetic, yogi is better than the knower, is better than the doer as well, hence O Arjuna! be a yogi.” These words make it amply clear that while the yogi is better than the ascetic, learning and the active person, yoga is different from penance, knowledge or action. Yoga is not action, but perfection in action. Now, what is this perfection? in the 17th verse of the VIth chapter of Gita, Sri Krishna says, “Yoga, which rids one of woe, is accomplished only by him who is yukta in diet and recreation, in performing action and in sleeping and waking.”

It is significant here that the word ‘yukta’ does not mean regulated or balanced, but ‘in union with divine,’ because if one takes the former meanings, it becomes difficult to under­stand remarks like those which advocate complete self surrender to God.

Also it does not lead to the status of the ideal man in Gita. Again, yoga has been called samatwa. This word also cannot be taken in the sense of balance due to the obvious reasons. Sthita Prajna is the highest ideal in Gita and he has been called a yogi. Sthita Prajna literally means “one established in the divine self-consciousness” i.e., he who sees God everywhere in waking, dreaming and sleeping stages; while eating, drinking and working; in the elephant, dog, and high caste man, etc.

Thus he is the one who is in complete union with divine. Therefore, identity with God is the real meaning of the words ‘yukta’ and ‘samatwa’. Thus yoga means continuous identity not determinism, even if it may be divine. Since God according to Gita is also the inner self of man, God-determinism means self-determinism. The yogi is most free when determined by God i.e., determined by his inner self.

Metaphysics of Gita

1. The God:

According to the Gita, there are two types of realities in the world, perishable (Kshar) and imperishable (Akshar) or Prakriti and Atman. Beyond these and underlying both is God, the Purusottama. He is transcendent and yet immanent. He is eternal, existence, consciousness and bliss, the Lord of the whole universe, the sustainer of the world, the master of everything, the witness, the shelter and the source of everything here and hereafter.

He is substratum of both perishable and imperishable things. Gita believes in pantheism. This pantheism has been elaborately described in the XI chapter entitled The Yoga of the vision of the universal form. God has been called imperishable, omniscient, the ultimate source of universe, the eternal purusa, the first God, the ancient Being and beginning less.

Thus Gita also believes in theism, God is the Absolute, but also the supreme person. He is the object of knowledge, but His worship has also been recommended. He is beyond the universe and yet he is present everywhere as self of all. He is subtle, omnipotent, omnipresent, all-pervading, indescribable and the creator, substainer and destroyer of the universe. He is self-enlightened. He always takes care of his devotees.

2. The Absolute:

The Absolute is the God from the point of view of the universe. In the Gita, the philosophical aspect of Divine has not been so much emphasized as His practical aspect. Thus Gita has given a very important place to self-surrender. The more complete is the self-surrender, the nearer man reaches to God. Even the worst man may attain liberation through devotion to God.

3. Incarnations:

Gita believes in incarnation. Even though God is eternal, infinite, beginningless and transcendent. He limits his infinity through his power of Maya and becomes embodied. The incarnation means the descent of God on human level. It does not mean the ascent of man to the level of God. As Sri Krishna says in the Gita, “Though unborn and immortal also, the Lord of Beings, I manifest myself through my yoga (divine potency) keeping my nature (Prakriti) under control. Arjuna! Whenever there is a decline of righteousness then I bring myself forth. For the protection of the worthiest, for the destruction of the evil powers and for establishing Dharma (righteousness) on a firm footing, I am born from age to age.

4. Pantheism and Theism:

It has been questioned that if the Gita believes in pantheism, how can it consistently maintain theism. The pantheism of the Gita, however, is in no way antagonistic to theism, because pantheism does not mean that the God is beyond the universe. The world is God, but the God is not the world alone.

In the end of the X chapter of Bhagwad Gita, Sri Krishna, has very clearly said that God is present everywhere in the universe in subtle form and the world exists by a part of him.” Thus in spite of being all pervading, God may incarnate as the supreme person. This does not mean that either his omnipresent form or the form of incanrnation is imperfect.

As a matter of fact, the spiritual phenomena cannot be explained by means of dialectical reasoning. Every level of existence has its own logic peculiar to it. Divine phenomena is different from material phenomena and so the principles of the intellectual logic cannot be applied to it.

He can be perfect both as omniscient God as well as supreme person. He is imminent as well as transcendent and beyond all. But how is this possible? This may be understood only through immediate spiritual experience. Before seeing the vision of the universal form, even Arjuna could not understand this mystery. It is the subject of mystic realisation.

The World:

Prakriti is the material cause of the universe. God is the efficient cause. He guides the Prakriti. The Prakriti of God has two aspects—Para and Apara. Apara or lower Prakrti includes life, water, air, ether, mind and intellect. These are the material, the physical, the vital and the psychological worlds. The Para Prakriti or higher nature sustains the limited embodied soul.

The Apara Prakriti is uncon­scious, while the Para Prakriti is conscious. Both are God’s powers. Hence ultimately God is the material as well as the efficient cause of the universe. Prakriti is the Maya of God. This Maya is constituted of the three Gunas, i.e., Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Maya is not reflection of a real power. God creates the Jivas through his Prakriti, according to their merits and demerits. Both Prakrti and Purusa are eternal and imperishable.

The Individual Self:

Jiva is the eternal part of God. The body is limited in space and time. It is born and it dies. The soul is un-born, immortal and beyond space and time. It is infinite and eternal. It is indescribable, unchanging, all-pervading, immovable and action- less. It is beyond the mind, intellect and senses. It was before this body and shall remain after it. When the body becomes useless it leaves it and enters new body.

It is beyond Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. The pleasure and pain, illusion, emotions, passions, mind, intellect and senses, are born of these three Gunas. Their objects are also born through them. The self is beyond Gunas and their modifications. By going beyond Gunas due to self-realization, the man is not touched by pleasure and pain and becomes a mere detached witness.

This is the highest state. Knowledge is the essence of soul. By controlling the senses through the mind, mind through the intellect and the intellect through the spirit, one may realise the self and ultimately the God.

But God-realization is not possible without self surrender. In it the man becomes merely an instrument of the divine power. He does not work for God, but as His instrument. In the Gita the ideal man works for the good of the living being, but ultimately such work becomes spontaneous and natural for him.

It is his nature. Thus the Gita takes man beyond the dualism of ethics into religious field. Even beyond this is the spiritual field in which all the conflict of the moral level and the dualism of the mental level disappears and the man, established in the divine consciousness, acts for the good spontaneously. Some may doubt here that this takes away the entire freedom of man, but this doubt is based upon a dualistic conception of the relation of God and soul.

Freedom does not mean indeterminism, but self-determinism and when this self is God or when the God is present in man in the form of the self, then the real freedom lies in becoming a divine instrument. Only this has no egoism of will. Thus the meaning of the absolute surrender to God is self-realization which is the ultimate principle of all Indian philosophy, religion and ethics.

Ethics of Gita:

The Ultimate End:

From the foregoing discussion of the central teaching of Gita, it would have transpired that it holds God-realization to be the ultimate end, the goal of all actions. Gita has preached the Varnashram Dharma but the fulfillment of this Dharma becomes a duty only because it has been ordained by God. In the Gita, Lord Krishna himself has said that all the four Varnas have been created by Him according to the distinction of qualities and actions.

God realization also leads to qualities of the nature of soul because soul is only a form of God. This soul is to be experienced internally as well as in the external world. An ideal yogi experiences God everywhere. The soul according to the Gita is permanent and unchanging.

It is indestructible while all the other physical objects of the universe are transient. God is the controller of the self and physical objects. He is the creator, sustainer and destroyer of the world. He is omnipotent and omnipresent. The soul is merely an instrument of his purpose.

Public service has as much importance in the Gita as has God realization, in view of the postulate that the soul and universe are both parts of the Divine. Sri Krishna has said in Gita that, a yogi who is engulfed or engrossed in the welfare of all beings goes to him. Social service propels man towards God. Duty should be done not merely for duty but for the sake of consolidation of society.

According to Gita, action is superior to inaction. It has been said in the Gita that liberation cannot be achieved by fleeing from action or taking leave of activity, natural actions being indispensable even to the learned. Actions must be carried out according to one’s nature, actions are necessary for the body, actions are the law of creation, actions are necessary for consolidation of society.

Even God himself acts in order to set an example to people and to protect the society from desolation. For a learned person, the result of activity and inactivity is similar but in spite of it, it is the active person who is superior. Gita has indisputably accorded superiority to Karma Yoga in preference to Karma Sanyasa (renunciation of action).

Synthesis of Hedonism and Asceticism:

Here Gita has synthesized hedonism and asceticism. It has stressed self-control. Sex and anger are both dangerous enemies of man but they can be won over by synthesis of habitual action and renunciation and a sense of disenchantedness through practice. Knowledge is coloured by sexual impulse.

Anger originates in sex, attachment in anger and it in turn destroys memory, the consummation coming with the destruction of reason or complete degeneration. The soul can triumph over both of them because mind and reason are merely the instruments of the soul.

This way, self-control will put an end to actions but not withstanding this, actions are essential both for society and the individual. This contradiction can be resolved by detached action. This does not allow the results of action to become encumbrances.

Determined Activity:

The daily duties also have been elaborately discussed in the Gita, according to which every man has some native determined duties. He may achieve his personal and the social ultimate end by performing these determined ac­tions. The distinctions of traits and action have been utilized for the division of society into four Varnas, viz., Brahmanas, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Shudra.

Sattva abounds in the Brahmana, while rajas dominates sattva in the kshatriyas. In the case of vaishyas the rajas overpowers tamas and the reverse is the case with the shudras. Accordingly, the Gita’s ethics resembles that of Bradley in the idea of every person having a particular station to fulfil in society.

The only point where they differ is that while Bradley treats self-realisation to be the motivating cause, the Gita considers the aim to be the attainment of God or consolidation of society. Thus, the natural activities of Brahmanas are self-control, suppression of senses, purity both internal and external, to accept pain for duty and to be forgiving and acquiring simplicity in mind, senses and body, theistic reason, knowledge of scriptures, and nature of not fleeing even in war, benevolence and sense of mastery are all virtues, attributed to kshatriyas. As for the vaishyas, they are naturally adapted to activities like farming, dairying and truthful behaviour in buying and selling etc. And to serve all the other classes falls to the lot of the shudras.

All these activities should be performed with the intention of submission to God. The desire of result is the cause of enchantment and leaving or abandoning it brings everlasting peace. Such a person is a true hermit or ascetic. Sacrifice of result is real sacrifice. Selfish desires should be negated. The limited love of wife and family should be sacrificed. Thus the Gita preaches karma yoga and not escapism. But it is not ritualism. The purity of the conscience has been stressed in the Gita.


Besides the sacrifice of animal passions the practice of divine qualities has been emphasized in the Gita. The author of Gita has described these divine virtues elaboratety. The God-realised person is free malice and egoism, delight, anger, perturbation. He is friendly, compassionate, forgiving, content, united with God, having control over body, mind and senses and with firm resolve, pure, wise and impartial. He neither annoys nor feels offended, neither rejoices nor hates nor grieves nor desires. He is without attachment and full of devotion.

Niskam Karma and War:

Gita is the science of yoga. It preaches karma yoga by which although man remains active, he still does not become enchanted or bound. It is also called skill

in action. Thus niskama karma is not unintentional but rather action with an intention of submission to God, having relinquished the desire of result. Sri Krishna preached the same sermon to Arjuna in the Gita and it is in order to establish the propriety of this that He presents the numerous arguments in Gita.

Two types of elements:

According to the metaphysics of the Gita, the world has two elements—true and false, permanent and transitory. Truth can never be destroyed and falsehood has no existence. The soul is true. It is unexpendable, indestructible, permanent and immutable. That which is unchangable is true and that which is changable is false. Thus the body is false because it is born and it dies. It is vascillating, destructible and transitory. That which is born must die. The scholars do not worry about whatever comes and passes away. All objects of the world are destructible. The body must come to an end one day or the other. None can put a stop to its birth and death.

Support of war on the basis of Metaphysics:

It is on the basis of this same metaphysics that Lord Krishna advocates the efficacy of war having before preached unattached action. At the inception of Gita’s moral situation, Arjuna lays down his weapons considering slaughter as wrong and sits flustered and undecided. Here, Sri Krishna advises him to fight and proves the propriety of his advice by many arguments.

Killing and dying are traits of the body, not of the soul. The soul is immortal and undying, being immune to man or any super natural entity. It cannot even be transformed because it is the only real element. Thus any apprehension towards killing in war is without foundation and useless. It is body which dies and a change in its form is essential. Thus, to think of it, when confronted with duty, is futile.

Practical advantages of war:

Going to war has its practical advantage. Death will result in heaven and victory means the rule of the world. Even if not looked at front the view point of selfish interest, it is still a duty because fighting is the duty of kshatriyas and it is incumbent upon every person to do his duty. This duty is essentially to be fulfilled as it is God himself who has divided the different varnas according to traits and actions. Whatever takes place, does so at the will of God.

Those who deserve to die have been already exterminated. Arjuna was only an essential instrument in the process. He who deserves to die will die whether he fights or not Arjuna’s morality is implied in his becoming a successful instrument of the divine purpose, desiring to do so and contemplating this divine work of his own volition. In this way, if Arjuna joins the combat he will not be attached by his action.

If he does abstain from his fighting, he fails in his duty having violated a divine mandate. The individual is merely an instrumental cause in the activity of God. Action is man’s inherent nature and his senses will engage him in work even when he desires otherwise. Thus, it is sensible to perform one’s duty as prescribed.

War is a good activity:

Yajna, tapa, dana and surrender towards God have also been treated as good by the Gita. Activities directed at the feeding of living beings of this world are Yajna. Actions caused by a desire for the mutual consumption of necessities by humans are dana or charity while those done for the appropriation of the soul are called tapa. This viewpoint, too, decrees that it becomes Arjuna’s duty to fight.

War is the duty of Kshatriya:

Great importance has been attached to social consolidation in the Gita. People with knowledge and even goods perform activities which are beneficial to the public. Gita maintains the theory of incarnation. It is for a learned person to perform his ordained activities without any desire for having ended all attachments. The inherent duty of a kshatriya is to fight, thus it was Arjuna’s duty to fight.

War from the religious viewpoint:

Even the religious viewpoint confirms Arjuna’s duty of fighting. The implica­tion of realisation of the universal self in the Gila is to show to Arjuna that God is doer, guardian and destroyer of the entire world. This realization gleaned from Arjuna, all his doubts. Self-submission, as described in Gita means becoming an instrument of God. This is niskama karmayoga.

Arjuna decided to abstain from war only because he came to look upon himself as the doer and destroyer and treated the transient relations of the world as permanent, due to his enchantment, Sri Krishna pointed out that no one is anybody’s father, son, etc. All these relations are transitory and destructible. The soul is the sole reality and thus one should follow one’s duties giving up enchantedness.

Voluntray fulfilment of duty:

The moral importance of approximating the subject of niskam karmayoga in different ways contained in eighteen chapters, is that a man should pursue his duties of his own violation. To be deviated from duty or to do it under obligation is immoral. Only that activity which is done with personal motivation and of free volition has any moral importance. Niskam karma and fighting are not contradic­tory because niskam karma means the fulfilment of God’s order without any desire for the result. The kshatriya has been ordered by God to defend the society. Thus it is Arjuna’s duty to fight without any desire for the result.

In this way Gita has synthesized abstinence and activity, inception and consummation. From all points of view, be it knowledge, devotion or action, niskam karmayoga is the practical as well as spiritnal end.

Gita and Kant:

In Bhagwad Gita the supreme duty is action without desire. Action without desire does not mean unmotivated action but acting with a sagacious intention of submission to God. Thus, according to the Gita activities which are conjoined to a desire for results are improper, Gita is not utilitarian. It holds that those who entertain any desire for the result of their activities are extremely poor.

In the same way Kant, too, does not look upon the result as the object of moral judgment. According to him, there is nothing which supersedes goodwill. If the volition is good the action is good, whatever may be the result. Moral laws are categorical. Their propriety is self-evident, being unaffected by the result. The other point where Gita and Kant coalesce is that both emphasize service.

Another point of similarity between the opinions of Kant and the Gita is with regard to the control of feelings. Mental tendencies ought not motivate action. When a person acts under such motives, as love and jealousy he becomes entangled in worldly processes. Sex causes anger and ager leads to confusion which causes memory failings and consequently destruction of reason.

Thus the passions guide one in the direction of ignorance. Gita has preached abstention from both love and hatred. The senses should be won over by practice and abstinence. Thus it is best to act unattached. This opinion of the Gita conforms very nearly to the moral theories of Kant according to whom the supreme duty is the suppression of despicable desires. A pure moral life is a life of pure reason. The sole correct motive is faith in law.

But here it should be remembered that in spite of similarity between the opinions of Kant and Gita on the subject of feeling, there is also a major difference upon the same issue. Gita does not treat desire, emotion and feeling as completely evil. Gita has stressed devotion and worship only for the development of man’s emotional aspect. It is necessary to transform or divinise and not to exterminate feelings. On the other hand, Kant crowns feeling itself with immorality and wants to remove it completely from life. In this way his opinion becomes rigorist.

It is Kant’s view that one ought to “act as a member of a kingdom of ends.” This theory resembles very nearly to Gita’s Varna organisation and the ideal of consolidation of society (loka sangrah). Both Kant and the Gita have recognised individual and social interests as mutually inter-related and preached public service but while the motivating cause of public service, according to Kant, is faith in the moral law, in Gita the sole aim of every activity is realisation of God.’

Thus, for Kant the ultimate end is duty while in Gita it is God. Kantian ethics is jural while the ethics of Gita is teleological. In Kantian ethics, the necessity of God arises for the protection of moral law but in Gita the moral laws emerge from Godly existence. Kant’s ethics is not very much related to religion while the ethics of Gita is religious and spiritual. According to Kant, ethics is the final step in human progress. According to Gita religion is beyond ethics and spirituality is beyond it too.

Kant has extolled the importance only of knowledge and action. His ethics has become heartless and regorous but by assimilating devotion into the supreme means. Gita has presented an order conducive to the all round progress of mankind. The ethics of Gita is more integral than the ethics of Kant. Moral qualities, according to the Gita, include pity, forgiveness, love, sympathy, etc.

Kant’s ethics has become individualistic due to his negation of the importance of human feelings because the element which draws man to man is emotion and not reason. The ethics of Gita is universal because it contains the ideal of world community. Love and attachment are distinct. Pure love is the supreme means of the divine consciousness. Thus, in the ethics of Gita and Kant, in spite of some similarity, there is a fundamental distinction. Kant’s rationalism is merely a step towards the integral ism of Gita.

Gita vs. Hedonism:

Hedonism recognises the ultimate end in pleasure irrespective of the subject to which pleasure goes, individual or society. In Gita perfection and God-realization and not pleasure are the ultimate ends. Gita, however, does not contradict hedonism as it does not emphasize the suppression of senses but its aim is the realization of the complete self. Its happiness is the happiness of perfection.

Broadly, one finds following points of similarity in the ethics of Gita and hedonism

(1) Both oppose useless ritualism.

(2) Both are against attaching superfluous importance to religious texts.

(3) Both oppose the repression of senses.

But these similarities are negligible before the following disparities:

(1) Gita is the religion of duty besides being the science of conduct. Hedonism is materialistic having no relation whatsoever with religion.

(2) Gita is perfectionist. To hedonism, the only ultimate end is physical or mental pleasure. Gita is an ethics of synthesis, Hedonism is one sided ethics.

(3) Hedonism aims at reckless enjoyment. Gita synthesizes control and enjoy­ment, knowledge and action.

(4) Hedonism has stressed physical or sensual pleasure. Taking their transfor­mation to be necessary, Gita bridges the gulf between hedonism and rationalism.

A Universal Philosophy or Life:

The Gita preaches for the proper development of all aspects of man. In it devotion is assimilated with knowledge and action. Extreme important is the quality of self-submission (atmasamarpana). All sins are destroyed if man takes refuge with God after relinquishing everything. Truth is accessible only after purification to one who has faith in knowledge. Gita has preached this same doctrine of complete self-submission and devotion to God in a number of ways. Among the other characteristics of the Gita as a universal philosophy, the major ones are the following:

1. Synthesis of the good of society and individual:

Gita’s universal philosophy has synthesized both social and individual interests. The individual soul and the universal soul are not two separate entities. All distinctions are the result of ignorance. The ultimate is absolute perfection of the individual but this can be attained only through consolidation of society and God-realization.

2. Theory of Division of Labour:

Gita’s conception of the varna system is not only the equivalent of the modern scientific division of labour but it is superior in some respect since in it man does not become entangled in actions because he fulfils his duty with the intention of God-realisation. In this way, Gita has also achieved a magnificent synthesis of spiritualism and social welfare.

3. Synthesis of enjoyment and austerity:

Gita’s theory of Niskama Karmayoga is the supreme means not only from the spiritual viewpoint but also from the practical and worldly viewpoints. It has in itself an expert synthesis of action and abstinence, enjoyment and asceticism. Niskama karma does not admit of any probability of being deflected from one’s path and supplies uninterrupted motiva­tion for staying duty bound.

4. Divinization of Passions:

In spite of the ideal of detachment, Gita’s path is natural and integral. It preaches the divinization and transformation of passions and not their repression as was Kant’s contention.

5. Directive of daily duties:

In view of the fact that the Gita contains a long description of duties concurring to a number of different types of men, it must be admitted that it affords assistance in the understanding of daily duties.

6. Based on sound Metaphysics:

The philosophy of Gita is based on sound metaphysics. Although it is theistic, it does not “encourage blind faith in any instance.

7. Synthesis of Determinism and freedom of will:

Gita has synthesized determinism and freedom of will. It is God who controls the result of action and the order of the world but in order to become a dynamic instrument of divine action after understanding this order and complete self submission to God, it is essential to act with determination. Becoming the instrument of divine consciousness implies action according to the internal consciousness because fundamentally the soul and god are identical. Thus, true freedom lies in divine transformation. True self-realisation is in self-surrender. The one way of freeing the soul from its various limitations is social service and devotion to God.

8. Universal Message of the Gita:

The message of Gita is universally comprehensive, and everlasting. In today’s atomic age, when human society is grievously endangered by excessive materialism, the message of Gita, viz. Niskam

Karma Yoga has assumed an ever greater importance. Gita treasures elements which can faithfully serve as motives to men of any society and any age. In India from ancient scholars like Samkara and Ramanuja to modern men like Gandhi, Tilak and Sri Aurobindo have been inspired by it.

Integral Spiritualism:

The secret of Gita in philosophy, religion, ethics and other fields, is integral spiritualism. One-sided spiritualism emphasizes renunciation of Karma and God- realisation by leaving the world. On the other hand, the materialism, taking the pain as essential to life, emphasises maximum satisfaction of physical urges. In the integral spiritualism, altruism and selfishness, the body, mind and intellect, all find satisfaction. Thus divine status leads towards divine transformation and divine bliss. It is this attitude which may transform human nature in the present age and give spiritual peace and bliss to human race by synthesizing the individual and social good and it is in this that one may find the ultimate culmination of the physical and mental evolution of man.

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