The Bhagavad Gita, translated to mean “the song of the Lord” is a timeless tale with so much wisdom to offer, for every age and generation. I have realized through my own experience (and confirmed through comments of friends and students) that this is not a book that can be read in a week, or understood in an afternoon. This is a manual that can be studied for an entire lifetime- each time it’s picked up, more wisdom can be transferred. Still, I hope that this introduction gives a bit of inspiration for you to do some self-study; to begin to take small sips of this beautiful story and slowly integrate its teachings into your own life experience. This commentary is based on the translation of the Gita written by Eknath Easwaran.
Every verse of the Bhagavad Gita is rich with insight and none should be overlooked. But for the sake of simplicity, I will do my best to choose some of the most poignant verses, to give you a point of reference; a place for you to begin your own study.
The Bhagavad Gita is part of the Mahabharata, an epic contained within the Upanishads. The Upanishads are stories that have been passed down through the ages, to give hope and direction to those sparkling souls who know that there is a deeper reality beneath the world of change; who intuitively know there is a profound meaning in life. This exploration into the nature of human consciousness is called Brahmavidya, which means “the supreme science” and implies that understanding the reality that exists at the core of every human personality, gives immediate access to and understanding of all knowledge.
The wisdom imparted in the Gita is what Aldous Huxley coined as “Perennial Philosophy”, which can be broken down into three points:
- there is an infinite, changeless reality beneath the world of change
- the same reality lies at the core of every human personality
- the purpose of life is to discover this reality experientially
No matter what personal or immediate problem we face, this philosophy can help us to overcome it. However, this philosophy is much easier to preach than to practice. When we are in the middle of a problem, it’s hard to see the bigger picture. In the face of real challenges, years of meditation and mindfulness training can so easily be thrown out the window. We become paralyzed by our own fear or frustration. The Bhagavad Gita serves as a manual for this exact experience.
The story begins on a battlefield: A war between families who are battling for the throne. The main character is Arjuna, a gifted warrior, fighting on the side of the ‘good guys’. Right before the battle begins, he falls into a kind of paralysis- unwilling to fight against his family, teachers and friends. He seeks council from his charioteer Krishna, who we later learn is the human manifestation of the all-pervading spirit. Krishna insists that Arjuna follow through with this war, knowing that he has a very important role to fulfill. In order to find the motivation and meaning required, Krishna teaches him the practices of yoga.
There have been countless commentaries on the Gita which explain the war as an allegory for the conflict within ourselves: between our inherent goodness and purity, versus the negative or destructive tendencies which are born from our unconscious wounds (karma). Those wounds through which we see the world are the only thing we know, and challenging them, much like engaging in a fight against our kin, can seem overwhelming. And so, the wisdom of Yoga that Krishna teaches Arjuna can be applied to each and everyone of us, no matter our age, generation, culture or religion.
Now that being said, over the last few weeks I have also taken the battle field to be much more than a mere allegory. Just turn on the news for five minutes or glance at the front page of any newspaper and you will see that right now, the world is not ok. With so much uncertainty and confusion, it can also feel like we are caught in a war of good versus evil. In these times, I believe that the Bhagavad Gita is not simply a metaphorical story of how to conquer our own inner demons- it’s a very practical handbook of how to keep on when we feel totally helpless and to help us overcome the grief that we might feel in our present reality. Each and everyone of us that feels concerned for the future of our planet, or who feels saddened by the tragedies plaguing our earth is like Arjuna: having to engage in a battle who’s odds are anything but in our favour. But just like our main character, we have no other choice than to keep on. Sure, we can run away from reality by numbing ourselves into a place of passivity, but eventually we will be haunted by our thoughts. Each and every person on this planet has an important role to play in the healing of our earth. By taking the brave step to look within ourselves, we will find courage, wisdom and the necessary skills to move forward.
Chapter One: The War Within
The first chapter of the Gita gives an overview of the war that is being waged. The battle is between two families: The Pandavas (Pandus) and the Kauravas (Kurus). Many years before, King Pandu, who was a just and kind ruler, retired into the forest on spiritual retreat and died young. When Pandu died, his eldest son Yudhishtira should have taken the throne, but he was just a boy, so Pandu’s elder brother Dhritarasthra, who was blind since birth, takes the seat of power. The blind king represents our own blind ignorance which has been ruling our inner kingdom, perhaps for our entire lives.
When the time came for Yudhishitra to gain his entitled place of power, Dhirtarasthra’s feelings of attachment to his own son Duryodhana overcame him, and he could not so easily hand over the power to his nephew. Yudhisthira is a representation of outstanding qualities; Duryodhana represents corruption. Tensions rose and no solution seemed possible, and according to Duryodhana, the only way to solve this dilemma was on the battlefield.
As the battle is about to begin, Arjuna is overcome with despair and realizes he does not want to fight. To him it would be better to run away than to have any responsibility in this war. Krishna assured Arjuna that his role in this war is essential, and that dropping out would serve no purpose. He would be shunned to a life of dishonour and he would have to live out the rest of his days burdened by the shame of abandoning his responsibilities. Although Krishna assures him that he must go forward, never does he give him instruction on how to fight or how to kill. Rather, he teaches him the path of Yoga: how to understand and connect to the real essence of life.
Chapter Two: Self-Realization
Arjuna is overwhelmed by his situation. Begging for a solution he asks Krishna a question that perhaps many of us have asked throughout our lives: “what can overcome a sorrow that saps all my vitality?” 2:8.
Krishna tries to steer him away from the immediate problem by putting the whole thing into perspective. He explains that there is a deeper, truer reality that exists beyond the physical body, and that he should not be so concerned with losing his physical form, nor should he worry too much about his family on the opposite side. He counsels: “As one abandons worn-out clothes and acquires new ones, so when the body is worn out a new one is acquired by the Self, who lives within. The Self cannot be pierced by weapons or burned by fire; water cannot wet it, nor can the wind dry it… It is everlasting and infinite, standing on the motionless foundations of eternity. The Self is unmanifested, beyond all thought, beyond all change. Knowing this, you should not grieve.” 2:22-24
In order to realize the eternal Self, one must be able to control their mind and senses, and the surest way to success is through the practices of Yoga. It seems like a very tall order but Krishna assures, ”On this path, effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure. Even a little effort toward spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fear” 2:40. Whether we reach the place of self-realization or not is of little importance. As the saying goes, ‘it’s about the journey, not the destination’. As long as we seek salvation in the future; as long as we hanker, even for enlightenment, we are missing the goal. “Those who are motivated only by desire for the fruits of action are miserable, for they are constantly anxious about the results of what they do” 2:49
Chapter Three: Selfless Service
Arjuna is still paralyzed. While he appreciates the wisdom which Krishna is sharing, the current task seems too overwhelming to be able to put his teachings into practice. Krishna encourages him by reminding him that as a warrior, it is his duty to fight in this war. This is his dharma, his unique responsibility that he must fulfill. Krishna instructs, “One who shirks action does not attain freedom; no one can gain perfection by abstaining from work.”3:4…”Fulfill all your duties; action is better than inaction. Even to maintain your body, Arjuna, you are obliged to act.” 3:8-9. “Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind” 3:20 [and] “Perform all work carefully, guided by compassion” 3:26.
When we are in our darkest moments; when we are overcome with sadness and sorrow, the best remedy is Karma Yoga- helping our fellow beings. It does not have to be anything grand, the small actions can make the biggest difference. Maybe that means listening to a friend who is going through a difficult time, or helping out a neighbour in need. Maybe it’s making a meal for someone we care about, or planting flowers or trees to make sure we have enough butterflies and bees. Every action, big or small, has an impact on our world and the way we experience it. So when we find ourselves in those moments of despair, we know that salvation can come through service.
Although life will be filled with challenges and many reasons to give up, we must keep on. Each and every one of us will have to endure terrible pain, but this is no reason to drop out of life. An important message that we must all keep at the forefront of our minds: “those who [are always] criticizing and complaining, are utterly deluded, and are the cause of their own suffering. 3:32.
Chapter Four: Wisdom in Action
Now that Krishna has Arjuna (and the reader’s) attention, he continues to teach about the importance of what is known as “mystical union”- the direct and personal experience of the reality that exists beyond the world of name and form. This union is possible through unbending devotion- a sincere effort towards connecting to and realizing this underlying reality. He tells Arjuna, “whenever dharma declines and the purpose of life is forgotten, I manifest myself on earth. I am born in every age to protect the good, to destroy evil, and reestablish dharma” 4:7-8
Since every human being is unique, we will each have our own way of connecting to the divine. Perhaps we feel most connected through service to our fellow beings (Karma Yoga), or through the process of offering (Bhakti Yoga), or by controlling our senses and our vital forces (Raja Yoga), or by immersing ourselves in the path of knowledge (Jnana Yoga), or perhaps a combination of all four. It does not matter which path we choose, since every intention towards wisdom brings cumulative benefits. Krishna instructs that nothing in this world purifies like spiritual wisdom: “even if you were the most sinful of sinners, Arjuna, you could cross beyond all sin by the raft of spiritual wisdom” 4:36
Chapter Five: Renounce and Rejoice
Krishna continues his discourse and introduces the concept of renunciation. This does not imply running away from life and our responsibilities, but letting go of the attachment to the results of what we do. He says, “those who have attained perfect renunciation are free from any sense of duality; they are unaffected by likes and dislikes” 5:3…”those whose consciousness is unified, think always, ‘I am not the doer.’ While seeing or hearing, touching or smelling; eating, moving about or sleeping; breathing or speaking, letting go or holding on, even opening or closing the eyes, they understand that these are only the movements of the senses among sense objects” 5:8-9
Renunciation also implies letting go of the notion that we are better or higher than any other creature. As long as we believe ourselves to be superior, we are setting ourselves up for suffering, based in delusion. The spiritual path purifies our hearts and fills us with compassion. Krishna says, “Those who possess this wisdom have equal regard for all. They see the same Self in a spiritual aspirant and an outcaste, in an elephant, a cow and a dog” 5:18.
Chapter Six: The Practice of Meditation
In this chapter, Krishna gives instruction on how to control the senses through meditation, or Raja Yoga. He instructs: “Select a clean spot, neither too high or too low, and seat yourself firmly on a cloth…Then, once seated, strive to still your thoughts. Make your mind one-pointed in meditation and your heart will be purified. Hold your body, and neck firmly in a straight line, and keep your eyes from wandering. … With senses and mind constantly controlled through meditation, united with the Self within, an aspirant attains nirvana, the state of abiding joy and peace in me.” 6:11-15
Arjuna retorts, “Krishna, the mind is restless, turbulent, powerful, violent; trying to control it is like trying to tame the wind” 6:34
And Krishna responds with wisdom that each and every one of us can apply to our personal experience: “It is true that the mind is restless and difficult to control. But it can be conquered, Arjuna, through regular practice and detachment [from the results]. Those who lack self-control will find it difficult to progress in meditation; but those who are self-controlled, striving earnestly through the right means, will attain the goal” 6:35-36
Chapter Seven: Wisdom From Realization
In this chapter, Krishna goes deeper into the concept of Jnana Yoga: the yoga of knowledge and wisdom. He teaches Arjuna the Samkhya Philosophy: The theory that reality is made up of two separate forces- Purusha (the underlying, objective consciousness) and Prakriti (Creative energy).
He explains, “earth, water, fire, air, akasha, mind, intellect, and ego- these are the eight divisions of my Prakriti. But beyond this I have another, higher nature, Arjuna; it supports the whole universe and is the source of life in all beings.” 7:4-5 In this verse he is referring to Purusha, and emphasizing the importance of realizing that underlying reality.
Krishna explains that our inherent goodness is what attracts us to pursue an authentic quest into the self. He says, “Good people come to worship me for different reasons. Some come to the spiritual life because of suffering, some in order to understand life; some come through a desire to achieve life’s purpose, and some come who are men and women of wisdom.” 7:16
When one becomes established in Yoga, one begins to move beyond the pain and suffering caused by our inherent ignorance. Krishna says, ”Delusion arises from the duality of attraction and aversion, Arjuna; every creature is deluded from birth. But those who have freed themselves from all wrongdoing are firmly established in worship of me. Their actions are pure, and they are free from the delusion caused by the pairs of opposites” 7:27-28
Chapter Eight: The Eternal Godhead
Continuing his instruction to a distraught Arjuna, he counsels, “Remember me at all times and fight on. With your heart and mind intent on me, you will surely come to me. When you make your mind one-pointed through regular practice of meditation, you will find the supreme glory of the lord” 8:7-8
Here we are introduced to the power of the Mantra OM. The Upanishads, The Gita and the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali all prescribe this mantra as the most direct and effective method of directing and controlling the mind. Krishna instructs, “repeating … the syllable OM that represents the changeless Brahman, you will go forth from the body and attain the supreme goal” 8:13
Controlling the mind to make it one pointed is the medicine of all medicines. “There is merit in studying the scriptures, in selfless service, austerity and giving, but the practice of meditation carries you beyond all these to the supreme abode of the highest lord” 8:28
Chapter Nine: The Royal Path
This chapter revisits the path of Bhakti Yoga, the practice of sincere devotion. When we understand that there is a formless, changeless spirit lying at the core of each one of us, every small detail in our lives suddenly gains importance. Mundane activities are transformed into the highest spiritual practices. No fancy rites or rituals are needed; simply a sincere faith.
Krishna tells Arjuna, “Those who do not have faith in the supreme law of life do not find me.” 9:3. But those who follow on the path of faith are sure to find salvation. He further instructs, “whatever you do, make it an offering to me- the food you eat, the sacrifices you make, the help you give, even your suffering” 9:27
Every person has the right to this exalted state of being. No matter what we have done in the past, we can be united with the everlasting source of peace. Remember, “Even sinners become holy when they take refuge in me alone” 9:30
Chapter Ten: Divine Splendour
“Listen further, Arjuna, to my supreme teaching, which gives you such joy. Desiring your welfare, O strong-armed warrior, I will tell you more”
Arjuna is completely absorbed in his personal lecture and naturally wants to know more. He requests, “Tell me your divine attributes, leaving nothing unsaid. Tell me the glories of which you fill the cosmos. Krishna, you are a supreme master of yoga. Tell me how I should meditate to gain constant awareness of you. In what things and in what ways should I meditate on you? 10:16-17
In this chapter, Krishna gives a very long list of how Arjuna can come to know the splendour of the everlasting spirit, described as Krishna himself. He (the eternal consciousness) is present in the most powerful, attractive and meaningful aspects of our world of name and form. “I am infinite time, and the sustainer whose face is seen everywhere. I am death, which overcomes all, and the source of all beings still to be born. I am the feminine qualities: fame, beauty, perfect speech, memory, intelligence, loyalty and forgiveness” 10: 33-34… “Wherever you find strength, or beauty, or spiritual power, you may be sure that these have sprung from a spark of my essence” 10:41
Chapter Eleven: The Cosmic Vision
At Arjuna’s insistence, Krishna gives him the experience of Samadhi, showing him his true nature. Arjuna requests “Just as you described your infinite glory, O Lord, now I long to see it. I want to see you as the supreme ruler of creation. O Lord, master of Yoga, if you think me strong enough to behold it, show me your immortal self” 11:3-4
Krishna grants his request and sends him into a different reality, “These things cannot be seen with your physical eyes; therefore I give you spiritual vision to perceive my majestic power.” 11:8. As the true nature of Krishna was revealed, “If a thousand suns were to rise in the heavens at the same time, the blaze of their light would resemble the splendour of that supreme spirit” 11:12
Arjuna is overwhelmed by what he experiences and expresses, “you are the first among the gods, the timeless spirit, the resting place of all beings. You are the knower and the thing which is known. You are the final home; with your infinite form you pervade the cosmos” 11:38
Eventually the vision becomes too much for Arjuna to handle and he begs that he can return to his normal reality. He longs for the gentle face of his long time friend. Krishna again grants his wish and returns to his familiar human form. Many of us can relate to this feeling since sometimes, spiritual realizations are anything but pleasant: they are uncomfortable and overwhelming. But we can take solace in the fact that if we are granted such an awesome experience- no matter how uncomfortable- that we are indeed ready to handle it.
Chapter Twelve: The Way of Love
After the awesome experience of seeing Krishna’s true nature, Arjuna asks if one could reach this place of realization on their own. Krishna responds, “those who seek transcendental reality, without name, without form, contemplating the unmanifested, beyond the reach of thought and of feeling, with their senses subdued and mind serene and striving for the good of all beings, they too will verily come unto me” 12:3-4 . “Still your mind in me, still your intellect in me, and without doubt you will be united with me forever. If you cannot still your mind in me, learn to do so through the practice of regular meditation. If you lack the will for such self-discipline, engage yourself in my work, for selfless service can lead you at last to complete fulfillment.” 12:8-10
But one must remember, “Better indeed is knowledge than mechanical practice. Better than knowledge is meditation. But better still is surrender of attachment to results, because there follows immediate peace” 12:12. And as a final point on how to come to such a place Krishna shares, “that devotee who looks upon friend and foe with equal regard, who is not buoyed up by praise, nor cast down by blame, alike in heat and cold, pleasure and pain, free from selfish attachments, the same in honour and dishonour, quiet, ever full, in harmony everywhere, firm in faith- such a one is dear to me” 12:18-19
Chapter Thirteen: The Field and the Knower
Here, Krishna describes a very important distinction between the body, and the consciousness that inhabits the body.
“The body is called a field, Arjuna; the one who knows it is called the knower of the field. This is the knowledge of those who know” 13:1
Here we are being brought back to the Samkhya Philosophy described in chapter seven. Now having had the direct experience of realization, Krishna goes deeper into this knowledge.
“The field, Arjuna, is made up of the following: the five areas of sense perception; the five elements; the five sense organs and the five organs of action; the three components of the mind: manas, buddhi and ahamkara; and the undifferentiated energy from which all these evolve. In this field arise desire and aversion, pleasure and pain, the body, intelligence and will.” 13:5-6
He stresses that freedom comes from realizing the Self that exists beyond the play of Prakriti, and that the path of Yoga- in all of its aspects, is the way to realization. “Some realize the Self within them through the practice of meditation, some by the path of wisdom, and others by selfless service” 13:24 “[Those established in Yoga] alone see truly that all actions are performed by Prakriti, while the Self remains unmoved” 13:29
As a final point, he adds, “As the sun lights up the world, the Self dwelling in the field is the source of all light in the field. Those who, with the eye of wisdom, distinguish the field from its knower and the way to freedom from the bondage of Prakriti, attain the supreme goal” 13:33
Chapter Fourteen: The Forces of Evolution
Here, Krishna describes the underlying forces that make up all of creation: Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. These three elements are the manifestations of Prakriti which are braided together, and make up the world of name and form. There are no equivalent english words to describe these attributes, but once we can get a grasp of their essence, they are quite easy to understand.
Krishna begins, “It is the three gunas born of prakriti- sattva, rajas and tamas- the bind the immortal Self to the body.
Sattva- pure, luminous, and free from sorrow- binds us with attachment to happiness wisdom
Rajas is passion, arising from selfish desire and attachment. These bind the Self with compulsive action.
Tamas, born out of ignorance, deludes all creatures through heedlessness, indolence and sleep
Sattva binds us to happiness; rajas binds us to action. Tamas, distorting our understanding, binds us to delusion” 14:5-9
If we think of a braid made of three different coloured strings, as we go down the braid, each colour will have its turn to be dominant, and such is the play of the gunas. Although we may aspire to live in a Sattvic state as much as possible, we are still subject to the natural cycles of the gunas. Krishna explains this further:
“When Sattva predominates, the light of wisdom shines through every gate of the body. When Rajas predominates, a person runs about pursuing selfish and greedy ends, driven by restlessness and desire. When tamas is dominant a person lives in darkness- slothful, confused and easily infatuated” 14:11-13
When we embark on the spiritual path, we become aware of our actions, reactions, thoughts and intentions. Understanding the essence of the three gunas helps to keep us on track, and helps to live a life that is in line with our highest goals or endeavours.
“Those who live in sattva go upwards; those who live in rajas remain where they are. But those immersed in tamas sink downwards” 14:18
Chapter Fifteen: The Supreme Self
This chapter serves as a reminder for both Arjuna and the reader of the underlying message which Krishna is trying to share. When one has seen the source of all things, “one knows their essence” 15:1. This is the concept of Brahmavidya which is being brought back to the foreground. Striving to stay motivated and disciplined keeps us sharp, and free from delusion. Krishna warns, “The deluded do not see the Self when it leaves the body or when it dwells within it… “those who strive resolutely on the path of yoga see the self within. The thoughtless, who strive imperfectly, do not” 15:10-11
Krishna reminds Arjuna, “In this world, there are two orders of being: the perishable, separate creature, and the changeless spirit. But beyond, there is another, the supreme Self, the eternal Lord, who enters into the entire cosmos and supports it from within” 15:16-17…”Those who see in me that supreme Self see truly. They have found the source of all wisdom” 15:19
Chapter Sixteen: Two Paths
According to Krishna, there are two paths that one can take on this journey through life. He assures Arjuna that he is on the divine path, and reminds him of the qualities that he should continue to cultivate: “Be fearless and pure; never waver in your determination or your dedication to the spiritual life. Give freely, be self-controlled, sincere, truthful, loving, and full of the desire to serve. Realize the truth in the scriptures; learn to be detached and to take joy in renunciation. Do not get angry or harm any living creature, but be compassionate and gentle; show good will to all. Cultivate vigour, patience, will, purity; avoid malice and pride” 16:1-3. ”The divine qualities lead to freedom; the demonic, to bondage.” 16:5
Now having set the stage of the duality of characteristics, he explains the ‘demonic’ traits in detail, to serve as a sign post of which road to avoid. The person following the lower path will be “hypocritical, proud, and arrogant, living in delusion and clinging to deluded ideas, insatiable desires, they pursue unclean ends… [to them] Gratification of lust is the highest that life can offer” 16:10-11…”Egotistical, violent, arrogant, lustful, angry, envious of everyone, they abuse my presence within their own bodies and in the bodies of others” 16:18
Perhaps the most important advice to avoid the demonic path, and ensure a life of goodness and peace of being, Krishna instructs: “There are three gates to this self-destructive hell: lust, anger and greed. Renounce these three. Those who escape from these three gates of darkness, Arjuna, seek what is best and attain life’s complete goal. Others disregard the scriptures. Driven by selfish desire, they miss the goal of life, miss even happiness and success. Therefore let the scriptures be your guide in what to do and what not to do. Understand their teachings; then act in accordance with them. 16:21-24
Chapter Seventeen: The Power of Faith
In this chapter, Krishna goes deeper into the explanation of the gunas, in regard to how one shows up to the spiritual arena. He explains that every creature is born with some kind of faith, and depending on which guna is dominant, that faith will take on different forms. He tells Arjuna, “Our faith conforms our nature, Arjuna. Human nature is made of faith. A person is what his shraddha is [what is held within his or her heart].” 17:3
A sattvic way of practicing faith is always based in kindness. Krishna warns Arjuna, “Some invent harsh penances. Motivated by hyprocisy and egotism, they torture their innocent bodies and me who dwells within”. 17:5,6 This verse can be read again and again, reminding us that the path to self-realization does not have to be synonymous with pain. So many practitioners bend their bodies until they break- but this does not necessarily bring us closer to the truth. It only strengthens our ego.
He continues, “Three kinds of faith express themselves in the habits of those who hold them: in the food they like, the work they do, the disciplines they practice, and the gifts they give” 17:7
“Sattvic people enjoy food that is mild, tasty, substantial, agreeable and nourishing. Food that promotes health, strength, cheerfulness and longevity. Rajasic people like food that is salty, or bitter, hot, sour or spicy- food that promotes pain, discomfort, and disease
Tamasic people like overcooked, stale, leftover, and impure food, food that has lost its taste and nutritional value.” 17:8-10
“When…self-discipline [is] practiced without attachment to the results, but in a spirit of great faith, the sages call this practice sattvic. Disciplines practiced in order to gain respect, honour or admiration are rajasic; they are undependable and transitory in their effects. Disciplines practiced to gain power over others, or in the confused belief that to torture oneself is spiritual, are tamasic” 17: 17-19
Chapter Eighteen: Freedom and Renunciation
The last chapter of the Bhagavad Gita is a kind of summary of the entire teaching. Arjuna, and the reader alike, is being reminded of the most important points of the profound wisdom which Krishna has shared.
He begins by explaining the difference between sannyasa and tyaga, in reference to renunciation. “To refrain from selfish acts is one kind of renunciation, called sannyasa; to renounce the fruit of the action is another, called tyaga” 18:2
“To renounce one’s responsibilities is not fitting. The wise call such deluded renunciation tamasic. To avoid action from fear of difficulty or physical discomfort is rajasic. There is no reward in such renunciation. But to fulfill your responsibilities knowing that they are obligatory, while at the same time desiring nothing for yourself- this is sattvic renunciation.” 18:7-9
“True renunciation is giving up all desire for personal reward. Those who are attached to personal reward will reap the consequences of their actions: some pleasant, some unpleasant, some mixed. But those who renounce every desire for personal reward go beyond the reach of karma.” 18:11-12
As we continue on this journey of life, striving to cultivate sattvic qualities will continue to bring us peace and ease of being. “To know when to act and when to refrain from action, what is right action and what is wrong, what brings security and what insecurity, what brings freedom and what bondage: these are the signs of a sattvic intellect” 18:30. “The sattvic will [is] developed through meditation [and] keeps prana, mind and senses in vital harmony.” 18:33
Still, cultivating these qualities will not always be easy. Yet “by sustained effort, one comes to the end of sorrow. That which seems like poison at first, but tastes like nectar in the end- this is the joy of sattva, born of a mind at peace with itself. [But] pleasure from the senses seems like nectar at first, is bitter poison in the end” 18:36-38
The practices of Yoga undoubtedly bring us to a more sattvic state and “such [people] lead a simple, self-reliant life based on meditation, controlling speech, body and mind. Free from… aggressiveness, arrogance, anger and the lust to possess people or things, they are at peace within themselves… They have equal regard for every living creature and attain supreme devotion to me”. 18:53-54
As a final reminder, Krishna tells his beloved disciple, “Make every act an offering to me; regard me as your only protector. Relying on interior discipline, meditate on me always. Remembering me, you shall overcome all your difficulties through my grace” 18:57-58
“I give you these precious words of wisdom; reflect on them and then do as you choose” 18:63