The Bhagavad Gita is one scripture that contains the essence of all knowledge one may require to live a spiritually successful life. In just 700 verses, it condenses the millions of verses worth of wisdom found in the many Vedic scriptures.
For the benefit of everyone born in the Kaliyuga and those who will be born in the future, Lord Krishna lays out a faultless plan for spiritual growth and self-realization in this sacred text.
As a result, it is an essence unto itself, and it is challenging to create an essence from an essence. That does not, however, preclude us from making an effort to do so.
I am often asked to provide a summary of the Bhagavad Gita. So, after reading the Bhagavad Gita more than a hundred times, I’ve listed below the key ideas I now understand to be its essence.
The points below come from my book The Bhagavad Gita – Summarized and Simplified.
Please note that this article only scratches the surface of the divine wisdom contained in the Bhagavad Gita. If you want a chapter-by-chapter summary along with the essence of the Bhagavad Gita, I would advise you to consider reading the above mentioned book. or even better, the complete Bhagavad Gita series of books.
I hope you will find this summary of the Bhagavad Gita helpful.
One’s true identity
In reality, we are all eternal souls. We all experience birth, life, death, and rebirth. Until one achieves liberation from it, this cycle continues. When a being is born, they all lose sight of their actual nature and Krishna and get caught up in all of their different likes and dislikes.
Beings are tied to the material world by such dualities. However, individuals whose karma has been neutralized by rewards or punishments over many lifetimes regain awareness of their spiritual truths and find liberation through loving devotion to Krishna.
“But never indeed, I, at any time, did not exist, nor you, nor all these rulers of men; nor verily, will any of us ever cease to exist hereafter.” – Bhagavad Gita 2.12
Krishna – The Supreme God
The most supreme and eternal being is Lord Krishna. Yet he takes on several guises and appears in different eras in order to bring about universal peace and justice. Krishna is present in everything and everyone, including the gods, and is the creator, maintainer, and destroyer of the entire cosmos, including all living creatures.
Since he exists outside of space and time, Lord Krishna is both eternal and unborn. Whoever comprehends this is wise. The splendor and majesty of the Lord are boundless and beyond human comprehension. Only a small portion of His heavenly nature is comprehendible to us.
“Although I am unborn, am of imperishable nature, and am the Lord of all beings, yet, subjugating My own divine nature, I incarnate by My own nature.” – Bhagavad Gita 4.6
The purpose of human life
Human life’s ultimate aim is to get to Krishna’s heavenly abode. One who enters Krishna’s abode never leaves that place. It is uncommon to find someone who can see through the illusions of this world, recognizes Krishna as the Supreme Being, and makes pursuing Him his ultimate objective.
“The masters of the mind, established in wisdom, having abandoned rewards produced from actions, and thus freed from the bondage of births, attain the state beyond evils.” – Bhagavad Gita 2.51
Krishna’s inferior material nature is what creates the material universe. The root of all causes in this material universe is Krishna’s material nature. However, His superior nature is also present here in all beings as souls. When our senses come into contact with material nature, our minds are filled with a variety of sensory perceptions. An enlightened individual is unconcerned by such transient sensory impressions.
Sattva (the mode of purity), Rajas (the mode of passion), and Tamas (the mode of darkness) are the three Gunas (attributes) born of Prakriti (material nature) which bind the soul in the body. Liberation is attained when the soul transcends these three manifestations of material nature.
“But he who knows the truth about the different modes of material nature and how they work, O Mahabaho, and knows that these attributes exist in both the senses and the sense-objects, never becomes attached to them.” – Bhagavad Gita 3.28
Qualities to develop and avoid
Ego never pays off and ultimately results in failure. Additionally, it’s imperative to always maintain a distance from sense objects and materialistic wants. Instead, one should focus on Krishna and develop a desire to approach Him.
Knowing that all beings are spiritually pure souls, a wise and level-headed individual approaches all beings from an equal perspective. A Yogi who is free from dualities experiences neither excitement nor disappointment whether things go well or poorly. He never changes; he remains constant.
The divine and the demonic are the two categories of beings that exist in this universe. The demonic beings have impure attributes that are driven by lust and ego, while the heavenly beings have pure qualities. Divine attributes lead to liberation. Demonic attributes lead to spiritual degradation into lower species.
“The divine attributes are for liberation, the demonic attributes are considered to be for bondage. Do not grieve, O Pandava, for you are born with divine attributes.” – Bhagavad Gita 16.5
Reaching the Supreme through Yoga
The first step of yoga is known as Jnana Yoga, which means knowledge of the soul and the Supreme Soul. The next step is to reflect on the Lord (Dhyana Yoga). Then, all work needs to be surrendered to the Lord (Karma Yoga). Finally, sincere love and devotion to the Lord emerge (Bhakti Yoga). Bhakti yoga is the pinnacle of yoga. A Yogi must go through each of these steps in order to attain Krishna.
Jnana Yoga (Yoga of knowledge)
Only knowledge about the soul, the Supreme Soul, material nature, and the various traits needed for the attainment of liberation are worthy of being called “knowledge.” Everything else is ignorance.
“One who truly understands the divine nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take birth again; he comes to Me, O Arjuna.” – Bhagavad Gita 4.9
Dhyana Yoga (Yoga of meditation)
A wise man continuously thinks of Krishna, which allows him access to infinite happiness.
“A lamp in a windless spot does not flicker. This simile may be used to describe a Yogi, who has controlled his mind by the practice of meditation on the self (the soul).” – Bhagavad Gita 6.19
Karma Yoga (Yoga of action)
Karma means material action, and the results of such action keep living things trapped in the dreadful material world. The quality of one’s next birth is determined by the attributes of his or her past activities (karma). Wise persons are not constrained by these karma-related outcomes and, after death, reach Krishna. To reach Krishna, one must overcome these karma-related consequences.
It is never a good idea to put off doing one’s required chores because doing so leads to sin. One should always attempt to do their duties well. One should never worry about the outcome because one can never influence it. Instead, one should focus on doing their work effectively. Finally, all actions and their results should be offered to Krishna.
“Your right is indeed to perform dutiful actions, but not to the rewards. Never consider yourself as the creator of the rewards of actions, and there must never be an attachment to inaction.” – Bhagavad Gita 2.47
Bhakti Yoga (Yoga of devotion)
One can readily reach Krishna if they are consistently devoted to Him. A person is cleansed of all sins and progresses toward godhood via devotion to Krishna. The worship of the Lord, recitation of His holy names, and discussion of His majesty and pastimes are enjoyed by His devotees. The happiest people in the world are those who follow such a path. They have an unceasing desire to find out more about Krishna.
Both impersonal and personal kinds of adoration are possible for Krishna. However, worshipping Him in His personal form is far simpler and more sensible. Humans find it challenging to understand and love things without a physical presence. And it’s not even necessary.
“And of all types of Yogis, the one who, being full of faith, merging himself in Me, worships Me — he I regard as the most devout.” – Bhagavad Gita 6.47
Doubts are obstacles to spiritual growth, so one should eliminate them as soon as possible. True wisdom is elusive to cynics who are more concerned with finding errors than expanding their knowledge.
“However, one who is ignorant and faithless, and has a doubting mind, perishes (in his spiritual endeavors). For a person of doubting mind, there is neither this world (the material realm), nor the next (the spiritual realm), nor bliss (that emanates from Godhead).” – Bhagavad Gita 4.40
The significance of the Bhagavad Gita
Since it was given to humanity from the beginning of the universe, the knowledge that Lord Krishna imparts in the Bhagavad Gita is the oldest knowledge ever intended for humankind. This establishes Krishna as the Supreme God and the Bhagavad Gita as the repository of supreme knowledge. To get the most out of studying the Bhagavad Gita, one must adopt a surrendering and devoted attitude similar to Arjuna’s.
“I taught this imperishable Yoga (the science of getting one with God) to Vivasvan (the sun-god); Vivasvan taught it to Manu (the father of humankind); and Manu passed it on to Ikshvaku (the founder of the solar dynasty in which the Lord appeared as Rama).” – Bhagavad Gita 4.1
I’ve tried my best to condense the message of this timeless song of God, but for a fuller understanding and experience, I’d advise you to read the entire Bhagavad Gita at least once.
Please let me know your thoughts about this summary of the Bhagavad Gita in the comments section below.