Chapter 5: The Two Paths

May 15, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Commentary and Chapter 5, The Two Paths


Hinduism teaches three paths to oneness with God, a state often described as self realization. Yoga means union. Thus, I use the term oneness with God to describe the joining of the divine spirit within us to the great divine spirit of God, howsoever we visualize or understand Him or Her. The three paths to union with God are Karma Yoga, the yoga of action, Jnana Yoga, the yoga of knowledge -which refers primarily to spiritual knowledge- and Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of loving worship.

In Chapter 5 of the Bhagavad Gita we find that Arjun remains perplexed regarding the merits of the paths of action and knowledge. Again, Lord Krishna explains. He says that knowledge is knowing truth while action is doing good. He says both are excellent paths to God, but that doing good is best because it is easiest. A person who does good by doing his duty for God’s sake is known as a Karmayogi. But such a person is also a Sanyasi or a person who has given everything up for God.

Generally, Sanyasis are considered ascetics who have renounced the material world. However, here Lord Krishna equates a Karmayogi to a Sanyasi since both have relinquished themselves as well as the fruit of their activity to God. In effect, Bhagvan’s (God’s) unequivocal message is that both paths are the same:

Only fools think the paths
of knowledge and action are separate.
Because a person reaches God by either path.
The wise man understands
that both paths are really one.

The balance of this chapter describes and praises those who act with detachment as well as those who know and appreciate the nature of God. Such people recognize that they are God’s instrument. A true understanding of God is reflected both in action that is fulfillment of duty and in giving up actions that attach us to bodily pleasures which are really pains because they come to an end. Persons who have given up desire and advanced on the path to liberation are happy, calm, free from anger and at peace. Their souls shine brightly. In describing such people Lord Krishna depicts them in the act of meditation: Their minds shut out everything except God. Their eyes look straight ahead. Their breathing is steady. They want nothing. They are free.

In His discussion of the paths of karma yoga and jnana yoga, Lord Krishna expands upon now familiar ideas. He reminds us that those who seek God are the same as those who are good. They are pure and as untouched by sin as a lotus leaf is by water. The image of a beautiful lotus that thrives in muddy waters is a common Indian visual and reference. It is lovely to see it incorporated in the Gita.

While the path of bhakti yoga, that of loving worship, is not directly addressed in this chapter, it is implicit here because love of God is the ultimate motivation of persons who are selfless and act only for the Lord. It is however discussed in a later chapter which again sees all who follow God’s teachings as dear to Him.

The last verses of Chapter 5 are particularly interesting. While we repeatedly read or hear that Lord Krishna seeks out, helps and loves those who understand Him, those who act on His behalf and those who trust Him, God now goes further. However, He does not speak of Himself. Rather He says that those who love and know Him realize that He is the friend of all beings and the Lord of all worlds.

So, if you wondered what God’s relationship is to those who do not specifically seek Him out or worship Him or love Him, you can take it as a given that God loves and keeps us all anyway.

Please read and enjoy Chapter 5 as presented below:

Chapter 5: The Two Paths

Arjun said: Lord Krishna, You praise knowing the truth and then You praise doing good. Please tell me clearly which of the two is best.

Bhagvan answered: Knowledge is knowing truth; action is doing good. Both are excellent paths to God. But doing good is easier and so it is best.

The man who does good, the man who does his duty for God’s sake alone is called a Karmayogi. Such a man is also a Sanyasi, which means a person who has given up everything for God. This man is beyond the world and is part of God.

Only fools think the path of knowledge and action are separate. Because a person reaches God by either path. The wise man understands that both paths are really one.

He who sees that action and knowledge are the same sees truths.

The Karmayogi does everything for God. His mind is on God while he acts. He wakes, sleeps, hears, sees, touches, smells, speaks, and breathes, thinking of God. He understands that he himself does nothing but that God does everything through him. God uses him to get things done. The person who offers all he does to God is as untouched by sin as a lotus leaf by water. The Karmayogi is pure.

The person who does everything only for God is peaceful and becomes part of God. The Karmayogi is past the world. God does not share the punishments or rewards of people.

God shines like the sun on the wise. The wise are mixed in God.

They are part of God. They adore Him and their sins are washed away.

The wise give the same love to a Brahmin, a cow, an elephant, or a dog. They understand God is in all. The wise live forever.

The wise person considers happiness and unhappiness the same. He is always happy because he is with God. His mind is strong because it is with God.

Pleasures that come from the body are really pains because they come to an end. That is why a wise man does not care about them.

The wise person can stand here on earth and not care about his body which makes him want things and then get angry.

The happy person is wise. His soul shines brightly. The happy person is peaceful. He reaches God and God is peace.

The happiness and joy of the wise man come from inside himself.

Wise happy persons shut everything out of their mind except God. Their eyes look straight ahead. Their breathing is steady. Their mind is calm and concentrates on God. Such persons want nothing. They are not angry. They are not afraid. They are free.

Those who truly love Me know I am God of the whole world.

They know I am the friend of all. They who really love Me know everlasting peacefulness and everlasting happiness.

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Chapter 4: The Sword of Knowledge

May 8, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Commentary and Chapter 4, The Sword of Knowledge

Bhagvan begins Chapter 4 of the Gita by telling Arjun that He will share the secret He taught the Sun God named Vivaswan long ago. Vivaswan shared it with his son who shared it with his son and so on. The reason the Lord now shares it with Arjun is because Arjun loves Him and is the Lord’s friend. Arjun wants to know whether God taught at the beginning of the world. God’s answer is that both he and Arjun have undergone many births but that while Arjun does not remember them, He remembers them all.

Lord Krishna’s reply incorporates the principle of reincarnation which is viewed as a given and underlies Hinduism. The Lord further explains to Arjun that He is born and comes to earth from time to time when the good need his protection. On such occasions, His purpose is to destroy the bad and help the good. God adds that those who understand that His birth is divine can escape the cycle of birth and death.

The Lord’s remarks regarding His birth purposed to destroy the evil and help the good raise this question: Are we humans in the hands of God who is the force behind our existence or are we responsible for the course of our lives, of our world and of our planet? The Gita does not consider this question as a question or as a dichotomy. Rather it considers that our karma, born of our free will, is intertwined with the karma of our nation, our times, and of those who connect with us and that all karma acts in concert under God’s auspices. So while we make our destiny, our maker helps us nudge it along. Imagine that worlds resemble multi-dimensional nets, populated by living, singing and dancing beings. The worlds evolve, brighten darken and devolve until they are destroyed to come again into being.

Karma works hand in hand with the notion of reincarnation. Literally, karma means action or doing. Philosophically it means action and its fruit. The different types of karma are discussed in my book On Hinduism, but overall karma is the effect of cause that we set into motion. For example, if we toss a glass, it will fall and break. Thus, Karma involves choices that once made either limit or expand our future destinies and choices. While God is not responsible for our karma, He is considered its merciful dispenser. At the same time, like Arjun, we are God’s instrument in the implementation of karma that has ripened into destiny.

To understand the concepts expressed in the Gita, we should remember that the Lord’s words are words that we humans put into His mouth. Even granting that these words are divine revelations, they come to us in human language. The teachings that we attribute to God represent our deepest, best, and kindest wisdom. They bridge the gap between reason and knowledge and between belief and faith. They carry us from hypothesis to thesis.

Lord Krishna concludes this phase of His discussion explaining that people have become pure and attained oneness with Him by concentrating on God. He adds that as people look for God, He looks for them.

Then, the Lord says that He created the caste system which divided society into four castes. While this organization does not comport with twenty-first century values in India, or for that matter anywhere, the Gita acknowledges it as the social order of the times. Later the castes come up again to illustrate the merit of the respective duties of people that comport with their natures as priests, warriors, business people, and servants. In the context of this chapter, the reference is meant to urge Arjun who is a kshatriya, or warrior, to wage a righteous war.

Overall, Chapter 4 promotes the goal of becoming one with God. It teaches that we can attain freedom from action by acting dutifully, and by distinguishing good action from bad action and inaction. Lord Krishna reiterates that we can reach happiness by acting for the Lord’s sake. He also elaborates on the merit of rituals, on the meaning of sacrifice, on the virtue of faith and on the value of knowledge which means knowing the truth. These themes are now familiar to Arjun as well as to all of us who have been reading or hearing God’s words in the Gita and we can appreciate both their nuance and the interplay between them.

Lord Krishna concludes Chapter 4 telling Arjun that the sword of knowledge will cut doubt out of his heart and once again encouraging him to stand up and fight!

Now, please enjoy this Chapter as cited below:

Chapter 4: The Sword of Knowledge

Bhagvan said: I have taught the truth to Visvaswan, the Sun God; Visvaswan taught it to his son Manu and Manu taught it to his son Ishvaku. And today I teach it to you, because you love Me and are My friend. This truth is very secret.

Arjun replied: But Vivaswan lived long ago. Did you teach at the beginning of the world?

Bhagvan answered: You and I have passed through many births. I know them all but you do not remember. I am born from time to time whenever the good need my protection. I am born to destroy the bad and help the good. My birth is divine and those who understand this become part of Me and do not have to be born again.

Many people have become pure. They have become wise and they have concentrated on Me. They have become part of Me. People look for Me and I too look for them.

I made the four groups of people for the world and divided people according to their natures and work. These groups are priests, warriors, business people, and servants.

From very early times, people who wanted to reach Me and become part of Me did not stop doing everyday things while they concentrated on Me. But even wise men do not understand how to do this. So I will explain the truth to you. I will tell you how you can be free from action without stopping it.

If you become free from action, you do not have to be born again and again. You will not need a new life to finish what you started in your old life. You will not be tied to the circle of birth and death. But you do not have to stop doing things to be freed from the things you do. You can act and still be free.

I will explain good action, good things; bad action, doing things which are not allowed; and inaction, doing nothing. All this is a real mystery. All this is hard to understand.

It is hard to understand that the wise are free because they do nothing while they do their duty. The secret is doing your duty for God’s sake.

A person who does everything just for God’s sake is wise. She is always happy. She does not want or need anything so she is free. She is calm while she does her duty. Her mind is doing nothing except concentrating on God.

A person who is wise never sins. She is always cheerful. She is not jealous. She is past happiness and unhappiness.

The wise person is free. He does not have to be born again. The things he does do not give him any punishments or rewards, so he does not need another life in which to be punished or rewarded.

A person who does everything for God’s sake is free and becomes a part of God. Doing your duty only for God’s sake is the secret.

A puja is a ceremony for God. It is a sacrifice. The puja is Brahma. The fire which is part of the puja is Brahma. The person who performs the puja is Brahma.

Brahma is God’s absolute, everlasting power. We cannot see or hear or feel Brahma. Reaching Brahma and understanding Brahman is the reason for the puja.

A sacrifice is giving something up for God. It is doing something for God’s sake. Some people give things up for God. Some people suffer for God’s sake. Some study for God’s sake. Some breathe for God’s sake. All these people sacrifice for God and their sins are washed away.

But sacrifice that is knowledge is better than giving up things. Learning the truth for God’s sake is the best sacrifice.

To get knowledge means to learn the truth. To learn you must bow down with respect to the wise. You must serve them and wait on them with a pure heart and they will teach the truth to you.

Then, Arjun, when you know the truth, you will not doubt any more. You will not be mixed up. You will see the whole world in your own heart and then in God.

Even the worst sinner can become good and reach God through Knowledge. Knowledge is like a boat which takes you across the ocean of sin.

Like fire burns wood to ashes, the fire of knowledge burns the things you do to ashes and these burnt actions give you no punishments and no rewards. This is how knowing the truth makes you free.

Knowing the truth takes you right to God.

If you have no faith, no trust God, you will doubt and lose God and be unhappy.

Oh Arjun, do everything for God’s sake. The doubt in your heart is the doubt of not knowing the truth. With the sword of knowledge, cut this doubt out. Be free. Do your duty for God’s sake. Stand up and fight!


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The Gita, Chapter 3: God Explains Right Action

May 1, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Commentary and Chapter 3, God Explains Right Action

Chapter 3 of the Gita continues to explore the ideas and values that are introduced in Chapter 2. Arjun remains bewildered and troubled by doubt. He does not understand why God, who has said that He can be reached through wisdom or knowledge of truth, wants him to fight and kill. He says that God is mixing him up and asks for a clear answer to this dilemma.

Lord Krishna responds by explaining the virtue and necessity of action, but He makes it clear that only detached action undertaken as a fulfillment of duty brings merit. Action is inevitable. Our bodies compel it. Even God must act to keep the world from coming to an end and to prevent confusion, trouble, and destruction. But a person who acts without self-control and in order to satisfy his desires instead of for the sake of the world is unworthy. A person who merely pretends not to care about his body is a hypocrite and a fool, whereas a person who cares for his body for the sake of God will reach God.

People, the Lord explains, come from food which comes from rain, which comes from prayers which are actions. Prayers come from the Vedas which come from God. Thus, actions come from God. So, action is best.

Though elsewhere in the Gita other paths are glorified, at this juncture Lord Krishna tells Arjun and that he must act with a sense of duty, for the right reasons and not out of desire. Arjun’s duty is to fight, even if fighting leads to his death. Each individual’s duty is greater than anyone else’s duty. But actions undertaken as a duty must be performed with trust in God because such trust eliminates doubt. In Lord Krishna’s words, “Those who trust God are on the road to Me. Those who do not trust Me are lost.”

The concept of pathways to God is an important theme in the Gita and an integral part of Hindu belief and philosophy. The paths are aspects of Yoga. The Yoga of Action specifically teaches that good action can lead to liberation which means freedom from the cycle of birth and death and oneness with God. Attaining this state—believed to be total ecstasy—is the long-term goal of our existence. But the merit of other paths remains to be studied as does the relationship between them.

As Arjun listens to Lord Krishna and absorbs his teaching, his mind seeks to grasp the notion of duty and to understand why some people are unable to act righteously but instead are moved to sin. To understand specifically why Arjun is perplexed, it is important to understand the full meaning of “dharma” which translates into duty. Dharma has a deeper and broader meaning than duty. It includes cosmic order, harmony, and destiny or karma, all directed by positive energy. From this perspective, Arjun asks Lord Krishna why some people cannot help sinning and doing wrong things.

Bhagavan, or God, answers that wanting makes us sin. Desire creates greed, evil, and anger. He says that when our greed is satisfied, we merely want more and that therefore we must stop wanting. Desire covers truth like dust covers a mirror or like smoke covers fire. Further, liking and hating separates us from God.

The way to control these enemies, the Lord says, is to remember that our mind is greater than our desires and that reason is greater than the mind, but that our spirit is greatest of all. Through our mind and our reason, we can reach our spirit and our spirit is God. Self-control helps us to stop wanting which is difficult but, with the help of reason, we can use self-control as the means to stop sinning.

Chapter 3 ends on this note, preparing the ground for further exploration of the precepts that Hinduism embodies.

Please enjoy Chapter 3.


Chapter 3: God Explains Right Action

Arjun asked Bhagavan: Oh Krishna, if the wisdom of knowing truth is even better than good action, they why are you telling me to do this awful thing?

Why are you telling me to fight and kill?

You are mixing me up. Oh God, please tell me clearly. The one way I can reach You.

Bhagvan answered: Arjun, earlier I told of two ways to reach God, the way of knowledge which Is wisdom and the way of action which is doing your duty.

A person cannot ever really give up action because a person cannot stop doing things, not completely, not even for a minute. Our body forces us to do things. A person who pretends not to care about the body, but who really keeps on wishing for enjoyable things is called a hypocrite. Such a person is a fool.

But a person who really and truly does not care about her body is good. She still takes care of her body and uses it to do good things for God’s sake because she is good. This is why I tell you action is best. It is best to do your duty well. Do it for God’s sake and not for your own sake and you will reach God.

People grow from food. Food comes from rain. Rains come from prayers and prayers are actions. Actions come from the Vedas and the Vedas come from God. So action comes from God.

Arhun, life must follow this wheel which turns and causes being born, growing, and dying. Otherwise life has no meaning.

A man who cares only about himself doesn’t do his duty. So always do your duty. Do it as well as you can, and don’t worry about how things will turn out.

Wise men like Janak have become perfect in this way and set an example for other people to follow.

Oh Arjun, there is nothing I, God, want but even I work. If I stop working, great trouble would come to the world, for people would follow my example. If I, God, give up actions, if I stop doing good things, the world would come to an end and I would be the cause of confusion, trouble, and destruction.

Arjun, a fool does things for himself. A wise woman does things for the world. A wise woman knows she does things only through God.

So go ahead. Do everything you should for My sake. Do not wonder. Fight!

Those who trust God are on the road to Me. Those who do not trust Me are lost.

People need self-control to stop them from doing things just because they feel like it. People must do things which are their duty whether they feel like doing them or not. Your own duty is greater than anyone else’s, even if your duty is to die.

The Arjun asked: Why do some people sin? Some people cannot help sinning. They cannot help doing wrong things.

Bhagvan answered: Wanting things, desire makes people sin. Wanting is bad. It is greedy and evil and causes anger. Getting what you want makes you greedy for more, and not getting it makes you angry. You must stop forever wanting things for your body.

Desire covers the truth like dust covers a mirror or like smoke covers fire. Control yourself, stop desire and you will see the truth and you will not sin.

Keep away from liking and hating, two enemies who separate you from God.

Remember, your mind is greater than your body. And reason is even greater than your mind. But your spirit, deep inside you, is even greater than reason.

The mind controls the body and tells it what to do. Reason tells the mind what is good and what is bad. With reason, you can control yourself. With reason, you can reach your spirit which is God.

Oh Arjun, control yourself. Stop wanting one thing after another. It is very hard to stop this, but your reason will help you. Control yourself and throw away sin.

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Chapter 2, God Answers Arjun

April 24, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Scared Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Commentary and Chapter 2, God Answers Arjun

The message of the Gita begins to take shape Chapter 2 as we are introduced to several of the themes that make up this scripture. We begin to see that while each chapter is discrete, it is not independent and that together they represent the philosophy and values that are the heart of Hinduism.

The language of the Gita in Sanskrit is pure, transparent, and beautiful. The goal of my translation was to keep these qualities in the English version. To this end, instead of translating each Sanskrit verse separately, I altered the construction to let complete thoughts flow smoothly and accurately in English. In the print version of my work, the English text faces the Sanskrit manuscript handwritten and illuminated by Navin J. Gajjar, my husband.

An additional goal in my work was to let the text speak for itself. I believe that, since it is crystal clear, no explanation is required. Each reader or listener can understand the Gita’s message without interpretation. Moreover, as this scripture is believed to be a revelation from God, it should be presented without bias. Ambiguities are deliberate and attempt to resolve them are misleading. For example, the Gita discusses different ways to achieve oneness with God. When Arjun asks which is best, Lord Krishna’s answers are inconsistent. Yet they connect and lead to a consistent conclusion.

So, Chapter 2, God Answers Arjun, begins with an exhortation by God [Bhagvan in Sanskrit and Indian vernaculars] to a dejected Arjun whose eyes are filled with tears. Lord Krishna tells him that he is silly, that if he does not fight he will be laughed at, will not go to heaven, will not be famous but will be weak and unmanly. He urges Arjun to be brave and to conquer his enemies. Yet Arjun continues to resist though he admits his confusion, saying, “We do not know what to do, to fight or not to fight.” He asks for guidance and for a clear answer to his doubts. Then again he repeats, “I will not fight” and keeps silent.

In the remainder of this chapter Lord Krishna further explains why Arjun should take on the battle. His first reason is that Arjun pities those whom he should not because the souls of the Kings who are his enemies are everlasting. The soul, Lord Krishna says, is eternal. It does not change. It cannot be killed. It simply moves on to another body. Just like a man changes clothes, the soul changes bodies. It is formless between lives, but takes on a form between birth and death. This concept introduces the principles of reincarnation and karma which future chapters explore in greater detail. Orthodox Hinduism does not debate either principle but takes them for granted as premises.

Next, the Lord tells Arjun that it is his duty to fight a war for a good reason. He is a Kshatriya, a member of the warrior class, and engaging in battle will lead him to God, whereas failure to do so will be viewed as cowardice.  Krishna Bhagvan or Lord Krishna further explains that the way to fight without committing a sin is to be detached. This means Arjun should make up his mind to wage battle without considering how the fight will turn out. He should not be concerned about winning or losing but only about doing his duty. Thus, Arjun’s mind will be clear, focused, and concentrated on God. Doing his duty well will make Arjun wise.

Lord Krishna’s comments lead to the next focus of Chapter 2. Now Arjun asks how he can recognize a wise man, how a wise man behaves, how he sits and walks and talks. God answers that a wise man wants nothing. He is satisfied and content within his soul. He is without hatred, envy, anger, or fear. He controls his mind and is calm and focused on God. The Lord adds that this is difficult but not impossible. In contrast, a person who keeps wanting things gets disappointed, angry, and confused. She has no peace. Her mind wanders like a boat lost on the water and carried here and thereby the wind.

Chapter 2 concludes with God’s answer to Arjun’s question about recognizing a wise person. He explains that a wise person can be recognized because she is one with God and stays calm like the ocean when rivers flow into it. She is at peace, she understands the truth, and she is forever happy.

The subjects of wisdom and truth arise in other contexts in future chapters. These are fundamental questions. Understanding them is essential to an understanding of the Gita. They are two of the many threads that weave into the rich fabric of Hinduism. While the answers may not be absolute, the questions are.

Now, please enjoy Chapter 2 of the Gita.

Chapter 2: God Answers Arjun


Sanjay said: The Lord Krishna talked to Arjun, who was sad and full of pity. Arjun’s eyes were filled with tears.

Bhagvan said: Arjun, how can you be so silly now? You will be laughed at by everyone. You will not go to heaven and you will not be famous. Do not be unmanly. It does not suit you. Don’t be weak. Be brave. Rise and conquer your enemies!

Arjun said: How, Krishna, can I fight Bhishma and Drona with arrows on the battlefield? I respect them. It is better to live as a beggar, but without killing, because after killing them our hands will be stained with their red blood.

We do not know what to do. To fight or not to fight. We do not know if it would be better for us to win or to lose and be conquered. The sons of Dritarashtra, the Kauravas, are lined up against us and we do not want to stay alive by killing them.

I am confused. I do not know what to do. I do not know what my duty is. I pray to you, tell me clearly what is right and good for me. Sadness is drying up my mouth.

Sanjay spoke to Dritarashtra: Oh King, after saying this Arjun told Lord Krishna a second time, “I will not fight” and then he kept quiet.

So Lord Krishna, smiling, spoke to sad Arjun who was still standing in the middle of two armies.

Bhagvan said: You pity those whom you should not pity. Wise men do not pity those who are dead nor those who are alive. The reason is simple.

I, God, have always lived. You and those Kings you pity have always lived too. And all of us will never stop living.

The soul of the little boy, the young man, and the old man does not change even though the body changes. And even if the soul moves on to another body after the body dies, the soul stays the same.

So you see, you do not have to feel sad at all. You cannot kill someone else’s soul and someone else’s soul cannot kill you. And the body doesn’t matter. Do not worry about killing the body.

Oh Arjun, do not worry about the body at all. A wise person does not care about heat and cold or about pleasure and pain. These things belong to the body. They come and go. They are not permanent and so they are not real.

Only the soul is real. And the soul can never be killed. A wise person understands this. For this reason, Arjun, go and fight!

The soul is never born. It never dies. It does not have a beginning and so it has no end. It is everlasting and immovable.

As a man takes off old clothes and changes them for new ones, so the soul removes its old body and replaces it by a new one.

The soul cannot be cut by knives or burned by fire, or wet by water, or dried by the wind.

The soul cannot be seen nor described nor imagined. The soul never changes. It has no form, but it is everywhere. So do not worry about the soul.

Oh Arjun, birth leads to death and death leads to birth, so do not grieve over something that cannot be helped. Everyone died before he was born and was born before he died. So what is there to be sad about?

All creatures are formless before birth and formless after death. They only have form during life which is between birth and death.

Some see that the soul is wonderful; some people say that the soul is wonderful, and some hear that the soul is wonderful. Yet some, even hearing, do not know the soul.

The soul which lives in the body cannot be hurt or destroyed, so do not worry about it.

Besides, you have to think of your duty. You are a Kshatriya, a warrior, and to fight a war for a good reason is your duty.

You are lucky to have the chance to fight in this war for your duty will take you to God. And if you do not fight, you will be giving up your duty. Giving up a duty is a sin.

People will laugh at you. You will be ashamed. The shame will be worse than death. People will think you were afraid to fight. Your enemies will say shameful things about you.

But if you fight, you will either go to heaven or win victory. SO, Arjun, arise. Make up your mind to fight. Fight and do not worry about how the war turns out. Do not care if you win or lose. Do not care if your fighting brings pleasure or pain, victory or defeat. Just do your duty. In this way you will be free.

If you are not worried about winning or losing, about killing or being killed, you will be able to do your duty very well because you will not be afraid. Your mind will be on your duty and not scattered her and there.

Oh Arjun, do not care about opposites like pleasure and pain. Just work. Do not care how your work turns out. Do your work well. This is being wise and being wise takes you to God. Being wise, you will not be confused. Your mind will concentrate on God.

Then Arjun asked: Oh Krishna, how can we recognize a wise man whose mind is concentrating steadily on God? How does a wise man speak, and sit and walk?

Bhagvan answered: A wise man is he who is always satisfied because he wants nothing. He is happy by himself, inside himself within his soul.

Because he is always satisfied, the wise man neither feels joyful when he gets something good, nor sad when he gets something bad. He has no hate or envy. He is not afraid. He is not angry. His mind is always calm.

A wise man is he who tries to control his mind and senses. This means he tries to separate himself from outside objects, even though this is very difficult. Yet wise man controls his mind and concentrates on Me.

By thinking of objects, a person starts to want them. And a person who always wants things cannot have them all. Then she gets disappointed. Her disappointment makes her angry. Her anger confuses her. She loses her mind and is ruined. She has no peace.

But a person who stops wanting things is free from attachment. She is free from loving things and free from hate. Such a person is on the path that leads to peace.

How can a person without self-control have peace? And without peace, How can she have happiness?

A person whose mind wanders is like a lost boat on the water carried here and there by the wind.

But a person who has self-control is calm and happy. She is never sad. She goes right inside God. The wise woman who is part of God sees beyond night and day.

Like the ocean stays calm when rivers flow into it, so a person with self-control stays calm no matter what flows into her mind.

Oh Arjun, You can easily recognize the wise man who is one with God. He is at peace. He understands truth. He is calm and he is forever happy.

End Note

We look forward to discussing and presenting Chapter three to you next Friday, May 1st.

Please note that for those interested, I will occasionally be writing blogs regarding general matters in between the presentations of the Gita. These will not appear Fridays or regularly but from time to time as certain events or recollections strike me as relevant. Hopefully, they will not distract from the Gita but rather offer a change of pace. Recently I discussed the state of the world as we cope with Covid-19. Since the Gita represents a way of life, it is valuable to seek ways to integrate it into our responses to daily challenges and incorporate into our thoughts regarding personal and public events.

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The Gita: Chapter One, Arjun’s Sadness



April 17, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Commentary and Chapter 1, Arjun’s Sadness

Chapter 1 of the Gita concludes with the doubt Arjun expresses to Lord Krishna, a doubt that distresses Arjun and fills him with sadness. It gives rise to questions regarding the human condition, our relationship with God, the nature of wisdom, and other issues. Later we will see how the Gita addresses these overlapping themes some of which predominate in certain chapters, pop up in different contexts and intertwine with related questions explored elsewhere in this scripture.

But as the Gita is placed in the Mahabharata, the great epic describing the conflict between the Kauravas and the Pandavas and the subsequent war, the first chapter opens on the battlefield. We get a vivid picture of the armies and their leaders assembled on the field of Kurukshetra. Sanjay, the blind old King Dritarashtra’s charioteer, is the narrator who describes the scene to the King and to us all.

Kurukshetra is a city named after the legendary King Kuru, ancestor of both the Kauravas and the Pandavas. Its battlefield is also known as Dharmakshetra, the place of Dharma [duty and righteousness in Hinduism] or the Holy City. We can see that the symbolism of these names resonates in the minds and consciousness of most Hindus.

On this battlefield of duty, warriors on both sides are eager to fight. Prince Duryodhana, Dritarashtra’s son, is prepared to lead the Kauravas and the heroic Arjun along with his mighty brother Bhim  -considered to have the strength of ten thousand elephants- are prepared to lead the Pandavas. The glorious uncle Bhishma, son of a king and the river goddess Ganga, roared like a lion to cheer Duryodhana on. Conches, drums and trumpets blared. Brave warriors stand ready. Lord Krishna’s army assists the Kauravas and Lord Krishna himself, as Arjun’s charioteer, guides the Pandavas.

At this moment, Arjun hesitates. Facing his relatives and elders, he doubts the merit of fighting. He feels sorry and dejected. His legs shake, his mouth is dry, his hair stands on end, his bow falls from his hand, his skin burns and his mind spins. In this state, he cannot bring himself to himself to stand up. He cannot see any purpose in pursuing this war. He believes that even victory would not vindicate the evil of killing. He asks Lord Krishna, “What is the use of killing my relations in battle? I do not want victory or a kingdom or pleasures.  What use are three things? How can we ever be happy again after killing our own relations?” He thinks it would be better to die than to kill and that killing is sinful. He believes that nothing but destruction will lay in the wake of this battle, regardless of the outcome.

Sanjay relates all this to King Dritarashtra telling him that Arjun, his mind full of sorrow, put down his weapons, and sat sadly in the corner of his chariot.

Thus Chapter 1 ends, preparing us for Chapter 2 in which Lord Krishna answers Arjun specifically and introduces the immediate themes that arise from Arjun’s doubts. Actually, the entire Gita addresses these doubts and further matters that develop from them. In Chapter 2 we begin to explore the richness and the simple complexity of God’s teachings. While the terms simple and complexity may appear to be contradictory, they are not. The teachings are profound and complex as they pertain to our lives and behaviors, but the Lord’s explanation is clear and easy to grasp, so it makes them simple.

Before leaving you to the text of Chapter 1, I would like to explain why I interchanged the words Lord Krishna and God in this introduction. God is a broad idea, defined and envisioned somewhat differently by believers of many religions including Hinduism and even by agnostics and atheists. Overall, believers generally view God as the eternal and loving [though sometimes avenging] Creator of the universe or multiverses and/or as the Great Spirit and/or the supreme being empowered to protect and guide His creation. Some of us also attribute inexplicable events, or events we do not understand to God. Such power interacts with the free will He bestows upon beings so, in my view, God cannot be held responsible for everything.

Lord Krishna is God, but He is not as vague as God undefined. Krishna is the eighth incarnation of Vishnu who in turn is part of the Holy Trinity of Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer. These functions represent the reality of cosmic functions that support existence and embody the three essential aspects of the single God who appears in many avatars or manifestations. Thus, Hinduism is clearly a monotheistic faith, though one that encompasses all aspects of human thought and imagination. Note that references to gods and goddesses (lower case) do not refer to God or to the Lord, but rather to semi divine beings worshipped for their God like qualities. These are not One and they are not absolute.

Chapter 1: Arjun’s Sadness


King Dritarashtra asked Sanjay: Oh Sanjay, what did my sons, the Kauravas, the sons of my brother Pandu, the Pandavas, do standing on the holy field of Kurukshetra all ready and anxious to fight each other?

Sanjay answered: When the Pandavas’ army was all ready, your son, Prince Duryodhana, saw them and said: The mighty army of the Pandavas is prepared! It is strong. But in our own army there are heroes just as brave as the Pandavas. Our own heroes are just as strong as Bhim and Arjun. Our army is unconquerable.

Then the glorious old uncle Bhishma roared like a lion and blew on his conch to cheer Prince Duryodhana on.

The conches, drums and trumpets blared forth and there was a great noise.

The Arjun of the Pandavas blew on his heavenly conch in reply. Arjun sat in a glorious chariot pulled by white horses. Lord Krishna himself was Arjun’s charioteer.

Lord Krishna also blew a conch; Bhim did too. King Yudishtir, Nakul, and Sahadev all blew their conches as well.

And there was a terrible sound echoing through the heaven and earth and it tore the hearts of Dritarashtra’s sons, the Kauravas, and made them afraid.

At this moment, Arjun, Pandu’s son, lifted up his bow and spoke to Lord Krishna, saying:

Lord Krishna, place my chariot between the two armies. Keep it there until I have seen all the warriors and decided against whom to fight.

Then Sanjay continued: Arjun saw both armies. He saw in both armies his uncles and teachers and cousins and brothers and sons and grandsons and friends. Seeing all his relations ready to fight him, he felt very sorry and sad.

In his sadness, Arjun said to Lord Krishna: Oh Krishna, I see my relations here ready to fight and my legs shake. My mouth is dry. My hair is standing on end. My bow is dropping out of my hand. My skin is burning. My mind is spinning. I cannot stand up.

And I cannot see any use in this war. What is the use of killing my relatives in battle?

Oh Krishna, I do not want victory, or a kingdom or pleasures. What use are these things?

Oh Krishna, I do not want to kill my relatives even though they may kill me.

Oh Krishna, what joy can there be in killing Dhritarashtra’s sons? They are my family. Only sin can come to us for killing. It is wrong to kill Kauravas. They are cousins. How can we ever be happy again after killing our own relations?

Even if they do not understand this, we do. We know that it is a sin to kill our own family. Our family will be ruined. Our women will become bad. Our caste will become mixed. Our race will be destroyed. It would be better for me if I let Dhritarashtra’s son kill me.

Sanjay said: Arjun spoke those words on the battlefield. His mind was full of sorrow. He put down his bow and arrows and sat down sadly in the back corner of his chariot.

This excerpt is from The Gita, by Irina Gajjar. You can buy the book on

Where We Are at in April, 2020


The state of humankind in April of 2020 is frazzled but even as we are frazzled, we aim to be kind. Of course, our condition is due to the pandemic created by COVID-19 aka the Corona Virus. Much else is going on in the world, but the immediate virulence of this virus has overtaken our thoughts and behaviors.

Most of us tell one another that we are “fine.” However, fine is superimposed upon much un-fineness. Saying we are fine means we are hanging in there, trying to do right as best we can. We try to do right for our own sake, for the sake of those near and dear to us and for the sake of society and humanity.

When we say we are fine, we mean either that no immediate disaster is facing us or our loved ones or else that we are striving to go beyond the disasters, illnesses, and deaths that we have seen or that we see coming. Being fine means that somehow we have the ability to cope and keep a positive outlook.

But, unfortunately, though we may be fine on some level, underneath our fineness, we are unfine or not fine. Here are the reasons why:

  1. We are fundamentally fearful, anxious and stressed. We are worried and afraid of what lies ahead. Primarily we are scared of the unknown. We do not know what will happen or how long the threat of this pandemic (worldwide epidemic) will be with us or who will be sick or pass away.
  2. We have specific worries about certain people, about a variety of circumstances, about problems connected to Corona and about other problems we cannot address because of Corona. At the same time, we worry about those at the forefront of managing and caring for the rest of us: doctors, nurses, medical personnel in general, first responders including police, firefighters and health aides as well as those who perform other essential tasks.
  3. We are isolated by social distancing and struggling to try to adapt to all the hassles, harassments, shortages, and inconveniences caused by the invisible, devastating, widespread and spreading disease that has changed our reality. Many of us, worldwide, are in quarantine. Many quarantine stuff like mail and provisions that come into our homes. We spend hours washing our hands, disinfecting our cartons and bags and then disinfecting their contents. We spend hours waiting only to give up on the orderly management of our lives because fundamental services are suspended. We suffer because our illnesses cannot be treated since no one is available to treat them and getting help would expose us and others to the more immediately dangerous COVID-19 virus.
  4. We worry about the unfortunate people who are enduring homelessness, who are stranded and cannot get home, who cannot get food and who have no resources whatsoever.
  5. We angrily resent governments and leaders who have failed us by ignoring or refuting the clear early warnings scientists gave them. Leaders, including the President of the United States, have acted in their personal political interest sacrificing their nations’ interest. They have lied repeatedly. They have denied truths about the foreseeable pandemic and have failed and continue to fail to provide essential testing or adequate protection to hospitals and to the citizenry, criticizing those who bring such failures to their attention. Some local officials have refused and still refuse to issue directives that reduce the likelihood of spreading the highly contagious virus, endangering others and causing more loss of lives.On top of this, the world is awfully divided locally, statewide, nationally and internationally. In serving themselves leaders have shown zero interest in cooperating with one another. Instead, they praise themselves and play horrific blame games. At any time, such behaviors would cause peoples to view the government as dishonorable leading to uprisings and violence. Now distressed citizens wonder how disaster can be mitigated.
  6. We worry about individuals, families, communities, and nations who are seeing the biggest and most alarming economic downturn of their lives and we worry that such downturns will not easily self-correct. Knowing that leaders and politicians who cannot work together will exacerbate rather than mitigate the crisis created by the Corona pandemic, we are terrified.
  7. We feel guilty about what we have done or not done in the past, wondering how much our behavior has caused the destruction we see and foresee. We also feel guilty about little things that we did or didn’t do to alleviate the sorrows and concerns of those we love, of those we failed to appreciate, and of random people who crossed our path. We worry about the state of society and about the health of our planet and we wonder to what extent disrespect of our environment has led to the crisis in which we find ourselves. Learning that reduced activity and traffic led to blue skies and less shaking of the crust of the earth tells us that our behaviors have caused harm and risked the very existence of future generations.


But, notwithstanding the grim reality, we are facing and notwithstanding our fears and anger, it is important and uplifting to note this: On the other hand, there is another hand.

There is solace ahead. There is a reason to feel fine, to look forward to a better world once we overcome present challenges. There is a reason to recognize bright silver linings to the cloud made up of the struggles we now face. The biggest silver lining is the goodness that has awakened in so many people, indeed in most people. It is heartening to see that the majority of the world’s population understands the need to practice what we now call social distancing and to obey stay home directives. It is even more heartening to see the grace with which we do our best to fight the battle we are fighting together.


It is inspiring to see ourselves surrounded by sacrifice, helpfulness, generosity, creativity, inner growth, peace and faith in our colleagues, friends, families and in neighbors and strangers. Indeed, we even see pets sensing grief and need and we see them doing their utmost to comfort those they love. We see little children and youngsters adapting and growing and helping and contributing. We see many people rising to the occasion and finding within themselves inner strength, determination and courage they never knew they had.


I believe that the silver linings may bring about a much-needed change in the essence of humanity in the 21st Century. Some actions we are taking will inevitably stay with us an bring about a new and better reality. We are likely to see a new normal that incorporates greater peace, greater calm, greater appreciation of differences and greater global cooperation.


I trust that from the horrid scourge that now confronts us, we humans will evolve into or perhaps it is return to a wiser and kinder form of life.

Read more blogs from Irina Gajjar at


A Note from Irina

Dear Friends and Followers,

We are happy to announce that starting today; we will be discussing The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture in its totality. My translation differs from its predecessors’ in that it flows evenly and clearly in late-twentieth-century English. Thus, the Gita’s beautiful message can be easily appreciated. In the printed book, each page of the English appears along with the Sanskrit manuscript,

Today I will give you an overview of the Gita and its origins. Next Friday, April 17th, I will introduce and present Chapter 1. Each Friday, we will have a new post featuring the next chapter or portion of a chapter, along with commentary, until all 18 chapters of the Gita are completed.

The exact date that the Gita or Bhagavad Gita -meaning Song of God- came into existence is disputed. No doubt, its origins extend further back than we can substantiate. We do know that this remarkable text, which first existed as an oral tradition, stems from a chain of thought going back at least to about 1500 B.C.E. [before the common era]. However, scholars attribute the Gita in its present crystallized form to about 500 B.C.E.

The Bhagavad Gita is written in Sanskrit, a beautiful, complex, and sophisticated language which explains elaborate concepts with clarity. Because of its precision and its richness, Sanskrit is viewed not merely a language but also as an extension of philosophy.

This teaching represents the essence of the Vedas, sacred texts that are the foundation of Hindu belief, philosophy, theology, and ritual. It is considered sruti meaning a revelation coming directly from God. Self-described as a “Sacred Scripture of the Knowledge of Brahma and the Science of Yoga,” the Gita is structured as a dialog between the Lord and the great hero, Arjun. It is part of the Bhagavad Gita Upanishad. The reference to Brahma refers to the holy trinity of Brahma, the Creator, Krishna the preserver, and Shiva, the destroyer. The Upanishads, also sruti, are a series of sacred texts that expound on the Vedas.

The Gita is inserted into the Mahabharata, a great epic which along with the Ramayana has made Hindu mythology exquisitely three dimensional. Both the Mahabharata and the Ramayana are post Vedic writings and are known as smriti or recollections.


As an aside, it is interesting to note that televised airings of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana in the late 1980’s changed the rhythm of life and the Hindu perspective. Around 80 to 100 million people, one-eighth of the Indian population watched the epics on Sunday mornings resulting in shops and businesses closing more on weekends than on lunar holidays.

The Mahabharata is the story of the Great Kurukshetra War involving two families, the Kauravas, and the Pandavas.  Since Lord Krishna preaches just before the onset of this war, its story sets the stage for the Gita.

The Pandavas were led by Arjun and his brothers Yudhishtir, Bhim, Nakul, and Sahadev. They were sons of King Pandu of Hastinapura but born in the forest after their father became ill and left his throne. The boys were gifted by the gods and were said to have been born brilliant with heavenly light. As they were still young at King Pandu’s death, they returned with their mother, Kunti, to Hastinapura to find their cousin Duryodhana ruling. Duryodhana, son of the blind King Dritarashtra, was the eldest of the hundred Kauravas, and he was fiercely jealous of the Pandavas, especially of the praise showered upon them by the people of Hastinapura. Though Duryodhana and the Kauravas pretended to welcome the Pandavas, they secretly plotted their ruin.

The Pandavas grew up to be fine men, well educated as Kshatriyas or warriors, and they successfully protected themselves from Duryodhana’s plots. The five of them won the princess Draupadi and shared her as their wife.

Finally, the Kauravas heeded the advice of wise elders and agreed to make peace with the Pandavas giving them a small empty piece of land to rule. Yudhishtir became king there and ruled wisely. Soon he turned this land into a rich, happy kingdom. He built a new city, Indraprastha, and made it his capital. The Pandavas became so wealthy and strong that Yudhishtir could perform the Rajasuya sacrifice, which proved him to be the most powerful and greatest ruler in the country.

The more Duryodhana saw of the Pandavas’ glory, the more he hated them and determined to destroy them. Eventually, he decided to capitalize on Yudhishtir’s love of gambling and invited him to a game of dice. Despite his misgivings, Yudhishtir accepted. He and his brothers entered the new hall built for this match. The teacher Drona, Bhim – wise uncle of both the Pandavas and the Kauravas- along with others, sat with the old blind Dritarashtra and watched with heavy hearts.

Yudhishtir staked and lost a pearl necklace, jewels, and the gold and silver in his kingdom and lost it all. Then he staked and lost his chariots, elephants, horses, cattle, his slaves, his kingdom, and finally his and his brothers’ freedom. Then, losing all his self-control, he staked his and his brothers’ wife, Draupadi, and lost her too.

When Dritarashtra saw this, he could not bear the burden of Draupadi’s dishonor and misery. So, he promised to grant her whatever she might wish. She asked only that she and her husbands be freed and given their weapons. The blind old King begged the Pandavas to accept the return of Indraprastha, and thus the brothers and Draupadi returned home.

When Duryodhana heard what had happened, he was enraged. He then challenged the Pandavas to a final game of dice. The stakes were that if Yudishtir lost, he and his brothers would go into the forest for twelve years and spend a thirteenth year hiding in disguise. Should they be discovered, they would have to return to the forest for twelve more years.

Yudishtir agreed and played and lost again. So the Pandavas and Draupadi went into the wilderness for twelve years and decided to spend the thirteenth year working in the court of King Virata in Matsya. They succeeded undiscovered. But when they returned, the Kauravas refused to give them back their kingdom. Duryodhana refused to give them any land at all, not even as much land as would cover the point of a needle. Thus, the Kauravas set the stage for war.

Both sides made preparations and asked for Lord Krishna’s help. Krishna agreed to give his whole army to one side and to give himself as charioteer

to the other.  Duryodhana chose the army, and the heroic Arjun, Yudishtir’s brother and the leader of the Pandavas in this fight chose Krishna to drive his chariot. At this point, the Gita begins giving us a picture of the warriors, their complex relationships, their state of mind as well as a feel for the scene of the battle.

As Chapter 1 unfolds, we are introduced to the overarching question Arjun raises. He is distressed by the prospect of war and killing, and he asks Lord Krishna whether it would not be better to die and lose his life than to fight and kill. This question opens the door to the other questions Hindus, believers, and even atheists ask about life, death, honor, duty, virtue, destiny, knowledge, God, goodness, evil, faith, and truth.

Arjun’s journey from doubt to faith and resolve symbolizes mankind’s journey toward belief in a principle greater than ourselves, a journey that can transcend the limitations of humanity.

With this brief introduction, I leave you to await Chapter 1 of the Gita, one of the most significant scriptures of all time. I hope you will participate and contribute to this and the following presentations. I look forward to learning your thoughts, to perhaps answering your questions and I thank you and look forward to your feedback.

Becoming a Yogi

A person’s karma—or self-created destiny—determines whether the new body that his or her soul acquires will be born in the world of the wise and pure or in the lower world in the body of a senseless deluded being. The Gita is a guideline for uplifting the soul so that it ascends to the world of higher beings.

The passages in the Bhagavad Gita that pertain to “science of yoga” instruct humankind on how to better its karma and ultimately attain enlightenment. They intermingle with the “scripture of knowledge” passages which are philosophical in nature and pertain to the unmanifest world of spirit. Yoga in its broadest sense means the path to union with God which can be described as the joining of individual consciousness to the universal consciousness. A yogi is a person who has attained a consciousness that approaches the universal consciousness. Such a person, ruled more by spirit than by body, is wise.

Many passages in the Gita describe yogis and instruct us on how to become yogis:

The person whose spirit rules her completely is ruled by God.

The person has self-control.

She is calm no matter what happens.

She is calm if she is cold or hot.

She is calm if she comfortable or uncomfortable.

She is calm if she praised or criticized.

The person who has self-control never changes.

A piece of stone and gold are the same to her.

A wise person like this is called a yogi.

(Gita 6:6, 7, 8)


This excerpt is from On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar. Learn more about the book at

The Self

I am made of earth, water, fire, air,
ether, mind, reason, and the self.
These eight things are one side of Me.
The other, higher side of Me
is what makes the whole world exist
And is called the “life principle.”

(Gita 7:4, 5)


The self when it pertains to the body or to the material aspect of God means ego. It differs from the Self with a capital letter which means the sense of being. The Self is the life principle or the essence of life. It is God unmanifest. It is the spirit that sparks the eternal soul of living beings. It resides within our temporal minds and bodies but it is not of the mind or body.

The concept of reincarnation underpins the Vedic belief that the eternal soul attains salvation by merging into God. A spark of God’s marvel illuminates the soul which is confidence to the cycle of birth and death until it dissolves into God. When that occurs, the soul’s spark becomes one with the flame that is God and the soul experiences total bliss.

This excerpt is from On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar. To purchase the book, visit our Amazon Link.

The Knower and the Known

Although God cannot be understood by the mind, God can be known by the spirit. In chapter seven of the Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjun that he will understand God after knowing him. God says that He knows all beings, but they do not know Him. People cannot see God because confusion and desire cover their minds, but they can reach God by seeking Him.

The Sanskrit language distinguishes between spiritual knowledge (seeing, knowing) and rational knowledge (understanding). We can come to know God only by seeing Him. Trying to understand God is a path to knowing Him, yet we cannot understand God without knowing Him. This is an apparent paradox, not a real one. It means that we must take steps toward understanding God in order to experience God. While the absolute cannot be understood by our finite mind, it can be known by our infinite soul. However, the soul can only experience the truth if the mind strives for it to do so. Reason or understanding is a path that leads to spiritual knowledge, but only spiritual knowledge has the power to reveal God.

The Gita understands God to be both the knower and the known, or that which we wish to know. He is the great soul, the individual soul called Atman. He is spirit. God is the knower of the universe and the knower of the “field” which means the human body as well as all embodiment. “Field” refers to place or area, like “field of knowledge.” The term field implies that the body is a place where action or conflict occurs. Lord Krishna delivered the Bhagavad Gita on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, also known as the field of Dharma or righteousness.

This excerpt is from On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar, to purchase the book, visit Amazon.