The Bhagavad Gita – The Third Pillar of Hinduism

The Bhagavad Gita is perhaps the most well-known and revered text in the Hindu dharma. The reason for the popularity of the Gita is that it provides practical solutions to the problems of everyday life for people of all backgrounds.

As discussed in previous articles, the Upanishads and the Brahma Sutras form two of the primary pillars of hindu thought. The Gita serves as a bridge between these two pillars as it clarifies, unifies and summarizes the seemingly conflicting and often abstract thoughts in the first two pillars.
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The Gita is a collection of 700 verses spoken to the Pandava prince Arjuna by Lord Krishna himself, as Arjuna was overcome by despair and doubt about fighting against his own kin. The Gita describes the four ways of attaining liberation or moksha as:

  • the path of action – karma yoga
  • the path of devotion – bhakti yoga
  • the path of knowledge – gyana yoga
  • the path of love – prema yoga

The objective of any kind of yoga is to help the individual redirect his attention from the outer world (which dominates his thoughts on a day to day basis) towards the inner world of consciousness.
The Gita proposes that each individual choose his or her path based on their natural inclination and station in life.

If one chooses karma yoga and another chooses bhakti yoga, they will both arrive at their goal if they follow their path with diligence and concentration. Hence, the householder, who is following the path of karma yoga is in no way inferior to the ascetic or pandit who has chosen to engage in bhakti yoga. Regardless, the Lord will reward the shraddha (a combination of devotion and faith) by always protecting his devotees.

In Chapter 6, verse 10, of the Gita, Lord Krishna describes the perfect yogi or practitioner of yoga as one who practices “eternal vigilance over body and mind”.

Yogi yunjeeta satatam, aatmaanam rahasi sthitah
Ekaakii yata-chittaatmaa, niraasheer aparigrahah.

योगी युञ्जीत सततम, अातमानामं रहसि स्थित: ।
एकाकी यतचित्तात्मा, निराशीर अपरिग्रह: ।।

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Let the yogi try constantly to concentrate his mind (on the Supreme Self) while remaining in solitude, self controlled, free from desires and (longing for) possessions. The teacher exhorts the yogi to practice mental discipline along the lines of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.

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