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Introduction to the Bhagavad Gita

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Updated September 16, 2012

The Bhagavad Gita is part of the Mahabharata, an ancient Indian epic poem. In the Gita, Arjuna, a great warrior, is faced with a difficult decision: whether or not to fight in a battle between his kinsmen. He is torn between his duty to fight alongside his brothers for a just cause, and his reluctance when he sees those he must fight against include his other relatives and mentors. Krishna takes the place of Arjuna's charioteer and offers Arjuna advice on how to deal with the situation. Included in this allegory are lessons on how to lead a moral life, which form the foundations of the spiritual practice of yoga.

Although we say that the Bhagavad Gita in an ancient yoga text, it has very little to do with the physical practice of yoga (asana). The Gita follows Arjuna's quest for spiritual guidance, and Krishna's answers to his questions on how to realize his inner spirituality and take responsibility for his life and role in the world. Krishna counsels Arjuna to practice:

karma yoga, the yoga of service

jnana yoga, the yoga of knowledge, particularly self-knowledge, and

bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion.

The Bhagavad Gita can be taken as a sacred text, an historical document or a philosophical musing, depending on the perspective you bring to it. Although not essential to the practice of asana, the Gita is a wonderful companion, and the best place to start an exploration of the history and philosophy of yoga.

Source:

The Living Gita, Sri Swami Sachidananda, 1988.

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