The Gita Condensed

( – By Kalakantha Dasa

A concise refresher on Lord Krishna’s immortal teachings.

In 1968 His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada published the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, which has since sold tens of millions of copies in dozens of languages. As a lifetime devotee of Krishna and a consummate Sanskritist, Srila Prabhupada spells out the clear conclusions of the Gita that are often obscured by arms-length commentators with their own agenda. Srila Prabhupada’s purports (commentaries) illuminate for us the verses spoken by Krishna and Arjuna. The following condensed version of their historic conversation combines key points from the verses and purports in the same sequence as the original. These are not direct quotes and thus cannot replace the complete Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Instead, this version provides an overview of the philosophical thread of the Gita. It is consistent with Srila Prabhupada’s comprehensive edition and can be used for introduction or review.

Part 1: Action

Arjuna: Krishna, please drive my chariot between the two armies. Let me see which followers of that criminal Duryodhana have come here to fight.

Krishna (Steering the fine golden chariot between the two huge armies facing each other on the vast, flat battlefield): Just see, cousin, all the great warriors assembled here.

Arjuna (aghast): Krishna, I can’t fight all these dear relatives, teachers, and elders. My whole family would be destroyed. I’d rather die, or just live as a beggar.

Krishna (smiling kindly) : You forget that everyone is an eternal soul, not a physical body. You can kill the body but not the soul.

Arjuna: Krishna, how could I kill these worshipable men? Any victory would be tainted with their blood. I don’t know what to do. Please instruct me.

Krishna: My friend, you’re a warrior. Fight, but not for yourself. Fight for the Supreme. Then you’re acting as the eternal soul you truly are. Fight all varieties of materialism and be a yogi.

Arjuna: What do yogis do? How do they behave?

Krishna: Yogis perform their external duties without attachment because they have mastered their mind and senses. They enjoy an inner happiness that is lost to most people.

Arjuna: You’re telling me to be happy within and fight at the same time. That’s a contradiction.

Krishna: You can’t live without acting, Arjuna. Instead of acting for yourself, turn what you do into a sacrifice for the Supreme. Then you’ll be happy.

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