Transcript - Summary of Baghavad Gita Part 1

Author: Adi Shankara
Title: Baghavad Gita
Plot: 2-For-1, This is the Hari Krishna's primary religious text, but only one of many of the Hindu's. Krishna is viewed as the Supreme God and he is talking to Arjuna (a prince) about the moral question of whether it's okay to kill our friends and countrymen in civil war.
Note: For researcher types who want a deep study there are four parts. Part 4 is the summary. 

Jump to part 2 / See Full Series

Listen to "Baghavad Gita holy book of the Hindus - Part 1 [22 Mins]" on Spreaker.

Full Transcript
You are listening to the Book Matrix and you can find me on

Hey, welcome back!

Today I will be reviewing the Baghavad Gita, this is Part 1. 

I'm about to give you bragging rights.

That's right! Did you know that 97% of people, have never even read their own religious texts? If you have never read the Baghavad Gita before, after listening to this podcast, you will still have never read the Baghavad Gita before. 

I'm not going to read it to you this is a book summary, not an audiobook. But...

But... Wait there's more!

This book summary goes deep. I have been told I have a gift for making boring things... particularly ancient boring things not only interesting, but clear.

I dissect the Baghavad Gita like all the other religious text I've read. And if you look on my website you will see 5 holy books are already posted. I am a fan of all things ancient and a big believer in God. But after spending most of my life wondering where I would end up I decided to read all the books for myself.

And so if you invest just three hours of your time with me I can promise you a 10-for-1. A fairly deep understanding of ten of the most popular world religions in just three hours. I know that sounds hard to believe, but by the end of this podcast if you're not completely convinced I can deliver on that promise, I'll give you your money back.

Some of you only now just now realizing this podcast is free... You see if you didn't pay for this podcast... Nevermind.

As I said, you are getting 2-for-1 in this podcast. Meaning that in the next hour you will learn a foundational text for two popular world religions. Making you infinitely smarter than everyone you know. 

The Gita is the primary text of the Hari Krishna’s, and one of many of the books that the Hindu’s use. There are just 18 chapters in this book of roughly 200 pages and each podcast lasts about 20 minutes. 

For best results, I say go in order and so finish the Gita study and then download the Great Learning by Confucius. I'll tell you where to go from there.

Most people live an entire lifetime wondering if all roads lead to heaven, but not you my friend! You can find out for yourself in just 3 hours or I'll give you your money back!

But enough of the introduction let's dive in.

I prefer old translations to new and so I'm using the copy translated by Sir Edwin Arnold which was published in the Harvard Collection over 100 years ago.

The Baghavad Gita means the song of God. It was written in Sanskrit and it’s part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata.

There is quite a bit of uncertainty regarding who wrote it. It's attributed to Vyasa who is considered an immortal. He has three other works attributed to him:
  1. The Purunas written in 1800 BC
  2. The Vedas written in 1500 
  3. The Vedas written in 1000 BC respectively
  4. And the earliest date that can be confirmed for the Gita is 800 AD.
Given the obvious problem with one man writing four books that are 2600 years apart, scholars suggest Vyasa is a mythical or symbolic author.

I don’t have a problem believing in the idea that there are immortals are among us. 

I should warn you that I will mention many unusual names, but for this podcast you need only remember the three noted in the description: Krishna who is the supreme God of the Hindus, Arjuna who is the mortal prince warrior character and Vyasa who I just mentioned was credited as the author.

Vyasa is known as a sage. A sage is a name for an ancient wise man. The Greeks had 7.

The Gita is composed of 18 books that are the size of a typical English chapter. And of course each book is divided into verses. 

The first book of the Gita is called 

the distress of Arjuna

From the perspective of a literary work, the Baghavad Gita gets off to a good start:

It opens to a battle scene describing the men on both sides. It's a civil war.

There is a conversation between Arjuna and Krishna discussing the morality of father fighting against son for petty gains and possessions. Meaning that though Arjuna was a warrior built for war, his distress comes from the anguish at the idea of being forced to fight and kill his friends, family and countrymen in battle.

He was sickened by the idea he said he would rather fall into their hands than bring them harm. He questions how participation in such a battle is not considered sin. And for the most of the book of the distress of Arjuna he does all the talking.

Krishna is a God the father figure equated with Allah, YHWH, Zeus and the like. We discover later in the book that Krishna is outside time and though he reincarnates like everyone else in the sense he receives new bodies, he retains his memory and power. And he waits patiently while Arjuna articulates his anguish at the idea of plunging his sword into his kinfolk. 

The second book is called 

the book of doctrines 

and it contains Krishna’s reply to Arjuna’s distress.

Now pay attention because I’m about to give you an example that the rest of this podcast hinges on. First I’m going to read Krishna’s reply exactly as it reads in the Gita. And then I’m going to modernize it in my own words. And so this is important because it will give you a sense for how I roll. Either your going to like the way I modernize the text or you’ll decide you need to read the original version yourself. Here is the literal text:

How hath this weakness taken thee? Whence springs the inglorious trouble, shameful to the brave, Barring the path of virtue? Nay, Arjun! Forbid thyself to feebleness it mars Thy warrior-name! cast off the coward-fit! Wake! Be thyself! Arise, Scourge of thy foes!

I would restate that and summarize it like this: Arjuna, you’re talking like a coward. Snap out of it!

Much shorter and in my opinion far more clear than what I just read. And so that’s how I will continue anytime I summarize and modernize.

There is some great poetry here, but the poetry is distracting. Being almost two-thousand years old, it's hard to read and so I can see an opportunity for people to quote the text without really understanding what it means.

Getting back to the text of chapter 2 and summarizing everything up to this point.

Initially we start with "hey, I have a moral question for you, Krisha. How can I kill my kinfolk?"

To which Krishna effectively responds, "Arjuna, you’re talking like a coward. Snap out of it!"

And in reply Arjuna waxes poetic. He does this to emphasize the impact of this moment on him. How can I? … Yes I’m a warrior, I get that, but How am I supposed to live with myself after I kill family? That’s the key question.

Bear in mind I’m modernizing again: 

Krishna essentially says, “Listen dummy. You obviously don’t understand some important principles so I will go ahead and explain them to you. Nothing really ever gets created or destroyed. Everything that’s here now has always been here and if you kill it it will come back."

So in a sense the implication is that Arjuna would be doing them a favor. By killing them they take on a new life and so this is where we get an introduction to the concept of reincarnation. 

I would imagine that what I just said sounds a little surprising. So I’ll go ahead and read a paragraph in Krishna’s original words: 

Death hath not touched it at all, dead though the house of it seems. Who knoweth it exhaustless self-sustained, immortal, indestructible. Shall such say I have killed a man or caused to kill? Nay! But as when one layeth his worn out robes away and taketh new and say: these will I wear today, so putteth by the spirit lightly it’s garb of flesh, and passeth to inherit a residence afresh.

Essentially the book is saying, “Hey listen, you’re taking death too seriously. It’s not that big a deal.”

This is more to the point: “The end of birth is death. The end of death is birth. This is ordained. And mournest thou cheif of stalwart arm? for what befalls which could not otherwise befall?  The births comes unperceived. The death comes unperceived. Between them beings perceive.” 

Essentially he’s saying everything eventually dies and is reborn. Why would you mourn?

Krishna then takes it one step further and says, "If you don’t kill. It’s a sin." I'll read you the text:

Be mindful of thy name and tremble not. (in other words His name is that of a warrior). Not better can betide a martial soul than lawful war. Happy the warrior to whom comes joy of battle, comes as now. Glorious and fair unsought opening for him a gateway into heaven, but if thou shunst this honorable field. If knowing thy duty and task thou biddest duty and task go by . That shall be sin. And those to come shall speak thee infamy age to age. 

So you’ll go down in infamy because you failed to live up to your name and kill your countrymen. Krishna then tells him to have faith that when he kills his countrymen he’ll be able to live with himself. Krishna then encourages him. He says:

find full reward of doing right in right. Let right deeds be thy motive, not the fruit which comes from them. And live in action, labor. Make thine acts they piety casting all self aside. 

Krishna then goes into the virtues of meditation advocating that Arjuna focus on the task at hand and push his concerns and fears out of his mind.

Essentially Krishna said that emotional trauma is selfish. Stop thinking so much about yourself! Don't worry about how you'll feel afterwards, just do the right thing.

If I continue the analysis the way I began by reading a quote, then summarizing the text, it’s gonna get boring fast. I worry I’ve already crossed that line. I’ll just modernize and summarize from now on. I only spent so much time initially because I expect Americans would find it difficult to believe the book says what I say it says.

From the perspective of the American culture the emphasis on killing without consideration of consequence due to the belief in reincarnation is by my estimation an unpopular moral position from our perspective. I suppose that’s debatable, but our movies that emphasize the importance of leaving no man behind, which is a military stance, would seem to support my claim.

In an attempt to be fair, I searched for wars India fought in. I wondered if the reason for the popularity of the book was an answer to context. Maybe they were in a civil war in 800 AD and needed solace in order to cope with what they were doing. Perhaps over the heavily disputed territory of Kashmir for example, but I found no evidence of any wars involving India between 200 BC and 1500 AD. And so it seems the Kashmir conflict is a very recent development.

There is an expression that goes: Always leave them wanting more, and so instead of resolving this in part 1, I'm going to suggest you pick this up in part 2.

I will point out, that at 200 pages, this is small book. If you want to pick up a copy, you can read it in one afternoon. But as you can see from the poetry you’re going to have to mine and dissect it because some of that poetry is complex to pick through.

As always: thank you for listening! It would seem that the world of book readers has shrunk. And the only ones still reading are modern day geniuses. So have a brilliant week. And in the immortal words of Jed Clampet: y'all come back now, ya hear!

Podcasts mentioned in this episode

Listen to "The Great Learning holy book of Confucianism [16 Mins]" on Spreaker.

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