Bhagavad Gita is a holy book of Hinduism. The basic books are the Vedas. Bhagavad Gita, which is a dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna that occurs in the Mahabharata, is a beautiful summary of the Vedas. There are several write-ups in this site on the Gita. Please use the drop-down menu to access them.
Here is a brief introduction to Bhagavad Gita based on the commentary of Swami Paramarthanandaji.
The fundamental seeking of all human beings is Security, Peace and Happiness. Man runs in search of these all over the world. All human pursuits can be found to be essentially only these three. But the fact is that no lasting Security, Peace and Happiness can be found anywhere in the world. Vedaas say that the only place where they can be found is within oneself. Each of us is the fountain of an eternal source of unconditional Security, Peace and Happiness, that cannot be denied to us by anyone or anything under any circumstance. The whole human problem is a misplaced search for Security, Peace and Happiness.
This eternal fountain is covered from our access by three layers of obstacles. Vedaas prescribe three Yogas or techniques to remove these three layers.
1. The first layer is dirt (malam). This constitutes the six defects – desire (kaama), anger (krodha), greed (lobha), delusion (moha), pride (mada) and jealousy (maatsarya).
2. The second layer is turbulence and extrovertedness (vikshepa).
3. The third layer is ignorance (ajnaana).
The first layer of dirt has to be removed by Karma Yoga. Karma Yoga is the performance of right action with the right attitude. Right actions are those that help in the reduction of the six defects. Right attitude is that which helps us to grow with every experience. The right attitude is towards action and the results. The effect of Karma Yoga is the removal of dirt (chitta shuddhi).
The second layer of extrovertedness has to be removed by Upaasana Yoga. Upaasana Yoga consists of different types of meditation. They help in quietening the mind (chitta nischalatvam).
The third layer of ignorance has to be removed by Jnaana Yoga. Jnaana Yoga is the enquiry into the real nature of the Self (atma vichaara). It results in the knowledge of the Self (aatma jnaana).
All the three Yogas are required because all the three layers are covering the inner source of Security, Peace and Happiness.
These Yogas are the subject matter of the Vedas, which are revelations of sages. The Vedaas have four portions.
1. Mantra – These are also called Samhitas. They have prayers. A prayerful life is necessary to even diagonise the problem of misplaced search.
2. Braahmana – These deal with Karma Yoga.
3. Aaranyaka – These deal with Upaasana Yoga.
4. Upanishad – These deal with Jnaana Yoga.
The Vedaas are voluminous. So Lord Krishna has condensed the Vedaas into Bhagavad Gita consisting of about 700 verses. If you have learnt the Gita, you have learnt the Vedaas.
Bhagavad Gita consists of eighteen chapters. Traditionally, the eighteen chapters are divided into three parts of six chapters each. Each one is called a shatkam. Each shatkam talks about three prominent topics.
The first six chapters (prathama shatkam) talk mainly about these topics.
1. Nature of the individual (jeeva swaroopam) – The essential nature of the individual is not the body or the mind. It is the consciousness principle (caitanya).
2. Discipline of work (karma yoga saadhana) – Karma yoga is doing right action with the right attitude.
3. Importance of individual effort (purusha prayatnam) – The karma theory says, “As you sow, so shall you reap”. It is not fatalism. You are alone responsible for everything that you face in life. You alone can raise yourself by your own efforts.
The middle six chapters (madhyama shatkam) talk mainly about these topics.
1. Nature of God (ishwara swaroopam) – The nature, function and glory of God is described. Both God with qualities (saguna) and God beyond qualities (nirguna) are described.
2. Meditation on God (upaasana yoga saadhana) – Withdraw the mind from the external world and focus on God.
3. Importance of grace of God (ishwara anugraha) – God’s grace is needed even to study the scriptures. The grace is always flowing. We should learn how to tap it.
The last six chapters (charama shatkam) talk mainly about these topics.
1. Essential oneness of individual and God (jeeva ishwara swaroopa aikyam) – Superficially they are different. But essentially they are the same, like the wave and ocean are essentially water. Both are essentially consciousness (caitanya).
2. Discipline of knowledge (jnaana yoga saadhana) – Enquiry into the real nature of the Self and of God will show that they are essentially the same.
3. Importance of values (sat gunaah) – A noble mind is necessary to absorb Vedanta. The qualities required are discussed in detail.
Thus, the three parts of the Gita predominantly discuss the three parts of the great Vedantic statement (mahaavaakya) Thou Art That (Tat Tvam Asi). The first part discusses the “Tvam” word. The second part discusses the “Tat” word. The last part discusses the “Asi” word.
You can access a chapter wise summary here.