Summary: The General Theme of Bhagavad Gita

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Reading Guide for Bhagavad Gita The Setting of the Gita The Bhagavad Gita is a chapter in the great Indian epic known as the Mahabharata. The Mahabharata is the longest epic poem in the world, over 100,000 verses in Sanskrit, the language of ancient India. The epic is about a series of great wars fought over the rule of Northern India. The story goes that a king, Vicitravirya, had two sons, Pandu and Dhrtarastra. Pandu rules until his death, when he is succeeded by Dhrtarastra. The sons of Pandu, known as the Pandavas, grow up together with the sons of Dhrtarastra, known as the Kauravas. Dhrtrarastra and his eldest son, Duryodhana, eventually conspire to exile the Pandavas, afraid they might claim the throne. The Pandavas go into rebellion, and a great war begins which pits friends and family on opposite sides of the battlefield. Both sides in the war are to some degree in the wrong – the Kauravas for conspiring to exile the Pandavas, the Pandavas for waging a war against their own kin. Arjuna, the hero of the Bhagavad Gita, is one of the leading Pandava princes. As he prepares for battle in his war chariot, he speaks to his chariot driver, Krishna. Unbeknownst to Arjuna, this is no mere chariot driver, in fact he is the God Krishna. Arjuna sees his family and friends, his loved ones, arrayed across the battlefield opposite him, and he begins to doubt whether the war is just and whether he should fight in it. When Arjuna voices his doubt to Krishna, they begin the dialogue which makes up the Bhagavad Gita. Important Terms and Names Arjuna and Krishna call each other by many different names and titles in the text. Names for Krishna: Hrsikesa, Govinda, Hari, Janardana, Kesava, Lord, Madhava, Madhusudana, Varsneya, Vasudeva Names for Arjuna: Bharata, Dhanamjaya, Gudakesa, Kaunteya, Pandava, Partha, Prajapati The Bhagavad Gita discusses some of the most important concepts in Hindu thought and practice, none of which is easy to define – thousands of pages of debate...
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