Krishna explains the need to defend life to Arjuna

The Bhagavad Gita: A Primer

by Jeanne M. House


The Gita is a practical approach to a spiritual crisis. It applies ethics to human life. It is set in the field of human action or human dharma. It takes place when great forces clash together for destruction and recreation and it can also be seen as an inner transformation of the actual psychology of human evolution. The day will come when humanity will be ready spiritually, morally and socially for the reign of Universal Peace.

The major question of the Gita is:


This is an allegory of the spiritual seeker (Arjuna) and his relationship to his Higher Self, (Krishna), and the secret teaching of the Puruttoma. Krishna, reveals himself as God through knowledge and the God-self of Arjuna. or the divine in man, who moves our whole world of action. Lord Krishna secretly manipulates all that occurs behind the veil, he knows the beginning, middle and end of all things. Arjuna is his chosen representative and friend, who has the potential of becoming one with this higher part of his Being.

The Gita starts with action—Arjuna is a man of action and not knowledge. He is a fighter and not a thinker. He typifies the human soul of action, brought face-to-face through that action in its highest, most violent crisis with human life and its apparent incompatability with the spiritual state.

His problem is his “inner-bankruptcy” “his whole conscious being’ thoughts, heart and vital desires are all “dharma-less” and he can’t find the law of action. “Give me that which I have lost…a path of which I can confidently walk…a true and clear rule of action.”

He asks for dharma. He doesn’t ask for the secret of life or the meaning and purpose of it all. Yet, he is led by Krishna to give up all the lesser dharmas for the one true dharma- LIVING CONSCIOUSLY IN THE DIVINE AND THEN ACTING FROM THAT CONSCIOUSNESS.

The Gita does not teach disinterested performance of duty, but the following of the divine life. It teaches us to take refuge in the Supreme alone. The goal is to receive all material even as the tranquil and eternal spirit receives the same within us.

Krishna guides Arjuna through the battle while at the same time he is instructing his soul. He shows him that all subjective states and movements are His and their psychological becomings. These conditions and their apparent results are no less than the highest spiritual status.

He instructed him to assign to everything its Supernal and Real and not any longer only its present and apparent value. Find the hidden links and connections. Consciously direct all life and act to the high and true object and govern it by the light and power which comes to him from the Godhead within him.

See the divine origin of all things. Immortality is the home, which the soul travels. Self-knowledge is a means of knowing our svadharma—Our Inner Law of Being—The law of His Life. This world, the manifestation of life in the material universe is not only a cycle of inner development, but a field in which external circumstances of life have to be accepted as an environment and an occasion for that development.

There is a specific action that is required of Arjuna, which is his svadharma. His name represents one who cleaves to the truth, does not become crooked, does not break from the law of truth. If he does not take his place in the battle of life, or fulfill his dharma, reason for being, the society of which he is fighting for, would not “hold together” just as if Krishna did not perform His works, the world would not “hold together.”

His dharma is not one of self-pleasing domestic happiness and a life of comfort and peaceful joy with friends and relatives, but one to battle for the right is his true object of life or by the victory win the crown and glory of a heroe’s existence is his greatest happiness.

Krishna shows Arjuna the higher knowledge of self and what direction his social standing and duty points for him. Indian ethics has always seen the practical necessity of developing a moral and spiritual life and this means to put away egoism, disregard joy and sorrow, gain and loss and all worldly results.


Sri Aurobindo provides a teaching on the cosmology of cycles. He described the unfoldment of time in terms of fixed cyclical movements—YUGAS-timespan within a certain kind of law is operative. These cycles repeat themselves again and again.

There are four such time-cycles in history. The deeper secret of the Yugas is that these cycles are also present in all events that unfold:

First Age of Truth-Satya Yuga –REIGN OF TRUTH

Supreme harmony, heaven on earth, actions, thoughts and spirit are congruent. Here your unconscious is latent in development. Every individual and event embodies and manifests some form of Truth. Perfect embodiment of what it is supposed to be-what is behind it. It is where perfect harmony may not mean perfect consciousness; a mind outside of social programming. At first consciousness is implanted into the manifestation of the Divine Mind-but as it begins to formulate its own truth, it falls from grace and 1/4 of Truth is Obscured.

Second Age of Truth-Tretya Yuga

The “typal age” or age of types. This time period holds a certain degree of truth, but it has hardened. Truth is no longer plastic and flexible as it once was. Self-consciousness has entered it. The once pure and perfect has become imperfect. Ignorance and unconsciousness multiplies. 3/4 the Truth is Obscured

Third Age of Truth-Drapura Yuga

Greater individuality, the age of conventions like a tortoise with a hard shell. Only the shell is seen and the truth is preserved. It can’t be tolerated any more by the living spirit within and there is a breakdown in the system. There is an upsurge of darkness and the moon of Truth is eclipsed. 1/2 of the Truth is Obscured.

Fourth Age of Truth-Kali Yuga

Ego’s are rampant free to choose whatever they wish. All restraining bonds have been broken absolute chaos could follow. But behind the individual choice is the possible “true choice” If a conscious choice of Truth is made, there is a certain veering towards a “new age of Truth,” but on a higher level of the spiral this time, because we are no longer unconscious channels of Truth.

New Age is Krita Yuga “Age of Fulfillment”

Deprivation of truth in ages is occurring deliberately in a God-sanctioned manner so that we may be conscious of tuning in with this Truth that underlies all things and we must live integrally with this Inner Law. And at the end of the Kali Yuga, we might attain to conscious union with the “Law of the Truth” in the Satya Yuga which is to come again.

The Mahabarata takes place in the Age of Conventions where 1/2 of the Truth is obscured. At the end of every age, there is often a great cataclysm. All of the forces that have veered away from the Truth collide head-on and need to be swept away before a new age can begin. It is a great critical time in the history of humanity. The human soul awaits its new birth in a new age.


Every man has a destiny and dharma to out-picture in any given life. We must be come our own true nature, our Swadharma or inner law of our self. There are four classes:

1) The power of Knowledge- the one who is predominantly the seeker after knowledge. A bestower of knowledge, a sharer of knowledge.

2) The power of Will- Brings Truth in the world through domination or actions-warriors, administrators.

3) The power of Conscious Exchange- Those who are in business, or communicators/marketers of exchange, business men-various forms of communication with one another.

4) The power of Labor-wise skilled in manipulating matter, patient Craftsmen skilled in laying the foundations of all of our works.

These dharmas need to be found out by every individual. We always must choose the greater Truth when there is a conflict instead of the lesser truth. When all laws break down, we find ourselves looking for the “right action” or right law. How can we choose the truth? What is our dharma and how do we recognize it?

We must go within and surrender all conventions and give everything up to the Divine within, and the divine law will manifest itself consciously and dynamically in us. We must discover this in our life and consciously cooperate with the law of Truth. This is the Great Yoga-dynamic union with the divine within.

Once we have merged with the divine within, it is the divine who acts in us. We are no longer the “doers” and therefore free from the results of our actions.

The Yoga of the Gita is a yoga of action, as long as we do not realize this, we are bound by the constraints of our own actions. We must unite with the law of unfoldment. We must simply observe and be the instrument through which the divine acts in the world.

This is the law of Karma-Yoga- the law of the battle or the conscious adherence to the action of the divine in our world.


This idea of Yoga is a principally subjective practice and inner change, necessary for finding the Self or the union with God. It is the discriminating action of the intelligent will and the transcendence of the action of the three modes of energy, that is the means of the liberation. Arjuna is asked to practice from the outset the Yoga of the Buddhi, the intelligent will.


All sacrifice is a way towards the attainment of the highest. THE ONE THING NEEDFUL IS TO REPLACE THE LOWER ENERGY BY A SUPERIOR ENERGY. By self-dedication, by self-mastery, by the giving up of one’s lower impulses for the higher aim. Sacrifice is the law of the world and nothing can be gained without it. But there are gradations in the various forms of sacrifice. By works done and our sacrificial desire, we arrive at a soul condition and therefore we are exercising the faculties of the soul, which are unified with the divine essence.


Through self-control and faith, we will attain this intuitive knowledge and wisdom. WE MUST HAVE FAITH, WHICH NO INTELLECTUAL DOUBT CAN DISTURB. (Pg.88 Messages of the Gita) The lower knowledge, doubt and skepticism have their temporary uses. The secret is not a balance of truth and error but a progressive realization of revealed truth. Not a truth, which has to be proved, but a truth, which has to be proved inwardly, a greater reality in which we have to grow. Finally it will become self-evident, and the ignorant, sense-bewildered, opinion-perplexed heart and mind, will transcend the lower truth and not question the higher realities.

An inward and not an outward renunciation takes place. Circumstances might determine the outward conflict, but can never affect his equal eye, his open heart, his inner embrace of all. We maintain a perfect equality to all things and all persons and only then can we repose our works completely in the Brahman.

INNER HAPPPINESS, INNER EASE, INNER LIGHT, is our natural birthright.

Works are the cause of self-perfection. The conquest of the desire-mind and ego-self and the lower nature. But when one has got to the top, then works are no longer the cause. The Akhsara stands above the changes of perturbances of the natural being. He is a Yogin when he is in Yoga with the Akshara. DO NOT YIELD TO DISCOURAGEMENT DIFFICULTY OR FAILURE… Control the sense mind. The restless mind…the unquiet mind…

Dharma simply is to live in the Divine and to love the Divine and be one with all beings…


Jnana Yoga

As I listened to the tape on Intelligent Will, it reminded me of a lecture I read from Swami Vivekananda on Nov 3rd, 1896, in LONDON. Here is a passage that describes the process of the Intelligent Will:

"The Self-Existent One projected the senses outwards and, therefore, a man looks outwards, not within himself. A certain wise one, desiring immortality, with inverted sense, perceived the Self within. And the word used for the Soul is very significant: it is He that has gone inward, the innermost reality of our being, the heart center, the core, from which as it were, everything comes out; the central sun of which the mind, the body, the sense –organs and everything else we have are but rays going outwards."

It is impossible to find the Infinite in finite things. The Infinite must be sought in that alone which is infinite, and the only thing infinite about us, is that which is within us, our own soul. What is here is there and what is there is here.

What about happiness? It is impossible to be truly happy while we are still witnessing life from our egos or lower selves. This brings to mind more ancient times and how they viewed happiness,

At first there was a desire to go to heaven. Aryans became dissatisfied with the world around them and they naturally thought that after death they would go to some place where there would be all happiness without any misery. These places they multiplied and called Svargas where there would be joy forever.

Philosophy proved them wrong since the very idea of an infinite in a place was impossible, since this place must begin and continue in time. They also found out that the gods who lived in these heavens had once been human beings on earth. These gods, who through their good works had become gods and the godhoods, as they called them, were different state, different positions; none of the gods spoken of in the Vedas are permanent individuals. For instance Indra and Varuna are not the names of certain persons but positions, filled successively by human souls who have raised themselves to positions of gods.

In time and space-maya everything born must die and so, if there are heavens, the same must hold good there. All laws involve destruction and renewal again and again. In this world, we find that all happiness is followed by misery it’s shadow. They must go together because they are not contradictory, not two separate existences, but different manifestations of the same unit, ie. Good and evil, life and death, sorrow and happiness.They only differ from each other by the degree of intensity.

There has never been anything that gives pleasure to all alike. We can never have ultimately everything good and nothing bad on this earth. HAPPINESS IS NOT IN THIS HEAVEN OR THAT HEAVEN, IT IS IN THE SOUL. The greatest temple of worship is the human soul. The Truth is shining in the soul of man. For in no heaven anywhere can we understand the Reality as distinctly and clearly as in this life, in our own soul-Vedanta. It doesn’t matter where I live, I get the Reality just as it IS.

Jivanmukfta-means free while living, it is the Supreme goal for us here. Sacrifice is a major way of reaching jivanmukta.

The great Vedantic Utterance, “I am He,” reminds us of its primary goal of all of our sacrifice-- all energy is His to be sacrificed. We must cast all of our activities, into the unified divine consciousness. It is our One means, our One Dharma.

For those who have knowledge, the simple act of sacrifice of self-control and self-discipline which leads, of offering whatever work to the divine itself. The yoga of knowledge by discrimination and contemplation is the yoga of Intelligence. And the charioteer is the Master of all human beings and the enjoyer of all sacrifice.


As we discussed, the Gita describes a yoga of action. All actions are done through the three gunas. The soul cannot act by itself. It can only act through Nature and her modes. The Gita demands freedom from her modes, yet it instructs on the necessity of action.

The key then is to abandon the fruits of these actions. It is the desire of the fruits that bind us to the act. But a soul who abandons desire, is free in action!

Three Gunas:

1) Sattwa-Inertia-dissapointment/dissatisfaction/Preserver(Brahma)

2) Rajas-Kinesis-pain/Creator (Vishnu)

3) Tamas-Equalibrium-ignorance/Destroyer, (Shiva/Rudra)

Antidote- Be a desireless equal-minded instrument of His will. ( I would also think that you could pray to the deities-Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva for your deliverance of the negative aspect of the guna that you are most tied to.)

The corresponding psychological powers are:

Tamas-Nature’s power of Nescience (downward, inertia)

Rajas-The power of active seeking; ignorance enlightened by desire and impulsion.(middle)

Sattwa- The power of possessing and harmonizing knowledge.(rise upwards)

The goal is to rise above the lower gunas and become Immortal. Once purified, the Prakriti does nothing except for the pleasure and sanction of the lover and enjoyer. The Purusha is the joy of the soul amidst the dualities. This is the secret of the minds pleasure in living. THIS IS A PURE INNER JOY!

The lower satisfaction is a condition for the upward evolution of our human nature out of the tamasic, ignorant inertia of our material being. Through the sattwic being and nature, we can rise beyond the three gunas to Soul Perfection.

How do we surmount the gunas?

Don’t shrink from the operation of enlightenment, (rising sattwa), or impulse to works (rising raja) or the clouding over of the mental or nervous being, (rising tamas), nor long after them when they cease.

Regard happiness and suffering alike, with an inner calm and quietude. Initiate no act but leave the work to the gunas of Nature.

According to Sankhya, the intelligence and will are entirely a part of the mechanical energy of Nature and are not properties of the soul. It is because of the reflection of Prakriti in Purusha; The light of consciousness of the Soul is attributed to the workings of the mechanical energy. To get rid of this delusion, is the first step towards the liberation of the soul from nature and her works. It is the discriminating action of the intelligent will, and the transcendence of the action of the three modes of energy, that is the means of the liberation.

Our view is not integral, because it rests on the dividing mind and reason and the separative idea of the ego, that our mental perception of things is a form of ignorance. We have to get away from the mental and egoistic view the true unifying knowledge, that has two natures, the essential and the comprehensive knowledge –the direct spiritual awareness.

Integral knowledge is a rare and difficult thing. The direct spiritual knowledge of the Supreme Being and the right intimate knowledge of his existence, Prakriti, is this knowledge. Here he sees that the gunas are in process of action and their storm and calm are not himself, but only the movement of Prakriti.

We must watch the strife of the gunas, while unmoved.

To be in Absolute Delight is to dwell in the being and power of the Purushottoma. It is acquired by BHAKTI, its status must be Divine Delight! The union of utter Love, we rise into the inexpressible Oneness, the Divine Adi is externally in action. It is the law of our inner being.

What steps must this difficult transformation to be affected?

What is the principle or process of this transmutation of our human and earthly nature?

The sattwa quality is the mediator of our upper and lower nature. Sense it seeks the light, or an enlightening movement, it can change us into free, direct, spontaneous, Light or Spirit.

This high transforming sattwic action (deva), must be developed in us and turned upwards towards the Divine Transformation. Renounce desire, wrath and greed and follow your “Higher Good” and “Highest Soul Status”

Through grace and dispensation of the Master of our works, we will succeed. The success and failure is in His hands and he will regulate us according to His Will and Purpose. We should make no egoistic demand for a reward or conditions for doing the work.

The work has to be performed as the thing to be done. The thing that the master demands of us. Action, all action has to be given up ion the end, not physically by abstention, but by immobility, by inertia within. We must surrender spiritually to the master of our being and renounce the false ideas of ourselves as the doers.



Krishna mentions that the most ancient and original yoga is the divine birth taking possession of our humanity. He,who becomes manifest, even in the human form as the Avatar.

It is superior to all forms of Yoga because the others lead to an impersonal or personal Deity, to a liberation in action-less knowledge, but a unified perfect freedom. All paths lead to it.

All here is God, is the Spirit, there is nothing else, nothing other and different from it. All beings are unborn Spirits , eternal without beginning or end. The Avatar is born from self-Maya and descends into the world to be a way-shower to mankind, who stands upon and over Nature, consciously controlling and governing it by the indwelling Godhead, not the other way around. The Purusha is not helplessly driven by Prakriti, the Prakriti is full of the Light and the Will of the Purusha.

This is the ultimate goal of the Vibhuti; to follow in the footsteps of the Avatar; to be in the world, but not of it; to transcend the paradoxes in life.

The liberated man accepts what the Divine will brings him. Both good happenings and evil happenings should be received equally since by their mingled strand are worked out the developing forms of the eternal good.

Yoga of which both action and knowledge become One is the yoga of sacrifice of works with knowledge, in which works are fulfilled in knowledge and knowledge supports, changes and enlightens works. Both are offered to the Supreme Divinity who becomes manifest in us as Narayana. Lord of all our Being and action seated secret in our hearts forever.

It is the CHARIOTEER of the battle of the Journey, with his four arms of helpful power and not this million-armed universality It is the MEDIATING ASPECT which man must have for the support constantly before him. This figure of the Narayana, which symbolizes the Truth, that reassures. It makes close, visible, living, seizable, the vast spiritual joy in which for the inner spirit and life of man the universal workings behind all their stupendous circlings and progressions.


The Yoga of the Gita is a unification of the opposites, the impersonal and the personal. The highest yoga is always directing all the power of our being Godward. The practical intelligence of Arjuna is baffled…. The rationalist insists that God does not put on a body, he is pure Spirit. He is always both beyond the silent and the action.

He cannot be defeated since all for him is moving towards the divine victory in the field of doings which is the field of the evolving Dharma and every turn of the conflict has been designed and mapped by the foreseeing eye of the master of the battle, the Lord of works and Guide of the Dharma.

Once liberated, we still act, but from a liberated and calm soul, observing its action, but not involved in it…”Fight, work, do my will in the world.”

(Sin consists not at all in the outward deed, but in the impure reaction of the personal will, mind and heart, which accompanies it or causes it. The impersonal or spiritual is always pure.)



It is by putting on the likeness of the Divine Nature in its completeness, that the UNITY of the double experience becomes entirely possible. He’s superior to the cosmos, yet abides in eternal action.

What is the principle of this ONENESS?

The Purushottoma is the most complete and highest experience of the knowledge of the whole-knowledge. It is the Supreme Yoga. This is the crown of bhakti yoga or Divine Love. It is acquired through bhakti, but its’ status must be Divine Delight. It is the Supreme Sacrifice in all our acts to the “Lord of the Sacrifice.” It is an intuitive “right action” from moment to moment or an unerring action that chooses the way in a persons life.

THIS IS AN ACT OF ADORATION. It comes to me and I reside in It. I take my place in the Act. It is the union of the three yogas- Jnana, Karma and Raja. Krishna says, “It is I who is seated in the heart of all creatures, the Lord of the Sacrifice.” He is both distant and intimate. It is the Intuition deep in our hearts. And we know this Supreme Being. There is a knowledge in us of this Being. We have forgotten this knowledge and our lives are an opportunity to slowly remember and to gradually awaken and to grow up. And through us Nature grows up.

Nature evolves, passing from species to species and trying to embody in time, in matter, the form of that Supreme Being and the experience of that Supreme Being. This experience is not possible for the mind.

There are four types of people that seek Me out:

1) The Sufferer

2) The Seeker

3) The One who wants Knowledge

4) The One who Loves ME

The fourth is the True God Lover or Bhakta. Our works become the works of Love and Joy. Each act is an act of Love that seeks after the Divine. For it comes as an act of adoration in and of itself with no other motive.

Now our seeking knowledge is full of Delight. A concentration on the underlying Divine Mystery. However, the Purushottoma will pour His Divine Essence into whatever form we are able to adore Him- gods, goddesses, personal prayer-however partial the container, He will fill it. Human beings do not all have the same spiritual capacity.

The Divine shows Himself in many faces. Sri Rama Krishna

Demonstrated this devotion through many different paths. Sri Aurobindo puts forth the possibility of becoming One with the Supramental form of Krishna’s vision by becoming both the form and the formless. This faculty in us is superior to the mind, it is a new kind of knowing that is Supramental. This way we can relate with the Supreme Purushottoma.

Krishna instructs Arjuna, “Do not grieve, be My-Minded. Think of Me only in all of your acts and doing.” This is the KNOWLEDGE OF THE DIVINE THROUGH UNION WITH CONSCIOUSNESS.


cover The Song Celestial: Bhagavad Gita

Translated by Sir Edward Arnold, published by SRF

Other pages of interest at Reverse Spins:

Hindu Prophecy

El Morya on Yogis, Yogas, Vedas and Vedanta

back to: Varieties of Spiritual Thought

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