Srimad-Bhagavad-Gita, English translation and commentary by Swami Swarupananda, , at sacred-texts.com
The Srimad-Bhagavad-Gitâ occurs in the Bhishma Parva of the Mahâbhârata and comprises 18 chapters from the 25th to the 42nd. The discourse between Arjuna and Krishna on the battle-field, on the eve of the war which forms the subject-matter of the work, was strung together in seven hundred verses and put in its place in the body of his great history by Vyâsa.
The Gitâ opens with Dhritarâshtra's query to Sanjaya about the progress of events. In the second chapter of the Bhishma Parva, we find Vyâsa offering the power of sight to the blind king, that he might see the war. Dhritarâshtra declined to have it, saying he did not care to have eyes with which only to see the death of his own people; but he would like to hear what was happening. On this the great Rishi Vyâsa said, that all the occurrences in connection with the war would be reflected in the mind of Sanjaya, and he would faithfully report them to Dhritarâshtra.
The Gitâ is called an Upanishad, because it contains the essence of Self-knowledge, and because its teachings, like those of the Vedas, are divided into three sections, Karma (work), Upâsanâ (devotion) and Jnâna (knowledge).
The first chapter is introductory. The second is a summary of the whole work, e.g., in II. 48 and the connected Slokas, self-less work devoid of desire for fruits, is taught for the purification of the heart; in II. 61 and the connected Slokas devotion is taught to the pure-hearted, to qualify them further for the highest Sannyâsa, which last is taught in II. 71 and the connected Slokas.
It is also usual to divide the work into three sections illustrative of the three terms of the Mahâvâkya of the Sâma-Veda, "Thou art That" (Chhând. Upa., VI. viii. 7). In this view the first six chapters explain the path of work without desire for fruits, and the nature of "Thou." The next six chapters deal with devotion and the nature of "That." The last six describe the state of the highest knowledge and the nature of the middle term of the Mahâvâkya, in other words, the means of re-establishing the identity of "Thou" and "That."
The central teaching of the Gitâ is the attainment of Freedom, by the performance of one's Swadharma or duty in life. "Do thy duty without an eye to the results thereof. Thus shouldst thou gain the purification of heart which is essential for Moksha,"—seems to be the keynote of Krishna's teachings to Arjuna.
It is well known why the Gitâ came into existence. It was owing to Arjuna's unwillingness to do his duty as a Kshatriya—to fight for a just
cause—because it involved the destruction of his own people. Not that Arjuna did not recognise the justice and right of the cause, but he would rather renounce the world and try for Moksha than kill his relatives and friends. Krishna's characterisation of this weakly sentimental attitude of Arjuna is well known. He called it "Un-Arya-like delusion, contrary to the attainment alike of heaven and honour" and exhorted Pârtha to "yield not to unmanliness" but to "cast off this mean faintheartedness." (II. 2-3). "Could a coward who fails to do his duty, be worthy to attain Moksha?"—seems to be Krishna's rejoinder. Could a man not purified by the fire-ordeal of his Swadharma, could a renegade, a slave, attain Moksha? No! says the Lord. And this is the lesson we Indians have forgotten all these years, though we have been reading and discussing the Gitâ all the time.