The Bhagavad-Gita is more a religious classic than a Philosophical treatise. It is not an esoteric work designed for and understood by the specially initiated but a popular poem which helps even those "who wander in the region of the many and the variable." It gives ulterance to the aspirations of the pilgrims of all sects who seek to tread the inner way to the city of God.
The Gita, as it is usually abbreviated, is written in the form of a dialogue between Arjuna and Krishna on the eve of the great battle of Kurukshetra. As the opposing hosts of the Pandavas and Kauravas are drawn up for battle, Arjuna bids his Charioteer, Krishna, to drive to an open space from where he can see the two contending hosts set out in battle order. Viewing the noble youths and warriors on both sides in their splendid array, Arjuna is suddenly struck with remorse at the thought of attempting to gain the kingdom through the slaughter of his own kinsmen. He hangs his head in sorrow, and celestial bow gandiva drops from his hand. He seeks Krishna's guidance, since he himself desires neither victory nor empire, nor fame nor pleasure, if it be won through killing his own people. Krishna's reply constitutes the text of the Bhagavad-Gita and is venerated by many Hindus as the actual utterance the supreme deity.
The poem consists of eighteen chapters, and is divided into three sections of six chapters each. The first part advocates the persuit of yoga and dwells on the advantages of self mortification and asceticism, and on the need for the annihilation of self, and the virtue of seeing god in everything. In the second part the Pantheistic doctrines of Vedanta are elaborated, and Krishna reveals himself in all his glory as the Supreme Deity. The last part of the poem expounds the principles of purusha and prakriti, buddhi, ahamkara. The five subtle and five gross senses, and other categories of samkhya philosophy, by which it has been largely tinged.
Many commentators and critics have devoted themselves to the study of the Gita. Among them Shankara, Ramanuj, Madhava, Vallabha and Nimborka.
The Gita has exercised an influence that extended in early times to China and Japan and latterly to the lands of the west-The two chief works of Mahayana Buddhism, Mahayanashraddhotpatti. The Awakening of faith in the Mahayana and
Saddharmapundarika (The Lotus of the True Law) are deeply indebted to the teaching of the Gita. The Gita, however bases its message of action on a philosophy of life. It requires us to know the meaning of life before we engage in action. It does not advocate a fanatical devotion to the practical to the disparagement of the dignity of thought. Its philosophy of the practical is a derivative form its philosophy of spirit, bra hmvidyantargata karmayogashastra. Ethical action is derived from metaphysical realization. The purpose of the Gita is to teach us a way out of bondage and not merely action.