The Bhagavad-gita (“Song of God”) is a conversation between the military commander Arjuna and his friend and charioteer Krishna, before the onset of the historic Battle of Kurukshetra. Topics they discuss include the immortality of the self, the ultimate goal of life, the perfection of yoga, and the original relationship between the self and the Supreme Self.
The Gita appears as a central chapter in the epic Mahabharata, which chronicles the history of greater India up to the start of the current Kali-yuga, the “age of quarrel,” circa 3000 BCE. Kurukshetra is now a district in the state of Haryana, India.
As the conversation begins, Arjuna decides to walk away from battle rather than fight with those who had cheated his family of their kingdom. Krishna then enlightens Arjuna about the science of the self, the essence of dharma (“duty”), and the ultimate goal of life. Krishna reveals His identity as the Supreme Being, explaining that He had planned the battle, as well as pre-ordained the outcome. Finally, Arjuna surrenders to Krishna’s supreme will and decides to fight.
In the Gita, Krishna explains the difference between spirit and matter, the goal of the yoga system, how one’s vision becomes distorted by attachment to temporary things, and the superiority of devotional service to the Supreme Being to any other process of self-realization.
In the 1960s, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada wrote the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, with English translation, Sanskrit transliteration, word-for-word synonyms, and commentary. His philosophical conclusions represent those of the succession of teachers (gurus) coming down through disciplic succession from Krishna Himself. Perhaps not surprisingly therefore, Bhagavad-gita As It Is is unique among Gita translations as inspiring hundreds of thousands of its readers to take up the path of Krishna consciousness, or devotional service to Krishna (bhakti-yoga).