Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building Bridges: A World Religions Program for 8th-9th Grades

Handout 2: Excerpts from The Bhagavad Gita - The Song of God

A sacred text of Hinduism.


Circa 3000 BCE, cousins went to war over who would inherit a kingdom. Because the dispute was within a large, ancient family, the opposing armies comprised relatives, teachers, leaders, and friends. Arjuna was a master archer and renowned warrior—he was the one who would lead his side to war. His childhood friend Lord Krishna agreed to be Arjuna's charioteer. As Arjuna charged into battle, he became greatly dismayed, seeing so many people he loved on both sides of the valley. In an act of compassion, Lord Krishna froze time. There, in the chariot on the battlefield, with the armies before and behind them, the instruction of the Bhagavad Gita takes place, in the form of an open discussion between Arjuna and the great god Krishna.

Said Arjuna:

I do not wish to kill my relatives, spiritual leaders, and friends, even though they stand ready to kill me. I desire neither victory, nor pleasure, nor kingdom. For what is the use of a kingdom, or enjoyment, or even life when all those for whom we desire kingdom, enjoyment, and pleasure are here in this battle, ready to give up their lives?

Lord Krishna replied:

The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead. There was never a time you or I did not exist, nor shall we ever cease to exist in the future. The Spirit is neither born nor does it die; it is not destroyed when the body is destroyed. After the death of the body, the Spirit is reborn in a new body until Self-Realization is attained. Death is certain for the one who is born, and birth is certain for the one who dies. Therefore, you should not lament over the inevitable but pray for Self-Realization that you may be at peace.

Simply do your duty to the best of your ability without becoming discouraged by the thought of the outcome, which may be success or failure, loss or victory. You have control over your actions, but no control or claim over the result. Fear of failure, from being emotionally attached to the fruit of work, is the greatest impediment to success because it disturbs the equanimity of the mind. A farmer is responsible for working his land, yet has no control over the harvest. But if he does not work his land, he cannot expect a harvest! By doing your duty, you will not incur Karmic bondage.

Seek this knowledge, this discipline, Arjuna. There are many paths to Me, to enlightenment and freedom . . .

One is truly enlightened who:

— Does all work as an offering to God, abandoning attachment to the result

— Enjoys sensual pleasure with mind and senses under control

— Sees one and the same Spirit in all beings, looks at a learned person, an outcast, or an animal, with equal eye, and can feel the pain and pleasure of others as one's own

— Neither rejoices on obtaining what is pleasant, nor grieves on obtaining the unpleasant, and is tranquil and equanimous in pleasure and pain, in fulfillment and disappointment, in honor and disgrace

— Finds happiness in the Supreme Being, rejoices the Supreme Being within, is illuminated by Self-Knowledge and remains ever steadfast with the Supreme Self

— Acts beyond personal selfish motives

— Has neither attachment nor aversion for anything

— Has discovered the joy of spiritual knowledge, and whose mind is in union with God.

Such a person is not bound by Karma though engaged in work, maintains equanimity whatever occurs, and attains eternal bliss.

Therefore, let your mind be ever absorbed in Me, O Arjuna, remain unattached to the outcome of your actions, and go forth to do your duty, knowing the Spirit is deathless and eternal.