Ethics of the Bhagavad Gita

by Swami Sivananda

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Paperback: xvi+176 pages
ISBN: 8170520991
Book Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.40 inches
Shipping Weight: 220 grams

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Table of Contents

Publishers’ Note v
Gita–Bible of Humanity vii
Sapta Sloki Gita ix
Eka Sloki Gita xi
Pratijna Gita xii


Introduction: The Corner-stones of the Gita-ethics 3
Chapter 1: Ethics, the Fragrance of Wisdom 7
Chapter 2: Gita-ethics, the Subtle Middle-path 10
Chapter 3: Man and God 16
Chapter 4: The Godless Man 19
Chapter 5: God in Man 22
Chapter 6: Gateway to Grief 24
Chapter 7: The New Testament of Renunciation 27
Chapter 8: Guru and Disciple 30
Chapter 9: The Supreme Importance of Right Thinking 33
Chapter 10: Purification of Self 35
Chapter 11: The Gospel of Fearlessness 39
Chapter 12: Cosmic Love: The Key to Blessedness 45
Chapter 13: The Dynamics of Selfless Service 47
Chapter 14: Man and Humanity 50
Chapter 15: The Four Castes in Society and Their Special Duties 55
Chapter 16: Sweet Notes from Sri Krishna’s Flute 59
Chapter 17: Self-surrender 65
Chapter 18: The Characteristics of a Sthitaprajna 67


1942 Message of the Gita 71
1943 The Bhagavad Gita: Its Importance and Significance 73
1944 Gita–The Source of Power 77
1945 Gita–The Universal Scripture 79
1946 Philosophy of the Gita 82
1947 Call of the Supreme 84
1948 A Scripture for All 87
1948 Yoga of Synthesis 90
1949 The Ancient Gospel to Modern Mankind 93
1950 The Yoga of the Gita 96
1951 Live in the Spirit of the Gita 98
1952 Gita: The Guiding Light 100
1953 Plenitude: The Law of life 102
1954 Purna Brahma Yoga 105
1955 India’s Message to the World of Today 108
1956 The Gospel of Karma Yoga 110


Chapter 1: The Despondency of Arjuna 115
Chapter 2: Sankhya Yoga 116
Chapter 3: The Yoga of Action 117
Chapter 4: The Yoga of Wisdom 118
Chapter 5: The Yoga of Renunciation of Action 119
Chapter 6: The Yoga of Meditation 121
Chapter 7: The Yoga of Wisdom 122
Chapter 8: The Yoga of Imperishable Brahman 124
Chapter 9: The Yoga of Kingly Science and Kingly Secret 125
Chapter 10: The Yoga of Divine Glories 126
Chapter 11: The Yoga of the Vision of the Cosmic Form 127
Chapter 12: The Yoga of Devotion 129
Chapter 13: The Yoga of Distinction Between the Field and Knower of the Field 130
Chapter 14: The Yoga of the Division of the Three Gunas 132
Chapter 15: The Yoga of Supreme Purusha 133
Chapter 16: The Yoga of Division Between the Divine and the Demoniacal 135
Chapter 17: The Yoga of the Threefold Faith 136
Chapter 18: The Yoga of Liberation by Renunciation 138


Why Was Gita Taught on the Battlefield? 143
The Characters of the Gita 146
Duryodhana Vs. Arjuna on the Spiritual War-front 150
Grieve Not 153
The Man You Hate Is Your Own Self 155
The Spirit Is Our First Consideration 156
The Technique of Buddhi-culture 158
Perfection in Buddhi-Yoga 161
To Work or Not to Work 164
The Problem of Sin 167
Where Is God? 170

Publishers’ Note

Soon after Sri Swami Sivananda’s dynamic All-India Tour in 1950, the idea occurred to him that a book must be written on the “Ethics of the Bhagavad Gita”. This precious and highly inspiring volume is the fruit of that Sat-Sankalpa.

These illuminating essays on the Gita were first published by the “Voice of Sivananda” the official organ of the Divine Life Society, Madurai Branch.

A series of essays on “The Lessons of the Bhagavad Gita” which, too, were published serially in that Journal, are also included in the present volume.

We are confident that this volume would prove to be of great benefit to seekers after Truth.



Gita is the cream of the Upanishads. It is the crest-jewel of Mahabharata. It is an epitome of all the Vedic teachings.

Lord Krishna gave His Gita to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra and through Arjuna to the whole world at large.

Gita is an Upanishad. It is Brahma Vidya, the science of Brahman. It is Yoga Sastra. It is the Bible of humanity at large.

The Upanishads are the cows, the Divine cowherd Krishna is the milkman, Arjuna is the calf, a wise man is the drinker of the milk and the nectar-like Gita is the immortal milk.

The teachings of the Gita are valid for all times and for all religious life.

He who is assiduously practising the teachings of the Gita in his daily life is liberated. He is not tainted by Karma.

Millions of people have found comfort, solace and happiness in this great work. It serves as a light to all. It sets forth the fundamental principles of religion and Divine Life.

If anyone lives on the spirit of even one verse of the Gita, if he meditates on the significance of the Sloka, he will attain immortal bliss.

Gita frees man from sorrow and delusion and the chains of Samsara and guarantees him emancipation here and hereafter.

Practice of the teaching of a single verse of the Gita is sufficient to bring about a great revolution in one’s mind and a complete transformation of one’s life.


१ ओमित्येकाक्षरं ब्रह्म व्याहरन्मामनुस्मरन्।
यः प्रयाति त्यजन्देहं स याति परमां गतिम्॥८ – १३॥

1. Uttering the one-syllabled OM–the Brahman–and remembering Me, he who departs, leaving the body, attains the Supreme Goal. (Ch. VIII-13)

२ स्थाने हृषीकेश तव प्रकीर्त्या जगत्प्रहृष्यत्यनुरज्यते च।
रक्षांसि भीतानि दिशो द्रवन्ति सर्वे नमस्यन्ति च सिद्धसङ्घाः॥११ – ३६॥

2. It is meet, O Hrishikesha! that the world delights and rejoices in Thy praise; Rakshasas fly in fear to all quarters, and all the hosts of Siddhas bow to Thee. (Ch. XI-36)

३ सर्वतः पाणिपादं तत्सर्वतोऽक्षिशिरोमुखम्।
सर्वतः श्रुतिमल्लोके सर्वमावृत्य तिष्ठति॥१३ – १३॥

3. With hands and feet everywhere, with eyes, heads and mouths everywhere, with ears everywhere, He exists in the world, enveloping all. (Ch. XIII-13)

कविं पुराणमनुशासितारमणोरणीयांसमनुस्मरेद्यः।
सर्वस्य धातारमचिन्त्यरूपमादित्यवर्णं तमसः परस्तात्॥८ – ९॥

4. He who meditates on the Omniscient, the Ancient, the Ruler (of the whole world), minuter than an atom, the Supporter of all, of form inconceivable, effulgent like the Sun and beyond the darkness (of ignorance) at the time of death, goes to the Supreme Resplendent Purusha. (Ch. VIII-9)

ऊर्ध्वमूलमधः शाखमश्वत्थं प्राहुरव्ययम्।
छन्दांसि यस्य पर्णानि यस्तं वेद स वेदवित्॥१५ – १॥

5. They (the wise people) speak of the indestructible Asvattha having its root above and branches below, whose leaves are the metres or hymns; he who knows it is a knower of the Vedas. (Ch. XV-1)

सर्वस्य चाहं हृदि सन्निविष्टो मत्तः स्मृतिर्ज्ञानमपोहनं च।
वेदैश्च सर्वैरहमेव वेद्यो वेदान्तकृद्वेदविदेव चाहम्॥१५ – १५॥

6. I am seated in the hearts of all; from Me are memory, knowledge, as well as their absence, born. I am verily that which has to be known by all the Vedas; I am indeed the author of Vedanta and the knower of the Vedas also am I. (Ch. XV-15)

मन्मना भव मद्भक्तो मद्याजी मां नमस्कुरु।
मामेवैष्यसि युक्त्वैवमात्मानं मत्परायणः॥१ – ३४॥

7. Fix thy mind on Me: be devoted to Me, sacrifice to Me, bow down to Me; having thus united thy (whole self) to Me, taking Me as the Supreme Goal, thou shalt surely come unto Me. (Ch. IX-34)


यत्र योगेश्वरः कृष्णो यत्र पार्थो धनुर्धरः
यत्र श्रीर्विजयो भूतिर्ध्रुवा नीतिर्मतिर्मम॥

Wherever is Krishna, the Lord of Yoga, wherever is Partha, the wielder of the bow, there are prosperity, victory, happiness and firm policy; such is my conviction. (Ch. XVIII-78)


(The Song of Assurance)

Gita has a message for the solace, peace, freedom and perfection of all human beings. In this book alone, the Lord gives His definite word of assurance or promise and exhortation at every step to the aspirant. He says:

नेहाभिक्रमनाशोऽस्ति प्रत्यवायो न विद्यते।
स्वल्पमप्यस्य धर्मस्य त्रायते महतो भयात्॥

In this there is no loss of effort, nor is there transgression. Even a little of this knowledge protects from great fear. (Ch. II-40)

पार्थ नैवेह नामुत्र विनाशस्तस्य विद्यते।
न हि कल्याणकृत्कश्चिद्‌दुर्गतिं तात गच्छति॥

O Son of Pritha, neither in this world, nor in the next life is there destruction for him; none, verily, who does good, comes to grief. (Ch. VI-40.)

क्षिप्रं भवति धर्मात्मा शश्वच्छान्तिं निगच्छति।
कौन्तेय प्रतिजानीहि न मे भक्तः प्रणश्यति॥

Soon he becomes righteous and attains to eternal peace, O Kaunteya, know thou for certain that My devotee is never destroyed. (Ch. IX-31)

अनन्याश्चिन्तयन्तो मां ये जनाः पर्युपासते।
तेषां नित्याभियुक्तानां योगक्षेमं वहाम्यहम्॥

To those men who worship Me alone, thinking of no other, ever harmonious, I bring full security. (Ch. IX-22)

अपि चेदसि पापेभ्यः सर्वेभ्यः पापकृत्तमः।
सर्वं ज्ञानप्लवेनैव वृजिनं संतरिष्यसि॥

Even if thou art the most sinful of all sinners, yet thou shalt verily cross over all sin by the raft of knowledge. (Ch. IV-36)

मन्मना भव मद्भक्तो मद्याजी मां नमस्कुरु।
मामेवैष्यसि सत्यं ते प्रतिजाने प्रियोऽसि मे॥

Fix thy mind on Me, be devoted to Me, sacrifice to Me, bow down to Me. Thou shalt come even to Me; truly do I promise unto thee, (for) thou art dear to Me. (Ch. XVIII-65)

तेषामहं समुद्धर्ता मृत्युसंसारसागरात्।
भवामि नचिरात्पार्थ मय्यावेशितचेतसाम्॥

For them whose mind is set on Me, verily I become ere long the Saviour out of the ocean of the mortal Samsara. (Ch. XII-7)

सर्वधर्मान्परित्यज्य मामेकं शरणं व्रज।
अहं त्वा सर्वपापेभ्यो मोक्षयिष्यामि मा शुचः॥

Abandoning all duties, take refuge in Me alone; I will liberate thee from all sins; grieve not. (Ch. XVIII-66)

It is lamentable, indeed, that even after reading these assurances of Lord Krishna Himself, people do not take seriously to Yoga Sadhana.

May the blessings of Lord Krishna be upon you all.



Salutations to Lord Sri Krishna, the Sweetest Manifestation of the Supreme Being! Salutations to Srimad Bhagavad Gita, the Word of God! Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya.

What You Say Is the Expression of What You Are

Srimad Bhagavad Gita is the Gospel of Sri Krishna. Sri Krishna is regarded as the Purna-Avatara of God. He was perfect in every respect. God is All-pervading; Sri Krishna’s life-on-earth, too, was all-comprehensive. Study Srimad Bhagavata and the Mahabharata. You will understand what a multi-faceted diamond Sri Krishna was. He was a wonderful child, divine boy, resplendent youth, dearest friend, mighty warrior, wise administrator, sweet comrade, master of diplomacy, protector of the meek, death of the wicked, preserver of Dharma, clever strategist, humble servant, obedient pupil, dutiful son, loving husband and Supreme Guru. These and countless others are but aspects of His Immanence as Krishna. Above all these, He is God Who, in His own transcendental nature, is the Lord of lords, the Father and Mother of all creation, the very Soul of all that exists. He is the Substratum of all existence. He is the Reality, immortal, eternal, infinite and absolute. He is not only immortal but Immortality Itself.

It is, therefore, in the fitness of things that the Scripture that He propounded should partake of all these great virtues that characterised His Divine Manifestation and His transcendental Nature. The Bhagavad Gita is so comprehensive that everyone can draw inspiration and guidance from it, whatever his social status may be, whatever his profession and in whatever stage of spiritual evolution he may be. For, into the Bhagavad Gita the Lord has woven a beautiful and universal pattern of ethics that would appeal and apply to all. The grand edifice of the Ethics of the Bhagavad Gita has been built on the Eternal Corner-stones of (1) Immortality of the Soul; (2) Immanence of God; (3) Impermanence of the world; (4) Immediacy of Liberation. Because these truths are universal, the Ethics of the Bhagavad Gita also have universal application.

Existing as He does as the very Immortal Principle in all beings, Lord Krishna proclaims with unimpeachable authority, the Immortality of the Soul. Being manifest here in this world as the very life and soul of all beings, He reveals the Immanence of God. Being the witness of the actions of Prakriti and the interplay of the Gunas, and in the perfect knowledge of the nature of this play of the Gunas, He declares that the objects of the world are evanescent, that all that is born must die, that all that is created must perish. Being the One who is conscious of the One Imperishable, Indivisible Truth which is never affected by the illusory play of Prakriti in which the Jiva which is essentially one with that Supreme Being dreams that he is dumb-driven and bound, the Lord asserts that Liberation is possible here and now.

The thundering revelation of the Immortality of the Soul in the Sloka: Ajo Nityas-sasvatoyam Purano Na Hanyate Hanyamane Sarire warns man not to deceive himself by trying to ignore the Law of Karma, the Law of Rebirth and the Law of Retribution. The soul within him does not die with the death of the body; and, so long as it does not liberate itself by attaining Jnana, is bound to reap the harvest of the seeds it has sown in this birth–Dhruvam Janma-Mritasya. The Jiva which imagines that it is the doer of an action is bound to it by an invisible thread called attachment. The action is a rubber ball with a long rubber band attached to it which is given to the children to play with; one end of the band is tied to the finger of the child and he throws the ball on the ground; and the ball promptly rebounds to the child’s hand. Similarly, every action performed by you with the idea that you are doing it, with a desire to attain a certain end, is bound to rebound on you sooner or later, in this birth or in another. Death itself is but going from one room to another; and so long as the band of attachment is not broken by the knife of non-attachment (Asanga Sastrena Dridhena Chhitva) and the knot of desire born of ignorance is not loosened; the ball of action is bound to come back. One who realises this will do no evil. It is ignorance of the immortality of the soul and the inevitable working of the law of action and reaction that makes the wicked man to go his evil way. The wise man dismisses the misfortunes that may befall him as the working out of the evil Karmas of a previous birth and is indifferent to them; and he is active in cultivating goodness and in doing good, convinced, in the words of Sri Krishna, “that the doer of good never comes by evil” and that in the life to come, he will not only be free from misery and misfortune, but will get greater opportunities of progressing more rapidly towards the goal, viz., Jnana. The doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul is, therefore, the most important corner-stone in the Gita-ethics.

The next is the revelation of the Immanence of God. God is not a cruel monarch or just a benevolent deity sitting on a golden throne in a far-away city depending for his knowledge of your actions on agents and spies. He is the Indweller of everyone. He is the Witness of your thoughts. People around you watch your actions and hear your words; God watches not only your actions, but the motives that prompt them; He hears not only your words but the whisper of your heart’s intentions. It is therefore that Lord Jesus, too, said: “Thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” The doctrine of the Immanence of God exposes, too, the hypocrite who pretends to worship God in a shrine, ignoring the Lord walking bare-bodied on the road with a begging-bowl in hand, who is writhing in pain, groaning under subjection and groping in the darkness of ignorance–the disguises assumed by Him to test your sincerity and to give you a chance to worship Him truly, and to attain Him here and now. Look up, and see your Lord watching you through the eyes of everyone you meet. Have you got the sincerity to recognise Him? Then you are fit to realise God and your own Immortality. He is here, near you; and in order to bring this fact graphically before you, Sri Krishna describes Himself as the several manifestations set forth in the Vibhuti Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita.

The third–the doctrine of the impermanence of the world–is a stern warning against your setting too much store by the things of this world. The greatest treasure you acquire is but straw! The least that you do to the Lord immanent in all around you is the key to inexhaustible treasure. The things that you acquire are of this world which will pass away; but by the service you render to God immanent here, you are watering the plant of Immortality. Remember; the things that you possess, and the whole world; not only this world which is but a mere speck of dust in this universe, but the universe itself; not only this but countless universes that constitute creation–are but objects of a passing dream of the Supreme Being. Grabbing them is like catching hold of a cobra mistaking it for a rope to tie round the waist as belt. Great is the misery of one who takes the world as reality and runs after the pleasures of the world. Supreme Bliss is the prize that awaits one who, understanding the evanescence of the world, applies himself to Namasmarana, Japa, Kirtan, selfless service, renunciation and meditation, in short, to the life divine.

To such a one liberation is promised here and now. One who, through knowledge of the Immortality of the Soul, the Immanence of God and the impermanence of the world, casts off attachment to the world and the actions of Prakriti, attains Liberation here and now–Ihaiva Tairjitassargo Yesham Samye Sthitam Manah, Nirdosham Hi Samam Brahma Tasmat Brahmani Te Sthitah. Not only that; the true devotee of the Lord attains Him quite easily: Tasyaham Sulabhah Partha Nityayuktasya Yoginah. This doctrine of the Immediacy of Liberation, this doctrine of hope, is the great incentive to the diligent student of the Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita and is, therefore, the fourth important corner-stone of the Ethics of the Bhagavad Gita.

May the blessings of Lord Sri Krishna be upon you all! May you all attain Liberation from bondage here and now!

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