The Bhagavad-Gita (fifth- to second-century BCE)

I enjoyed reading The Bhagavad-Gita. I was turned off somewhat by the language of war, but I found this quote from Merton in the Afterword helpful:

The Gita is saying that even in what appears to be the most “unspiritual” [i.e., war], one can act with pure intentions and thus be guided by Krishna consciousness (149).

Several themes resonated with me, especially the central theme of “disciplined action within the context of devotion [being] essential to the religious life envisioned in the Gita” (9). Again and again, we’re told to act selflessly and without attachment and without want for reward, dedicating our work to God (Krishna). It reminds me of Colossians 3:17.


When he renounces all desires
and acts without craving,
or individuality, he finds peace (42).

Whatever you do—what you take,
what you offer, what you give,
what penances you perform—
do as an offering to me, Arjuna! (89).

One who serves me faithfully,
with discipline of devotion,
transcends the qualities of nature [i.e., lucidity, passion, and dark inertia]
and shares in the infinite spirit (122).

The three gates of hell
that destroy the self
are desire, anger, and greed;
one must relinquish all three (130).

Let tradition be your standard
in judging what to do or avoid;
knowing the norms of tradition,
perform your action here (130).

Action in sacrifice, charity,
and penance is to be performed,
not relinquished—for wise men,
they are acts of sanctity.
But even these actions
should be done by relinquishing to me
attachment and the fruit of action—
this is my decisive idea (136).


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