Composed around the second century BCE, the Bhagavad Gita is a masterpiece of world religious literature, having resonated for over two millennia as a source of inspiration, wisdom, and guidance. Of all the rich Hindu texts, this one is the most beloved, particularly in the West.
The Bhagavad Gita has helped shape the thought of some of the greatest minds in recent history, including religious and secular thinkers alike. Political leaders, scientists, artists, philosophers of diverse backgrounds have all attested to the Gita's power. We'll let their words speak for themselves: here are 10 reflections on this holiest of all Hindu scriptures.
The Bhagavad-Gita is the most systematic statement of spiritual evolution of endowing value to mankind. It is one of the most clear and comprehensive summaries of perennial philosophy ever revealed; hence its enduring value is subject not only to India but to all of humanity.
And my own Hindu practice, my own looking to the Bhagavad Gita in particular, as the place of strength and inspiration and courage was very real and practical, in particular as I went on my deployments to the Middle East: going through military training, leaving home, leaving everything that was familiar, going to the desert, and facing a lot of personal challenges, and having that strong base of understanding that gave me that strength and courage to not only survive in so many ways to come home, but to come home in a way that in my heart mind I felt whole.
The marvel of the Bhagavad-Gita is its truly beautiful revelation of life’s wisdom which enables philosophy to blossom into religion.
The Bhagavad-gita deals essentially with the spiritual foundation of human existence. It is a call of action to meet the obligations and duties of life; yet keeping in view the spiritual nature and grander purpose of the universe.
In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagvat-Geeta, since whose composition years of the gods have elapsed, and in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial; and I doubt if that philosophy is not to be referred to a previous state of existence, so remote is its sublimity from our conceptions.
We knew the world would not be the same. Few people laughed, few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.
The Bhagavad-Gita has a profound influence on the spirit of mankind by its devotion to God which is manifested by actions.
I owed a magnificent day to the Bhagavad-gita. It was the first of books; it was as if an empire spoke to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another rage and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us.
Before these United States came into being, the great poets of the world earned their lustre through undeniable forms of spontaneous popularity; generations of a people chose to memorize and then to further elaborate these songs and to impart them to the next generation. I am talking about people; African families and Greek families and the families of the Hebrew tribes and all that multitude to whom the Bhagavad-Gita is as daily as the sun! If these poems were not always religious, they were certainly moral in notice, or in accomplishment, or both.
Rumored to have started his mornings brushing his teeth and reading the Gita at the same time, Mohandas Gandhi found encouragement and solace in the scriptures.
When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and when I see not one ray of light on the horizon, I turn to the Bhagavad Gita, and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. My life has been full of tragedies and if they have not left any visible and indelible effect on me, I owe it to the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita.
Not satisified with reading what others have said? The complete text of the Bhagavad Gita is available here on Poetry Genius in the classic English translation of Sir Edwin Arnold. Peruse other readers' interpretations in the annotations—and feel free to add your own.