What does the Bhagavad Gita teach

Summary of Bhagavad Gītā

Brahmanism and Buddhism

India was established from the fifth century BC. BC to the fourth century AD characterized by partly conflicting, partly overlapping religious movements. Jainism and Buddhism in particular challenged the traditional religious and social order of Brahmanism (the forerunner of Hinduism) with its rigid caste system. Members of the aristocratic warrior caste as well as prosperous merchants and craftsmen confidently turned against the supremacy of the Brahmins, those priests who played an outstanding social role as experts in the sacrificial ritual and as mediators between humans and gods.

Buddhism, which began in the third century BC. BC spread beyond the Indian subcontinent into Asia, emphasized rigorous asceticism as the only means to free oneself from the karmic bond and the painful cycle of birth and death. According to this view, redemption takes place outside the everyday world, and there is no need for a caste of priests to ensure the continuity and prosperity of society through complicated sacrificial rituals.


Against the background of growing Buddhism, the Bhagavad Gītā be seen as an attempt to mediate between Buddhism and Brahmanism and to bring about a synthesis. On the one hand, the Gītā Renunciation of worldly things, on the other hand she emphasizes the need to intervene actively in world events. She knows individual responsibility, but also the obligation to fight as a member of the warrior caste and to support the social order. On the one hand she speaks out in favor of the values ​​of the Brahmin caste, on the other hand she criticizes the empty sacrificial rituals aimed at fulfilling wishes. The often contradicting character of the work testifies to the length of time it was created and the various religious teachings that are reflected in it.

Due to the uncertain source situation, it is difficult to determine the exact time of origin of the Bhagavad Gītā to determine; the text was initially passed on orally and continuously expanded. The poem probably took place between 200 BC. BC and 300 AD to its present form. Also about whether the Gītā from the beginning part of the huge epic that has grown over centuries Mahābhārata was or whether it was added later, there is still no agreement. In any case, the sacred poem is ascribed a much older age among pious Hindus. According to Indian tradition, the mythical sage wrote Vyāsa following a divine inspiration Mahābhārata - and with it that too Gītā - settled in the distant past.

Impact history

As the most important religious script of Hinduism, the Bhagavad Gītā stimulated hundreds of comments in India since the Middle Ages. The earliest comes from the pen of the wandering monk Shankara (around 800 AD), the most controversial of Mahatma Gandhifrom the Gītā derived his theory of non-violence and, according to his own statement, found “a consolation” in it that “I myself miss in the Sermon on the Mount”. Beyond all scholarly debates, the work still shapes the imagination and ideal of life of pious Hindus to this day. Verses of the Gītā memorized and recited, they are a favorite subject of popular books, television series, and even comics.

The work also met with great interest in Europe and contributed significantly to the new image of India in the late 18th century. The first English translation of 1785 was followed by a French translation in 1787 and a German translation in 1802. In Germany, in the wake of the Sturm und Drang movement and early romantic natural philosophy, India became a projection surface for the longing for a holistic, more pristine life, for spiritual redemption and the unity of body and mind. Johann Gottfried Herder, who made various adaptations of the work, praised the intuitive, anti-rationalist attitude in the ancient Indian religion, which does not try to explain everything with abstract concepts of reason. August Wilhelm Schlegel, the first holder of a professorship for Indology in Germany, had a Sanskrit version with a Latin translation printed in 1823, which was very popular among scholars of the time. Wilhelm von Humboldt called them Gītā “Probably the deepest and most sublime that the world has to show”; judged similarly Arthur Schopenhauer and Hermann Hesse. In the 1960s saw the Bhagavad Gītāwhich, with over 2000 translations in 70 languages ​​after the Bible, is the most frequently translated work in world literature, is experiencing a renaissance in Europe and the USA. Civilization-weary dropouts, esotericists and hippies saw it as the gospel of liberation and self-realization.