Story of Mahabharata & What is Bhagavad Gita?


Bhagavad Gita is the essence of Vedic Philosophy and 10 major Upanishads. Interview shows how it applies to you.

Context of Interview: In today's Western civilization, many of the principles of ancient wisdom and helpful spiritual teachings from various cultures are unknown. As a result, many people have few resources to manage their existential crises and give their lives meaning.

1. What is the Bhagavad Gita and why are you teaching it?

  • WHAT is everyone seeking? Freedom from smallness/limitation. Lasting fulfillment.
  • WHERE is the solution discussed? Vedas. Two sections: Karma-kanda / Upanishads.
  • What is purpose of Upanishads?
    • (1) Discard (old notions) (2) permanently disintegrate them (3) gain (contentment).
    • How? Word “Upanishad” itself gives clue.
      • Upa: “Near” which is a relative word.
        • EG: In relation to money, it’s still NEARER. In relation to Mind, it’s still NEARER. So what is the NEAREST? Myself, nature of “I”.
      • Ni: There is possibility you don’t know the NEAREST in it’s true light.
      • Ṣad: For this, need to sit down and investigate.
  • What is Bhagavad Gita?
    • Conversation between Krishna/Arjuna. Krishna talks about “I” as per Upanishads.
      • Hence each CH ends: iti bhagavad gitasupaniṣadsu.
    • Has 2 topics:
      • Brahma-vidya / jnana-yoga: Reveals nature of self.
      • Yoga-shastra: How to get proper understanding of jnana-yoga. Every knowledge needs preparation.
    • Yoga-shastra is very popular throughout Indian way of life because it deals with down-to-earth matters like how to negotiate situationally or live a meaningful life.
  • Bhagavad Gita comes from Mahabharata story…


  • A king of Hastinapur had two sons; Dhritarashtra and Pandu.
  • Normally the elder is the successive king. But elder Dhritarashtra was blind by birth. Hence younger Pandu was the king.
  • Dhritarashtra was resentful (“Life is unfair that I'm blind”).
  • Pandu knew about his sorrow, thus nourished his brother by offering temporary kingship, while Pandu went to forest to rest.
    • In forest, Pandu shot an arrow, killing sage/wife, thinking it was a deer which he could take home.
      • As he rushed over to the hurt sage and his wife, the sage said, “Even if it's a mistake, there are consequences”. Thus he was cursed: “You'll die when show passion towards any of the two wifes”.
    • One day, Pandu fancied Madri's beauty while bathing. As he pursued her, he died. Madri felt guilty, so she retired to forest.
    • Kunti (Pandu's second wife) become widow of Pandu's 5 Pandava sons: Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakul, Sahadev.
  • NEXT Q: Who becomes King (since Pandu has died)?
    • Technically, Pandu’s eldest… Yudhishthira should be.
    • But Dhritarashtra’s eldest son Duryodhana said, “I’m eldest of my father Dhritarashtra, and I’m not blind. I should be king!”.
      • To resolve, court said: Of the two, whoever is older, should rule, meaning: Yudhishthira. But Duryodhana disagreed.
      • Dhritarashtra divides kingdom UNFAIRLY. Barren land (Indraprastha) to Pandavas.
      • Pandavas grew Indraprastha to a highly prosperous city, which made Duryodhana jealous.
  • NEXT: Duryodhana plots to KILL them (owing to his jealously).
    • Plan 1: Pandavas were invited to a wax house (highly flammable) built by Duryodhana. It was secretly set on fire. They escaped but kept their mouths shut (another mistake of Pandavas for being too compassionate).
    • Plan 2: Let Shakuni (dice manipulator) play with Yudhishthira… who blindly followed rule, “When king invited, can’t refuse”.
  • NEXT: Yudhishthira LOSES everything.
    • Duryodhana says: “You still have four brothers to stake”. After lost brothers too, also lost Draupadi (wife), who was dragged to court by Dushasana (brother of Duryodhana).
  • NEXT: Duryodhana says, Draupadi must be disrobed”.
    • Before Dushasan could disrobe her, Draupadi asks court, “You are men of righteousness. Will you let this happen?”.
    • Court remained silent, implying, “We can’t do anything about this”.

      • INTERPRETATION: Court interpreted situation partially: Yudhishthira could’ve used freewill to stop the game. Since hasn’t, must pay for his actions.
    • Finally Draupadi says: “Who did Yudhishthira lose first? Himself OR me? If himself FIRST, then he has no right to stake me!”. Good argument, but none listened.
    • Draupadi's last resort > prayer to Krishna (Lord).
      • Krishna didn’t hesitate for a second. Because 100% clear in morality.
      • Krishna’s understanding:
        1. Basis of game was cheating.
        2. Noone can stand watching woman abused.
      • Krishna provided endless sari to Draupadi. So Dushasan got exhausted from attempting to take it off.
  • NEXT: Duryodhana tells Pandavas > go forest 12 years. And must spend 13th in incognito.
  • NEXT: 13th year:
    • Five Pāṇḍava brothers resided in neighbouring kingdom called Matsya (with King Virāṭa) during 13th year of incognito (called Ajñyātavāsa):
      • Yudhiṣṭhira: Assuming guise of tridanḍa (ascetic), being king's advisor.
      • Bhīma (Bhīmasena): cook.
      • Arjuna: Spent his time assuming feminine guise, called Bṛhannalā. A teacher of dance/music and entertainer.
      • Nakul/Sahadev: Both had charming appearances. Served as cowherds. Dealing with cows/horses.
    • Someone reports Duryodhana that Pandavas may be residing there. Duryodhana was sure it's them. But couldn't enter the kingdom. So decided to conquer it. Pandavas had loyalty to king so offered to defend the kingdom from Duryodhana's attacks.
    • On battlefield, Duryodhana immediately recognizes them.
  • NEXT: Duryodhana disagrees that he failed to find them before 13th year ended.
    • MORAL so far: Pandavas acts of “letting go” previously, didn’t reform Duryodhana. It gave license for Duryodhana to become more unreasonable.
  • NEXT: Krishna decided to NEGOTIATE on behalf of Pandavas. He went to Hastinapur kingdom (where Duryodhana, Dhritarashtra, Vidur, and Bhima reside), and said to king Dhritarashtra
    • Give back Indraprastha to Pandavas. Duryodhana already has large kingdom. However Duryodhana decided to respond in place of his father Dhritarashtra. He said, “No!”.
    • 5 districts. No!
    • 1 village with 5 houses. No!
    • 1 house with 5 rooms. No!
    • Duryodhana said, “If they want one inch of land, then Must fight!”.
    • War declared. Can’t let someone so unreasonable get away with it.
  • NEXT: Duryodhana/Yudhishthira WANT Krishna’s army.
    • Duryodhana/Arjuna (on behalf of Yudhishthira) go.
    • While Krishna was sleeping, upon waking, he sees Arjuna first. So Arjunagets to choose FIRST.
      • My army OR Me (won’t fight).
    • Arjuna chose Krishna. Duryodhana though he was emotional fool.
      • MORAL: We make decisions based on what we VALUE.
      • Both Duryodhana/Arjuna got EXACTLY what they wanted. But only the righteous side prospered.
    • Arjuna asks Krishna to be his charioteer.


  • Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 1, Verse 1:

    • Dhritarashtra asks Sanjaya for STATUS on the battlefield between the Pandavas and the Kauravas.
    • Dhritarashtra  recognizes this is not an ordinary war. But fought for Universal laws of morality/ethics. Knows his sons (Kauravas) are on side of immorality.
    • Calls Kauravas “my people”, and Pandavas “other people”.
    • Why didn’t Dhritarashtra intervene (knowing Kauravas side of immorality)?
      • REASON 1: Resentment for blindness. Living dream through Duryodhana.
      • REASON 2: Sense of right/wrong is muddled in family. Protecting self-interest.
  • Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 1, Verse 2:

    • Sanjaya replies:
      • Arjuna asks Krishna to go to MIDDLE of battlefield.
      • Upon seeing the reality of the situation, Arjuna breaks down, “I see only MY people other side”. Contrast to Dhritarashtra's statement of my-people and other-people.
      • Arjuna vividly describes state: Heart beat, weak knees, drops weapon, mouth dry, unable to speak.
        • MORAL: In touch with his EMOTIONS. Despite best warrior.
  • Krishna REPLIES to Arjuna:
    • Give up weakness and FIGHT (Do what needs to be done).
    • Arjuna gives reason why NOT fight:
      • If win war, kill all on other side. Compassion.
      • If win, society have widows/orphans. I’ll RULE dysfunctional kingdom.
      • Worried about future lifetime.
    • Arjuna THEN asks Krishna (open mind):
      • Q1: What should I do in THIS situation? (Yoga-śastra).
        • Is my thinking justified? Am I missing something?
        • MORAL: Remains open even after giving his convincing reasons. True mark of a student!
      • Q2: What will give me final fulfillment? (jnana-yoga)
      • Which question does Krishna answer first? Q2.
  • Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2, Verse 11:

    • Wise people don’t grieve for living nor dead. Yet you’re grieving, and speaking like wise person.
    • What means “wise person doesn’t grieve”?
      • They have different understanding about reality, which makes one free of sorrow.
      • They know nature of self.
    • Bhagavad Gītā is providing the solution to a beginningless problem of seeking:
      1. How to properly manage unique situations.
      2. How to discover permanent fulfillment.

2. In the Bhagavad Gita, are there universal principles or laws we can keep in mind? Which are the main ones?

  • HUMAN EXPERIENCE: Yesterday’s actions/choices produce our today.
  • UNIVERSE: Every substance has a basis. EG:
    • Basis of flower is leaf.
    • Basis of leaf is tree.
    • Basis of tree is seed.
    • Human body > food.
    • Leaves > Wood > seed: 25% lignin. 45% cellulose. Cellulose C6H10O5.
    • Atom > Electron around Atomic Nucleus (Proton/Neutron) > Quark Up/Down > Strings.
    • OR Quantum Field Theory model:
      • Waves > zero-point energy > virtual particles > matter/anti-matter > Upanishads.
  • In same way, the final reality (discussed in Upanishads) is the basis of entire universe.

3. What is the mind's role in this and what can we do to use it more efficiently in our daily lives? (Examples and exercises)

4. Any final thoughts you would like to share?

Recorded Aug, 2021

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