The Bhagavad Gita | Study Guide


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The Bhagavad Gita | Chapter 9 : The Secret of Life | Summary



Arjuna has faith and trust in Krishna. In return, Krishna promises to tell Arjuna the secret of how to attain wisdom and release from suffering. All living beings are contained within Krishna's limitless, unmanifest form, but Krishna is not limited by them. He is unattached to creation's outcomes at the start or end of the cosmic cycles. When Krishna brings forth all beings at the cycle's start or gathers all beings back to himself at the end, he is unmoved. He is unattached to all actions. When people worship other gods, they are actually worshipping Krishna in his unmanifest form as the source of all existence. They are unaware of this and don't recognize or appreciate Krishna when he appears in human form. Krishna claims he will accept any offering given "with a loving heart." He guides Arjuna to perform all of his actions, as small and mundane as speaking and eating, as offerings to God. In this way, all Arjuna does is turned into worship. This is what Krishna has been trying to explain to Arjuna about the path of right action. All his guidance is ultimately an explanation to Arjuna of why all actions should be performed with love and worship of Krishna.


In this chapter Krishna is detailing more precisely how Arjuna can turn his actions into prayer and offerings to God, and Krishna's tone becomes devotional. In yogic traditions, the yoga of devotion is called bhakti yoga and emphasizes love and thanks to God. Although the language Krishna uses has shifted from a focus on meditation to ideas of love and redemption, the basic concept remains the same: Krishna is still explaining the process of understanding the truth about the Self and God. As an earthly manifestation of the unmanifest God, Krishna now introduces the concept of God's love and of human love for the divine. This idea of love is interwoven in the concept of worship, and Krishna urges Arjuna to pour this love for God into all his actions. Krishna himself is often portrayed in Hindu traditions as the manifestation of God that represents love between humans and God. This role makes Krishna the perfect incarnation of God to explain divine love to Arjuna.

To help Arjuna, Krishna uses the analogy of the wind to explain his vastness. He likens himself to the "all-moving wind," explaining that wherever he goes represents his vastness. In this section of his teachings, Krishna introduces the idea that he is manifest as Krishna the God and unmanifest as the source of all existence. Through focusing on the avatar of his manifest form, a person can more easily cultivate divine love. It is difficult to create a feeling of personal love toward an unmanifest creator, for the concept is so vast and abstract.

When Krishna introduces the idea of the "cosmic cycle," he is referring to the long ages introduced in Chapter 8. At the end of this cycle, Krishna brings all beings back to himself and starts an entirely new cycle once again. This process is a larger manifestation of the concept of cyclical death and rebirth that happens to humans. Krishna's unmanifest form eventually destroys the universe and then creates it once again. Just as Arjuna is taught to remain unattached to his actions, Krishna is unattached to his actions during the birth, death, and rebirth of creation.

Krishna also refers to the "sacred Om," considered the most sacred syllable and the essence of all existence in the Hindu tradition. The sound om represents the primal sound of creation and is often chanted by devout yogis and practicing Hindus.

Finally, Krishna makes a brief reference to the "threefold Vedas." The Vedas comprise one of the foundational Hindu texts considered shruti, or of divine authorship. Originally there were three Vedas: Rig Veda, Sama Veda, and Yajur Veda. These religious texts are of the highest importance and inform many customs and rituals.

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