Essence of the Gita
At the outset of the great war of Mahabharata, Arjuna is overwhelmed with fear, grief and depression, as he has to fight his close relatives and teachers, arrayed on the enemy side. Further, Arjuna is worried that the war would lead to death and destruction. He even thinks of retiring to the forest, rather than kill his near and dear. This is the dramatic start to the Gita. Arjuna turns to Krishna for advice.
Krishna castigates Arjuna for his cowardice and unmanliness. He says generations to come would laugh at Arjuna if he flees to the forest. Krishna inspires Arjuna to arise and fight the good fight. Arjuna steadies himself on hearing this rebuke.
Krishna advises Arjuna to do his duty and not heed the consequences. He explains that Arjuna cannot control the outcome of the war. A true karma yogi does his allotted work, without expecting any fruits. Such selfless work, done with perfection and whole-heartedness, is the best path for a worldly person to attain self-realization.
The Atman (Soul)
Krishna tells Arjuna that he is not the body or mind, but the eternal soul. The soul is hidden by the delusion of ignorance, because of which one identifies with the mind and body. Krishna consoles Arjuna that the soul does not kill, nor is it ever killed. It only changes bodies, which are compared to worn out clothes.
Ways to Realize the Self
Krishna then elaborates on the various means to realize the self. This can be accomplished by controlling the senses, discrimination and renunciation. Constant spiritual practice can make one adept at controlling the mind, and realize the greater reality. The yoga of devotion and the yoga of action are two paths to self-realization.
Arjuna is Inspired
Krishna’s sagely advice inspires Arjuna, who declares that now there is no delusion or ignorance in his mind. Further, he reveals that since Krishna clarified all his doubts, he will do the latter’s bidding and fight steadfastly.
The hoary Gita even today inspires people all over the world, and serves as a beacon of light that vanquishes the darkness of delusion and ignorance.