The Bhagavad Gita

Krishna Character Analysis

Arjuna’s charioteer Krishna is actually a worldly manifestation of God (also known as Vishnu or the Supreme Being). He speaks the vast majority of the verses in the Bhagavad Gita, convincing Arjuna to go on with the battle by suggesting that he must perform his dharma as a warrior and should not fear the deaths of his family members and enemies, the Kauravas, because the true self of all beings is an immortal, formless soul. In the Gita’s tenth and eleventh discourses, Krishna reveals his multitude of divine forms to Arjuna, first by listing them and then in a stunning visual spectacle that captures the entire world and demonstrates his infinite power with a light that Sanjaya compares to “a thousand suns.” Krishna is either identical to or the source of the absolute, unitary being known as Brahman, and according to the Gita, Hindus should seek to overcome the cycle of death and rebirth (samsara) to join themselves with Krishna through yoga or devotion.

Krishna Quotes in The Bhagavad Gita

The The Bhagavad Gita quotes below are all either spoken by Krishna or refer to Krishna. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Detachment and Dharma Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of The Bhagavad Gita published in 2008.
Discourse 1 Quotes

I see no good
in killing
my people
in battle,
Lovely-Haired Krishna!

Krishna, I long
neither for victory
nor kingship
nor pleasures.
Lord of the Cows,
what is kingship to us,
what are delights,
or life itself?

Related Characters: Arjuna (speaker), Krishna
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:
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The dharma of caste,
and the eternal dharma
of family,
are uprooted
by these wrongful acts
of family-destroyers,
since they create
a blending of caste.

Related Characters: Arjuna (speaker), Krishna
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discourse 2 Quotes

Son of Bharata,
the embodied self
which exists in the body
of everyone
is eternally
free from harm;
so you should not grieve
for any living beings.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:
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Your authority is
in action alone,
and never
in its fruits;
motive should never be
in the fruits of action,
nor should you cling
to inaction.

Abiding in yoga,
engage in actions!
Let go of clinging,
and let fulfilment
and frustration
be the same;
for it is said
yoga is equanimity.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discourse 4 Quotes

Brahman is offering;
Brahman is oblation
poured out by Brahman
in the fire of Brahman;
Brahman is attained
by one absorbed
in the action
of Brahman.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:
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Arjuna,
just as the lit fire
makes the kindling
into ashes,
in this same way
the fire of wisdom
makes all actions
into ashes.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discourse 5 Quotes

This master
creates neither agent
nor action
in this world,
nor the linking
of action with its fruit.
But his own nature
keeps on evolving.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 64-5
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discourse 6 Quotes

The self is
in all beings
and all beings
are in the self.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discourse 7 Quotes

Understand that
all beings
have their origins
in this nature:
I am
the birth
and the dissolution
of the whole world.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discourse 8 Quotes

Brahman is
the highest imperishable;
the highest self
is said to be
one’s own nature, giving rise
to all states of being;
action is understood
as ‘sending forth’.

Among the embodied,
the highest being
is finite existence;
the highest god
is the great spirit;
I am the highest sacrifice
here in this body,
Chosen One.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discourse 9 Quotes

This whole world
is woven through
with me,
in a shape
which is formless;
all beings dwell in me,
while I do not
dwell in them.

Yet neither do beings
dwell in me.
Behold, my powerful yoga:
bearing beings,
and yet not dwelling
in beings,
my own self
causing them to be.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:
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I am the father of the world —
its mother, its arranger
and its grandfather;
I am what is to be known;
the purifier;
the sound ‘Om’;
the Rig, the Sama
and the Yajur Veda.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:
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Those who choose gods
go to the gods.
Those who choose ancestors
go to the ancestors.
Those who honour the ghosts
go to the ghosts.
Those who sacrifice to me
go to me.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 107-8
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discourse 10 Quotes

Among rulers with the sceptre,
I am authority.
Among those who want victory,
I am wise conduct.
Among hidden things,
I am silence.
Among the wise,
I am wisdom.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:
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Understand
that whatever
powerful being there is—
be it splendid,
or filled with vigour,
it comes to be
from only a small part
of my brilliance.

But what, Arjuna,
is the purpose
of this abundant wisdom
to you?
I stand, holding up
this entire world
with only a small part
of my self.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discourse 11 Quotes

Your Majesty,
when he said this,
Hari, the great lord
of yoga,
showed to Arjuna
the Son of Pritha
his highest,
most powerful, form.

Related Characters: Sanjaya (speaker), Arjuna, Krishna, Dhritarashtra
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:
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I see you everywhere:
arms, bellies, faces, eyes—
form without end.
I see you,
Lord of the Universe,
Manifold One,
you have no beginning,
no middle, no end.

Related Characters: Arjuna (speaker), Krishna
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:
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The form of mine
which you have seen
is hard to discern.
Even the gods
are eternally
wanting to have
the sacred sight
of this form.

Neither through Veda,
nor heated discipline,
nor gift,
nor sacrifice,
is it possible
to see me
in the way
you have seen me.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 137-8
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discourse 14 Quotes

Blameless One,
there sattva is
stainless
and brings light;
it binds by connection
to joy,
and by connection
to wisdom.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 156
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discourse 15 Quotes

The form of the ashvattha
is not to be discerned here,
neither its end,
nor beginning,
nor ongoing life.
When its fully grown roots
are cut by the strong axe
of non-clinging,

then that place must be sought
where, once they have gone,
they will not turn back again,
and they think,
‘I take refuge
in the first spirit
where activity flowed forth
in ancient times.’

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Related Symbols: Ashvattha Tree
Page Number: 163-4
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discourse 17 Quotes

Om tat sat.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discourse 18 Quotes

The poets know
that the leaving aside
of action based on desire
is renunciation;
and the clear-sighted see
that the giving up
of all fruit of such action
is called letting go.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:
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So this wisdom
told to you by me
is more hidden
than the hidden;
and when you have
pondered this
completely,
then do as you like.

Even further,
listen to
my highest word:
the most hidden of all;
you are greatly
loved by me,
so I will speak
for your benefit.

Devoted to me,
keep your mind intent on me,
give honour to me,
and sacrifice to me.
In this way, you will
truly go to me,
I promise,
for you are my beloved.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 201
Explanation and Analysis:
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One who learns
and recites
this conversation of ours
so filled with dharma
would sacrifice to me
with the sacrifice of knowledge.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 203
Explanation and Analysis:
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Krishna Character Timeline in The Bhagavad Gita

The timeline below shows where the character Krishna appears in The Bhagavad Gita. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Discourse 1
Detachment and Dharma Theme Icon
Forms of Worship Theme Icon
...his conch horn, leading his army’s instruments to create an uproar until, from their chariot, Krishna and Arjuna blow their own conch horns, followed by Bhima, the other Pandava brothers, and... (full context)
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As he raises his bow, Arjuna asks Krishna to bring their chariot between the armies. Arjuna gazes out on the Kauravas, asks whom... (full context)
Discourse 2
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As Arjuna weeps on the battlefield, Krishna calls him ignoble, disgraceful, and cowardly; Arjuna wonders how he can bring himself to kill... (full context)
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Krishna, the Absolute, and Human Knowledge Theme Icon
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Sanjaya explains that, as Arjuna refused to fight, Krishna grew quiet before apparently starting to laugh and then telling Arjuna that, although his words... (full context)
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Krishna, the Absolute, and Human Knowledge Theme Icon
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Accordingly, Krishna tells Arjuna to fight; the self does not kill or get killed because it is... (full context)
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The kshatriya warrior’s dharma, Krishna continues, lies precisely in battle, so Arjuna will harm his dharma by refusing to fight.... (full context)
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Krishna explains that he has told Arjuna his insights in terms of samkhya and will now... (full context)
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Krishna explains that Arjuna must free himself from the three gunas, to which the Vedas belong,... (full context)
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Action, Krishna continues, “is far inferior / to the yoga of insight.” People motivated by the fruits... (full context)
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Arjuna asks Krishna what language a wise meditator with unwavering thoughts could have—how could they “speak? Or sit?... (full context)
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By dwelling on the senses, Krishna explains, one begins clinging to worldly things, which leads to desire, and consequently to anger,... (full context)
Discourse 3
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Arjuna asks how Krishna can consider insight higher than action yet still encourage him to fight, which seems contradictory.... (full context)
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Krishna explains that he has always taught a “double foundation”: the yoga of knowledge and the... (full context)
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...gain fulfillment and set a standard for others. If he himself decided not to act, Krishna suggests, humankind would follow him, the worlds “would sink down,” and humans would be destroyed. (full context)
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According to Krishna, The wise act because they want to “keep the world / collected together” rather than... (full context)
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Arjuna asks why people can be compelled to do harm, and Krishna blames rajas, the guna of passion. Rajas conceals wisdom like smoke conceals fire or dust... (full context)
Discourse 4
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Krishna says that he explained yoga to the sun-god, who then told the first human, Manu,... (full context)
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Arjuna asks how Krishna told the sun-god, who was purportedly born earlier, but Krishna insists that he has had... (full context)
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Yet, by acting with insight, the ancients sought freedom, as Krishna implores Arjuna to do now. While some poets are confused by the difference between action... (full context)
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Krishna declares that Brahman offers Brahman to Brahman and thereby attains Brahman. While some sacrifice to... (full context)
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...and through such discourse, Arjuna can learn to see “all beings” in himself and in Krishna. Even the most evil people can be cured through wisdom, for “the fire of wisdom... (full context)
Discourse 5
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Arjuna notes that Krishna praises both renouncing action and yoga, which seem to be opposites. He asks which is... (full context)
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...all beings” and achieve a release from all emotions. The sage reaches peace in knowing Krishna, the “great lord of the whole world” who holds everything in his heart. (full context)
Discourse 6
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Krishna repeats that a person who acts properly without caring about “the fruit of action” practices... (full context)
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...asks how anyone can find a “stable foundation” for yoga since the mind always wanders. Krishna explains that, while this is difficult, practice, restraint, and dedication can make it possible. (full context)
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...happens to one who fails to fulfill yoga, for they must be lost, and implores Krishna to eradicate all his doubt, for no one else can do so. Krishna explains that... (full context)
Discourse 7
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Krishna again implores Arjuna to follow yoga and take refuge in him, which will lead Arjuna... (full context)
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Krishna explains that he comprises everything, including the waters’ taste and the sound of “Om,” the... (full context)
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Evil people are stuck on a demonic path and lack wisdom, which Krishna’s creative power revokes. Four kinds of good people—the afflicted, knowledge-seekers, those with a goal, and... (full context)
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Many do not realize that Krishna is formless, and “the confused world” cannot see him, “unborn, / and imperishable” and aware... (full context)
Discourse 8
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Arjuna asks Krishna a series of questions. He first asks what Brahman, the highest self, and action are.... (full context)
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...to “whatever state of being / one remembers” in that moment, so by always remembering Krishna, even during battle, Arjuna can join him. By practicing yoga and meditating on the formless... (full context)
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One who does not stray should have no trouble joining Krishna instead of being reborn in another body, “that impermanent / place of sorrow.” Souls cycle... (full context)
Discourse 9
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Krishna promises to tell Arjuna a “most hidden secret” because he “does not sneer”: knowledge and... (full context)
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Krishna’s formless shape “is woven through” the world, and everything dwells in him, but not he... (full context)
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Great, divine people honor Krishna “as the imperishable one, / the beginning of all beings” with continual praise, devotion, and... (full context)
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Krishna reminds Arjuna that wise, pure, and sacrificial people who follow the Vedas will reach heaven... (full context)
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Krishna does not love or hate beings, but those who honor him are within him, and... (full context)
Discourse 10
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Krishna tells Arjuna that he loves him and desires his well-being. Nobody, even among the gods... (full context)
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Arjuna acknowledges Krishna as the highest being, an eternal, divine spirit, and notes that the sages who wrote... (full context)
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Krishna promises to tell Arjuna about his forms, but only the primary ones, since his other... (full context)
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Krishna continues to elaborate his forms, declaring himself the “first, last / and middle” of creations,... (full context)
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Krishna explains that his forms are endless but he has demonstrated his power’s enormity through these... (full context)
Discourse 11
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Arjuna declares that Krishna has told him “the highest mystery” of the “highest self” and banished his confusion. He... (full context)
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Krishna proclaims that he will show Arjuna his thousand different divine forms, in various colors and... (full context)
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Sanjaya explains to Dhritarashtra that Krishna then showed Arjuna his highest form, with numerous eyes, mouths, weapons, garments, and scents. Krishna... (full context)
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Arjuna saw the whole world together, unified yet divided in various ways, and bowed before Krishna in awe, proclaiming that he could see all the gods and beings in him, including... (full context)
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Arjuna saw Krishna filling the realm separating the earth from the sky, causing the world to tremble, as... (full context)
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Arjuna saw all of the Bharatas, the Pandavas and Kauravas alike, enter Krishna’s mouth and get crushed between his teeth, like river currents running toward the ocean or... (full context)
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Krishna proclaims that he has come “to destroy the worlds,” for the Pandavas and Kauravas will... (full context)
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Sanjaya explains that Arjuna again bowed before Krishna, proclaiming that everyone rightly honors and fears him. He declares Krishna the highest, endless, all-knowing,... (full context)
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Krishna explains that he showed his highest form for the first time out of favor to... (full context)
Discourse 12
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...is wiser: those who always practice yoga and devote themselves to the personal form of Krishna or those who honor his formless, imperishable manifestation. Krishna responds that those who practice yoga... (full context)
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Krishna explains that all who think constantly and singularly about him with the proper insight will... (full context)
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...sense of self and ownership, and the distinction between pain and pleasure is dear to Krishna; so is the controlled and insightful yoga practitioner who devotes themselves to him, as is... (full context)
Discourse 13
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Arjuna asks Krishna about the body and spirit as objects of wisdom. Krishna says that beings can grasp... (full context)
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Krishna briefly describes the sacred ground: it includes “awareness of ‘I,’” insight, the senses and their... (full context)
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Krishna explains that a devotee who understands the sacred ground, wisdom, and wisdom’s object can become... (full context)
Discourse 14
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Krishna promises to again tell Arjuna the highest wisdom, which brought the sages fulfillment and the... (full context)
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...action is comprised of the gunas yet realizes their limits, it knows it has reached Krishna’s own being and achieved eternal freedom from pain and the cycle of death and rebirth. (full context)
Krishna, the Absolute, and Human Knowledge Theme Icon
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...what marks one who has transcended the gunas and how one goes about doing so. Krishna responds that one must relinquish hatred and desire for confusion, exertion, and brightness; one must... (full context)
Discourse 15
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The sun, the moon, and flame do not light up Krishna’s “highest dwelling place.” The eternal selves “in the realm of the living” are a fragment... (full context)
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Krishna notes that the sun’s brilliance continually lights up the world, even if from the moon’s... (full context)
Discourse 16
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Krishna elaborates some crucial characteristics that exemplify one “born / to the divine condition”: truthfulness, fearlessness,... (full context)
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There are divine and demonic beings, but Krishna has not yet explicated the latter. “Demonic men” do not comprehend effort or purity, goodness... (full context)
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Krishna ensures that the demonic are reincarnated in demonic wombs. The most sinister vices are greed,... (full context)
Discourse 17
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Arjuna asks Krishna what happens to those who abandon Vedic law but nevertheless perform sacrifices with a trust... (full context)
Discourse 18
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Arjuna asks about what renunciation and letting go truly entail. Krishna explains that renunciation is “the leaving aside / of action based on desire” while letting... (full context)
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Krishna thinks these actions are important purifiers and must be undertaken, but only after one learns... (full context)
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...leads to a tranquility, unity with Brahman, and devotion, which engender a close knowledge of Krishna’s extent, which in turn allows people to enter him and find “an imperishable, / unchanging... (full context)
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By investing in a “sense of ‘mine’” and deciding not to fight, Krishna says, Arjuna dooms himself to death and loses all hope of reaching Brahman. Krishna insists... (full context)
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Krishna again tells Arjuna to take refuge in the wisdom he has learned, to ponder it,... (full context)
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Krishna tells Arjuna to never tell these truths to one who lacks discipline or devotion, or... (full context)
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Krishna asks whether Arjuna has listened “with focused thought” and overcome his “ignorance / and confusion.”... (full context)
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...very eyes; he continues to rejoice as he continually remembers the dialogue between Arjuna and Krishna, as well as the latter’s incredible form. He suggests that, wherever Krishna and Arjuna go,... (full context)