Bhagavad Gita is the message of dharma, the righteous living, delivered directly by the Supreme Lord, in his incarnation as Krishna. The very first shloka of this book of self-discovery begins with the word dharmakshetra, the field of righteousness. The world is a battlefield in which a struggle between the conflicting forces of good and evil is taking place in the conscience of man, every moment. One has to perpetually keep a vigil against the shadows of darkness.
Krishna has shown the path of dharma, through his discourse addressed to Arjuna, to whole of the mankind. He has explained not only what dharma is but also what dharma is not. Krishna has also assured the mankind that whenever there is a decline in dharma, and adharma starts rising ; He would then appear on earth for protecting the virtuous, annihilating the wicked and re-establishing dharma. In the strife between dharma and adharma, between the virtue and the vice, God always works on the side of virtue.
Dharma is the essential nature of a being that determines its pattern of behaviour. So long as one is true to his nature and his conduct is in accordance with it, one is acting in the right way. Deviation from one’s inherent nature is adharma. Harmony of the world is derived from the conformity of all beings to their respective natures. Non-conformity breeds disharmony. A harmonious equilibrium in life can be maintained only by keeping the world going on the lines of righteousness.
The Sanskrit word dharma has often been translated in English as religion. But this interpretation of the term is quite misleading as dharma is not the same thing as religion. Whereas the religion refers to a set of beliefs or some specific forms of worship ; dharma denotes the innate characteristics of things and beings. Whereas the religion belongs to a particular community, principles of dharma relate to the mankind as a whole. Dharma is not something which is limited to one particular facet of life. It rather concerns itself with harmonious fulfilment of all the aspects of existence. It covers human life in its entirety. Dharma is that order which maintains harmony and stability of the universe.
Bhagavad Gita has revealed the real meaning and purpose of life. It has shown the right path to every human being. One is confronted with multiple dilemmas, from time to time, represented symbolically by the despondency of Arjuna who when faced with a difficult choice got confused and stricken with grief. Unable to decide as to what was right and what was wrong, he sought guidance from his teacher, the Divine who was with him as his charioteer. In the same manner, in any difficult situation, one can turn within and seek illumination from the consciousness of the Divine, dwelling in one’s own heart. The Divine then fills one’s whole being with wisdom. As a result, one gains afresh an integral and comprehensive awareness. The awareness so gained enables one to tread the path of dharma and thus lead a life of fulfilment and contentment.
Bhagavad Gita is the book of inward journey into the realm of God. It has explained in detail as to what is the objective of life. It has been stated that essential nature of every human being is his soul. This individual soul, the self, is distinct from his mind-body complex. The self is an integral part of the Divine. One can free himself from the troubles associated with the phenomenal world by gaining true knowledge of the self. He is then restored to his spiritual nature.
Bhagavad Gita has stressed upon unselfish performance of work. It has propagated that one should never shirk his duty. One should work in conformity with his nature (the gunas) and fulfil his responsibilities without worrying about the results. One can overcome the day-to-day anxieties and frustrations by working without the sense of doership and offering his deeds to Ishvara in the true spirit of renunciation.
Another practical way of achieving spiritual perfection is bhakti, worship of God. When a relationship of love and trust is established with the Divine, one experiences oneness with Him and His creation. The life of a true devotee is a celebration in itself.
True dharma calls for leading not an egocentric life i.e. a life characterised by fear, anger, greed, lust, envy etc. but a divine-centered life i.e. a life of humility, integrity, patience, uprightness, non-violence etc. Whereas an egocentric living is marred by incessant desires and constant suffering, a spiritual life is a life of fulfilment. When one develops wisdom of the soul, he gains inward strength to fight against his own vices.
In the end, it has been declared (shloka 18.78) that wherever there is Krishna and wherever there is Arjuna ; there shall surely be fortune, victory, welfare and morality. Thus, by following the teachings of the Supreme Lord sincerely, man can not only attain spiritual perfection but also achieve great worldly prosperity ; because there is no opposition between the spiritual life and the mundane existence.
To conclude, aim of dharma is the perfection of man. It helps man to realise his true nature and to become what he is potentially destined to be. It enables one to ascend from grief-stricken mortal existence to joyous and blissful life.
Improvement in the individual nature, in turn, brings social betterment.