Bhagavad Gita
compiled by Vyasa
500-200 BCE

One of the most important works in the history of literature and philosophy, the Bhagavad Gita is a Hindu text of 700 verses that offers wisdom for living beyond the Hindu tradition and intended to speak to humankind as a whole.

The Gita is structured as a conversation  between the Lord Krishna and the Prince Arjuna, the former providing guidance and insight to the latter, and revealing to him Krishna’s status as the supreme deity. Compiled somewhere between 500 and 200 BCE (though some recent analysis place the date later, in the first century AD), the conversation it details – the teaching of Krishna to Arjuna – is said to have taken place some 3000 years BCE.  It introduces the notion of Yoga – a serenity and a wholistic outlook which allows for the active living of human life while remaining mindful of and devoted to the divine. Different aspects of the yoga are articulated and explanations provided for a wide range of spiritual beliefs, ritual practices, and philosophical approaches to human life and human action.

The influence of the Bhagavad Gita goes far beyond the boundaries of Hindu religious tradition, being felt widely in the western canon as well. Such diverse western thinkers and writers as Aldous Huxley, Herman Hesse, Albert Einstein, and Ralph Waldo Emerson have named it a major influence. Within the Indian tradition it has served as unifying text among a diverse range of Hindu traditions and was a foundation for the spiritual practice of Gandhi and his work to build the Indian independence movement.