Why The Bhagavadgita Was Originally Addressed To A Warrior?

Warrior in Mahabharata War

by Jayaram V

Notes: I have translated the Bhagavadgita twice. The first one was a loose translation. The second one was a word to word translation with a detailed commentary. The commentary is however different from what you will find here. In this section I will share with you my thoughts about the knowledge, philosophy and wisdom of the Bhagavadgita as I understand it from my perspective. Jayaram V


The Bhagavadgita actually forms part of the Mahabharata. It is not a separate scripture. Since it is set in the backdrop of a battlefield, it was originally meant for the warriors who had to participate frequently in wars and face the prospects of death.

One may argue that the scripture is meant for everyone. It is partially true because the message in the Gita is universal and can be applied to every situation in life. However, in a deeper sense it is meant mainly for the warriors whose life is uncertain and who has to constantly deal with the problem of life and death and yet not suffer from fear or cowardice.

Many original teachers of the Upanishads in ancient India were kings or warriors. They not only participated in debates and discussions about the metaphysical aspects of life, but also possessed deeper knowledge of the Self. At times that knowledge was unknown to many Brahmana scholars such as Uddalaka Aruni and his son Svetaketu.

Kings possessing the knowledge of the Upanishads was not coincidental. In ancient India none faced the problem of death more intensely than the warriors. Death was imminent for most people who participated in wars. They saw death closely as they engaged in duels with their enemies. It was difficult for a soldier to participate in frequent wars and not expect to eventually die. Frequent wars among neighboring kingdoms made their lives even riskier.

Under the circumstances, the warriors needed a certain mindset, philosophy and belief system to cope with the brutality and uncertainty of life. The Bhagavadgita, which is also considered an Upanishad, gives them the hope that if they perform their obligatory duties sincerely and selflessly, without expecting to win or lose and enjoy the fruits of their labor, they would attain liberation.

Warriors therefore lived dutifully and performed their duties, with detachment and the spirit of renunciation, whenever they were called to participate in wars. Megastanese, the Greek ambassador to the court of Chandragupta Maurya stated that the warriors enjoyed a lot of respect in society and people held them in great esteem for the services they rendered and the courage they displayed.

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