Bhagavad-Gita ("Song of the Lord"), a Sanskrit poem, consisting of 700 verses divided into 18 chapters, that is regarded by most Hindus as their most important textthe essence of their belief. Almost every significant Hindu philosopher has written a commentary on the Gita, and new translations and interpretations continue to appear.
The Gita, which is set in Book VI of the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata, is in the form of a dialogue between the incarnate god Krishna and a human hero, Prince Arjuna, on the holy field of Kurukshetra, before the great Mahabharata battle. Arjuna expresses his unwillingness to engage in a war against friends and relatives. Krishna's reply is an exhortation for Arjuna to do his own duty, that is, as a warrior, to fight and kill. Krishna then explains the nature of the soul and the proper way to reach God.
Incorporating many doctrines, such as the immortality of the individual soul (atman) and its identity with the supreme godhead (Brahman), the process of reincarnation, and the need to renounce the fruits of one's actions, the Gita draws heavily on the teachings of the Upanishads and the philosophy of Sankhya. Spirit (purusha) and matter or nature (prakriti), which is divided into the triple strands of goodness, passion, and darkness, are complementary. Krishna reconciles the opposing claims of sacrifice and worldly duty, on the one hand, with meditation and renunciation, on the other hand, through devotion to God. This god appears briefly in his terrifying doomsday form before turning back into the compassionate human form of Krishna.