|The Gita addresses the discord between the senses and the intuition of cosmic order. It speaks of the Yoga of equanimity, a detached outlook. The term Yoga
covers a wide range of meanings, but in the context of the Bhagavad Gita, describes a unified outlook, serenity of mind, skill in action and the ability to stay attuned to the glory of the Self (Atman) and the Supreme Being (Bhagavan). According to Krishna, the root of all suffering and discord is the agitation of the mind caused by selfish desire. The only way to douse the flame of desire is by simultaneously stilling the mind through self-discipline and engaging oneself in a higher form of activity.
However, abstinence from action is regarded as being just as detrimental as extreme indulgence. According to the Bhagavad Gita, the goal of life is to free the mind and intellect from their complexities and to focus them on the glory of the Self by dedicating one's actions to the divine. This goal can be achieved through the Yogas of meditation, action, devotion and knowledge. In the sixth chapter, Krishna describes the best Yogi as one who constantly meditates upon him - which is understood to mean thinking of either Krishna personally, or the supreme Brahman - with different schools of Hindu thought giving varying points of view.
Krishna summarizes the Yogas through eighteen chapters. Three yogas in particular have been emphasized by commenters:
- Bhakti Yoga or Devotion,
- Karma Yoga or Selfless Action
- Jnana Yoga or Self Transcending Knowledge
While each path differs, their fundamental goal is the same - to realize Brahman (the Divine Essence) as being the ultimate truth upon which our material universe rests, that the body is temporal, and that the Supreme Soul (Paramatman) is infinite. Yoga's aim (moksha) is to escape from the cycle of reincarnation through realization of the ultimate reality. There are three stages to self-realization enunciated from the Bhagavad Gita:
- 1. Brahman - The impersonal universal energy
- 2. Paramatma - The Supreme Soul sitting in the heart of every living entity.
- 3. Bhagavan - God as a personality, with a transcendental form.
 Major themes of yoga
The influential commentator Madhusudana Sarasvati (b. circa 1490) divided the Gita's eighteen chapters into three sections, each of six chapters. According to his method of division the first six chapters deal with Karma Yoga, which is the means to the final goal, and the last six deal with the goal itself, which he says is Knowledge (Jnana). The middle six deal with bhakti. Swami Gambhiranda characterizes Madhusudana Sarasvati's system as a successive approach in which Karma yoga leads to Bhakti yoga, which in turn leads to Jnana yoga. This system has been adopted by later commentators and rejected by others.
 Karma Yoga
Karma Yoga is essentially Acting, or doing one's duties in life as per his/her dharma, or duty, without concern of results - a sort of constant sacrifice of action to the Supreme. It is action done without thought of gain. In a more modern interpretation, it can be viewed as duty bound deeds done without letting the nature of the result affecting one's actions. It is said that the results can be of three types - as aimed for, opposite of what is aimed for, or a mixture of these. If one can perform his duties (as prescribed in the Vedas) without anticipation of the result of his actions, he is bound to succeed. It includes, but is not limited to, dedication of one's chosen profession and its perfection to God. It is also visible in community and social service, since they are inherently done without thought of personal gain.
Krishna advocates 'Nishkam Karma Yoga' (the Yoga of Selfless Action) as the ideal path to realize the Truth. Allocated work done without expectations, motives, or thinking about its outcomes tends to purify one's mind and gradually makes an individual fit to see the value of reason and the benefits of renouncing the work itself. These concepts are vividly described in the following verses:
- "To action alone hast thou a right and never at all to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be thy motive; neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction"
- "Fixed in yoga, do thy work, O Winner of wealth (Arjuna), abandoning attachment, with an even mind in success and failure, for evenness of mind is called yoga"
- "With the body, with the mind, with the intellect, even merely with the senses, the Yogis perform action toward self-purification, having abandoned attachment. He who is disciplined in Yoga, having abandoned the fruit of action, attains steady peace..."
In order to achieve true liberation, it is important to control all mental desires and tendencies to enjoy sense pleasures. The following verses illustrate this:
- "When a man dwells in his mind on the object of sense, attachment to them is produced. From attachment springs desire and from desire comes anger."
- "From anger arises bewilderment, from bewilderment loss of memory; and from loss of memory, the destruction of intelligence and from the destruction of intelligence he perishes"
 Bhakti Yoga
According to Catherine Cornille, Associate Professor of Theology at Boston College, "The text [of the Gita] offers a survey of the different possible disciplines for attaining liberation through knowledge (jnana), ritual action (karma) and loving devotion to God (bhakti), focusing on the latter as both the easiest and the highest path to salvation."
In the introduction to Chapter Seven of the Gita, bhakti is summed up as a mode of worship which consists of unceasing and loving remembrance of God. As M. R. Sampatkumaran explains in his overview of Ramanuja's commentary on the Gita, "The point is that mere knowledge of the scriptures cannot lead to final release. Devotion, meditation and worship are essential."
As Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita:
- "And of all yogins, he who full of faith worships Me, with his inner self abiding in Me, him, I hold to be the most attuned (to me in Yoga)."
- "After attaining Me, the great souls do not incur rebirth in this miserable transitory world, because they have attained the highest perfection."
- "... those who, renouncing all actions in Me, and regarding Me as the Supreme, worship Me... For those whose thoughts have entered into Me, I am soon the deliverer from the ocean of death and transmigration, Arjuna. Keep your mind on Me alone, your intellect on Me. Thus you shall dwell in Me hereafter."
- "And he who serves Me with the yoga of unswerving devotion, transcending these qualities [binary opposites, like good and evil, pain and pleasure] is ready for liberation in Brahman."
- "Fix your mind on Me, be devoted to Me, offer service to Me, bow down to Me, and you shall certainly reach Me. I promise you because you are My very dear friend."
- "Setting aside all meritorious deeds (Dharma), just surrender completely to My will (with firm faith and loving contemplation). I shall liberate you from all sins. Do not fear."
 Jnana Yoga
Jnana Yoga is a process of learning to discriminate between what is real and what is not, what is eternal and what is not. Through a steady advancement in realization of the distinction between Real and the Unreal, the Eternal and the Temporal, one develops into a Jnana Yogi. This is essentially a path of knowledge and discrimination in regards to the difference between the immortal soul (atman) and the body.
In the second chapter, Krishna’s counsel begins with a succinct exposition of Jnana Yoga. Krishna argues that there is no reason to lament for those who are about to be killed in battle, because never was there a time when they were not, nor will there be a time when they will cease to be. Krishna explains that the self (atman) of all these warriors is indestructible. Fire cannot burn it, water cannot wet it, and wind cannot dry it. It is this Self that passes from body to another body like a person taking worn out clothing and putting on new ones. Krishna’s counsel is intended to alleviate the anxiety that Arjuna feels seeing a battle between two great armies about to commence. However, Arjuna is not an intellectual. He is a warrior, a man of action, for whom the path of action, Karma Yoga, is more appropriate.
- "When a sensible man ceases to see different identities due to different material bodies and he sees how beings are expanded everywhere, he attains to the Brahman conception."
- "Those who see with eyes of knowledge the difference between the body and the knower of the body, and can also understand the process of liberation from bondage in material nature, attain to the supreme goal."
 Eighteen Yogas
In Sanskrit editions of the Gita, the Sanskrit text includes a traditional chapter title naming each chapter as a particular form of yoga. These chapter titles do not appear in the Sanskrit text of the Mahabharata. Since there are eighteen chapters, there are therefore eighteen yogas mentioned, as explained in this quotation from Swami Chidbhavananda:
All the eighteen chapters in the Gita are designated, each as a type of yoga. The function of the yoga is to train the body and the mind.... The first chapter in the Gita is designated as system of yoga. It is called Arjuna Vishada Yogam - Yoga of Arjuna's Dejection.
In Sanskrit editions, these eighteen chapter titles all use the word yoga, but in English translations the word yoga may not appear. For example, the Sanskrit title of Chapter 1 as given in Swami Sivananda's bilingual edition is arjunaviṣādayogaḥ which he translates as "The Yoga of the Despondency of Arjuna". Swami Tapasyananda's bilingual edition gives the same Sanskrit title, but translates it as "Arjuna's Spiritual Conversion Through Sorrow". The English-only translation by Radhakrishnan gives no Sanskrit, but the chapter title is translated as "The Hesitation and Despondency of Arjuna". Other English translations, such as that by Zaehner, omit these chapter titles entirely.
Swami Sivananda's commentary says that the eighteen chapters have a progressive order to their teachings, by which Krishna "pushed Arjuna up the ladder of Yoga from one rung to another." As Winthrop Sargeant explains,
In the model presented by the Bhagavad Gītā, every aspect of life is in fact a way of salvation.
 Dhyana Yoga
Dhyana Yoga is the stilling of the mind and body through meditating techniques, geared at realizing one's true nature. A very similar (if not identical) practice was later described by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras.
To practice yoga, one should go to a secluded place and should lay kusa grass on the ground and then cover it with a deerskin and a soft cloth. The seat should be neither too high nor too low and should be situated in a sacred place. The yogi should then sit on it very firmly and practice yoga to purify the heart by controlling his mind, senses and activities and fixing the mind on one point. One should hold one's body, neck and head erect in a straight line and stare steadily at the tip of the nose. Thus, with an unagitated, subdued mind, devoid of fear, completely free from sex life, one should meditate upon Me within the heart and make Me the ultimate goal of life. Thus practicing constant control of the body, mind and activities, the mystic transcendentalist, his mind regulated, attains to the kingdom of God [or the abode of Krishna] by cessation of material existence.
Note: Alternative versions of the above verse state that the top of the nose (between the eyebrows) should be meditated upon, rather than the tip.