Is Love Itself the Overriding Theme of the Bhagavad Gita? (GN #15)

To some prominent Gita scholars, like Graham Schweig, love itself is the overriding theme of the Gita—two way love, we love the world and the world loves us back.

My own feelings are well expressed in my original review of Mitchell:

Falling Head-Over-Heals In Love with the Universe

For those of you who have always wanted to absorb the spectacular wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita, but have found it difficult, I highly recommend Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation by Stephen Mitchell…

The Bhagavad Gita is quite literally about falling in love with the indescribable wonder of the universe, that is to say, God. These two are synonymous in the Gita. (Believe it or not, the text itself says that you can approach God as either an unfathomable cosmic life-force or as an intimate personal diety. Either leads you to the same boundless love and joy.)

The Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutra are two of the most important ancient texts of Yoga. They could not be more different. The Yoga Sutra is mostly secular in nature, and mentions God only briefly and perfunctorily. The Bhagavad Gita, in contrast, is literally “The Song of the Beloved Lord”, and most of the text is the voice of the awesome life-force of the universe itself.

The Yoga Sutra is a cookbook for achieving inner peace. The Bhagavad Gita, in contrast, won’t settle for anything less than ecstatic union with the divine. Put them together and you have the astounding whole of Yoga philosophy in two relatively short texts.

Try Mitchell’s version of the Bhagavad Gita. You’ll be glad you did.

Last but not least, here are the most relevant passages from the Gita itself (although, keep in mind that Schweig and Ghosh would say the entire text  is about infinite love):

(For those new to Gita in a Nutshell, the voice speaking here is the infinitely wondrous universe itself, what some refer to as the “Unfathomable Life Force of the Universe” and others choose to call “God”. In the Gita these are one and the same. See GN #2.)

However men try to reach me.
I return their love with my love;
whatever path they may travel,
it leads to me in the end.
(BG 4.11)

For men whose minds are forever
focused on me, whose love
has grown deep through meditation,
I am easy to reach, Arjuna.   (BG 8.14)


But the truly wise , Arjuna,
who dive deep into themselves,
fearless, one-pointed, know me
as the inexhaustible source.

Always chanting my praise,
steadfast in their devotion,
they make their lives an unending
hymn to my endless love.   (BG 9.13-14)


I am the beginning and the end,
origin and dissolution,
refuge, home, true lover,
womb and imperishable seed.   (BG 9.18)

He who can understand
the glory of my manifestations
is forever united with me
by his unwavering love.
(BG 10.7)

He who acts for my sake,
loving me, free of attachment,
with benevolence toward all beings,
will come to me in the end.   (BG 11.55)

Those who love and revere me
with unwavering faith, always
centering their minds on me-
they are the most perfect in yoga.   (BG 12.2)


He who, devoted to me,
is beyond joy and hatred, grief
and desire, good and bad fortune-
that man is the one I love best.

The same to both friend and foe,
the same in disgrace or honor,
suffering or joy, untroubled,
indifferent to praise and blame,

quiet, filled with devotion,
content with whatever happens,
at home wherever he is-
that man is the the one I love best.

Those who realize the essence
of duty, who trust me completely
and surrender their lives to me –
I love them with very great love.   (BG 12.17-20)


If you focus your mind on me
and revere me with all your heart,
you will surely come to me; this
I promise, because I love you.
(BG 18.65)


(Thanks to Jennifer Cusano for transcribing the stanzas from the Gita and moderating the discussion.)

17 replies on “Is Love Itself the Overriding Theme of the Bhagavad Gita? (GN #15)”

The Yoga Sutra as a cookbook, brilliant Bob!

I am the beginning and the end,
origin and dissolution,
refuge, home, true lover,
womb and imperishable seed. (BG 9.18)

I love this one so much. As a Christian, this one just speaks. It must remind me of Jesus as described in Revelation.

"Then he said to me, "It has happened! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will freely give a drink from the spring of the water of life to the one who is thirsty." Rev. 21:6

Thanks Bob for the passages and the review and video.

Although I guess one might call me a jnani yogi or advaitan, I have recently found great comfort and revelation, through bhakti. I think this quote from Chapter 7 is instructive with commentary from the Gita Society:

Among them the enlightened one, who is ever united with
Me and whose devotion is exclusive, is the best. Because I
am very dear to the enlightened and the enlightened is
very dear to Me. (7.17)

Knowledge of God without devotion is a dry speculation, and devotion without knowledge of God is
blind faith. The fruit of enlightenment grows on the tree of Selfknowledge
only when the tree receives the water of pure devotion.
The enlightened devotee does not want anything from God and is
considered the best of all devotees.

In other words, "The fish in the water, is not thirsty." Thanks, Bob.

Excellent insights, William. I like the idea of Different Gita Strokes for Different Gita Folks, which I think is inherent in the Gita, and one of the reasons for its longevity. Each type of Yoga can claim it as its own.

Speaking of fish, since you mentioned it, see Gita for a Fish! I recently added the second to last stanza to incorporate the different types of Yoga in the Gita.

Bob W. Yoga Editor
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Again, I love how you pull these together …. I especially love:
"He who can understand
the glory of my manifestations
is forever united with me
by his unwavering love. (BG 10.7)"
thank you again!

Thank you for sharing my video here Bob, and for focusing on the love in the Bhagavad Gita. Interestingly, unlike in the English language, in which we only have one word for love, in Sanskrit (the language the Gita was written in), we find a multitude of words for love! They say that language reflects the consciousness of the culture it emerged from. From this we can derive that Sanskrit emerged from a civilization in which the experience and analysis, categorization and exploration of LOVE was indeed very CENTRAL to existence. Likewise, certain Gita verses do indeed point towards LOVE as a central theme of the whole text. The theme is SO striking that even contemporary "translators" of the GIta, like your favorite Stephen Mitchell, use the English word "love" when translating verses that don't contain any of the numerous Sanskrit words for love in the original Sanskrit form! (like verse 10.7, which you list above). Perhaps that just goes to show how overwhelming the "love theme" can be! Of course, that particular verse does have the word YOGA in it, and yoga in the deepest sense is all about love. That is a secret many have yet to discover. Exploring the many ways of yoga and how they manifest around us, and within us, is indeed as delightful as "falling in love", as you say. Falling in love with life, with love itself, and with the source of these two: Divinity! I will always encourage any movement in that direction. Thank you for sharing Bob.

Hi, Catherine. It's an honor to have you here. You and Graham have been two of my most important Yoga influences.
For those of you not familiar with Catherine Ghosh, we are blessed with several wonderful articles right here on Elephant:
Are you Hiding Depression behind your Yoga? ~ Catherine Ghosh
Was God a Victim of Child Abuse? ~ by Special Guest Catherine Ghosh
The Dance of Divine Love: An Interview with Catherine Ghosh.

Bob W. Yoga Editor
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