Birth of the Gita
To everyone's surprise, in this war for righteousness, in the beginning Arjuna, the great and brave warrior, finds himself suddenly overwhelmed with the feeling of mental depression, grief, and fear when he realizes that he has to fight with his close relatives - brothers, uncles, and Teachers - present as his enemies. Arjuna is greatly disturbed about the outcome of the war; destruction and death that was sure to follow. He thought it 'prudent' to retire to forest rather than kill his own near and dear ones.
It is such a dramatic setting that we get the start to Bhagavad-Gita. The brave warrior Arjuna, with Lord Krishna as his charioteer, is standing between the two arrayed armies ready to start the battle, and then Arjuna lays down his arms to retire at the back of his chariot! Trembling with nervousness and anxiety, unable to lift his mighty bow -Gandiva - he pleads to escape from the consequences of the war. His emotions of love for the near ones, his concepts of duty and Dharma, all appear to be confusing to himself. He is unable to determine the correct approach in this piquant situation of grave urgency and emergency.
Therefore he turns to Sri Krishna, his friend, his teacher, and his all: "How can I kill them? Will it not be proper to give up this whole kingdom, smacking of blood of my own relatives, and retire to forest in peace? O Krishna, I am unable to decide my further plan of action. I surrender myself at your holy feet. O Lord, please guide me through this difficult uncertainty as I am your disciple and you are my Teacher."
Sri Krishna Tells The Gita
Thus, when Arjuna surrenders himself at the feet of the Lord, Sri Krishna says, "O Brave one, why this infatuation at this hour! Why have you given yourself to this unmanliness and cowardice? Do not think that by your high talk of 'renunciation and retiring to forest' people would adore you and call you noble and intelligent. On the contrary, for centuries to come, blame would be put on you for running away from the battle field. Generation after generation, people would laugh at you and make fun of your unmanly flight."
Srimad Bhagavad-Gita, Chapter II, verse 2 and 3:
"In such a crisis, whence comes upon thee, O Arjuna, this dejection, un-Aryan-like, disgraceful, and contrary to the attainment of heaven?"
"Yield not to unmanliness, O son of Kunti! Ill doth it become thee. Cast off this mean faint-heartedness and arise, O scorcher of thine enemies."
On listening to this rebuke, Arjuna steadies himself, and further dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna follows in subsequent chapters. Thus the Gita consists of eighteen - 18 - chapters and a total of 700 verses contained in them. (In fact, Gita consists of a dialogue between our lower self and the Higher Self.)
Arjuna puts many question about the goal in life, aim of human birth, about the nature of Duty and Work, about the Self - Atman - and about the four Yogas viz. Jnana-Yoga, Raja-Yoga, Karma-Yoga, and Bhakti-Yoga.
Chapters II through IX deal with Karma-Yoga - Yoga of selfless action - vis-a-vis Jnana-Yoga. Sri Krishna exhorts Arjuna to fight the war without thinking of the consequences. "Your duty is, and you have right only, to fight; you do not have control over the outcome", says the Lord. The duty of a person as a Karma Yogi is to do the allotted work as worship without expecting any definite fruits thereof. Selfless work done with full heart and perfection is the best way for the worldly person to realize his inner Self. In fact efficiency in work itself is a Yoga!