The Bhagavad Gita (Song of the Blessed One) narrates the parable of two clans that are fighting. Arjuna, a warrior, feels torn. He is related to both families and would rather not take sides. The god Krishna comes to help him. The poem consists of their dialogue. Krishna tells Arjuna what one should know in order to live with no angst, and this is the identity between Atman and Brahman.
Atman is the self while Brahman is the whole, the universal consciousness, the one binding unity behind the diversity in all that exists in the universe, the force which sustains everything. The teaching is thus: make of life your life. You and the whole are one and the same thing. A selfish mistake is to see yourself as separated from the rest and to feel isolated in your own interests. Arjuna has to follow his karma and fight for the good family, even if this means killing the evil people of his other family.
There is one fate for all: if now you are the hunter, one day you will be the prey and your blood will be the same as the one of your prey. You are part of one big happening. You must overcome your selfishness and understand the identity between Atman and Brahman in order to achieve liberation (Moksha) from Samsara (the repetitive cycle of births through reincarnation) and reach Nirvana (the state of wholeness you reach when freed from Samsara). There are two ways to reach Nirvana:
- Yoga (practical way) is a discipline of body control through certain positions and breath control. It is aimed at relaxation, which is not an aim in itself, but is in turn aimed at concentration and self-reflection (meditation is a form of yoga)
- Samkhya (theoretical way) is aimed at achieving truth through study—“Samkhya” is the equivalent of “philosophy.” The concept of identity of Atman and Brahman is not present in Christianity, where the subject retains their self-hood. The Hindu tradition views good and evil as belonging to the world of appearances (this idea will deeply inspire the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer), which is the world experienced by the self. Good and evil hence cease to have meaning once the individual consciousness has reached enlightenment by embracing universal consciousness.