The entire basis of the teaching of Sri Krishna is that when there is a dilemma in regard to action, when there is a dilemma with regard to the question of will, will to action, then that dilemma or that question cannot be answered without a very sound basis in ‘knowledge’. The questions of will can be resolved only on the basis of ‘knowledge’. And if the question is as wide as the whole human life, if there is a question of an action and a will, which is to be applied to a problem, which is all-embracing, then the answer also has to be based upon a knowledge which is all-embracing. And all-embracing questions of action can be answered only on the basis of the all-embracing knowledge: ‘will’ can only be properly guided by the knowledge. As long as there is confusion in knowledge, there will be confusion in will and therefore confusion in action and therefore failure in action.
It is towards the end of the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna uses two important words: kṛtsnavit, and kṛtsnakṛt; these are two very important words in the Bhagavad Gita. kṛtsna, means ‘whole, total’, vid, means ‘knowledge’: “one who knows the totality”, kṛtsnavid. And kṛtsnakṛt, kṛt is ‘actor’, ‘one who acts’; kṛtsna means ‘total’: “one who does totality of action on the basis of totality of knowledge”. Sri Krishna says that you cannot resolve such a problem as Arjuna has raised, unless he decides to embrace action totally, on the condition that he also attains to the totality of knowledge. And when these two are combined together, there is also a third inspiring force, and that is of total surrender, total giving. So, total surrender, total action, and total knowledge, when these three are fully combined and synthesised, then only the question that Arjuna had asked can be answered. This is the basic thesis of the whole Bhagavad Gita.
But, what is total knowledge, what is total action, what is total surrender, these are not easy to expound. And that too, to expound in a climate where current ideas were in conflict with each other; and there were various kinds of emphasises; some emphasising karmakāṇḍa, some jñānakāṇḍa, some renunciation, some Dharma, some action. This was the climate of that time. When certain ideas are current and when you want to put forth a totality of everything, then how will you start?
Sri Krishna starts with some of the basic ideas, you might say, ‘partial truths’ are first stated, then further developed; in the statement of ‘partial truths’, certain hints are given; latter on hints are worked out more fully. Then, there is a return again to the totality; and then a further development, further exposition takes place. This is the style of the whole of the Bhagavad Gita: the Bhagavad Gita has to be studied as a whole, as a full dialogue. And if you rest only upon one statement, and not take into account the other statements, then we will get only a ‘partial truth’. And this is the reason of why, there has been so many conflicting interpretations of the Bhagavad Gita. If you really want to have the totality, then you have to be very patient, and go through the whole thing step by step, at the same time, every time to take stock of what we understood and move forward.