Original Research

Understanding the moral and ethical dimensions of the Bhagavad Gita

Mathias Yuvan Shunmugam, Maniraj Sukdaven
Theologia Viatorum | Vol 48, No 1 | a223 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/tv.v48i1.223 | © 2024 Mathias Yuvan Shunmugam, Maniraj Sukdaven | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 September 2023 | Published: 13 January 2024

About the author(s)

Mathias Yuvan Shunmugam, Department of Philosophy, Practical and Systematic Theology, Faculty of Human Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Maniraj Sukdaven, Department of Religious Studies, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


In Hinduism, there is a distinction made between dharma and karma. Both are essential for the purpose of reaching moksha. Dharma (moral) is the cosmic law or moral principle that governs an individual’s conduct and Karma is the result of past, present and future actions. To achieve good karma (ethical), it is important to live according to dharma. Therefore, in terms of morality in Hinduism, there is an obligation to fulfil one’s destiny as prescribed by the cosmic principle. Karma, on the other hand, serves as the ethical principle in achieving this moral obligation. This distinction is observed in the dilemma, which is played out in the story of Krishna and Arjuna as expressed in the Bhagavad Gita.

Contribution: As a result, the contribution to understanding the morality of the Bhagavad Gita rests on Sri Krishna’s strong argument that an individual must set aside their own desires and aspire solely to perform actions that are aligned with the cosmic principle. This means that an individual has the moral obligation to perform those actions irrespective of whether they agree or disagree with the prescribed action. This article engages with the moral obligation and karmic actions, which seem to be at odds with each other, yet the moral obligation takes precedent.


Hinduism; morality; ethics; Bhagavad Gita; karma; dharma; religion studies

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Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions


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