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Word Analysis: The Bhagavad Gita

“For the senses wander, and when one lets the mind follow them, it carries wisdom away like a windblown ship on the waters.”
The Bhagavad Gita

Note: This is the second post in a series which analyzes the words used in the scriptures of the world’s religions.

The Bhagavad Gita
The Bhagavad Gita is one of the major scriptures of Hinduism. Originally written in Sanskrit, it is part of the larger Hindu epic, Mahabharata, which tells the story of the Kurukshetra War, a real conflict which historians believe occurred somewhere between 1000 and 700 BCE. But the Gita’s tone is quite different than the rest of the epic—instead of a the details of an outside war, its focus is instead on the inward war for self-mastery and spiritual fulfillment.

The Gita is told as a conversation between a prince, Arjuna, and his military counselor, Lord Krishna, who also happens to be a Hindu deity. Krishna is believed to have been the eighth incarnation of the Hindu god, Vishnu, and is worshipped as a god in his own right. Through their conversation, Krishna teaches Arjuna about topics such as Dharma and Karma, which would form much of the basis of both Hindu and Buddhist thought. He also teaches Arjuna about humanity’s true nature and the path and practices required to attain it.

Like my analysis of the Bible, I wanted to analyze the words used in the Bhagavad Gita to see if we could gain some insight into its key themes. I found an English translation by Ramanand Prasad, and  used a tool from to count the occurrences of each word. I then filtered out common and less meaningful words—mostly pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, and determiners (for more specifics on this process, see my Bible post).

From here, I began to visualize the data in Tableau, starting with the top 10 words (you can find the full visualization here).

Top 10 Words in the Bhagavad Gita (List starts on the left and goes down)

The book as a whole has 9,839 words after filtering out the list of common words (including common words, it has 20,826). The top word is “Arjuna”, appearing 175 times, followed “Supreme” at 143, and “Knowledge” at 118. From this top ten list alone, we can confirm the fact that Arjuna and Lord Krishna are the main characters. Also, assuming the characters regularly address each other by name, we can also infer that Krishna does most of the talking since “Arjuna” is the number 1 word and “Krishna” is number 9. Additionally, we can get a very good feel for the major themes of the scripture—Knowledge, Mind, Self, Spirit, Nature, Being.

So that further analysis be performed, beyond just the top 10 words, I’ve also created a Word cloud, which includes all words occurring more than ten times.

Of course, we see the top ten words again, but we also see additional frequently used words such as “Work” (ranked 12th), “Material” and “Person” (tied for 13th), “God” (15th), and “Karma” (16th), which help to give us an even deeper understanding the Bhagavad Gita’s main themes.

I believe there is likely a lot more insight to be gained, so please take a look at the visualization and let me know if you discover anything interesting. Again, you can find the Tableau visualization, which includes separate tabs for each of the screenshots above, here.

I’ll be back in a couple weeks with another analysis of the world’s religious scriptures. When I have completed them, I’ll do one final analysis comparing the word usage in each of the religious texts I’ve discussed. So please check back soon!

Please Note: Though I have read The Bhagavad Gita and have great respect for the text and the Hindu religion as a whole, I realize that I may have gotten a few things wrong. I welcome your feedback and comments, so feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Ken Flerlage, January 29, 2017
Tableau Public:!/


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