Gita Talk #2: Greetings, Gita Geeks. How is your reading coming?

Via on Apr 26, 2010

Bhagavad Gita MitchellGreetings, Gita Geeks.  How is your reading coming?

Starting on Monday, May 3rd, we’ll begin discussion on our first reading assignment, which runs through page 35.   (see Gita Talk #1: First Assignment–Read the Introduction ).  Hopefully you all have your book by now.

We’ll keep things moving with a reading assignment and discussion blog every Monday.  I’m guessing some things will generate so much discussion that I’ll put out some special topic blogs as well.  We’ll see how it goes.

I hope you will ask questions, comment, and reply freely as we move forward.  We’re depending on your enthusiastic participation.

We welcome questions and comments at all levels.  We have a wide variety of experience, from first time readers to veteran devotees.  That should make for some really interesting discussions for everyone.

Right now, tell us about your impressions of the Gita going in and anything else you’d like to ask or discuss before we get rolling in earnest on May 3rd.

Thanks for joining us.

Facebook and Twitter

I’ve set up a Facebook group for us called “Gita Talk at Elephant Journal”.  It will allow us to send each other direct messages.  I hope you will all join this group, but it’s not required.  It’s an optional group for us to get to know each other better and to attract more participants.  The Elephant Journal blogs will be where all the action is.

I’ve also created a hashtag #gitatalk on Twitter.  This is another optional way for us to talk to each other.  Just include #gitatalk whenever you write a tweet you want us to see and keep an eye on #gitatalk so you’ll see any tweets that we write.  Again, this is entirely optional.  (Since this online book discussion is an experiment, I’m experimenting.)

Please see
Welcome to Gita Talk  
for all Gita Talk blogs and general information. 
Jump in anytime and go at your own pace. 

About Bob Weisenberg

Bob Weisenberg: Editor, Best of Yoga Philosophy / Former Assoc. Publisher, elephant journal / Author: Yoga Demystified * Bhagavad Gita in a Nutshell * Leadership Is Like Tennis, Not Egyptology / Co-editor: Yoga in America (free eBook) / Creator: Gita Talk: Self-paced Online Seminar / Flamenco guitarist: "Live at Don Quijote" & "American Gypsy" (Free CD's) / Follow Bob on facebook, Twitter, or his main site: Wordpress.

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50 Responses to “Gita Talk #2: Greetings, Gita Geeks. How is your reading coming?”

  1. Tracy says:

    I've never read the Gita before and am looking forward to it. I'm committing to reading a few more pages tonight!

  2. Greg says:

    What is the planned format and timing? A one day post fest? Or once we hit the start line we post all week on one thread and then a completely new thread is started on week two?

    • Don't know yet, Greg. See what happens.

      I expect discussion to happen for at least a few days, if not all week. It will never be closed. If some interesting topics are not getting enough attention, I might put out subsidiary blogs to discuss those, "Gita Talk #2a Is the Gita Pro-War or Anti-War", for example. But if the discussion seems to be comprehensible within the one blog I'll just leave it there.

      Any suggestions welcome.

  3. I still have to buy my book! I'm on it.

  4. Kaoverii Weber Kaoverii says:

    Love it! The Gita rocks. So glad you're helping others to connect with this sublime text. Hare Krishna!

  5. Susan N-S says:

    Can't wait to get the discussion going! As you know I always have questions, especially on the Gita.

  6. Me, too, Susan. We've had over a hundred people say "yes", 85 people have joined the Gita Talk on Elephant Journal Facebook group alone, in just two days. Now if we can just get everyone comfortable jumping in and participating, it'll be great.

  7. Vanita says:

    Got my book. Looking forward to the discussion. The introduction was beautiful!

    • Yes, it's very well done, isn't it? I heard Mitchell in a long interview recently. He has wonderful warm spiritual presence about him that comes across in his writing and ways of thinking.

    • Yes, it's very well done, isn't it? I heard Mitchell in a long interview recently. He has wonderful warm spiritual presence about him that comes across in his writing and ways of thinking.

  8. [...] Talk #2: Greetings, Gita Geeks. How is your reading coming? (This is copy of the “Gita Talk #2″ blog on Elephant Journal.  You are welcome to comment below, but I prefer that you click over to Elephant so we can keep [...]

  9. Jim Tolstrup Jim Tolstrup says:

    Did you ever see Bagger Vance, the movie featuring Will Smith as a golf caddie? It's totally the Bagavad Gita, or at least the part where Krishna is explaning the nature of existence to Arjuna.

  10. Hi, Jim. I saw the movie, but it was many years ago before I was into the Gita, so it went right over my head! Now I'll have to go see it again. Great material for a blog. Perhaps a supplemental activity for "Gita Talk"?

    Steve Rose wrote a whole book about this "Gita on the Green" and there are good link athttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Legend_of_Bagger

    Thanks for reminding me about this connection. I'm going to explore it further.

    Bob Weisenberg
    YogaDemystified.com

  11. Starting May 3rd??!! But I have things to say now!!!!! How the hell am I supposed to wait ’til Monday????!!!

    Hmmmm…could it be I’m missing the point of the Gita already?

  12. Brenda P. says:

    Must get cracking…but it's time to brush up. I'm looking forward to this…

  13. Thanks for writing, Lisa. I hope you'll share your thoughts with us when we get rolling Monday.

  14. Medea says:

    Hi Bob,

    what an excellent idea! I've tried to read the BG a few months ago (another, not so good Dutch translation), but didn't finish. This seems a great opportunity to start over. I'm really looking forward to the upcoming discussions. Props for you!

    Warm greetings from the other side of the ocean.

  15. Welcome, Medea. Great to have you here. Watch for first discussion blog, "Gita Talk #3" on Monday, and, of course, you can also follow the goings-on at Facebook & Twitter from the links in the blog above.

  16. Lola says:

    I am currently in my first 200-hour yoga TT (at Reflections Yoga in NYC with the amazing Paula Tursi) and we have been reading parts of the Gita but I think I will join this group to get another experience and to deepen my understanding of this text. Thanks Elephant Journal for doing this. This is so very cool!

  17. Hi, Lola. Glad to have you join us.

  18. Margann says:

    I’ve read the Gita before, and am disappointed in my own reaction. To me it feels like a “guy book” based on a belief in the caste system and reincarnation. As a 72 year old female, I find I have to dig for the inspiration. But I do love the concept of work without thought of reward. I will work hard on this reading, because I know millions have been inspired by it.

    • Hi, Margann. I'm so glad you voiced this concern, as I'm sure it is common and will certainly come up in our "Gita Talk" discussions. Let me just make a couple of quick comments here.

      In the case of the caste system, I believe in any ancient text, be it the Bhagavad Gita or the Bible, there are going to be archaic, outmoded ideas that simply have to be disregarded if one is to make the text relevant for today. In fact, Stephen Mitchell says exactly this in the notes (p. 199-210) to his introduction. He even goes so far as to list the specific verses that should be disregarded.

      As for reincarnation, that one is a little trickier, because there are many people who still believe in literal reincarnation today, even though I do not myself. My own approach to reincarnation is to turn it into a powerful metaphor about how our actions affect future generations. Other readers might choose to just disregard it as they would the caste system.

      Let's see how the discussion goes. Please make it a point to raise these same concerns when the discussion starts in earnest next week with "Gita Talk #3". I'm sure your views are shared by many readers who will be hoping for a discussion about it.

      One other suggestion. I wrote my eBook YogaDemystified.com to see if I could describe the concepts of the ancient texts, including the Gita, in plain English. If you go there you can see exactly why I find the Gita so inspiring and exciting, in spite of its sometimes troublesome cultural references.

      Thanks for writing.

      Bob Weisenberg
      YogaDemystified.com

    • Hi, Margann. I'm so glad you voiced this concern, as I'm sure it is common and will certainly come up in our "Gita Talk" discussions. Let me just make a couple of quick comments here.

      In the case of the caste system, I believe in any ancient text, be it the Bhagavad Gita or the Bible, there are going to be archaic, outmoded ideas that simply have to be disregarded if one is to make the text relevant for today. In fact, Stephen Mitchell says exactly this in the notes (p. 199-210) to his introduction. He even goes so far as to list the specific verses that should be disregarded.

      As for reincarnation, that one is a little trickier, because there are many people who still believe in literal reincarnation today, even though I do not myself. My own approach to reincarnation is to turn it into a powerful metaphor about how our actions affect future generations. Other readers might choose to just disregard it as they would the caste system.

      Let's see how the discussion goes. Please make it a point to raise these same concerns when the discussion starts in earnest next week with "Gita Talk #3". I'm sure your views are shared by many readers who will be hoping for a discussion about it.

      One other suggestion. I wrote my eBook YogaDemystified.com to see if I could describe the concepts of the ancient texts, including the Gita, in plain English. If you go there you can see exactly why I find the Gita so inspiring and exciting, in spite of its sometimes troublesome cultural references.

      Thanks for writing.

      Bob Weisenberg
      YogaDemystified.com

  19. Greg says:

    As we have discussed previously, when it comes to reincarnation the issue is not one of belief. Rather it is a matter of practice and awareness. Either one has come to an awareness of reincarnation in the practice or one has not. There is no amount of argument and belief that will lift one over the threshold and argument or belief will not be an issue for those who have firsthand knowledge.

    Thus, in our discussion, there may be a dual-track approach. There will be those who approach the material from the point of view of not having a personal basis for engaging the concept of reincarnation and there will be those who will approach the material from the point of view of firsthand awareness of reincarnation. I know that I, for one, will need to be very aware of other posters' sensitivities in this regard. And I imagine the favor will be returned.

  20. tanja says:

    i was reading about this thinking "great i really must follow this" it'll be a great chance to re-read the gita which i've been meaning to do for a while, so i looked up the mitchell edition to buy it asap – only to think; wow, this cover looks familiar, it turns out this was the first version i ever bought years ago, which since then has been sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be re-read – so i'm ready and excited to start! it's such a great idea to do this as a community, thank you, bob!

  21. What a pleasant discovery. Glad you're here.

  22. Karen Maresca says:

    The Gita means so many things to so many people. This is really exciting. This translation is wonderful.

  23. You're right, Karen. That's one of the things that makes it so interesting to talk about.

  24. You're right, Karen. That's one of the things that makes it so interesting to talk about.

  25. [...] is great preparation for our first Gita Talk discussion blog, which will be posted Monday morning at 10am [...]

  26. Ted Bagley says:

    Sorry I didn't get bad yesterday, Bob, so tired from work.
    Now the question for the rest of the text would be when is Shiva speaking for Shiva and when is he speaking for someone else.

  27. paramsangat says:

    Hi Bob,
    now I have the book , got it today :)
    I've been reading other transalations of the Gita as part of yoga trainings, first one over 10yrs ago…but I've never liked them. Too hard and time consuming to comprehend…
    I've heard this one should be lighter and now when I have it in my hands and started the introduction.. I can see that I am acctually enjoying it, I really do love the cove, the fonts, the layout, the language and so on…I understand it :) so I think this time will be a real pleasant read :)
    I'll continue on the next, where we discuss the Intro.
    Thank you for doing this Gita Talk :)

    • Wonderful, paramsangat. Your situation is exactly what Gita Talk is targeted to. So please be sure to let me know how it's working for you.

      I know many of us had difficulty with the Gita at first. I myself almost gave up on it, so hopefully that helps me understand what other readers need to get over that conceptual hump, past which the Gita becomes almost blissful. No, not "almost blissful", "absolutely blissful"!

      It occurred to me the other day that "Gita Talk" works equally well as a self-paced tutorial, where someone like yourself can start at any time and go at your own speed. Part of what I hope makes that work is that, as you can see, I get instant notification on any new comment on any past blog, and I'm delighted to talk to be able to talk to anyone about it.

      Please continue to write as you go through it, and if you have any suggestions about how I can make it better, please let me know.

      Bob Weisenberg
      ElephantJournal.com

  28. masil says:

    I brought Stephen Mitchell's translation of the Gita f few months ago !! I am pleased to have found company as I once more take it off the bookshelf. thank you.

  29. Girish_M says:

    Hi Bob,
    I have read upto Page 35. Isn't it a contradiction that Krishna recites the poem about love and fruits of action in a battle field. How can the lord Krishna give such a magnificent discourse on life and yet be involved in the war. More than that Lord Krishna bends or even breaks the rules of engagement to help win the war. Does being a karma-yogi mean that the ends justify the means ?
    I am curious to get your take on this (If you've already talked about this, can you point me to the relevant thread ?)
    Regards
    ~girish

    • Hi, Girish_M. This is a pivotal question that hits the reader hard right at the very beginning of the Gita.

      I'll give you two ways to resolve this issue of the Gita's attitude toward war:

      1) You can decide that it is Arjuna's duty to fight this completely justified war. Think of his opponents as like the Nazis–they just need to be stopped or they will enslave us all. It's not obvious in all commentaries, but some make it clear that Arjuna's opponents are really bad people. They are dishonest, violent, abusive, immoral, materialistic, and power-hungry.

      If you see this war as saving society from evil, then everything else falls into place. As you know, many people who are otherwise non-violent believe violence is justified in self-defense and/or defense of others, or to free slaves or oppressed women for example. Most (but not all) pacifists are pacifists only until someone threatens to harm their family or friends. It's not a very big step from there to accepting defending a city, a state, or a country.

      2) You can see war as a a metaphor for struggle. The Bhagavad Gita was Ghandi's bible! The ultimate pacifist simply decided that war was an ordinary human activity back then, like going to the office for the elite classes. It's what they did, so that was the obvious metaphor to use at that time, but it's no longer acceptable in any circumstance. like you say.

      Ghandi and others avoid even the just war scenario by simply converting into their own life struggle, even a rigorously pacifist agenda like Ghandi's. This point of view also removes your difficulties of justifying violence. The Gita helped Ghandi give himself completely to his mission, which was to free India though non-violent means. I don't know if you noticed it or not, but there is a wonderful essay by Ghandi at the end of Mitchell's Gita.

      Another way to get over the war setting is that many commentators think the Gita was grafted into this context from another source, since the vast majority of it has nothing to do with war, and, in fact, the vast majority of the Gita is more supportive of Ghandi than war.

      Just when I was feeling self-satisfied about the "war as metaphor" approach in #2 above, we got this moving comment on Gita Talk #3 from Debyoga:

      The first time I read the Gita (The Living Gita, commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda) was several years ago when my son was in Iraq. It was actually an assignment for my 200 level yoga teacher training. I can definitely relate to p. 18 when Mitchell says the following: "When you approach it as a sacred text, you can't help standing, at first, in the place where Arjuna stands, confused and eager for illumination". I think I felt that at the time because war was so real to me. It was difficult as Mitchell wrote about whether Arjuna should fight as being the secondary question. I was a little angry about the wars and the fact that my son and other sons and daughters were there too. Overtime after several readings, even if I didn't have the exact clarity of the primary question, "how should we live?", p. 18 I think I got to that place with the Gita.

      I suppose what I'm trying to say, it that it was then as it is now, very much a part of my yoga journey and I think by the focus being on "how should we live" wars would cease to exist.

      Thank you, I hope something of what I said or didn't say made sense. Namaste

      Thanks for writing, Girish_M. Please keep the questions coming. I actually plan to do a Gita Talk about this very war issue, and your question just helped me write it!

      Bob Weisenberg
      YogaDemystified.com

  30. [...] Gita Talk #2: Greetings, Gita Geeks. How is your reading coming? [...]

  31. Thanks, Frank. It's so good to have you hear with us on Gita Talk.

  32. Love this, Frank. The more we converse the more I'm convinced that I can utterly change your mind about the Gita. But, let me not be so bold, and let's just see what develops.

    What I can say with even more confidence is that I want to you be a guest on my Elephant blog. The piece above would be excellent just as it is. Let's finish up next weeks final "regularly scheduled" Gita Talk, then we'll figure out how to work you into my blog, if you're interested.

    Ultimately I want you to write about whatever interests you the most. I'm sure you're aware that there are strong Yoga and strong Buddhist camps at Elephant, and they rarely read each others material. One thing we could do is write some blogs in which we specifically try to get them together a little bit.

    Bob Weisenberg
    YogaDemystified.com

    P.S. The comment notification system seems to be working fine right now, but if you ever don't get a response back from me within 2 days, please leave me a message on Facebook. There have been some problems with it in the past and I don't want to miss anything.

  33. Also, Frank, after next week's climactic Gita Talk, I'm going to go through the whole stream of Gita Talks and refine them for use as a "self-paced online seminar". Any feedback and suggestions would be very helpful in this effort.

    Bob

  34. Bob,

    Thank you for your kind and generous invitation, which I heartily accept! At your convenience, and whatever you'd like, just let me know!

    I have much to say about the absurd divide between the Yoga and Buddhist communities — primarily because they both succumb to a fundamental error of understanding just what Yoga is! OR at least that's how I see it! Maybe that could be the subject of a post?

    metta,
    frank jude

  35. We will definitely work on this together. I'll be tied up with publicizing my interview today with Stefanie Syman http://bit.ly/cD0Zbs and my Monday Gita Talk this week, but after that I will definitely want to get you on to Elephant and cook up some good things to do here together.

    You could do me a big favor if you would go to the Stefanie interview and ask a question there. This is a big experiment and I want to ask my friends' help in making sure it goes well.

    Thanks,

    Bob W.

  36. William Price says:

    Hi Frank and Bob – Yoga equals the purposeful life of the self-conscious man/woman (IMO). No reason that that can't be approached from a Buddhist orientation. See Georg Feuerstein's writings for more yoga/buddhism synthesis. Thank you for doing this, Bob. Love both of your posts.

    Thanks.

    William Price

  37. Thanks for being here, William. I've just started talking to Georg Feuerstein on his new blog site!

    I look forward to future discussions. Write to me anytime.

    Bob Weisenberg
    YogaDemystified.com

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