Gita Talk #3: It’s Showtime. Please Start Talking All At Once!

Via on May 4, 2010

Bhagavad Gita Mitchell

OK, sports fans, the game is on. This is our first weekly discussion of Mitchell’s Bhagavad Gita. This week we’re talking about the Introduction, which goes through p. 35 (with ten pages of very interesting notes, pages 199-210.)

Before I forget, the reading for next Monday is Chapters 1 and 2, pages 41-60.

This is a true experiment. So I’m just going to play it by ear.  The best thing that can happen is if you all jump right into the game, instead of watching from the sidelines. I know we’ll have a great discussion if you:

–Tell us what’s on your mind.
–Ask us the questions you were asking yourself as you were reading the Introduction.
And especially, read other readers comments and reply with your questions, disagreements, or comments.

I’m committed to responding to every question individually myself, but the more help I get the better.

Don’t be shy! There are no wrong questions. And the Elephant crowd is noted for its warmth and civility in handling even the most controversial issues.  We have a wide variety of experience in this group, from many first time readers to veteran devotees and everything in between.  We all have something to offer each other.

If you don’t have anything particular in mind, then think about these issues and give me your thoughts:

1) How did the Introduction make you feel about reading the Gita?
2) How did it compare to your expectations going in?
3) If you have read other versions of the Gita, how does Mitchell’s vision in his Introduction compare?
4) Are there any questions you’d like to ask?
5) Watch Yoga’s Secret Love Song, one particularly rapturous vision of the Gita (7 min. video from Graham Schweig).  What are your reactions?  How does Schweig’s vision compare to Mitchell’s vision of the Gita in his Introduction?

Helpful Hints

Elephant has a terrific discussion system. If you haven’t been here before, I think you’ll find it very intuitive. Some hints:

–When you post a comment, make sure you subscribe to “All new comments” in the pull down menu at the bottom of the comment box.  (Otherwise you’ll just receive e-mails when people reply to your comment.)
–You can post ad hoc each time, or you can register with “Intense Debate”, which will allow you to show your avatar, profile, and keep a history of all your comments.
–This system allows replies to replies and keeps good track of them in an easy-to-read and intuitive way.
Replies get hidden automatically as comment volume grows.  You need to click on “Replies” at the bottom of each comment to see them.

If a particular issue gets particularly big or hard to follow , I may open subsidiary blogs to help focus our attention.

I prefer to keep the substantive Gita discussion here on Elephant Journal. But we can also communicate on our Facebook site and on #GitaTalk on Twitter.

Again,  the reading for next Monday is Chapters 1 and 2, pages 41-60.

Please be sure to let me know if I can help you in any way.

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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165 Responses to “Gita Talk #3: It’s Showtime. Please Start Talking All At Once!”

  1. Sevapuri says:

    Lola has a good point about debating the translations or grappling withthe content , sometimes the diiferant translations can give rise to different interpretatons of the content, i think the lines may get blurry at some point in our discussions, it is the content and the message that inspitres me regardless of the translation.
    The idea of God transending the material realm or seen as a material representation is something that Greg picked up on in Mitchells commentary and i thought that was really interesting as well. There is some thought that we need a materail representation of God so that the mind can in some way grasp the concept of God (Surguna) and understanding this can lead to understanding God without a form (Nirguna) It happens in the Gita when Arjuna knows that Krishna is God but asks Krishna to show him his real form and then completely freaks out when he does.The mesage here i think is that we understand God where ever we are at any given point and as we learn, read ,study and understand we begin to see God differently. I think this is one of the important themes of the GIta- knowing God.
    The Schweig video is lovely and inspiring

  2. Thanks, Seva. Great insights.

    • Rhonda says:

      Sevapuri~

      I connected with your words, "The mesage here i think is that we understand God where ever we are at any given point and as we learn, read ,study and understand we begin to see God differently. I think this is one of the important themes of the GIta- knowing God."
      Many years ago one of my yoga teachers had said, "It's your birthright to know God." it was a statement that has stayed with me. 15 years later through reading, study and self reflection your words touched me.
      With Gratitude

      • I like that, Rhonda, the "birthright" thing. The Gita actually goes even further. It says we are already divine, that we are, in fact, God (God being the infinite unfathomable life-force of the universe) ourselves. The closest my childhood Catholicism got to that was that we are made "in the image and likeness of God", which comes pretty close, now that I think of it. I just never understood it before!

  3. princess villabroza says:

    mommy knows best either its difficult to do.Lalo na kung mahirap ito gawin pero kailangan syang sundin dahil tama kailangan lang maging understanding na anak
    when i am a baby my mom's always take care me nung nalaman ni mommy ang natural talent ko she's very happy
    i am proud because she is my mother always caring, loving, teachingand knows the good way for us

  4. That's terrific, Sawenntson. Might have to write a blog about this series.

  5. Good point, Katharina. Many readers do interpret the "call to battle" as a metaphor for whatever challenges one faces in life. Some scholars also point out that war was a way of life for many of the elite at that time, so it would be easier to see it as an everyday challenge when written. Of course, it's still an everyday challenge for many today, as evidenced by the earlier comment from the mother of the soldier who went to Iraq.

  6. integralhack says:

    Yes, I think you and I have spoken of Atman/atman/anatman before on my blog (and perhaps on Elephant).

    Yes, some biographers and pundits refer to Wittgenstein's life as a tragedy, but Wittgenstein himself said on his deathbed that he had a "wonderful life." He died of prostate cancer, but led a very full life full of invention, creativity and accomplishment. Once one of the richest men in Europe (a reluctant heir to his father's Viennese fortune), he was also a major benefactor to artists like Rilke and Trakl.

    While there was a good deal of angst in Wittgenstein's life (he fought in WWI and was a prisoner of war), I can't equate some existential torment as "tragedy" since anyone who thinks beyond the mundane is bound to suffer. We will have to take his final appraisal of his life at his word.

    There is a great biography of Wittgenstein by Ray Monk, if you're interested.

  7. integralhack says:

    Yes, the Buddha made the point that the self was not the aggregates (skandhas). Some read this as denying the self, but this is not the case, he just pointed out what was not the self.

    But I'm getting off track here a bit. I think we're in general agreement regarding these matters, so let's return to the Gita. Not that we can't return to some of these concepts, of course, to elucidate (hopefully) some related ideas in the Gita.

  8. It takes an analytical to know one.

    One of the several startling things that drew me to Yoga is discovering that here I am reading one of three central ancient texts of Yoga, and there's a category just for me! Jnana Yoga, the Yoga of Understanding, every bit as legitimate as the Yoga of Meditation, the Yoga of Devotion, and the Yoga of Giving.

    See Strokes for Different Folks

  9. It takes an analytical to know one.

    One of the several startling things that drew me to Yoga is discovering that here I am reading one of three central ancient texts of Yoga, and there's a category just for me! Jnana Yoga, the Yoga of Understanding, every bit as legitimate as the Yoga of Meditation, the Yoga of Devotion, and the Yoga of Giving.

    See Strokes for Different Folks

  10. Margann wrote on another blog:

    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.

      One other suggestion. I wrote my eBookhttp://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.

      One other suggestion. I wrote my eBookhttp://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

  11. I wouldn't call it an nitpicky ontological debate. I'd call it an attempt to define "God" for everyone else.
    Then, as a fan of Stephen Batchelor and other non-theistic Buddhists and yogis, I already know what Greg thinks of my viewpoint.

    • integralhack says:

      I certainly don't want to define "God" for anyone, but I am interested in learning what similar concepts might mean and imply in the texts that I read.

      Personally, I still appreciate Stephen Batchelor and particularly enjoyed his "Verses from the Center: A Buddhist Vision of the Sublime" very much.

      -Matt

      • I haven't read enough Batchelor to know for sure, but the portion of his book I browsed online made pretty much sense to me. The only exception might be that I feel perfectly comfortable with defining God as the "infinite unknowable life-force of the universe".

        This is the dominant notion of God in the Gita, although all other notions are embraced as well in a flood of universalism. So I have no need, unlike Batchelor, to be an atheist. But then, he's defining God in a more conventional way that doesn't allow the out of "infinite unknowable life-force of the universe".

        • Greg says:

          Will be interesting to see if the Gita supports "unknowable life-force of universe." My hunch is that close parsing will explicate the concepts and get us past that stop along the path. We will see…

          (I have no investment in achieving any particular agreement on the matter but am happy to share some insights I've happened on along the way…)

          • integralhack says:

            I do hope you do share your insights, Greg! We may not always agree, but I appreciate your critical perspective which helps me navigate between the Scylla of of ironic relativism and the Charybdis of fuzzy affirmation.

            After all, you are the Sherlock Holmes to my Professor Moriarty–you complete me. I kid, I kid. Sort of. :)

        • integralhack says:

          I feel similarly, Bob. I like Batchelor and he can define his practice however he wants to, but at times I don't understand his rhetoric. It is one thing to dismiss ideas like rebirth from your own practice, but it doesn't change the fact that it was–according to the Buddha's own account–central to the Buddha's awakening and is part and parcel of the doctrine of dependent arising.

          Given that the Buddha's program is to stop rebirth and the cycle of suffering anyway, I find the issue to be somewhat ironic.

          It would be a little like telling yogis worldwide that we are going to scrub yoga of the concepts of prana or chakras because there is no empirical evidence to support them.

          • Greg says:

            Wonderful analogy. As long as one notes the internal contradictions in Batchelor, the practice will not suffer.

            Professor Moriarty —— okay, will have to look that one up. lol

  12. Rhonnie says:

    Katharina~

    THANK YOU for this statement. "To me it felt like perhaps it was about doing whatever it is that you are called to do without being attached to a fear of death or a fear of life."

    I have interpreted as Bob mentions the "call to battle" as a metaphor for whatever "challenges" one faces in life. This is limiting, it excludes and doesn't acknowledge what others may be called to do in their lives.
    With Gratitude.

  13. Rhonnie says:

    Vanita~

    Thank you for this statement, "The notes on page 201 regarding the possibility that "the later chapters were written ….out of compassion for less mature readers" reminded me that we are all where we are – and that I must respect wherever others are in their spiritual evolution, (which is often hard to do)!" I was initially taken back because I was reading comments that I don't understand at this point. At the same time I feel excited to have the opportunity to read and receive others ideas and knowledge.

    I love your words, "The last part of the introduction where he says "……ultimately it has nothing to teach" is very liberating to me. I'm going to approach this reading and version as an exercise of listening with my heart."
    This is my seat as I begin.

  14. anneke says:

    I just read that Christopher Isherwood also worked on a translation of the Gita. He helped swami Prabhavanada of the Vedanta Society who translated and Isherwood refined the writing. (BTW I have this information from 'The Subtle Body' a yet-to-be published book about the history of yoga in the West (sorry Bob) written by Stefanie Syman.) Isherwood had been concerned that his pacifism was incompatible with the Gita, since Krishna urges Arjuna to fight. Then he learned that "the Gita doesn't sanction war… any more than it sanctions pacifism. It cannot, from its absolute standpoint, do either. It leaves each individual to discover what his or her dharma is."

    After WWII Marcel Rodd put out an edtition with a preface by Aldous Huxley. Sales soon neared a quarter million copies.

    I have been looking at Paramahansa Yogananda's commentary on the Gita (don't have Mitchell's) in which the pantheistic doctrine of the Gita is: God is everything. The Gita's verses celebrate the discovery of the Absolute, Spirit beyond creation, as being also the hidden essence of all manifestation.

    The main theme of the Gita, Yogananda says, is that one should be an adherent of sannyasa, renouncer of egoity ingrained through avidya within the physical self of man. By renunciation of all desires springing from the ego and its environments, which cause separateness between ego and spirit; and by reunion with the Creator through ecstatic yoga meditation, samadhi, man detaches himself from and ulitmately dissolves the compellent forces of Nature that perpetuate the delusive dichotomy of the Self and Spirit.

    I love the way Yogananda speaks of the historical origins of the Gita. "The authorship of the Mahabharata, including the Gita portion, is traditionally assigned to the illumined sage Vyasa, whose date is not definitively known. It is said that the Vedic rishis manifested their immortality by appearing before mankind in different ages to play some role for man's spiritual upliftment. Thus they appeared and reappeared at various times throughout the extensive period of time encompassed by the revelation of the scriptures of India, a phenomenon confounding to any scholar who relies on facts rather than faith in an unenlightened age in which man has learned to use hardly ten percent of his brain capacity, and that quite awkwardly for the most part."

    He explains: "My guru, Sri Yukteswar, never permitted me to read with mere theoretical interest any stanza of the Bhagavad Gita (or the aphorisms of Patanjali). Master made me meditate on the scriptural truths until I became one with them; then he would discuss them with me."

    Maybe this is why, whenever I open this book and read a passage and commentary, I am absolutely enthralled.

    • Thanks for all this fascinating background, Anneke. I'm sure many of these issue of approach will come up as we move through the text.

      • anneke says:

        Thank you Bob for starting this discussion; I wouldn't have commented without your prompting. It's really wonderful to read how people relate to the text, how deeply personal the experience of reading the Gita is. It seems that Mitchell gives some helpful pointers how to approach it also. As the Gita dialogue is about the process by which the descent of the universe and man from spirit into matter may be reversed, it's personal indeed! ( That's why I love the name of your friend Roseanne Harvey's blog: It's all yoga, baby! – it really is).

  15. Lorraine says:

    Ok, I'm finally getting around to posting my thoughts. I've got to say, though, that the mere size of this group is somewhat intimidating. Indeed, it's great that so many people are interested. I haven't had a chance to read through all of the replies but will do so tonight as I will have the time.

    The introduction was easy reading. Some of the things that Krishna says is very similar to the words of Christ. One statement that is similar to Christ but not completely is, "Krishna says, that he is all that is. But all that is, is in him, though he is not in it." Christ states, "I am in him and he is in me." I'm curious as what Krishna means, that he is not in it.

    I appreciated the reference to Isaiah 45:7 referring to God as elemental undifferentiated energy and of God making peace and creating evil. Something to think about….

    Looking forward to reading further (actually I've read the first two chapters, but will be going through them again to make notes.) I'm curious to read more about Krishna's encouragement that Arjuna do his duty as warrior. Seems contradictory to me but maybe further reading will clear that up for me.

    • Lorraine says:

      Yes, I'm a first-time Gita reader…. :)

      • Hi, Lorraine. Thank for writing.

        You can see that Mitchell believes the Gita has a universal message. Later you will see this is startlingly explicit in the text itself, and repeatedly:

        However men try to reach me,
        I return their love with my love;
        whatever path they may travel,
        it leads to me in the end. (4.11)

        and later, even more strikingly:

        But whatever the form of reverence,
        whatever god a sincere
        devotee chooses to worship,
        I grant him an unswerving faith. (7.21)

        Indeed this is one of the several things that has attracted me to Yoga philosophy. Yoga see itself as discovering universal truths, not setting itself apart from other spirituality and religion.

        As for the size of the group, I hope you will find as you get into it that this discussion tool makes it pretty friendly even with a large group. You can see that I saw your comment immediately and I'm able to give you a personal response. Hopefully you will get an e-mail that I responded, and so on, making it easy to converse in spite of the quantity of responses.

        But here's a failsafe for you or anyone else. If you ever feel you want a more personal touch, or perhaps you want to ask a question about the Gita, but not to the world, please just send me a private message on Facebook or Twitter or my website (see links on my profile page. I would be happy to discuss anything with you one-on-one.

        Thanks again for joining us here. I hope you will continue to comment.

      • Hi, Lorraine. Thank for writing.

        You can see that Mitchell believes the Gita has a universal message. Later you will see this is startlingly explicit in the text itself, and repeatedly:

        However men try to reach me,
        I return their love with my love;
        whatever path they may travel,
        it leads to me in the end. (4.11)

        and later, even more strikingly:

        But whatever the form of reverence,
        whatever god a sincere
        devotee chooses to worship,
        I grant him an unswerving faith. (7.21)

        Indeed this is one of the several things that has attracted me to Yoga philosophy. Yoga see itself as discovering universal truths, not setting itself apart from other spirituality and religion.

        As for the size of the group, I hope you will find as you get into it that this discussion tool makes it pretty friendly even with a large group. You can see that I saw your comment immediately and I'm able to give you a personal response. Hopefully you will get an e-mail that I responded, and so on, making it easy to converse in spite of the quantity of responses.

        But here's a failsafe for you or anyone else. If you ever feel you want a more personal touch, or perhaps you want to ask a question about the Gita, but not to the world, please just send me a private message on Facebook or Twitter or my website (see links on my profile page. I would be happy to discuss anything with you one-on-one.

        Thanks again for joining us here. I hope you will continue to comment.

      • Hi, Lorraine. Thank for writing.

        You can see that Mitchell believes the Gita has a universal message. Later you will see this is startlingly explicit in the text itself, and repeatedly:

        However men try to reach me,
        I return their love with my love;
        whatever path they may travel,
        it leads to me in the end. (4.11)

        and later, even more strikingly:

        But whatever the form of reverence,
        whatever god a sincere
        devotee chooses to worship,
        I grant him an unswerving faith. (7.21)

        Indeed this is one of the several things that has attracted me to Yoga philosophy. Yoga see itself as discovering universal truths, not setting itself apart from other spirituality and religion.

        As for the size of the group, I hope you will find as you get into it that this discussion tool makes it pretty friendly even with a large group. You can see that I saw your comment immediately and I'm able to give you a personal response. Hopefully you will get an e-mail that I responded, and so on, making it easy to converse in spite of the quantity of responses.

        But here's a failsafe for you or anyone else. If you ever feel you want a more personal touch, or perhaps you want to ask a question about the Gita, but not to the world, please just send me a private message on Facebook or Twitter or my website (see links on my profile page. I would be happy to discuss anything with you one-on-one.

        Thanks again for joining us here. I hope you will continue to comment.

  16. Rhonnie says:

    Lindsayyoga~

    This also spoke to me! "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"
    As I read the introduction without any prior knowledge of reference I was in awe as I read that what I am reading mirrors much of my process to connect and learn.
    I am re-reading the introduction as this weeks discussion develops. Observing and taking in more as my perspective has already blossomed. The comments are vast and beautiful to read. I see the beauty even if at times I am not completely understanding what someone has written.
    Happy to read your entry!
    Rhonda

    • Hi, Rhonnie. You're right. I think we will all be returning to the themes of Mitchell's poetic introduction as we slowly work through the text chapter by chapter. Thanks for sharing your reactions so candidly. I think that will help others get involved, too.

  17. Artemis Kalliste says:

    I love all the discussion so far. Thank you, Bob for starting this! I like this version so far, but have only read one other to compare it to (Prabhupada). I may not have much to add, but here are my 2 points to offer:

    On Women: I am surprised at the women who are affronted by the caste relegation of women. It was a different time and place, and if you follow the principles of reincarnation, you may have been a higher or lower caste during that time, so why take offense now? There is still enough discrimination present in this day and age that it really isn't that surprising, is it?

    On Reincarnation: I work in a field that deals quite intimately with death on a regular basis, and I also was struck by some of the comments on reincarnation providing an "easy-out" when it comes to war. I can offer that it also is a very satisfying answer when the death comes as a natural end to an all too short life. I really do not believe that I could get up and go to work everyday if I did not have a strong belief in reincarnation.

    Thanks, again, Bob, it was time to re-read this!

    • Welcome, Artemis. Thank you for two very interesting comments. I am writing the blog for Monday right now, and we will definitely be delving into both of these issues in the next Gita Talk. The text confronts us with many of its challenges right up front. What an interesting take you have on both these issues.

      I read the Prabhupada as my first Gita, and I have to confess I had a lot of problems with it. It seems to be the opposite of everything Mitchell is. It's hard to read, so it's accompanied by thick almost technical commentary, which is even more difficult to read than the text itself. It's the Prabhupada version that makes me appreciate how crystalline Mitchell's translation is. But I know many people love the Prabhupada version, too, so this is just my personal reaction.

    • Greg says:

      Enjoyed your comments on caste and reincarnation.

      Gender is obviously tied to the body so there is no absolute sense of being male or female when one transcends body attachment.

      My introduction to both life-after-body-death and reincarnation came at a practical level.

      When I worked in a hospital at nights (during grad school) one of my jobs was taking the just-deceased to the morgue. We would bag 'em and tag 'em. One night during such a pick up, I turned to my fellow orderly and asked him if he perceived what I did — with eyes a bit wider than mine, he shook his head "yes." The woman who had passed, was watching on, in spirit form, as we moved her body. Many such experiences since then…

      And, early in my exploration of reincarnation, I recalled a recent past life (late nineteenth, early twentieth century) in which the physical aspects would still be present. Got the picture of exactly where my grave would be, the years of birth and death, and events in that lifetime. I made up a rough map of how I would go to the grave site and noted on the map that there was a barrier I would have to move around.

      Traveled to the city on business and almost forgot to check it out, so I went at night, in the dark. Entered the cemetery. Could not see the barrier so figured the experiment was over. I was wrong. But I kept walking. It was an irrigation ditch! Had to go around — and at that point it all came back to me and I walked straight up to the stone, which had the correct dates.

      I wrote to the historical society to check out details re mining and a mining accident. They checked out. Then, months later, I received an unsolicited note from the historical society (they did not know the purpose of my inquiry) that said, "Did some more research. Must a been a real character. He was originally buried elsewhere but his will required them to move the body to this cemetery because he did not want his grave to be lost!" Talk about the weird games we play with ourselves. lol

      Anyway, I add that to make the point, the subject is not an academic one for me but rather something that is an experiential part of my life.

  18. Sevapuri says:

    ".

  19. JimH - NYC says:

    I have read the Gita before and my yoga instructor has encourage me to read again to enjoy. And I have. I have mixed emotions regarding the intro and not quite as enamoured at others. He quotes all over the Gita where I feel he should have discussed the background, how the feud began and what comes from the tur…moil and what he hopes that the reader will come away from from the book. It seems to me he was forgot to entice the reader and move them on to get them excited about the read and give the reader a taste of what they can take away from the Gita.

  20. Callah says:

    I am approaching the Gita as a first time reader and relative newcomer to yogic philosophy.
    The comment by JimH regarding the lack of discussion of how the fued began is spot on. Since I am such a newcomer, I have no knowledge of the context of the situation. hile Mitchell briefly touched on it (basically just mentioning there is a war going on), but didn't offer any in-depth detail that might help me have a better grasp of the setting for when the actual reading begins. I also think he jumps around too much. It's too "essay-like" to me, what with the numerous quotations and all. While some of the points are very valid (such as the male point-of-view and how females can approach the reading), I felt like it was a bit all over the place, and not quite personal enough from the author.

    • Hi, Callah. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

      I personally find that the whole battlefield setting turns out to be pretty much irrelevant to the message of the Gita, and so do most tranlators. That's why they don't emphasize the historical setting, but rather kind of bypass to get on with the meata. (I can't believe I just wrote "meata" of the Gita! But I'll leave it in to show how whimsical and spontaneous I am.)

      However, no need to be in the dark if you want more background. You'll find everything you want and probably much more at Kurukshetra War. See if that meets your needs and, if not, let me know and I can give you some other stuff.

      Thanks again for writing and for being here.

    • Hi, Callah. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

      I personally find that the whole battlefield setting turns out to be pretty much irrelevant to the message of the Gita, and so do most tranlators. That's why they don't emphasize the historical setting, but rather kind of bypass to get on with the meata. (I can't believe I just wrote "meata" of the Gita! But I'll leave it in to show how whimsical and spontaneous I am.)

      However, no need to be in the dark if you want more background. You'll find everything you want and probably much more at Kurukshetra War. See if that meets your needs and, if not, let me know and I can give you some other stuff.

      Thanks again for writing and for being here.

  21. I decided to spice up the title of the next Gita Talk. Now it's:

    "Why Does the Gita Piss Us Off So Much At First'

    What do you think?

  22. kimmerj says:

    I think I must be responsible for many views of this discussion. I keep coming back to see the comments and replies hoping to find a way to add to the discussion. Frankly I am a bit intimidated by the quality of the posts.

    When I opened the book I was pleased to see the dedication to Shri Ramana Maharshi. I love the way that Mitchell referred to him in the introduction. As a result I became curious about this man Mitchell. What I read made me much more comfortable with the translation issue as he is most certainly very experienced author of spiritual texts.

    From his Biography on Amazon “educated at Amherst, the Sorbonne, and Yale, and de-educated through intensive Zen practice. His many books include the bestselling Tao Te Ching, The Gospel According to Jesus, Bhagavad Gita, The Book of Job, Meetings with the Archangel, Gilgamesh…”

    I am looking forward to the next topic of this discussion!

    • Hi, kimmerj. Thanks for writing. I'm hoping others, like you, will overcome that "intimidation factor" and just dive in. We are all just seekers and everyone has something to offer, even if it's just their presence at first.

      Mitchell is indeed a very warm, spiritual, sincere, and engaging person. If you'd like more, the Wikipedia Mitchell entry has a number of good links to videos, articles and interviews.

      I hope that now that you've jumped in the water you will like it here and write again often.

    • Hi, kimmerj. Thanks for writing. I'm hoping others, like you, will overcome that "intimidation factor" and just dive in. We are all just seekers and everyone has something to offer, even if it's just their presence at first.

      Mitchell is indeed a very warm, spiritual, sincere, and engaging person. If you'd like more, the Wikipedia Mitchell entry has a number of good links to videos, articles and interviews.

      I hope that now that you've jumped in the water you will like it here and write again often.

  23. Hi, everyone. I'd like see if I can generate a conversation simply by asking a question in this comment and asking people to respond to it.

    This will tell me a lot about how many people are signed into e-mail notification and are paying attention to all comments. Plus, I'm really interested in your responses. Here's my question:

    Many of you have read other versions of the Gita. Please tell us which versions have read them and what you like or dislike about them.

    Thanks.

    • Artemis Kalliste says:

      Prabupada. Twice at least.
      No email notifications. Just checking in.

      • Did you like it? I guess you did since you read it twice.

        Come to think of it, I read it twice, too, but that's just because I couldn't figure it out and I thought I might help to go through it again. I did much better with the equally scholarly, but far less dogmatic Graham Schweig version. Then I discovered Mitchell.

        Today I enjoy reading Mitchell with Scwheig alongside when I want more scholarly background information.

        • Helen says:

          Hi,

          I am currently reading that version but came across this discussion and so bought Michel'ls version, which arrived today. Will hopefully catch up on reading over the weekend. Then I plan to read the two versions side by side. My thoughts on the Bhagavad Gita as it is, so far is I love the detail. I like that he breaks the translation down word by word if you want that and I find it easy to read. I feel that Prabhupada is very biased torward bhakti yoga, which biases some of his commentaries but I guess every version is going to have some degree of bias.

    • MelissaH says:

      Hi, this is my first time reading the Gita, although I am not wholly unfamiliar with some Hindu philosophy and thought. I am loving the commentary as it is really helping me to consider what I am reading with thoughtfulness.

      Thank you Bob for making this possible, for your graceful moderation, gentle encouragement, and respectful and insightful discussion. I have appreciated your discourse with Greg specific, and the thoughts and additions of others. I may be quiet but I am reading and considering.

      This is my second time reading this blog section to catch up on new comments and now I want to reread the introduction with some of these thoughts in mind.

      • Thanks for writing, Melissa. Your appreciation means a lot to me. I know I'm supposed to be totally absorbed in God (Brahman), but right now I'm totally absorbed in Gita Talk! As least they're related!

  24. Hi, everyone. I just wrote this comment on Ramesh's blog "Why do American yogis believe Brahmacarya means celibacy?".

    Great post and discussion, Ramesh. I was just reading these supporting passages from the Bhagavad Gita in preparation for the next “Gita Talk” blog tomorrow:

    God is the offering, God
    is the offered, poured out by God;
    God is attained by all those
    who see God in every action (BG 4.24)

    (For those not familiar with the Gita, the term "God" in this case is defined simply and expansively as "the infinite, unknowable, wondrous life-force of the universe", i.e. the universe itself, which encompasses all other concepts of God in its universal sweep.)

    Bob Weisenberg
    ElephantJournal.com

  25. paramsangat says:

    Hi Bob, I really enjoyed the intro… I could easily understand it (compared with the other heavy version GItas..)and it was a pleasure to read. I loved how he gave an overview of it all before starting, giving it some background and also examples from the poem.
    I'll go for the Questionnaire since I have a lil baby waiting for me to finish.. :)

    (se next..)

  26. paramsangat says:

    (continued from previous)

    If you don’t have anything particular in mind, then think about these issues and give me your thoughts:
    1) How did the Introduction make you feel about reading the Gita?
    I love this Intro, it made me wanting to start right a way..
    2) How did it compare to your expectations going in?
    I am very pleased I liked this one, I had some doubts about it.
    3) If you have read other versions of the Gita, how does Mitchell’s vision in his Introduction compare?
    I like the way he makes it an easy read and comparing with Dao De ching etc, things you might be able to relate to outside the Hindu/Yoga/Gita-World.
    (continues in next)

  27. paramsangat says:

    (continued from prev.)

    4) Are there any questions you’d like to ask?
    ..no questions at this time… jsut wanting to continue to read.. :)
    5) Watch Yoga’s Secret Love Song, one particularly rapturous vision of the Gita (7 min. video from Graham Schweig). What are your reactions? How does Schweig’s vision compare to Mitchell’s vision of the Gita in his Introduction?
    When I saw it it was alot about Love. Like Mitchell said in his intro the "best" way is though Bakthi/devotion…. but at the same time he says ..any path is a good one..
    ..Now I'll go back to reading the 1st two chapters.. yay :)

  28. tiffany says:

    I joined this group before it began and am just now daring to step my toe into the book. I have never read the gita as I have always been told it is intimidating. SO far the intro made me feel that I will not only understand, maybe have an aha moment , but definetly get something out of it. Being one of the "less gifted" I am eager for this chance of illumination!

    • Hi, tiffany. I'm so glad you wrote a comment so I can welcome you to Gita Talk and offer to be your personal guide. I love that Mitchell introduction, too. He just puts it all into perspective in a very clear and inspiring manner. I also like the way he ties the Gita in with spiritual ideas from other traditions.

      Please write to me often with your thoughts and/or questions as you read through the book. I get notification whenever someone leaves a comment on Gita Talk. Please feel free to contact me by Facebook message as well.

      Glad you're here.

      Bob Weisenberg
      ElephantJournal.com

  29. That's very interesting, Vanita. I love the affectionate phrase you used, "a little pocket bible looking thing…" I got the picture immediately!

    I'm glad you had at chance to read Mitchell's notes in the back. He tucked away some of the most interesting stuff there and didn't really reference it except in the Table of Contents. Can picture him trying to construct his elegant Introduction and trying to decide what to include and what not to include, and eventually deciding to go with the notes?

    Thanks for writing.

  30. tanja says:

    thank you, vanita, for pointing out something which really resonated with me. as i've been reading comments about translations, and myself wondering about the effects on the text of it not being mitchell's own translation etc etc (all very valid and important discussions and topics, of course) what you said really cut to the heart of it for me personally – "I feel like this version was written with loving intent. ". yoga is an experiential path, and reading the gita in this format, without commentary, will be an opportunity to resonate with it from within rather than intellectually or academically, even though i follow discussion on all levels with great interest.

  31. lindsayyoga says:

    Your comments really helped me. I was feeling a bit intimidated as a first time reader. Then I remembered on of my favorite quotes of late:

    "The paradox of progress is that I grow each time I realize that I can only be where I am." -Hugh Prather

    I agree with you and reading "…ultimately it has nothing to teach" was quite liberating for me.

    Thank you!

  32. Thanks for joining us here, deserthorseyoga, and for your very interesting comment.

  33. Thanks for joining us here, Amy. Your long experience with the Gita is most welcome, and I hope you'll be with us often to help us with some of the finer points of the text.

    You're right about Mitchell. For him deep spirituality is a matter not of getting more and more complex but by devolving into utter simplicity, to the point of absolute oneness. From his point of view, he didn't simplify the Gita to match his idea of spirituality. Rather he he chose the Gita because he thinks the Gita say exactly that–that deep spirituality devolves to utter simplicity.

    That happens to match my own view as well. But, as you know better than I, that's not the only way to look at the Gita!

    I'm so glad you're here. Please stick with us and help us out. we really need some true Gita scholars like yourself in the mix.

  34. Hi, Lindsay. Not so very long ago I stood exactly where you are in your encounter with the Bhagavad Gita. Like you, I decided to continue to move toward it instead of moving away. Stick with it. You will not be sorry, especially with all the experienced guides we have here in our expedition team!

  35. I'm just now working on the Gita Talk blog for Monday, and my working title is:

    "Gita Talk Week #4: Why Is It So Difficult At First?"

    We will definitely be talking about the obstacles early on, because the author hits us with most of them right off the bat.

  36. Callah says:

    I liked the author's comment on realizing that it is the spirit, if not the words, pointing us to the essential truth. I had a automatic reaction as well, however am striving to realize the setting in which it was written!

  37. Hi, svan. I know your recommendation is dead serious, and I took it as such.

    But it also gave me a good belly laugh! "At only 5 1/2 hours, it's a very brief version of this epic tale…".

    Thanks for joining us here!

    Bob

  38. svan says:

    glad you picked up on that, Bob! The staged version was over 9 hours and even that's a major condensation. I hope you will check it out – I'd love to know what you think of it.

    and thank you for your very gracious and generous hosting of this topic!

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