Falling Head-Over-Heels In Love with the Universe. (Gita Talk 1)

Via on Aug 21, 2011

Bhagavad Gita MitchellThe response to my announcement of our new Gita Talk online discussion series has been overwhelming.  Thank you for your interest and support.

Let’s begin by reading the introduction (thru p. 35) of Stephen Mitchell’s Bhagavad Gita–A New Translation.  Then on August 29 I’ll put out a blog with some discussion provoking questions.

That doesn’t mean we can’t start talking now, though. Let’s tell each other what our experience with the Gita is going in.

1) Have you read the Bhagavad Gita before or is this your first time?

2) Either way, what is your impression of the Gita going in to this discussion?

3) What are you hoping to get out of this discussion series?

I encourage you to dive into the discussion right away with both feet.  The more people who participate, the better it is for everyone.  And I deeply appreciate anyone who is willing to help us respond to all the comments.

This time you can look ahead if you like, because we will be following, with some additions, the original sixteen session Gita Talk.  You can also see the Gita sliced and diced by major theme in the sequel sixteen part series Gita in a Nutshell: Big Ideas & Best Quotations, which just ended recently.

Gita Talk is like an online book club. We will read about one chapter per week and discuss it right here on Elephant.  Join our Gita Talk Facebook page for weekly notices of each new discussion blog and to get to know your fellow Gita geeks. Each blog also gives you the short reading assignment for the next week.

I am very pleased to have Elephant writer Jennifer Cusano as my partner in running this new Gita Talk. Jennifer will moderate the discussions and will get the word out about Gita Talk in the social media.

If you ever have any questions or issues you’d like to discuss with me one-on-one, please write to me at bob@elephantjournal.com.  I’m anxious to be personally helpful to you in any way I can.

A Little Background Material

The Bhagavad Gita is one of the “big three” ancient Yoga texts, along with the Upanishads and the Yoga Sutra. The Yoga Sutra gets 95% of the attention, but it is quite incomplete without the other two. The three together are nothing short of astounding.

My own feelings about the Bhagavad Gita are well expressed in my review last year of Mitchell’s version:

Falling Head-Over-Heels In Love with the Universe

For those of you who have always wanted to absorb the spectacular wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita, but have found it difficult, I highly recommend Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation by Stephen Mitchell. This is my fourth version and sixth reading of the Bhagavad Gita. I have gotten a lot from all four versions, but Mitchell’s is clearly the most accessible and enjoyable, without sacrificing any of the meaning.

The Bhagavad Gita is quite literally about falling in love with the indescribable wonder of the universe, that is to say, God. These two are synonymous in the Gita. (Believe it or not, the text itself says that you can approach God as either an unfathomable cosmic life-force or as an intimate personal diety. Either leads you to the same boundless love and joy.)

The Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutra are two of the most important ancient texts of Yoga. They could not be more different. The Yoga Sutra is mostly secular in nature, and mentions God only briefly and perfunctorily. The Bhagavad Gita, in contrast, is literally “The Song of the Beloved Lord”, and most of the text is the voice of the awesome life-force of the universe itself.

The Yoga Sutra is a cookbook for achieving inner peace. The Bhagavad Gita is a very practical document as well, but won’t settle for anything less than ecstatic union with the universe. Put them together and you have the astounding philosophy of Yoga in two relatively short texts.

Try Mitchell’s version of the Bhagavad Gita. You’ll be glad you did.

So, again, the assignment for next week, August 29, is to read the Introduction (th p. 35), and share with us any thoughts you have before we get started on the text itself.

All questions and comments at any level are welcome at all times.

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.

3,795 views

Appreciate this article? Support indie media!

(We use super-secure PayPal - but don't worry - you don't need an account with PayPal.)

50 Responses to “Falling Head-Over-Heels In Love with the Universe. (Gita Talk 1)”

  1. Okay. I am IN! I ordered the book through Amazon (plus 2 others, including the Essential Rumi- I got side-tracked, as usual) and it should arrive in 2-3 days. I have always wanted to exploreThe Bhagavad Gita ( I did read the cons of this particular translation but as a newbie I am sure it will be fine for now). Thanks for the opportunity. Very excited. :)

    • I am so glad you are joining us!!! This version is by far the best, or at least I think so, and I have purchased multiple copies. I truly had no idea what the Gita was even about before i joined in on this group, and I am so happy to see a new participant because I hope you get as much out of it as I have. Namaste Sister! =)

  2. Received this question via e-mail: What does Bhagavad Gita mean … is it a person? On page 14 it says it means "The Song of the Blessed One".

    Bhagavad Gita actually means exactly what you have already: "Song of the Blessed One", or "Song of the Beloved Lord".

    In the Gita, it is a person, Krishna, but Krishna is a rich metaphor for the wondrous universe itself. So, in the end, the "blessed one" is not a person but the very life-force of the universe.

    Some people choose to think of it in a secular way like that. Others prefer to think of it as God. Some people prefer to continue the metaphor in their own minds and think of him as a person.

    It's one of the amazing qualities of the Gita that it embraces all these diverse points of view.

  3. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  4. Jennifer says:

    I have read the Gita twice, once with my husband about 4 years ago and once on my own about 2 years ago. I am excited to read it again as it nurtures love in my heart and provides direction. In this reading of the Gita and this discussion, I hope to find a peace with letting my life move towards my purpose without me trying to change things or intervene. Connecting to others around the world through this wonderful text is exciting and inspiring.

  5. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Join us! Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  6. tiffany says:

    I have never read that Bhagavad gita and have always wanted to. I have been on the outside looking in at these talks that Bob has so lovingly kept doing. I have been afraid to comment and get to involved for fear of looking like a fool if I don't understand.
    THat is me and the Bhagavad Gita in a nutshell!!
    I am going to do my best to stay involved with this round and work my way thru it and hopefully love it as much as everyone else!

    • Welcome, tiffany. There are no wrong questions here, but that's why I'm giving everyone my e-mail address this time around.

      If someone is feeling reluctant to comment publicly, but has a question or comment, just send me an e-mail. I don't want to lose anyone this time around!

      Bob

      • You definitely picked the right place to start Tiffany!! I was the EXACT same way before I started doing this, and while the Mitchell version is easy to understand, and relatable, really it is the book coupled with the wonderful work Bob is doing here. We are all truly blessed and lucky to have him!! I hope we hear from you often, and I hope you find the Gita to be something helpful. It truly is my steering wheel through life, and I didn't even know it before this group!

  7. Emily Perry Emily Perry says:

    I have read the Gita before, but just bits of this translation. Thank you for doing this again guys!

  8. ARCreated says:

    This will be my third "ish" reading. I fist picked up a copy of the Gita at a used book store when I was 17 years old I had no idea what it was…but I was searching. At that point in my life I was "recovering" from 8 years of catholic school and 3 years of CCD…I was leaning towards atheism and sad to sad that is where I went for a great many years…I said "ish" because I never made it through that first reading, I was a Little "WTF"? as I read it. But that brightly colored hard back version has been with me ever since. I read a version during my 2nd teacher training and fell in love, with the idea, but not the version and I hope to just deepen my appreciation for yoga in general and the ancient teachings. I "know" the gita but I want to KNOW the gita.
    I am not much of a scholar per se, a student but not a scholar and I have never done the research on which translation is better or worse or why, so I would like to hear more as to why this version might have not been everyone's favorite. I trust bob implicitly but I'm curious…always curious!

  9. Doreen says:

    read before..several times, looking for a better understanding. I always feel like I"m missing something. I have not read this version and I am looking forward to it.

  10. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  11. Mary says:

    I have raed The Living Gita twice, so I look forward to reading this version. I am glad a group to discuss this with!

    Thanks, Mary http://www.WhiteCrowYoga.com
    Aqua Yoga Teacher Training

  12. Yea that was supposed to say : having a group discussion changes the reading dynamnic, and with something like the Gita, it can be like a support net…this is, as far as i have seen, the first time (well second now) that anything like this has been done on the web–such a fabulous idea! (note to self–no more comments at stoplights!)

  13. Jeet Jeet says:

    1) Have you read the Bhagavad Gita before or is this your first time?
    A) Yes, I have, but not from cover to cover, so maybe that does not qualify as reading, but I intend to.
    2) Either way, what is your impression of the Gita going in to this discussion?
    A) The Gita is the most all-inclusive text of all time – both literally and figuratively – there is no other scriptural text that covers so many philosophical and very real-life topics as the Gita does! The depth of this ancient source of wisdom blows my mind!
    3) What are you hoping to get out of this discussion series?
    A) Broadening my perspectives, and get exposed to other people's interpretations – even if they go against the obvious ones. Personally, I always try to see if there is something beyond the obvious, and would like to read everyone's opinions. Also, being highly analytical, I would love to see a western take on this eastern perennial philosophy!

  14. Jessie Senibaldi says:

    I learned about the Gita Talk from a "Be Here Now" satsang member. I had been studying the Gita (translated by Juan Mascaro) along with Ram Dass's "Paths to God". I realized I was having trouble focusing and had many questions. I am so pleased that I learned about this discussion group and will have some guidance and can learn with others. I looked on my bookshelf and realized I also have a copy of the Gita by Stephen Mitchell. Coincidence? Here I am. I am grateful. Namaste'

  15. cfmama says:

    Bob,
    Definitely new to this. I am already struggling with the part of the caste system and being born a woman was thought to have been rotten karma. How to reconcile this from the get go?

  16. Jeff says:

    ordered the book and will catch up when it arrives. I have read parts of the trans by Easwaran and really enjoyed it. We have a Gita talk coming up here soon for YTT.

  17. chiara ghiron says:

    Sine we are already starting with puzzling bits of the Gita, a big question fo me was always in 2.34 when Krishna appeals (at least so it looks to me) to Arjuna’s ego to prompt him into the battle.

    Isn’t that a big contradiction? so I am sure my interpretation is open to debate, although all the translations I have seen appear to give the same type of message

  18. Amanda says:

    I just received a copy of the original classic version The Bhagavad Gita by Eknath Easwaran, as a gift…while I realize I do not have the same introduction, do you think it would still work out for me to follow along with the readings and discussions while using this copy? I would love to join this group and use the copy I have… :)

    • Hi, Amanda. The Easwaran is also a fine version of the Gita. You will find it easy to follow along because we will always reference the stanza numbers. The only thing you'll miss is Mitchell's excellent introduction. But Easwaran actually has much more extensive commentary, with a lot of commentary for each chapter. It will be interesting for you to see if his interpretation varies from what you see here. Please share your impressions with us as we go along.

      Bob

      • amanda says:

        awesome! thanks so much! i'll go ahead and read my introduction and i look forward to the discussions to come!…thanks for doing this- this is a fantastic idea and makes the intimidation of beginning this reading journey so much more comforting :)

  19. Jennifer says:

    I have never read the Gita but have always been curious. Like several of the previous posters, I tend to have difficulty navigating these types of texts on my own and lose steam early in the process. I am looking forward to moving through it slowly with a group of people and to the discussions each step of the way. My life has been lacking in spirituality lately and it feels like something is missing. I am hoping that reading the Gita will ignite a spark and rekindle this area of my life. Thank you for the opportunity!

    • Great to have you here, Jennifer. Please continue to share your thoughts with us as we get into it. We have a lot of new readers in this group, and we're anxious to hear from them as much as from experienced readers.

      Bob

  20. You says:

    I have enjoyed reading Nisargadatta Maharaj's work before the BG. I have immensely enjoyed the words from a Sage and how he framed them to approach the BG for me was:
    *When Krishna says ‘I remember all my past births’, he means the ‘I am’, the fundamental feeling behind all births.
    There is no ‘I am such-and-such’.
    Krishna is the Absolute or the ‘Parabrahman’, your true identity. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna makes a statement where he says that he remembers all his past births. The implication is that he remembers the ‘I am’, the birth-principle, in every birth and not that he was ‘so-and-so’. The ‘I am’ appeared and disappeared on him as the fundamental principle of all births. Although the personalities kept changing depending on the elements, qualities and the circumstances, the ‘I am’ remained the same.
    *Lord Krishna has said, ‘You worship me, be devoted to me’, this means what?
    The knowledge ‘I am’ which is indwelling in you, worship that only.
    *Lord Krishna said ‘All are my expressions’. This knowledge ‘I am’ in each species is myself. The very life force – luminous, bright, radiant, indwelling principle is myself.
    *Understanding what that ‘avatar’ is, Lord Krishna avatar means in essence abiding in that only. Then one is not the body. And what is the body? It is a mere aid for the sustenance or endurance of that ‘I am’ principle.
    *Be that ‘I am’, once you know what you are, remain stabilized in the experience of the Self. Be like Arjuna, Awareness of his Being remained with him constantly, even when he went into the thick of battle. Because he was with Krishna, he could go into battle, knowing that there is nobody who kills and no one who is killed.
    *When you get established in the Beingness there no thoughts or words – You are everything and everything is You. Later even that ceases to exist. Krishna made Arjuna realize that the whole world is Krishna. He realized that the knowledge ‘I am’, which means the manifestation of the entire universe, spontaneously appeared on him.
    *Q: Forgive me a strange question. If somebody with a razor- sharp sword would suddenly severe your head, what difference would it make to you? M: None whatsoever. The body will lose its head, certain lines of communication will be cut, that is all. Two people talk to each other on the phone and the wire is cut. Nothing happens to the people, only they must look for some other means of communi- cation. The Bhagavad Gita says: “the sword does not cut it”. It is literally so. It is in the nature of consciousness to survive its vehi- cles. It is like fire. It turns up the fuel, but not itself. Just like a fire can outlast a mountain of fuel, so does consciousness sur- vive innumerable bodies.
    *In this very moment as you are reading through these lines, or as you ponder over them, who is it that is doing so? It is the knowledge ‘I am’ investigating the ‘I am’. All this that you are doing has the ‘I am’ in the background. The ‘I am’ is the driving force behind this entire undertaking; it desperately wants to know what it is. As the
    understanding grows and it realizes its falsehood, it disappears. This done, there is nothing more left to do, you are then in Eternity.
    I hope this was appropriate and only helps to one lead to Truth

  21. [...] Falling Head-Over-Heels In Love with the Universe. (Gita Talk 1) [...]

  22. Shelly4earth says:

    This is my third copy and version of the Gita. I attempted reading a few pages once, but since I didn't understand the background or the meaning of what I was trying to grasp, I lost interest. I am looking forward now (after gathering more spiritual knowledge) to learning/understanding in this setting.

    I have really enjoyed the Introduction. It helps to put the poem into context, and I appreciated Mitchell's comparisons to other texts.

  23. [...] Is it any wonder that many readers stop right there and say, “I don’t need this. I’m going to find something more uplifting to read”? It certainly doesn’t live up to the promise of “Falling Head-Over-Heels-In-Love With The Universe”. [...]

  24. Victoria says:

    I need help understanding how to follow this book club. Is there one site which is constantly updated? I bookmarked this page, but it only contains the first discussion. I have to keep rummaging around to find the most recent posts. It takes me too much time and is frustrating. Please help. Thanks.

  25. Kathy says:

    Hi Bob- Great forum, thanks so much! What Yoga Sutra book do you recommend?

  26. [...] Falling Head-Over-Heels In Love with the Universe. (Gita Talk 1) [...]

  27. [...] Falling Head-Over-Heels In Love with the Universe. (Gita Talk 1) [...]

  28. [...] Falling Head-Over-Heels In Love with the Universe. (Gita Talk 1) [...]

  29. chiaraghiron says:

    ah!!! forgot to mention that my path appears to be karma yoga… and that it also blew my mind, as the sutras did (and some of the upanishads)

  30. Looking forward to your comments, chiaraghiron.

    Bob

  31. chiara_ghiron says:

    chiara, actually. I was not sure how to post name and surname as it looks like you cannot leave spaces….

  32. Welcome, Steph. Glad you're here.

Leave a Reply