Welcome to Gita Talk: Self-Paced Virtual Seminar on the Bhagavad Gita. (Original Round)

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Welcome!  We’re glad you’re here.  This the original sixteen session of Gita Talk, an online discussion of the Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation by Stephen Mitchell.

All the blogs below and the rich discussions are still open.  Just dive in, go at your own pace.  Tell us what’s on your mind.  Ask us the questions you were asking yourself as you were reading.  Read other readers comments.

You will always get a personal response from me.  (If you don’t hear back within a few days, please let me know on Facebook.)  I’m always anxious to talk to anyone about the Gita.

For an overview of the Bhagavad Gita, a good place to start is:

Gita in a Nutshell:
Big Ideas and Best Quotations

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


The Complete Gita Talk (Original Round)
(All remain open for further discussion)

Top Ten Reasons to read the Bhagavad Gita

Gita Talk–An Experiment in Online Book Discussion

Gita Talk #1: First Assignment–Read the Introduction

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

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

Gita Talk #4: Why Is the Gita So Upsetting At First?

Gita Talk #4a: Gandhi’s Bible or a Call to War?

Highlights (Gita Talk #4): “What is God to You?” & “Dealing with Our Emotions”

Gita Talk #5: Sublimely Simple, Profound and Livable

Gita Talk #6: And Now for Something Completely Different

Gita Talk #7: What’s Your Favorite Passage?

Graham Schweig’s Rapturous Vision of the Gita

Gita Talk #8: Very Special Guest Graham Schweig

Gita Talk #9: First Date with the Gita? If Not, Remember Yours?

Gita Talk #10: Pretend We’re All Just Sitting Around In My Living Room Together

Gita Talk #11: Different Yoga Strokes for Different Yoga Folks

Gita Talk #12: Does the Infinitely Wondrous Universe
Give a Damn About You and Me?

Gita Talk #13: “The Infinite God, Composed of All Wonders”

Gita Talk #14: A Warm and Wonderful Article by Special Guest Amy Champ

Gita Talk #15: Nearing the Conclusion of Gita Talk / How are We Doing?

Gita Talk #16: In a Nutshell: The Big Ideas and Best Quotations


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-Heals 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, in contrast, won’t settle for anything less than ecstatic union with the divine.  Put them together and you have the astounding whole of Yoga philosophy in two relatively short texts.

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


Ongoing Resources:

Gita in a Nutshell: Big Ideas & Best Quotations

Yoga Demystified


Join Gita Talk Facebook Group for weekly notices
and to meet fellow participants.

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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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anonymous May 20, 2015 1:05pm

Being a student of the ever encompassing and constantly liberating bhagavad Gita and other time honoured ideals ways of life and philosophies. I am constantly reminded of the need to pray and mditate and welcome your in depth understandinf of the vedas it certainly is a route to happiness. I look forward to studying your version of the great teaching and look forward to hearing more

anonymous Jul 2, 2013 9:38pm

Today, I went to the beachfront with my children. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her ear and screamed.

There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.

She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is entirely off topic but I had to

tell someone!

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Bob Weisenberg Aug 3, 2010 7:00pm

Wow, Frank. We appear to have reached near total agreement through very different paths, even on things we hadn't discussed yet, like reincarnation. Exciting to find an apparent spiritual soulmate.

The answer to your last paragraph is simple–all those different forms of "God", even the very concept of "God" itself, are just layers of metaphor for what I'm fond of calling the "infinitely wondrous unfathomable life-force of the universe", i.e. Brahman. In my reading of the Gita, and to me it's absolutely explicit about this, all of those other concepts dissolve into Brahman, and that's the whole point of the Gita.

You'll see all my textual support on Monday. What I've done that's unusual is to rearrange the key passages of the Gita by theme, as opposed to the order in which it's written. The farther along I got on this major project, the more convinced I became of the complete logic of the whole.

(One of my goals in reading the ancient Yoga texts has been to get far enough along that I can form my own opinions about the meaning, as opposed to relying entirely on the expert commentators and scholars.)

Thanks again for your long reply above. We will have a lot of interesting discussions, I can see.

Bob Weisenberg

anonymous Jun 16, 2010 9:24pm

what is the meaning of the war within?

    Bob Weisenberg Jun 16, 2010 9:34pm

    Hi, dawn. Could you remind me where that phrase occurs so I can see it in context?

    I want to say it means all the ways in which our minds and emotions pull us in different directions, and our inner struggle to resolve them. But I would really like to see it in context first.

    Thanks for writing.

    Bob Weisenberg

anonymous May 17, 2010 11:03pm

I'm not going to give up!! 🙂

    Bob Weisenberg May 18, 2010 3:54pm

    Great to have you here, Lorraine.

Bob Weisenberg Aug 2, 2010 3:48pm

Hi, Frank. Thanks for this very interesting question.

My thoughts on this are heavily influenced by Buddhist writer Chip Hartranft, who asserts that the Yoga Sutra is much closer to Buddhism than the ecstatic Yoga of the Gita. In his opinion, any Brahman like interpretations of the Sutra are the result of centuries of Tantra-oriented and Hatha-oriented writers reading that into the text to suit their own preferences, whereas the text itself is clearly, in his opinion, much closer the the Godless "no mind" ultimate state of relaxed inner peace of most (but not all, of course) varieties of Buddhism.

This was pretty convincing to me. Hartranft has been questioned by other prominent Yoga writers, but they all seem to greatly admire the purity and accuracy of his translation regardless, and many recommend it.

It doesn't really matter to me. I meant no diminishment of the Yoga Sutra by my characterization. I felt I was just stating a fact of how the two texts vary in content and tone. You have to admit the Yoga Sutra has very little of the soaring cosmic poetry of the Gita and the Upanishads. My current point of view is that's because Patanjali could assume his students were familiar with that already, and that they needed to be brought more down to earth with some more practical methodology than you can find in either of those. This would be closer to Shearer's point of view, and probably yours, I suspect.

Those are my thoughts. I'm going to stop there so this can be a dialog. You have tons more experience at this than I do, so I'm very anxious to see how your ideas might reshape mine!

Thanks again for taking the time to write.

Bob Weisenberg

Bob Weisenberg Aug 2, 2010 10:02pm

Regarding your catching up on Elephant background, here's something you'll enjoy that's highly related to this Yoga Sutra discussion we're having: http://bit.ly/7xlWXA

Bob Weisenberg Aug 3, 2010 1:22pm

Thank you for your very thoughtful analysis, Frank.

I'm not convinced that anyone knows exactly what Patanjali meant, which is why he is subject to such diverse interpretations. I would argue that most of the fine distinctions you make above are based on interpretations that came centuries later, and thus are subject to the fashionable elaborations of those times. We don't even know when Patanjali lived, much less exactly what was going on in his head beyond the spare words of the Sutra themselves.

That doesn't mean the analyses are invalid, but ultimately it does make sense for each individual to take from the Sutra what's meaningful to him. For me, that means I see the Sutra as an elaboration on the meditation part of the Gita, which is the central text of Yoga for me. Likewise, I see the Upanishads as an elaboration on the "wonder of the universe" part of the Gita.

For me it would be a waste of spiritual time and energy to fantasize about some secret and probably unattainable end state of meditative nothingness. It's way beyond the relevant range of experience for most people, and I'm sure was in Patanjali's time, too. I'm convinced it's often part fraudulent or hallucinogenic even for those who claim to have reached it.

So I guess that's why I feel comfortable with the general term "inner peace". I agree that the ultimate state Patanjali describes is something other than that. But who cares? No one ever gets there anyway, and it's pretty much the same as death if you do, as far as I can tell. But since it's beyond all understanding and words, who knows? I'm talking about the intermediate stages Patanjali describes, the ones that are relevant to you and me in our daily lives, the stages that reduce our suffering and expand our joy, without shutting off our humanness completely.

Like you, I enjoy studying all these competing Yogas and Buddhisms, but none of them hold any authority for me over my own direct experience and my own highly personal direct relationship with the ancient Yoga texts.

I'm enjoying this interchange immensely. I hope you are, too.

Bob Weisenberg

Bob Weisenberg Aug 3, 2010 3:29pm

Your response above is so interesting I've been reading it over again a few times.

Wait until you see my Grand Finale Gita Talk on Monday, in which I try to do exactly what you say shouldn't be attempted: I think we make a fundamental error in seeking a comprehensive, coherent philosophy in the Gita.

I so vehemently disagree with this, Frank. In fact, that's why I like the Gita over most other ancient texts, including the Torah, the Bible and the Dhammapada, the Tao Te Ching, just to mention a few. To me the Gita is utterly coherent, logical, even rational, with I admit making a few allowances for 2500 year old anachronisms and your love poetry analogy above.

I will try to bring this idea to a ringing conclusion on Monday, with full textual support in the form of a kind of thematic index. It's my tour de Gita Force! I don't know if you'll be convinced or not, but I sure am.

I hope and trust you'll tell me exactly how you feel about it. I expect nothing less from you, and, in case you haven't noticed this already, it's that kind of direct debate I really enjoy.

Thanks again for writing. This is fun. Invite your friends and relatives.

Bob Weisenberg