For Stephen Mitchell, Chapter 12 is effectively the end of the Bhagavad Gita.
He considers the final third of the Gita, Chapters 13-18 to be a poorly fitted appendage–inferior poetically and spiritually, and contradictory in content. (You can read his view in his Notes to the Introduction, p. 200-202.)
Many people do not agree with Mitchell. Our special guest from Gita Talk #8, Graham Schweig, for example, has a very different point of view.
But even in his own extensive commentary on the Gita, Graham almost completely ignores the last third of the text, except for the very end of Chapter 18. In his commentary, he quotes 34 passages from Chapters 1-12, but none at all from Chapters 13-18, except for the closing stanzas of Chapter 18.
Personally I felt the same as Mitchell does even before I had read Mitchell’s book. So I don’t intend to hold Gita Talks on Chapters 13-18. But you should read them yourself and make up your own mind.
I hope some of you who have a different point of view will tell us about it in your comments here. Perhaps someone would even like to do a guest Gita Talk in rebuttal, which I would welcome.
Now let’s reflect back on what I wrote as we were just getting started in Gita Talk #5:
The Bhagavad Gita is Sublimely Simple, Profound, and Livable
What is the blindingly simple message of the Gita?
LIVE YOUR LIFE WITH LOVE AND PURPOSE,
DETACHING EGO FROM RESULTS
FOCUS THE MIND
EXPERIENCE THE INFINITE WONDER OF THE UNIVERSE
As they say about the Golden Rule, all the rest is commentary.
Here are the three cosmic truths underlying the Gita’s message:
Each of us is already infinitely wondrous—
miraculous, awe-inspiring, unfathomable
(divine if you prefer)
Our wondrous nature is the same as
the infinite wonder of the universe
We experience this infinite wonder
by waking up to reality
I hope you find this surprising and thought provoking.
I hope it helps give you a vision of where we’re going, so that you can better negotiate the challenges of the text.
If you are overwhelmed by the Gita, I hope you find it encouraging.
I suggest you come back to it often when you’re feeling confused.
And if you think I’m full of beans, I look forward to your critique.
How are we doing on this?
How has reading the Gita affected your life?
Is there anything else you’d like us to cover
in the last few Gita Talks?
I have loved doing Gita Talk. The only additional wish I have is to hear directly from a lot more of you readers! Please write and tell me what’s on your mind.
Next week we’ll talk again about the battlefield setting of the Gita in “Gandhi’s Bible or a Call to War?” We covered this in the early Gita Talk discussions, but I want to add it as it’s own blog because it’s such an important topic. For next week, read Gandhi’s essay The Message of the Gita, which is an appendix to the Mitchell Gita, p.211-221. (Here’s an online copy of Gandhi’s essay for those of you who don’t have Mitchell’s Gita.)
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