July 26, 2010

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

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?




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.)

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

You must be logged in to post a comment. Create an account.

Parimal Aug 6, 2010 1:04pm

Amy, Gita's infinite widsom and love is here to guide us all and this effort of understanding the Gita is great and we should continue our study.

Amy Champ Aug 4, 2010 2:36pm

THANK YOU Parimal Soni. I think you've proven all of the Gita is important. Namaste on this beautiful piece. May Gita live long in our hearts and minds!

Bob Weisenberg Aug 4, 2010 4:41am

(continued from above)

Chapters 7 thro 12 are about “Tat" or God Him self. (When I say Tvam and Tat- I refer to “Tat Tvam Asi- meaning thou art that) Had Lord Krishna felt that the dialogue was over, he would have stopped here. As we know that Arjun's delusion was gone already. (Chapter 11, verse 1) We must keep in mind that Lord Krishna was a student of philosophy par excellence. He lived very a life that was un-assuming. This was the very reason; Arjuna could not know the true nature/form of Lord Krishna. Hence, in chapter 11 verse 40-41 he admits he could not recognize the true nature of Lord and asks for forgiveness because he many times had behaved as friend and play with him, made fun of him. Old Indian philosophers are known to take pain-staking efforts to not add one extra letter in their exposition/writing.

So, Chapters 13 thro 18, extremely important and they are their for a reason. Indian never believed in dry thoughts and aimed for imbibing those thoughts in life as ideals. Those thoughts are to be sawn in life to reap the rewards of self- development. Hence chapter 13 is what it is called. Kshtra means a farm, such a land where something is planted it bears fruits. Kshetra means "object" the knower-Kshtragya means knower of the field i.e. God-himself. Here he also explains true knowledge, nature of ego, intellect, nature of Prakriti and soul. Most amazing verse of chap 13 is verse 22. Where he touches upon immanence of god in all beings. The expression of that god-head depends upon the development of the person (soul, Jiva). Such a person needs to possess, develop certain qualities such as absence of pride, freedom from ego, non-violence (Chap 13, verse 7-9). Chapter 14 he explains about Prakriti and three Gunas- satva, Rajas and Tamas and here he shows one more ideal to be achieved – i.e. ideal of Gunatit (one who has transcended he Gunas). Chapter 15 is shows one more ideal of Purushottam. Here, he explains the nature of sansara (life as a whole) and how to transcend the identification with it, what qualities need to be developed. Once one understand the nature of Karma, gyan (knowledge) as explained in chapters 1 thro 6, one also needs certain ideals to achieve. Gita is not merely philosophical and intellectual discussion but it is guide for spiritual aspirants and shows many ideals to look up to.

Hence it goes in to explanation of godly nature and demoniacal nature in chapter 16. It describes what qualities signify godly nature and tells aspirants to achieve those. Later, he explains the importance of scriptures in chapter 16 and chapter 17 he explains the nature of faith itself because one must remember the Gita is a devotional song meant to unite the self and higher self. It is actually a love song between God and his devotee. We should also recognize that the Gita is a dialogue between to finest minds of the time. Hence, there are repetitions, references to same concept many times. If one looks at it closely then the method is "spencerian" Chapter 18 is the most important chapter of all where he once again touches upon renunciation, karma etc. Doing all karmas without attachment is the key message. He also explains about true devotee, he touches upon the nature of "ego", nature of "Sansara" and nature of knowledge etc. The Gita starts with the word “Dharma" and ends with the word "mine" (mama) hence, it really and truly explains” my dharma- duty “in this life. There four characters in the Gita – Dhrutrashtra, Sanjay , Arjuna and Lord- Bhagvan. The last verse explains the result of the Gita. After listening to the Gita, Sanjay who is merely a "driver" of the then king tells the king that your side is going to loose in the war. It is not a tacit statement but it is a proclamation. So, every single chapter, word, comma, syllabus is integral part of the gita and nothing, absolutely nothing is redundant in the Gita. The Gita needs to be approached with love of a devotee like Arjuna. The result of the Gita is verse 72 chapter 18.

–Parimal Soni

Read Elephant’s Best Articles of the Week here.
Readers voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares:
Click here to see which Writers & Issues Won.

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.