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

Via Bob Weisenberg
on Jul 25, 2010
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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.


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.


65 Responses to “Gita Talk #15: Nearing the Conclusion of Gita Talk / How are We Doing?”

  1. YogiOne says:

    Or you could just be sarcastic. That works for me too. I like sarcasm. It makes the world go round. 🙂

  2. Hi, YogiOne.

    I personally don't see Yoga proposing that at all. Quite the contrary. This world will be destroyed and others recreated over and over again. Krishna is the "destroyer of worlds". In this, the Gita and modern physics are completely in sync.

    You gulp down all worlds everywhere swallowing them in your flames

    I recall again my bumper sticker/t-shirt:

    If you can't beat the universe, join it.

    See my other recent comment around this sentence.

    This doesn't mean we become less human. On the contrary, being human takes on a whole new luminance when seen from a universal perspective. That's what Yoga proposes.

    Bob Weisenberg

  3. YogiOne says:

    Just because we can conceive in abstract terms of infinities does not mean they exist in reality. An oft cited infinity: If you move half way from one point to another and then again, move half way toward the same point, ad infinitum, you would never get to the destination, yet always be traveling. Actually, you would stop when half the distance to the point becomes smaller than the smallest possible particle. Likewise, counting real objects would have a finite end, the number being the sum of all smallest particles in the universe.

  4. YogiOne says:

    Ok, I could have been more clear. The part where I see yoga coincide with the protogod thing is that both propose as a goal for human life, the development (evolution) of the individual and the species to the ultimate limits of consciousness (however that might be defined).

  5. In my humble opinion, you're on shakier and shakier ground all the time here, YogiOne.

    First of all, you're certainly aware that even the existence of particles themselves is fuzzy in the new physics. Matter = energy. Quantum physics. String theory. It's getting harder and harder to tie down what is meant by "the physical universe", much less "particles".

    Secondly, why would we be limiting the universe to the physical anyway? Is that what you're saying, that the "physical" universe is finite? Are not our minds and our imaginations an integral part of the universe, too? And how do we know that our particular minds are not among the least developed among all the life forms in the universe, not the most developed?

    Here I am presenting you with the very simplest of scientific ideas–a string of whole numbers, "1,2,3,…" and you agree that it is infinite. But for some reason, this science, which is one of the few we can say we understand 100%, doesn't count when we're considering whether the universe is infinite or finite? And there are all these other things out there we haven't even begun to comprehend yet, but you're assuming, unlike this one that we do understand 100%, they will all be finite?

    But while theoretically interesting, I will always go back to my previous comments that even if science were to figure out every last thing some day, it would be more wondrous, not less wondrous, that it seems today, so wouldn't change a thing about Yoga.

    Bob Weisenberg

  6. YogiOne says:

    Well, Bob, yes, there is a complex relationship between Mass and Energy and in some natural processes, they do change from one form to another. Still, there are estimates of total mass and energy in the universe which are becoming more precise all the time. No one in physics is proposing that either is infinite.

    That string of whole numbers is not infinite when applied to any physical property, and yes, the universe is limited to those things that physically exist. Even ideas that include concepts of the infinite are finite and will suffer the same fate as the rest of the universe. To me, that makes life even more precious. It is in the process of understanding the true nature of the universe that genuine wonder is found.

  7. YogiOne says:

    Oh, and we do not understand mathematics 100%. I have several friends who are mathematicians who are very grateful this is so because they would be out of a job if they couldn't publish incremental gains aimed at solving several long-standing mathematical conundrums.

  8. I've got to politely ask you not to so carelessly misquote me, YogiOne. I don't know how you can get "understand mathematics 100%" from what I wrote. I only said "a string of whole numbers."

    Bob W.

  9. YogiOne says:

    OK. I'll quote you directly: "this science, which is one of the few we can say we understand 100%" The science you were referring to was mathematics. A string of whole numbers is not in itself a science.

  10. YogiOne says:

    There is a version called the Unadorned Thread that has twelve translations of each Sutra side by side with no explanatory text at all.

  11. Thanks for sharing your reactions with us, Rhonnie. It's very fulfilling to hear about your reactions to our discussions here.

  12. I encouraged rebuttals to the summary dismissal of chapters 13-18 in my blog. Just received this eloquent contribution from Parimal Soni on Facebook. (I've broken it into two parts to fit.) Thank you, Parimal!

    Dear Bob; I tried to write following comment in responce to Gita talk # 15. Due to the length of the comment I could not post it so , I am writing to you this way. I must tell you that you are doing a noble work and I am glad to know you.

    It is so great to see the Gita being discussed with a view to imbibe and learn. This is very noble experiment and from the few comments I read it seems very gratifying for the readers. My connection with the Gita is as a learner. The Gita is essence of Indian philosophy. In chapter one Arjuna is taken over by delusion about his self, his true duty towards humanity and faces an inner war between two "dharmas" If it was a choice between right or wrong, Arjuna would not have faced any confusion. His duty as a warrior (Kshtriya) and duty towards the elders that he grew up with. Had Arjuna not asked for the path of Salvation (Sanskrit word "shrey" in Chapter 2 verse) and said that he was Lord Krishna's disciple (shishya) Lord Krishna would not have elaborated any further. He would have simply said, “Arjuna, you sit aside and I will take care of what needs to be done." He was not bound by any vows (i.e. not to fight/bear arms during the war) that he hand taken. Actually, he demonstrated that twice during the war. Accepting Arjuna as disciple, he ventures into phisophical realm because "too fight or not to fight" question of Arjuna had deep philosophical undertone to begin with. Hence, Lord Krishna embarks on explaining nature of soul and separateness of physical body and the soul. (Chapter -2). The culmination of which is the “superman of the Gita" i.e. Sthithpragya man. (Chapter 2 verses 54 thro 72). Later from Chapters 3 thro 6, he explains the nature of Karma (3rd chap). He also explains about self less action (Yagya). Here, he tells Arjuna to slay his desire and understand/grasp the God that is supra-rational. (Chap 3 verses 43.) In chapter 4, he describes the continuity of soul and what he incarnates. Also, he explains immortality of ideas too- but the ideas that are time -tested not just any idea. Here from chapters 3 thro 6, he synthesizes the divergent thought processes of "Sankhya, Yoga and Karma." He also touches upon the nature of mind and how to focus/concentrate the mind as a spiritual aspirant. Essentially, in first 6 chapters he explains about "Tvam" i.e. Jiva or self. He also touches upon self being one with/part of higher self i.e. Brahm.


  13. (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

  14. Amy Champ says:

    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!

  15. Parimal says:

    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.