It’s Showtime. Please Start Talking All At Once! (Gita Talk 2)

Via Bob Weisenberg
on Aug 28, 2011
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Bhagavad Gita MitchellOK, sports fans, the game is on. This is our first weekly discussion of Mitchell’s Bhagavad Gita. This week we’re talking about the Introduction, which goes through p. 35 (with ten pages of very interesting notes, pages 199-210.)

Before I forget, the reading for next Monday is Chapters 1 and 2, pages 41-60.

The best thing that can happen is if you all jump right into the game, instead of watching from the sidelines. I know we’ll have a great discussion if you:

–Tell us what’s on your mind.
–Ask us the questions you were asking yourself as you were reading the Introduction.
And especially, read other readers comments and reply with your questions, disagreements, or comments.

I like to respond to as many questions as I can myself, but the more help I get the better.

Don’t be shy! There are no wrong questions. And the Elephant crowd is noted for its warmth and civility in handling even the most controversial issues. We have a wide variety of experience in this group, from many first time readers to veteran devotees and everything in between. We all have something to offer each other.

If you don’t have anything particular in mind, then think about these issues and give me your thoughts:

1) How did the Introduction make you feel about reading the Gita?

2) How did it compare to your expectations going in?

3) If you have read other versions of the Gita, how does Mitchell’s vision in his Introduction compare?

4) Are there any questions you’d like to ask?

Helpful Hints

Elephant has a excellent discussion system. If you haven’t been here before, I think you’ll find it very intuitive. Some hints:

–When you post a comment, make sure you subscribe to “All new comments” in the pull down menu at the bottom of the comment box. (Otherwise you’ll just receive e-mails when people reply to your comment.)
–You can post ad hoc each time, or you can register with “Intense Debate”, which will allow you to show your avatar, profile, and keep a history of all your comments.
–This system allows replies to replies and keeps good track of them in an easy-to-read and intuitive way.
Replies get hidden automatically as comment volume grows. You need to click on “Replies” at the bottom of each comment to see them.

If a particular issue gets particularly big or hard to follow , I may open subsidiary blogs to help focus our attention.

I prefer to keep the substantive Gita discussion here on Elephant Journal. But we can also communicate on our Facebook site and on #GitaTalk on Twitter.

Again, the reading for next Monday is Chapters 1 and 2, pages 41-60.

Please be sure to let me know if I can help you in any way.  You are always welcome to contact me directly at [email protected]

–Falling Head-Over-Heels In Love with the Universe. (Gita Talk 1)
–Ten (mostly funny) reasons to read the Bhagavad Gita.

–Gita in a Nutshell: Big Ideas & Best Quotations

–The Original Sixteen Session Gita Talk

–Yoga Demystified (free eBook)

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


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.


41 Responses to “It’s Showtime. Please Start Talking All At Once! (Gita Talk 2)”

  1. ARCreated says:

    1) How did the Introduction make you feel about reading the Gita? Really excited, you can feel his enthusiasm for it and I felt a renewed sense of purpose to reading it.

    2) How did it compare to your expectations going in? I didn't know what to think so guess I just appreciated how he seemed to be in love with the beauty of it and I want some of that.

    3) If you have read other versions of the Gita, how does Mitchell’s vision in his Introduction compare?
    It seems so much more….joyful and less studious if that makes sense?

    4) Are there any questions you’d like to ask? Technical question – are there others reading it on their kindle — if so how do we compare pages etc?

  2. Hi, Aminda. You win the award for the very first commenter on this second round of Gita Talk!

    Regarding #4, this is a real problem. I was trying to communicate with Jennifer about specific stanzas on her Kindle, and it was quite frustrating. It's very clear in the print version, but not on Kindle. I would suggest that before reading each chapter you count out the stanzas and mark every five or so. I wouldn't take that long, and it might save some frustration. However, in most case where I refer to stanza in Gita Talk I include the text, too. So it might not be a problem here.


  3. Tanya Lee Markul says:

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

  4. 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

  5. Hi, Meaghan. Knowing how little time is available for the Bhagavad Gita in a 200 teacher training, I'm thinking that Gita in a Nutshell might be a very valuable resource in that situation.

    That is not to discourage the student from spending a lot more time with the Gita. The ones who like it will. But if there is going to be very limited exposure, it seems to me that it's better to be exposed to the big ideas and selected highlights of the Gita, rather than just get through the first 20-30 pages and be left with that as their impression of the Gita.

    We know that many 200 hour students never actually get very far in the text. I think they're more likely to get through it if they get excited by the big ideas and are exposed to the highlights first, don't you? Perhaps you can experiment with this approach and tell us how it works.


  6. Yes, absolutely. I do intent to offer this resource to my students as a way of continuing their exploration of the text. In my studies I've been presented with the Gita in both ways – from the "Big Picture" and from the perspective to "just read it'. The Big Picture approach is what I think drew me to get really interested and want to learn more.

  7. yogakitty23 says:

    1) How did the Introduction make you feel about reading the Gita?
    You can hear the excitement in Stephen's writing about the Gita. It gets me all powered up about reading it again. And it makes me want to read it everyday so the power of the works stay with me. But he addresses this in the intro too. Getting attached to the Gita
    2) How did it compare to your expectations going in?
    Well this intro is an amazing way to start this journey through the Gita and it just fulfills all my expectations already.
    3) If you have read other versions of the Gita, how does Mitchell’s vision in his Introduction compare?
    I haven't read any other versions of the Gita.
    4) Are there any questions you’d like to ask?
    Not yet but I am sure there will be some later.

  8. Hi, Danielle. Yes this is a common reaction by women reading the Gita, which is why Mitchell felt he needed to address it directly. Other translators, such as Graham Schweig, have removed gender references from their versions.

    More serious for many readers, though, is the culture based anti-woman language that comes very early in the Gita. We'll be addressing that directly next week in our discussion of Chapters 1-2.


  9. Thanks, yogakitty23. Great to have you here.

  10. Terry tator says:

    You are so right. In my training there was so much to do and think about with practice teaching, assignments and taking yoga classes that the philosophy was not up front and centre. In any case it is only now that I am ready to dig and understand thirsty for this information with yoga teacher training behind me. The big ideas are perfect in the training period.

  11. Thanks for the confirming thoughts, Terry. That's very helpful to me.


  12. Sinead says:

    As per a couple of comments above, I am going to find it hard to ignore it’s attitude towards women. Will I have to ignore it or am I misinterpreting something? Please don’t tell me it’s just a cultural difference! Because if this is supposed to be a definitive guide it should have pointed out how senseless it is to repress women and evoke change.
    And can anyone please tell me who originally recorded/transcribed/wrote the Gita and where has it come from?

  13. Hi, Sinead. Rather than ignore, I would say "choose".

    The treatment of women is completely contradictory to the universalist and inclusive nature of the Yoga philosophy in much of the rest of the Gita.

    So, faced with contradictory elements, one has to choose which ones to accept and which ones to reject.

    No one knows who wrote the Gita, but it came out of the Vedic culture of Northern India from about 2500 years ago.


  14. Emily Perry says:

    I am reading it on my kindle as well- Bob- i assume we start tracking it by verses?

  15. Hi, Emily. All assignments are by Chapter. And in most case where I refer to stanza in Gita Talk I include the text, too.

    So I don't think the Kindle causes any problem for Gita Talk at all. It's only a problem if you're referring to a stanza without showing the stanza itself. Then, the Kindle user will have trouble finding that realiably, because it doesn't have the page by page stanza numbers the hardcopy has, not sure why.


  16. Emily Perry says:

    Indeed, this is going to be so interesting. I would have loved to have seen the untranslated text as well, (a la edwin bryant's yoga sutras) so that we have that reference available, and not have to refer to another source for that. I am excited about the beauty in his translation, and I feel like there will be many gems in this journey. Thanks again Bob!

  17. Hi, William. I love your warm expansive comment.

    I've had the pleasure of owning Feuerstein's new translation for almost a year now, because before he published it, it was part of his Distance Learning course on the Bhagavad Gita (see my interview with the Feuersteins ).

    I love both–Mitchell's poetic colloquial English approach and Georg's highly literal, textual analysis approach. Sometimes I read them both together, and have never felt a difference in core meaning. (I'm also very fond of Graham Schweig's version, which is somewhere in between.)

    When read together, they enhance each other. Feuerstein's version answers the question, "What does this text look like at a deeper level of analysis", and Mitchell's version answers the question, "How might the Gita come across in colloquial everyday English".


  18. Tanya Lee Markul says:

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

  19. dani mcguire says:

    Thanks for starting this discussion Bob, and for getting the word out about Mitchell's translation. I think it is the easiest to understand and we use this during our 200 hr program. I discover more each time I read it with them and fall in love with it over and over again. I also appreciate Swami Satchidananda's Living Gita..He speaks about the familiar faces that Arjuna is fighting against(his family..teachers..etc) representing our attachments, which can look very familiar to us. This was powerful for me to hear and apply to my life. I also think it is symbolic that the battle begins in the middle of the field, since most of us our in the middle of our life, now is the time to study the Gita and apply it to our own.

  20. chiara ghiron says:

    Hi Danielle

    I also noticed the specific "politically correct" last paragraph of the introduction and must say I noticed it for – I think – opposite reasons. As you also say, I normally do not feel excluded. I still do not feel excluded here, as I think it is quite easy to understand that time, culture, and perhaps even Sanskrit language, in which by his own admission Mitchell is not an expert, could have focussed the whole conversation between Arjuna and Krishna on the male gender. So what? The message is universal, I think it is for us all to see this. By pointing our attention to particular groups Mitchell can paradoxically reach the opposite effect, insinuate discrimination where in fact there wasn't. I would not worry too much about the male/female issue, and just focus on the non-attachment message. It worked for me!

  21. Hi, Jen. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. Great to have you here.

    I don't know if you noticed it or not, but Mitchell thought Gandhi's famous essay on the Gita was so important that he included it in its entirety in the appendix.

    Looking forward to your future observations as a new reader. This is exactly what I love to see here.



  22. Thanks for your thoughts, chiara.

  23. Thanks for your comments, dani. Good to have you here.

  24. Thanks for your comment, Emily. See my reply to William Price about the difference between versions.


  25. Thanks for joining us, Phil. For those who don't know Phil already, see my review of his astounding book and my interview with him on Elephant:

    True or False? Physical Yoga Has Influenced America More than Spiritual Yoga.

    How Yoga Has Transformed American Spirituality: An Interview with Phil Goldberg, “American Veda”.

    It could be accurately said that Phil's book chronicles the surprising influence of the Bhagavad Gita on American spiritual life.


  26. embodyjoy says:

    1) How did the Introduction make you feel about reading the Gita? A little daunted to be honest. So glad this talk is available though, it will help to keep me motivated with a text I've started countless times but never finished.

    2) How did it compare to your expectations going in? It matched my expectations, though Mitchell does have a joyfulness in his enthusiasm for the text that is infectious.

    3) If you have read other versions of the Gita, how does Mitchell’s vision in his Introduction compare? It seems that Mitchell wishes the text to be accessible to everyone, not just renunciants. 😉

  27. Mark says:

    I enjoyed reading Mitchell's introduction and like most readers find his style of writting openminded which to me is a good trait to have when discussion about the past/present, Divinity and mortal comprehension is about to take place and is going on now even other places than our group. I have read one other translation of the Gita and with it was introduced to Transendental Meditation but I disregarded proper instruction and have lost the yoga position somewhere. Anyways I'm happy to be here now with my new found self; today and hope to venture into a song of love that has blossomed over the years many times in the hearts of people like us. Mitchell made one statement that grabbed all my past lives and hopeful future one, he blasted me into the cosmos with atomic power mentioning "The Atomic Bomb" and how its reaction starts with one atom. My thought at the time was, "our brains are made up of millions of atoms in complex motion" and I pray and dare not think too highly of my Self as to blast myself into schizothymia with friend/enemies that do not exist. Thanks Bob and groupies for having me. <3 Peace

  28. Thanks for being here, embodyjoy.


  29. Good to have you here, Mark.

    This connection between the Gita and modern physics is one we'll come back to later. I just read a biography of Einstein and have always been struck by how much his philosophy resembles the Bhagavad Gita. See Albert Einstein As Yoga Sage.


  30. Hi, livingfrombalance. This was a giant light bulb for me, too.


  31. Bendish says:

    To act surely includes both acting and not acting. Whether the intention is there or not, you are acting in one way or another. Me sitting at home surfing the endless pages on the internet for no particular reason is still acting. My biggest question….what the [email protected]£$k are you getting at Krishna?

  32. Hi, Bendish.

    You’ll be encouraged to know that Arjuna, at the beginning of chapter 3, pretty much says to Krishna, “Are you crazy or something”.

    He has some of the the same problems we do!


  33. Wayne says:

    I just finished reading the intro for the second time and was amazed that I had the same reaction to Krishna's Words:
    I am the taste of water, the light in the moon and sun, the sacred syllable Om in the Vedas, the sound in air.
    I am so blessed to hear the words of Krishna speak to my heart, to me the mantra Hari Krishna Hari Krishna is my heart of love and devotion to Krishna and now I am hearing these words of love and devotion from Krishna to Me.
    We are so blessed!!!!

  34. Thanks for being here, Wayne.

  35. Shelly4earth says:

    Beautiful. I was pulled into those words while reading the introduction, but hadn't gotten past "this is from a poem, words from Krishna to Arjuna" – and had not thought – He's saying this to ME! Thank you!

  36. Pamela says:

    I like the reply above that is feels calming reading the Gita. It does, it seems to stop time and bedazzle the mind. I even felt this whilst reading the introduction,but having never read the intro to the Mitchell version before I wonder what else I'd missed, skipped to the Ghandhi part and realised that someone had ripped it out of the back, hey ho – can't have everything.

    Feel like it has set the whole thing in context.

  37. Lacey Dueck says:

    This is my second time reading this book and I have to say that I am really enjoying it this time! I don't really have any expectations for the book as it is the only version that I have read. I love the enthusiasm that stephen has in the intro. Its like the energy is jumping out of the pages at you.

  38. Shelly4earth says:

    Mitchell's introduction really excited me. As I said before, I tried to start another version of the Gita about a year ago. With no background, no real idea what it was about or how to follow the text, I was lost and struggled through what I was reading. Armed with the introduction, I was ready to get started.

    When I first discovered this discussion I didn't know what to expect. I just thought, "Hmm…well, I keep hearing about the Gita and I wanted to be in the know, so let's do it!" I was scared but hopeful that I'd be able to decipher the knowledge and digest it properly.

    Thank you for somehow landing on my path – Elephant Journal, Bob Weisenberg, and all. I had never heard of Elephant Journal, and now it is a part of my morning routine!

  39. jpsurfyogi says:

    Awesome! This is my wife's favourite part of the whole Gita too! AND…. she's ALSO a hairstylist! i LOVE it! 🙂

  40. […] It’s Showtime. Please Start Talking All At Once! (Gita Talk 2) […]

  41. Kate says:

    I suppose better late than never applies here. I just discovered Elephant Journal and I am glad I did. I decided to buy this translation of the Gita because of the enthusiasm of Bob which I found infectious. As for the introduction, I loved Krishna describing himself but I actually teared up reading " His love here is so intense and intimate that the reader must step into the words to see that every "I" is really a "you." Are we all not trying to identify and touch the Divine within?
    As for the reference to women as somewhat inferior , I have no attachment to that and easily attribute it to the culture at the time it was written. If we expect those who have suffered oppression in the past to "move on" then so should we. The treasures of the text far outweigh it's shortcomings for me so I choose the latter. What a joy to read this book.. my thanks to you Bob!

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