I finally finished reading the Bhagavad Gita a few weeks ago. Yoga school has assigned us the version by Stephen Mitchell. I’ve never read the Gita before so I don’t have much of a base for comparison. While I was waiting for my book orders to arrive by mail, I surfed the web and checked out a few on-line versions. Mitchell’s Gita is inspired. Like I said, although I don’t really know any better, his translation in English reads like it was meant to be written that way.
I remember learning in my first year anthropology class that ancient cultures had an oral tradition of transferring wisdom from teacher to student. Instead of writing it down, they passed on the knowledge in the form of stories and songs. So it only made sense that I should try and do this with the Gita.
When I started to read the second half of the book, aloud and to myself, the story of Arjuna and Krishna seemed to come alive and make sense. The sound of the words drifted up into my ears like a beautiful song.
But I was still confused. I couldn’t write about what I was reading because I wasn’t really sure what I’d learned. There’s a lot of repetition in this story. The basic premise is that Arjuna, the warrior king, doesn’t want to fight in a war against his relatives and asks for advice from Krishna, the Divine being manifest in human form. Krishna is quite descriptive and metaphorical as he teaches his lessons to his student.
So of course, I had to read the Gita again. Seems the second time’s the charm.
Here’s my take on some of the themes found in the Gita:
The Self will be born and then die, only to repeat this many, many times.
You have to take action in life, but you shouldn’t become attached to the results that may arise. You have to “…follow the path of selfless action.”
Meditation is a path to inner peace.
The Divine Being Krishna describes his many manifestations. The beginning and the end. The sun and the moon. The universe. The sound “Om”. Pure energy.
In Sanskrit, guna means mode, phase or virtue. Krishna gives many lessons regarding the three gunas, which are sattva (attachment to joy), rajas (attachment to action) and tamas (delusion and lethargy). Through the faithful practice of yoga, you can achieve freedom and move beyond these three gunas.
I know that scholars have spent their entire careers analyzing yoga philosophy. For me, I’m just playing around and seeing what I can interpret from my reading. It will be interesting to see where the discussion takes us when we talk about the Gita in yoga school.