Gita Talk #9: First Date with the Gita? If Not, Remember Yours?

Hi, everyone.  The conversations on the last few Gita Talks have been exhilarating and far-reaching.  But I have a concern that the advanced and sometimes technical nature of some of the dialog might be leaving some of our newer Gita readers behind.

So this blog is primarily for those of you who are relatively new to the Gita. 

(This includes those of you who fall into Erica’s #1 of her very funny Top 10 Reasons to Read the Bhagavad Gita: You were supposed to during teacher training, but only got through 20 pages. And you’ve felt guilty ever since.)

If you are a relatively new reader of the Gita, please tell us how you’re feeling about it.  Are my concerns about the last few blogs justified, or have they been good for you, too?  What are the biggest questions on your mind?  What would help you get the most out of this experience?

(I personally went through a period when I rejected the Gita after my first reading.  So I know how that feels, and I’m anxious to help anyone who might be having the same initial reaction.)

If you are an experienced Gita reader, think back on your own first encounter with the Gita.   What were your first reactions when you were a third of the way through the Gita?  Did it draw you in, or did it make you want to run?  Which version were you reading?  

What can Gita Talk do to better meet your needs?  All feedback and suggestions are welcome.

I’ll leave you with this, my favorite passage from Chapter 7.  Love to hear your comments and questions:

There is nothing more fundamental
than I, Arjuna; all worlds,
all beings, are strung upon me
like pearls on a single thread.

I am the taste in water,
the light in the moon and sun,
the sacred syllable Om
in the Veda, the sound in air.

I am the primal seed
within all beings, Arjuna:
the wisdom of those who know,
the splendor of the high and mighty.

I am the strength of the strong man
who is free of desire and attachment;
I am desire itself
when desire is consistent with duty. (BG 7.7-7.11)

For next week please read Chapters 8 and 9, p. 106-120.

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

32 replies on “Gita Talk #9: First Date with the Gita? If Not, Remember Yours?”

Oh, I feel new to it, cuz its the first time I've been able to read it and understand the sentences without struggle 🙂
My first encounter with the Gita though was many years go when a Hare Krishna Devotee came up to me wanting me to donate something to get a book. I dont remember how he described it, but I remember I bought it and gave it to my mom… haha (I didn't even try to read it, I was maybe 14yrs old)
First attempt to read it was in India at a Yoga teacher training,mandatory and I was bothered that I had to buy it and carry it in my already heavy backpack…so I bought the smallest tiniest one I found in the store (Anne Besant). It was like 10x8x3cm with a hard cover.

My first date with the Gita, I was 17 years old and would study at the local Hare Krishna temple. I remember writing in the margin, "Are we suppose to be detached from our family??? It was almost 10 years after that when in Muktananda's ashram. we would chant a chapter a day in Sanskrit. Gita has been a close friend ever since for almost 30 years.

I don't know when I would ever read the Gita were it not for these talks, Bob. It had been languishing on my reading list for 30 years. Thank you for the spur and for guiding us to the Stephen Mitchell translation in particular.

You were already on chapter 6 when I discovered these talks, so timing has impacted my participation. I wish I had been fully present from the start.

I'm looking forward to future talks, especially if we do Patanjali.

I don't know when I would ever have read the Gita were it not for these talks, Bob. It had been languishing on my reading list for 30 years. Thank you for the spur and for guiding us to the Stephen Mitchell translation in particular.

You were already on chapter 6 when I discovered these talks, so timing has impacted my participation. I wish I had been fully present from the start.

I'm looking forward to future talks, especially if we do Patanjali.

Two questions:
1. Is it possible to sign up for email alerts when you post a new blog? That would really help me stay in tune.
2. Where do you express your concerns with the last couple of blogs?

Hi, Jelefant. Thanks for writing.

Re: your questions–

#1 New Gita Talk every Monday. Only occasionally an extra one. I send out an e-mail to all members of Gita Talk at Elephant Facebook Group.

#2 Any concerns with last couple of blogs you're welcome to write about right here. That's what I meant when I asked for feedback in the blog above. If it's something more private, just send me a direct message on Facebook

Bob Weisenberg

Thanks, Bob. I'll join the FB group.

Re: #2, I don't have any concerns about the last two blogs. You wrote above that you have concerns. I was curious where you expressed those concerns.

Oh, sorry, Jelefant. I did misunderstand you're question.

I have expressed this concern only occasionally in my weekly Facebook messages and indirectly by encouraging more questions from new readers. This is the first time I've created a blog about. I just want to make sure Gita Talk meets the needs of all our readers.

Thanks for clarifying your question #2.

Bob Weisenberg

Whenever I read ‘the Gita’ it ‘Feels Like the First Time’ –think of the song by ‘Foreigner’! There are new insights on every reading. Depending on the oriention of my ‘mindstuff’ I can see a different angle. So, when it comes to ‘the Gita’ I guess I’m ‘Like a Virgin’–thanks Madonna! Wow, I guess my yoga trip could be made into some kinda’ rock musical! ‘The Gita’ gives a good…um, rockin’ date.

Just a note to say: Yes, I'm still following along! Loving all the insights, perspectives and associations everyone is sharing. Last week's discussions certainly gave us newbies a lot to chew on and may take a while to fully digest! I love the passage you've posted this week Bob – the imagery is so simple yet utterly compelling. Especially: "all worlds, all beings, are strung upon me like pearls on a single thread" — the pearls make me think of luster/luminosity/the light with us all, and of refinement and how something precious & beautiful evolves as the result of an intrusion, just as wonderful things can develop out of some of the most difficult situations. Then there's notion of all the pearls on a single thread — individually precious and distinctive (like each of us), yet formed in the same fashion and part of something universal. held together by the single thread – that which is universal.

I'd love to see a Gita Appendix – in the form of a visual diagram, which shows all aspects of the Universe, the big self, the little self, the ego, the mystic Gods, the transcendental, the role of reincarnation etc. and how they all intertwine and interconnect. And included in this diagram would be all the synonyms most commonly used for each of the layers/aspects/ideas and a little index with definitions for each (including very clear descriptions of the nuances of difference in each descriptor). If we really wanted to make it good we could add a table that would compare each important point of the philosophy with all the other major religions and philosophies! Maybe flashcards would be good…Is that too much to ask!? 😉

Just finished catching up on my reading from the last blog…whew! But thanks Bob for bringing it back to the newbies!

I've got all that right here, Meaghan. Only I did it in one of those Tibetan Buddhist sand paintings where a breath of wind can destroy…oops, it's gone. I guess I'll have to start it all over again.

Sounds like a job for our esteemed guest, Graham Schweig, from Gita Talk #8. I was talking to him on the phone and he told me that he's just finishing up a "Concordance" for the Gita. A concordance is an index of every word in the Gita, where is occurs in the Gita, and how it's used in each case. He's doing this for both the Sanskrit and for his English translation.

So your project should be duck soup for him. I'll pass on your excellent suggestions.

Bob Weisenberg

I know that I have been posting but I wanted to point out that this is my first reading of the Gita. So, no, I am not feeling intimidated by the discussion. I don't always understand everything that more experienced readers post, but I didn't really expect to, so it doesn't bother me.

I am really loving the book. This version is very easy to read and I think the language and imagery can speak to almost anyone regardless of their experience with spiritual texts or even their own spiritual beliefs. I am really glad that I decided to dive in. I am learning a lot.

It actually does sound interesting to me, except for the minor detail that I don't know Sanskrit. But I did used to read the dictionary for fun when I was a lit. major in college.

Hi, everyone. I must confess I was expecting a much bigger response to this blog. But we've been getting a lot of "thumbs up", so I hope that means that people are reasonably happy with the way things are going and we should just continue forward in a similar vein, right?

I do have a fun experiment cooked up for Gita Talk #10 Monday, however. I'm always trying to dream up a way to draw more people into the conversation. And I'm alway trying to figure out how to make the conversations more "conversational".

Thanks for being here.

Bob Weisenberg

Okay, perhaps you're not expecting me to show up so soon, but thought I'd offer my "first date" with the Gita, inspired by what those of you who have shared above.

I'm going to take the word "date" literally here, and say that it was about 41 years ago at the age of 14 (yes, hard for ME to believe that!). I grew up in Washington, DC, when many traditional teachers were coming to the shores of America, and I can't think of one I did not attend at one time or another. But more important with regard to the first date with the Gita, I used to go down to the Georgetown area of DC in which the original Yes Bookstore was located. The selection of books on spirituality, world and comparative religions, sacred texts, the occult, etc., was extraordinary. I used to take the bus down there ALL the time and sit there and read for hours, and then purchase many books. This is where I found not just one translation of the Gita, but many, and I cannot remember with which particular translation I started, but within a few weeks, I had thirteen different translations, because I had the sense that none of them were really revealing the original the way I needed it. This seed experience way back then, of needing to authentically read, feel, absorb myself in the depths of this special text, to have a powerful sense of what it reads and feels like in the Sanskrit, led to my deepening my life practice of meditation (and dropping out of high school to do this), coupled with later getting the rigorous scholarly training in college and graduate schools of Chicago and Harvard to learn Sanskrit, which THEN ultimately led to my producing my own introduction to, translation and illumination of the Bhagavad Gītā that was published by Harper One / Harper Collins Publishers just a few years ago, which all of you already know about.

In short, my first date led to a lifetime of dating, "going steady," as it were, leading to "marriage," and, well, if we want to take the metaphor even further, "having a BABY!" And yes, as Bob has mentioned above, I'm producing another "child" or book with Columbia University Press, a comprehensive word reference that can be used by the general reader as well as specialist, to do in-depth study of key words and concepts, to supplement the 24 page index to the verses found in the back of my available translation. Don't ask me when it's coming out.

With best wishes,
Author/Translator of Bhagavad Gītā: The Beloved Lord's Secret Love Song

Graham, I've just ordered both of your books and look forward to reading them. Your contributions here have been truly inspiring. Thank you so much. When will we be blessed with your commentary on the Yoga Sutras?

Pranam – my first real experience with the Giita came approx 16 years ago while living in a mud hut on a banana plantation in India with one swamiji. We lived one-on-one for quite a while and he told me innumerable stories and tales. Before leaving India that trip, I bought a hardback version of Kamala Subramaniyan's prose version of the Mahabharata – perhaps not very scholarly but it told the story well (along with some flowery language) and I referenced some other texts along the way. For me it was an entire world of devotional fascination and I read it with such zeal I felt as though I was there with my Guru. All I did was read that book and do meditation – the book worked as a stepping stone for my personal devotional journey, which I wish I could put it into better words, Just I'd find my lips quivering and mu eyes pooling during various passages – my mind and body totally vibrated. Truly was transformational. Thanks for the question Bob… omn shanti, Satyam

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s