Ten (mostly funny) reasons to read the Bhagavad Gita.

1. You were supposed to during teacher training, but only got through 20 pages. And you’ve felt guilty ever since.

Gita Talk has begun! See 
Falling Head-Over-Heels In Love with the Universe.
(Gita Talk 1)

I’m pleased to announce the start of a new round of the popular online discussion of the Bhagavad Gita, Gita Talk, beginning August 22.  This will give you plenty of time to get the Stephen Mitchell text.  Order it now so you’ll be ready to begin on August 22!

This time you can look ahead if you like, because we will be following, perhaps with some additions, the original sixteen session Gita Talk.  And you can also see the Gita sliced and diced by major theme in the sequel sixteen part series Gita in a Nutshell: Big Ideas & Best Quotations, which just ended recently.

Gita Talk is like an online book club.  We will read about one chapter per week and discuss it right here on Elephant.  Join our Gita Talk Facebook page for weekly notices of each new discussion blog and to get to know your fellow Gita geeks.  Each blog also gives you the short reading assignment for the next week.

I am very pleased to have Elephant writer Jennifer Cusano as my partner in running this new Gita Talk.   Jennifer will moderate the discussions and get the word out about Gita Talk in the social media.

If you’re still uncertain about whether you should join us, here are ten reasons why you should, brought to you by Elephant and Yoga Journal writer, Erica Rodefer:

10 Reasons to Read the Bhagavad Gita

1. You were supposed to during teacher training, but only got through 20 pages. And you’ve felt guilty ever since.

2. You need a fresh, new bedtime story to tell your kid, niece, nephew, dog, cat or goldfish.

3. “I find a solace in the Bhagavad Gita that I miss even in the Sermon on the Mount. When disappointment stares me in the face and all alone I see not one ray of light, I go back to the Bhagavad Gita. I find a verse here and a verse there and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming tragedies—and my life has been full of external tragedies—and if they have left no visible, no indelible scar on me, I owe it all to the teaching of Bhagavad Gita.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

4. You think “Bhagavad Gita” sounds like an exotic disease that could have been prevented with a simple mosquito net. (I hear it gives you a horrendous rash!)

5. You were trying to follow your dharma, or life’s purpose, but got distracted by something shiny.

6. Learn about bhakti yoga (devotion), jnana yoga (knowledge) and karma yoga (service), and apply all of these things to your own practice.

7. It will give you something intelligent to talk about at cocktail parties. You’ll be the life of the party!

8. Shouldn’t you know more about the practice you’ve devoted so much time, effort, energy and thought to?

9. It’s available for free online! And you’ve never been one to pass up a bargain … (Ignore this one.  You really want the Mitchell version.  Trust me. ~ Bob W.)

10. Now you have a supportive community to share your comments and questions with.

Let’s motivate each other to get through this all-important yogic text.

I’d like to have a cyber show of hands.  If you’re in for the new Gita Talk, leave a quick comment below!  And any other ideas or comments you have about the Bhagavad Gita are welcome too!

54 replies on “Ten (mostly funny) reasons to read the Bhagavad Gita.”

I have read this and am going to be honest enough to admit that I need some guidance and insight to more fully recognize the particulars of the text. I finished it so discouraged that I didn't experience a mind blowing epiphany.
I have a feeling this is a text I will read multiple times throughout my life and will mean something different based on my own evolution.
Needless to say – I'm in..

Hi, Ang. I gave up on the Gita three times before growing to love it, and before it became one of the greatest influences on my life. That's partly what motivated me to start Gita Talk.

Bob – how is it that you always know just the perfect thing to say that leaves me feeling equal parts comforted and inspired? Yet another reason for anyone who is on the fence about being a part of this to get on board. Bob just has a way…

And I have been linking to the first Gita in a Nutshell series over at my blogsite. These are people who look to me for philosophical guidance on Zen and on yoga …

"Give a man a fish, he has food for a day

"Teach a man to fish, he has food for a lifetime."

–Lao Tzu

In a sense, this Gita in a Nutshell is teaching someone how to fish for the good stuff in the Gita ..

No problem, William. As a side benefit from you comment, I went to look at Tikkun (wanted to see if they had a 32 session online discussion series on Genesis with thousands of readers , and if so, could they laugh about it!), liked it very much, and then recommended that our new Elephant Spirituality Editor, Ben Riggs, take a look at Tikkun for possible writers.

They are moving from print to mostly online, and are soliciting blogs from all traditions for their Tikkun Daily Blog. I'm going to submit Gita in a Nutshell, I think. So, thank you!

Dear Bob,
Count me in! This sounds interesting, insightful, and dare I say it, fun. Thanks for starting up a project like this with good humour included. We all take ourselves and yoga way too seriously sometimes.

Hard to take this seriously, but not for the obvious reason. Might be better off picking a translation from someone who knows Sanskrit, like Georg Feurstein, or Babara Stoler Miller.

Honor to have you comment here, old boss. I (used to, haven't read him forever) love Georg Feurstein (sure I still would). I'll follow Bob's suggestion down this comment thread and see where we go from there. ~ W.

Hi, Peter. Funny you should mention that. I just had an exchange with another reader on this important subject:


Bob: I've been accused of being Bhagavad Gita lite because I highly recommend the Stephen Mitchell translation…

Thaddeus: Purely out of curiousity…is Stephen Mitchell fluent in Sanskrit?

Bob: No, not at all. His version is based on his best synthesis of over 50 English versions of the Gita. He describes his method and his purpose eloquently and, to me, convincingly in a long chapter in his book.

Having read six other versions of the Gita repeatedly, including the Prabhupada edition mentioned above, and having made many direct comparisons between the Mitchell version and the others, I personally believe that Mitchell admirably achieved his goal of greater clarity, poetic beauty, and accessibility.

That said, I also love the Graham Schweig version and brand new Georg Feuerstein version, too. And I'm sure there are other great versions that I haven't had the pleasure of reading yet. Since I've done a lot of direct stanza to stanza comparisons, I never worry about missing any key meaning reading any of these three.

Great question, Thaddeus. Thank you.

Thaddeus: Thanks Bob. I have always found stanza to stanza translation comparisons invaluable. On a side not, are you familiar with Salvatore Zambito's "The Unadorned Thread of Yoga: The Yoga-sutra of Patanjali in English?" You can purchase a copy on his institutes website at It is amazing because, not only does it provide a word for word translation, but it also compiles 12 translations from a broad range of translators and puts them all on one page together.

Bob: Actually that process of Zambito's is kind of similar to what Mitchell did in creating his version of the Gita–he lined all the leading translations up side by side, and tried to use his awesome poetry skill to try to come up with something completely true to the meaning, but a more poetic and natural English feel to it. The idea of combining the consensus translation skill of the most learned Sanskrit scholars with the talents of a truly first rate poet like Mitchell makes perfect sense to me.

What do you think, Peter?

Bob W.

I am in too. I am in the process of doing a teacher training and its on my list to read so you can all help me with my homework.

My teacher of 10 years, Dr. Douglas Brooks, has written a beautiful & clear guide to the Gita called "Poised for Grace: Annotations on the Bhagavad Gita from a Tantric Point of View," which is a spectacular chapter by chapter discussion of the major themes – easily read & highly informative. If you are interested in crystal-clear commentary, this is it. Douglas is a professor of Eastern Religions & Sanskrit at the University of Rochester. His favored translation is by Van Buitenen – easily found on Amazon. I've read the Juan Mascaro many times, which is beautiful, but sometimes seen as having a slightly Judeo-Christian tradition tone to it. In any case, it is great to start anywhere & then expand from there!

Raising my hand. Read some online versions. Winced at the semiliteral English translation. Argued a lot with it in my head. Some 'splaining would make it better.

I read the whole Mitchell book yesterday in two sessions. Almost the whole book is highlighted. I agree with the fact above that it turned me off a little that the book started with a war, and Krishna telling Arjuna to get out and fight. This went against everything I believed in, and I wasn't sure I wanted to continue. However, I'm glad I did. After I finished the book, I can honestly say that my heart was wide open! I found this book to be much easier to read than the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali (which is my next book – started it first, but quickly switched to Bhagavad Gita). Am looking forward to reading these blogs, even though I finished the whole book already. I know that some people find the repetition annoying, but I think it is always stuff that was worth repeating.

I did’t find any of the above reasons funny for reading Bhagavad Gita.
Many people start reading Bhagavad Gita because they are introduced to a very refined form of a topic through bhagavad gita… like management lessons from bhagavad gita or bhagavad gita lessons for students etc.

There are alot of versions of Bhagavad Gita which are proving very helpful to people of different areas and languages and i thank them for obeying the order of lord krishna (order of enlightening the world through teachings of Bhagavad Gita for a better living and lifestyle )

I am associated with which is following the orders of Lord Krisha and has enlighted many through Gita classes and free consultation for life problems through Bhagavad Gita.

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