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Bhagavad Gita

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Becky Boncal

on 8 December 2014

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Transcript of Bhagavad Gita

Next to the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita is the most translated religious writing in the world. It is often considered the most central scripture in Hindu belief.
This poem was inserted into one of the world’s longest epics, the Mahabharmata, during its textual compilation in the first century.

It contains eighteen chapters and seven hundred verses, both numbers signifying completeness.
Bhagavad means “of the Lord”.
Gita means “song.”
Through Krishna’s teaching, duty is redefined not by tribal or social but by heavenly standards. In the tribal standard, there is only the family and its needs. The heavenly standard proposes a total right order for the cosmos, in which the righteous soul is to play a part based on the two determinants of his spirit and nature.

The Indus Valley civilization develops.

According to legend, the great war described in the Mahabarata takes place.

1000 Writing of the Vedas

Siddhartha Gautama, inspiration for the founding of Buddhism, is born.

400 BCE - 400 CE
The Mahabharata (and Ramayana) are composed.

273- 232 BCE Ashoka the Great followed by decline of Maurya Dynasty, descent into civil war


First century
The Bhagavata Gita is composed as one section of Mahabharata.

The first English translation of The Bhagavad Gita is published by Charles Wilkins.

322–185 BCE
Axial Age
Major shift in human thinking c.700 BCE-100 CE

most activity from c.600 BCE to c. 300 BCE

Spread out geographically from East Mediterranean to China
term coined by German philosopher Karl Jaspers
Saw development of several new religions

Hinduism (development of the Upanishads)
Confucianism in China
Various philosophical schools in Greece, along with math and sciences

Key ideas of the Axial Age (not all adopted everywhere)

Increasing spiritualization of religion, moving away from emphasis on ritual
Internalization of right and wrong (development of a moral conscience) as opposed to punishment-reward systems
Divine love
Political and ethical rationalism
Natural rationalism - math, science
Buddhism and Jainism

India-region had been dominated by Brahmanism in the post-Harrapan period

Based on the Vedas, holy texts of the Arayn migrants

placed strong emphasis on ritual and sacrifice to appease these gods

gave enormous social, economic, and political power to the priest caste, the Brahmins


though has older roots, main tenets established by Mahavira (c. 599-527 BCE)

like other religions in the region, believed in reincarnation

souls are reincarnated based on accumulation of karma (action/consequences of action), that force reincarnation - gain liberation by freeing themselves of karma

souls must practice Right View, Right Knowledge Right Conduct to gain this liberation and become god-consciousness

soul is in everything - since all soul can achieve liberation, it is important to avoid doing harm

as such, Jainism emphasizes ahisma - non-violence - and Jains are usually vegetarian

it is important to practice asceticism (avoidance or non-attachment to possessions and worldly pleasure) to acheive enlightenment and liberation

founded by Siddhartha Guatama c.563-483 BCE

of the noble/warrior kshatryia caste,
from the hill regions near Nepal

In tradition of the region, believed in samsara

Founds a religion based on the Four Noble Truths

all life lead to suffering

suffering comes from desire

impermanence of world makes fulfillment of desire impossible

our desire, craving and attachments draw us back into the world of suffering through reincarnation

suffering can be ended by a cessation of desire and attachment, the realization of the the truth of the No-self

Nirvana, the cessation of attachment, can be achieved by following the eight-fold path: right knowledge, right purpose, right speech, right conduct, right occupation, right effort, right awareness, right meditation.

like Jainism, emphasizes ahisma and asceticism, as well as importance of moderation
1. Increased spiritualzation
2. Monotheism
3. Divine Love and the Internalization of a Conscience
Many Axial Age thinkers posit a special place for humans receive focus of God's (or gods') attention
humans elevated above other living things
not everyone agrees about this elevated place - Jains, notably
This specialness also puts demands on human behavior
Jewish Covenant demands an adherence to and and internalization of a moral code
Buddhism requires a life of moderation and ahisma, following thee Eight-Fold Path
Belief in liner time implies a changing history.
4. Political and Ethical Rationalism
Axial Age sees development of schools a thought that approach human society as a logical problem to solve
Pessimists and skeptics
Plato - Athens (428-348 BCE)
The Republic, argues that most humans motivated by desire
only an elite is guided by wisdom - the Guardians
thus only the Guardians can rule for the good of all
Socrates (469-399 BCE - Athens, Greece)
Argued that truth is something pursued, not uncovered.
All could seek truth through through the dialectic.
Thus advanced what we call the the Socratic method--learning based on conversation, questions and answers
Concerned primarily with ethics - ethical knowledge could be gained by rational reflection on goals and consequences
Believed that doing good comes from knowing good - "Virtue is knowledge"
Thus asked, "what is wisdom? who is wise?"

5. Natural Rationalism
Study of science and mathematics
Pythagoras (c. 569-475) founds a "school" (more of a cult) devoted to, among other things, the study of numbers
Introduces abstract mathematics, as opposed to applied mathematics, to the study of nature
Believed that the universe was constructed out of pure, abstract mathematical forms
Will be echoed by people like Plato, who argued that the universe was constructed out of perfect geometrical forms
this kinds of thinking leads to a study of numbers as numbers, forms as forms, and not as practical tools for commerce or architecture
Will lead, by c.300 BC, to the development of the mathematical proof with the the work of Euclid in geometry
In China, scientific study geared to practical needs of the state

Astronomic study promoted by imperial state since emperor's ability to maintain harmony judged in part on ability to provide an accurate calendar

Chinese understanding of nature reflected and reinforced Confucian political ideology that emphasized a harmonious, interlocking set of relationships that united all people

Nature seen holistically, as a single organism, much like the idealized state

State and social organization both part of and a reflection of that natural order, thus disorder in one created or reflected disorder in the other

In India, the needs of the priest caste, the Brahmins, of high importance

Ritualistic importance of texts and reading texts leads early to highly developed study of linguistics

Belief in very long cycles of time leads to early development of study of large numbers

A highly technical and mathematical understanding of astronomy developed out of need for astrological computations
Gita written in Epic-Puranic Sanskrit.
Sanskrit is an ancient Indo-European language, (which developed in) what is now India around 1600 BCE.
Sanskrit is in use today.
First written down around 300 BCE, during the Epic-Puranic period, and this is the language of The Bhagavad Gita.

The Gita is written in epic narrative stanza—a quatrain with eight syllables in each quarter. Like The Odyssey, the Gita counts the length of syllables to create meter rather than the stress on each syllable.
Also like The Odyssey, the Gita uses epithets, descriptive words or phrases, to keep the meter flowing properly

Sanskrit is a root language of ancient Greek and Latin, and indeed of all European languages except for Finnish and Hungarian. Modern European languages, including English, still hold traces of their Sanskrit roots.
For example, there are correlations between some personal pronouns, like vayam (we), yuyam (you), asman (us); and some verbs. like bhu (be), and as (is).

(Form Annenberg Learner)
Axial Age
The poem is constructed in dialogue form. Sanjaya reports story to blind king Dhritarastra (seems to represent existing power before Krishna's revelation).
Modern Inidan commentators have given it a metaphoric, psychologcal reading reading in which Arjuna learns to kill the enemies of his Suprime Self. When one does this he realizes 3 things:

1. The universe is one, we cannot escape its continuity
2. Arjuna's own interests and those of the universe coincide: what is done for the Supreme Self is done for the universe and vise vera
3. These awarenesses lead to a union of love with his Supreme Self (Vishnu) and to the ability to accept the entire universe with joy and to join it's universal aims (Voth 39-40).

Works Cited

"The Axial Age." The Axial Age. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Oct. 2014.

"The Bhagavad Gita." BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 08 Oct. 2014.

"The Bhagavad Gita." Invitation to World Literature. Annenberg Foundation, 2013. Web. 08 Oct. 2014.

"Bhagavad Gita Study Guide." Bhagavad Gita Study Guide. Http://www.misterdann.com/, 06 Oct. 2001. Web. 08 Oct. 2014.
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