TTY 2016: Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita: Krishna’s three paths of yoga

When the mind comes to rest through the discipline of yoga, beholding the Self, the yogi is content in the Self. Abiding there, he is unmoved even by deep suffering.

            — Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, chapter 6

In this class we will be reading and discussing the Bhagavad Gita, one of the most widely read and translated religious texts in human history. The Bhagavad Gita is a conversation between Krishna, one of the avatars (incarnations) of the God Vishnu, and his friend Arjuna, a young prince and master archer. Their conversation is embedded within a much longer epic called the Mahabharata, a sprawling story of family conflict, betrayal, and battle that is read and performed throughout India to this day.

As the conversation begins, Arjuna and Krishna stand on the edge of a battlefield as war is about to begin. Arjuna’s cousins have stolen the kingdom that rightfully belongs to him and his brothers. Although he and his brothers have tried everything possible to maintain family honor and connection in the face of this betrayal, they have been forced into open warfare. In this moment of despair and almost certain death, Arjuna turns to Krishna for help. He receives teachings not only on how to face the looming battle, but on the nature of the Self and ultimate reality.

Required Assignments:


Watch this short cartoon that depicts the events that led to the war portrayed in the Mahabharata, as well as an overview of the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita.

Read the sixth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita.


Read this article by Sally Kempton: A former swami and author of Meditation for the Love of It discusses the meaning of the Sanskrit term dharma.

Contemplate the question: What is my dharma? You can engage this contemplation from all three of the perspectives that Sally Kempton suggests: dharma as duty or ethical imperative, dharma as personal life calling, and dharma as spiritual path. You can use this assignment both to develop your understanding of the meaning of the Sanskrit term dharma, and as an opportunity to contemplate and articulate your current understanding of your own life purpose.

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