Teaching the Bhagavad Gītā in the Springtime of Pandemic

In the spring semester of 2020, I taught a seminar on the Bhagavad Gītā, aimed at a close reading of it with particular focus on its progression of ideas and sentiments, and the (assumed) logic of its progression of chapters and in Kṛṣṇa’s teaching. The instruction of Arjuna by Kṛṣṇa is a compelling yet problematic phenomenon. It is problematic because it is hard at times to figure out why the chapters follow one another in the order they do, or even the ślokas within any given chapter. There is a spectacular climax at Gītā 11, a vision of Kṛṣṇa in his totality; and yet seven more chapters, more than a third of the Gītā. are still to come. Couldn’t the Gītā, short as it is, be a good bit shorter? The course was about detecting the deep logic of it, such as would become clear when it is read closely. The point of the seminar was to draw students into understanding the Gītā — as far as one can in thirteen 2.5 hour classes — in translation (Georg Feuerstein’s, with others recommended; with the Sanskrit encouraged for those who could read it), with some sense of original context (using Gajanana Khair’s Quest for the Original Gītā, and Angelika Malinar’s The Bhagavad Gītā: Doctrines and Contexts) and of how the Gītā has been used over the centuries (recommending Richard Davis’s The Bhagavad Gītā: A Biography). 

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