The Bhagavad Gita


J.A.B. Van Buitenen, The Bhagavadgita in the Mahabharata: Text and Translation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981).

Van Buitenen sets the Gita within the context of the Bhagavadgitaparvan of the Mahabharata, and shows how it works within that context "to bring to climax and solution the dharmic dilemma of a war that was both just and pernicious" (5). Van Buitenen’s argument is that Krishna’s teaching addresses the philosophical dichotomy between overzealous ritualism (represented by Mimamsa) and extreme renunciation (represented by the heterodox philosophies) in the historical context, while at the same time maintaining the role of action and the varnashrama dharma. Includes discussion of the role of Samkhya and bhakti.

Eric J. Sharpe, The Universal Gita: Western Images of the Bhagavad Gita (a bicentenary survey) (La Salle, IL: Open Court Publishing Company, 1985).

An exploration of the Western tradition of Gita hermeneutics, starting with Charles Wilkins (1785) through Gerald Larson’s article on the inter-cultural hermeneutics of the Gita ("The Bhagavad Gita as Cross-Cultural Process," Journal of the American Academy of Religion 43/4 [Dec1975] 651-69). Shows how the West has tended to see the Gita as either a piece of archaic literature, to be analyzed in a remote religio-historical context, or as an exotic insight into the ultimate mystery of the universe. It has been understood in its Hindu context only incidentally. Is not a comparison of translations into European languages.

Arvind Sharma, The Hindu Gita: Ancient and Classical Interpretations of the Bhagavadgita, (London: Duckworth, 1986).

Sharma appears ignorant of Van Buitenen’s work, above, yet the thesis of his introductory chapter, of the necessity of taking the Gita in the context of the Mahabharata, is basically the same. Sharma proposes a "practical," contextual approach over against either the philological or philosophical. His main interest is to address the problem of the Gita’s many internal contradictions; [Through this contextual approach], they arise because Krishna uses as many points of view as he can to convince Arjuna to fight, and in such a situation these points of view may be contradictory" (xx). The rest is a drawn out discussion of the Anugita, the Gitamahatmyas, and the commentaries of Bhaskara, Shankara, Ramanuja, and Madhva.

Bakker, J. I. Gandhi and the Gita, Canadian Scholars’ Press, Toronto, 1993.

Herman, A. L. "Ethical Theory in the Bhagavad Gita : Theological Attitude Liberationism and Its Implications." Journal of Vaisnava Studies. 3 (Spr 1995), p. 47-69.

Selvanayagam, Israel. "Pointers and Particulars for an Historical Approach to Hindu Religious Texts: The Case of the Bhagavad Gita," in Re-Visioning India’s Religious Traditions (Delhi: ISPCK, 1996) 22-46.

Sinha, Braj M., ed., Contemporary Essays on the Bhagavad Gita (New Delhi: Siddarth Publishing, 1995 [Siddarth Indian Studies Series]).

Film, The Legend of Bagger Vance; the book it is based on by Steven Pressfield, and

Steven Rosen’s book, Gita on the Green.