Foreign Cultures 12
The Bhagavad Gita: The Field of Dharma

I. The Bhagavad Gita: Text, Context, and Interpretation

A. The setting of the Bhagavad Gita in the context of the epic Mahabharata.
1. Mahabharata an ancient saga, taking literary form between the 5th century B.C.E. and the 3rd century C.E.
2. The Gita, like many teachings about dharma, dates to between 200 B.C.E. to 200 C.E.
B. Mahabharata, Ramayana, and Puranas called smriti, the "remembered" tradition, as distinct from shruti, the "heard" or revealed tradition.
C. Commentaries on the Gita: Shankara (8th century), Ramanuja (11th century), B.G. Tilak, M. Gandhi, A.D. Bhaktivedanta, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (20th century)

II. On the Field of Dharma

A. First words of Gita: dharmakshetre Kurukshetre, "on the field of dharma, at Kurukshetra. . . ."
B. Dharma as order --natural, social, religious, moral law.
C. The infractions of dharma that have led to this battle between the Pandavas, who were driven from their rightful kingdom by the Kauravas, their own cousins.
D. Arjuna's dilemma on the verge of battle --what is dharma in this situation?
E. Dialogue of Arjuna and Krishna --not only about fighting, but about dharma.

III. Three Themes: Knowledge (jnana), Action (karma), and Love (bhakti)

A. Knowledge: The eternal soul cannot be slaim

1. Discriminative wisdom: how to tell what is eternal from what is not?
2. Developing a steady mind, like a lamp unflickering in a windless place.

B. Action: Acting without getting enmeshed in the results of action.

1. Krishna will not let Arjuna renounce the worldly life
2. Sannyasa means renouncing not action, but the fruits of action.
3. Act without passion (nishkama) and without desire for fruits (nishphalartha)

C. Love: Dedicate your action in devotion to God.

1. Bhagavan: God both ultimate and personal. Ramanuja's commentary.
2. Krishna teaches a lesson of divine presence: Though I am unborn, I come into being in age after age, whenever dharma declines and adharma is on the rise. (Gita, chapter 4)
3. Krishna reveals himself fully to Arjuna. (Gita, chapters 10,11)

D. "Abandoning all dharmas, come to me alone for refuge. . ." (18.66)