first century BC and the second century AD. India.
religious poem. Also known as "The Song of the Lord."
Later addition to and part of the sixth book of the Hindu epic,
Mahabharata (5th-4th c. BC). Poetic form: 700 verses divided
into 18 chapters; epic stanza employing the meters known as sloka
and tristubh. Original language:
Sanskrit. Recommended translation: Barbara Stoller Miller
About to enter
into battle against his relatives, the Kauravas, the Pandava prince
Arjuna expresses his concerns about violence and the killing of
his own kin. Arjuna's charioteer, Krishna, is an incarnation of
the god Vishnu and advises Arjuna to put all doubt aside and fulfill
his duty (dharma) as a warrior (ksatriya). Krishna argues that to
kill out of duty, in a state of removal from all self-interest,
is virtuous and necessary.
on traditional narratives about the war between the Pandava
clan and the Kauravas (led by the blind patriarch Dhritarastra
of Hastinapura); battle of Kuruksetra (traditionally dated around
traditional religion of India evolved from Vedism, a set of
texts, cults, and doctrines going back to the 2nd millenium
Hinduism's strict, hierarchical caste system: Brahmins (ruling
class of priests), ksatriyas (warriors); vaisyas (farmers, herders,
merchants), sudras (servants and slaves), pariahs (outcasts,
untouchables); membership in caste determined by birth; emphasis
on obedience and performance of one's dharma (duty) within the
caste of one's birth; belief in reincarnation and transmigration
of souls from one kind of body to another (samsara)
religion which arose in India as a reaction against the inequalities
and rigidities of Hinduism. Based on the teachings of Siddhartha
Gautama (Buddha), a sage who was active sometime between the
6th and the 4th c. BC.
undermined by egalitarian character of Buddhism; Buddhism emphasized
the idea of karma (destiny determined by one's actions),
the extinguishing of passion/desire, peaceful coexistence with
all living things, and enlightenment
Gita was crafted by members of the Brahmin caste in an effort
to counteract the rising influence of Buddhism; new concepts:
karma yoga ("discipline of action"), dutiful,
disciplined action without personal desire, sacred duty; bhakti
yoga ("discipline of devotion")
the direction of Buddhism and the voice of Arjuna (pacifism, the
sanctity of all life), Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) interpreted
the Bhagavad Gita as supporting the doctrine of non-violent
to war correspond to the positions of Buddhism
correspond to the interests of the Brahmin classes and the ideologies
offer a modification of traditional Hinduism intended to preserve
the caste system and its associated duties while accomodating Buddhism's
call for selflessness and withdrawal from worldly concerns
marked by evident contradictions which can only be explained by
the underlying political and social interests that dictate them
of the Bhagavad Gita as an attempt to reconcile the beliefs
of Hinduism with an ethic of peace and respect for all living things--notable
differences with the ideas of Krishna
composed the Gita? For what purposes? How did the historical and
cultural conditions of the time affect the shaping of the work's
ideological content? What arguments does Arjuna invoke to support
his concern about participating in the battle? What arguments does
Krishna employ to overcome Arjuna's objections to participating
in the battle? Are they persuasive? Are they consistent with the
Buddhist concern with the "bad karma" of violent action?
Why? Why not? In what ways does the Gita attempt to smooth out the
contradictions between the teachings of Buddhism and those of Hinduism?
Is it successful in this endeavor? How do you feel about Krishna's
argument that the immortality of souls makes killing less problematic?
Is it possible to read this text, as Gandhi did, as an argument
against violence? How?
am all-devouring Death,
of what is to come"
by Robert Oppenheimer, nuclear physicist,
site of the first atomic bomb test (Trinity), July 15, 1945
2001, 2002, 2003 by Fidel Fajardo-Acosta,
all rights reserved