November 7, 2011

Is Love Itself the Overriding Theme of the Bhagavad Gita? (Gita Talk 12)

(There is no additional reading assignment for the next two weeks.
We are discussing some of the major themes of Chapters 1-12.)

To some prominent Gita scholars, like Graham Schweig, love itself is the overriding theme of the Gita—two way love, we love the world and the world loves us back.

Catherine Ghosh has devoted one of her wonderful videos to this idea :

(See also Gita Talk #8: Very Special Guest Graham Schweig and
The Dance of Divine Love: An Interview with Catherine Ghosh

My own feelings are well expressed in my original review of Mitchell:

Falling Head-Over-Heals In Love with the Universe

For those of you who have always wanted to absorb the spectacular wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita, but have found it difficult, I highly recommend Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation by Stephen Mitchell…

The Bhagavad Gita is quite literally about falling in love with the indescribable wonder of the universe, that is to say, God. These two are synonymous in the Gita. (Believe it or not, the text itself says that you can approach God as either an unfathomable cosmic life-force or as an intimate personal diety. Either leads you to the same boundless love and joy.)

The Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutra are two of the most important ancient texts of Yoga. They could not be more different. The Yoga Sutra is mostly secular in nature, and mentions God only briefly and perfunctorily. The Bhagavad Gita, in contrast, is literally “The Song of the Beloved Lord”, and most of the text is the voice of the awesome life-force of the universe itself.

The Yoga Sutra is a cookbook for achieving inner peace. The Bhagavad Gita, in contrast, won’t settle for anything less than ecstatic union with the divine. Put them together and you have the astounding whole of Yoga philosophy in two relatively short texts.

Try Mitchell’s version of the Bhagavad Gita. You’ll be glad you did.

Last but not least, here are the most relevant passages from the Gita itself (although, keep in mind that Schweig and Ghosh would say the entire text is about infinite love):

(For those new to Gita in a Nutshell, the voice speaking here is the infinitely wondrous universe itself, what some refer to as the “Unfathomable Life Force of the Universe” and others choose to call “God”. In the Gita these are one and the same. See GN #2.)

However men try to reach me.
I return their love with my love;
whatever path they may travel,
it leads to me in the end.
(BG 4.11)

For men whose minds are forever
focused on me, whose love
has grown deep through meditation,
I am easy to reach, Arjuna. (BG 8.14)


But the truly wise , Arjuna,
who dive deep into themselves,
fearless, one-pointed, know me
as the inexhaustible source.

Always chanting my praise,
steadfast in their devotion,
they make their lives an unending
hymn to my endless love. (BG 9.13-14)


I am the beginning and the end,
origin and dissolution,
refuge, home, true lover,
womb and imperishable seed. (BG 9.18)

He who can understand
the glory of my manifestations
is forever united with me
by his unwavering love.
(BG 10.7)

He who acts for my sake,
loving me, free of attachment,
with benevolence toward all beings,
will come to me in the end. (BG 11.55)

Those who love and revere me
with unwavering faith, always
centering their minds on me-
they are the most perfect in yoga. (BG 12.2)


He who, devoted to me,
is beyond joy and hatred, grief
and desire, good and bad fortune-
that man is the one I love best.

The same to both friend and foe,
the same in disgrace or honor,
suffering or joy, untroubled,
indifferent to praise and blame,

quiet, filled with devotion,
content with whatever happens,
at home wherever he is-
that man is the the one I love best.

Those who realize the essence
of duty, who trust me completely
and surrender their lives to me –
I love them with very great love. (BG 12.17-20)


If you focus your mind on me
and revere me with all your heart,
you will surely come to me; this
I promise, because I love you.
(BG 18.65)


Please give us your thoughts.

All Blogs in the Series:

Welcome to Gita Talk:
Online Discussion of the Bhagavad Gita. (Round 2)

Ongoing Resources:

Gita in a Nutshell: Big Ideas & Best Quotations

Yoga Demystified

The Original Sixteen Session Gita Talk

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and to meet fellow participants.

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