E240 Bhagavad Gita Questions
E240 BHAGAVAD-GITA QUESTIONS

Assigned: The Bhagavad-Gita (1002-1031).

The Bhagavad-Gita

First Teaching (1014-16)

1. What is the source of Arjuna's temporary despair? Why, when the Pandavas are depending on Arjuna to lead them (as we know from the surrounding sections of The Mahabharata), does he suddenly lose his enthusiasm for battle?

Second and Third Teachings (1016-23)

2. By what logic does Krishna urge Arjuna to enter the battle? What intellectual or spiritual error does Krishna first identify and explain to Arjuna? In responding, consider how Krishna redefines the "self," the individual person -- how is Arjuna apparently thinking of it, and what insights does Krishna offer him by way of unsettling that view?

3. What advice does Krishna give Arjuna regarding his handling of desire, anger, and strong feelings generally? Should he (or we) deaden or kill them, or is there a better way -- how do the wise regard their own emotions and desires? What happens when someone fails to control strong feelings?

4. We identify our actions (good and bad ones alike) with ourselves, and insist that we and others "take responsibility" for what we do. How, according to Krishna, should Arjuna view the relation between the person who performs an action and the action that is performed? What does the term "sacrifice" have to do with that relation? What does Krishna say about his own relation to "action"?

Sixth Teaching (1023-25)

5. What promise does Krishna make about the possibility for achieving tranquility and enlightenment? What is "discipline"? What does he reveal about himself in this teaching?

Eleventh Teaching (1025-28)

6. Throughout much of the Gita, Krishna is gentle, even though the advice he offers may not be easy to follow. But in this teaching, he shows another aspect -- at Arjuna's request, what new aspect of himself does Krishna allow him to see? How does Arjuna deal with that revelation? Why might it be important to the author of the Gita that neither Arjuna nor we be spared a rather unsettling insight into the nature of Krishna?

Lawall, Sarah, ed. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. 2nd edition. Volumes 1ABC. New York: Norton, 2002. ISBN A = 0-393-97755-2, B = 0-393-97756-0, C = 0-393-97757-9.