World literature one–week four assignments

Question 1

Does the Bhagavad Gita support war?  Does it, as some might argue, condone acts of violence by depersonalizing that actor from the actions?  Does is support non-violence?  Gandhi extrapolated his theory of non-violence from the text, was he glossing over important elements of Krsna’s philosophy?

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Question 2

Compare and contrast Arjuna’s relationship to Krsna with that of Odysseus and Athena.  How are relationships between Gods and humans different in these two cultural contexts?


Question 3

Part of the complexity with Krsna’s teachings are a host of potential contradictions.  To be a warrior, he tells Arjuna, he must be a yogi (practice yoga).  However, in his details of yoga in chapter 6, do we get a standard picture of a warrior?  How might this notion differ from the Greeks?


Question 4

Here are two of America’s most famous 19th century authors on reading the Gita (Albert Einstein, The Beatles (Links to an external site.), to name a few, in the 20th century were also profoundly moved by this text).  What do you think is the value of reading religious texts outside of one’s particular culture/religion? Is religion a set of ideas that one must take up as a whole and fully adopt or can we pick and choose elements that are appealing?

Henry David Thoreau

“In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad-gita, in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I owed a magnificent day to the Bhagavad Gita.  It was the first of books; it was as if an empire spoke to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us.

Question 5

Post your own question about the text and as you do,  respond to two other student questions.  Monitor your own question and the responses you get through Saturday.


Question 6: Moving to 1001 Nights

What effect does the story-within-a-story structure does the narrative have on you, the reader?  What is the relationship between the two sisters in terms of this on-going narrative? 


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