Bhagavad Gītā: India’s Philosophical Masterpiece – Online Weekend School

Bhagavad Gita

BHAGAVAD GITA

Bhagavad Gītā is a central text in Indian philosophy. Set on an ancient battlefield, we may wonder at its application to 21st-century life. This weekend of interactive discussions with scholars and practitioners explores why millions still find the Gītā relevant.

What is the Gītā about?

What does it say about nature, the world, and life itself?

What goals and practices does it define?

WHEN & WHERE

When: Saturday 4 – Sunday 5 September 2021
Where: Online Via Zoom!
Timings (each day)
12.00–6.00pm UK Time (includes break between sessions)

All timings are UK time.

Time zones don’t work for you? Enrolment gives you access to recordings of all sessions.

Enrolment fee
£125 For both days + recordings

Add to basket

THE COURSE

Day One: Saturday 4 September

How Does Kṛṣṇa Teach?

Before offering an outline of the weekend’s philosophical and theological content, we will reflect on the manner and methods of Krishna’s instruction to Arjuna and the dynamics that transformed a breakdown to a breakthrough. We examine how Kṛṣṇa revives Arjuna’s lost sense of self. And keeping the focus on Kṛṣṇa as educator and counsellor, we consider the pedagogical insights of the Gītā’s sacred dialogue. How does Kṛṣṇa teach? What promotes Arjuna’s understanding? What conditions allow for Arjuna’s eventual epiphany?


Tutor: Anuradha Dooney
12.00–1.10pm

Bhagavad Gītā’s Answers to the Mahābhārata’s Questions

The Mahābhārata raises fundamental questions about how we should live in the world, about the nature of the Deity, and about liberation from rebirth, and it is in the Bhagavad Gītā that we find comprehensive answers offered to these fundamental questions. In this talk we will consider how the Bhagavad Gītā is best understood in relation to the Mahābhārata.


Tutor: Dr Nick Sutton
1.20–2.30pm

Found in Translation: Sanskrit in the Bhagavad Gītā

The Bhagavad Gītā has perhaps been more widely translated and commented on than any other Sanskrit text and with good reason. Many of its words lend themselves to multiple interpretations. By looking at and chanting key verses, and examining common terms, such as jñānabuddhikarma, and dharma within the text, we will explore how this work continues to inspire. Looking directly at the Sanskrit yourself opens a window into the many ideas that can be lost as well as found in translation.


Tutor: Zoë Slatoff
3.30–4.40pm

The Self and the Body in the Gītā

We explore notions of self and body in the Gītā as expressed through the text’s narrative and metaphors. The Gītā presents three different senses by which the self can be contrasted with the body. The first, an elementary contrast between a perennial self and temporary body, is presented as a direct consequence of Arjuna’s grief and is meant to inspire him to look beyond his present troubles and mortality. The second sense looks to Sankhya categories that define the self as superior in nature to (or a manipulator of) the body. This breakdown occurs after Kṛṣṇa has described various yogic practices and it moves the narrative into better understanding of the self as an exploiter of the resources of the body. The third sense of self is that it is a knower and that the body is the known. The metaphor used for the body is that of an agricultural field, a place where seeds (desires and acts) are planted and their fruits harvested.


Tutor: Dr Alan Herbert
4.50–6.00pm

Day Two: Sunday 5 September

Divinity and the Divine in Bhagavad Gītā

The significance of the Bhagavad Gītā largely stems from how it draws together the earlier wisdom of the Upaniṣads and the devotional expressions of Indian religion that increasingly come to the fore in later centuries. In this talk, we will move focus from the Gītā as a Yoga text to the insights into the divine identity that Kṛṣṇa reveals and emphasises as the Gītā progresses. We will see how the Gītā presents revelations about the nature of God and reveals bhakti-yoga as the path to liberation, thereby expanding on Patañjali’s phrase in the Yoga Sūtras (1.23): īśvara-praṇidhānād vā (it may be achieved by devoting oneself to the Lord).


Tutor: Dr Nick Sutton
12.00–1.10pm

Arjuna, Acyuta and the Strategic Structure of the Gītā

Bhagavad Gītā is a masterpiece not only in terms of its content, but also in terms of the relationship between its content and its form. The Lord’s Song exhibits a sophisticated structure, one adopted to guide interpretation. This presentation first charts the structure of the Bhagavad Gītā in light of the ‘dharmic double helix’, showing how the Gītā interweaves both worldly and otherworldly concerns, advocating both tranquility and the discharge of violent force. This presentation then pays close attention to the Bhagavad Gītā’s strategic tripartite placement of probably the most significant of Kṛṣṇa’s epithets: Acyuta (lit. unfallen), i.e., he who is physically, emotionally, spiritually upstanding. 


Tutor: Dr Raj Balkaran
1.20–2.30pm

How the Gītā Changed Yoga

The Bhagavad Gītā plays an influential role in yoga history. Rejecting the asceticism of early practitioners, it advocates engagement in worldly affairs and describes a variety of spiritual paths. The highest of these is devotion to a personal deity who is present in everything – combining ideas from the early Upaniṣads with seeds of inspiration for later approaches to physical yoga.


Tutor: Daniel Simpson
3.30–4.40pm

Gītā For 2021

One of the great ideas of Hindu traditions is the cyclical nature of the world. The Bhagavad Gītā too speaks of the ocean of saṃsāra. In worldly existence this teaching implies there is nothing new under the sun, just old ideas reframed in new contexts. In this session we challenge the Gītā to address three pressing issues of our day: Identity, conflict, and the environment. What can Kṛṣṇa’s teachings to Arjuna contribute to discourses on Black Lives Matter or #MeToo? What of the complex issues of gender politics and the urgency of environmental concerns? Can the Gita speak to these dilemmas and remain relevant to modern battle grounds.


Tutor: Shaunaka Rishi Das
4.50–6.00pm

YOUR TUTORS

Alan Herbert

Dr Alan Herbert

With a D.Phil. in Theology and Religion at Oxford, Alan is a Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. His current projects include philosophical approaches to the Vaiṣṇava concept of God and the intersection between Hinduism and secular society.

Daniel Simpson

Daniel Simpson

Daniel is the author of The Truth of Yoga, an accessible guide to yoga history and philosophy. He has a Master’s degree from SOAS, University of London, and has been studying yoga in various forms since his first trip to India in the 1990s. Drawing on his previous career as a foreign correspondent, Daniel also writes articles for yoga publications and scholarly journals. His website is www.danielsimpson.info.

Anuradha Dooney

Anuradha Dooney

Anuradha was awarded a Masters in the Study of Religion at Oxford. She is a faculty member of the OCHS Continuing Education Department and has played a key role in curriculum development.

Shaunaka Rishi Das

Shaunaka is founder/Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and Oxford University’s first-ever Hindu Chaplain. Shaunaka has shepherded the OCHS into its role as the world’s best centre for Hindu Studies and is a well-known broadcaster and speaker.

Dr Raj Balkaran

Dr Raj Balkaran is a scholar of Sanskrit narrative texts and the author of The Goddess and the King in Indian Myth and The Goddess and the Sun in Indian Myth. He tutors at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies where he also serves on the Curriculum Development Board. He is the Founder of the School of Indian Wisdom featuring online courses centred on the practical life wisdom to be found in the philosophical and mythological traditions of ancient India. Beyond teaching and research, Dr Balkaran runs a thriving life consulting practice and hosts the New Books in Indian Religions podcast.

Dr Nick Sutton

Dr Nick Sutton

Nick is the Director – and the heart and soul – of the OCHS Continuing Education Department. He is a dedicated teacher with decades of experience in making sometimes-confusing traditions relevant. He has created ten online courses and is working on many more. He has written translations and commentary on Bhagavad Gītā and the Yoga Sūtra.

Zoe Slatoff

Zoë Slatoff

Zoë has a Master’s degree in Asian Languages and Culture from Columbia University. She is the author of Yogāvatāraṇam, a Sanskrit textbook for yoga students, from which she teaches Sanskrit courses for the OCHS. Zoë is currently working on a PhD about Yoga and Advaita Vedānta at Lancaster University. She has been the Sanskrit editor for Pushpam Magazine, Nāmarūpa, and Robert Svoboda’s book Vāstu. Zoë teaches daily Mysore classes as well as Sanskrit and yoga philosophy at her shala in New York.

ENROL TODAY

Enrolment fee
£125 For both days + recordings

Add to basket

Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies
13-15 Magdalen St, Oxford OX1 3AE
Regd Charity No. 1074458
Contact Us

TOP