Monday, May 6, 2013

feeling confused? you're not alone...

Verse 3.2: My intelligence is bewildered by Your equivocal instructions. Therefore, please tell me decisively which will be most beneficial for me.

For all of you who have ever tried to read the Gita and have given up because you've just found it confusing, I dedicate today's post to you!

I've spoken to innumerable persons over the years who have expressed so much interest in reading the Gita. They've heard incredible things about it, seen positive transformations in the lives of friends and loved one's who have applied the teachings of the Gita in their own lives and have been just so excited upon receiving their own copy. Making the time to sit down and read it, they've opened up the book and with anticipation in their hearts, they started reading the first few verses.

It's normally around Verses 4 and 5...

"Here in this army are many heroic bowmen equal in fighting to Bhīma and Arjuna: great fighters like Yuyudhāna, Virāṭa and Drupada." Verse 1.4

"There are also great, heroic, powerful fighters like Dhṛṣṭaketu, Cekitāna, Kāśirāja, Purujit, Kuntibhoja and Śaibya." Verse 1.5

...that a small wrinkle starts to appear in some peoples' foreheads. Some start thinking, "What? What are these names? I can barely read them what to speak of pronounce them." That anticipation and excitement that first accompanied the opening of the book is now fading fast and for some, this is where their foray into the Gita ends.

For others, they journey on and as they continue to read Chapters 1 and 2, some are not quite sure if they really understand what's going on. Perhaps you yourself may have pondered along the lines of, "What exactly is Krsna saying? What is this book really about? I thought it was about yoga and karma and becoming a good person. I thought it was practical, but all I'm experiencing is confusion. What gives?"

Have you ever felt like this? If're not alone. Arjuna, who is not only Krsna's friend but an incredibly intelligent yogi, is also feeling totally confused.

So what's the take away? Feeling confused is ok. It's normal.

Although this analogy may seem totally far-fetched, I kind of think of it like this. Have you ever seen Titanic? No, this isn't a trick question, I'm actually asking if you've seen the multi-billion blockbuster movie Titanic. I'm guessing that the vast majority are probably nodding their heads (even if it's in embarrassment!). Now, I don't know about you, but when the movie first started, I honestly felt like I was in the wrong theatre.

[Spoiler alert in case you haven't seen the movie] In the first half hour of the movie all you see is an old woman and some deep sea shots of a ship in the water. I remember feeling totally confused and turning to my friend asking, "Are we in the right theatre? I thought Leonardo DiCaprio was in this movie?!"

It was only a little later that things started to finally make sense...but it took some time. I finally realized that they were establishing the back story in order to place the movie into context.

In many ways the Gita is also like this. At the beginning, we are being introduced to various characters and the scene is being set. As we move into the Second Chapter, the essence of the Gita is spoken. Essentially, everything one needs to know about the Gita is found in the Second Chapter.

However, for most of us, like Arjuna, that just leaves us feeling confused! Of course, for some, everything might just click which is wonderful. But...that's for some. For the majority of us, we are just left going "Huh?" We may understand a few points like the fact that Krsna is saying that we are the soul and that attachment can be problematic. You know what? If that's all you got out of the Second Chapter, good for you! That's a great foundation to start on.

It's now in Chapter 3 that Krsna is going to systematically break the process of bhakti and karma down into digestible bits. He's going to give us a step by step process as to why one should perform work according to one's nature in a spirit of detachment instead of running away to the forest to meditate.

So, if you ever gave up on the Gita, take heart. Even Arjuna, one of the greatest yogis of all time, was confused. The Gita is life transforming and extremely practical but it takes some time. We invite you to join (or re-join!) us as we start getting into the heart of the Gita!


  1. What you described is exactly how I felt when I read The Odyssey for the first time. It was page after page of "Huh?"

    As for Titanic, 3 minutes in, I checked out lol.

    1. I'm actually laughing out loud...for real! It's so true...sometimes we get so confused and it's too much for us and so we give up. Did you end up finishing The Odyssey despite the continued "Huhs?" If so....I'm totally's still on my reading list.

      As for Titanic....hahahaha! Did you end up ever watching it fully?

  2. Yes on the first and hellz no on the second. Both the Iliad and Odyssey are worth the effort. Since I already knew the Titanic went down, I didn't feel the investment of 26 hours watching it happen was a good one.

    1. LOL! So now....maybe the next book on your list is the Gita? :)

  3. Oh my, a challenge. Tell you what, after I get my first 2 novels edited and pubbed, I'll start on the Gita project. I have a book for you as well, This was my Gita :)

    1. Sweet! Will look into it. Just let me know when Cairn and I will personally send you a copy! :)

  4. I have a feeling you would be among the first to know when the novels come out. I will be shouting it from every real and virtual roof top I can find!

  5. A wonderful post, Vrindavana: thanks for your re-assurance that we shouldn't expect the Gita to be instantly comprehensible and your encouragement to keep going even if bewilderment is the first effect that reading the Gita has on us.

    I would like to offer some practical advice for your readers who have not yet read the Gita and feel a little intimidated by such a daunting project: If we have a copy of the Bhagavad Gita that includes the whole package of Sanskrit text, Roman transliteration, word-for-word translation, fluent English translation, and elaborate commentary, we can easily get overwhelmed by the volume of information, bogged down in the commentary to the point where loose any sense of continuity and we forget what the subject of the chapter we're reading is, and feel as if we'll never get to the finish line. The way I recommend that one start reading such a copy of the Gita is to ignore the Sanskrit, save the commentaries for later, and not even bother with the Introduction: just read the English translations of the verses from cover to cover. This way you can get a feel for the flow of the conversation and the continuity of each chapter, get oriented to the general topics under discussion and the specific points that are being emphasized, feel a sense of accomplishment (you'll know how it ends), and feel motivated to go back and read the commentary in order to deepen your understanding of the text.

    And when you do go back for a second pass (or third or fourth: the Gita is the kind of book that reveals something new every time you read it) you'll have a frame of reference for the commentary that will make it easier to comprehend.

    I hope your readers will find this idea helpful - Hkd

    1. Thanks so much Hari-kirtana! For all those who may not know, Hari-kirtana is a personal friend and an advanced practitioner of bhakti yoga.

      I feel indebted that he shared this very sage advice with all of us. There are many ways in which one can read the Gita and the one suggested is definitely fantastic, especially for those who may want to get a quick overview before really digging deep.

      If I might add, one small thing that readers can also do is to make a quick note if there is a topic or subject of interest when reading a particular verse. That way when you come back and read the commentary, you'll remember that it held some interest to you (if you're anything like me, you'll probably forget otherwise!)

      Thanks again for the great advice Hkd! Greatly appreciated. :)