Tuesday, December 1, 2015

My Experiences with the Bhagavad Gita

When I was younger, for five consecutive summers, I watched the Mahabharata on screen. In the 80's (I think,) the notoriously long epic was turned into a series that aired weekly for years on Indian television. We had every episode made, from the beginning of the Mahabharata to the end, on multiple VHS tapes at our house. It would take me the entire summer to watch the series from beginning to end, with subtitles because at that time I did not yet know understand Hindi as fluently as I do now. 

As a child, I watched the spectacle with wonder. The images on screen were like a movie for me, pure entertainment. Little did I know that I was implicitly learning about my family's religion. My favorite part was the part when the the Pandavas emerged unscathed from the Wax Palace meant to tear them down. I would cheer in delight every time the Pandavas triumphed and grow upset whenever they were in peril. 

Every summer, however, there would always be one section of the show that bored me - the section that I now know corresponds to the Bhagavad Gita. Krishna, one of my favorite "characters," would lecture on and on to Arjuna, seemingly for hours, days maybe. When I grew older, I learned of the essential teachings of the Gita through other ways, mostly talking to my parents. Yet I still had not put two and two together. It was not until I reached college and read portions of the Gita that I recognized some lines as those in the scenes I found most boring from my summer "special" show. I enjoy taking classes on Hinduism, and religion in general, in college because I learn more about the textual side of the religion. Growing up in America, I was exposed primarily to merely the ritual and cultural aspects of Hinduism. I learn more and more about my religion each day. I especially like connecting real textual passages with concepts and ideas central to Hinduism that I already was aware of without any textual evidence. For example, in Tuesday's class I learned that the hours or days that Arjuna spent debating the battle with Krishna was in reality just time suspended. To the others on the battlefield, no time passed during Arjunas's moment of crisis. This summer, I want to rewatch the television version of the Bhagavad Gita now that I possess a better understanding of it through text. I have a feeling that this time I will be enthralled seeing the text we just read come alive on screen with characters from my childhood. 

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