The Bhagavad Gita – An Introduction


This week we embarked on our reading of The Bhagavad Gita for The Yoga Place’s Summer Book Club. The introduction in the translation we are reading by Jack Hawley is a great start for anyone unfamiliar with the text, and I hope will set the stage for many of you reading for the first time.

In speaking about it with students so far, the familiar concerns and questions about the topic of the book come up. How can a book based on yoga and it’s philosophy be about a war? How does this ancient text from another time and culture have anything to do with my own life and practice today? I think Jack Hawley does a nice job of bringing us into the text of the Gita by sharing his love of it in the preface. My own thoughts and feelings about the Gita mirror his in many ways.

The Bhagavad Gita showed me ideas that I believed but had yet to hear in any other spiritual or philosophical text. “I love the Gita’s insistence that we consciously live by our own inner truth…I love how it neither excuses nor overlooks humanity’s dark side…I love that the Gita looks death (and life) squarely in the eye and offers a straightforward system for not just conquering our fear of death but triumphing over death itself!” (Preface: pg xv)

Yes, the Bhagavad Gita is an ancient text, but it is definitely not dead. Countless people from all over the world have turned to The Bhagavad Gita for guidance through life’s bigger questions. Yes, the Gita’s story takes place on a physical battlefield, but ultimately the story is about each individual dealing with life’s ups and downs, and our own inner battles. “It’s about you, learning to rid yourself of your worldly suffering and find true happiness. It’s about you, learning to slip quietly into your own True Self Within.” (Preface” pg xvi)

Though at first glance, there is a specificity to the time and place of the story, Jack Hawley reminds us that it helps to change your mindset and attitude in your approach to reading to a more Universal and open-hearted way. We all come to yoga and the reading of this text with our own religious backgrounds, social and cultural belief systems, mental and emotional states, etc…”The point is to try not to be turned off or dismiss anything in the Gita too early. These truths have survived the sands of time; what remains is amazingly pure and practical. This is a powerful work filled with Truth beyond intellectualization.” (Introduction: pg xxiv)

This is not to say that all of the story will make sense, or be “true” for you at this time, or even be believable in its entirety. I have been reading this text for over 20 years in different translations, and every time I have picked it up, it changes for me. It reaches into the mind I have at any moment and speaks to me in that space (good or bad). However, I always find something that deepens my practice and guides me in life in some way. And at the very least, makes me curious enough to ask more questions. Jack Hawley uses the term “truth” and “Truth” throughout the preface and introduction and that is what stood out to me in this reading thus far. What is Truth? What is a Universal Truth? What is true for you or me at any moment in time? These are already big questions as we take this “walk” together through the epic story of The Bhagavad Gita.

Please remember that as you read, if you have any questions or comments that arise, please connect at I will do my best to incorporate those thoughts and questions into the blog.

Jennie Williford CIYT

Jennie Williford (CIYT Level 3) is a transplant to LaCrosse via Montana, Illinois, and originally Texas. Throughout her life moves and 5 trips to India, Jennie has acquired a well-rounded and multi-faceted approach to Iyengar Yoga since her start in 1998. Jennie loves the experimental and explorative nature of yoga in accessing deeper knowledge of the Self on every level. The practice of yoga can be intense and introspective, however as practitioners we can be light-hearted and open-minded in our discipline. Jennie is intrigued by the philosophy of yoga and hopes to share this depth of subject while teaching the physical and mental benefits that come from the practice of posture.