History of Literature Episode 33 – The Bhagavad Gita


Written over the span of 800 years from ca. 400 B.C. to ca. 400 A.D, the Mahabharata tells a riveting tale of disputed kingship and warring families. But just as the action-packed narrative reaches its climax, the story pauses to convey a dialogue between the reluctant warrior Arjuna and his charioteer Krishna, who dramatically reveals himself as the incarnation of God. This passage, known as the Bhagavad Gita, has proved inspirational to hundreds of millions of religious seekers and was regarded by philosophers from Henry David Thoreau to Mahatma Gandhi as perhaps the greatest distillation of philosophy and religion ever written.

How does this philosophical treatise fit into this fast-paced story? What lessons does it have for us? And how did a two-thousand-year-old argument that a warrior should fulfill his duty on the battlefield end up inspiring some of the most famous advocates of non-violence in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries?


You can find more literary discussion at jackewilson.com and more episodes of the series at historyofliterature.com.

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

Books Discussed:

The Bhagavad Gita (tr. Easwaran)

Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation (tr. Mitchell)

The Norton Anthology of World Literature (Third Edition) (Vol. Package 1: Vols. A, B, C)

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

“Sweeter Vermouth” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0



5 thoughts on “History of Literature Episode 33 – The Bhagavad Gita

  1. A true treat – I love listening to you! This was serendipitous as I was thinking about Isis whilst dogwalking – how to communicate the meaningless of the stance they take on murdering innocents. I understand how we are culpable for many things in the West, and even how it could be looked upon as a lost cause, a place of sin and sinning. But without any redemption? It doesn’t make sense to me to wage a war on the West, since we are multitudinous. Such a great thing to listen to, and to consider. To see God everywhere is where I am at, although I don’t actually believe in ‘God’!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s