Dates: 04/11/2019 - 08/12/2019
Mode of Delivery: Online
Bhagavad-gita is a widely read which for centuries has been considered the heart of India’s timeless wisdom. The tutor of this course, Alan Herbert (Aisvarya dasa), believes that philosophy is something to be lived, and is not merely book knowledge. Since the end of the eighties, Alan became fascinated by the Gita, studied it and lived by its principles. He brings this enthusiasm for the Gita and its methodology to the course.
This course explores five traditional themes in Bhagavad-gita: the self, matter, action (karma), time, and divinity. When we think about or explain anything in life, we do so with a specific issue, question, or concern in mind – in other words, we naturally thematize. Therefore, the thematic approach of this course is a more natural way for us to examine and to eventually explain the complexities of the Gita. The themes bring a focus to our studies and also act as a catalyst and method for further explorations of the text.
Aims of course
- to give the student a good understanding of the five main themes in the Gita
- to expand the students horizons and offer some tools in respect to further studies of the text
Every week students will be given one or more short videos to watch, some suggested readings, one or two pop quizzes and the opportunity to discuss relevant points with the tutor and fellow students on an online forum.
Week 1 - Self
The first week is on the theme of the self. It is through the Gita’s narrative on Arjuna’s lamentation that the self is introduced. Arjuna’s grief is misdirected because he does not know the difference between self and body. To explain the self, Krishna contrasts it with the body, or matter. This contrast is expressed in three ways. This analysis will also touch on egoism and reincarnation.
Week 2 - Material Nature
The second week is on material nature. This refers to the physical and cognitive aspects of the phenomenal world we live in. Physical material nature, or matter, is similar to that which we term “substance.” The cognitive aspect comprises three qualities (goodness, passion, and darkness). They affect the moral quality of our choices and acts. They also affect the way we can know anything. Free will is fully expressed through understanding material nature and regulating one’s activities so that matter doesn’t affect us.
Week 3 - Karma
The third week addresses karma, or activity. Karma can be defined in three ways: as action itself, as a system of universal justice, or as a vocation or duty. Karma is a force and a practice. As a force, it is none other than our actions, which can affect us in good or bad ways. When transformed into a practice by means of selfless offerings, or yajna, our actions become yoga (karma-yoga), which gives us self-understanding and relief from the results of our unsavory prior acts.
Week 4 - Time
The fourth week looks into the theme of time. Time can be thought of as objectively reliable – the time of day is accurate. However, it can also be relative in respect to experience – it can seem to run quickly or slowly. According to the Gita, time is a factor that brings about change in matter. Yet it has no effect on the eternal self. It can also be seen as both linear and cyclical – events repeat themselves but are never exactly the same.
Week 5 - Divinity
The fifth week examines three expressions of divinity in the Gita: Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan. Brahman is the all-pervasive impersonal expression of divinity. Paramatma is its immanent or localized personal expression. Bhagavan is the highest expression that is personal and transcendent. Bhagavan is Krishna (or God) in the Gita, in whom the other two expressions rest. Connecting with Bhagavan is achieved by bhakti-yoga, or devotion.
The course can be simply followed as an overview of the discussed themes with a test at the end. If a student is inspired to explore more deeply into any specific issue regarding one or more of the five themes, a final essay explaining his/her thoughts can also be sent to the tutor for comments and feedback. Any form of final essay is acceptable – it can be written, it can be an art project, a graphic novel, a narrative, or a fictional dialogue – as long as it is relevant to the course and it is possible to submit it as one electronic file (pdf or doc).
At the conclusion of the course, we offer a certificate of attendance if either the test or the essay has been submitted.
Thematic Bhagavad-gita course can be attended without any special requirements.
The Paypal fee is €49, fully inclusive. By clicking “Enrol Now” you will be redirected to Bhaktivedanta College Online Campus (BCOC), where you will proceed with registration and payment for this course.