Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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Invitation to World Literature

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Key Teaching Points and Discussion Prompts

Characters

  1. Who or what is Krishna? What is his role on earth? What is his true form?
  2. What does Arjuna's friendship with Krishna suggest about Arjuna? Is he a normal warrior, or something more? Does he start out normal, then become something more?
  3. Who is Arjuna about to meet in battle?

Plot Actions

  1. Do you think time stands still during the Gita? At the start of the book, Arjuna has his chariot drawn up to the battlefield, where both sides are ready to start the battle immediately. How do Arjuna and Krishna have such a long talk?
  2. What is the effect on Arjuna of seeing Krishna in his pure godly form? Does it finally convince Arjuna, or simply confirm what he has come to believe. Or does it scare him into submission?

Themes

  1. One of the most dramatic moments in the Gita is the exchange between Arjuna and Krishna, about whether it's philosophically justifiable to lay down one's arms and refuse to fight. What is each character's position? Which do you feel most comfortable with, and why?
  2. Thoreau comments specifically on refusing to fight or finding virtue in fighting in his book A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. What conclusions did Thoreau draw?
  3. Why is killing not a moral problem, according to Krishna?
  4. What is discipline, as Krishna describes it in the "Second Teaching?"
  5. Robert Oppenheimer, the "Father of the Atom Bomb," quoted from the Gita when the first atomic bomb was successfully tested, saying: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." Why do you think Oppenheimer quoted these lines at that moment?
  6. Martin Luther King, Jr. was inspired by the teachings in the Gita—what might have appealed to him about its message?

Discussion Prompts to Encourage Critical Thinking

  1. Is Arjuna convinced that fighting his relations is acceptable by Krishna's arguments, or by Krishna's overpowering status as the god of all creation? If a simply human teacher had made all the points Krishna made, do you think Arjuna would have been convinced?
  2. What is Krishna's most basic argument in favor of fighting and killing in the name of dharma?
  3. How would you define and practice the discipline Krishna speaks of in your own life?
  4. Some say the overall plot of the Mahabharata, which the Gita is a part of, ends with the futility of all the great battles in that great war. If this is so, how can Krishna's argument, that a just battle perpetuates the cosmic order of the universe, be true?
  5. The cycle of rebirth (or reincarnation) is important to the religion and philosophy of the Gita. How might modern readers whose religion or philosophy do not include reincarnation apply the principles of the book to their own life?