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DharmaIts Early History in Law, Religion, and Narrative$
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Alf Hiltebeitel

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195394238

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195394238.001.0001

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Dharma and the Bhagavad Gītā

Dharma and the Bhagavad Gītā

(p.517) 11 Dharma and the Bhagavad Gītā

Alf Hiltebeitel

Oxford University Press

What, taking an implausible time out in the middle of the battlefield just before the outbreak of war, did God (Kṛṣṇa) say to the world's greatest warrior, who, for a moment, thought better of being a killer? This chapter explores how the Bhagavad Gītā, which from many angles may be considered to lie at the center of the Mahābhārata, puts dharma at the center of a vast vision of the workings of time. It distinguishes what the Gītā has to say about svadharma from what the rest of the epic says about it along with ksatriyadharma or warrior's dharma, and treats the Gītā's teaching of karmayoga as virtually a unique teaching for Arjuna, comparing it with the treatment of karmayoga in The Laws of Manu. It then approaches the Gītā through what the larger epic shows are its ripple effects in the way dharma is depicted inward and outward from the Gītā itself in the formulaic “Where, … then” or yatas … tatas maxims, “Where dharma is, there is victory” and “Where Kṛṣṇa is, there is victory.” The chapter then takes the Gītā itself to present dharma through a ring structure, taking up Kṛṣṇa's disclosures about yugas, kalpas, and Time (Kāla) itself and the divine plan to his instructions on living dharma over ordinary time experientially, allowing that Arjuna will need time to digest what he has to say about fulfilling has svadharma in a supremely difficult time in a way that allows one to transcends it.

Keywords:   Bhagavad Gītā, Mahābhārata, Laws of Manu, Kṛṣṇa, Arjuna, svadharma, kṣatriyadharma, karmayoga, yatas…tatas maxims, ring structure, yugas, kalpas, Time (Kāla), divine plan

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