Leadership and the Bhagavad Gita
What is genuine leadership and resilience in a time of doubt and social turmoil? This class takes up one response to this question from ancient India, found in The Bhagavad Gita, often called “The Indian Bible.” The Gita consists entirely of a conversation between a despondent leader and warrior, Arjuna, who does not know what he should do next, and his charioteer, Krishna, who counsels him. It begins with an exchange about being at one’s wit’s end, and ends with a glorious “theophany,” or appearance of god. As the Gita narrates, the way out of despair is neither quick nor a “way back,” but rather a slow, transformative way forward.
Laurie L. Patton, President of Middlebury College, is also a professor of religion. She is the author or editor of 10 books and over 50 articles in South Asian religion, culture, and history, as well as comparative religion. She is the translator of the classical Sanskrit text, The Bhagavad Gita, for the Penguin Classics Series. Patton has also authored three books of poems: Fire’s Goal: Poems from a Hindu Year (White Clouds Press, 2003), Angel’s Task: Poems in Biblical Time (Station Hill Press, 2011), and House Crossing (Station Hill Press, forthcoming in 2018). She has also lectured, written, and consulted widely on interfaith relations, and more recently, on freedom of expression and cultural diversity in higher education.