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The Narrative Dialectic of the Bhagavad Gita


Vladimir L. Marchenkov

Ohio University, US
About Vladimir L.
School of Interdisciplinary Arts
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The Bhagavad Gita’s textual fabric includes several modes of speech, creating an interplay of various symbolic forms. In this paper I analyse this interplay with the help of a classification of types of narrative that is derived from the philosophy of myth. Each of these types emerges from the less self-reflexive and less self-conscious forms and in turn generates a more self-reflexive and more self-aware one, but in this successive generation they do not cancel one another out and conceptually prior modes continue to coexist with the subsequent ones. The sequence of the types of speech that I use proceeds from myth to trickster’s speech to epic poetry to drama to philosophy and, finally, to mythosophy. The Gita is a dramatic dialogue that starts with philosophical speech, reaches the climax in mythosophy, and ends with the theology of bhakti. Krishna is presented in it as a personalistic embodiment of universal intelligence, the new Absolute constituting the most important religious-philosophical breakthrough that occurs in the Song. I close the paper with reflections on boundaries among the world’s cultural-historical traditions as the primary sites where the meaning of human communication is formed – in contrast to the older single-origin theories and today’s multiple-origin celebrations of ambiguity. The meaning of artworks, historical processes, and cultural identities can be compared to the music produced by the boundary-like membranes of musical instruments.

How to Cite: Marchenkov, V.L., 2018. The Narrative Dialectic of the Bhagavad Gita. Sri Lanka Journal of the Humanities, 41(1-2), pp.01–25. DOI:
Published on 15 Mar 2018.
Peer Reviewed


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