The Gita for kids

Before his team’s big soccer game, Arjuna has doubts about whether he should play or not. He talks with his friend Krishna who opens his eyes to what the game is really about.

You’ve Got This, Arjuna is a modern-day version of the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna from the Bhagavad Gita, written especially for children. 

Author Lissa Coffey says that The Bhagavad Gita changed her life and that she’s passionate about bringing its wisdom to the Western world in accessible ways. Coffey chatted with Sanjana Karthik of India Currents on bringing the wisdom of the ancient to modern youth.

An excerpt

“You’ve got this, Arjuna, There’s so much to do. So, come on, Arjuna. See the light that’s in you.”
Lissa Coffey: This is a great mantra for kids – and adults! What inspiration we can glean from it! One of my readers is a grandfather who put “Know Who You Are” on a tee shirt for his granddaughter’s 11th birthday. She’s a big fan of the book, and I hope she remembers this phrase throughout her life.

‘You’ve Got This, Arjuna!’ is meant to be an accessible introduction to the Bhagavad Gita for kids and families.

A cartoon of two boys talking
Arjuna feels lonely. He’s sad and confused. He asks his friend Krishna just what he should do. “You’ve Got This Arjuna” by Lissa Coffey; Illustrations by Rajesh Nagulakonda

Sanjana Karthik: Tell us about the inspiration behind this story.

LC: The Bhagavad Gita changed my life, and I’m passionate about bringing this excellent book to the Western world in accessible ways. I’ve always been a seeker in some way, and when I found the Gita it had so many answers, so much wisdom. I couldn’t get enough of it. I took a class with Swami Sarvadevananda at the Vedanta Society and we really took a deep dive into it.

First, I wrote Song Divine: A New Lyrical Rendition of the Bhagavad Gita. Then I set each chapter to music and created Song Divine: The Bhagavad Gita Rock Opera with my music partner, Vito Gregoli. The Song Divine album is streaming everywhere, Spotify, Amazon, Apple Music, YouTube, etc. We’ve got a fantastic response to it.

Initially, I started my company creating songs and books for parents and children. Hence, I always had it in the back of my mind to make a book about the Gita for kids. And fortunately, Rajesh Nagulakonda, who did all the illustrations for Song Divine, agreed to provide the images for “You’ve Got This, Arjuna!” Rajesh and I are a good team because we are both devoted to the Gita and want to share it with the world. We set the story on a soccer field rather than a battlefield to make it relatable to kids. And we made Krishna and Arjuna around ten years old.

A cartoon of two boys chatting under a large mushroom
“With so much against me, how can I then win? I think I’ll just quit now before it begins.” “You’ve Got This Arjuna” by Lissa Coffey; Illustrations by Rajesh Nagulakonda

SK: Is there a message you want to get across?

LC: Krishna provides the main message when he says: “When you know who you are, that is everything.” I think that sums it up nicely. We often hear, “Just be yourself,” but do we understand what that really means? Game-changer when we do!

A cartoon of two boys playing soccer
“You are already here. You might as well play. Take one thing at a time. Just act in this way.” “You’ve Got This Arjuna” by Lissa Coffey; Illustrations by Rajesh Nagulakonda

SK: Talk about the process of reshaping the Gita into a kid-friendly version

LC: We started with the words. I had already abridged the Gita once for Song Divine and then again for the album, so it was just a matter of shortening it again to fit it into a little story. I then reworked some of the verses to be kid-friendly. This is the kind of book that parents can read to children at bedtime and later talk about it.  I hope that kids will carry these messages with them throughout their lives.

SK: How can we get a copy?

LC: I self-published “You’ve Got This Arjuna!” through Amazon for most of the world. We have a wonderful publisher, Adi Dev, in India who will publish and distribute the book throughout Asia.

SK: What makes“You’ve Got This Arjuna” unique?

LC: I’ve seen other Gitas that are meant for kids – some are like comic books – but they are all very traditional. This is a new, modern take on a small part of the conversation between Arjuna and Krishna. It’s good to have lots of translations because different versions will resonate with people in different ways.

SK: Cultural diversity is essential to your story. Why?

CK: It’s essential for kids to feel included and supported. We’re all in this together. Kids aren’t born with biases. If we nurture their innocence, we will create more peace in the world. When discussing cultural diversity, the conversation must be about everything we have in common, all the similarities rather than the differences. It’s all good. The emotions we feel, thoughts we have, fears, and doubts we experience are all the same across cultures.

SK: How do you convey this idea?

LC: I’m hoping that all kids can relate to Arjuna in some way because he represents each one of us in the Gita. We purposely depicted the two teams as having boys and girls on the team. And Krishna is blue, like the sky! There’s a whole world we created with birds and squirrels and monkeys and butterflies. Rajesh Nagulakonda has a beautiful imagination, and his intuition is right. You can feel the love and acceptance, and goodwill. When we can see ourselves in the characters, then we can understand on a more personal level.

SK: What sort of response is it getting?

LC: We’ve got some great reviews on Amazon. But most importantly for me, my Swami, Swami Sarvadevananda, the head minister from the Vedanta Society in Hollywood, CA, thinks it’s wonderful. So I’m thrilled to have gotten his seal of approval! It means a lot to me that my teacher sees the value in this book. I’m hearing that the book appeals to people of various faiths. People worldwide are touched by the sweet and meaningful messages that Arjuna and Krishna share.

We are taking the book with us to the Parliament of World’s Religions Conference in August in Chicago. People from all over the world attend this conference. There is a special program for kids where I am excited to share our Arjuna book. 

SK: What are some future projects?

I want to keep expanding our reach. I have Daily Gita messages by email and also on video via Social Media. All of this is free, of course. And now Vito Gregoli, my co-producer, and I are working on putting the stage show together. We’re trying to get all the songs put into sheet music at the moment. That’s the first step. And I have a script for a modern Gita that I’m “shopping” around Hollywood.

 More about Lissa Coffey at: 

Sanjana Karthik has her own writing organization – Your Words Matter To Us, a mental health app – myEsprit, and is the host and co-founder of the Shawmulticultural show – The Reality Is. Her poetry...