Gita Talk #5: Sublimely Simple, Profound and Liveable

Via Bob Weisenberg
on May 16, 2010
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The reading for this week was Chapters 3-4, p. 61-80. Please tell us what you think.  What did you like?  What did you dislike?  How does it relate to your life? What questions would you like to ask?  Can you see the themes I outline in my thoughts below?  Are there other big themes you think also deserve to be there?

It’s never too late to join Gita Talk.  If you are just joining us for the first time please see Welcome to Gita Talk.  We’re only reading 15-20 pages of verse a week, so it’s easy to catch up.  And even if you haven’t caught up on the reading, you’ll still find it easy to join in many of the conversations.

Here are my thoughts for the week:

The Bhagavad Gita is Sublimely Simple, Profound, and Liveable

Does this statement startle you?

I’m guessing that many of you feel the opposite about the Gita at this point–that it is complex, obtuse and perhaps even upsetting.

Last week we talked about complexity.

This week we’re going to talk about blinding simplicity.

What is the blindingly simple message of the Gita?

LIVE YOUR LIFE WITH LOVE AND PURPOSE,
DETACHING EGO FROM RESULTS

FOCUS THE MIND

EXPERIENCE THE INFINITE WONDER OF THE UNIVERSE

As they say about the Golden Rule, all the rest is commentary.

Here are the three cosmic truths underlying the Gita’s message:

Each of us is already infinitely wondrous—
miraculous, awe-inspiring, unfathomable
(divine if you prefer)

Our wondrous nature is the same as
the infinite wonder of the universe

We experience this infinite wonder
by waking up to reality

I hope you find this surprising and thought provoking.

I hope it helps give you a vision of where we’re going, so that you can better negotiate the challenges of the text.

If you are overwhelmed by the Gita, I hope you find it encouraging.

I suggest you come back to it often when you’re feeling confused.

And if you think I’m full of beans, I look forward to your critique.

The reading for next week is chapters 5-6, p. 81-98.

 Please see
Welcome to Gita Talk
for all Gita Talk blogs and general information.
Jump in anytime and go at your own pace.


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About Bob Weisenberg

Bob Weisenberg: Editor, Best of Yoga Philosophy / Former Assoc. Publisher, elephant journal / Author: Yoga Demystified * Bhagavad Gita in a Nutshell * Leadership Is Like Tennis, Not Egyptology / Co-editor: Yoga in America (free eBook) / Creator: Gita Talk: Self-paced Online Seminar / Flamenco guitarist: "Live at Don Quijote" & "American Gypsy" (Free CD's) / Follow Bob on facebook, Twitter, or his main site: Wordpress.

Comments

108 Responses to “Gita Talk #5: Sublimely Simple, Profound and Liveable”

  1. Susan says:

    No beans at all, Bob. I think you are accurate. The essence of vedantic theory those 3 sentences.

  2. Cynthia L says:

    What I came away with is that action negate wisdom. No need to have an attchment to the outcome because no matter what you do (and doing something is better than nothing) you will be rewarded with the wisdom of your experience if you’re listening. So yes Bob, simple in theory. Probably not as easy in reality. So now, how does this concept relate back to Arjuna’s task?

  3. AMY CHAMP says:

    Well, here we all are waking up. What a brilliant post, Bob. It's funny that I would write about sorrow in my last post, considering a dear friend passed away yesterday. Look at how powerful death is. Why is it at that moment that we realize how truly brilliant and profound someone was? Everything rushes right to the surface. And it's been there THE WHOLE TIME. This is why the Gita is simple. It's a wake up call.

    The problem is us. Everything is there in its profoundness, and yet we persist in making everything small. (I'm a big fan of "small," so I guess what I mean is LIMITED.)

    I think Chapter 3 is critical to understanding our relationship as householders and Westerners in relation to the practice of Yoga. There are so many practices of renunciation in Yoga, that people (me!) often get confused by this and what to do with "this world." As the book says, "action for men of action." I think Gita is very clear on this, and it cuts right through a lot of rhetoric in Yoga in America (ashrams, teachers, you name it) which emphasizes denying the physical–sex, booze, etc.

    When actions are performed as worship, then it's all good.

    I like this phrase "ritual action"

    Those who delight in the Self are sages. Blessed be. They still need to eat, so they also depend on the wheel of action.

    Renounce the results, not the action. Very important. I am not the doer. Swami Sivananda would say, "I am not this body. I am not this mind."

    "Let go of your grief and fight!" So awesome.

    Rajas, rajas, rajas. Devil duty. A big problem, for sure. We have these boundless, bountiful lives, and we are constantly pushing and pushing for more and more and more. I've got rajasic tendencies, so there's no power yoga for me.

    Kill desire, know the Self. I'll get back to you on that.

    (only made it thru ch. 3 today)

    Om Sri Gita Dev.

  4. Karen M. says:

    I have had the most extraordinary experience of considering my actions as worship. It has been so profound. Our very life can become yoga practice. Our very life, a praise to the Divine. I find I have accomplished more each day. I have more energy and the most amazing Bliss wells up in my heart at the most "strangest" time. While cleaning the garage; while mopping my basement after water got in after a big storm..even in Walmart !! Jai Shri Krishna !!!

    I have studied the Gita on and off for 40 years. It seems i'm finally "getting it."" It is simple..like riding a bike, you just have to find your center of balance.

    "The whole world becomes a slave to its own activity, Arjuna; if you want to be truly free, perform all actions as worship": (3:10) Thanks and Blessings to you, Bob

  5. Gotta admit the dog ate my homework this week…but I'll get to it.

    Nonetheless, your distilling of the message of the Gita reminds me of that famous anecdote about the famous rabbi, or somebody, who basically said something (I'm not really redeeming myself with this comment, am I?) to the effect that theTorah basically boils down to "[something like the golden rule]. The rest is details"…though I have yet to figure out how all that stuff about Yahweh telling the Israelites to commit atrocities against neighboring tribes and instructions on how to sell your daughter into slavery in a godly way point to toward doing unto others as you'd like them to do unto you…

  6. Margann says:

    In response to your email question, I am grateful to you for this project. I've read the Gita before, and I'm reading it now along with the Gandi version. In the past I've had difficulty seeing the relevance to women, but this time I guess my mind is more open and I'm enjoying it. I see the descriptions of castes and gunas and "inner nature." Still, the promise of moksha isn't resonating with me at all.

  7. Meaghan says:

    Ok, so I can understand and embrace the "big picture". Thanks Bob for giving a clear statement of this broad message and the three "cosmic truths". What my very literal and detail-oriented mind needs now is some nitty gritty detail.

    In the beginning of Chapter 3 Krishna mentions the two main paths: the yoga of understanding and the yoga of action. The rest of this chapter relates to the Yoga of Action. In the next chapter we start using the word wisdom – can I assume the yoga of wisdom and the yoga of understanding are the same path? Or am I confusing something?

    I'm interested in hearing people's opinion of "wrong action". Does this mean action that does not fulfill your dharma? Or is it action with some sort of moral wrongdoing? Or even action with attachment?

    Starting on page 76 in the verse that begins "Some men of yoga pray to the Gods" and continuing for the next 6 verses, there are descriptions of different types of yoga (the first seems to describe bhakti yoga). Again, I would be interested to hear what type of yoga people see in each of these descriptions. I'm particularly confused by:

    "others offer their sense in the fire of self-abnegation; others offer the senses' objects, in the fire of the senses"

    and

    "others, intent on control of their vital forces offer their in-breath into their out-breath or their out-breath into their in-breath; others, while fasting, offer their in-breath into their in-breath".

    And finally I'll just share a passage that really resonates: "all actions are turned to ashes in wisdom's refining flames. Nothing in the world can purify as powerfully as wisdom; practiced in yoga, you will find this wisdom within yourself". A great example of the Gita teaching us that we are the divine, the infinite and that ultimately what we need and what we seek is already within us.

  8. Greg says:

    The passages in the Gita are crystal clear and straightforward for me.

    The bone I am chewing on has more to do with the responses of those who read the Gita and yet hold to the views of materialism (aka naturalism) and reject reincarnation. How is this possible?

    I would think that one who rejects the transcendent and reincarnation would toss the Gita on the trash heap. Why does this not happen?

    Bob, do you rip pages 71-73 out of the book? Or do you pass them off as ornate poetry to be discarded? Or, if you consider the Gita to be instructional, how do you process these passages?

    When the Gita says:

    "Many times I have been born,
    and many times you have, also,
    All these lives I remember,
    you recall only this one."

    how do you address the conflict with your own strongly held position that such is not possible?

    When the text reads:

    I taught this imperishable doctrine
    to Vivasvat, god of the sun,
    more than a hundred billion
    years ago.

    do you dismiss it as hyperbole? Or do you consider it might be accurate? (The Lotus Sutra of Buddhism tells of similar lineages of teaching.)

    How do you reconcile the differences in your views with the Gita? What plan of study and practice arises from the contradiction? Given the straightforward exposition of reincarnation and the transcendence of the human body, with a continuity of consciousness, how do you address your current views? Does this not cause some discomfort?

    This is where my curiosity goes while reading the text.

  9. Sevapuri says:

    There has been a lot of comments on wether the Gita is literal or metaphoric, and i think we all come to the Gita as we are, as Kriishna says in the end All come to me. Just as Arjuna struggles with differant questions through out the Gita we struggle with questions through out our journey, but sometimes i miss the questions , thinking i already know something, sometimes my opinions block me from opening up to a differant point of view. Krishna so gently and lovingly guides Arjuna throught his doubts, his blocks , his opinions. When i read the Gita, I'm like blotting paper absorbing what Krishna says as truth and reality otherer wise how can i test it out in my day to day life. To have a Krisna is our lives is a blessing but if not reading the Gita is the next best thing. In my yoga tradition the relationship of Krishna and Arjuna is seen as the most beautiful Guru disciple relationship. The Gita will exspand on this later. .

  10. Ronnie McCarthy says:

    I feel that the most simple yet all encompassing message of the Gita is just love the Divine. The Divine-the ALL ONE-Every Being! If we do this, everything that we are supposed to do we will do. If all we do is out of love, for all, then we have no need to worry about the fruit of our action anyway as our actions will always be out of good intentions. :)

  11. Vanita says:

    What I took away from this reading, like many others who posted above, is that everything we do should be an offering – to the God of our understanding, humanity, and/or each other. After I noticed it – I saw it in at least 10 verses.

    I liked the teaching of leading by example in 3.21 and 3.26.

    I do have questions about a couple verses. In 4.13, where Krishna says he is the eternal non-doer, I am not sure what he is trying to tell Arjuna. Along the same lines, I had a question mark by 4.20 – "he does nothing at all, even when fully engaged in actions." I feel like I'm missing something regarding doing nothing.

  12. paramsangat says:

    * Please tell us what you think:
    I'm still enjoying, still understanding well without re-reading :) Great!
    * What did you like? I liked how it was explained that your own wisdom is the best one..that no book can replace your own "knowing".. i.e. when you "know".. haha …akso liked alot the part explainingthat when you "know"..just act from that place and let the "ignorant" be inspired instead of told what to do.
    * What did you dislike? its a lil bit repetitive, but its alright… And that thing about non-desire and non-action..when all was really ok if you "knew"..so non-desire and non-action would be a path for the ignorant before "knowing"?

    cont. next comment)

  13. paramsangat says:

    (cont. from prev.)
    * How does it relate to your life? I feel I can act from that place of knowing, but not at 100%, I'm falling back into doubts and fears in certain subjects.
    * What questions would you like to ask? (Had some Q, above, related to the Dislikes)
    * Can you see the themes I outline in my thoughts below?
    I can see the simplicity of the message, when you know you know, and then its very simple…if you dont know or is doubting..its complicated.. I guess..
    * Are there other big themes you think also deserve to be there?
    ..not what comes to mind right now..

  14. Satyam says:

    Namaskar,

    Great topic – great discussion – interesting array of comments…

    One thing that strikes me is that when the message of this section of the Giita is so simple – Do the loving action without any harboring attachment to the results or ego – why do we find ourselves enmeshed in a world that is currently drowned in selfishness, power maneuvers, name, fame, lust, jealousy, conceit and so much more.

    Don't get me wrong, I am not a pessimist – rather quite optimistic.

    I see the question as an essential one: Why have so many been led astray. What is pulling them / us that we cannot lead a life that is so simply pure and loving?

    It seems to me that without knowing what the challenges are and why people are pulled in the wrong direction, this very simple recipe of life that has so many positive benefits will remain elusive – out of our grasp, i.e. in the books only.

    Here the point is not to focus us the negative but rather to adequately equip ourselves to follow the positive and meet the challenge. Just as a mountain climber or doctor will be aware of the inherent hurdles, shouldn't every aspirant also be aware.

    Satyam

  15. Satyam says:

    Thanks Greg for your reply…

    Agreed, karmic imprints or samskaras create a huge hurdle for us, as does the attractive, binding force of maya (avidya maya).

    I do appreciate your point however that it is not impossible to overcome but stands as a "major challenge".

    How then to convert this discussion of adhering to this simple truth into practice? How are we able to discern where the path of benevolence lies and how do we recognise when we are merely being allured by maya? What life practices to do need to adopt to awaken our intellect and jumpstart our engines?

    Satyam

  16. lorraineya says:

    Chapter 3 is Beautiful! Can you imagine if everyone in the world followed the advice of "perform all actions as worship?" We would live in a much more peaceful, compassionate world, for sure! That quote is my favorite part of Chapter 3.

    When Krishna says, “let go of your grief, and fight,” I read this to mean don’t let grief get in the way of what you need to do. This also corresponds to “It is better to do your own duty badly, than to perfectly do another’s; you are safe from harm when you do what you should be doing.”

    The basic message of the yoga of action is to control our senses and desires, as desire creates suffering. Selfless action, free of attachment, will set us free.

    In reading the passage about Krishna taking on human form and being born in every age, I am reminded of Christ, as the Son of God, being born as human. It just reaffirms my own beliefs that God is God whether he is called Krishna or Christ or another name.

    Question: What does Krishna mean when he says he founded the four-caste system? Is this a metaphor for creation of the world?

    P.S. Where are people getting the verse numbers (3.10) from? Are those from other translations of the Gita?

  17. nichinindy says:

    I am joining the discussion a bit late, I apologize for that. But I want to thank all of you for your insightful comments. It was these that made me decide to just buy the book and jump in to the discussion. Better late than never I guess!

    So…the Yoga of action really speaks to me right now. I am struggling through a very difficult situation in my work place. I find myself in a position where I am not confident that it is even possible for me to succeed. And I have the option looming in the background to go back to a situation where I was very successful and highly regarded. I recently explained the situation to a friend in this way:

    I am standing in the middle of a bridge. On one side of the bridge is a burning building. On the other is my father with his arms open, calling to me to come to him.

    Seems like a no-brainer. The problem for me is that when I take my brain out of the equation, my heart tells me to go stand in the fire. I have no rational explanation for this. But it occurred to me while reading Chapter 3 that maybe I am drawn to the fire because there is probably a lot more to be learned there than in the safety of my father's arms. According to Krishna it is of no importance whether or not I personally succeed? That brings me some comfort and a sense of freedom to choose.

    I have to act and act soon. This chapter confirms for me that staying in the middle of the bridge is not an option. Which way will I go? Can I detach myself enough from the intense heat and the fear of being burned to just act without concern for the result? Time will tell…

  18. Rhonnielive says:

    As I have stayed with chapter three more intently before moving on, I have made brief notes as I read. Simply to note what came to my mind without in depth thinking to "try and "understand" intellectually. Realizing the notations that I made along the way were revealed as the reading went along. I have shared my notations. I am following "the story" and remaining open to what I am receiving beyond "the story".

    "He who controls his actions
    but lets his mind dwell on sense-objects
    is deluding himself and spoiling
    his search for the deepest truth."
    note: seat of the "doer", living in (what I call) the spin zone

    "The superior man is he
    whose mind can control his senses;
    with no attachment to results
    he engages in the yoga of action."
    note: being present

    "The whole world becomes a slave
    to its own activity, Arjuna;
    if you want to be truly free
    perform all actions as worship."
    note: worship? to me means do all w/ awareness and presence, slave to own activity= fear rooted resistance

    "Nourished by your worship, the gods
    will grant whatever you desire;
    but he who accepts their gifts
    and gives nothing back, is a thief."
    note: speaks to intention vs ego & entitlement

    "But the man who delights in the Self,
    who feels pure contentment and finds
    perfect peace in the Self—
    for him, there is not need to act."
    note: action IS. There is no "need", "need"= to act to gain a desired result this removes the "worship" speaks to ego & entitlement

    "He has nothing to achieve by action,
    nothing to gain by inaction,
    nor does he depend on any
    person outside himself.
    note: this frees others to find their way/process, the achieving, gaining and dependence steals from the moment, being present

    "Without concern for results,
    perform the necessary action;
    surrendering all attachments,
    accomplish life's highest good."
    note: when we act/choose w/ consciousness

    "Though the unwise cling to their actions,
    watching for results, the wise
    are free of attachments, and act
    for the well-being of the whole world."
    note: cling to their actions= suffering, free from attachment= peace

    All things Gita. There are many instances that I am seeing things, situations, people, simply the world around me differently or rather more deeply. I saw The Gita today when I caught a portion of the movie The Last Samurai. I watched the part leading up to the final battle. I loved this movie when I saw it years ago, however I did not follow "the story" the same today. I will definitely be writing more about my thoughts on this and another loved movie where this same experience spoke to me.
    As of now, what I am discovering beyond wanting to read the Gita, reading weekly, sharing my thoughts, and reading others comments, there is a very organic experience happening with perception and perspective in daily life. Perception and perspective are important to me and I have used these as tools to see beyond immediate details and circumstances. This has often applied to challenges and required a lot of work on my part. While at the infancy of this journey of the Gita through this discussion, it feels very nice to experience this naturally with daily events.
    ~One Love

  19. DurgaDas says:

    Can I suggest something, Bob? Being a new reader and commenter here, I cannot help being struck by your use of the word "but" in your simple summary of the Gita:

    BUT DETACH EGO FROM RESULTS

    I would suggest that 'AND' would be more appropriate here, as you wouldn't want to indicate that you are dismissing the previous statement:
    LIVE YOUR LIFE WITH LOVE AND PURPOSE,
    is being negated. This would make the reader understand that a positive statement is being made here, which is, I believe, your intent.

  20. harley dc says:

    I love my DX. One of my friends got a PRS-900, but personally the Kindle is a better machine.

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