Gita Talk #6: And Now for Something Completely Different

Via on May 24, 2010

This week let’s try something different.  Let’s go through Chapter 6 stanza by stanza.

For this to work, you have to be willing to jump right in.  Write a comment.  Ask a question. Reply to what someone else has written.  If you’re thinking about it, but are on the fence, JUST DO IT!  I  hope you can see we’re a pretty friendly bunch here, and we’re very receptive to hearing everyone’s thoughts.

Let’s begin by talking about the first six stanzas of Chapter 6:

He who performs his duty
with no concern for results
is the true man of yoga–not
he who refrains from action.

Knowing that right action itself
is renunciation, Arjuna;
in the yoga of action, you first
renounce your own selfish will.

For the man who wishes to mature,
the yoga of action is the path;
for the man already mature,
serenity is the path.

When a man has become unattached
to sense objects or to actions,
renouncing his own selfish will,
then he is mature in yoga.

He should lift up the self by the Self
and not sink into the selfish;
for the self is the only friend
of the Self, and its only foe.

The self is a friend for him
who masters himself by the Self;
but for him who is not self-mastered,
the self is the cruelest foe.

If we were sitting around a room together, I would ask you these questions to get the discussion going:

1) How would you summarize these stanzas in your own words?
2) Give us an example of how you might apply these words to your own life.
3) Which lines of the text are difficult to understand?
4) Tell us anything else that comes to mind when you read these words.

Let’s see what happens.  If this works, then we’ll run through Chapter 6 this way.  If it doesn’t work, then we’ll try something else!

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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.

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105 Responses to “Gita Talk #6: And Now for Something Completely Different”

  1. Good description, Greg. My only comment would be be that I have a far more positive view of the hapless "self" than you do. It seems to me that once we realize our infinitely wondrous "Selves", we can then look back and see that our "selves" are also an integral part of our wondrous "Selves".

    In later stanzas Krishna makes it clear that absolutely everything is part of the infinitely wondrous universe. Since nothing is left out, ultimately even all our senses, our bodies, every cell in our bodies, and even our very egos are ultimately manifestations of this infinite wonder of the universe (the "divine", if one feels comfortable with that term.)

    Bob Weisenberg

    • Greg says:

      Bob, I do not have a negative view of the hapless "self." One liability of pointing out its temporary, not-self nature is that it seems one has a negative view of self, which is not the case. Rather it is placing phenomena in their proper perspective. The Gita, as well as my comments, are simply noting the relationship between causes and phenomena. The stanzas do not that once one knows Self the self then become friend rather than foe.

      Where I might nit pick with your response is the idea that "selves" are an integral part of "Selves." This creates the idea that they are of the same nature, of the same properties. When we think of one as an integral part of the other, it is like saying the water in the shallow part of the pool is a part of all the water, which includes the water in the deep end as well.

      But the Gita (and Buddhist texts) counter this idea. They establish the nature and properties of self as being different from the nature and properties of Self. They are making a distinction. They are calling for discernment.

      The Buddhist texts are perhaps clearer on this point though I do not think the Gita lacks clarity. The idea is that fabricated and thus temporary or temporal phenomena have their origin in the Self. Such temporal phenomena are the creation, the emanation, the manifestation of the Self. One is that which is created while the other is that which creates. One gives rise to phenomena while the other is the dependently-arisen phenomena.

      One can have Self without self but one cannot have self without Self. Does that make sense?

      When one substitutes "universe" for Self one obscures and denies the distinction made. The universe is simply a collection of all that which is dependently arisen. Its properties never go beyond that which was created. The Self, on the other hand, stands outside (in the sense of nature and properties) the collection of those things its manifests.

      The easiest metaphor to use is that all phenomena are but a dream in the mind of the Self. And the physical universe is a collective dream of Selves. A co-authored dream.

      • Hi, Greg. Your contention that the Self is anything different than the entire universe and the unfathomable life-force behind it is explicitly contradicted throughout the Gita. But let's wait until we get to those passages to discuss it further.

        Buddhist texts are not particularly helpful in clarifying the Gita. The central difference between Yoga philosophy and Buddhist philosophy is this very concept of Brahman=God="Infinite Unfathomable Life-Force of the Universe".

        It's at the heart of the Gita, but most Buddhist thinking I'm aware of (although not all, and I'm certainly not well versed in Buddhism) seems to avoid this concept, or at least not celebrate it like the Gita does.

        Bob Weisenberg

        • Greg says:

          The Gita establishes the difference in these first six chapters. Will be interesting to see what it is that you feel erases the first chapters with a new concept later in the text.

          Buddhism addresses the difference between that which is fabricated (all phenomena) and that which gives rise to fabrication (Buddha Mind afflicted with ignorance).

          Both address the issues of attachment to that which is not Self.

          I used to believe there was more difference but am seeing the differences are very minor. As noted before, one possible difference that may not be in the texts but which appear with individual yogis is how the nature of the original "white light universe" is viewed. There are some who see this as "all there is" whereas the Buddha revealed this, too, was a fabrication. From a practice viewpoint, this point may be the most difficult to address.

        • lorraineya says:

          You are correct, Bob, there is no concept of "God" in Buddhism. Although it appears to me that Buddhists worship the Buddha as a god as well as many of the Tibetan bodisattvas.

  2. Greg says:

    These stanzas repeat earlier concepts by pointing out the impermanent nature of the self and the need to come into awareness of our true nature, who we are as Self.

    On the one side we have the impermanent self — our false identity arising from identification with physical phenomena such as bodies — and on the other side the Self — our true nature as a non-material being of pure consciousness.

    The key concept is becoming unattached (stanza #4) or, in other words, achieving detachment. From what do we cease attachment? The impermanent self — our body, our emotions, our monkey mind, our identity in any one life.

    And yet the work is not nihilist, indicating that one who knows Self (consciousness detached from identification with physical phenomenon) still can find a "friend" in the self, which is something (a token, an assumed identity, a doll body) we use in the playing of the collective game.

    The last stanza appears to point out that we can live and master ourselves from the point of view of our true nature as Self or we can muddle about trying to make sense of our false and temporary self as though it had a true essence.

    Yoga allows us to achieve the cessation of attachment to that which is false self and come to know and master ourselves from the point of view of Self, our true nature.

  3. Karen M. says:

    The small self is what stands between us and knowing the happiness of the Spiritual Self. However as we start connecting with the Spiritual Self, we gradually start living our life through the clarity of our true Spiritual Nature and not through the distorted image of the small self. As we continue to embrace the Spiritual Self we start to stop sabotaging ourself. Because we have tasted the higher consciousness of the Self, we can easily let go of selfishness and perform right action…

  4. paramsangat says:

    1) How would you summarize these stanzas in your own words?
    If you "know" then you rejoice in life (automatically).
    And if you don't "know" (or is doubting), then practice action with non-attatchment to find balance for yourself.
    When you know your Inner Self, the world is a pleasant place and anytime you'd come out of balance you can return. If you dont know your Inner Self, you have nowhere to turn when things seem tough – you'll acctually believe in your own struggle/hell as reality.
    2) Give us an example of how you might apply these words to your own life
    Meditation has made me aware of that there is a beautiful calm and blissful place inside, where I can return anytime, anywhere.. as long as I remember that its there, it always is
    3) Which lines of the text are difficult to understand? –
    4) Tell us anything else that comes to mind when you read these words.
    That life is/can be really beautiful and could be viewed and reacted to in so different ways. The choice is upto every single one, focus the mind on what pleases us and relax into it. Enjoy fully meanwhile lasting.

  5. YogiOne says:

    Not too many folks are attempting to respond to #3 so I'll give it a crack.

    "He who performs his duty" – This assumes we have duties rather than choices. Who says and where is the proof?

    "with no concern for results" – People who act like this cause a lot of damage to others – I want people to think more about the consequences of their actions not less.

    "is the true man of yoga –
    –not he who refrains from action." – Sometimes doing nothing is exactly what is called for. Doing no harm – ahimsa is preferable to doing somthing that causes harm. Rushing into action because a Blue Meany tells you to go kill your family isn't too yogic if you ask me.

    So, while I think I understand the text as it is written here, what I don't understand is how usually reasonable people could swallow such balderdash. I do get the aspect of this that refers to following your own path, but it seems to me that finding your own path is not one of those times when you can defer to the wisdom of others, no matter how powerful or beguiling they may seem.

    • Thanks for these provocative questions, YogiOne. I have some thought on this, but I'd really like to hold back for awhile and see what other people have to say.

    • lorraineya says:

      If we carry out right actions without thought of the outcome, then good will come of it (or so I believe). This is what I am getting from it.

    • Hi, YogiOne. I haven't forgotten about you and your tough but highly reasonable questions here. I'm still hoping someone else might step in and start the discussion before I share all my thoughts with you.

    • svan says:

      Okay, I'll bite.

      I'm not really sure what point you're making off the top — maybe because I define "duty" as a moral or legal responsibility to family and community, so then duties and choices aren't mutually exclusive — we can choose to do our duty or not.

      "no concern for results" can imply a mindless, selfish recklessness, but perhaps not in this context… : ) All our actions have consequences, but those consequences aren't necessarily predictable because the cause and effect relationship is more complicated than we think.

      sometimes, doing nothing can be deadly… the action in "inaction"

      Again, our intention may be to do no harm, but the result may be the very opposite (we are surrounded by some horrendously unintended consequences of many inventions and systems that were designed to improve our lives…) Can any action be completely harmless? We don't really know because of that complicated net of interdependence.

      "rushing into action because a Blue Meany tells you to go kill your family…" well, Arjuna isn't exactly rushing and Krishna isn't exactly Charles Manson… Krishna has to use every tactic in the book to convince him to do his duty, to defend the dharma and fulfill it…. Arjuna is also a warrior, it's his job and I got the impression from the background to the war that it is justified. To not fight would be to let go of basic principles of fairness, honour, justice and so on. Doing nothing would be a tacit acceptance of deceit and corruption.

      If we had true wisdom, maybe we could see the big picture, like the Blue Meany here. Sometimes we have to let go of what we think we know to make room for true wisdom. Maybe this is where faith comes in…

      • Thanks so much for stepping up to the plate, svan. (That's the one thing I'd like to see more of on Gita Talk–in-depth interaction among readers). YogiOne's comment is so interesting and provocative (in a good way) that I'm tempted to copy it over into a new blog all by itself.

        What do you other readers have to say?

      • YogiOne says:

        Svan, thanks for your reply. Your responses are all very reasonable interpretations. In the context of the actual wars that were going on at the time the Gita was written, I don't think the warriors had much choice regarding which class they belonged to, nor did anyone else. Telling people to accept their fate regardless of their own desires was a way of subjugating the masses. The parallel I see with today is when we have a bad economy and young men aren't very employable because public education has been gutted by the same group of upper class white men who benefit from the endless wars we are fighting, they try to make "doing your duty" see as an honorable alternative to actually following your own path. The Gita is mostly military propaganda.

        • YogiOne says:

          Let us not forget that there is no actual Blue Meany. This is a construct used by men for a purpose. What men's purpose does it serve? It lends authority and enormous social pressure to an argument that is otherwise questionable. It implies that the rest of us can't think for ourselves because we don't get the whole picture (as if the writers of the gita did). Religion is being used the same way today. God and Country! God is on our side, so you know we are justified in killing brown people all over the world especially if they get in the way of letting our corporations subjugate the poor for their own profits. Oh, let us not forget that if we criticise our corporate masters (BP/Krisna) we are unamerican (and thus not worthy of God, Apple Pie and Chevrolet).

      • integralhack says:

        lol. Love the "Blue Meany."

    • Meaghan says:

      To me duty is what is required of you after you make a choice. If I choose to have a baby then my duty is to be a parent. If I choose to be a yoga teacher, my duty becomes serving my students to the best of my ability. I don't believe the Gita is suggesting we do not have choices (sure, it was written at a time and within a culture that employed the caste system, but that falls into my "disregard" category) – it's suggesting that we have a set of duties that we must fulfill with passionate action based on the lives we live and the choices we've made.

      • Good points, Meaghan. I agree that for any sensible meaning today, one does have to make some adjustments and allowances for the 2500 year age of the text! On the whole I'm surprised at how infrequently this is necessary in the Gita, at least in a version that is translated into such colloquial English as Mitchell's is.

        I think this word "duty" is problematic here. I agree with you that "purpose" or even "chosen action" is a better choice, but that might stretch the meaning of the original. But I have three other versions of the Gita in front of me. None of them use the word "duty" like Mitchell does. Two of them use the word "work" and the other uses a whole phrase "that action which is a prescribed act".

        I think we attach a lot of negative meaning to the word "duty" today, frequently using it to mean "mindless unthinking order-driven actions", as YogiOne is looking at it. But I don't think Mitchell intended it this way. And as you point out so well, the word "duty" can be synonymous with "right action" if it is the result of a good decision we have made.

        More later. I like this discussion. I invite others to comment as well.

        Bob Weisenberg

      • YogiOne says:

        I guess the choice to disregard the context of the Gita hinges on whether we want to understand, as closely as possible, what the original intent/meaning was or whether we wish to use it as a springboard for supporting interpretations more palatable to modern sensibilities. While I like your interpretation, and agree with it in principle, I don't think it is what the Gita says. There is a point in the Gita where Krishna tells Arjuna that his decisions are ultimately meaningless except with regard to his own soul because he, Krishna has already killed everyone on the battlefield. It is as if for all practical purposes, all of the actors are reduced to little plastic army men in a brutal, meaningless war game. I think it is OK to reject what the Gita says and supplant it with your own ideas. I just also think it is important to be explicit about why you reject what it says.

        • Hi, YogiOne. If I had to interpret the Gita as a pro-war, "nothing you do matters", just act as you please text, I wouldn't have any interest in it, and neither would Ghandi or Schweig or virtually any commentator I know.

          However, I don't need to supplant these ideas with my own ideas. The Gita itself is wildly inconsistent on these things. So I only have to decide which of the things the Gita already says I want to believe in, and then disregard, metaphorize or explain those thing that don't fit that vision.

          It's important to remember that even the true scholars who have spent their lives studying the Gita don't agree on many key aspects of interpretation. So there is no commonly accepted version of, as you put it, "what the Gita says". The Gita has always said different things to different people, and even different learned scholars.

          As a dramatic example, Swami Prabhupada subtitled his version of the Gita the definitive sounding "As It Is". Graham Schweig, noted Sanskrit scholar and Gita lover, was so upset with what he considered to be his gross distortions, that he dubbed Prabhupada's version "As It Isn't"!

          Even more significant than that, however, is that people didn't agree about any of these things even back then. This is very evident in the texts themselves, especially the Gita, but also the Yoga Sutra and the Upanishads, as well as the Buddhist history of the time.

          Plus, Yoga was only one of six completely different systems of classical Indian philosophy, some of them theistic, and others not, all of them vying for attention among the intellectuals and spiritual leaders over hundreds of years. And many analysts think the Gita itself was written by a couple or few different authors with different agendas.

          Personally I'm interested in spirituality more than history, so relating the ideas of the Gita to modern times, and specifically MY modern times, is what I'm after. But I don't think one has to do any big distortion of the text to do that.

          I'm out of time. Will write more later. I hope this is all clear when I come back to read it later. I typed this very fast.

          Bob

        • svan says:

          I really appreciate the point you are making, YogiOne. But I think what we are seeing is an agenda at work that will bend whatever material is available to its purposes. We see this all the time — sacred, legal or scientific texts being manipulated to serve an agenda. Look at your own constitution… Is the agenda present in the texts themselves? I think we bring the agendas, the expectations and the desire for certain outcomes over others. And this is part of what I see the Gita pointing out to us.

          I also think of these great texts and teachings like a symphony, and I'm only capable of hearing a few notes at a time… that's why these discussions are so great.

          What I hear the Blue Meany saying is: There is no "us and them". We are them. They are us. Our differences are only relative, only appearances. Ultimately, we are all the same. When we realize this, our compassion grows, our intentions change, our actions change. Everything I do affects you and everything you do affects me.

          My desire to do no harm cannot paralyse me either. All actions are already the fruits of previous actions and the cause and condition for future actions. This is where wisdom comes in. And until I attain wisdom myself (and by this, I mean the wisdom of a true Blue Meany or the Buddha — the perception of ultimate Truth), I must rely on the wisdom I can find in my own experience and from sources I trust.

          • Good thoughts, Svan. But you guys have to fill me in on this "Blue Meany" thing. Honestly, I'm completely lost on that one. Am I embarrassing myself?

          • svan says:

            not at all, Bob — I made an assumption that "Blue Meany" = Krishna… is that at all what you had in mind, YogiOne?

          • YogiOne says:

            Yes. Blue Meanys were characters in the Beatles movie, The Yellow Submarine. Just a little humor on my part to help delink Krishna's words from the association with an unerring authority. His words were written by people.

          • I guess I should have known that, since I saw that movie as a college student when it first came out!

          • YogiOne says:

            Svan,

            I also appreciate what you are bringing to the discussion and you are obviously very perceptive. I am bringing an agenda to this discussion. It may not be the one you think I'm bringing though. I just see a certain imbalance in the discussion, so I'm filling a role that no one else is picking up. For more on that issue, see my next response to Bob below (haven't written it yet though. You will have to wait a few minutes).

          • svan says:

            Hey YogiOne, I suspected you might be playing devil's advocate by being so literal, but one can never be sure… I am enjoying this and learning from it, so please, carry on!

        • Ok, I'm back. What I rushed out above seems surprisingly coherent.

          I did have one more point to add–that it's all relative. I was once a serious student of the Torah (five books of what Christians call the Old Testament.) Compared to the Torah, the Gita's meaning and applicability to modern times flows crystal clear like water.

          I would say that I can read and apply about 80-90% of the Gita to my every day life, without any particular twisting of the words, or making allowances for modern times. With the Torah, I would guess that same number would be 15-20%.

          So one of the reasons I'm so attracted to the Gita is that it requires relatively little twisting of the meaning, once I got accustomed to the rich metaphorical language, that is. In the Torah, there is a whole book (Leviticus) that is almost inapplicable to modern times without the most severe reinterpretation and radical metaphorizing.

          A good rabbi can do this, of course. But for me, compared to Jewish and Christian scripture, the Gita is many times more direct and applicable to my daily life. That's why I've been drawn to Yoga at this stage of my spiritual life, after very deep experiences with Catholicism growing up, and Judaism for 20 years while my Jewish kids were growing up.

          I need to stop and get some feedback from you, YogiOne, before I go on.

          Bob Weisenberg
          YogaDemystified.com

          • YogiOne says:

            Bob, I appreciate both of your responses and find that I can agree with most of what you and Svan say. As Svan noted, I have an agenda. I've read the Gita before from a mostly metaphorical perspective. I even wrote a blog about it that I think you will find very close to your own point of view. It is only a point of view though, and this time, I'm trying to experience it from a different, more skeptical one. You can see my blog at the url below (Svan and others too – I'd be interested in your thoughts about my old blog post and the contrast between that and what I'm doing here).
            http://newsomweb.net/?p=42

          • Yes, I had read that on your site already. Excellent analysis there.

            I think it's great that you've taken on this voice. These are very legitimate questions you are asking, and I'm sure others were asking the same questions, but didn't quite know how to phrase them.

            I personally understand this voice because I myself, Mr. Gita Love Extraordinaire now, gave up on the Gita in frustration after my first encounter, only returning to it when happening to read about Graham Schwieg' then new translation.

            Look at the great discussion you've generated. Many thanks.

            Bob Weisenberg
            YogaDemystified.com

          • svan says:

            Thanks for the link to your blog, YogiOne, and the great insights and questions you raise. I encourage everyone to check it out.

          • YogiOne says:

            BTW – I am also frequently tying this directly to modern life. I know it isn't in the same way as you are and I'm certainly not suggesting that the way I'm reading it is the only way to do so.

          • Oh, forgot to mention. Since you're a psychologist, don't miss Yoga and the Quest for the True Self by psychotherapist turned Yoga teacher, Stephen Cope. Right up your alley for sure, if you don't know about it already. My primary Yoga mentor, through his books.

  6. Here's what Eknath Easwaran writes about Chapter 6 in his translation of the Gita:

    This is surely one of the most intriguing chapters of the Gita, for here we are given a detailed explanation of meditation addressed to the layperson. The same meditation techniques are given in more esoteric writings, such as the "Yoga Sutra" of Patanjali, but the Gita does it more simply, without any unnecessary mystery or complexity.

    When was the last time you heard the Gita referred to as less mysterious or complex than the Yoga Sutra? This turns the conventional viewpoint on its head–that the Gita is less read because it's more mysterious and complex than the Sutra.

    My own experience is that the Gita and the Upanishads are just as accessible as the Yoga Sutra, if not more so, once one gets used to their rich metaphorical language. Of course, all three are indispensable.

    Bob Weisenberg

  7. integralhack says:

    1) How would you summarize these stanzas in your own words?
    The true "man of yoga" is one who walks the razor's edge of right action: This seems quite similar to the Middle Way of the Buddha. It also indicates that the Yoga of Action calls for renouncing attachment to sense objects and actions–so preparatory steps are required to become a "mature" man and walk the path of serenity.

    2) Give us an example of how you might apply these words to your own life.

    I am trying to apply the correlative Buddhist path in my own life. The similarities are striking!

    3) Which lines of the text are difficult to understand?

    Part of what I still find troubling is that people can think that they have renounced their "selfish wills," but "self" is often a much greater aggregate than people realize. Beyond what they take to be their own wills are affective ideologies, cultural grooming, and what the Buddhists refer to as samskaras–preferences and biases that become part of our psychological makeup. Our small selves are like Russian nesting dolls–there are many layers that go beyond our own skin!

    4) Tell us anything else that comes to mind when you read these words.

    I can't stress the importance of preparation enough for the serious yogi! If you try to take hold of the self too soon, without really connecting with the (big) Self, you may find yourself in trouble. True humility and patience are called for.

    • Greg says:

      Love your response to #3. There is much in what you have stated to be studied. Very rich.

      • integralhack says:

        Thanks, Greg. I do think that Buddhism provides a useful perspective for looking at the Gita. I'm not saying it is "necessary," of course, but it certainly enriches my reading, as I'm sure it does yours.

    • Personally I find Yoga to be very different than most Buddhism I have read about (but certainly never practiced). Buddhism to me seems to be preoccupied with deconstructing the self, whereas Yoga just wants us to be able to witness the self clearly from the perspective of the Self, as clearly shown in our passage.

      Buddhism, just to me I'm saying, seems to want to squash the ego, whereas Yoga seems to just want us to be able to watch it and control it. This is one of the reasons that when I was in a fork in the road of my spiritual life some years ago, and could have chosen Yoga or Buddhism, I was personally much more attracted to Yoga, and still am. To me it seems far more psychologically sound and realistic.

      It's just a personal preference, I realize.

      Bob Weisenberg

      • integralhack says:

        Personally, Bob, I don't see why the two practices–Yoga and Buddhism (or Dharma)–have to be exclusive. I think they fit very well together.

        I don't see any difference between "the self that is the foe" and the self the Buddha contended with. Buddha did not deny self (this is a popular misunderstanding), but pointed out what self is not.

        • I'm sure you're right, Matt. That's why, whenever I get drawn into writing about Buddhism now I always try to make it crystal clear that I'm only describing my personal reactions and decisions, not pretending to express any larger meaning than that. And I certainly didn't mean to imply they are mutually exclusive. They are close cousins no matter how you look at it, influencing each other back and forth over centuries.

          Bob Weisenberg http://YogaDemystified.com

          • integralhack says:

            Absolutely, and I apologize if we got too focused on Buddhism. Let's return to our regularly scheduled programming: The Bhagavad Gita. :)

  8. lorraineya says:

    Hey, a passage that I understand with no questions!! :)
    This passage is telling me to act consciously without thought of the outcome, meaning I should not care about the result as in whether or not I receive any benefit. If I perform my duties with the right thought, then hopefully I won't hurt anyone in the process. I'm able to wrap my mind around this concept but admit that it's hard for me to act without worrying about the outcome. It's hard to remained detached.

    • Very funny, Lorraine!

      Here's a subtle, yet I think vital, nuance to what you just wrote. The Gita tells us to be detached about the outcome, once we decided what to do and are doing it. But it never asks us not to be concerned about the result when making the decision about what to do,or when preparing for battle. Krishna never tells Arjuna, "Don't even bother preparing for battle or drawing your bow because nothing matters anyway." Quite the contrary, he urges Arjuna to fight with all his will and might and passion, just, once things are in motion, detach your ego from the outcome.

      The Gita doesn't recommend wishy-washiness or detachment in making a decision. It expects, in fact, that we put all our passion and caring into whatever decision we make. It just asks us to be less attached to the results, knowing that we've done the best we can, and we are still wondrous in any case.

      To give you an example I think is pretty clear. I try to play tennis according to the teachings of Yoga. I'm still very competitive and my self wants to win. I plan and train and lift weights and do everything I can to get myself in a position to be able to win (just like Arjuna preparing for battle).

      But once I start a match, even though I'm still trying my hardest to win, I completely detach my ego (= my self) from the results. Regardless of what happens, I accept it, enjoy it, congratulate my opponent if he wins, still fee great even if I lose. Then I go back to my plotting and training so I can beat him next time.

      Please tell me if this makes any sense and if not, let's talk about it some more. I think this point is critical. It's why I love Yoga philosophy. It inspires me to do my best but allows me to be far happier and more content along the way. It's not a prescription for not-caring at all, just for freeing my mind from excessive worry about the eventual result.

      Bob Weisenberg

    • Very funny, Lorraine!

      Here's a subtle, yet I think vital, nuance to what you just wrote. The Gita tells us to be detached about the outcome, once we decided what to do and are doing it. But it never asks us not to be concerned about the result when making the decision about what to do, when "preparing for battle." Krishna never tells Arjuna, "Don't even bother preparing for battle or drawing your bow because nothing matters anyway." Quite the contrary, he urges Arjuna to fight with all his will and might and passion, just, once things are in motion, detach your ego from the outcome.

      The Gita doesn't recommend wishy-washiness or detachment in making a decision. It expects, in fact, that we put all our passion and caring into whatever decision we make. It just asks us to be less attached to the results, knowing that we've done the best we can, and we are still wondrous in any case.

      To give you an example I think is pretty clear. I try to play tennis according to the teachings of Yoga. I'm still very competitive and my self wants to win. I plan and train and lift weights and do everything I can to get myself in a position to be able to win (just like Arjuna preparing for battle).

      But once I start a match, even though I'm still trying my hardest to win, I completely detach my ego (= my self) from the results. Regardless of what happens, I accept it, enjoy it, congratulate my opponent if he wins, still feel great even if I lose. Then I go back to my plotting and training so I can beat him next time.

      Please tell me if this makes any sense and if not, let's talk about it some more. I think this point is critical. It's why I love Yoga philosophy. It inspires me to do my best but allows me to be far happier and more content along the way. It's not a prescription for not-caring at all, just for freeing my mind from excessive worry about the eventual result.

      Bob Weisenberg

      • Meaghan says:

        Bob – Thanks for this very clear description of the difference between not caring and detaching from result. Until now I intellectually knew that this was what the Gita proposed – but didn't fully understand. This helps. Thanks!

        • Good, Meaghan. Glad it helped. I hope everyone can see that all this is helping me as much as anyone else. Thinking about all these great questions and coming up with clear replies is really refining my own understanding of the Gita.

  9. integralhack says:

    This is not completely accurate, but it depends a great deal in what you mean by "God." Buddha didn't deny the existence of Brahma, for example (in fact there are quite a few Brahma references in the Pali Canon). Buddha did, however, change the meaning of connected ideas and focused on practice rather than worship.

    For the real practitioner, Buddha and bodhisattvas are not really objects of worship, but they are meditational focal points and aids to cultivating buddhas in all of us. This is not to say, however, that you won't find sects that do worship "Buddhas."

  10. Greg says:

    Good explanation.

    The subject of God in Buddhism has been simplified and thus misrepresented by those who are attached to the ideas of atheism.

    The Buddha's presentation was quite nuanced and depends for understanding on the practice.

    There is probably no better place to come to a deep understanding of the concept but it is not a place one can go to when carrying a lot of baggage.

  11. Greg says:

    Not sure what I would say to entice you to take another closer look.

    Only you would know what it is that might inspire looking from another vantage point.

    That might be a meditation exercise you could engage — ask what might allow or motivate you to view from another perspective. And consider the opposite as well — what is it that prevents me from considering another perspective? When you alternate between the poles of the dichotomy it can bring about change.

    Back and forth — what would allow me to see from another vantage point? what prevents me from viewing from another vantage point?

  12. Thanks for the clarification, Matt. I knew that:

    a) There are big differences between different schools of Buddhism.

    b) It depends on the definition of God, which is why I carefully defined it (as the definition in the Gita–(Brahman=God="Infinite Unfathomable Life-Force of the Universe"), no more, no less than that.

    c) I was not talking about worship at all. Conventional worship makes little sense when each of us is an integral part of God. We'd be worshiping ourselves (which I guess is why some religions feel the Gita is sacrilegious!)

    Your points are also precisely why I threw in the phrase "or at least not celebrate it like the Gita does", but even that might not be true for certain Tantric based schools of Buddhism.

    Bob Weisenberg

    • integralhack says:

      Ah, I was replying to lorraineya's reply, Bob. Not yours. Not that I particularly had an issue with that response either–I just thought some things needed clarification.

    • Greg says:

      Sure wish you would define "infinite unfathomable life force of the universe."

      Infinite would mean other than this universe, as this universe is finite.
      Unfathomable would mean unknowable, thus you would be talking about speculation.
      Life force can mean so many different things it must be clearly defined.
      "Of this universe" would mean being restricted to something than in itself is limited.

      Am curious how you would attack the problem of defining this phrase.

  13. lighthasmass says:

    I am subscribing. This is not a comment.

  14. Patrick McMurray says:

    I enjoyed reading stanza #6 right here, thank you to Bob for trying this approach!

    1) How would you summarize these stanzas in your own words?

    It almost seems to me like the "doing" is more important than the "being." In the first stanza, "…not he who refrains from action.." almost seems to me like a challenge to the reader to do something rather than nothing at all, in any situation. I am led to think of the notion of action with (or without) thought. But it seems as though the Gita is telling us "at least do something—don't just sit there!"…

    But also, the first stanza seems to say "do something, anything" but then "don't dwell on it, whatever it is that you do…" The other stanzas sem to bear out the first one by emphasizing that the "yoga of action" is the only true way and that by taking action and not worrying about the outcome you are somehow fulfilling the duty you have to yourself.

    • Hi, Patrick. I wasn't sure what would happen if I just put out a few stanzas for comment. But it's worked out very well, hasn't it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

  15. Celia Aurora de Blas Aurora says:

    I just got back from a Satsang and these stanzas are giving me the same message that this whole evening has been ripe with…
    Be present and love ( be open).
    How I might apply it to life? Cut out the analyzation process of thought and dive right into the feeling part of myself and enjoy whatever it is that I'm experiencing. So, listen to someone speak, find the joy in getting stuck in traffic, pet my cats til something else moves me in another direction, eat, meditate, do everything with presence and openness.
    So here I feel the plastic keys below my fingers, I watch the cursor spell out words that I instruct it to, my jaw seems a bit clenched and I'm feeling hungry and tired and it's all what it is:) Time to get more present with my heart as I stroke my cats to sleep.

  16. paramsangat says:

    Hey, thanks for the Facebook message, I'm on and reading ahead :) I like the book and I like these excersises we get here to discuss,
    thank you!! :)

  17. Greg says:

    In response to Bob's question to me regarding "what is God?" I will present (piecemeal) stanzas from the Gita that parallel and/or explain what I have in mind…

    Ch 2 p 47

    Never was there a time
    when did not exist, or you.

    This speaks to the timeless nature of God. Not something that is temporal. Not something that partakes of the temporal and therefore not impermanent.

    p 48

    Nonbeing can never be
    being can never not be.

    This further speaks to the idea of timelessness. Not contained or constrained within the temporal.
    (Some will say "eternal" but I believe that is misleading as it may connote being in all time but limited to that which is temporal, as opposed to meaning "stands outside all time.")

    p 48

    The presence that pervades the universe
    is imperishable, unchanging,
    beyond both is and is not;
    how could it ever vanish.

    This, too, speaks to the timeless nature — not stuck within the confines of the material world where things come in and out of existence.

    It also speaks to the God or Self as being a "presence that pervades." This is a critical concept. A presence, a beingness, a consciousness that pervades differs from an identity with all things in the universe. This says that God consciousness can go throughout all space but it does not say that God consciousness is one and the same with the objects it pervades.

    This is perhaps the yogi's greatest challenge… to understand how one pervades spaces and objects but in so pervading one does not become that space or object. We take on the identity of a space or object as a game as a charade but never is our nature identical to that which we pervade.

    More…

    • To me that sounds suspiciously like the "infinite, unfathomable life-force of the universe".

      I don't think there is any challenge understanding "pervading" vs. "being" the object. In later chapters, the Gita is unequivocally specific about this:

      You are both being and nonbeing,
      and what is beyond them both. (11.37)

      Majesty infinite in power,
      you pervade–no, you are–all things. (11.40)

      Bob Weisenberg
      YogaDemystified.com

      • Greg says:

        The Gita, I am certain, does not establish the nature of Self as being non-phenomenal in great detail only to contradict itself later on by equating that which is timeless, unborn, and indestructible with those things that are temporal, and subject to birth and death.

        Let's build the foundation alongside the Gita to see if this is not made even more clear…

      • Greg says:

        BTW, from what page are you quoting?

    • Greg says:

      There is perhaps more here in the Gita that distinguishes the difference between pervading and collapsing into assuming an identity with the not-self.

      Ch 2 p 49

      These bodies come to an end;
      but that vast embodied Self
      is ageless, fathomless, eternal.

      If you think that this Self can kill
      or think it can be killed,
      you do not understand
      reality's subtle ways.

      It never was born; coming
      to be, it will never not be.
      Birthless, primordial, it does not
      die when the body dies.

      Knowing that it is eternal,
      unborn, beyond destruction,
      how could you ever kill?

      the Self discards its used bodies
      and put on others that are new

      then, on page 50…

      …it is vast,
      perfect and all-pervading,
      calm, immovable, timeless.

      Thus, the Gita is establishing the nature of Self, our Divine essence, our God consciousness. And the author is careful so far to separate and distinguish our nature as pervading, timeless, unborn, ageless, beyond destruction.

      The author makes it clear that our nature as Self is not the same as the body, nor anything else that it temporal, subject to birth and death. The Gita sets out the difference between our immortal nature and the transient nature of phenomena.

      This theme continues to be repeated. I will capture more of this with additional stanzas.

      • You're stabbing at a strawman, Greg. Nothing I said contradicts any of that. Krishna is everything you say, yet much more than you're allowing him. You can't confine Krishna to the box of the non-physical.

        You are both being and nonbeing,
        and what is beyond them both. (11.37)

        Majesty infinite in power,
        you pervade–no, you are–all things. (11.40)

        • Greg says:

          Bob, the formatting feature went loopy so have not posted a response to your response to my response… Maybe in next week's log we can continue the discussion about the properties of God…

  18. Cynthia L says:

    Everyone seems to be summing up my thoughts so nothing specific to add at this point. Immensely enjoying the discussions!

    • Hi, Cynthia. Thanks for writing. I really enjoy hearing from everyone. (I know you're all out there, of course, from the view counts. But there's something about getting little notes like this that keeps me feeling connected to all the readers.)

      Bob Weisenberg
      YogaDemystified.com

  19. freesoul says:

    Wow, I'm starting to understand the Gita! Great comments. First going back to something YogiOne stated: "with no concern for results" – People who act like this cause a lot of damage to others – I want people to think more about the consequences of their actions not less." I find myself in an interesting place these days, and here is how I apply the Gita by allowing others to take their responsibility, even when they have to be in their own discomfort. That includes myself. I see how easy it has become to point the finger and say not my problem and expect someone else to fix the mess. P. 92 "Attaining this state, he knows that there is no higher attainment: his is rooted there, unshaken even by the deepest sorrow." Acceptance of the good w/the bad. Everyday brings something interesting, but it is when I become complacent that I'm blown out of the water.

    Finally, if I have to sum it all up (and I'm sure it will change as I continue to read), p.94 "Mature in yoga, impartial everywhere that he looks, he sees himself in all beings and all beings in himself." I remember when I began meditating, I lived in New York city then. I would get on the train every day and find my place and so many times I would think to myself, "these people are so ugly" and then put my head down or go back to reading the paper. When I began meditating, I would get on the train, I would find my place and I started to look at these same people and I started to notice how beautiful they were. I started to make eye contact, looking at them eye to eye. It was then that I realized I was seeing into their souls, I was seeing their divinity, their birthright. And if I saw into their souls, I began to see deeply into mine own. he sees himself in all beings and all beings in himself!

  20. Vern Myers says:

    Hello, all– great discussion. So far, I've been lurking and trying to absorb what I can. I'm a novice to yogic philosophy but became captivated by the way it is put forth on the Yoga Demystified site. Today I picked up a copy of Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation, and will try to catch up. Whether vocal or not, I'll enjoy continuing to follow Gita Talk.

    • Thanks for checking in, Vern. We're moving pretty slow on purpose, so it shouldn't be hard to catch up. In any case, past Gita Talk blogs are always there for reading and comment. I will be notified whenever you write anything on any Gita Talk blog, so I'll be around to talk to you about it.

      Bob Weisenberg
      YogaDemystified.com

  21. Steve Goodheart left this inspiring and informative comment on Facebook:

    Ah, that Gita passage is my all-time favorite on karma yoga — the yoga of works. Do your work, and leave the results to the God—work without attachment to a sense of "me" or "mine." The Bible echoes this in the admonition that what we do, do "as unto the Lord."

    Here is what the great interpreter of the Gita, Sri Aurobindo says:

    All spiritual paths lead to a higher consciousness and union with the Divine and among the many paths one of the greatest is the Way of Works: it is as great as the Way of Bhakti or the Way of Knowledge.

    Do not imagine that works are in their nature nothing but a bondage, they can be a powerful means towards liberation and divine perfection. All depends on the spirit in our works and their orientation towards the inner and the higher Light away from desire and ego.

    Works are a bondage when they are done out of desire or for the sake of the ego, by a mind turned outwards, involved in the act and not detached and free, bound to the ignorance of this lower nature.

    To create the union of his soul with the Divine Presence and Power through a perfect surrender of the will in all his activities, is the high aspiration of the seeker on the Way of Works.

  22. Amy Champ AMY CHAMP says:

    Gita Chapter Six, first six stanzas.
    To me, it feels like this passage is about service and surrender. This just happens to be my most favorite passage of the Gita. When I was in yoga teacher training, the monk teaching us Gita (Swami Padmapananda) told us as we were reading this passage, to commit the first verse to memory. When we came back for class the next day, I was the only person who had done what he asked: memorized the verse. So this passage stuck in my mind. That was about five years ago.
    This bit about renunciation is so very powerful. We want recognition, but we have to realize that the work is important. Just do it, do the truth work. Pattabhi Jois often said, “Practice and all is coming.” I think our American side has this tendency to think, ‘Well, if I do this practice which is supposed to yield compassion, then I am going to get compassion, right?’ Not exactly.
    Karma and doing your duty are not straightforward. I think if you’re always trying to think up the ending, you also lose a lot along the way. These seem like pretty simple ideas, but I seem to confront this issue every single day. Even the outcome of a smoothie cannot be guaranteed. Why do we always focus on the end? Yoga of Action can teach us how to be in action while remaining balanced, centered and peaceful.
    This part of the Gita is speaking to our inner strength and integrity. The question is: are you friend or foe to yourself? Are you going to let your struggles take you down? Or are you going to be master of your own mind? Of course, this is easier said than done. But at the end of the day, the choice is up to you.
    This passage speaks to self-mastery, which the whole book points towards. It’s all well and good to have an understanding of the Essence of the Universe, but what you actually have to work with on a day-to-day basis is the body that you were given in this lifetime. That means you and your mind. You forever. Well, as long as the current incarnation lasts.
    “in the yoga of action, you first
renounce your own selfish will”
    This is so difficult. After all, it is “me” thinking all of this up, right? Yes and no, and I think it is here where the Buddhists have emphasized the ego (and renunciation thereof) in much more explicit terms in the contemporary context.
    This is just a very service oriented piece here. If not my will, then whose? Perhaps we can surrender to the outcome of the universe, the natural flow of karma, and depending on your spiritual inclination—divinity.
    It’s a very American, Western notion to react harshly to this idea of ego renunciation. It’s my way or the highway. And in less extreme forms, it is self-protection, which is often a fantasy of the self. People see their lives, ideas and stuff as belonging to themselves, when in reality, any of these things can change in a single instant. Witness: housing market bubble. Witness: stock exchange. Witness: global economy. The harder and faster we hold onto ideas about ourselves, the harder and faster we fall when they don’t hold up. Ideas about identity impact our daily lives, because these are the constructions which prop up our sense of selfhood and reality. In fact, these are all quite fluid concepts.
    Rather than seeing ego renunciation as a prison, we should see it for the freedom that it may afford us.

  23. Gita Chapter Six, first six stanzas.

    To me, it feels like this passage is about service and surrender. This just happens to be my most favorite passage of the Gita. When I was in yoga teacher training, the monk teaching us Gita (Swami Padmapananda) told us as we were reading this passage, to commit the first verse to memory. When we came back for class the next day, I was the only person who had done what he asked: memorized the verse. So this passage stuck in my mind. That was about five years ago.

    This bit about renunciation is so very powerful. We want recognition, but we have to realize that the work is important. Just do it, do the truth work. Pattabhi Jois often said, “Practice and all is coming.” I think our American side has this tendency to think, ‘Well, if I do this practice which is supposed to yield compassion, then I am going to get compassion, right?’ Not exactly.

    Karma and doing your duty are not straightforward. I think if you’re always trying to think up the ending, you also lose a lot along the way. These seem like pretty simple ideas, but I seem to confront this issue every single day. Even the outcome of a smoothie cannot be guaranteed. Why do we always focus on the end? Yoga of Action can teach us how to be in action while remaining balanced, centered and peaceful.

    This part of the Gita is speaking to our inner strength and integrity. The question is: are you friend or foe to yourself? Are you going to let your struggles take you down? Or are you going to be master of your own mind? Of course, this is easier said than done. But at the end of the day, the choice is up to you.

    This passage speaks to self-mastery, which the whole book points towards. It’s all well and good to have an understanding of the Essence of the Universe, but what you actually have to work with on a day-to-day basis is the body that you were given in this lifetime. That means you and your mind. You forever. Well, as long as the current incarnation lasts.

    “in the yoga of action, you first
renounce your own selfish will”

    This is so difficult. After all, it is “me” thinking all of this up, right? Yes and no, and I think it is here where the Buddhists have emphasized the ego (and renunciation thereof) in much more explicit terms in the contemporary context.
    This is just a very service oriented piece here. If not my will, then whose? Perhaps we can surrender to the outcome of the universe, the natural flow of karma, and depending on your spiritual inclination—divinity.

    It’s a very American, Western notion to react harshly to this idea of ego renunciation. It’s my way or the highway. And in less extreme forms, it is self-protection, which is often a fantasy of the self. People see their lives, ideas and stuff as belonging to themselves, when in reality, any of these things can change in a single instant. Witness: housing market bubble. Witness: stock exchange. Witness: global economy. The harder and faster we hold onto ideas about ourselves, the harder and faster we fall when they don’t hold up. Ideas about identity impact our daily lives, because these are the constructions which prop up our sense of selfhood and reality. In fact, these are all quite fluid concepts.

    Rather than seeing ego renunciation as a prison, we should see it for the freedom that it may afford us.

    Well since Waylon never responded to my request to write for EJ, I will just have to resort to polluting their comment fields.

    • Hi, Amy. Thanks for this excellent commentary. How interesting that I happened to choose your favorite passage for this Gita Talk. I like the way you skillfully blend your academic learning with your personal experience of Yoga. Great stuff.

  24. Amy Champ says:

    Thanks Bob, Speaking of academics, many -isms ignore a lot of what is going on in the real world to fit their own little vision of it!

  25. Sevapuri says:

    For the man who wishes to mature,

    this line cries out to anyone who is on a spritual journey, a path, its a call to listen closely to what Krishna is about to say, he is saying ,"here it is, i'm about to spell it out for yoü, all that you need to know is about to unfold in frount of you"

    the yoga of action is the path;

    and he repeats what he has said before but more clearly he says its the path , the way to know God, the Self, by now i have an sense of the type of action he talking about , not acting blindy for the sake of doing , not focused on my exspectations of the outcomes but to act in a way that relfects Krishas ( and my) highest spiritual nature.

    for the man already mature,
    serenity is the path.

    When practicing to be to be detached from the outcomes dont become attached to the practice of it, remain calm and peaceful. When i think i'm "getting somewhere in my practice , in my understanding, and thoughts of achievment arise Krisna gives good cousel here, to be quiet to reflect , to come back to essence of the journey.

  26. Louise says:

    In response to Bob's request, "just let us know you're out there" …

    I quote Dr. Seuss' people of Whoville: "We are here, we are here, we are here!" ;~

    The conversation is fascinating. As a newcomer to the study of the Gita, I am more inclined to read, absorb, consider and appreciate all the comments being posted, rather than add my own voice just yet. Thank you to all those who are sharing their views and insights!

    • Thanks, Louise. Good to hear from you. I like to know everyone who's hanging around in this coffeehouse, even if they're just listening in!

      I love Dr. Suess, particularly "Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose", of which I recently wrote, "I often read it just for my own enjoyment, but usually I try to find a five-year old for cover."

      Bob Weisenberg

  27. william says:

    Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose

    The first stanza here is one which I internalized many years ago as “be unattatched to the fruit of your labors.” This has given me great solace – especially at times when I was working at unfulfilling labor jobs, like kitchen work. I found that it was best to focus on working well, even though something unexpected could mean doing the whole thing over.
    This is not the best example, – not especially spiritual, – but for me it has often been the chalenge to find the spiritual dimension in ordinary work. I think this is what Krishna means by ‘duty’ – to do the work that is at hand.
    Some times I find myself thinking that I should be doing ‘better work’, and this feeling really undermines any sense of peace or well being. I have also seen others treat their work with a cavalier and slipshod attitude because they think the work is beneath them. Often this means that others must pick up the slack for them. This has far reaching impact on both the economy and the wellbeing of people.
    So the idea of renunciation here is to do the work at hand and not focus on the money you will get from it or the promotion that you should recieve. In a larger sense, there are peple depending on us, I was married once, and I was very concerned about making enough money to be able to take care of my wife and child. Maybe it seemed a little selfish to my co-workers because I wanted more money, but most of them were in the same situation. In this way all the selfish preening and trying to look good was done in the service of trying to better my chances of taking care of the family. In a way the small self is ‘me the worker’ and the larger sense is ‘me the family man’ But then the Family Self is just a small one in the scope of society and our culture is just a little ‘self’ in the perspective of the world.
    All these layers of “self” can be very confusing so Krishna must mean for us to cut through all of that and see from his perspective where all activity (including selfish activity) is a manifestation of him.

    The last two stanzas are a bit of a riddle: “self is the only friend /of the Self, and its only foe.” In a way, It sounds as though he is saying its all in you head, because the small self is the only friend of the greater self. The small is also the foe of the larger because by focusing on the small concerns we loose sight of the larger.

    • Hi, William. I can honestly say your comment is one of the most perceptive and practical things I've ever read about the Gita. Thank you so much for joining us.

      In your second paragraph where you call your example "not especially spiritual", I have to strenuously disagree. I think finding peace and even wonder in ordinary work goes to the heart of spirituality. As the old Zen saying goes:

      Before enlightenment I sweep the floor and carry water.
      After enlightenment I sweep the floor and carry water.

      Your insight "all activity (even selfish activity) is a manifestation of him" is earth-shattering. I just wrote to someone yesterday that eventually even the ego is seen to be a matter for infinite wonder. And, I also think this is the answer to the riddle!

      Wonderful stuff. I hope you'll visit us often. (I like this so much I'm going to highlight it in my daily wall post on Elephant's Facebook page.)

      Bob Weisenberg
      YogaDemystified.com

      P.S. Thanks for addressing me as Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose. I consider that a great compliment. It just occurred to me that Thidwick is a Gita story!

      • william says:

        Oops! I did not mean to paste that in. I’m glad that you took it as a compliment.

        I’m also glad that you appreciated what wrote.
        I was looking back at one of the earlier Gita Talks and saw there was some discussion of the difficult aspects of the caste system. What I wrote about my own relation to work has some connections to that, but I have been using the Mitchell translation for a few years now so i have forgotten what I used to know.

        I think that there is something reassuring about having a place in society and not having to justify it to anyone. The whole idea of dharma as a path through life where every person has their work assigned to them by birth carries a certain appeal to me. I can also understand how it became a crushingly oppressive caste system.

        I look forward to more of these discussions, I’ve enjoyed others comments as well.
        pax
        w
        BYW Thidwick has a politically relevant message too.

        • Hi, William. Yes, I've seen that interpretation of the caste system in other versions of the Gita. Some commentators say the caste system back then was just a relatively benign recognition of one's purpose in life–warrior, merchant, priest, worker, etc. and only became a system of oppression later.

  28. Sawennatson says:

    He who performs his duty
    with no concern for results
    is the true man of yoga–not
    he who refrains from action.

    Knowing that right action itself
    is renunciation, Arjuna;
    in the yoga of action, you first
    renounce your own selfish will.

    Having previously spoken about renunciation, Krishna reminds us of the importance of karma yoga. He suggests that instead of renouncing actions and living as a hermit-monk for the sake of being a renunciate, it is the results of our actions that should be given up. Paramahansa Yoganada writes, “The key word…then, is to ‘play one’s part’ with conscious non-identification.” –The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita p.248.

    For the man who wishes to mature,
    the yoga of action is the path;
    for the man already mature,
    serenity is the path.

    When a man has become unattached
    to sense objects or to actions,
    renouncing his own selfish will,
    then he is mature in yoga.

    Krishna gives the pith instruction in karma yoga; short and to the point. Can you tell that Mitchell likes the Tao Te Ching? The first of these two verses sounds like it came straight out of the mouth of Lao Tzu.

    He should lift up the self by the Self
    and not sink into the selfish;
    for the self is the only friend
    of the Self, and its only foe.

    What!? This verse sends me (this self) for a loop. Big “S” “Self” refers to the unknowable “divine”. What does it mean to “lift up the self”? It is probably obvious to other readers, but this verse threatens to drive me crazy. How is the self a friend and foe of the divine, unknowable Self?

    The self is a friend for him
    who masters himself by the Self;
    but for him who is not self-mastered,
    the self is the cruelest foe.

    Oh. Wait. I think I get it, maybe.

    • Loved your take on this, Sawennatson. Good thoughts all.

      As for those final two stanzas, William below called it a riddle. But I thought he had already solved the riddle in the very same comment. I told him:

      Your insight "all activity (even selfish activity) is a manifestation of him" is earth-shattering. I just wrote to someone yesterday that eventually even the ego is seen to be a matter for infinite wonder. And, I also think this is the answer to the riddle!

      I'm saying the ego is an an obstacle to understanding the wondrous Self, but once one gets over the ego and understands one's Self, then even the ego, seen objectively, becomes another thing to marvel at. Does this make sense, or am I just compounding the riddle?

      Bob Weisenberg
      YogaDemystified.com

      • Sawennatson says:

        Thank you. Your reply and William's comment do help to unwind the riddle. Earth-shattering indeed!

        Sawennatson.

        • At first I thought "earth-shattering" was an exaggeration, and I seached for another word. But the more I thought about it, the more appropriate it seemed. The idea that one doesn't need to deconstruct or destroy one's ego, but rather watch it, understand it, and eventually marvel at it, is, well, earth-shattering to me. Even the Gita itself is less clear on this issue than it is here. I'll take this version an endless battle with the ego!

          Bob

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