Gita Talk #10: Pretend We’re All Just Sitting Around In My Living Room Together

Via Bob Weisenberg
on Jun 21, 2010
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Gita Talk

…has been a grand experiment, and a surprisingly successful one at that.

Let’s keep the experiment going.  Today I was thinking, how would this work if we were all just sitting around in my living room? What would that Gita Talk look like?

Well, for one thing, we’d go around the room and read a few stanzas at a time.

Then we’d talk about what those stanzas meant.

I would look around the room and call on people.  New readers would be drawn into the conversation and have their questions addressed.

The more experienced readers would be the teachers.  They would express some of their more advanced ideas, but they would also naturally help the new readers.

The only thing I can’t do on a blog is call on you initially.  So for this experiment we have to rely on you to be more willing than usual to jump in and make your first comment.

The most interesting Gita Talk’s have been conversations more than comments.  It only takes 5-6 people fully involved to make a great conversation.  Please consider being one of them.

Once you’re in, I’ll moderate the discussion, just as I would in person.  I’ll ask leading questions.  I’ll ask newer readers to ask more questions, and I’ll call on the more experienced readers to help explain things to the group, etc.

So let’s try this with Chapter 9.  We’re not in any rush.  Let’s go through the chapter stanza by stanza, as though we were all sitting in my living room together.

Let’s start by reading and discussing the first six stanzas of Chapter 9:

Because you trust me, Ajuna,
I will tell you what wisdom is,
the secret of life: know it
and be free of suffering, forever.

This is the supreme wisdom,
the knowing beyond all knowing,
experienced directly, in a flash,
eternal, and a joy to practice.

Those who are without faith
in my teaching, cannot attain me;
they endlessly return to this world,
shuttling from death to death.

I permeate all the universe
in my unmanifest form.
All beings exist within me,
yet I am so inconceivably

vast, so beyond existence,
that though they are brought forth
and sustained by my limitless power,
I am not confined within them.

Just as the all-moving wind,
wherever it goes, always
remains in the vastness of space,
all beings remain within me. (BG 9.1-6)

Anyone want to volunteer to start with a comment or question?  If not, I’ll start by calling on YOU!

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


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.


197 Responses to “Gita Talk #10: Pretend We’re All Just Sitting Around In My Living Room Together”

  1. Jelefant says:

    I am very interested in the relationship between the word practice, which ends the second stanza, and the word faith, which begins the third. What do you think of the term "faith" in the third stanza: "Those who are without faith in my teaching cannot attain me." I suspect this statement is likely to be misinterpreted in a culture dominated by credo religions, like ours. Do you think "faith in my teaching" here means something like "you must believe in Me" or something more like "you must be willing to practice?"

  2. paramsangat says:

    ….another thing…
    if its the case that people will drop off, and not come back because they reach this "goal"… in the end there will be obly a few people/animals left to play in flesh and bone. That doesnt make much sense to me. I mean, that doesnt sound like a "genious" idea. But if we are here to enjoy being flesh and bone, being able to do "earthly" things and all the time enhance the experience. And having a choice how to react to things. That could be a real eternal FUN game. And every time with the thrilling sense that you're here for the "first" /last time, making it an adventure. THAT I find more of a genious idea :)

  3. Hi Parmsangat and Bob, OK you said jump in so here goes.
    Personally, I do believe in reincarnation for fun and learning. But aside from that my interpretation of "They endlessly return to this world, shuttling from death to death." as a people who only lives in the physical world and has no sense of god, higher power, great spirit, whatever you want to call it. Every day they wake up and "endlessly return to this world" the material world. I see shuttling from death to death as shuttling from various life situations that have are superficial or rooted in power struggles or vanity. Egotistical pursuits or pursuing financial gain with greed- Corrupt politicians or greedy CEOs could be grandiose examples of people who shuffle from death to death.But it would be possible for someone who leads a less prosperous or powerful life to also shuffle from death to death. The people I am thinking of don't even realize they are missing anything, the phrase "they cannot attain me" would leave them indifferent, who cares, I am living the life. Those interested exploring deeper meanings to life, study and try to find shraddha.

  4. Hey, Bob, nice living room. But, ummm…dude….plastic slipcovers? ARP magazines? An autographed picture of Annette Funicello over the mantlepiece? How old *are* you, man?! Gotta say, I really admire a guy so close to feeding the tree who doesn't believe in a literal afterlife….

    Anyway, you know I'm with you on reincarnation, and I certainly prefer the idea of "faith" as the confidence or positive motivation that keeps a person going in the practice to more theistic notion of "if you don't believe in me I'm not gonna let you attain out of the cycle of rebirth" (and don't even get me started on the "law of attraction"). Then, I suspect both readings are probably somewhat inevitable based on whether one takes Krishna as a literal being or a metaphor.

  5. Greg says:

    These verses are very informative. I find them to be very helpful to understanding the Gita.

    I permeate all the universe
    in my unmanifest form.
    All beings exist within me,
    yet I am so inconceivably

    vast, so beyond existence,
    that though they are brought forth
    and sustained by my limitless power,
    I am not confined within them.

    Just as the all-moving wind,
    wherever it goes, always
    remains in the vastness of space,
    all beings remain within me. (BG 9.1-6)

    The idea that Self permeates all the universe is vital. It does not mean that one is equivalent to all in the universe, but rather that one goes through — permeates — the universe. One has to ask, What is the nature of that which can permeate? This question ends up being vital to the practice. Worth knocking it around a bit.

    And then, following up and further clarifying, the Gita says, "I am not confined within them." This is consistent with permeates. It says Self goes through forms, but is not constrained or limited by them, and thus not equivalent to them.

    These two lines start to shape and define very important qualities of Self. They may seem merely poetic, but from my experience, they are absolutely vital to the practice and are practical descriptions. They describe the nature of enlightened consciousness. We permeate all things and are not constrained or limited by any, and thus we are not equivalent to things.

    The lines "All beings exist within me" and "all beings remain within me" do not refer to a form. In other words, Self is not a jug or vase or container, but rather all things exist solely within the vastness of our consciousness.

    In the practice, in a practical manner, we begin to learn about these qualities, these properties, when we detach from attachment to and identification with specific forms.

    For example, when we discover through the practice that we are not confined or limited or defined by the body we discover how we permeate the body. We find our true nature is never the body. We discover that our consciousness, which is able to permeate a body, has simply become "stuck" by virtue of thinking we are the body and believing we are constrained by the limits of the body.

    Thus, the practice leads to an understanding of the nature of consciousness, which then leads to our understanding of Self as that pure consciousness that permeates all forms.

    Reincarnation is simply the thought they we are now connected or attached or identified with a particular form. That cycle of death to death or the wheel of birth and death ends when we realize our true nature as pure consciousness without form, a consciousness that can permeate all form but which is never equivalent to the form.

    Make any sense at all?

  6. Greg says:

    The idea of conservation of mass-energy is not the same as reincarnation.

    In the example of constituent parts of one form (a tree) dissolving and then being reformed in another form (mushrooms) is conservation of mass-energy. This is simply physical form to physical form.

    There are those who misinterpret Buddhism and Hinduism in a materialistic manner who believe this is equivalent to reincarnation but that is an alteration.

    Buddhists do not overlook the metaphor and do not believe in a Self that is reincarnated. Rather it is a matter of direct observation. The Buddha, for example, spoke of his many, many lifetimes. He speaks directly to this fact, not in a metaphoric sense but as a narrative of specific events.

    Following the Buddha, I have come to observe/know the same — one can recall a previous incarnation, the period between lives, another incarnation, and the period between lives, and so on. And, as I have done, one can tie this to actual physical events and objects. I forget the fellow's name — researcher at UVa — who spent considerable time documenting such research. In my case, I do not rely on the research for certainty but have the recall myself.

    And then, as one advances in the practice, one comes to know those periods (the majority) when there was no attachment to form, no incarnation. As a result, one comes to know Self as being other than all forms.

    This is what the GIta is getting at, but which we too readily relegate to metaphor. Perhaps metaphor makes sense when we have no other options, but there are sufficient numbers of teachers who know this area firsthand that we should not have to go in that direction.

    Not sure where this takes the discussion… perhaps only to a huge question mark. A gigantic HUH? But sometimes the haunting HUH? takes on a life of its own and new observations and perceptions align which allow one to open doors that otherwise might have remained closed.

  7. In keeping with our living room theme, here's what I would say if we were all together right now:

    I would like to thank Greg for all his contributions to this and other Gita Talks. I really do appreciate your enthusiasm and the time you put into your extensive comments, Greg.

    That said, I want to make sure that other potential participants here are not discouraged by the lofty level of Greg's thinking. I always like hearing what Greg has to say, but I have to confess that for me personally it's on the highly theoretical and abstract end of the Yoga spectrum. I try my best to understand it, but I often have trouble, and when I do, his thoughts are often very different than my own.

    I have a much simpler idea of Yoga philosophy and the Gita, which is well expressed in Gita Talk #5: Sublimely Simple, Profound and Livable.

    (Greg has already told me in our other debates that he thinks I'm pretty far off track in my thinking, and I have certainly been receptive to hearing Greg's problems with my ideas. This is a two-way street, to be sure, and a fruitful one, I think.)

    I hope those of you who have more down-to-earth questions and comments will still join the discussion.

    Who's next with an idea?


  8. Tobye says:

    you making Tea Bob? :o)

    Hmmm, my turn to hold the rock…. It's all very metephorical isn't it! Yogaforcynics got close to my perception saying that you're close to feeding the tree Bob!
    That's a lovely thought, that when you quit this mortal coil, you're just tree food…. but being tree food, you become the tree and when that tree dies and gets used for firewood, you're the flame, the heat and the light that comforts your children or, your children's children.

    Do ya hear me? The idea that once you have the realisation that you'll always be part of everything in some way, there cannot be death….

  9. Not sure if I understand the differences or disagreements between Bob and Greg. Is this more of a debate or explanation of reincarnation? When Greg talks about the self, I would replace that with what the Quakers call inner light. I don't think Quaker's believe in reincarnation. So you have this inner light and it's in everyone and it is not your body or form and it connects people, I see it as your "true nature." That is what I understand him to be talking about. The inner light might go with you to the next life or go into a tree. You could just exclude reincarnation if that's not your cup of tea. And also I clicked on the link to Bob's view of the Gita and I totally agree with what you say so am I missing something?

  10. tobye says:

    How does someone go about recognising a soul in a new reincarnation?

  11. DurgaDas says:

    I can't help myself but be reminded by Adi Shankara's Tat Twam Asi summary of Vedanta- Thou Art That. It seems that Sri Krishna is saying nothing but that here, but metaphorically. In other words, similar to how Jesus, read metaphorically said "there is no way to God but through me". When saying that, neither Sri Krishna, nor Jesus conceived themselves as separate from the individuals they are speaking to, nor with the undifferentiated consciousness. All similar ways of saying Tat Twam Asi, IMO.

  12. Let me start a new line of discussion. What do you make of this passage?:

    This is the supreme wisdom,
    the knowing beyond all knowing,
    experienced directly, in a flash…

    Anyone want to jump in?

    (I so wish I could call on people, the way a good discussion leader does! Please pretend I just called on you.)


  13. Karen M. says:

    Yes !!
    This is the supreme wisdom,
    the knowing of all knowing,
    experienced directly, in a flash

    This wisdom is beyond the mind. This wisdom is beyond the intellect. This wisdom is beyond cognitive thought. We take those parts of ourselves to ponder and reason, but it is dangerous to hold on to that logic. Study via the intuition and heart
    is a better route, but still, the wisdom that Krishna speaks of is beyond that. What I have found is that as we allow the Grace of these teachings to permeate our being… that in a flash we receive a most sublime and powerful epiphany that allows us a direct experience of what Krishna is saying. We find that our understanding has risen into a whole new and profound level. Our life changes. It is indeed the Supreme Wisdom. The Knowing beyond all knowing. Blessings and thanks again for this wonderful gift, Bob.

  14. This is a continuation of the fascinating discussion under the first "Greg" comment that now has 53 replies. I wanted to start a new comment stream to get more people involved, but you can still go back there and see where this question came from.

    Scott, here's an interesting intellectual and scientific conundrum for you. What happens when scientific study of human behavior shows that many people benefit greatly from distinctly non-scientific brain activity, like believing in God, reincarnation, and direct prayer?

    It seems to me that people are so drawn to religion that eventually the science of psychology will prove that these things satisfy deep emotional needs and that believing in something bigger than ourselves, be it science or religion, ultimately plays the very same role in the mental health of an individual, even though one is "true" and one might be "fantasy".

    I know this can be worked into the theory of naturalism, but it certainly complicates the picture of what you or anyone else urges someone else to believe or not believe, don't you think? What if belief in general, even if it is irrational, be it religion or art or literature is scientifically proven to be good for mental health and even human progress?

    Wow. That IS a very interesting question indeed, if I do say so myself! I hope to hear from Scott and others on this one!

  15. I've been quoting Einstein a lot in our discussion about science and religion. Here is a terrific radio program that does an excellent job of revealing Einstein's Gita-like religion:

    Einstein's God (column on the left).

    Please tell me what you think?


  16. svan says:

    I have a question that springs from the ongoing science/religion debate: in terms of purusha and prakriti… what does the Gita say? Is Krishna one or the other, neither, both, beyond both or all of the above? and where does Brahma fit in?

  17. YogiOne says:

    Are these the definitions you intended for the terms you used? Purusha = pure consciousness, Prakriti = physical form or the material world.

  18. YogiOne says:

    So, what is science? Bob requested a succinct definition. Science is an evolving human process with the following goals: to describe, explain, predict and control natural phenomena. Now, that is succint enough but probably not detailed enough to be satisfying. I'll add that science has a number of qualities that values associated with it that help define what makes for good science too, and some that are absolutely required for it to be science at all. All of science exists within the philosophy of naturalism (everthing that exists is natural and nothing outside the natural world can affect it) for instance and the proper subject of science is the natural world.

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