Gita Talk #5: Sublimely Simple, Profound and Liveable

Via Bob Weisenberg
on May 16, 2010
get elephant's newsletter

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?




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.


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.


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. Cynthia L says:

    Darn my iPhone that should say action begats wisdom.

  4. 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.

  5. Silly me, Jay. I wasn't even aware I WAS arguing with you!

  6. 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 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

  7. 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…

  8. Hi, Jay.

    You may recall that my entire last blog, Gita Talk #4: Why is the Gita So Upsetting at First was about a scheme for dealing with troublesome passages: Disregard, Metaphor, or Explain.

    Having studied the Torah rather thoroughly myself in another era of my life, I can confirm that the Torah is far more desperately in need of this scheme than the Bhagavad Gita. With the Torah, you need to do that for one whole Book (one out of five)–Leviticus and countless other archaic or just plain scary passages throughout!

    Of course, it's really unfair to compare the Gita to the Torah, because the Gita is a very small text out of a huge body of sacred text of the time. But the fact that it has survived as such a generally popular work speaks volumes about its applicability to all ages.

    Bob Weisenberg

  9. Hi, Karen. What a beautiful comment.

    I'm with you all the way. With this philosophy, the lines between "practice" and "life" begin to break down completely and, as you put it so well, every little thing that used to be mundane becomes part of the "Yoga".

    I also love your bicycle analogy. Just this morning I was thinking about this phrase people often throw out "centering", as in "you have get centered". As I tried to explain to myself what that really meant, I realized it is very similar to "balance", just like your bike example.

    Thanks for writing.

    Bob Weisenberg

  10. Thanks, Susan. I'm glad it makes sense to you, too.

  11. Great commentary, Amy. I have nothing to add to your wise thoughts above.

    Thanks again for being here.


  12. Hmmm. Got to think about this one for awhile. I'll write more later.

  13. Yeah, yeah, I remember that last post…just couldn't help throwing in that irreverent last bit. And I agree that, in terms of making that kind of comparison, one thing about Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is that they're, relatively speaking "one-stop shopping" in terms of their most sacred texts–with the best and worst the faith has to give all between one set of covers (yeah, I know if ya wanna get scholarly, there's more to it than that, with the endless apocrypha, commentaries, etc., but you get my point…quit arguing with me, Bob…).

  14. Whereas, it's relatively easy, particularly in the West, to have shelves loaded with books from the Buddhist and Hindu (note that I'm using the "H" word instead of "yogic" just in case those people from that debate about Deepak Chopra and Hinduism are reading this) traditions and think you're dealing with a far purer tradition–when, actually, you might just be dealing with a tradition that has a whole hell of a lot more sacred books, and it's equivalent of Leviticus probably won't be found in between the incense and crystals at the local New Age bookstore…and, speaking of sacred books…I gotta go read chapters 3 & 4 so I can leave some more relevant comments…

  15. freesoul says:

    As a Jew who reads spiritual texts, such as the Torah and gets much meaning from it for my own spiritual relationship w/the universe, and I get you might be a cynic, but some of us, have respect for these books in our lives. I don't think anyone has to do it my way, but for the fact that the Torah has been around for 2,000 years, if one gets benefit, then don't knock it. It what allows me to live a complete, content life in a sometimes strange world.

  16. Just pullin' your chain, Bob….

  17. I have to back you up there, freesoul. I obviously had enough interest in the Torah to study it seriously for many years. My favorite Jewish book has a Yogic sounding name and lots of very Yogic sounding ideas "I Asked For Wonder" by Heschel.

    (And of course I can compare and contrast because I was raised Catholic and educated by austere nuns before marrying into a Jewish family and raising Jewish kids.)

  18. That's great that you get much meaning for your spiritual relation with the universe. I'm not knocking that, and I'm not knocking you. And, if that kind of thing was the only thing people use these ancient texts for, I certainly wouldn't knock them.

    Nonetheless, in these thousands of years, people have used them for a whole lot of other things, and continue to–specifically, as the basis for sexism, homophobia, racism, slavery, and endless bloodshed and oppression. Thus, we're allowed to say what we want about drunks in bar ranting about "bitches" and "faggots" and saying those who disagree with them should be killed, but we're supposed to show reverence to the religious leaders who express the same sentiments with backing from their sacred books, when the only difference is that they're a whole lot more dangerous. Those passages about slavery have been used for thousands of years as justifications for actual slavery. And countless other passages have been used as the basis for countless wars. As such, I find the idea that they should be considered above reproach not only wrong but itself offensive.

  19. 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.

  20. Jenny says:

    Ah. So maybe the BG is more comparative with, say, Psalms?

  21. Thanks, Margann. I'm glad you're enjoying it. Please write again soon.

  22. John Morrison says:

    I can't either….I think there is a unique message to be found in Eastern traditions (such as what is being taught in the B. Gita and Buddhism) that I never found in Christianity. I was raised in a fairly religious Christian family and I fell out of belief in any of it at a fairly young age.

    I caught a glimpse of what I was looking for when I was younger in psychedelics and so I chased after it thinking I would find the truth in sheets of blotter LSD and psilocybin mushroom caps or peyote buttons or glasses of ayahuasca but of course I could only glimpse this. When I met Lama Tashi Namgyal and Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche they pointed out what I had been looking for and it had always been with me, I had just been looking outside myself. I think Krishna is trying to show Arjuna the same thing here – a path of bettering oneself. As a commenter stated above, action begets wisdom – Judeo-Christian traditions do not see it this way – that all actions are positive as they lead to wisdom – Judeo-Christian traditions are predicated upon dualities – this action is sinful as it is not pleasing to an external god who is arbiter of such things and this action is pleasing to this external god.

    This is a subject that flares tempers, so I do not mean to offend anyone, and I am also not sure I tied that thought together well, but so be it.

  23. 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"


    "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.

  24. Hi, John.

    Not sure if you realized that you were practically quoting the Gita verbatim when you wrote "action begets wisdom":

    Better than any ritual
    is the worship achieved through wisdom;
    wisdom is the final goal
    of every action, Arjuna. (BG 4.33)

    So many interesting things in your comment. I grew up very strict Catholic, and while I'm sure it's one of the reasons I'm a highly moral person (my kids used to make fun of me when they were in junior high because I wouldn't allow them to copy their friends CD's–like stealing a candy bar from the store, I said), I left in disgust when I got to high school just to escape the sensual and emotional repression.

    I never did drugs, even though I was in college in San Francisco during the heyday of the S.F. rock/drugs culture. I was too absorbed in my music to care about that. And, probably because of my Catholic upbringing, I just felt it was wrong.

    I married into a Jewish family and found Judaism to be a much more compatible religion. Jews have a single Day of Atonement each year called Yom Kippur, where you acknowledge all your sins of the past year. I was once trying to explain to my Jewish family why I fled from Catholicism. In a moment of brilliance I said, "Catholicism is like Yom Kippur run amuck."

    Buddhism does seem to be different, but if so, it's not because of its early literature. In a recent blog on Elephant Journal I ended up defending Christianity against dismissive Buddhists: Original Sin vs. Original Perfection, where I wrote in frustration about the Dhammapada (one of the earliest Buddhist sacred texts and written around the time of the Gita):

    Furthermore, most of the austere, life-sucking, desire-suppressing, human-nature-denying recommendations of the Dhammapada are identical to those taught to us by the nuns in face-squeezing habits and broad starched-white collars who were my teachers through 8th grade.

    Then when challenged on this, I gave copious examples. There are a few passages of repression in the Gita, too, but in comparison they are few and far between. But I want be quick to add that I agree Buddhism in general has not followed this early repressive lead.

    Bob Weisenberg

  25. Great questions, Meaghan. Thanks for writing. Before I jump in I want to give others a chance to respond.

  26. svan says:

    Hey Margann, can you elaborate on "the promise of moksha isn't resonating with me at all"? Do you not see that promise in the text or do you just not buy it?

  27. John Morrison says:

    I'd agree of course it's a mixed bag. Any any sort of organized religion is going to run into troubles and inconsistencies – there are people involved in it. Pre-invasion Tibet wasn't Shangri-la – it was basically a feudal theocracy (one could argue that it was less repressive than the European feudal theocracies that come to mind – but I'm sure one could find evidence to argue against what I just stated as well).

    To me, what the big difference is between Christian tradition and Buddhism is that the Buddha implored his followers to use logic, test the things that he taught, and if one does not find them to be true for your situation, then by all means discard them – it would be foolish to carry on with them…

    "When these urges drive us, sorrow spreads like wild grass. Conquer these fierce cravings and sorrow will fall away from your life like drops of water from a Lotus leaf." (335-6)

    So with the quote above, one would give it a try – try to not be attached to your emotions and driven by greed, lust, hate, avarice, and so on….. After you've given it a shot, did it improve your life? If not, then fine.

    The difference is that with the Judeo-Christian tradition is that their holy books are the perfect word of god, not open to debate. Blind faith, even in the face of contrary evidence, would be seen as a virtue, rather than the testing, logical inquiry that the Buddha puts forth.

    So I think that the Dhammapada is flexible than the Bible. As the Buddha is not an all powerful creator god, we can look at the depiction of women in some sutras, and write this off as cultural baggage – of course many Christians write off Leviticus – but to me there seems to be a disconnect – if it's the perfect word of god – then how can you disregard the portions that appear reprehensible to our modern sensibilities? I'd love to hear from some people that are Christians about their thoughts on that – I was never that diligent of a student of the Bible….

  28. John Morrison says:

    So, in conclusion, what I like about the Gita and Buddhism is that if you agree with nothing in either of them because you have tested them out and found them to be wanting, then you aren't condemned to eternal suffering – only your own actions can do that – not something as arbitrary as belief….

    I find the notion propounded in the Gita, that even a mistaken action that we take is positive in that we can the wisdom of experience from it to be quite uplifting versus the guilt, shame, and damnation that would accompany such an act in other religions. Yes, there is the notion of karma and cause and effect but I know Buddhists who take karma to be as mundane as "what goes around comes around" – for instance, Tiger Woods did a lot of hurtful and deceitful things – they came back to bite him as he has lost respect in the eyes of the world, taken a financial hit through lost endorsements, etc. And we haven't booted any of these people out of the sangha as heretics, even though their thought diverges from the Dhammapada

  29. Hi, John. Here I go again, in the unlikely role of defender of Christianity.

    It is a hopeless distortion, no, it's a complete falsehood, to say that most Christians believe that "their holy books are the perfect word of God". That's only true for certain fundamentalist schools of Christianity. Many Christians see the Bible as an ancient texts that must be interpreted for today's world, just like Buddhist see their ancient texts. Christians disregard, metaphorize, and explain, just like Buddhists do. And they generally come to the very same conclusions that Buddhists do–that love and compassion are the key driving values for a better world.

    Just as serious, you seem to be making no distinction at all between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Even when I was a kid growing up in Catholic schools, we were taught that the Old Testament was old, filled with scary, archaic practices and rituals, and represented a wrathful unmerciful God, which Jesus came down to earth to replace with the New Testament, representing a loving, caring personal God and modern humane practices and forgiveness to replace the unremitting "Fear of God" orientation of the Old Testament. BIG difference!

    (Now remember, I also lived for a long time in a Jewish household. They have a slightly different interpretation of all this, which I won't go into now.)

    Bob Weisenberg

  30. John Morrison says:

    Please ignore my terrible grammar and spelling above – typed on iPhone. Can we get an "Edit" feature IntenseDebate???

  31. John Morrison says:

    I should have mentioned that I was raised in a strict fundamentalist Christian household – and my knowledge / impressions are colored as such. My father worked for a Christian university where prior to enrollment – students would have to sign a lengthy document where you stated that the Bible was the perfect word of God and without error (along with a promise to not drink, engage in premarital relations, and a variety of other things that college students like to do).

    Needless to say I chose not to attend and obviously this experience has colored Christianity a bit negatively for me. So I welcome anyone to enlighten me on it…won't hurt my feelings a bit…my parents gave up on dragging me to church at about age twelve and I'd been drawing on the back of the bulletin for years before that rather than listening- so if I'm wrong, tell me…

    I think discussions like this are good. There are certainly some Vajrayana fundamentalist – self-appointed dharma protectors as Bill Schwartz would call them – who are quick to jump all over anyone who expresses an opinion of post 17th century vintage. So if I'm becoming one then help me out!

  32. John Morrison says:

    Bob Weisenberg – Defender of the Faith 🙂
    Been thinking on your comment and what I wrote is likely not "Right Speech" and at best ignorant speech – projecting my negative experiences with fundamentalist ideology onto a large and diverse swath of beliefs and interpretations (and likely influenced by a distaste for the religious justifications paraded out by far-right-wing politicians).
    Many apologies to anyone I offended! 'Twas ignorance and not malice.
    Not to clutter this discussion with completely unrelated topics but it would be quite interesting for you to do a blog post on a more contemporary reading / interpretation of the Torah drawing from your background in Judaism – would be interesting to me at least!

  33. John Morrison says:

    I would be interested to hear some other people's thoughts on wrong action as well….
    I really like that quote as well Meghan – where you point out: "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"
    I dug up the version I read in college and they translate that passage as: "As the blazing fire reduces wood to ashes,
    Similarly, the fire of Self-knowledge, Reduces all Karma to ashes, O Arjuna." I certainly prefer Mitchell's rendering!

  34. That would be a stretch for me, because it was a very long time ago. But I do have a great place to send you. Our own Stephen Mitchell here has done his own translations of several books of the Bible, including Psalms, the Book of Job, and the Gospels. Just take a look as his Amazon page and browse the titles. Plus, he practiced Zen Buddhism for many years.. He might be just what you're looking for.

    Bob Weisenberg

  35. Margann says:

    I see the promise, I just don't buy it.

  36. Hi, Margann.

    How are you defining "moksha", in your own words? What is it exactly that doen't resonate with you? Is it possible to relate it to my six point summary above? Is moksha one of those things?



  37. svan says:

    So far, I'm reading "wrong action" as action that is motivated by a desire for a particular outcome – an agenda, if you will. The agenda is an expression of ego and self-interest… "right action" seems to be equated with "worship" or selfless action…

    The other passages you quoted, I interpret as possibly referring to specific yogic practices of ritual offerings, asceticism, pranayam, renunciation etc.

    A passage that resonates for me: "When you realize it (Truth), you will never fall back into delusion; knowing it, you see all beings in yourself, and yourself in me."

  38. Makes sense to me, svan. Thanks.

  39. 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.

  40. Greg says:

    Wrong action accumulates karmic imprints. Karma.

    When self-knowledge is attained one views all previous wrong action "as it is" (thus with wisdom) and in that viewing the karmic imprints evaporate (turn to ash).

    In this manner, self-knowledge at the level of wisdom burns down (or vanishes) the karmic cage in which we have become imprisoned by our own actions.

    Our lack of wisdom, or ignorance, results in wrong views which give persistence to the detritus of Karma. Karmic accumulation can be found in all samsara. it is manifest in the karmic imprints of our mind and in the physical conditions we observe.

    Essentially, in yoga, or Buddhism, or Christianity, we come to recognize wrong action as the cause of our individual and collective samsaric conditions.

    Does that make sense? It is probably consistent with your practice of Buddhism, right? You may want to take it further or into more detail.

  41. Hi, Greg.

    We live on different spiritual planets. I don't think there's much to talk about if you believe this 2500 year old text is the literal truth throughout. I wouldn't ever consider trying to talk you out of that. I sure that's what's right for you.

    But a great many of us don't see it that way. I enjoy hearing your point of view, partly because it is so different than mine. But I would urge you to accept that others have different points of view, like we accept that you do.


    Bob Weisenberg

  42. Hi, Greg.

    My best answers to all these very valid questions are in my last two blogs, Gita Talk #4: Why Is the Gita So Upsetting At First? and the current one, Gita Talk #5, above.

    Bob Weisenberg

  43. Greg says:

    I accept you have a different view. Non-acceptance was not intended. The different view is what motivated my question.

    (If you saw the work as I did, I imagine I would have no question or little reason to discuss. We could just nod.)

    I genuinely wondered how you reconciled the differences between the Gita and your views. Is that not a valid topic for discussion? Is it not a valid topic for introspection? Do you not pause when you read the text and discover it directly contradicts your views? What response or action or thought does that bring about?

    You have given a partial answer — you consider texts written 2500 years ago to have reduced validity. And you do not consider the Gita to be literal truth. Those are very important views for others to understand as you discuss the work, right? (Do you not agree?)

    How would you characterize the two passages I quoted? Mysterious? Deluded? Fantasy? (Is that not a valid topic of discussion?) Is not this kind of exploration the practice demands?

    Does one push the text aside, considering it of limited value or does one narrow in and explore "why do my views differ from the words on the page?"

    If a teacher says the flower is red but you always thought is was blue, would you not stop and explore the issue of your perception? Would you not ask yourself, "How could this be?"

    When you turn to your practice where does the Gita fit in? How would characterize the overall work? To what extent is it valid, though old, to what extent is it true, though not the literal truth?

    I am genuinely curious about your thought process when you hit come upon the disparity between your view and the text.

  44. Greg says:

    The New Testament provides a similar path. Particularly the Gospel of John and Paul's writings regarding his conversion. The events of Pentecost, which are celebrated this weekend, bear some similarities.

    Later on in works such as The Soul's Journey Into God by Bonaventure and works by St. John of the Cross (as well as Bernard of Clarivaux) one will find similar aspects.

    Augustine wrote about some of these issues as well.

    The Benedictine tradition of monasticism touches upon similar issues. See The Gethsemani Encounter for details of Buddhist and Benedictine retreat. (It was initiated in Boulder, btw.)

    The works of Merton help.

    There is a wonderful multi-volume collection called The Teachings of the Masters of the East that purports to describe the ministry of Jesus in terms consistent with Eastern teachings.

  45. Greg says:

    It is so easy to step on toes as these topics — our spiritual history, our spiritual essence, the nature of life, origins, etc. — all are sooooo loaded with karmic emotion. Knock you on your butt type of emotion.

  46. Greg says:

    Not sure that accurately characterizes Christianity. It is more nuanced than one might at first imagine.

    And within Christianity you will find differences. The different sects come at it with differing degrees of understanding and sophistication. The Catholic paper Nostro Aetate that came out of Vatican II might surprise you in its inclusiveness.

    Personally, I do not find a conflict between Buddhism and Christianity. I work with both. Thich Nhat Hanh has written a work on Jesus and Buddha that might also be of interest.

  47. Thanks for this very interesting list, Greg. Yes, I agree, Christianity is incredibly rich and varied. Sometimes the ultra-fundamentalists are so vocal and well-organized that they drown out all the other different voices. I find Merton particularly interesting.

    I haven't read this, but it might also be interesting on Christianity and Yoga:

    Jesus in the Lotus: The Mystical Doorway Between Christianity and Yogic Spirituality

    Bob Weisenberg

  48. Greg says:

    Did not feel like I understood how you addressed the situation, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.

    In these chapters (3 &4) there are passages that are so specific in this regard that one has to outright reject what is written in order to hold a non-reincarnation view. It is clearly a case of A and Not A. Wondered what happened when you hit those passages. Discussion of those kinds of specifics can be very beneficial from the viewpoint of practice — if one can stomach them. In some cases, it is too much to address so one lets it go until later…

  49. I think it's an individual decision. I urge people who don't believe in reincarnation to either disregard it entirely, or to do what I do–turn it into a powerful metaphor for the impact that all our actions have on future generations.