Gita Talk #7: What’s Your Favorite Passage?

Via Bob Weisenberg
on May 30, 2010
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What a great discussion in Gita Talk #6!  Let’s stick with Chapter 6 for another week. 

This time you pick the stanza you want to talk about.   It can be your favorite passage.  Or it can be a stanza you find troubling or difficult.  You choose. 

I’ll start.  This my favorite passage in chapter 6:

Mature in yoga, impartial
everywhere that he looks,
he sees himself in all beings
and all beings in himself.

The man who sees me in everything
and everything within me
will not be lost to me, nor
will I ever be lost to him.

He who is rooted in oneness
realizes that I am
in every being; wherever
he goes, he remains with me.

When he sees all beings as equal
in suffering or in joy
because they are like himself,
that man has grown perfect in yoga.

(BG 6.29-32)

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.

Now, please tell your favorite passage, or one you’d like to ask questions about.  Or just tell us anything else that’s on your mind about the Gita.  We welcome all your comments, long or short.

 For next week please read Chapter 7, p. 99-105.

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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.


45 Responses to “Gita Talk #7: What’s Your Favorite Passage?”

  1. Good thoughts, Meaghan. I like the way you recognize that these are idealized characteristics of our "Selves". Even an ascetic meditating in the woods all day can't get through a day without his "self" as well.

    Bob Weisenberg

  2. Margann says:

    I also love the passage:
    When a man has mastered himself
    he is perfectly at ease in cold,
    in heat, in pleasure of pain,
    in honor or disgrace.

    Feeling at ease when in disgrace seems almost impossible…but this chapter gives a path to that end. Who hasn't said something foolish and regretted it for ages, or maybe worse…made a major mistake that caused serious pain to others. Many years ago I read of a woman who backed her car out of the garage, and ran over (and killed) her two grandchildren. So many times I have asked myself what I would have done in that circumstance…and could only come up with the idea of suicide. Although terribly hard, the Gita does give an alternative.

  3. That's a very difficult thought to contemplate, Margann. But I like the way you test the text by taking it to the extreme. Thanks for writing.

  4. Karen M. says:

    Krishna says in the final verse Chapter 6 (v.47):

    “Practice yoga sincerely,
    with singleminded devotion;
    love me with perfect faith;
    bring your whole self to me.”

    S. Radhakrishnan’s commentary of this Verse states: “After giving a long account of the yoga discipline, the obstacles to be overcome, the teacher concludes that the great yogin is the great devotee. (bhakta).”

    One thing I love about the Gita, is that Krishna never says that there is only one way to know God; instead He continually gives different methodologies so that any sincere practitioner may gain enlightenment.

    After presenting a number of practices in Chap. 6, Krishna gives yet a final teaching in Verse 47. It brings me a tremendous amount of hope. To me personally, it says, “ Do the very best you honestly can and simply love me with all your might. You’ll be fine.” In the end, I feel that the power of devotion is enough to allow the practitioner the means to transcend personal shortcomings and obstacles along the Path. It opens one’s entire being to the reality of Divine Love.

  5. Beautiful thoughts, Karen. Like you I'm particularly attracted to the Gita because it recognizes that there are Different Yoga Strokes for Different Yoga Folks.

    In particular, I like it because there is even a particular path for people like me–Jnana Yoga, better known as The Yoga of Excessive Noodling.

    Bob Weisenberg

  6. svan says:

    Meaghan and Bob – those are beautiful gems, thank you.

    A section that stood out for me is on p 92 of Mitchell (6.19-23):

    "A lamp sheltered from the wind
    which does not flicker" — to this
    is compared the true man of yoga
    whose mind has vanished in the Self.

    When his mind has become serene
    by the practice of meditation,
    he sees the Self through the self
    and rests in the Self, rejoicing.

    He knows the infinite joy
    that is reached by the understanding
    beyond the senses: steadfast,
    he does not fall back from the truth.

    Attaining this state, he knows
    that there is no higher attainment;
    he is rooted there, unshaken
    even by the deepest sorrow.

    This is true yoga: the unbinding
    of the bonds of sorrow. Practice
    this yoga with determination
    and with a courageous heart.

    It's the line about unbinding the bonds of sorrow that strikes me most deeply. It echoes the promise of the Buddha and Patanjali that there can be an end to suffering. Could there be any greater gift?

    On a very small level, I have experienced some reduction in my own suffering as a result of practice and the grace of my teachers. I no longer loathe myself — which is like a miracle that has completely transformed my experience of my life.

    While I have hardly "vanished into the Self" or come anywhere close to the wisdom the Gita describes, I have glimpsed a small truth that I cannot fall back from — and for that, I am extremely grateful.

  7. paramsangat says:

    BG.6.20 (when his mind becomes serene..)
    is the passage that resonates with me the most I think, because I'm greatful of having experienced it.
    I'm not agreeing with the part saying its necessary to get rid of all desires, fully detach youself. I think desires make us more alive, and if one has a healthy attitude no harm is done.

  8. That's powerful stuff, svan. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    I personally believe that not even the greatest of gurus permanently "vanishes into the Self" (and the gurus who portray themselves that way are just putting on a show.)

    On the other hand, I believe that even the most seemingly non-spiritual person tends to "vanish into the Self" when looking out over the Grand Canyon, for example.

    Bob Weisenberg

  9. Good tie in, Jenny. Thanks.

  10. paramsangat, Yes, when I read the Gita and encounter passages talking about ridding oneself of all desires and being totally detached, I have to remind myself it's just talking about the Self, not the self.

    It's talking about the "witness consciousness", the ability to step outside oneself and look back objectively, as described in Highlights (Gita Talk #4): … “Dealing with Our Emotions”. (If I were into real repression of desire I could have stuck with the ultra-traditional Catholicism of my youth.)

    Being able to step outside ourselves does have a strong impact on our desires. It might increase some and diminish others as we are able to objectively see how they're affecting us. But that's very different than repressing them.

    Bob Weisenberg

  11. I love your description of "Gita Dipper". Sounds delightful and effective!

  12. paramsangat says:

    Thanks Bob!

    hahahaha (the Ultra-Catholic comment) 🙂

    Yeah, I feel the G is alil unclear with that detatched/desires-part (I'm curious about reading it again with your comment in mind, good!) but the thing about stepping outside to witness is what I meant with the "Heathly attitude".. so cool. Thanks for clarifying, excellent. Now I have an even deeper understanding than before. Wow! the thing I thought was "missing" was there all along.. hahaha.. cool, now I can agree 🙂

  13. The Gita is never going to win any awards for logical consistency. Some scholars think there were multiple authors with multiple agendas. And there are different types of Yoga portrayed, some of which are on the heavily ascetic denial side of the spectrum.

    So in the end, you can only look at the Gita as a whole, as clarified by other texts like the Upanishads and the Yoga Sutra ( even by Hindu mythology, which is very highly sensual), and then decide on what makes sense for you.

    Bob Weisenberg

  14. paramsangat says:

    hahaha 🙂
    Interesting! I love that I joined this G-Talk!! Thank you, its excellent, I feel I'm really starting to get a good picture here.

  15. I very glad it's helpful to you, paramsangat. Thanks for being here.

    Remember too that for every thing we discuss together there are many other readers who are getting a lot out of it, too. I get a lot of message on Facebook saying, "I haven't had anything to comment on, but reading others' comments has been great."

  16. lighthasmass says:

    Great reading again.

  17. Sure, Meaghan. I'll give it a try.

    There are only two selves. The self is your human nature, with ego and all that implies, all the positive and negative things that make up any human being.

    The Self is the part of you that is able to step outside your self and observe everything calmly, objectively, without judgment, no matter what is happening.

    My comment about the Self vs. the self was in the context of the Gita talking about "ridding oneself of all desires". This is not possible regarding the self, because it goes against human nature. Only the Self can be without desires.

    However, I didn't mean to imply that the desires of the human nature don't need to be controlled and channeled. Later in that same comment I wrote:

    Being able to step outside ourselves does have a strong impact on our desires. It might increase some and diminish others as we are able to objectively see how they're affecting us. But that's very different than repressing them.

    Please tell me if this makes any more sense now, and if not, clarify your question and I'll try again. But remember, there are not many "selves" to keep track of, just two:

    Your self is the wave, with its wave nature that must be a wave. Your Self is the ocean. with its vast nonjudgmental presence. Just two different perspectives on the same exact water.

    Bob Weisenberg

  18. Hi, lighthasmass. Thanks for leaving a comment that you were here. I like it when readers do that.

    Please do me a favor and tell our other friends from the Yoga Journal Community to come over here and check out Gita Talk. (Of course, maybe lots of them are already coming here and I just have no way of knowing it. That's why I like even "Hi, I was here" type comments!) I will posting Gita Talk #7 over there tomorrow.

    Bob Weisenberg

  19. Pat says:

    Margann, your example, is the extreme tragedy and I honestly don't think I could ever in this lifetime get past something like. A moment's inattention and unbelievable harm done to loved ones!!

    I think though for most situations this is something that we almost have to do in life to keep our hearts open and keep joy in our lives. Once again for me, yoga and the Gita just making life better!!

  20. Jelefant says:

    Bob, the only reason I haven't commented yet… the BG leaves me speechless. The stanzas you quoted, so perfect. It seems anything I add would only subtract.

  21. Hi, Jelefant. Thanks for writing. Glad you're here. It can be that way, can't it?

  22. Karen M. says:

    Ha!! That's great..Yogic Noodles !! 🙂

  23. Gary says:

    Hi! I'm really enjoying this discussion. I read the Gita for the first time a little over a month ago and have reread it once since. I don't have a favorite passage yet but find the whole book to be so powerful. Thank you.

  24. Hi, Gary. Thanks for writing.

  25. Jenny says:

    Bob and All,

    This was our passage, inspiring my first yoga class of the day (this is a day when I teach 3 yoga classes and then spend 4 hours teaching statistics in the evening).

    The students loved it and want more.

    oh yeah.

  26. Hi, Jenny. What a day! Which passage are you referring to?

  27. Jenny says:

    Bob and All,
    The same one, I think I'm going to stick with this one for the whole week:

    This is true yoga: the unbinding
    of the bonds of sorrow. Practice
    this yoga with determination
    and with a courageous heart.

    It resonated deeply with my students this morning, and should be a good one to practice this evening, when we are all tired and 4 hours of statistics seems, well, if now sorrow, suffering.

  28. michele says:

    This clarification has been really helpful, thank you. It's like the Self is self reflection without the "story".

  29. Glad you found it helpful, michele.

  30. Narendra says:

    When ever I am in thinking about the events of the day and ponder upon the way to deal then read some of the para of BG you get the solution to deal

  31. Hi, Narendra. I've had a number of people recently tell me they do that. One called herself a "Gita Dipper", meaning she just dips into the Gita at random for inspiration.

    Bob Weisenberg

  32. Greg says:

    We lost the thread on the nature of the transcendent we were beginning to develop… guess the program crashes when there are too many posts. So we can take it up later. Here's my favorite stanza in Chapter Six:

    Striving, with constant effort,
    cleansing himself of all sin,
    through many lifetimes, at last
    he attains the ultimate goal.

  33. Hi, Greg. Is that Gita Talk #5 you're talking about? They are working to restore all those posts. Please tell me if any posts are missing on any other blogs. Thanks.

  34. Greg says:

    No, it was #6. Got to where it would not sort by latest activity and it would not accept a post. Happened after many posts, the error message said my browser was not reading Java or was loading comments too slowly. I figured it was the latter and was a function of too many comments to load. The program may have a top end limit due to speed.

  35. Please do me a favor, Greg. Try to leave a comment on #6 again. I was told by Intense Debate they had fixed the problem, but it's unclear whether that was before or after you tried. If you still have difficulties, I'll tell them they need to keep working on the problem.



  36. 2.31-32

    Know what your duty is
    and do it without hesitation.
    For a warrior, there is nothing better
    than a battle that duty enjoins.

    Blessed are the warriors who are given
    the chance of a battle like this.
    which calls them to do what is right
    and open the gates of heaven.

    I have been sitting with these versus for the last 5 months. 3 months in Costa RIca inspired me to create a six-week workshop around these words. "The Warrior Within – Awakening Intention Through Empowerment." When someone finds their duty – it becomes an honor to live, to breathe.

  37. Greg says:

    Did not intend for it to copy and paste your whole post — see error message at end.

  38. No problem, Greg. I saw the message, then deleted the post. Thanks for your help. We'll work on it.


  39. Hi, Jessica. What an interesting interpretation and workshop! A couple of blogs ago we had a big discussion about this word "duty", some pro and some con. It all seems to depend on how one defines it.

    I personally like the word "purpose" better, because it's more positive and less likely to be misinterpreted as blind obedience the way some people read "duty".

    Thanks for writing. Glad you're here. Please come again often.

    Bob Weisenberg

  40. Vanita says:

    I agree. I had already drawn a a little heart beside 6.32 before this blog posted. 🙂

  41. Sevapuri says:

    Krishnas' reply to Arjunas' question about the restless mind 33-36. Krishna says
    You are right Arjuna, the mind is restless and hard to master but by constant practice and detatchment it can be mastered in the end.
    Firstly i love that little banter between Arjuna and Krishna, they love each other so much and it shows in that exchange, then Krishna agrees with Arjuna, yes it is hard,and thats something i dont hear a lot in yoga classes and in philosophy discourses, when someone says its hard or they are not getting it no one usually says hey you are right this is really hard stuff but here when Krishna acknowledges that fact the heart melts and then the heart opens to what Krishna says next, constant practice, and by now Krishna has given us lots to practice, but this chapter is about meditation and detatchment. They go hand in hand , the more meditation i do the more i start to understand the things that bind my thoughts and actions (cont.)

  42. Sevapuri says:

    . (cont) There has already been some discussion about desires and attatchments but i think whatever desire or attatchment is holding me back, whatever feels hard to do , whenever my mind come up with a million excuses to justify some craving desire or attachment then i know there is work to be done- constant practice and meditation. As Ghandi said "renounce and enjoy.' ( wouldn't a spellcheck be great here)

  43. lorraineya says:

    My favorite is the very end of the chapter…

    "Practice yoga sincerely,
    with singleminded devotion;
    love me with perfect faith;
    bring your whole self to me."

  44. Great thoughts, Sevapuri. "Renounce and enjoy"! How different this is than "Repress, don't bother trying, pretend it doesn't exist, and don't enjoy anything."

    Simple example: How much more do I enjoy tennis when my ego is unattached to the results, even though I'm trying my best to win every point. I didn't enjoy tennis nearly as much before Yoga, when my sense of self-worth, believe it or not, was dependent on winning. But I've detached my ego from the results, I've renounced my ego, not renounced the activity or the enjoyment itself.

    Bob Weisenberg

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