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.


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About Bob Weisenberg

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

Comments

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

  1. YogiOne says:

    Again, you are simply trying to inappropriately limit science, and you failed to deal with the facts that religion indeed has a dark side. This is well-known to history and to your own experience. You were the one to propose judging a religion based on what it produces and I don't think you can just duck this aspect of what it produces. Well, yo could, but then I'd have to call you a chicken. 🙂

  2. YogiOne says:

    Truth is foundational because it it applies to the question of whether a thing exists or not. That doesn't hinder the "object" in question from also having other qualities. Without existance, music would have no beauty. Without the existance of abstract thought, no beauty, imagination, poetry or music would exist. So, thuth is only the beginning of knowledge, not the end. I'll also add that being open to ideas that may or may not eventually be demonstrated to be true is part of the scientific process. Letting go of ideas that fail through the scientific process is also required if you desire integrity. Luckily, there are tons of ideas which are currently still in process, and there is so much yet to learn that it is wholely impossible for us to ever possess all knowledge.

  3. It happened for me when I was reading Stephen Cope's Yoga and the Quest for the True Self. He was talking about how each of us is already divine, when, in a flash, I suddenly understood that "divine" means simply "infinitely wondrous". Divine to me is simply unfathomable wonder and amazement at the universe we live in. At that point for me, Yoga ceased to be an effort or struggle and became instead a constant joy.

    I like to hear from others about how you "got Yoga".

  4. YogiOne says:

    Lets take another example. Science produced the atomic bomb. From an American point of view, the good guys got it first and used it to end a war and thus save lives. Now, we are in a constant struggle to keep "the bad guys" from getting one. Most scientists I know would prefer that we had kept that technology to ourselves in the first place. Despite the possibility that it could be used for good by the right people, the technology is simply so imbued with the possibility of harm (even in the hands of the good guys), we would be much better off without it.

    There are aspects of most religions that I see the same way. Training their followers to simply accept the authority of the religion upon the threat of everlasting suffering is definitely one of those aspects. I would also argue that it is unnecessary and that religions would be stronger if they genuinely promoted critical thinking. Religions can and do change over time, so maybe there is hope. One of my favorite local bloggers here in the Houston area is a pastor who regularly confounds the more traditional religious community by stating he is an atheist, but he also believes in God.

  5. I would say, maybe in general, but I think both are both, too. I'm reading this biography of Einstein and was surprised to see that he emphasized right brain over left brain in explaining his success. (I think I already quoted this passage elsewhere in this discussion):

    I'm enough of an artist to draw freely on my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. –Albert Einstein.

    Bob

  6. YogiOne says:

    Oh, and to be clear, I am criticising a specific process commonly found in religions. The emphasis is on process and not the religion. Religion vs. science is the context in which it arose. It could be applied equally to other institutions, including Yoga. Westerners typically avoid the authoritarian Guru/student relationship for the very reason I am criticising authoritarianism in religion in general. Authoritarianism is contrary to scientific values because it limits the free exploration of ideas. It is a value judgment to be sure, and I know which I prefer.

  7. Hi, YogaOne. I completely agree that religion has often created horrible results and tried to say so above ("…it has sometime created bad results"). What I'm arguing against is the unscientific condemning of all religion because of those bad results.

    I also think that most scientists themselves would say that science itself, on its own, is morally neutral (just as Krishna=the universe sometimes, but not always, describes himself). As soon as someone is making a moral judgment of any sort, that's not objective science anymore, but philosophy or religion.

    That doesn't mean that scientists are amoral, just that they are always more than just scientists.

    Just my view on these things, YogiOne.

    Bob

  8. Right, YogiOne. And all those other fields of knowledge out there, like philosophy and religion and poetry and music and history, etc. are for those areas of knowledge that are not yet "possessable" by scientific study!

  9. I'm completely with you on my personal preference. But I keep thinking about people like my father who was a devout Catholic all his life, didn't care to question anything, and, partly as a result of his religious practice and belief, was one of the most wonderful human beings I've ever known. (See My Father: Starting Yoga at 87.)

  10. Yes true, wonder what P. Rodgers Nelson would say about this?

  11. Brooks Hall says:

    Thanks, Bob! I haven't written specifically about this, yet, but it's on my mind… A tangentially related post: <A HREF"http://brookshall.blogspot.com/2009/02/isvara-pranidhana.html"&gt http://brookshall.blogspot.com/2009/02/isvara-pranidhana.html” target=”_blank”>;http://brookshall.blogspot.com/2009/02/isvara-pranidhana.html

    Are you in Chicago tomorrow??

  12. Brooks Hall says:

    Hmm. I messed up the link:
    Here it is

  13. Hi, Elise. I like what I've read about Einstein so much that I've decided to dig in and really learn more about him. In a few weeks I'm going to do a Gita Talk relating the Einstein's spirituality to the Gita. It will be an expansion of this short piece: Albert Einstein as Yoga Sage.

    One of things I want to figure out is if Einstein every read or was influenced by the Gita himself. I wouldn't be surprised, since it was a topic of conversation among intellectuals of his day. Anyone know?

  14. Oh, that's a great blog. Everyone, click on that link and read it! Here's an excerpt:

    The world is bigger than me. It is bigger than the contents of my mind, and more than what I know. So there is some mystery to the world and how things work and why things happen the way they do. This mystery is what the surrendering is about. It acknowledges that there is a larger reality that we, as individuals, cannot control and cannot know. There are times to let go of the desire to control reality, and there are times to trust that things are as they are, existing with reasons that are out of the realm of ordinary understanding. So what we are being asked to surrender to is this larger realm. It is awe-inspiring to witness the beauty of a moment without words, without knowing, and not controlling.

    Yes, Jane and I are both looking forward to Linda's workshop. Will you be there as well? That would be great.

    Bob

  15. Brooks Hall says:

    Yes, Bob, I am going to go, I think! So it will be fun to meet you and Jane and Linda-Sama! Wow.

  16. 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?

    Bob

  17. integralhack says:

    Scott, the atheist who also believes in God is interesting. Is he actually an agnostic or does reason take him one direction and faith another? Or does he take the word atheism literally and is "not-theistic" as opposed to "anti-theistic?" This would be close to Stephen Batchelor's view in regard to metaphysical concepts in Buddhism.

    Regarding critical thinking, I think there are critical thinking traditions in most of the major religions, but you are correct that these aren't mainstream practices, generally.

    Buddhism, like yoga, encourages personal investigation, but even it has been turned into a more traditional religion by later schools.

  18. I really like that Einstein quote! To me it:s not a science vs religion as more of a debate of science vs what is consciousness and what is form? And like I have said before it is you choice to believe in the words or description of these ideas that suit your own experience. I like the Einstein quote because it touches upon all we have debated but in a language that would be accessible to many.

  19. 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?

  20. Great question, svan. I'm going to hang back and hope that some of our other readers will tackle this one first.

    Thanks for writing.

    Bob

  21. YogiOne says:

    The guitar you use wouldn't exist without the scientific process. You are still not seeing how the process, process, process, yes, I said process of science is larger than your expressed understanding of it.

  22. YogiOne says:

    I know people like that too – my maternal grandmother for one. I believe she would have been just as saintly had she been taught to be more thoughtful about her religion. I don't think that the authoritarianism is necessary, and thus, the iatrogenic effects of it are simply not excusable.

  23. YogiOne says:

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

  24. svan says:

    those are definitions I'm familiar with, yes… are there others?

  25. iatrogenic? Please enlighten me!

  26. I watched my guitar being made in a small famous shop in Madrid in 1971, Sobrinos de Esteso (nephews of Esteso, one of the most famous flamenco guitar makers, although his Sobrinos are now just as famous.)

    There was nothing scientific about it, without stretching science way beyond its commonly accepted definition. Accumulated knowledge over generations, yes. Carefully refined techniques and methods, yes. Testing by the reactions of their flamenco guitarist customers, yes. Experimentation, yes.

    But no one would call it science because it was more intuition and feel than data and analysis. If by science you mean any place where anything is being accomplished through any means, then our whole discussion has been based on a misunderstanding of definition of the word science.

    Not only that, with a definition that includes intuitive guitar making producing subjective results, you'd have to then include intuitive spirituality that gives subjective results as well, which is what you were objecting to at the beginning of this discussion I believe.

    So, to get back on track, please give us you concise definition of the word "science". Maybe we agree on everything and always have!

    Bob

  27. Can anyone else help svan out with his question here? (svan, I'm going to give it a little more time, then I'll take a crack at it. I'm glad you asked this important question.)

  28. Krishna is the universe itself and the life-force behind the universe, in all its infinite wonder. This is sometimes not obvious because he takes on more limited forms on occasion to make this point or that. But it's always just a role the universe is playing. This it pretty well established early in the text. But if you haven't read Chapters 10 and 11 yet, they explode into rapturous poetry about Krishna's true nature.

    So the correct answer to your multiple choice is "all of the above" and more that we can't begin to comprehend, the way even an Einstein feels about the universe. The Gita answers the science/religion debate by encompassing everything, certainly including both science and religion. There are multiple passages in the Gita which state explicitly that all other Gods are just part of him, which means, in practical terms, that all religions lead to him.

    Brahman (with the "n" at the end) is synonymous with Krishna. It's just the more formal and abstract word.

    Just to avoid confusion, there is also an important ordinary God in the pantheon called "Brahma" (as you wrote it without an "n", but I think you probably meant "Brahman") who is "merely" the God of Creation.

    Please let me know if you have any further comments. Thanks for writing.

    Bob

  29. Meaghan says:

    Thanks for this discussion of faith and shraddha. I've enjoyed reading. I have to read Easwaran's version of the Gita for an upcoming training and am looking forward to the introduction Bob mentions.

  30. Meaghan says:

    But if you had never practiced, would the "in a flash" moment be possible? Perhaps "struggle" is too intense a descriptor, but for me the moments of waking up to reality are the fruit of the practice! For me personally, if i had never found yoga I'd be far too wrapped up in the material, and in the mundane day-to-day hardships we all face to even recognize a moment of clarity. It's the practice that has created space and opportunity for those realizations.

    It's like an band that achieves "overnight success" – it's hardly ever really "overnight".

  31. YogiOne says:

    Iatrogenic refers to inadvertent adverse effects. The term is most often used when refering to health care. When we try to do no harm, we are most successful when we use the least invasive or smallest intervention possible to obtain the desired effect. We do this because we understand that any treatment can have adverse side effects in some people. So, the less we do to get the desired effect, the better. Of course, for some religions, creating sheeple who will unthinkingly do the bidding of the authorities in the church is the desired effect, so in that case, the adverse effects are not inadvertant.

  32. YogiOne says:

    Well, there are some relating to specific dieties in the patheon, and since you questionned Krishna and Brahma at the same time, I thought it would be good to agree on the definitions before going into it further. I also get confused about some of the sanskrit terms, so I figured some of the folks following this discussion might benefit from havinbg the definitions stated explicitly.

    That said, Bob gives a very concise answer to your question above, so I'll try to take it a step further by asking a related question:

    Without Prakriti, what would Purusha have to be conscious of?

  33. Hi, Meaghan. Yes you will enjoy the Easwaran version. Just a note. The overall introduction is written by Easwaran, but the chapter introductions, while very informative, often seem to differ with Easwaran's own more inspiring point of view in the introduction! This is not a bad thing, as long as one realizes it and just gets interested in the differences.

    Enjoy it.

    Bob

  34. YogiOne says:

    Science has drastically improved the strength and durability of the strings used in most guitars, though Bob may still use strings made from intestines on his. Natural scientists also catelogged, tested and described the qualities of hardwoods used in the construction of musical instruments. Woods that have ideal properties for the neck and fret boards allowed for the length of the neck on guitars to grow longer without making them too heavy or cumbersom to use. So, yes, science did allow the artist who constructed Bob's guitar to do his job. We are much like the fish in the ocean, but we are swimming in science.

  35. 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.

  36. svan says:

    I don't know. Without purusha, would prakriti exist? Without "knowing" where or what is "existing"? can purusha exist separately, independent of prakriti? can there be prakriti without purusha?

    How important are these questions and their answers to one's practice of yoga and the type of yoga one practices (karma, jnana or bhakti in the Gita)?

  37. svan says:

    Thanks, Bob. Yes, I meant to type Brahman. So, Brahman is equivalent to Krishna, not beyond Krishna? I sometimes get confused about these layers and relationships among terms. I know the terms are just pointers, but some are more accurate than others. Thanks again.

  38. Remember I'm not a scholar, but yes, Krishna is just the human representation of Brahman. As I mentioned before, this point comes to a poetic crescendo in chapters 10 and 11.

    Personally, I love Yoga because even though it can seem complicated at times, especially in the middle of one of the ancient texts, in the end it all devolves in to utter livable simplicity. See Gita Talk #5: Sublimely Simple, Profound and Livable and The Rest is Commentary

    Please keep asking these important questions. It's good for everyone!

    Thanks,

    Bob

  39. I can only give you my personal answer. These distinctions are not important to me at all, simply because they are all blown away by the main point of the Gita anyway–that everything is one infinitely wondrous universe anyway. The Gita entreats and inspires us to ignore all such distinctions and simply live with the awareness of the wondrous whole, of which each of us in an integral part, and thus infinitely wondrous ourselves.

    If this is true, what need do we have to over-contemplate purusha (soul/spirit) and prakriti (nature)? Krishna blows them away with a concept infinitely more glorious and real. Krishna says over and over again, "All you need to do is think about me all the time", where "me" is the one indivisible wondrous life-force of the universe, encompassing all other Gods, but also all other concepts, like purusha and prakriti.

  40. Thanks, YogiOne. As I mentioned before, if you define "science" to mean any and all discoveries and improvements in human activity, regardless of how they occur", then, of course I would have to agree with you that science is, by this very definition, involved in all human activity and progress. Is there anything in human progress that you do not consider to be science?

    Do you consider the actual making of the guitar in the guitar shop to be science? Is an artist engaging in science because the paints and brushes he uses were enhanced by science? Am I a scientist when I play flamenco guitar?

    Good discussion.

  41. Ah, the beauty of Yoga.

    One can take a scientific view of the universe,
    like yours,
    or a divinity view
    like Graham Schweig's,
    and still end up in pretty much
    the same blissful place.

    The bliss can be seen
    as the release of certain chemicals in the brain,
    as in your view,
    or a personal love affair with God,
    as in Schweig's view.

    The Gita doesn't really care.
    Both of you are experiencing
    the infinite unfathomable wonder of the universe
    first hand.

  42. svan says:

    Ah, the sweetness of practice. Thanks so much for your responses.

    The only thing I know for sure is that the world is not what it seems. The world exists (prakriti) but not the way I think it does. For me, purusha is like the life-force Bob talks about, the animating force that mobilizes my prakriti in a way that is different from a rock or a river. I can see these two existing interdependently, with prakriti being easier for me to imagine existing "independently" than purusha… I know that there are schools that argue specifically one way and another, but I have not fully understood their arguments and how they apply to actual practice…

    For instance, my view of science dictates what I do when I'm sick — I tend to go to allopathic doctors, rather than alternative practitioners. It's not quite so simple with my practice, however… Like YogiOne, I find myself completely drawn to bhakti yoga. Even though my head doesn't have an object, my heart seems to have one, but I cannot name it…

  43. YogiOne says:

    Oh, and your guitar playing is pure art.

  44. Yes, I have been enjoying this vigorous dialog myself. And I think you just brought it to a perfect conclusion with your last expansive paragraph above! Thank you.

    Bob

  45. Thank you. I'm so glad you enjoy it.

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