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. 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. Hi, Jelefant. This is one of those words that has no equivalent in English. (Plus, as you pointed out, the word "faith" is loaded with other religious usage that is much more narrow than what the Gita means.) Eknath Easwaran thought this word, "shraddha" in Sanskrit, was so important that he devotes two pages to it as part of the climax of his introduction to the Gita! Probably worth reading from here:

    One last untranslatable concept and I will let the Gita speak for itself. That concept is "shraddha", and it's nearest English equivalent is faith. I have translated it as such, but "shraddha" means much more. It is literally "that which is placed in the heart": all the beliefs we hold so deeply that we never think to question them. It is the set of values, axioms, prejudices, and prepossessions that colors our perceptions, governs our thinking, dictates our responses, and shapes our lives, generally without our even being aware of its presence and power.

    Then he goes on to give the example of medical studies that show that a patient is more likely to recover who believes that he or she will.

    So I think "faith" is more like a "belief system" than what we usually think of as "faith".

    What do the rest of you think?

  3. 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 🙂

  4. Love your comments, paramsangat. People can probably predict what I'm going to say about this–This is one of the reasons I don't believe in reincarnation. It utterly devalues life!

    The bulk of the Gita, in contrast, makes it clear that absolutely everything in the universe is infinitely wondrous (divine, if one feels comfortable with the term), including our bodies and even our egos!

    This is one of those cases the reader/seeker has to make a choice between contradictory messages in the Gita. My choice, and yours I think, is clear. I go for life.

    What do the rest of you sitting here in my living room think?

    Bob

  5. paramsangat says:

    I could believe in reincarnation as such, in the sense I described above, that we would reincarnate for fun. Not becasue of that we havent reached the "goal" yet and are still on this journey to understand that & do whatever it takes to free ourselves…, or because of "bad karma"..or whatever.
    I'm pro-FUN, pro-ADVENTURE, pro-Playfulness, pro-self empowerment….all that is pro-happy living… 🙂
    Making me aswell of course… pro-"everything is infinitely Divine/Wondrous" 🙂 Wooohooo 🙂

  6. 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.

  7. Jelefant says:

    Yes, Elise. Namaste.

  8. Hi, Jelefant. If that's what I thought people meant when they use the word "reincarnation", I would agree completely. The fact that our body's material turns into other matter and even other life is a scientific fact. Genetics is a fact. My grandson already looks and acts like me at the age of 15 months. As you say, life goes on, and after the meteor strikes that destroys humanity some day, the universe we are all part of still goes on.

    But that's not what most people mean when they say reincarnation. Sometimes I clarify by saying "literal reincarnation". What people usually mean is a recognizable "Bob" showing up in another body in the future. I don't belief this. But I know many people do and that's fine. I respect their opinions. I hope some of them will speak up and defend the idea of literal reincarnation.

    Just to show I'm open minded about this, I'm reading a book right now by Deepak Chopra called Life after Death: The Burden of Proof, which is Chopra's passionate support of reincarnation.

    Great thoughts. Thanks,

    Bob

  9. Sawennatson says:

    What a discussion!

    Jelefant writes: Many people, including Buddhists, overlook the metaphor and literally *believe* that the sort of coherent self that exists on earth returns in another body, but I think that misses the grace of the teaching."

    I find this true in myself. Lately, to counteract this, I have been think of this "coherent self" as a bunch of animated causes and conditions. Now adding that to Bob and William's discussion from chapter six: "all activity (even selfish activity) is a manifestation of him." My mind is shattering.

  10. Hi, Elise. Thanks for writing. I like the way you take this difficult passage and turn it into a profound metaphor.

    How do you other readers handle this particular passage in the Gita?

    Bob

  11. Hi, Sawennatson. Good to see you again. After you wrote your reply I added a couple of thoughts to the end of my reply just above yours. Take a look.

    Bob

  12. svan says:

    Jelefant & Bob, thank you for your elegant explorations on the faith topic.

    The first line stands out for me, "Because you trust me, Arjuna, I will tell you what wisdom is…" Faith is something like trust, perhaps. Or confidence…

    Without faith, trust or confidence in the teaching, why would I practice? What would that practice look like? If there was no faith, trust or confidence between student and teacher, why would the teachings be shared?

    One of my teachers talked about three essential levels of faith or confidence for one's practice: 1) in the source of the teaching 2) in the teaching itself and 3) in yourself.

    When I look at it this way, I find I do need faith, trust and confidence to help me overcome resistance, doubt and insecurity and keep practicing.

  13. I agree, svan. Trust, confidence, belief that makes sense, plus everything Easwaran and you guys added–all these meanings of faith I can embrace.

    I think some of us who grew up Catholic, or with some other extreme form of Christianity, have a problem with the word because when we were kids it was a way of saying "You can't question that, and, in fact, if you don't believe that you are sinning and could go to hell for it." That sounds extreme, but the ultra-traditional Catholicism I grew up with said exactly that. The creed was the creed, and not believing was a sin, sort of like the inquisition.

    (My apologies to those of you who are devout Catholics who were never subjected to this sort of emotional abuse of innocent kids, or, like my wife Jane, never took it seriously, and therefore never suffered anything from it. I'm just honestly telling you how it was for me. I should probably talk less about this.)

  14. 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.

  15. At the same time, I find myself thinking something similar to what I think when reading liberal Christian theologians like John Shelby Spong and members of the Jesus Seminar, with whom I also agree on almost everything, but find myself saying "why not ditch Christianity and the Bible completely and start over if you're gonna throw out that much of it?"

    Got any chips and salsa in the house, man?

  16. Greg says:

    The meaning of faith in the above translation is consistent with the Christian tradition. It is a turning of the heart toward the divine.

    Too often many religious conflate "blind faith" with the richer meaning of faith.

    When we consider a religious tradition, however, I think it best to consider its best practitioners rather than those who alter the faith into the mundane.

  17. Greg says:

    In Buddhism, there are two senses to suffering. The first pertains to pain associated with the deterioration of the body. As you get old you can suffer physically. In this same category is the suffering of loss. You may lose loved ones, or things to which you cling. And, if your awareness extends out beyond your immediate self, you feel the suffering of others. One may be aware of the terrible conditions others must suffer through, or one may be aware of the pain that arises from the genocidal conditions imposed on some people. There are people suffering greatly on this planet, and to the degree that we connected with them, we suffer, too.

    The second kind of suffering is more subtle. It is a kind of suffering that accompanies being attached to that which is not your true nature. It is the suffering of living a lie. It is the suffering of living in a state of non-enlightenment. One may have a perfectly joyous physical existence and at the same time realize that this does not reflect one's true essence and to the degree that one is separated from true essence, one suffers. Very subtle, but common with the more advanced masters.

    The problem with "death to death" ( or in Buddhism "the wheel of birth and death") relates to its enforced or compulsive or unconscious nature. A bodhisattva, for example, makes a very conscious decision to be born or incarnated into a body for the purpose of helping others. The type of reincarnation that is considered problematic is when one has no control over the sequence. It is as if one is a prisoner of karmic forces and one is "sentenced" time and time again to become attached, in a semi-conscious state, to a body. For a spiritual being such enforced incarnation is degrading. (So much so that very few recall the events involved.)

    Those are a few thoughts tossed out…to be kicked around or shoved over into the corner.

  18. Greg says:

    I have a difficult time imagining how reincarnation devalues life. If anything, it is the opposite. Reincarnation speaks to our true life, our true essence. It tells us that those transient objects to which we become attached, which inevitably degrade and dissolve, are not who we really are. If anything, the concept of reincarnation validates our true life, which is timeless and formless.

  19. Greg says:

    So true. The difference between those who are conscious of their true nature, and those who deny such a nature even exists.

  20. 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?

  21. 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.

  22. 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?

    Bob

  23. Greg says:

    We should design a disclaimer that appears with all my posts. "The following is not consistent with the moderator's views, so do not blame him." :>)

    And, "The following program may not be appropriate for all participants. Viewer discretion is recommended." :>)

    Or, "The following was achieved by a professional on a designed course. Please do not try this at home."

    Or, "Leaving the earth can be dangerous to your health. Please proceed at your own risk. Down-to-earth questions can be found elsewhere."

    Somewhere in there, we can capture the situation. And make sure no one is offended.

  24. Very well put, Jelefant! For me personally spirituality goes too far as soon as it pretends to describe in detail and with great certainty that which is unfathomable, like God or the exact nature of the soul. No one, not even the most spiritually advanced truly knows the details of these things. We can only know for sure the wonder.

    So, as you say, the Gita is, by it's own description of itself, a work of metaphor for what Krishna himself says is indescribable and unfathomable, which goes, of course, for Krishna himself as well.

    What do the rest of you think about this question of literal truth vs. metaphor in the Gita?

    Bob

  25. I like #1 best! A general immunity for the moderator. That's what I need. Can we put some legal teeth in that?

    I think you put your finger on it in your last one, though. The fact is, a great many of us have no particular desire to leave the earth. That's not what spirituality is about for us.

    Thanks for your good-natured reaction to my comment. Greg.

    Bob

  26. Hi, Jay. Thanks for writing and making me laugh, as usual.

    Bob

  27. 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….

  28. 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?

  29. YogiOne says:

    Actually, this makes no sense whatsoever. It strikes me as dogma with neither consensual nor experiential validation. Consciousness is produced the brain and nervous system and is limited to such. We can't even share consciousness with other beings known to be conscious. This idea that the universe itself is conscious is a fairy tail. Just because some ancient dudes thought of something that caught the imagination doesn't mean that it is true. Certainly, in light of more recent knowledge, based on demonstrably superior methodology, it is time to follow the evolution of Yoga rather than being trapped within the dead, desicated body of its past.

  30. Brooks Hall says:

    Thanks for offering your home for this talk, Bob. I am of the opinion that there is no literal truth, only metaphor. It only becomes interesting, as it becomes tangible through the magic of metaphor. Treating the text as literal truth stifles the potential, I think. But when we can look at the words with our capacity for creative meaning-making we can hit jackpots of deeper awareness!

    I have already lived many lives within this present existence, going further with it takes me into fantasy. It might be interesting fantasy, but still I recognize ponderings about what happens after physical death as fantasy for me because I don’t have any perceptions about that.

  31. Thanks for joining us, Brooks. I like that.

    What metaphorical meaning do you take from "they endlessly return to this world,
    shuttling from death to death."?

    Bob

  32. It would seem to devalue our physical lives, especially expressed as a punishment.

    In the Yoga I practice mind, body and spirit are one and inseparable, so our physical lives are every bit as true and meaningful as our spiritual lives. As the majority of the Gita proclaims, even the present passage, EVERYTHING is part of the infinitely wondrous universe (= divine, = "Brahman", = God), including our physical existence. "All beings exist within me" and "all beings remain within me."

    What do the rest of you think?

  33. Thanks for writing, YogiOne. I have some thoughts on this.

    But first, let's go around the room and ask–what do the rest of you think?

    Bob

  34. One reason so many Quakers do yoga is that the "inner light" idea translates so perfectly to "the divine within me honors the divine within you." And another thing Quakers and yogis have in common is that a general vagueness about the exact nature of that inner light–or, at least an openness to a wide variety of viewpoints about it. There are Bible-centered Quakers, just as there are more religious Hindu- or Buddhist-oriented yogis who embrace more literal metaphysical understandings of heaven and hell or reincarnation, respectively. And there are many in both camps who view things more metaphorically. At a Quaker memorial service for my father, I stood up and said that, actually, he vacillated in his mind between being a Quaker, an Episcopalian and an atheist, and numerous members of the meeting came up to me afterwards, approving of what I said–and that's similar to the response I've always gotten when telling fellow yogis that I really don't believe in much or any of the metaphysical stuff. In both, it seems to me, the emphasis is on the path, rather than insisting on a solid definition of where that path ends.

  35. Good question, Elise. It's probably time for some definitions. Here is what I understand the definition to be:

    Literal reincarnation–the rebirth of a specific recognizable soul in another body.

    This is what I do not believe in. I'd like to hear from more of you who do believe in literal reincarnation and how it works for you.

    Bob

  36. integralhack says:

    Well, there is religious dogma and then there is the dogma of scientism which is really quite similar (in both cases there is a great deal you don't know, but you put a great deal of "faith" in the mythology or methodology, respectively). Consciousness may have more than one definition, but yet I'm wondering what "demonstrably superior methodology" is employed to measure it?

  37. Hi, Jay. I'm with you all the way, except that I think you're being unfair to the word "metaphysical". I think that an Einsteinian wonder at all incredible things we don't know about the universe is also metaphysical.

    But I agree that "metaphysical" has more often been used to describe elaborate dogmatic systems of belief about things we really have absolutely no idea about. So I understand your usage, too.

    I like this story very much. Do other readers have stories like this about religion?

    Bob

  38. integralhack says:

    Great point, YogaforCynics, not only is the practice important, but the "objectified end" sort of defeats the purpose. Yet, I find myself constantly having to remind myself of that point.

    This is why some Buddhists and yogis blather on and on about the dangers of conceptualization, I suppose.

  39. svan says:

    okay, venturing out of my depth again — does this all come down to the question of whether something can exist independently, unchangingly, permanently…? be it consciousness, the soul, God or Krishna?

    Immanence seems quite reasonable to me while transcendence strikes me as kind of redundant… those are just my current opinions, not conclusions by any measure

  40. Jelefant says:

    Bob, I think you're right on the mark with "Einsteinian wonder." If we all just remain flexible in our interpretations wonderful convergences emerge rather than rigid differences. The Vedic people understood 4,000 years ago that matter is energy. Einstein gave us E=MC2 a hundred years ago. We could insist that they're not exactly the same thing, or we could revel in the illumination their similarity offers.

    Likewise, the inner light of the Quakers that Elise describes is not far from the inner light described in the Yoga Sutras. We can insist on the differences of the different attempts humans have made to describe these common experiences, or we could revel in the illumination of that common fire.

    (I think this gets at the differences between Bob and Greg–and me, too. We can insist on the subtle differences of our own view of things or revel in the illumination…)

  41. Scott says:

    It depends on the definition of immanence. MJy point of view is the divinity is a human value and from that point of view, the entire universe could be seen as divine. If, however, you mean that a divine being or essence manifests in and through all aspects of the material world, I've seen no evidenc efor that at all, and thus don't find it "reasonable."

  42. Scott says:

    The only methodology used to produce ideas such as the ones expressed by Greg is introspection – a notoriously flawed method susceptible to every sort of bias and no possible objective review. The methods of neturalism on the other hand are peer-reviewed, objective measures with reliability and validity carefully measured. The methods, results and interpretations are open to logical review and refutation. The results of naturalistic methods need no repetition here. With regard to consciousness, the only entities so far demonstrated to possess consciousness of any type that can be objectively studied and living beings, and arguably, some computer-based entities. Localized and distributed elements of consciousness have been studied and well documented in the neural tissues of many animal species including our own.

  43. Jelefant says:

    Who are the "best practitioners"? Does the divine have a rating system? I'm often tempted to suspect those who proclaim themselves "best practioners," though by suspecting them I become just as guilty of uninformed, unqualified judgment as they are in proclaiming themselves best.

    Is it possible that recalling past lives "alters the faith into the mundane"?

  44. Scott says:

    Sharing consciousness has never been demonstrated, nor is there a valid hyposthesis for a mechanism that would allow for it. (Before you ask again how we can know something doesn't exist, please research the idea of proving a negative, because such arguments are a waste of time). For answers to the rest of your questions, please see my reply to integralhack above.

  45. tobye says:

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

  46. svan and Scott. When I was writing my eBook Yoga Demystified I ended up using the term "infinitely wondrous" for "divine" and "the infinitely wondrous unfathomable life-force of the universe" for "God". I was trying to see if I could describe Yoga philosophy without any religious terminology at all, and without anything that seemed illogical to me. I succeeded to my own and many others' satisfaction (but certainly not to everyone's.)

    More religiously oriented people, like our friend Greg here, for example, will always be unhappy with my kind of secular view of Yoga. But for me, it's precisely Yoga's more rational orientation that makes me able to whole-heartedly embrace it. I believe that the ancient Yoga sages had this same orientation, even though they were still steeped in religious language and metaphor. That's why I feel a kinship with them.

    This seem similar to what you are both saying. Am I reading you properly?

    Love to get other opinions on this.

  47. Scott says:

    Oh, and "shared consciousness" has been studied – or rather claims of shared consciousness (mind reading) have been studied and routinely debunked. And, if you want a rational discourse about any topic, please show me a naturalistic observation record indicating that the phenomena exists to begin with if you are going to claim it is real. If ou admit that it is only an abstract concept at this point, then fine, I'll get into any type of philosophical conjecture you would like. Dogma is when there is no evidence, yet a belief is stated as fact.

  48. Very interesting thoughts, Jelefant and intergralhack.

    No one was more logical or scientific than Einstein. But that didn't keep him from being highly spiritual. However, being a scientist, he never tried to define the unknown as anything other than the infinitely wondrous unknown. So while spiritual, his was a secular spirituality, unattached to the certainties of some religions. His spirituality was very Yogic. For him the infinitely wondrous unknown was plenty to keep him spiritually excited!

    What do you others think of this?

  49. 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.

  50. Thanks for this warm support, Jelefant. I agree, "secular" is an inadequate term because I have no problem as all with religion that is non-dogmatic, wonder-filled, love oriented, and sees God as the unknown, not the known. Most religions have small movements within them that are like this.