Gita Talk #8: Very Special Guest Graham Schweig.

Via Bob Weisenberg
on Jun 8, 2010
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This week we have the special privilege of welcoming Graham Schweig to Gita Talk.

For those who don’t already know about Graham Schweig, he is one of the world’s leading Gita and Sanskrit scholars. His 2007 translation and commentary, Bhagavad Gita: The Beloved Lord’s Secret Love Song, is considered by many to be the new standard. I always have it by my side for the next level of commentary, and I refer to it frequently for Gita Talk.

If you have been following Gita Talk, you also know Graham for this video from his website Graham Schweig’s Rapturous Vision of the Gita, produced by his associate Catherine Ghosh. There are bios and many other interesting things at The Secret Yoga.

Here are Graham’s questions for you to get the conversation rolling:

“What has been the most difficult thing for you in understanding the teachings or narrative of the Bhagavad Gita? What philosophical or theological or existential questions do any of you have regarding any aspect of the Gita?

I would truly love to hear these challenges and invite you to post them on this blog. If you do, I would offer a response to any and every question. I would like to learn from you!”

Even though we are only about a third of way through the Gita, most of the major themes have already been introduced, so now is a great time to pause, take stock of where we’ve been so far, and polish off our understanding by asking our toughest questions to Graham Schweig.

Please join me in welcoming Graham to Gita Talk.

~

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

177 Responses to “Gita Talk #8: Very Special Guest Graham Schweig.”

  1. Bob!

    Count me in! Indeed, count me in at anytime you or others think I might be a little helpful.

    Graham http://www.secretyoga.com

  2. Greg says:

    Great passage you have quoted. Gets to the heart of the matter straight away and with eloquence. Love it. Will copy and paste this message and keep it. A very large kernel of wisdom. Thanks once again. Seems like every time I open this thread I find another gift! Blessings.

  3. Dear YogiOne Scott,

    I'm so happy to hear that you're getting a good deal from all the discussion going on here in Bob's Blog! I am personally gratified whenever I hear that I've served someone on their journey. And yes, when I offer workshops at Yoga centers or when I'm invited to give seminars at the Yoga Journal Conferences, there really is SO MUCH to share. What I have harvested of the years is uncontainable, and it spills out in books, etc.

    Because it is is a bit late here as I discover your post, I will have to respond more thoroughly perhaps tomorrow. But briefly, the Gītā really does speak about many ways to realize many levels of ultimate reality, Brahman. Of course, the three famous primary margas or paths are Karma, Jnāna, and Bhakti, as these three are forms of Yoga. But interestingly, there are MANY paths brought out in the Gītā. It is very versatile in its presentation, very broad minded, very accepting, very loving! We are even apprised that "despair" or "despondency" can be a Yoga if it elevates one's spirit to the lofty realms of reality. The first chapter is traditionally titled, "Arjuna Vishada Yoga," meaning the "Yoga of Arjuna's Despair." Wow! Of course, too often despair and depression can make people spiral down to desperation, meaningless, fear, worthlessness, and even self-hatred. The Gītā shows that despair can lead one to elevated states of the spirit. Marvelous!

    Once a doctoral student wrote a dissertation claiming that Krishna's dialogue with Arjuna was the first psychotherapeutic session recorded in the history of the human race! LOL.

    It's late! More tomorrow.

    In gratitude,
    Graham http://www.secretyoga.com

  4. Graham M Schweig says:

    Thank you, Greg!

    Once one unlocks the treasures embedded in the text of the Bhagavad Gītā, one can't stop them from flowing. It is truly endless. I've spent over forty years finding this flow increasing, not decreasing at all! I am happy to send what few drops I can your way that might quench a little bit of your thirst for this. Please let me know if I can be of further service.

    With all best wishes,
    Graham http://www.secretyoga.com

  5. Great thoughts, Graham.

    For anyone interested in Yoga's similarities to psychoanalysis I can't recommend highly enough my very first inspirational Yoga book, and still the basis for most of my own Yoga philosophy, Yoga and the Quest for the True Self, by Stephen Cope, psychotherapist turned Buddhist turned Senior Kripalu Yoga Fellow. Cope is one of the few writers who can pack as much passion and content into a paragraph as our guest Graham here can. This is an absolutely essential book for anyone hoping to connect ancient Yoga to modern times. (Cope is a treasure, and was one of the most important influences in bringing Kripalu into the modern world with its essential spirituality entact.)

    They might also enjoy my brief piece about the similarities between the different types of Yoga identified in the Gita and modern personality type theory, which I used to teach in my leadership workshops when I was a software entrepreneur: Different Yoga Strokes for Different Yoga Folks

    Bob Weisenberg
    YogaDemystified.com

  6. integralhack says:

    Bob, I like your rationalist response here.

    Concepts like "God" or "reincarnation" may simply not be what we tend to think they are. As you've pointed out, the terms "mystical" and "religious" had different connotations for Einstein (as it probably does for you and me as well).

    The one thing I would suggest to Michelle is to approach the Gita not as a text to "pick and choose" the aspects to relate to as one would go shopping in a market, but let the text be. Rather than wrestle with mystic concepts that appear, or attempt to contort them to our modern understanding, just put these concepts aside and see if the gestalt–the whole–begins to resonate. I'm suggesting you approach the text like a good literary critic and suspend judgment until you've experienced it in its entirety. Naturally, this doesn't mean you shouldn't discuss it like we're doing here!

    I had similar issues with my approach to Buddhist texts originally, but the reading became easier and more comprehensive when I quit arguing with the text during my reading. This doesn't mean I accept any notion or concept that the text presents, but–as much as possible–I give the opportunity for the author(s) to present the narrative or philosophy as it was intended and not encumbered by my modern understanding or cultural grid.

    Anyway, that is my humble suggestion . . .

    -Matt

  7. Hi, Matt. That's really great advice. Thanks for writing.

    I wish I could come up with a perfect word to describe rationalist/scientific spirituality. I hesitate to use rationalist or scientific, because to most people these terms mean that something has to be proven to be acknowledged. In fact the opposite is true, as the Einstein quotes above make clear.

    "Scientific spirituality", which includes much of Yoga in my opinion, embraces and wonders at what we don't know, and even, as in Einstein's case and mine, feels comfortable calling that "God".

    But it avoids elaborate belief structures about things that are very highly unlikely (from its point of view) and not even remotely provable, like virgin births, reincarnation, papal infallibility, and divine lineage.

    Can you wordsmiths out there come up with the perfect term? Perhaps it is right there and I just haven't encountered it yet.

    Thanks again for being here, Matt I really do like your advice above.

    Bob Weisenberg
    YogaDemystified.com

  8. integralhack says:

    Graham,

    I commented above about suspending cultural (and one might add "personal") judgments and beliefs when reading texts like the Gita. I'm pleased that you note the Christian or general Abrahamic ethos that may come into play not only in the cultural lens of some readers, but the translators as well.

    I would add that there may be another ethos that comes into play in both reading and translation and that is the ethos of scientism: the largely Western belief that only scientific method can deliver valid answers about consciousness and ultimate questions about "God" and our place in the universe. A better phrase to describe this stance might be "scientific materialism," but this phrase has been unfortunately appropriated–ironically enough–by Christian creationists and Christian spins on "intelligent design."

    While scientific method is a great tool for humanity, we tend to capitulate to it as the only means to verify existence and experience. Yogis, as many here know, have been independently verifying aspects of reality for thousands of years.

    As Bob pointed out above, one of our greatest Western scientific minds, Einstein, understood that "the most beautiful and most profound experience is the sensation of the mystical." Yet this profound experience is yet indemonstrable by scientific method.

    Naturally, many scientists recognize this, but there are also many people and movements that would deny the existence of such experiences merely because such experiences exist outside of the narrow boundaries of their understanding of science. Applications of science aren't always rational.

    So, it may be necessary for some to not only de-Christianize their perspectives when reading the Gita but also to de-scientize their approach to the text as well!

    -Matt

  9. As I wrote in my reply to your other comment, science is generally in awe of what we don't know and embraces vast areas of knowledge that we know is there, but can't verify.

    It even acknowledges, embraces, and studies subjective experience. It just objects to anyone confusing it with objective fact. It may be or it may not be, but it should not be treated as fact when it may well be fiction.

    Science and Yoga
    Are soulmates.
    Both find
    Infinite wonder
    Awesome mystery
    And unanswerable questions
    Even in the simplest things
    We see all around us.

    How do the
    Molecules and atoms
    Protons, electrons, and quarks
    Of a rock
    Know how to be
    A rock?

    Science and Yoga
    Both inflame our awareness
    As much by marveling
    At what we don’t know
    As what we do.

    (from Yoga Demystified)

  10. integralhack says:

    I agree completely, Bob, but what I'm getting at is that there are certain outlooks or ideologies that tend to color–or even obfuscate–our views and readings that we may be unaware of. Even if I'm not Christian, Christian ideology can affect my perspective. The same is true of scientism, but not necessarily of science, as you explain above.

    –Matt

  11. Yes, you're absolutely right. Some scientists think Einstein was a little weird for all his mystical talk. But turning off a whole part of you brain and being closed to experience is not very, well, not very scientific, is it? The true scientist wants to see and experience everything non-judgmentally, just like the true Yogi. It's totally illogical to think that current scientific knowledge comes even close to describing all reality. That's what some "scientism" does, in effect.

    I used to fight this all the time in business, where there is a strong tendency be biased towards those things that can be measured, that have numbers attached to them. But since much of the reality of a business can not be measured, a leader has to make intuitive judgments about many things that can't be measured, and, indeed, often has to avoid being biased toward those things that do happen to have numbers attached to them.

    Bob Weisenberg

  12. Scott says:

    I struggled with that for a long time. I finally decided that Naturalist was the most Universal and Encompassing philosophical standpoint. It is based in rationality, but allows for understanding all natural phenomena, including spiritual practice. It would also be the base philosophy of Einstein. As I've noted elsewhere, once you understand that Naturalism is a non-dual philosophy, the differences between Naturalism and other non-dual philosophies are not so great. I'd guess that one reason you don't use Naturalism or Naturalist is because of the strong connotation of atheism and strong rejection of supernaturalism associated with the philosophy. It does make it difficult to be seen as a spiritual person when you are a naturalist, but it doesn't stop you from actually being one. Leslie Kaminoff is one such example and I'd guess you and I are too.

  13. Thanks for writing, Scott. That's very interesting. I agree with you. But I think Naturalist also doesn't work because it's already well established as a different meaning, that is, one who studies nature. So it might cause more confusion than it's worth, except in a circle of philosophers.

    Actually I've become pretty comfortable with "Yoga spirituality". It has a positive ring it, and most people will then say, what do you mean by that? At which point I can refer to the Upanishads, Gita, and Yoga Sutra which, with a few big exceptions like reincarnation and paranormal powers (e.g. levitation) are pretty close for me, at least in my modern interpretation of them.

    Bob Weisenberg
    YogaDemystified.com

  14. Hi, Matt. I have to apologize. I see that you said "scientism" all along in your first comment above, a fact I missed the first time around. Very different that "science". That would have modified my response somewhat. Sorry.

  15. integralhack says:

    No worries, Bob. There is a lot happening here in this Gita talk, thanks to you. A few misunderstandings (mine included) are bound to occur!

  16. Scott says:

    Bob,

    I don't see any problem with the term Yoga Spirituality. If that works for you, its fine. You did ask for alternatives though. I myself belong to the Yoga Love Party when asked about my politics.

    As for your point about naturaist meaning the study of nature, I think that as natural beings, when we study ourselves, we are studying nature. When we study other aspects of nature, we are still studying ourselves because we are not separate from our environment. In addition, careful observation of how we study nature is also self-study. I see all of this as equivalent to Svadhyaya, though I'll admit if may broaden the definiotion of Svadyaya for some. This is one of the many parallels between Yoga and Science (science being formly within the philosophy of naturalism). I see naturalism as completely compatible with yoga as I practice it.

    Yoga: A natural, evolving process designed to optimise and unite body, mind and spirit.

    Scott

  17. Hi, Scott. Yes, I agree naturalist makes sense logically. I was just thinking of the practical obstacle of using a word that makes most people think of men and women trudging through the forest in khakis with binoculars studying plants and animals and collecting insect samples. Ideally a word creates the right meaning in the mind of the listener instantly. Short of that, next best is to have neutral term that you can build your own meaning into.

    As for the parallels between Yoga and Science, yes, absolutely! From my eBook:

    Science and Yoga
    Are soulmates.
    Both find
    Infinite wonder
    Awesome mystery
    And unanswerable questions
    Even in the simplest things
    We see all around us.

    How do the
    Molecules and atoms
    Protons, electrons, and quarks
    Of a rock
    Know how to be
    A rock?

    Science and Yoga
    Both inflame our awareness
    As much by marveling
    At what we don’t know
    As what we do.

    (from YogaDemystified.com)

    And of course there's Albert Einstein as Yoga Sage, which I think I already referenced in this conversation somewhere.

    Thanks again for sharing your very interesting thoughts with us, Scott.

    Bob Weisenberg

  18. Vanita says:

    I was late getting to this because I was on vacation. I want to take a minute to thank everyone (especially Dr. Schweig) for this fascinating commentary.

    I especially like this post and look forward to revisiting the material (and other translations) with the addtional insight provided by these discussions.

  19. […] Elephant as part of Gita Talk: – Graham Schweig’s Rapturous Vision of the Gita, and –Gita Talk #8: Special Guest Graham Schweig, which remains one of the five most commented blogs ever on Elephant […]

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  22. […] Sorensen. Our journey into the Gita will engage translations from A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami and Graham M. Schweig. Buckle your seat belts for an exciting ride! We are thrilled to have you […]

  23. […] attempt to do just that! The scholar and yogi was Graham M. Schweig, the chosen text was the Bhagavad Gita, and the means to translate the text so it most closely mirrored the essence in the original […]

  24. […] “Knowing these two paths, the yogi is not bewildered in any way. Therefore, at all times, be absorbed in yoga, O Arjuna.” (Graham M.Schweig translation 8.27) […]

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