And Now for Something Completely Different. (Gita Talk 6)

Via Bob Weisenberg
on Sep 25, 2011
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This week let’s try something different. Let’s go through some passages from Chapters 2 & 3 stanza by stanza.

For this to work, you have to be willing to jump right in. Write a comment. Ask a question. Reply to what someone else has written.

If you’re thinking about it, but are on the fence, JUST DO IT. I hope you can see we’re a pretty friendly bunch here, and we’re very receptive to hearing everyone’s thoughts.

Here’s are the stanzas:

Self-possessed, resolute, act
without any thought of results,
open to success or failure.
This is equanimity is yoga. (BG 2.48)

The wise man lets go of all
results, whether good or bad,
and is focused on the action alone.
Yoga is skill in actions. (BG 2.50)

The superior man is he
whose mind can control his senses;
with no attachment to results,
he engages in the yoga of action. (BG 3.7)

Without concern for results,
perform the necessary action;
surrendering all attachments,
accomplish life’s highest good. (BG 3.19)

Though the unwise cling to their actions,
watching for results, the wise
are free of attachments, and act
for the well-being of the whole world. (BG 3.25)

Performing all actions for my sake,
desireless, absorbed in the Self,
indifferent to “I” and “mine”,
let go of your grief, and fight! (BG 3.30)

If we were sitting around a room together, I would ask you these questions to get the discussion going:

1) How would you summarize these stanzas in your own words?

2) Give us an example of how you might apply these words to your own life.

3) Which lines of the text are difficult to understand?

4) Tell us anything else that comes to mind when you read these words.

Let’s see what happens. If this works, and we like it, then we’ll do some more.

No new reading for next week.
Put all your energies into thinking about
and commenting on the six stanzas above.

(Or use the week to catch-up.  We’ve read through Chapter 7,  p. 105.)


All Blogs in the Series:

Welcome to Gita Talk:
Online Discussion of the Bhagavad Gita. (Round 2)

Ongoing Resources:

Gita in a Nutshell: Big Ideas & Best Quotations

Yoga Demystified

The Original Sixteen Session Gita Talk

Join Gita Talk Facebook Group for weekly notices
and to meet fellow participants.


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.


26 Responses to “And Now for Something Completely Different. (Gita Talk 6)”

  1. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    This can be applied to all aspects of life – to me it is being mindful and sincere in the present moment without anticipating the result – the learning in the doing exactly where you are and meaning it. On the yoga mat, I find myself often not anticipating the next posture, but 'when' I'm going to be able to go deeper into the more 'complex' version of the pose. When I do this, I am often in the unforeseen future and also judging myself. I am missing the point, but have learned to become aware of such thought patterns and take a more neutral stance – the negative voice becomes quieter and I start to awaken back into the present moment.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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  2. The first thing to come to mind for me: without concern for the results, how do we determine what is the necessary action?

  3. Emily Perry says:

    What I take away from these is that we perform right action, act in a way that alligns with who we are, then we are doing all that we can do— we cannot control the results, or the way the world will react to our actions. When we let go of the results, we are left only with ourselves and our abilty to act, freeing ourselves from the burden of trying to control what we cannot. That's my take-away!

  4. ARCreated says:

    I love the "idea" of not being attached to results. But it is difficult not to get caught in – well if the results don't matter how can the action matter? I re-read 2 and 3 yesterday and I have to tell you I am not having a warm fuzzy reaction to the Gita – it seems so contradictory, (I am reading on a kindle so I am not even going to try to go back and reference specifics but from memory so forgive if it's off) Krishna talks about needing to take action that even he takes action….because if he didn't act all would fall into chaos…well?? isn't that about results and if everything is equal why would it matter if everything fell into chaos ?? I vaguely remember him also saying at another time that he action is unnecessary.
    If we aren't attached to a "good or bad" result how do we define right action???

  5. Scott_Newsom says:

    I think the answer to your question may lie in he difference between attachment and connectedness. When you are attached, you act only for your own benefit, or to maintain the attachment. This is one cause of suffering. When you are not blinded by your own attachments, it allows you to see the greater context of your actions and the implications for those with whom we are connected. Then we have the the opportunity to perhaps choose those actions that lead to less suffering. Thats how I read it anyway.

  6. Ronnie McCarthy says:

    This passage is expressing that we are to do our duty- whatever we are called to do and it should be done with only the intention of love for all, as we are all one. Until the entire Gita is read, the complete message is difficult to grasp as passages may be taken too literally. I wasn't capable of picking it apart and concentrating on the individual passages until I was comfortable with the entire piece. Now for me, every stanza has the same underlying message, even if they sound contradictory by themselves because I know that all the "pieces of the puzzle" fit together to deliver the message of love through action without anticipating a reward or particular outcome. I think it is about just having faith that if we do our best with only the best intention, all will be well.

  7. That's an excellent point, Ronnie. The individual passages and even whole chapters are sometimes hard to see clearly without the larger themes.

    That's why I have started urging people who "feel lost" to spend some time with Gita in a Nutshell: Big Ideas & Best Quotations, where the critical themes are brought out in clear relief, and then come back.

    Thanks for commenting.

    Bob W. Editor
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  8. Hi, Yogainthevalley.

    It's not so crystal clear in this passage alone, but in other passages and in the context itself, it's clear that it's not striving for results we are to avoid, but rather over attachment to the results, or, even more specifically, attaching our ego to the results.

    Obviously, Arjuna can't fight this battle without having goals and objectives, even high emotion and passion. But he can decide to do his absolute best, then psychologically "let the chips fall where they may".

    This is identical to modern sports psychology, where one focuses entirely on the actions aimed at winning, while not being overly attached to the end result itself. Watch Roger Federer being interviewed before or after a big match. It's pure Gita.

    Bob W. Editor
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  9. yeye says:

    ~ The battle is always with the self
    with our minds reaction to the actions of others
    our actions align with the Gita
    when they are action with no mind
    When there is mind behind the actions
    expectations and judgements are on the way
    since they are part of mind
    how can I be of service to your needs
    to service my mind is not needed
    and if I serve thinking how great I will be after
    I will be serving only my bottomless self
    but if I serve thinking of how great you will be
    I will be giving the most precious gift
    the gift of thankfulness
    Actions are pure when no mind is involved
    what gives love and compassion is a right action
    the fight is always with the self ~

  10. ARCreated says:

    that was exactly my point!!! so easy to say "I am doing for the greater good" but the truth is that is still looking at results is it not?

  11. ARCreated says:

    I get that but my point is even looking at the grand scale and the greater "good" it is still a result is it not ? and less suffering for whom? and if all is the same then even suffering is the same and lessening it is still looking at results?

    (I am mostly playing devil's advocate – I GET the point, however one can see how it can be misinterpreted and even used to create more harm)

  12. Scott_Newsom says:

    Not necessarily. It is saying that you need to do your part and not to let concerns about success or failure get in your way. You really can't know all of the consequences of your actions anyway. A doctor who saves the life of a man who goes on to kill other innocent people shouldn't stop saving lives.

  13. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  14. Good thoughts, Emily. Thanks for commenting.

    Bob W. Editor
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  15. Thanks for your thoughts, Kate.

    As you may already know, Einstein's spirituality was very much like that of the Bhagavad Gita. There is a whole chapter about this in Isaacson's biography, a chapter called "Einstein's God", which is also the name of an NPR show on the same topic

    I once wrote a short blog about it called "Albert Einstein as Yoga Sage"… .

    Bob W. Editor
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  16. Hi, ARC. Yes, the Gita, like most ancient texts, is like that–internally contradictory. It has been used as a justification for war and Ghandi's bible for peace.

    Ultimately, we make our own reconciliation with the text. In fact, Gita in a Nutshell: Big Ideas & Best Quotations originally started as my personal attempt to do just that.

    Bob W. Editor
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  17. Thanks for your thoughts, Jennifer. I think most of us who have spent a lot of time with the Gita have experienced what you describe.

    Bob W. Editor
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  18. That's a terribly interesting idea, chiara–what would Krishna be telling the Kurus, Arjuna's bitter opponents?

    Later on in the Gita it becomes obvious that its scope extends to billions of years and way beyond even humanity itself. This is one of the genius' of the Gita, that it can be so deeply relevant to our day-to-day dilemmas, yet at the same time soar utterly beyond our concerns with our own limited perceptions of the world.

    See Does the Infinitely Wondrous Universe Give a Damn About You and Me? (GN #8). Excerpt:

    On one hand, the universe looks upon the earth as if from a distant galaxy. If an asteroid destroyed all humanity tomorrow, the universe would remain essentially unchanged.

    On the other hand, the wondrous universe (Krishna) is also the smallest cell in our body, and it’s everything we feel and do, including love, morality, and all we hold most dear: I am the source from which gods and sages emerge. (BG 10.2)

    That’s the “Yes” part. Not only does the universe care, we ARE the wondrous universe.

    Bob W. Editor
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  19. chiara_ghiron says:

    mhmhmhhm probably the same that he's telling Arjuna!

    and then, if I understand correctly what Scott means, the words good and bad loose their sense because actions (when performed with resolution and non-attachment) are both part of the Universe mechanics.

    Difficult to get out of this point without falling into fatalism and then potentially nihilism..

  20. Not if you consider that our ability to perceive and enjoy and struggle with all this is, in itself, one of the infinite wonders of the universe, as is the functioning of a single cell in our body or even a single atom in that cell.

    The universal "humanity is just a tiny speck in the vast universe" and "each of us is an infinitely wondrous universe in ourselves" are both embraced by the Gita. In fact they are one and the same. Even the whole concept of good and evil is one of the wonders of the universe.

    Everything is part of the wonder of the universe. Our joy is in simply being here to experience it. Part of that experience is in the ordinary daily struggles, the "battles" of existence.

    Am I making any sense at all here? This is how I personally reconcile the infinite with the mundane. It's the gift the Gita and Yoga philosophy in general has given me.

  21. A poem for you:

    The Meaning of Life–Who Cares?

    According to the ancient Yoga sages
    Questioning the meaning of life
    While living
    Is like questioning the meaning of a roller coaster
    In the middle of a roller coaster ride.

    Or like questioning the meaning of love
    In the middle of lovemaking.

    Who cares when something is so amazing?

    The amazement IS the meaning.
    The amazement IS the ultimate reality.
    The amazement IS the life-force of the universe
    All around us and within us
    Far beyond our ability
    To absorb or comprehend.

    The amazement IS what some call God
    And the ancient sages called Brahman.

    In the midst of the ups and downs
    Of life and love
    Just relax, breathe deeply
    And experience the infinite thrill
    of the amazing ride.

    Bob W. Editor
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  22. Macy Starz says:

    To me it means that we are constantly evolving, we aren't who we were yesterday, and we aren't who we are tomorrow. To be stuck in thoughts of the past, or thoughts of who we will be tomorrow, we rob ourselves the joy of the present experience. To live life without regrets, which is the result of fulfillment, we must be mindful, and free from attachment. Thoughts of what we are doing after yoga class or did before, or where we usually are in the pose, keep us from the pureness of the assana itself.

  23. Good thoughts, Macy. Thanks for commenting.

    Bob W. Editor
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  24. chiara_ghiron says:

    thanks Bob!