The Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 7

The Bhagavad Gita translated by Antonio T. De Nicolas

The Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 7

The Yoga of Wisdom and Understanding


The Blessed One said:
1. Hear this, O Son of Prthā, by fastening your mind on me, 
By practicing yoga, relying on me, 
You will gain knowledge of me fully, without doubt.

2. I will tell you the whole of this wisdom 
Accompanied by knowledge which, when known, 
There remains nothing more on earth to be known.

3. Scarcely one man in thousands strives for perfection, 
And of those who strive and are successful, 
Perhaps one knows me in essence.

4. Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind,
Understanding, and the sense of I: 
This is my prakrti which is divided eight-fold.

5. This is my lower prakrti
But know now, O Strong-Armed, my other prakrti
Supreme and the source of life, By which the world is supported.

6. Know that all beings have this for their womb. 
I am the origin of the world And also its dissolution.

7. There is nothing whatever above me, O Wealth-Winner. 
All this (world) is strung on me Like jewels on a string.

8. I am the taste in the waters, O Son of Kuntī, 
I am the radiance in the sun and moon; 
The sacred syllable (Om) in all the Vedas, 
The sound in ether, and manliness in men.

9. I am the pleasant fragrance in earth, 
The glowing brightness in fire, 
The life in all beings, 
The austerity in ascetics.

10. Know me to be the seed of all beings, O Son of Prthā. 
I am the understanding of the wise, 
The splendor of the splendid.

11. I am the strength of the strong, O Master of the Bhāratas, 
Devoid of desire and passion. 
I am that desire in all beings which is not incompatible with dharma.

12. And know also that whatever conditions (in beings) are sattvic (lucid) rajasic (active) or even tamasic (indolent),
Are from me alone.
But I am not in them,
They are in me.

13. Deluded by these conditions composed of the three gunas, 
This whole world does not recognize me, 
Changeless and above them.

14. For this divine māyā (elusive power) of mine composed of the gunas,
Is difficult to transcend. 
Only those who resort to me, 
Cross beyond this deluding power (māyā).

15. Foolish evil-doers, lowest of men, 
Whose understanding is carried away by this deluding power (māyā
And whose essence is bound (to their actions), 
Do not resort to me.

16. Men of good deeds who worship me, O Arjuna, 
Are of four kinds: 
The afflicted, the seekers of knowledge, the seeker of wealth, 
And also, O Bull of the Bhāratas, the wise.

17. Of these, the wise, always whole, 
And whose commitment is to the One, excels.
Indeed, I am exceedingly dear to the wise,
And he is dear to me.

18. Noble are all these without exception, 
But to my mind, the wise is my very self. 
For he with disciplined self-effort (yuktātmā
Is firmly grounded in me alone as the highest goal.

19. At the end of many births, 
The man of wisdom comes to me A
ware that Vasudeva is all. 
Such a man of great self is very hard to find.

20. Those whose understanding has been carried away
by one desire or another, 
Flee to other gods, 
Having carried out one or another observance, 
Led by their own (bound) prakrti.

21. I make unshakeable the faith of any devotee 
Who wishes to worship with faith any form whatever.

22. Disciplined with that faith, 
He seeks the propitiation of such a manifestation, 
And from it he gains his desires. 
Indeed, it is I who ordains (the benefits) of those desires.

23. But transient is that fruit of those of little intelligence. 
Those who sacrifice to the gods, go to the gods; 
But those who are dedicated to me, go to me.

24. Those without understanding think me, the nonapparent, 
To have appeared, 
Not being cognizant of my supreme nature, changeless and unsurpassed.

25. Covered by my elusive power (yoga-māyā), 
I do not appear to all. 
The world is deluded and does not recognize me,
unborn, imperishable.

26. I know the beings of the past, present and yet to be, O Arjuna, 
But no one verily knows me.

27. All beings at birth are subject to delusion, O Descendant of Bhārata, 
By the illusion arising from the pairs of opposites, 
Desire and aversion, O Conqueror of the Foe.

28. But those men of meritorious deeds in whom sin has come to an end, 
Who are thus released from the illusion of opposites, 
Worship me, steadfast in their resolutions (drdhavratah).

29. Having taken refuge in me, 
Those who strive (yatanti) for release from death and old age 
Know Brahman entirely and the self and all action.

30. Those who with disciplined minds know me in my higher and lower domains 
And the physical world and the highest sacrifice, Know me even at the time of death.

This is the end of the seventh chapter, entitled “The Yoga of Wisdom and Understanding” jnāna-vijnāna-yoga.

About Sunday morning

Sunday Morning Contemplation is informed by Eastern and Western contemplative traditions. The first, lectio divina has its origins in 6th century Europe. It unfolds in four steps or stages: reading (lectio), reflecting (meditatio), responding (oratio), and silent abiding (contemplatio). Our Eastern inspiration come from the Indian Upanishads (800-200 BCE), where contemplative practice consists of three steps or stages: listening (śravana), reflecting (manana), and meditating (nididhyāsana or dhyāna). Our contemplative practice on Sundays embraces both approaches, and each contemplation will be based on a reading from either tradition.

The texts and teachers I have chosen played a significant role in my life and I believe have much to offer. I will read presellected texts, slowly, with pauses between verses or quotes. The readings will be accompanied by soothing background music. To lessen distraction, I suggest participants close their eyes and listen. However, the screen will display the text so that people can choose to read along or mute the sound and read on their own. If there is time remaining after the contemplative period, participants can choose to either leave or stay for a short discussion.

As a preface to the reading, I will provide a 10-15 minute introduction to the text. When relevant, I’ll review facts about the author/teacher’s life. I will also present a brief explanation of the terms and language encountered in the reading.

Finally, when the contemplation is over, all texts read will be available online to read and/or download at any time on the website.

What I mean by
The Symbolic Life

This website makes liberal use of classical Indian visual art and refers mostly to traditional Indian texts (for example, the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutras) in the courses, seminars, and discussions on offer. However, I am not presenting lessons in Hinduism; in fact, teaching mainstream Hinduism is neither my area of interest nor expertise. Rather, my interest in Yoga and Tantra is grounded in the concrete situation in which we find ourselves, in the places where we arrive and from which we depart. Beginning in the here and now, we will explore the underlying meaning of the symbols, stories, images, philosophies, and techniques found in Indian philosophical texts and practice, in light of our world and our current circumstance. We will excavate the meaning of the aphorisms and teaching stories; the symbolic figures of gods, people, and nature; and the sometimes terse, sometimes poetic, philosophy of the texts. Thus, in referring to the Symbolic Life of Yoga and Tantra, I mean not just the symbols themselves, but the rich explication of life that the symbols represent.

Our lived, concrete situation is wonderfully captured in the Sanskrit word loka, whose ancient meaning is “the world.”  The root meaning of both the Sanskrit loka and the English locate (and local, locale, and location) is identical. In the ancient Indian mind, the world is where we are located, in our current circumstance. Thus, the meaning of the symbols of Yoga and Tantra can occur only in the now, in the places where we find ourselves, and not in any imagined ancient and/or foreign world.

To emphasize our place of origin and return, I use the terms “archetypal” and “symbolic” quite frequently. Archetypal meaning is associated with the universal and collective aspects of human experience—what we intimately share with all others regardless of culture or era or epoch—while symbolic language forms a bridge between the realms of the universal with the culturally specific and local. Symbols are the scaffolding upon which human beings build a world and imbue it with meaning.

Think for a moment of pain and pleasure, sorrow and joy, hatred and love, and greed and generosity—universal experiences that ancient Indian thinkers called the dvandva-s. This Sanskrit term is a combination of two words, or rather, one word spoken twice: the word dva (meaning the same as the English “two”) duplicated. Dvandva is commonly translated as “the pair of opposites” or literally “the two-twos” (dvadva). The ancients who coined this compact symbol gave voice to an archetypal human experience that can be further unpacked to reveal deep insights into the human condition. Once we gain an understanding of the various symbols of Yoga and Tantra, we can further excavate their meaning and the archetypes they convey, and thus gain access to, in a practical and meaningful way, the vision of life experienced by the sages. These insights are available to us and are still relevant today, as are the resilient and adaptable techniques and forms of practice that can help us lead richer and more fulfilling lives