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OAPOY – Bhagavad Gita – 7

And then just as Patanjlai defines samadhi in verse 3.3. samadhi is when that same dhyana shines forth is the object alone. And the mind is devoid of its own reflective nature. This is what Patanjali says. Heree reaches the final limb of yoga samadhi as this continuum that extends beyond dhyana. And that whole notion of I am meditating upon an object ceases. There is nothing left and is Krishna. Once again says, um, fixing his inner self absorbed in me. The comparison, I think remains direct. There is a sense of finding beyond a doubt, a singular shelter in this application of yoga to this place of one equanimity. This singleness of purpose as Krishna will call it in the Gita.

But the terms of this cosmology change dramatically when the Bhagavad Gita turns to chapter seven. And that’s where I think the comparison between Patanjali’s an adept who’s focused process of concentration leads beyond the vrttis and beyond all notions of the ephemeral identification and the process of contingent experience and into the unlimited possibility of receiving purusha.

Here Krishna turns that prospect of what happens when the yogin arrives at this equitability consciousness has the temerity and discipline of a focused concentrative awareness and is empowered by the occlusion, the exclusion and the separation of identification with the moving and ephemeral transient features of consciousness. Then that process of what will appear next is raised as the immortal presence of purusha. Here is precisely where the Bhagavad Gita takes its distinctive turn away from classical yoga. Krishna not only invites Arjuna to fix his mind upon him, but to take refuge, to find shelter in him.

There’s no sense in classical yoga that Ishvara provides a shelter or repose, or in any sense, a kind of consoling presence, an agency of identity. there is in certain way and a realization of purusha’s presence as Patanjali suggests that as the eternality that has always been there for the yogin to find as his or her own identity, but here Krishna clearly invites a very different kind of relationship to the divine, an entirely different sensibility of what kind of divinity is that Ishvara, now a being in whom one can take refuge now being appealing to the yogin as this source and cause of that great sense of serenity and repose

Here in chapter seven, Krishna gives the famous list of his eightfold material nature and, and essentially maps out a form of the tattva  theory that takes us from 24 to 25, very much in the model of the samkhya-yoga, the enumeration and application schools that we’ve B 24 tattvas under the umbrella of the material prakritic nature and hold out Perusha as the essential 25th.

This basic pattern is being repeated here in the Gita albeit less systematically and it’s going to be interpreted in vastly different ways, But the essential basis of this cosmology, that there is a material reality prakriti and a spiritual one purusha that they are not to be confused. That one is limited conditioned and contingent, and the other is unlimited unconditioned and beyond all forms of contingency. That essential difference between the material’s recursive and recurrent nature, and the spiritual’s eternal and permanent nature is as I said, an essential ingredient of samkhya-yoga and a principle part of the cosmology of the Gita.

Krishna wants to add himself to this cosmology and so completely undermine and in a certain sense, distinguish the notion of purusha and of ishvara from any previous idea that we might have received in  the yoga Sutra, and really in a certain sense, hearkening deeply back to the Upanishadic understanding of Rudra, of this presence of the deity as the experiencer. Krishna both sets himself apart and places himself entirely within the realm of our experience. He places himself above panentheistic sense as an eternal and transcendent being and entirely present fully and manifesting as the world that surrounds us. This is no more present than it is here in chapter seven, where he says,

I am the water in taste in sun and moon,
the light in all the vedas, I am the syllable OM.
I am men in their manhood
In earth, I am its fragrance
In the sun, it’s fire
all creatures in the vitality of their lives.
All ascetics in their austerity
know that I am the eternal seed of all beings.
The thought of all thinkers,
the splendor of the splendid,
the strength of the strong,
but strength without ambition or passion.
I am that desire that does not run counter to Dharma,

But then to make clear his position as transcendent and even exempt from the conditions of these very terms, he has established himself to be expressing himself as all of these experiences and values and ideas that we would find in the world. Every kind of principle identity is Krishna. He says,

Know that all the conditions of being
no matter how they may be influenced
by the forces of nature, by the Gunas,
all of them come from me,
but I am not in them.
They are in me.

Krishna exempts that quality of his own supreme character as being unlike that very material world that is also a manifestation of him. There is no sense in the Yoga Sutra that the world is a manifestation of issuer or that issue in any way contends with the world as part of our experience appearing as either a manifest or even seed form of the experience of consciousness, ishvara is purusha exempt and utterly transcended, totally different from wholly, other than prakriti. Here Krishna establishes himself both as the eightfold material nature, then it’s higher and deeper sensibilities. Then the experiences we have of ourselves experiencing that world that is natural. And then he says, but he is not to be confused in his truest and  his most identifiable presence as the agency and as the sublime consciousness exempt and, above all of these terms and conditions of ephemeral being.

In dozens of places, Krishna reminds us that we are confused and deluded and carried away and overwhelmed by the experience of our material nature, through the power of the gunas through sattva, rajas and tamas, each of them in a certain way creating the process of this shroud, this illusion. And that illusion is that we are merely those things and that we are never  exempt from being, from being entirely carried away by their powers, unless, and until we engage the world as yogins, but it is here in chapter seven, that Krishna proclaims the distinctive presence, not only of his refuge, but of those who might approach him and receive that gift of his consciousness, that gift of the sublime experience, of the immortal eternal God that is available and accessible to the human experience.

Verse 16 in chapter seven, Krishna clearly, clearly states. There are four kinds of men of good karma beings who know how to act, who seek my love. He calls this jenaha <<sanskrit>>  oh Arjuna, there are humans, jenaha who are sukut  who are salutary in action. Clearly he’s referring back not only to their good nature to their good heartedness, what van Bouton and translates four kinds of good men seek my love, but really it’s four kinds of human beings he says who know the nature of action and those who know what action can and cannot provide, who understand the Dharma of karma yoga,  how karma yoga structures and nourishes, and allows us to act in the world exempt from it’s unwanted consequences. And then he lists, he says,

There are the suffering,
Those who seek knowledge,
Those who seek wealth
And the adepts of yoga

And what stands out among them is the adept who is loyal to me exclusively.
This is Krishna’s first claim on what is called eka-bhakti the loving but the one and loving that one, loving that Lord, as all things, as the experience of all beings, it is a turning and a participation and immediation of commitment to the heart, to the body, to the consciousness entirely to that sublime source of being that creates us as a refuge and creates in us that prospect of our finding the none higher in that experience of being. When we are suffering beings, when we want to know, even when we are material beings, seeking wealth, we all seek that love of Krishna, but it is when we are yogins, when we are adepts, he says, yoked in yoga, always yoked, then, Krishna says, I am utterly dear to such a being. Krishna has nothing disparaging to say about those seekers of wealth or those seekers of knowledge or those who suffer and hurt. But he says only after many births does the adept, the yogin, attain to me knowing Vasudeva is everything. He entirely personalizes this experience of ishvara. He doesn’t say he knows me as the Lord, he says, he knows me by saying, Vasudeva Krishna his own name, the indwelling light, who is none other than this personal experience, that the transcendent exists entirely imminently and present in one soul, is everything ubiquitous and in that sense, identifiable with every possible experience, such a man of great spirit, he says is rare to find.

He calls such a being a Mahatma, a being who is great souled <<sanskrit>> is difficult to find. Krishna declares himself not only the refuge and that place of consolation, he says,

it is I who make his faith
in that body unshakeable
and armed with such sraddha,
He aspires to propitiate that deity
and obtains from it his wealth and his desires.
And this, in fact, I provide.

This notion of sraddha, of where we place our hearts. This is the very core of Krishna’s call to love. We love whatever we put our hearts upon, where we place our heart, sra-ddha that placement of the heart, that giving of the heart, this is what we become. Krishna in some sense reduces the yoga to this experience bhakti, of love, of participation, of sharing in that essential nature. But what he invites is that deep, deep sentiment. And he says, there, there, the being recognizes me as the immortal and unborn, I am otherwise opaque and unclear to this muddled world who seek other things. It’s where we place our hearts that is going to make all the difference.

And then as he does on rare occasion, Krishna poses himself in that position of his panentheistic moreness and his in his not only in his ubiquity as being, but in that place of his distinctive cognition, his superior sense of presence and understanding,

Oh Arjuna, I know the creatures
of past and present and future,
but no one knows me
For they are conflicted and confused
by the desires and the hatreds that spring
And are duped into delusion by karma.

It is in this sense Krishna invites himself as that being who like the enlightened Yogin, like the adept who understands and is fixed in consciousness, not carried away by the forces of the gunas nor, mistaken about the nature of time or identity is as he says, firm in vows and know them as this final destination. Krishna poses himself as that place, not only of refuge, but of source, cause, origin, and now quite clearly as that destination and in his omniscience, in that sense that he knows and never loses sight of that sense of identity, so to, we can become a being like him who shares in that experience that we too, in our own experience can be beings who don’t falter from that essential place of identity, where we put our hearts where we know even in the final hour, he says, even in the moment of death, our spirits are yoked.
And so he ends chapter seven, yoking our spirits to that place of the immortal presence that is brought about by that shared experience of commitment of participation and of love.


The Gita’s 18 chapters are often divided into three sections. It’s the great dualist devotional lover of God, Ramanuja who teaches the Vedanta the concluding understanding of the Veda that is called vashista the one that asserts the great distinction that understands that God and creation must be understood with a profound sense of difference between them. It is in Ramanuja’s voice that we learned that the Gita has organization takes us through three sets of six chapters that principle of organization brought forward and Ramanuja’s very famous commentary called the Sri Bhasha, the auspicious comment. And there Ramanuja will tell us that the first six chapters of the Bhagavad Gita form the essential core of the teaching. And then as we now step into chapters 7 through 13, through 12 or 13, what we find is a new focus, a new agenda, and that will be to recenter the conversation on Krishna himself. And I think in this sense, whatever we might think of Ramanuja interpretations as a theist and as belonging to a dualist with Dante ontology, um, a complex theological view that asserts this panentheism with a clear understanding of the Divine’s authority, autonomy, and distinctiveness as its principal characteristics and the divine as the singular source of grace and comfort, the singular dispenser of the finalities of liberation, a view that Ramanuja just shares with other interpreters, like the so-called saiva-vedantins who even as tantrikas  share a similar dualist understanding of the role of God as the giver of grace, the saver of souls, the dispenser of this fundamental insight and wisdom that is the salvific presence, uh, brought about through the loving devotion.

It is in these chapters I think Ramanuja like this tell us something. I think that is abundantly clear in the original source of the Gita itself. And that is that these middling chapters from 6 to 12, perhaps all the way until we reach, uh, the end of 13 are very much a part of that exposition of the nature of the divine. They are very much committed to this Krishna who may well be the pantheist presence of all things, but is also the panentheist, that is the extra peace of God that is more than creation. And now, in fact, maybe the the distinctive, the vashista the separate or distinctive category that is not to be confused with creation. That is not to be confused in any sense with any identity other than the Divine’s own self-understanding its own property to dispense and offer and create itself as the agent provocateur tour of the world of our experience. Krishna’s experience as Krishna is set apart in these chapters from 6 to 12, the very famous chapters on bhakti how then can we share in the nature of a God who in a profound way creates our nature shares in our nature, but is distinct and separate from our nature in some critical and instrumental ways.

We go through a series of very interesting and powerful teachings in chapter nine, the so-called Raja yoga, this sense of the sovereignty of the divine and the sovereignty of that yogic consciousness, but seizes the Divine’s gift of teaching the gifts that will have already been explained in the three great yogas of karma, jnana and bhakti, of action, knowledge and devotion, and how that process applies to Krishna who says such

acts do not bind me,
for I remained as interested
and detached from all acts.
And so the yogin, always yoked to devotion,
adores and glorifies me
and exerts with fortitude
and pays homage to me,

Others, he says
offer themselves
in their own different ways.

And it’s here in chapter nine. That Krishna gives us that sense that all the paths of yoga in some sense are venerations or offerings gestures to that very same reality. It is here that the pantheism and polytheism of the Hindu world resolves itself in this kind of monistic oneness. That is the monotheism, the one Godness of that very same reality. There’s this enormous confluence of concerns that bring all the characters of theological understanding into one character, one reality. And that is the identity of Krishna.

I am equitable to all creatures,
no one is hateful or dear to me.
And those who share with me
love are in me and I am in them.

So even as Krishna has distinguished himself, he has proclaimed a kind of universalism. He has proclaimed a theology of inclusion. He has asserted that every possible interpretation of who he is, is in fact, and could be nothing other than himself. than the divine. It is this vision of Krishna that is shared, of course, by virtually all the monistic Hindus who later tell us that never for a moment, could we experience anything that is other than the divine, other than the immortal presence within us, that everywhere we look in, in every possible way, that must be the experience of consciousness.

The journey that evolves in subsequent chapters is fascinating if only because it’s this peculiar admixture of ontology, where Krishna’s nature as the expression of all things, his ubiquities are expressed in chapter 10 of this, I am that

Of rivers. I am Ganga
Of mountains, I am Himalaya.

He goes through a complex set of allegories and homologies of identifications with the nature of reality, and to bring that ontology, to bear that sense of the nature of being the story of existence is what ontology means. And that story of existence is one that plays itself out in peaks and valleys, in paradigms and archetypes in examples, and in sometimes in exemplary realities, but it plays itself out as what he calls vibhuti, ubiquity. And it is that ubiquity of Krishna’s presence as he describes it in chapter 10 that stands in such interesting and market contrast to the use of the word vibhuti as manifest power as the supernatural sense of power that is expressed in potentially is yoga Sutra. For what we find out is that all those forms of yoga power, all those super normal and expressive forms of empowerment that come from the practice of yoga, here we now find them as being nothing other than not only expressions of Krishna, but manifestations of Krishna, that the divine has usurpped the vibhuti. There is no longer a power separate or other achieved by the yogin and what the yogin achieves is the experience that reality is Krishna offering itself, in example, in ubiquity, as everything, in archetypes and paradigms, in every possible way. Krishna presents that presence of the divine as himself.

Then Arjuna makes an enormous leap of judgment as if not only to express his doubt, but to further his own curiosity, he asks to see Krishna’s true divine form.
And so it begins the famous and important 11th chapter. The chapter of divine epiphany. He asks Arjuna does, as he says,

You have propounded to me as a favor
to dispel my illusion.
I have heard from you in detail

The becoming an unbecoming of all creatures.
Now, I wish to set upon your real supplemental form
just as you’ve described yourself as sovereign Lord.

If you think that I shall be able to look upon it,
oh, master of yoga display to me,
your imperishable person,

He asks for this as a favor. He asks to understand if he’s ready or capable of seeing such a thing. And that he wishes to set himself upon this vision.

Arjuna is really going to get far more than he bargained for

Behold, my hundreds and thousands of shapes,
many kinds, divine and manifold colors,
and all the gods of the Veda
Behold the entire universe
with standing and moving creatures
centered here in this body of mine
and whatever else you desire to see,
I shall give you divine sight.
Behold, my sovereign yoga.

Krishna proclaims the power of his own consciousness to reveal and display every possibility, every desire that Arjuna might find as his own sovereign yoga.

Now the text offers that interruption where the Sage Sanjaya who was there at the outset of the text as that listener, with the gift of clairaudience, being prepared to tell us and overhear the conversation to explains how this great sovereign of yoga Hari Krishna presents his supernaal form with countless mouths and eyes and multitudes of marvels wearing divine ornaments and appearing as the ubiquitous form of all these expressions of endless power. It is almost as if Krishna’s favor to Arjuna is no favor at all. That what Arjuna asks for Krishna offers to him as a personal gift, as a representation of what is possible as an offering of the magnitude and the mysterium be tremendous and fascinating wonder, what the great German Protestant theologian Rudolph Otto termed, hoping to capture the depth of spiritual and religious experience in a Latin term to make it sound somehow knowable in a academic sense, but of course doesn’t quite make it… the mysterium tremendum or “a great or profound mystery.” Arjuna receives this gift of grace, this gift of the Divine’s own presence.

But nowhere else in the Gita is this commended as a goal of yoga. And nowhere does this sovereign yoga that Krishna offers be presented as a goal of yoga, that we should see the world as Krishna some self experiences it, or as we might see every possibility of the world as Krishna all at once, we are not invited to see the world as Krishna sees it, but to see the world as a myriad expression of Krishna, not all possibilities at once, but possibilities of self-expression in the manifold ways in which our nature offers it to us.

On the one hand Krishna has spent a good bit of this Gita explaining to us that we are limited by our material nature and in a certain way that we are not captive and we are exempt from it. When we understand the value of the eternal and immortal insight, the presence and the awareness that is possible to share in reality, and to love as Krishna’s own consciousness as the divine consciousness.

And yet here, it seems perfectly clear that this ubiquity of the material reality, this expressive power of the Divine’s own form is not only exceptional and extraordinary, in every possible, but one that is entirely as fraught with terror and horror and the overwhelming sense of being more than we need or could bargain for in any way.
And so we are invited in a certain way, not to have Arjun as experience.
We have been shown that the Divine’s auspicious fullness is an overwhelming abundance of grace. That is as much a terror as it is a blessing.

This is a critical and an interesting idea that grace is not merely a kind of sweetness or goodness, a dispensation of the Divine’s own beneficence, but that grace is abundance in a radical, overwhelming, and entirely, encompassing sensibility that graze as abundance may not always be good or to our benefit that grace is simply that radical sense of the everythingness of everything, of Krishna’s power to project and to appeal to every possibility and every form of our desire. After all he invites Krishna, not mere, he invites Arjun and not merely to see him as Krishna. He invites Arjona to see his, every desire.

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