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OAPOY – Bhagavad Gita – 6

Krishna goes on.

He is to be counted, a perpetual renouncer
who neither hates nor desires.
If one transcends the pairs of opposites,
one is easily freed from bondage,
only fools propound that insight
and the practice of acts are different things, not the wise.
By undertaking one, you will find the full fruit of both

So many interesting comments here, not the least of which is Krishna’s claim that you will arrive at the full fruit. He uses the word palam, the word for result for fruit that he previously told us not to be concerned about the fruits of action. Now he tells us that those who are adept in yoga know that simply by acting in that sense of the necessary and inevitable, that way in which we nurture the world through our nitya karmas are required acts. Such a being is called a perpetual renouncer, and such a being will neither hate nor be bound to any of the pairs of opposites, easily freed from bondage he says. Why? Precisely because that act itself is sufficient to the experience of liberation  without having to assimilate and become the consequences of that act. And here he tells us that the practice of acts and the deep insight into the nature of how actions themselves do not bind, but our attitudes, our values, our misconstrual of the act for its effect, this is the binding principle. One is easily freed. He says from bondage, when we understand the clear distinction between the action and that way in which the actions result no longer holds us captive when we understand that the action itself creates the necessary, the nurturing and the creative principle of engagement. Krishna deliberately uses. I think, the word fruit palam here to describe that we get exactly what it is we want. And so he’s not telling us not to care about the effects, the results, the consequences, or their fruits. He’s telling us to pay attention. He’s telling us to keep our hearts, our minds, and our bodies focused on the nature of the actions themselves. And then when we understand that principle of focused and principled engagement, we will no longer be victimized nor subjugated to, no longer held captive by the results we will in fact, enjoy the full fruit of both. That is of both the insight that leads us to this clear understanding and the practice of the act itself. We’ll leave our conscience like our karma unbound.

And then he further goes on and he says the adepts of insight, and by this, he means those who are going to turn their attention entirely into the process of introversion and self focus. Those who are going to look solely to that process of meditation, of dhyana as the one object intention, the one focused idea within one’s self looking truly and only for that singularity of concentrated effort. Such a depth of insight, insight, and adapts of practice reach one in the same goal. And one who truly sees, sees that insight and practice are in fact the same. And in fact, what he means the same yoga.

Clearly Krishna’s definition of yoga here is that way in which we apply ourselves wholly, truly, entirely, sincerely with all of our effort and with all the deftness of our concern and application to our project. So clearly he has already told us that the actions in the world are superior to introversion, but that it takes exactly the same kind of effort. It takes an effort of focus, of contract, of concentration and commitment. It takes an effort that draws all of our body, mind and heart into the singularity of the process. He’s going to tell us that they both create the same kind of result because they were brought about by this exactly the same sort of required efforts what’s distinct is that Krishna is telling us that the actions in the world will make a difference in the world. Even as those actions focused entirely upon the project of self-concentration will create in the Yogi, the project that translates into power in the world, but really affects principally and solely such, such a yogi of introversion that this greater project of turning wholly with the fullness of one’s effort and concentration into the world is a superior path.

True renunciation, Krishna then says, is hard to accomplish without the practice of karma yoga. That is without understanding how we engage the everyday, the necessary and the responsible, but armed with such a yoga sage soon attains to the expansive, absolute to Brahman

armed with yoga, pure of soul
master of self and senses
identifying himself with the selves of all creatures.
He is not tainted, even though he acts
A person of yoga, knowing such a truth,
knows that while seeing, hearing, touching, smelling,
eating, walking, sleeping, breathing, speaking, eliminating,
grasping, opening, and closing his eyes.
He in fact does nothing.

Krishna goes to great lanes here to make that Yogin a being familiar to Patanjali familiar to that notion of the seated being focused, introverted, mastering the senses withdrawn and non-attached from the world, and he, in fact, does nothing means he acquires no untoward or unhappy consequences of karma. Krishna doesn’t mean that he doesn’t do anything at all. He means that he acquires no bondage, no accoutrements, no unwanted features of the action itself, that would cause one to be thrown back into the sense of captivity, thrown back into the sense of helplessness and victimization that otherwise holds us all in what Krishna understands to be the true bondage.

Bondage the  doesn’t belong to the act at all, but to that experience of the consequence of victimization, the consequences of being held captive through an action that is misconstrued, the actions themselves, he says are pure, so pure that they have no effect upon us. And here again, the Gita uses the concept of purity, not necessarily as a purging, but as a description of a state in which the consequences of one’s actions, the consequences of one’s understanding, the consequences of one’s feeling, are no longer adversarial or negative, no longer binding.

Such a yoga, he says

is no more stained by ill or evil
than a Lotus pedal is by muddy waters.

Krishna has in mind that familiar image of the pumka-ja, the mud born, the Lotus that emerges out of the shallows of a muddy pond to be pristine and exempt, to be transcendent of as it were the muddiness, the sense of filth. And yet Krishna is in fact using this image of the mud-born Lotus to remind us that we are rooted and deeply sunk in this world of the everyday. And so we are either like the renunciant Yogi who has transcended the mud, or we are like that transcendent being a pure Lotus, deeply grounded and rooted, but no longer captive of the consequences. That is the impurity that the mud represents in the picture. And so either way, Krishna says the Yogi has applied him or herself to that place of exemption from the untoward and unwanted consequences from the bondages of karma.

Krishna has some very practical advice, some grounded advice about this. He says, when we’ve given up all that sense of consequence of victimization, all that sends that we are somehow being held captive by our responsibilities or by the necessities of the world, that we are somehow lost because we must continue to act, or we fail to turn our attentions appropriately to that which really has significance and allows us to step past those limitations of ephemeral feeling the things that will certainly come and go. He says, all of that must be applied to our minds, to our thoughts, to our feelings, into our hearts. And then he says, a soul dwells, happily. This is clearly an application to our prakritic being. In this way Krishna means to make his yoga any elaboration again that characteristic yoga demonstrated by Patanjali’s concern for ourselves as mortal and conditioned beings made up of prakritic forces, material forces that we are as embodied beings, beings, subject to the terms and conditions of, of our physical human nature of our mortal condition as thinking and feeling beings that as such, we can find that place within our experience, that place, where he says the happy soul dwells masterful in its nine-gated fortress, neither doing nor causing acts because such a soul, such a heart of experience, such a focal point of identity is no longer confused nor subject to the terms and conditions of the ephemera of the things that change of the things that make us feel like we are merely conditioned and victimized by our circumstances.

And as if he were directly replying to the opening Salvos of the third chapter of Patanjali, he says that the Lord has not created into people, either authorship of acts or the acts themselves. All of that is the doing of prakriti, the doing of nature as natural beings, as conditioned beings, as human beings, who are animals and part of nature, conscious beings, all of this feature of ourselves as part of the natural world, Krishna says, is not affecting our deepest sense of spirit of identity. We can arrive at that understanding of ourselves and take hold of what it means to be a limited and conditioned being, take hold of the animalian person. That sense of being a natural person and understand that it’s simply nature itself acting within us as we are.

Now what makes Krishna’s point so distinctive and unlike Patanjali’s point is that here, he says, the Lord has not created people of this kind, that is those whose authorship or whose actions define them, that that belongs to nature. And so clearly this prakritic world, this material world is set in motion by the divine, but that the divine part of ourselves is distinctive. But Krishna says that that the divine itself has not made us in such a way and in no way, does Patanjali ever suggest that the divine has made us in any way, merely that the divine has set the prakritic process into motion here, Krishna is going to add another variable is going to add the variable of the Lord, and he’s going to identify with that variable. He’s going to say he is that agency and that agency that made the world a certain way, didn’t make us subject or victim to our material nature, to our natural state, that natural state he says belongs simply to the terms and conditions of how we experience embodied. As souls, we are free beings as creatures of a deep experiential identity, a sense of ourselves. We are not victim nor subject to the terms that merely impose themselves on us  by the limitations and restrictions that come with material embodiment, that belongs to prakriti.

Now as if this weren’t enough. Krishna commends this understanding about the nature of action as the form of what he calls the true knowledge. Ignorance, obscures insight. That is why people get confused, he says.

And of those with true knowledge,
knowledge illumines, like a sun, that Supreme reality,
it destroys this ignorance about the self
with true knowledge.

The true knowledge is not merely the nature of the self. This is what’s so integral and critical to Krishna’s understanding. True knowledge is about the nature of our actions and the identity that we forge with respect to action and its consequences.
So knowledge has to do with how we understand our actions and who we understand to be that author, that agency, that provocateur of action and that as we perform the actions of, of our lives in necessary, inevitable, required ways, it as nitya-karmas, that then become naimitica occasional karmas. We turn more clearly to how we victimize ourselves by placing expectations upon desires that are unreliable, that by placing goals before us, that have nothing to do with the actions themselves, by accepting the consequences of actions like victims, rather than like empowered beings who simply must act in the clarity of their own self understanding about who is acting and what actions mean

Chapter five is where Krishna makes the very famous remark

Wise are they who see no difference
between a learned well-mannered Brahman, a cow, an elephant,
a dog, and an eater of dogs.

This is an entirely culturally founded understanding in this comparison. One that the bears a moments comment. Few things in India are more reviled than the dog as a scavenger, as a part of domesticated society that stands entirely outside it’s the boundaries of purity to say nothing of an eater of dogs who twice fails to understand, the innocence of the creature in this live and let with society. And at the same time, it’s impurity. It’s the place where the dog is understood to be that most marginal of beings while the Brahman and the cow and the elephant are the most significant, the least marginalized, the most centered and important beings. That Krishna commends us to see no difference among these things is a feature of how he understands the nature of action to apply equally in all cases, no matter what it is we are doing and how it is, we are acting, we should act in the same sense of deep principle. Even as the insight into the nature of the immortal presence of identity is going to be the same, whether we are looking at this difference or that one, that we prefer, one that we honor, or one that we revile. Krishna understanding here is that the expansive power of the universe is flawless and indifferent to these distinctions, precisely because it is entirely inclusive and comprehensive. Nothing is going to be excluded here. And that in that sense, the mention of no difference between a Bradman and an eater of dogs is a way of saying also that everyone gets to have their role. Everyone has their place, even in the grand sense that their identity must be essentially one, essentially true and radically affirmed.

Now such a being of deeply internalized application to that singularity of focused consciousness, he says, becomes this interested in outer sense impressions. He finds the happiness that is in himself, and his spirit is yoked with yoga and yoked with the yoga of this expansive, absolute the Brahman. He tastes the happiness that is permanent and pleasures and sense impressions are sources of unhappiness because he says they are ephemeral because they have beginnings and ends, but it is an endless process of that expansive yoking with yoga to that possibility that the happiness that we seek, the contentment we create within us.

Here’s the critical point that distinguishes this ascetic from the ordinary being that is from the person of the world, from the person of actions. He says

The beatitude that his Brahman
lies before the ascetics root of craving and anger,
tame their thinking
and knowing themselves in this way.

The ascetics, I think Krista means are exactly like the worldlings who understand the nature of action and the inviolate and immutable sense of the Self as that principle that allows us to find and rivet ourselves to the deep identity that is exempt from these mere conditions in terms of our everyday-ness. But here, now he goes on to define that ascetic

Keeping outside the impressions
from the outside world,
centering the gaze between the brows
evening out the products of inhalation and exhalation
with nostrils controlling senses,
totally devoted to release
without a trace of desire, fear, anger,
such a seer is released forever.

Krishna has in mind two very distinctive characters, the ones who continue to act in the world, knowing that the yoga of actions leaves them in exactly that same place of karmic exemption from unwanted and untoward consequences from that feeling of captivity or victimization, exactly the way the Yogi who withdraws his senses, who controls his mind and spirit who leaves out the outside impressions of the outside world. Krishna equates these two as liberated beings, as beings fully experiencing  the fullness and, and the wholeness of their freedom and the absence of the sense of captivity but by very different means.

As he begins, chapter six, Krishna equates the state of the renouncers, who has turned inward and closed off the impressions of the outside world. And the one who truly acts in the world, understanding entirely the fullness and the implications of karma yoga.

One who performs the task set for him
without interest in its fruit
is the true announcer and yoga,
and not the one who does not maintain the fire
and fails to perform the rights.

And here Krista clearly means that the true announcer is superior in the being who remains acting in the world, but who has that same state, that same claim upon the inviolate sense of identity and the clear sense of the purpose of actions being necessary and inevitable that same focused and concentrated being, uh, who like the introverted Yogi, shares that state of focused awareness and deep understanding of identity and the nature of actions. But again, important to know that Krishna holds these two states identical, but sees the actor in the world as superior

Famously then he says,

We become our own friends
and we become our own enemies
by the way, in which we treat ourselves,
by the way, in which we identify our actions
as who we are.

This is going to lead us to very interesting, further conversation as we turn next week to Kashmir Shaivism who in fact is the agent and the actor, but let’s turn these comments and expand the Gita again in light of Patanjali’s yoga Sutra.

Now with the opening of the third chapter of the Yoga Sutra in the Vibhuti Pada where potentially wants to talk about the manifest powers of yoga, he begins by leading us through this description of the integrated states of the focused consciousness, much like the way Krishna describes the state of the introverted yogin. Patanjali begins by describing dharana, concentration, as a process of fixing the mind in one place, what he calls desha-bandha, binding it to a place.
And then there are two passages in Mahabharata that list between 7 and 10 different descriptions of these dhranas, these directed processes of the autonomy of external objects and the wonderful powers that are conferred upon the yogi who has the ability to retain and sustain such a stability of consciousness.

The commentators on Patanjali tell us that these kinds of concentrative processes of fixing the mind are saguna, they are with the gunas, they are with that understanding that the natural states of the prakritic consciousness are part of this understanding and that there may in fact be a personal form of God or an object of meditation that is the divine that becomes the focus of this understanding.

In chapter seven, Krishna is going to tell us, to remind ourselves, to yoke ourselves in him.

When he sees me and everything,
he sees everything in me
and I will not be lost to him,
and he will not be lost to me.

Now, this insight in chapter six is very much comparable to Patanjali’s claim that this focused meditation upon one object or upon the nature of the divine is that way in which we arrive at the singular state of fixed in mind, Krishna quite clearly aligns himself with that process of saguna meditation, meditation with the gunas, with the object, or with the sense  of there being an object for meditation, that object being the divine Krishna, and clearly identifies himself as that object.

He who shares in me
as living in all creatures
and thus becomes one with me.
He is a Yogin,
However he moves, he moves in me.

So with this personal sense of the Lord, there’s no desire to think of anything else. There is a kind of complete attractiveness and a deep sense of focused concentration. The mind Patanjali suggests is so then spontaneously fixed and Krishna calls this process in the Gita, effortless even as Patanjali refers to such a, dharana such a fixing of the mind as spontaneous or natural.

When Patanjali turns to the seventh limb of yoga dhyana  meditation in verse 3.2 <<sanskrit>> meditation is the one pointedness of the mind on one image.
This continuous flow, this notion of being without distraction of having only one focus is as we’ve been saying, all throughout this conversation, this uninterrupted sense of eke-tanata an object of consciousness flowing, uninterruptedly moving as that singular focus of attention, that to Krishna will identify as himself in chapter six of the Gita

Yoking himself.
He says

always in just such a manner,
the taintless Yogin effortlessly savers, the infinite bliss.
That is the touch of the absolute expanse
Yoked in yoga, he sees himself in all creatures,
all creatures in himself.
He sees everything in equanimity.
He sees everything the same

Arjuna objects in chapter six, he says,

The Yoga you propound is equanimity.
I can’t see how it might stay stable
because we are changeful beings.
The mind is always changing,
whirling, domineering and tough.
I see it as no more susceptible to control
than the wind itself.

Krishna replys,

No doubt the mind is mercurial
difficult to hold down,
but with tenacity and dispassion, it can be held.

And while they agree that this yoga is hard to achieve for one who isn’t master of himself, Krishna replies, it can be achieved with the right means by a self-controlled person who makes the effort. It is that sense of ardor, of commitment of dhirdam, of firmness, that Krishna says, however difficult, however rare, is something a Yogan can achieve it, be done, and it can be done by our efforts. This is the clear message of chapters five and six. There is no extraordinary appeal. One turns one’s concentration to Krishna as Krishna. Krishna becomes that eka-tanita that one place where the heart and the mind can go and to receive that fullness of experience, but it is not an appeal to Krishna to be that support or that identity, that devotional giver of this ability. Here, like the Yoga Sutra I think the Gita commends the idea that it is by our self efforts and by that firmness of effort that a yogin becomes one capable of achieving these results.

Patanjali’s commentators make a comparable point. They tell us that dharana and dhyana won’t be disrupted if we turn our attentions to the full absorption in the object, Vijnanbhiksu, one of the great commentaries on the samkhya sutras says just like the arrow maker, his whole being is engrossed in the arrow who was not aware of the king, even passing by his side. It is that complete commitment, that sense of firmness and effort, and that reliance upon one’s own abilities that both Patanjali and the Bhagavad Gita commend as that critical feature and capacity of the Yogin. It is temerity turn to that honeybadger inside yourself. Don’t relinquish that for a moment. And that becomes the source of yoga’s empowerment.

That turns for a moment to the Mahabharata here, the sage Yajnavalkya says to king Janakha, there is no knowledge equal to this samkhya, there is no power like that yoga, but both of these are the same path. And both are said to lead to immortality and to only people lacking in wisdom could say that these are different, but we see them as one, without any doubt. Hear the voice of Yajnavalkhya we receive almost the identical teaching of Krishna later on in the Gita. But this story is posed as an ancient one. And as one that in some profound sense, bears no direct relationship to the Bhagavad Gita in the Mahabharata. And yet what we find is a long and detailed description of the characteristics of the Yogi. One who quote, displays a tranquility like that of a contented person who sleeps blissfully. The wise speak of the Yogi, like an upward motionless, flame, like a wham full of oil burning in a windless place, like a rock incapable of being moved when pummeled by torrents of rain, pouring from clouds. The demeanor of the Yogi is not moved by the noise of conks and drums played nor by outbursts of songs, these are the characteristics of the Sage, which displayed are due to resolve and to controlling the activities of the senses. This long, beautiful passage between the Sage, Yajnavalkhya and the famous king Janaka, a trope that’s repeated again he Chandogya Upanishad where a comparable dialogue is offered up all of these, give us the setting of the Yogi, that definitional paradigm that becomes critical to the understandings that are going to be universally shared about what it means to be a being of concentration, a being a focus, a being who occludes the interests and distractions of the outside world in order to find the deep sense of focus and identity within.

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