The Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 15: The Yoga of the Highest Vision

The Blessed One said:
1. They speak of the changeless peepal tree,
Its roots above, its branches below.
Its leaves are the Vedic hymns.
He who knows it, is the knower of the Veda.

2. Its branches stretch below and above, nourished by the gunas,
Its sprouts being the sense objects.
And down in the world of men,
It spreads out the roots that result in action.

3. Its form is thus not comprehended here,
Nor its end, nor its beginning, nor its foundation;
Cutting off this firmly rooted tree
With the firm weapon of nonattachment,

4. Then they should seek after that path from which, having gone,
Men do not return again. (Saying) I seek refuge only in that primal vision (purusa)
From which this ancient world manifestation came forth.

5. Those who are without arrogance and delusion,
The evil of attachment conquered, established in the inner self,
Freed from desires and from the pairs known as pleasure and pain,
Who are undeluded,
Go to that imperishable abode.

6. The sun does not shine on it, nor the moon nor fire;
After men come to this, my supreme dwelling-place,
They do not return.

7. A fraction of my self, in the world of the living
Becomes a living self, eternal,
And draws into its power the (five) senses and the mind as sixth, T
hat come from prakrti.

8. When the Lord takes on a body and also when he departs from it,
He goes taking these along,
Like the wind carrying perfume from their home.

9. He enjoys the objects of the senses,
Using the ear, eye, touch, taste and smell, and also the mind.

10. The deluded do not perceive him, whether he is departing or is staying,
Or, when experiencing objects joined to the gunas, T
hey see him who have the eye of wisdom.

11. The yogins, by striving, see him also Abiding in their self;
But the mindless whose self is unreadied, Though striving, do not see him.

12. That radiance in the sun which illumines the entire world,
The radiance in the moon and in fire:
Know that radiance as mine.

13. Entering the earth also, I support all beings by my power.
And becoming the sap-natured soma, I also nourish all plants.

14. And becoming the fire inhabiting the body of living beings
And being united with their life-breaths,
I prepare the four kinds of food.

15. And I am seated in the hearts of all;
From me are memory, wisdom and their loss.
I am the one to be known by the Vedas;
The author of the Vedānta,
I am also the knower of the Vedas.

16. There are two purusas in the world, the perishable and the imperishable;
The perishable is all beings, the imperishable is called Kūtastha (the imperishable).

17. But other than these is the uppermost purusa called the supreme self,
Who, as the imperishable Lord,
Enters the three worlds and sustains them.

18. Because I surpass the perishable and even the imperishable,
I am the supreme purusa celebrated in the world and in the Vedas,

19. He who, undeluded, thus knows me, as the supreme purusa (purusottama);
He is all-knowing and worships me with his whole being, O Bhārata.

20. Thus has this most secret teaching been disclosed by me, Blameless One;
Being enlightened to this, O Bhārata, O
ne will be a man possessed of understanding
And will have done his work.

This is the fifteenth chapter, entitled “The Yoga of the Highest Vision” (purusottama-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