The Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 16: The Yoga of the Distinction Between Liberating and Binding Conditions

The Blessed One said:
1. Fearlessness, essential purity of being, perseverance in the yoga of wisdom, 
Charity and self-control and sacrifice, 
Study of the Veda, austerity, rectitude,

2. Nonviolence, truth, freedom from anger, 
Relinquishment, peace, lack of malice, 
Sympathy for beings, freedom from covetousness, 
Gentleness, modesty, absence of fickleness,

3. Vigor, forbearance, firmness, 
Cleanness, loyalty, absence of overweening pride: 
These belong to one whose birth is of a divine condition, O Bhārata.

4. Hypocrisy, insolence, overweening pride and anger, 
Harshness and ignorance: 
These are the endowments of one born of a demonic condition, O Son of Prthā.

5. The divine endowments are said to lead to release; 
The demonic to bondage. Do not grieve, O Pāndava, 
You are born with divine endowments, (best circumstance for gaining freedom).

6. In this world there are two kinds of beings, the divine and demonic. 
The divine has been spoken of at length; 
Hear me now, O Son of Prthā, concerning the demonic.

7. Demonic men know neither action nor its cessation, 
Neither purity nor good conduct, nor truth is in them.

8. They say that the world is without truth, 
Without a foundation, a Lord; 
That it is not produced by orderly complementary union, 
But that it is produced by (the pursuit of) pleasure.

9. Relying on this view, such men, 
Lost in self, small in mind, cruel in deed, 
March forth as enemies, 
Pledged to the destruction of the world.

10. Surrendering to insatiable desire, 
Full of wantonness and arrogance and hypocrisy, 
Holding obscure views through delusion, 
These men act with impure resolve.

11. Clinging to innumerable concerns whose only end is death, 
Completely dedicated to the enjoyment of desire, 
They are convinced that this is all.

12. Bound by hundreds of fetters of desire, 
Dedicated to lust and anger, 
They strive for the gaining of wealth even unjustly 
For the gratification of their desire.

13. “This I have won today; that desire I will obtain; 
This is mine; this wealth will become mine.

14. I have slain that foe, and I will slay others besides; 
I am lord and enjoyer, I am perfect and strong and happy.

“22. The man who is released from these three gates of darkness, O Son of Kuntī, 
Goes to the supreme destination after practising what is good for his self.

23. He who, dismissing the rules of scriptures, 
Acts according to his inclinations, 
Does not reach fulfillment, nor happiness nor the highest destination.

24. Therefore, let the scripture be your standard 
In settling what is to be done and what is not. 
Here on earth you should do the deed called for by the rule of scripture.

This is the sixteenth chapter, entitled “The Yoga of the Distinction Between Liberating and Binding Conditions” (daiuāsurasarnpaduibhāgayoga).

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