Recorded on June 16, 2020
We start with a recap of Chapter Six up to the current verse of the Bhagavad Gita.
- Yoga is engagement with the world, not retreat from it.
- One is elevated in yoga when they renounce material desires and act for the wellbeing of others.
- The purpose of the mind is to accept and reject. Yoga is focusing the mind.
- A yogi regards all beings equally.
- Krishna instructs Arjuna in the practices of mystic yoga.
- A yogi is regulated in habits such as eating and sleeping.
- The perfected yogi does not desire any material gains.
Gradually, step by step, one should become situated in trance by means of intelligence sustained by full conviction, and thus the mind should be fixed on the Self alone and should think of nothing else.
Mentioned in this podcast
loka-sangraha – to work for the welfare of all beings
paramatma – “Supersoul,” God in the heart of each being as witness and well-wisher accompanying each soul through its many births
pratyahara – controlling the senses
rasa – essence, taste, flavor, mood
samadhi – As the final stage of Patanjali’s eightfold yoga, samadhi is usually considered a shedding of all ego and a complete union with God, a merging in ultimate reality, what might be qualified as nirguna-samadhi. Bhakti leads to saguna-samadhi, or union with God in love, in interest, which implies retaining one’s gunas or qualities. Only in bhakti is ananda part of samadhi. There is no ananda in nirguna-samadhi, only sat and chit features of self-realization.
sisya – student
Joshua: Welcome one and all. I wanted to just recap. This is the sixth chapter of the Gita, which is particularly dedicated to yoga practice.[00:00:14] The Gita, which is a very short text, is compact in its knowledge. It touches on everything from good governance to the structure of a balanced social system, cosmology, it touches on health, wellness, and diet. It speaks about the purpose behind creation, the various planetary systems, it discusses at least 10 different yoga systems. There’s an analysis by Krishna on human psychology–the way the mind focuses on an object and that attention develops into a desire and desire into action. Which is, by the way, an interesting formula for abuse, drug abuse, or other sorts of dependencies, to learn to capture a thought before it becomes a desire. That’s a whole other discussion that we could have. [00:01:03] There are many topics in the Gita. Six chapters specifically about the yoga system. And I wanted to recap quickly where we’ve come to in this sixth chapter. It starts off by Sri Krishna describing for Arjuna that real yoga means engagement in the world. Remember context. Arjuna wishes to move away from the battlefield. [00:01:23] The first thing you do when you confront something you don’t want to do is you rationalize why you shouldn’t do it. And that’s what Arjuna has done and Krishna says, slow down. You’re misinterpreting what yoga means. Yoga means to be deeper into the life you have, not to covet some life you do not have. [00:01:43] He starts off with that in the sixth chapter and then he goes into a description that someone is elevated in yoga when having renounced material desire, he acts for the wellbeing of others. The Sanskrit is loka sangraha. Loka, or the world or all people. Sangraha, the well-being of all, is the ultimate flower of yoga practice. [00:02:06] Then moving into the fifth and sixth verses, focus on the mind. Yoga as, initially, from the beginning, a practice of understanding, the workings of the mind and how to control those workings. We discussed how the purpose of the mind is to accept and reject. It’s a fast reflex and it’s meant to be quick because it’s a survival instinct. You don’t want to be going into deep analysis and contemplation if there’s a car coming at you, you just want to get out of the way. [00:02:36] So, Krishna is describing for Arjuna, you cannot practice yoga if you allow thoughts to take control of your life. And then he says this interesting thing in the seventh verse, that if you can do that, the Supersoul is already reached. Supersoul is a palpable presence of divinity in the heart of all living beings. It’s not just a hallmark card that God is in your heart, but an actual physical presence or metaphysical presence. That is the source, if you will, of higher wisdom. When we slow down, when we take the time to breathe and listen to that deeper inner voice of wisdom, the source of that wisdom is Paramatma. And it takes some practice, but eventually, we can be in touch with that source of inner wisdom, 24-7. [00:03:21] He then goes on to describe that a person is considered even further advanced in yoga when he regards honest well-wishers, affectionate benefactors, the neutral mediators, the envious friends and enemies, the pious and the sinners all with an equal mind. Imagine what Arjuna must’ve been thinking here. He is on a battlefield and Krishna is saying, “You’re dear to me if you see your enemies with the same honor and respect as your friends. Now go kill your enemies.” How do we reconcile these things? This is a big mystery of the Gita. [00:04:09] Then moving on, starting with verse twelve where Krishna describes the actual system of mystic yoga practice. You go to a secluded place, you stop breathing, you stop eating, you stop doing everything. Focus on the tip of the nose, eyes half-closed so you don’t fall asleep and you don’t get distracted by things around you, merge the incoming and outgoing breath. Arjuna says, “Can’t do it too, hard for me.” And now we’re coming a little bit closer to today’s verse where Krishna, by versus 17, 18, says at least be regulated, at least to be moderate. [00:04:45] He says in verse 17, he who is regulated and habits of eating, sleeping, recreation, and work can mitigate material pains by practicing the yoga system. Then this beautiful analogy that’s very famous– as a lamp in a windowless place does not waver, so the transcendentalist whose mind is controlled remains always steady in his meditation on the transcendental self. [00:05:11] And then the last couple of classes we’ve been talking about samadhi, trance, this amazing description in verses 20 through 23, that someone who has achieved that perfection of the yoga practice doesn’t want anything anymore. They’re home. They’re free. They’ve reached the place they wanted to reach. Time disappears. What they do is, in and of itself, satisfying. [00:05:34] There’s a study that was conducted by the Hungarian sociologist, Csikszentmihalyi, where he went around the world conducting interviews with 8,000 people all up and down the social-economic scale of different countries and the head of Sony industries and blind Sherpa cheesemakers and business heads and, farmers, poets, and painters. [00:05:56] What he found was that the thing that makes people happy –he identified eight symptoms of what he called “flow”. They published a book in the late eighties called Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Same symptoms as in these four verses from sixth chapter that you’re writing happy in what you’re doing. You’re not doing it because there’s some product that’s going to come out at the other end. When he first started these interviews, he thought painters are going to be satisfied when the painting is done, because then you can exhibit it and you can sell it, you can get it reviewed, you can build a reputation. [00:06:30] It was in the act of painting. There’s a kind of rhythm that’s established in doing the work that you know you can do, that you feel good about doing, everything else disappears. And something rather extraordinary, all of the people interviewed who had achieved this place of flow or optimal experience said that they felt they had disappeared. [00:06:53] Now, obviously, if they’re there to explain what they went through, they didn’t totally disappear. But what disappeared was the material ego that very often makes of an act, something selfish. They disappeared because the work took over. It was something that became a part of their being. And that’s described here. I recommend you go back to these verses to just review those symptoms of samadhi. [00:07:21] Now, last week we talked about engaging in the practice of yoga with undeviating determination and faith and abandoning all desires born of mental speculation. We had a little bit of review, though I apologize if that was a little too dense with sociological information. We talked about Max Weber and how the culture around us today is one that has evolved over time–that things weren’t always so capitalistic, so consumer-oriented. There was a time– pre-modern era–when people worked just a few hours a day. The rest of the time was reserved for prayer, meditation, study, communal activity. It was a very different kind of environment. [00:08:05] Here’s our verse for today–verse 25 of the six chapter. “Gradually, step by step, once you become situated in trance by means of intelligence sustained by full conviction, and thus the mine should be fixed on the Self alone and should think of nothing else.” There’s a very brief commentary here by Srila Prabhupada that I’d like to read– it’s only about 10 lines. [00:08:29] “By proper conviction and intelligence, one should gradually cease sense activities. This is called Pratyahara. The mind being controlled by conviction, meditation, and cessation from the senses, should be situated in trance, or samadhi. At that time there is no longer any danger of becoming engaged in the material conception of life. In other words, although one is involved with matter as long as the material body exists, one should not think about sense gratification. Once you think of no pleasure aside from the pleasure of the Supreme Self. This state is easily attained by directly practicing”–what Prabhupada called–“Krishna Consciousness.” [00:09:14] Where are we here? Well, Krishna continues to encourage Arjuna. He’s telling him, “you may find this difficult, but you can do it.” Krishna never asks of Arjuna anything that he’s incapable of actually executing. That’s the nature of a true teacher or guru. A guru does not ask anything unreasonable of a disciple. That’s a hallmark of a healthy teacher-disciple relationship. That there’s some trust and confidence there. It’s a difficult thing to achieve. It’s basically a relationship of love. If you’ve been in a loving relationship, you may know that it takes work. It doesn’t just come easily. [00:09:57] So, Arjuna had trust already in Krishna. They had known each other from childhood. They were childhood friends. Arjuna was married to Krishna’s sister, so they had a family relationship as well. So, even though they were in that very friendly, casual relationship, Arujna makes a very important decision. He says,”śiṣyas te ’haṁ śādhi māṁ tvāṁ prapannam.” He said to Krishna, “I’m in trouble here. I don’t know what to do. Please, accept me as your śiṣya. śiṣyas te ’haṁ śādhi māṁ tvāṁ prapannam. I wish to set aside the friendly family relationship we have. I’d like you to mentor me. I need some guidance here.” That’s precious. That’s a beautiful gift. I feel privileged that I had that with my teacher. I had a relationship of disciple and guru with someone who really set me up for the rest of my life. I think everything that’s happened since then, that was in 1970, everything that’s happened since then has been filtered through that realization that here’s someone who will never harm me. [00:11:03] People ask very often, “What was it like to be with Prabhupada? What was it like to be with a perfected yogi? You know, someone who knew God, spoke directly with divinity?” The best way I can describe it, is to say, you felt confident that this is someone who would never hurt you. This is someone who would never do anything other than what is for your benefit, for your wellbeing. [00:11:27] I knew someone who had been abused in her childhood and it was by her stepfather. She was coming to Gita classes at Jivamukti Yoga. She was coming regularly–every week and chanting japa and very enthusiastic. And then after a while, I didn’t see her. Then I bumped into her and said, “How come I haven’t seen you around much?” And she said, “Well, I’m finding myself attracted to Jesus.” [00:12:03]So, we sat down and talked about it and, to make a long discussion short, it turned out that she had concerns about Krishna because of the descriptions of Krishna dancing with the gopis and behaving a little bit like a Playboy and she felt herself more comfortable with Jesus because Jesus was a celibate. [00:12:28]Interesting psychology here, that she was hesitant, concerned about Krishna because the description of Krishna is someone who plays freely with everyone and in her mind that kind of open play became associated with very dark experiences from early life. With Jesus, she saw someone who would not hurt her because of his social position, his spiritual position as a celibate teacher. [00:13:01] It’s fascinating how the psychology weaves its way into the transcendent teachings. If we’re fortunate, if we’re lucky, we find someone who can sort things through for us and offer us guidance without triggering those concerns. [00:13:19] Just one last point about the class last week, the idea behind giving you that history of how consumer capitalism developed, was simply to say that that may be the environment we live in, but it does not define who we are. The teachings of Gita, the practice of yoga, is a reminder of what our options are–that we have options. We do not have to be controlled by the environment around us. There is a beautiful place, which is the original nature of the self, that yoga brings us to. That’s a foundation that we can really build a lovely culture around. [00:13:59] Okay, I’m going to stop there and let’s open this up to some discussion. [00:14:04] Student: What does Krishna mean when he says the mind should be fixed on the Self alone? [00:14:09] Joshua: Well, there are two selves that we can fix the mind on. One is our self, that is to say the individual being, the inhabitant, animating the body with consciousness. You might say that’s the self with the small S. The other Self, with a capital S, is the Paramatma, the indwelling divinity–Krishna in the heart. [00:14:32] The Vedantic school of yoga focuses on those two selves as one in the same. The Vedantic idea is that we are divinity and that the perfection, the fulfillment of yoga, is when you realize that you are Krishna, you are everything. The Bhakti school says, well, that may be true qualitatively, but quantitatively, the individual self remains small while the Supreme Self is great. God is great. We are small, like a drop of water in the ocean. The analogy is often used imperfectly to suggest that when that drop of water is deposited back in the ocean, it loses its individuality and it becomes one with the ocean. So, the soul, realized of its eternal nature, again becomes one with all creation. [00:15:29] Think about this for a moment. Does a drop of water actually become the ocean? No, you may not be able to see that drop anymore because it’s disguised in the vast mass of ocean water, but a drop is never quantitatively equivalent to an ocean. So, the self, with that small S, we individual beings, we are one in quality with that Supreme being, but never have the same quantity. [00:15:57] Student: What was your answer to the person who had the impression of Krishna as a Playboy? [00:16:02] Joshua: Well, you want to encourage people, so I did not try to discourage her. If that’s the path that she’s comfortable with, then she should pursue that path. I cannot say that I’ve ever met someone who was truly spiritually advanced, who impressed me, who touched me, who was sectarian in his or her perspective on things. I think that may also be sign of spiritual advancement–is that you’re capable of seeing the truth in its many different forms. [00:16:37] However, being a sectarian Krishna-ite, we also talked about how it may be a misimpression to think that Krishna is a Playboy. That relationship of Krishna and the gopi coward women in Vrindavan is technically known as madhuyra rasa. The word rasa means flavor varieties of flavors. In the Bhakti realm, in the Bhakti yoga, devotional yoga tradition, the word rasa applies to the different kinds of love. Those of you who have children, there’s a parental rasa with your children. [00:17:14] Dasya rasa is a relationship of servitude or looking up to someone as a superior. Madhurya rasa, the conjugal love, is the ecstatic unfettered expression of the soul’s ultimate volcanic love of God. The imagery that surrounds that extended love resembles erotic play between boys and girls. And to someone for whom that is fearful or dangerous, it may appear to be wrong. So, we talked about the difference between the material and the spiritual. But I hope I didn’t try. I don’t think I was trying to convert anyone to a different point of view. [00:18:04] Yadunath: You mentioned in the purport, this line just caught me so maybe you could just comment on this. “In other words, although one is involved with matter as long as the material about exists, one should not think about sense gratification.” Hello? What? Isn’t this the purpose of life? [00:18:23] Joshua: Yes. Yes. We are pleasure-loving creatures. You’re absolutely correct. [00:18:26] Yadunath: So how is it possible to not think about it? [00:18:30] Joshua: Alright, here’s the Gita’s answer to that question. We’re born into this life with a kind of destiny, and just as you do not have to go out of your way to find sadness, to find challenges, to find sickness or setbacks, these things will find you out. You don’t have to try to find them. In the same way, you don’t have to try to find pleasure. Pleasure will find you out. You can save time. Focus on the noble themes and contributions that you can uniquely make to the world around you and those other issues will get resolved automatically. [00:19:13] It’s very unusual, it’s very un-American that idea because you were born into a culture that says, “go for it,” you know? Be bold! Be the individual you were meant! Go, go for it! So, here’s this view of life, which is– no, you don’t need to. Those things are taken care of. [00:19:31] I remember being on a morning walk with Prabhupada in Hyde Park, London We walked by a tree and there were birds in the tree chirping away like crazy. I mean, some kind of a jam session. Prabhupada said they don’t get up in the morning in the morning, worrying about how they’re going to earn a living. God is providing for them. And he used to– well, not exactly make fun, I think he felt great compassion for people who had to commute to work, which is something we’re not doing at the moment, but there was a time I was going an hour and 15 or 20 minutes into the city from here, something like that. So, two and a half hours, at least, everyday commuting. [00:20:13] Can I tell you a little story? We’re running a few minutes over, but I want to tell you a story. It’s called The Cracked Pot. There was a servant whose job it was to carry water from a river to his master’s house. He carried the water in two large pots, which he hung on the ends of a pole and one pot was broken and always leaked water. The other one was not broken and it always delivered all the water. At the end of the walk from the river to the house, the cracked pot was always arriving always half empty. [00:20:49] So this went on for a few years and the unbroken pot, the whole pot, was very proud of its accomplishments and the cracked pot was always very sad because it was imperfect and it was ashamed that it can only do half of what was expected to do. So, the cracked pot said to its master, “I apologize. I must apologize to you. I’ve only delivered half of my water because of this leak in my side and because of my flaws, you do all this work, but you only get half the value of your efforts. So, I’m really sorry that I’ve messed things up for you.” The water bearer smiled and said, let me show you something. He walked and took the cracked pot by the path and he said, “Have you ever noticed that there are flowers here on your side of the path, but there are no flowers on the other side of the path? I’ve known about your leaks forever. I always knew you had leaks, so I planted seeds on your side of the path. And every day, as we’ve been walking back and forth from the river, you’ve been watering those seeds. And now after several years due to this unique quality of yours, I’ve been able to pick beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s home. If you didn’t have this special quality of all of these cracks, there wouldn’t be such beauty in my master’s home.”
[00:22:18] So what is it that yoga is trying to say to us? That we’re all cracked pots. You know, we’re all crackpots! But it’s that uniqueness of our flaws and imperfections, you might call them, that makes life interesting and rewarding. So, don’t hold yourself or anyone else up to some rigid standard of perfection, take people for who they are and look for the good in them. [00:22:49] So, I guess blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape or something else. I always loved that story. I think that’s what we’re being reminded of– you don’t need to give into some artificial image of what the contented life or a full life is. It’s already there, just admire and appreciate the miracle of what’s already around us. It’s pretty cool. [00:23:17] Yadunath: From one crackpot to another, thank you very much. [00:23:18] Joshua: You got it. All right. Thank you all so much. It’s a pleasure spending time with you as always.