How to Practice Bhakti (Gita 12.8-12)

Texts 8 through 12 of the Gita’s 12th chapter are an important section conveying a message well worth reiterating for clarity.

8: The essence of bhakti-yoga is to enwrap your heart and mind in Krishna. The best way to do this is out of heartfelt desire to attain divine love, a desire that results from deep wisdom. (rāgānugā-sādhana)

9: When such heartfelt desires are absent, one should fall back upon the strength of willpower to keep one’s heart and mind wrapped around Krishna. (vaidhi-sādhana)

10: If willpower is insufficient, one must at least engage in the physical actions of bhakti-yoga. (karma in bhakti-yoga)

11: If we cannot do this, we fall outside the realm of bhakti-yoga but can still make progress towards it by giving away all the rewards of our actions. (karma-yoga).

12: If we can’t do this, we need to get a deeper philosophy, contemplate it carefully, and keep trying.

Did You Just Do That?

This is an excerpt from my presentation of Bhagavad-Gita, 18.15-17

Krishna: My friend, our science describes five things required to accomplish any action.

Arjuna: What are they?

Krishna: They are the venue, performer, instruments, techniques, and of course divinity. In the most abstract sense, the venue is the world your body inhabits, the performer is your ego, the instruments are your senses, the techniques are the muscles and so forth that utilize those senses, and divinity is the Supersoul. These five are the causes initiating any action a person performs with their body, words, or even in their thoughts.

Someone who sees himself as the sole agent of his deeds has not really developed any intelligence, and is blinded by stupidity. Do not let your intellect be shackled and bound by such an egoistic concept. Realize that you are not the true agent of your action and even if you have to kill all these soldiers you will never be bound to the worldly reactions of your deeds.

Are You A Sanyassi?

This is an excerpt from my presentation of Bhagavad Gita, 18.7-10.

English: Sanyasi at Kathmandu

Arjuna: You mentioned three grades of renunciation. What are they?

Krishna: Out of confusion, those in darkness (tamas) give up responsibilities that should never be forsaken.

Passionate people (rajas) give up difficult and disturbing responsibilities that get in the way of their bodily comfort. This will never grant the fruit of true renunciation.

Those in clarity (sattva) carry out their responsibilities thinking, “This is my duty.” They renounce any connection to the rewards of these actions. They don’t detest unpleasant work, nor are they particularly attached to pleasant deeds. These intelligent people are free of all doubts and completely clear about renunciation.

Identity of the Soul

Arjuna: Who are the creatures dwelling in the upside-down tree?

7-8

Krishna: The living creatures in this living world are certainly eternal fragments of me. Situating themselves within material nature, they draw unto themselves six sensual capacities, headed by the mind.

Thus the soul develops and dissolves its bodies.  Like the wind carrying a scent, the soul carries the subtle elements of one body into the next.

Arjuna: Why does the soul change bodies?

9-11

Krishna: The soul changes bodies because it wishes to enjoy sense objects in various ways. Each body offers a different aural, visual, tactile, gustatory (taste), and olfactory (smell) array.

Sometimes staying in a body, sometimes giving it up, sometimes enjoying the wealth of the three qualities; those with informed vision can see what is really going on, but great fools cannot recognize it, even when shown.

Serious spiritualists can also see the soul doing all these things, but those who are serious to avoid the soul are basically unconscious, and thus blind to it.

The World is an Upside-Down Tree!

 

1-4

 

Banyan Tree in Lahaina

Krishna: They say this world is a Banyan tree whose roots are above and branches below, and whose attractive leaves are promises of enjoyment. He who knows this tree well knows the methods of gaining such enjoyment.

 

Watered by the three qualities of nature, its branches expand in all directions, upwards and downwards, finally producing buds of enjoyable sense objects. From these branches, roots also fall downwards and find nourishment in the selfish deeds of the mortal world.

 

The real tree is elsewhere, and this is merely a reflection, with no end, no beginning, and no real substance. This Banyan cannot be uprooted, but it must be tenaciously cut down with the axe of indifference to it.

 

Once it is felled, you must search out what is beyond it; some place from which no one ever strays. There, finally, seek for that Original Person – the ancient one from whom the true tree grows – and give yourself to him.

 

Arjuna: How can I succeed in such an amazing quest?

 

5

 

Krishna: Be free from the intoxication of honor and cast off your faulty entourage. Dwell always in yourself, and curb down external lusts. Free yourself from dualities like pleasure and displeasure. Then you can attain that foolproof, eternal destination.

 

Arjuna: Can you say something more about this destination?

 

6

 

Krishna: The sun does not shine there, nor the moon, nor fire. In that place from which no one strays, I am the supreme illumination.

 

Rising Beyond the Three Qualities of Nature

21

Arjuna: My competent friend, what are the essential qualities of people who have surpassed the three qualities [of material nature]? What is their behavior? How do they rise beyond these qualities?

22-23

Krishna: If you rise beyond the three qualities of nature, you will have these essential qualities: You will not love or hate the flourishing or abatement of any of the symptoms of the three qualities, like illumination, accumulation, or illusion.

You will be seated neutrally, apart from such things, unmoved by them, knowing, “This is just the business of nature’s qualities.” Thus you will be very firm and never waver.

Arjuna: What would my behavior be like?

24-25

Krishna: When you do not invest yourself into these qualities, and instead remain situated within your true self, you become equal towards pleasure and displeasure. You behave towards gold as you behave towards dirt and stone. You behave towards the unwanted as you behave towards the dear. You behave in criticism as you behave in great praise. You feel behave in honor as you behave in dishonor. You behave towards enemies as you behave towards friends.

You completely give up all new enterprises and efforts, considering all results to be the same. Then you would be called “he who is beyond the qualities of nature.”

Arjuna: How can I rise beyond the three qualities and attain this exalted condition?

26

Krishna: If you unwaveringly serve me with affection you thoroughly surpass these qualities and become a spiritual being.

Arjuna: Why is it that by loving you one becomes spiritual?

27

Krishna: Because I am the foundation of spirituality, the essence of the inexhaustible fountain of immortal, ceaseless, penultimate pleasure.

A Survey of the Three Qualities

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 14 of the first draft of the Bhagavad-Gita presentation I am working on.

5

Krishna: Prakṛti, “Nature” is the first thing produced from the singularity. It has three qualities: sattva, rajas, and tamas. My strong friend, these three are the ropes that bind the limitless living being to a body.

Arjuna: Can you explain more about each quality?

6-9

Krishna: Sattva is clear and undistorted and therefore allows the illumination of consciousness to shine brightly. Its rope, though, is the desire for happiness and comprehension.

Rajas is distorted by passion. Its ropes around the living being are ever-rising thirsts and endeavors.

Tamas is the strongest of all. It darkens with ignorance and thus bewilders every soul. It has many ropes, like foolishness, laziness and stagnation.

In summary: Sattva creates happiness. Rajas creates efforts. Tamas eclipses knowledge and creates foolishness.

Spiritual Equality

Excerpt from my forthcoming rendition of Bhagavad-Gita. Chapter 13, from text 28 till the end – a bit abridged.

Krishna: “The Supreme Master is equally situated in all entities. Things which appear to be destroyed are indestructible.” They see this, because they truly see.

Arjuna: There are so many different people and things – how is it possible to see oneness and equality?

Krishna: These differences are in the field only, not in the field-knower. All deeds and endeavors occur in, and by, the field. The field-knower, however, is not truly involved in any of it. That is real vision, try to see it.

Arjuna: Why should I give more preference to the field-knower, the “true self.” Why not focus on its identity as a participant in the field?

Krishna: Even if you focus upon the field, you will find it is all essentially one, despite the infinite variations in its appearance. All the very different external manifestations of things are simply expansions from the singularity of the field. Try to see the truth of this theory and you will have a spiritual vision of the world.

Arjuna: But why shouldn’t I focus upon the being the self becomes when it mixes with its field?

Krishna: Arjuna, the field-knower dwells within the body, but does not blend into it and does not truly do anything with it; because it is a causeless entity, beyond delimitations, inexhaustible, and superior to the field.

Arjuna: How can the soul be within the body, yet not blend into it and become implicated in it?

Krishna: Because it is a substratum, like space. Isn’t space everywhere, yet unblended and quite distinct from everything as well? Similarly, the soul is spread all throughout the body, yet remains distinct and unblended.

Arjuna: If it does not blend with the body, what is the point of spreading through it?

Krishna: To spread the illumination of consciousness! Just as one sun illuminates the entire world, the field-knower illuminate the entire body with consciousness.

Online Gita Class

I would like to teach a 24-hour/session Bhagavad-Gita class online:

  • 1 session for each of the 18 chapters,
  • 1 extra session for each long chapter – 2 and 18
  • 4 sessions free for discussion, and if possible to go into more detail on the Sanskrit of specific important texts

The important part now is to see how many people are seriously interested in taking the course. I’ve done group classes over Skype before for astrology and it is pretty easy and simple. The more students we get, the less the tuition per student. We can accept up to 12 students, and then the tuition per student would be $100.

If you’re interested in this, please ask around / spread the word and see who else might be interested. Once we get a significant list of interested students, we can sort out the schedule details with everyone and get started.

Interested parties should contact me by email, or, if you don’t have my email address, through my contact form. If you have questions or comments you can also comment on this post.

Thank you!

Matter and Spirit

Krishna: What do you already know?

Arjuna: I know the dictionary meanings. The term prakṛti means “energy – the thing from which other things are created.” The term puruṣa means “person – the conscious being.” So, prakṛti is matter, and puruṣa is spirit.

Krishna: Good. Do you know anything else?

Arjuna: I think that matter is the field-of-activity, and spirit is the field-knower.

Krishna: Good. Then, what confuses you about them?

Arjuna: How and when do the two become related?

20

Krishna: You must understand that matter and spirit are both without chronological origins. Their relationship has no beginning.

Arjuna: How can matter be eternal? It is constantly being created and destroyed!

Krishna: Exactly. Matter has delimitations, and is therefore in an eternal state of change.

Arjuna: Spirit has no changes?

21

Krishna: Not directly. Not in the same way that matter does. We say that matter causes the mechanisms and substances of creation. By identifying with these fluctuating substances, spirit experiences a sensation of change. Therefore we say that spirit causes participation in emotions like pleasures and pains.

Arjuna: How do the two become linked together?

22

Krishna: Spirit becomes enmeshed in matter because it wants to enjoy the various things available in the field. That is why spirit embraces qualification and delimitation, and takes birth in matter through various wombs.