Gita Talk #13: “The Infinite God, Composed of All Wonders”

Next week we have another special guest for Gita Talk.  Amy Champ will lead us through a discussion of Chapter 12 of the Bhagavad Gita, The Yoga of Devotion

Amy is a yoga teacher finishing her PhD program at University of California, Davis. She is currently working on her dissertation about women yoga teachers and their activism. 

Amy has a special affection for this subject and I’m very pleased that she has agreed to lead the next Gita Talk.


For this week, I’d like to continue our discussion of the rhapsodic poetry of Chapters 10 & 11.  Here are some of my other favorite excerpts to get your mind going.  (Mitchell considers these chapters to be the climax of the entire Gita):

The whole universe, all things
animate or inanimate,
are gathered here—look!—enfolded
inside my infinite body.   (BG 11.7)

crowned with fire, wrapped
in pure light, with celestial fragrance,
he stood forth as the infinite
God, composed of all wonders.   (BG 11.11)

Arjuna saw the whole universe 
enfolded, with its countless billions
of life-forms, gathered together
in the body of the God of gods.   (BG 11.13)

I see you everywhere, with billions
of arms, eyes, bellies, faces,
without end, middle, or beginning,
your body the whole universe, Lord.   (BG 11.16)

…You are both being and nonbeing,
and what is beyond them both.

the primal God, the primordial
Person, the ultimate place
of the universe, the knower and the known,
the presence that fills all things.   (BG 11.37-38)

…Majesty infinite in power,
you pervade—no, you are all things.   (BG 11.40)

He who acts for my sake,
loving me, free of attachment,
with benevolence toward all beings,
will come to me in the end.   (BG 11.55)

Please give us you thoughts.

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31 replies on “Gita Talk #13: “The Infinite God, Composed of All Wonders””

He who acts for my sake,
loving me, free of attachment,
with benevolence toward all beings,
will come to me in the end. (BG 11.55)

That's the one paragragh that speaks to me the most. Reminds me of the pagan commandment "so long as it harms none, do what thou will"

I really like the pagan commandment. In and of itself, it implies nothing other than what it states. The meaning of the passage in the Gita depends entirely on what "my sake" means and that is never clearly stated. Anyone can believe it means whatever they want it to mean and they do. Thus, we really don't know the meaning of that passage. Sounds nice though. Very poetic. I'd guess that the core meaning was once: "Be loving and benevolent to beings and attempt to do so without regard for outcomes." Then religion got ahold of it and attached all the other stuff. When I read these kinds of texts, I look for what I think the true original meaning was or the least modified description of the direct experience that led to the ideas in the first place. It often comes out something like what you noted from the pagan commandment.

So, Bob, while your dutiful readers have been fulfilling their Gita reading assignments, I certainly hope you've been following my instructions about reading Whitman's "Song of Myself" in that massive 900+ page Kindle book you got and are prepared to compare it to these particular lines from the Gita (you might start with the part where he introduces himself–can't remember what section it is, but in the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, which didn't feature an author's name on the cover or title page, it was actually the only mention of his name in the book–"Walt Whitman, a kosmos, of Manhattan the son" thus bringing together both the most micro- and macro-cosmic senses of the self). Discuss.

Here is a line to compare with the Gita:

"Allah is all, all, all-immanent in every life and object,
Maybe at many and many a more removes, yet Allah, Allah, Allah is there."

Now, Krisha claims the same ground. This raises the question of which would win in a fist fight. I saw Santa and Jesus fight one time, but I don't remember who won that one.

Hi, Carol.

Our special guest Graham Schweig from Gita Talk #8 feels he has produced a translation that captures the feel of the Sanskrit by following the Sanskrit sentence structure.

This makes it a little harder to read at first, but it does give you a better feel for the original Sanskrit intent. You can browse samples at the Amazon page link on Gita Talk #8.

Bob Weisenberg

Whoa, dude, that's like sooooooo totally spiritual and shit. I just smoked some kind and cranked up this totally awesome Phish board from the 97 New Years show before reading it and I'm like totally trippin' out on it and shit..

You can't fool me, Jay. Don't forget, I was living in the San Francisco area during the original hippie uprising.

Phish? You got to be kidding me. That's who I took my son to see when he was 15. I saw Cream at the Fillmore in SF.

It does sound sort of like an LSD trip, doesn't it? Not that I would know. Seriously, I really wouldn't know!

Bob Weisenberg

No idea how you could think that guy was me, Bob–I quit smoking that foul weed with roots in Hell years ago, could never stand Phish (though I did see the Grateful Dead 69 times, and assorted members of the band solo probably another 30 or so–Phish is like Wonder Bread to the Dead's whole wheat ), and certainly don't have the kind of tricksterish sense of humor or disrespect for the good crunchy people of Boulder to create such a crude satirical character and drop him irreverently into your comments here.

There was one time, though, way up in the Rockies, when everything around me was so incredibly intense I couldn't really deal with it, and I decided to look at a rock, since, y'know, how intense can a rock get? But it had lichens on it and…well, lichens are incredibly strange and complex…so you might say I saw the infinite in even the most mundane things…and it was really freaky…though, fortunately, it only lasted a couple hours…not that that has anything to do with drugs or anything.

"if a thousand suns were to rise and stand in the noon sky, blazing such brilliance would be like the fierce brilliance of that mighty self." I love this imagery and the feeling that this verse alludes to, that it talks about discoveing or uncovering of our Self or our true nature and when we do that and when we have glimpses of it in meditation and where ever or whatever we practice its " like a thousand suns" – enlightement

Hi, Brooks. Interesting that you picked up on on the "celestial scent" thing, because I found it a little odd.

Now, you might wonder why I found that odd and not the "billions of arms, eyes, bellies, faces" part, and the answer is I haven't a clue!

Bob W.

Hi Bob,
I don’t find it odd at all that you related with the “billions of arms, eyes, bellies, faces” part (even though it’s a pretty fantastic image) and not the aromatic spirituality.

A smell can indicate a kind of knowledge that is not seen–you just kind of know that something’s there. The same thing might, at times, be true about spiritual perceptions.

In the evolution of species, the sense of smell is our oldest sense. It is tied most closely to our emotional life and least to reason. Thus arise our strong attachments to unreasonable ideas.

Also from Walt Whitman:
Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded with perfumes,
I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it,
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.
The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the distillation, it is odorless,
It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it,
I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked, :
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.

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