Category Archives: Yoga

Peaceful Protest: Wisdom from the Bhagavad Gita on Helping the World from a Spiritual Perspective

Perform work in this world, Arjuna, as a man established within himself – without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat. For yoga is perfect evenness of mind. -Krishna

krishna  – Krishna was an earhtly prince who did many practical things to help the people of his time, but was always established in Self-Realization through yoga meditation.

Intorduction

In periods of seated meditation, there are states of great peace and great turmoil that pass through the mind in oscillating intervals.  As with the personal, so the collective: as human civilization evolves, periods of relative peace are often followed by chaotic times that require protest and dedicated work on behalf of the oppressed.  As current events unfold, it appears we are entering a period marked by increasing ignorance, injustice, and even impending catastrophe: nationalist politics threaten to deprive the rights of minorities; terrorism strikes fear into the hearts of decent people worldwide; climate change even threatens to destroy the world as we know it.

Any rational person understands that mere prayers and a “spiritual” perspective are not enough.  When people are hungry, they must be fed.  When laws are unjust, they must be protested.  When leaders concoct schemes to defraud the innocent, we must fight nonviolently to thwart their plans.  In short, all sorts of practical work must be done to improve the world, and every person has their own particular work to do.

To realize God is not to deny the obvious suffering in the world, but to have a different perspective on it.  While we do our work, we can simultaneously understand that the physical world, with all its seeming madness, is not the only Reality.  The sages and mystics of many religions tell us that our life is like a dream, and that whatever happens in the dream ultimately has no effect on the Dreamer, our True Nature. Everything we see in the physical world of matter is like the waves on the ocean.  The waves are sometimes peaceful, and sometimes raging in terrifying storms.  Yet whatever happens on the surface, the depths of the Sea remain at peace.  A sage is a person who works on the surface for the welfare of the world, but is simultaneously in touch with the depths.  Perhaps a better way to say it is that a sage is someone who sees that the waves and the depths are, in reality, one and the same.

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Lessons from the Gita 3: God Realization – The End of Religion

krishna  – Krishna revealing to Arjuna the timeless Way of the Yogis.

“In this world there are two orders of being: the perishable, separate creatures and the changeless Spirit.  But beyond these there is another, the Supreme Self (Brahman), the eternal Lord, who enters into (or manifests) the entire cosmos and supports it within.  I am that supreme Self, praised by the scriptures as beyond the changing and the changeless.  Those who see in me that Supreme Self see truly.  They have found the Source of all Wisdom, Arjuna, and they worship me with all their heart.”

The End of Religion

In the West, everything is a debate.   Politics is Democrat vs. Republican; economics is Capitalism vs. Socialism; and religion is so often unfortunately painted as religion vs. science, or even as one religion vs. another.  Atheists argue that all religion is a lie, and the religious respond with equally passionate claims of dogmatic surety.  We often and unwisely approach religion as a problem to be solved with our intellect, or as an “argument” to be won by debate.  Does it ever occur to us that God is an experience that is not confined by any tradition, that cannot be confirmed or denied by the perishable human intellect?

When I first began my spiritual search seven years ago, I was immediately drawn to the religions of the East like Taoism, Hinduism as expressed in the Bhagavad Gita, and especially Zen Buddhism.  What most intrigued me about them was the idea that the Divine was not something outside of me to be “believed” in, but an actual experience that is the essence of what we ultimately are.  These religions were not “true” or “untrue” in the intellectual sense of the word, but merely described paths to an experience that is beyond all words and concepts.  To “have faith” in this sense was not to have faith in a God in heaven, but to have faith that through spiritual practice the experience of God is possible to have for yourself.

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Lessons from the Gita 2 – Three Dimensions of Renunciation

krishna – Krishna teaching the mysteries of the universe to his devotee Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita.

“Those who have attained perfect renunciation are free from any sense of duality.  They are unaffected by likes and dislikes, and are free from the bondage of self will.  The immature think that knowledge and action are different, but the wise see them as the same.” – Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita

Renunciation is a word that freaks many people out, largely because they do not understand its spiritual meaning.  They associate it with images of emaciated forest Yogis who engage in silent meditation for years at a time, or perhaps with Christian hermits spending long days and lonely nights fasting solitude.  This misunderstanding unfortunately hinders many people from integrating the blessings of renunciation into their everyday lives. For periods of intense meditative separation from everyday routine are indeed a small aspect of renunciation, but true renunciation is a state of mind that is not limited to any particular life circumstance.

The Bhagavad Gita revolutionized and redefined the idea of renunciation at time in India when the population felt that God-Realization was only attainable by a small spiritual elite.  It proclaimed that renunciation is a matter of the heart, which transcends the mundane conceptions of monk and lay person, spiritual practitioner and “worldly” person that unfortunately still dominate many religious communities today.  The Gita radically proclaimed that a life of actively serving others (while inwardly renouncing desire and practicing frequent meditation) is actually superior to a life of solitary meditation alone.  Anyone who understands that God-Realization is the highest goal of life, and strives to structure their life around this lofty ideal, is a renunciate in spirit, regardless of their vocation, race, gender, or religion.

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Lessons from the Bhagavad Gita: Introduction

krishna and arjuna – Krishna revealing the Bhagavad Gita to His famous devotee Arjuna (Although I have never heard of any scriptural evidence for this, Arjuna is usually depicted with a sweet 1980’s style mustache in most paintings of him).

“All those who take refuge in Me, whatever their birth, race, sex, or caste, will attain the Supreme Goal.”  – Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita

Every now and then, I discover a book that radically changes the way I perceive the world.  For me, the Bhagavad Gita was one of those books.  I remember randomly taking it off the shelf at Borders in 2009, and as I grazed its mysterious pages, my heart leapt with wordless recognitions of its greatness and profound depth.  I have read the Gita many times since then during difficult moments in my life, and it has infallibly been a potent source of inspiration and spiritual insight.

The Gita is many things: an archetypal expression of the human condition, a guide to Self-Realization, a quintessential text on yoga philosophy – some have even called it “the Bible of India.”  It has been a source of inspiration for countless thousands of spiritual seekers and eminent minds, including Gandhi, Emerson, Thorough, and Paramahansa Yoganada, just to name a few.

Including and superseding all these descriptions, the Gita is a powerful poetic expression of the Krishna’s Awakened Mind, the spiritual Muse of the text penned by Vyasa, a sage in his own right.  Any authentic scripture is, at its deepest core, an expression of a spiritual state of mind that the words point to, but do not containTo understand the essence of a scripture is therefore to experience that state of mind yourself, not merely to memorize the words.  In the West, nearly the entire Christian world has unfortunately overemphasized intellectual knowledge of scripture, as if the unfathomable Christ-Mind of the Spiritual Master Jesus could be understood by merely memorizing passages.

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