Welcome to Part 15 of our Yoga In The Gita Sunday series!
Last week Braja Sorensen wrote about how a little daily death can be good for us. Today, we begin exploring our relationship to power in yoga.
The Bhagavad Gita is the product of one of the most notorious power struggles in literary history…
It is an ongoing battle between family members over the rule of a kingdom. Not the family car, not the TV remote, but a whole kingdom!
Excerpted from a much longer tale of envy, manipulation, greed and tragedy, called the Mahabharata, the very first word in the Gita means “powerful ruler”. Yet the ruler is blind, -both literally and figuratively-, for he seeks his power by what he can control around him, instead of within him. Ironically, this causes him to be disconnected from his real power.
~Yoga is everything that reconnects us with our own inner source of power.~
What is power? There are many words for power in Sanskrit, the language of the Gita. One of them is vibhuti. “Bhuti” relates to oneself and “vi” relates to expression, indicating that power rests in the pure expression of the self.
When we are connected to our core and are expressing ourselves from that inner source of peace, safety and happiness, we are no longer intent on controlling what is happening around us. We are also able to express ourselves more authentically, instead of having our expressions colored by our fears, conditionings, false beliefs, etc. The more intent someone is on controlling the people or environment around them, the more influenced they are by their own insecurities.
~Yoga is feeling secure in our self independently of whatever happens around us.~
True power, therefore, is giving up the need to control what happens on your outside, to feel happy on the inside. Krishna gently helps Arjuna arrive at this perspective, through the conversation they share. In chapter thirteen Krishna informs Arjuna that he will help him come in touch with his own powers by acquiring knowledge of “the field”.
The “field” is our body and everything connected to our body, including our senses, our thoughts, our feelings, desires, etc and all the transformations they go through. Familiarizing our self with everything that creates this “field”, and being able to distinguish it from the “knower of the field” at our core, (our self) is most empowering.
The “field” also works as a double entendre in the Gita, reflecting the field of battle on the outside, or the world around us. So, the more we know how to distinguish between our self and our body (and all it’s influences upon us), the more clearly we’ll be able to see, and therefore, interact, with the world around us in all it’s wars and conflicts.
~Yoga is clarity of vision that is not clouded by worldly or bodily influences.~
The opening scene in the Gita, however, begins with all kinds of clouded views! Family members failed to talk through their differences and find themselves on the verge of violence!
In this scenario, power relates to one’s ability to control the behavior of others, regardless of their resistance: I need you to act like this in order for me to be happy, so you better do it! When threats and rewards fail to do the trick, weapons are drawn: I would rather you die than behave in a manner I don’t want you to! The brutal forcefulness of this weighs down on Arjuna’s heart most heavily.
Naturally, the Gita invites readers to ask themselves:
What would I fight for to be able to have it under my control?
Paradoxically, the more we need to control what is happening on the outside of us, the less in control we feel. If our happiness and security depend on controlling life outside of us, then the life inside of us will always feel helpless, just like Arjuna did when he approached Krishna for help.
Feeling helpless is the opposite of feeling empowered. Why do we choose to empower what is outside of us, over what’s within us? It is like we keep our true self hidden behind a mask.
~Yoga is consciously choosing to reclaim our true power.~
Every culture has a different relationship with power. Some empower those with the most money, the biggest guns, or the most fearsome voices. Some give all the power to fate or “God”, or karma, or even the movements of the stars! Other societies empower those with degrees or education, or perhaps just those belonging to certain genders, races, religions, or species.
Power appears to exist in various forms all around us, but domination of the weak is abuse of power. The wisdom in the Gita returns the power to the individual through yoga, independently of any external and temporary methods of identification, by showing us that our true power rests in the one thing no one can force us to do: love.
True love, by definition, is not coerced. It is not given on demand or through threats, and it cannot be gained by violence, as the kingdom that is at stake in the Gita. This volitional element in love makes loving the most powerful choice we can make. So powerful, in fact, that it rises above any and all power that has been misplaced, or abused, or lost in this world, like that being fought over in the Gita.
Krishna emphasizes this to Arjuna during their conversation. It is not until the start of the eleventh chapter, however, that Arjuna expresses relief from his feelings of helplessness. One of the secrets Arjuna learns along the way is that Krishna also practices yoga!
Yoga, therefore, is not only a path one takes to arrive somewhere else, as Krishna has clearly already “arrived”. But yoga is also the destination. Krishna is referred to in the Gita as “Yogeshvara”, or “the Supreme Lord of Yoga”, as he represents the ultimate destination: that place where everyone is living yoga.
~Yoga is the way of living that best expresses our most authentic self.~
As a result of seeing Arjuna feeling so lost and helpless, Krishna invites him to join him in practicing yoga. For in yoga, Krishna says, rests the greatest power. It is then that Arjuna asks Krishna to show him the supreme power of his being. What happens next is most unexpected.
Gazing upon Krishna’s powerful, universal form blazing like fire with thousands of mouths, and arms and heads, and swirling galaxies and weapons, Arjuna is not attracted to it or desirous of it, but instead he becomes absolutely terrified of it!
Krishna’s universal form reduces Arjuna to a trembling, stuttering state in which he pleas for Krishna to return to the form he is used to: that of Krishna as his intimate, most beloved friend. Submitting to the love Arjuna has for his original form, Krishna promptly reassumes his gentle appearance.
We are all most powerful because we love! So powerful, in fact, that we can even get Krishna, the Supreme Lord of Yoga, to submit to our love for him, just as Arjuna did in the Gita! In Graham M. Schweig’s translation of the Gita, he defines yoga as “the power of love that transforms the heart and to which even divinity submits”.
What could be more powerful than having God wrapped around your little finger? This is the stance, which “the field”, the world, the universe and divinity all assume in relation to a loving heart. Life itself, by definition, simultaneously yields to love, and is sustained by love. According to the Gita, yoga always works with this principle.
~Yoga is the power of love that transforms the heart.~
When our hearts are transformed by yoga, life opens up to us in the most beautiful and unexpected ways.
We begin to see the events and relationships we participate in through the lenses of abundance instead of scarcity. We surrender the need to control and trust whatever life gives us. We are no longer directed by our fears and insecurities, but by clear visions that are rooted in the very knowledge of our own being.
The Gita describes in 67 places throughout the text the wonderful effects of practicing yoga. They all point to a most empowered existence, in which the power of love reveals itself to be superior to the love of power.
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Copyright © 2012 Catherine Ghosh
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