Yoga in The Gita: Love Changes Our Perception.

Via Catherine Ghosh
on Mar 25, 2012
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Welcome to our new Gita Talk series –

“Yoga in The Gita”

Last Sunday, in our second week of our journey into the Bhagavad Gita, Braja Sorensen presented us with an alternative look at authority, and its relationship to love in “What do We Do When We Feel Out of Control?”

Today we continue to explore love and alternative perspectives as we delve further into this most famous of yoga tests.

There is something almost mystical that happens to us when we exit a yoga class: the way we see the world around us changes. We may have entered the class full of stresses or anger, feeling anxious, alone, or frustrated. But after that last savasana, our disposition has shifted and life seems more bearable, enjoyable even! Nothing in the world has changed. But we have.

Yoga is a transformative force that shifts our perspectives in life. 

Krishna explains to Arjuna in the Gita that everything we perceive is filtered in through our senses. That our fields of awareness usually stretch only as far as our senses do, including our mind. And even then, careless lifestyles abuse and dull our senses, further obscuring our vision.

Just to be on the safe side, the Gita assumes we are all in total darkness, and appropriately begins with a blind king named Dhritarasthtra, who needs help seeing. His visionary minister, Sanjaya, then becomes the seer who narrates the Gita to us.

The archetypal symbol for clear, illuminated perspectives is the sun. Daylight facilitates our movement by shedding light on unforeseen obstacles we normally trip on in the dark.

The fourth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, called The Way of Knowledge, opens up with a dramatic announcement in which Krishna links yoga to the sun, Vivasan. In this context, yoga becomes the light through which we see the world around us with increased clarity.

Even if one is not familiar with yoga, but they participate in it spontaneously, either by joining an asana class with their friend for the first time or chanting in a kirtan, the yoga will have a positive effect on their perspectives, just as the sunshine warms and brightens everyone’s life without discrimination. It’s as if Krishna were reassuring Arjuna that yoga is as reliable and beneficial to the sustenance of humankind as the sun is!

 Like the sun, yoga draws from primal forces to brighten our lives. 

 Also, like the rising sun, yoga will not expand our vision all at once, but gradually. The sun also represents time, and cultivating a regular yoga practice, over time, will increase our awareness of everything that influences our choices in life.

Practicing yoga will make us better equipped to drive our own “chariots” through life as it unfolds around us, just as Arjuna is gearing up to do through his, in this ancient yoga text. Despite its antiquity, the yoga of the Gita still speaks to us today, as the sun will always be essential to life on our planet.

Yoga is the perfect combination of everything that causes us to thrive.

Yes, I said combination, as in more than one way to practice yoga. Just as one cannot subsist on a single meal, or have all their needs met through a single relationship, a healthy yoga practice does not consist of a singular, rigid process. Instead, yoga incorporates various approaches.

Last week, in the second installment of this series, Braja mentioned the different approaches in the process of yoga that appear in the Gita. The book begins with using despair in yoga (vishada yoga), as we saw at the start of this series. (Yes, you can even turn your pain into yoga!) It then moves into using intelligence (buddhi) and action (jnana) as yoga.

Leaving the rest of the Sanskrit terms aside, but continuing with the way Krishna introduces yoga in the Gita, we encounter renunciation, meditation, asana, pranayama, and everything else under the sun! Pun intended, as all these yogas are like rays emanating from the sun. They work in unison. If we restrict our practice to just asana, and don’t include buddhi, for example, we limit our experience of yoga.

As life on our planet is interdependent, so the various yogas share a powerful interconnectedness.

The most powerful connection between us is love!

Early in the Gita, (chapter 4) Krishna asserts this when he addresses Arjuna as a bhakta, or one who practices the yoga of love, or bhakti. Later, bhakti is revealed as the yoga that includes all other yogas. Or, as Braja mentioned, love is the last step in the yoga process. And yet ironically, in yoga, there are really no “last steps”. For yoga, at its heart, is not linear, as most thinking is in the West. Yoga is circular.

The circle, or mandala, is the symbol for bhakti yoga.

Symbolically, bhakti is the sun planet from which all other illuminating rays of yoga emanate, as Krishna points out in chapter 12. While Krishna presents Arjuna with many different ways to practice yoga, he never says that one needs to be exclusive of the other. Yoga, by nature, is therefore inclusive of much more than we can imagine!

If you trace the path of a circle, you end up right back where you started. Rich in archetypal interpretations, the symbol of the circle tells us many things. Among them is this one:

Where we are now is perfect for practicing yoga, but we can’t always see that. 

When our vision becomes obscured, just as Arjuna’s was at the beginning of Gita, all enthusiasm for practicing yoga vanishes. One of the most effective ways to inspire someone in yoga is through love. This is the secret dynamic that makes an exchange between a yoga teacher and a student most fruitful.

Loving relationships increase our receptivity to yoga, as well as increasing the teacher’s inspiration to offer us perspectives of yoga we may not have considered before.

Krishna informs Arjuna (Chap. 4, verse 3) that it was Arjuna’s love for him that inspired Krishna to offer Arjuna the same views of yoga he offered Vivasan, the sun god, ions before.

 But don’t the needs of humans evolve over time? How can a yoga process that was first taught ages ago still benefit us today?

By telling Arjuna that he first taught yoga to the sun god, Krishna is declaring yoga’s everlasting relevance to life. In doing so Krishna establishes a precedent for what a yogic life is. It is not static. It is characterized by dynamic energy just like the sun, and just like love.

Human beings thrive on love. Love is never outdated. 

 It has been observed that even when infants have all their physical needs met, they will fail to thrive when not treated lovingly. Indisputably, we all need love. But we need real love. It doesn’t take reading Krishna in the Gita to know that there are many things in this world that masquerade as love, but aren’t!

Last week Braja asked us if love really needed to be “authorized”. She asked us to carefully consider the authority we select in our lives to help us discern between real love and its imposter.

Do we trust our heart? Do we pick our feelings? Do we make our mind this authority? What about intelligence? Or conditioning? Society? What about that “yoga teacher” who keeps trying to seduce us? Do our senses know what love is?

Yoga is the light that will refine our sense of perception.

In bhakti yoga, the search for real love is parallel with the search for authentic yoga. The authentication of one leads to the other. Everyone wants to know, but do you really love me? In today’s yoga market, with so many teachings to choose from, aspiring yogis and yoginis ask is this REALLY yoga?

If we look to Krishna’s example in the Bhagavad Gita, we discover that the unchanging part of yoga; its essence, is ironically preserved by being sensitive to everything that does change in life, including our own perceptions.

 In teaching authentic yoga, the essence remains the same as it was ages ago, in the original yoga texts. 

Yet the style of delivery in teaching yoga, however, can differ, to reflect four dynamic, life-affirming variables. When these are considered they naturally enhance any yoga practice, as well as any yoga teaching experience:

  1. The unique circumstances surrounding the practice.
  2. The time at which the yoga teachings are being delivered
  3. The environment in which the yoga teacher and student find themselves
  4. The unique gifts and personality of both the teacher and student.

Although typically yoga is known as being formally passed down from guru to disciple, or teacher to student, the yoga in the Gita occurs between two close friends to emphasize the importance of heartfelt connections in yoga.

 Yoga is a practice of the heart.

 The thread of love with which Krishna delivers yoga philosophy speaks to us all. Love is where we feel most safe. Despite being surrounded by armed forces, Arjuna feels safe in Krishna’s company, and is therefore able to trust his insights.

Krishna lovingly indicates to Arjuna that fleeing from the battle is not an option, as our life follows us wherever we go. But changing our perspective is. A shift in perspective creates a change in how we move through our lives.

The “greatest secret of all”, Krishna tells Arjuna in the last chapter (verse 64), the “highest message” he could ever possibly deliver, is that we move through our lives –whatever they look like on the outside- feeling very loved on the inside.

 Yoga is moving through our life in the knowledge that we are loved. 

 Although set in the midst of an imminent war, upon the harshness of a battlefield, the Bhagavad Gita is actually the secret guidebook to love, designed to penetrate the softness of our hearts.

When we allow love to transform us through yoga, the first thing it begins to affect is our vision. According to the Gita, love is the most powerful light in countering darkness. And love, by nature is purely volitional.

The most powerful yoga we can practice is the yoga we practice by choice.

Freedom is a huge part of yoga. It is not forced. It is not demanded. And it happens when we are ready for it to happen.

The blind king at the beginning of the Gita was given a vision into the exchange between Krishna and Arjuna because he asked for it. Similarly, authentic yoga finds us when we are ready for it. The question is: Are you?

To keep track of all the articles on this series, go to Yoga In The Gita ~ Catherine Ghosh & Braja Sorensen

If you would like to win a free, hardcover copy of Graham M. Schweig’s new translation: Bhagavad Gita: The Beloved Lord’s Secret Love Song, published by Harper San Francisco, just leave a comment below. And congratulations to Val Curruthers, last weeks winner!


About Catherine Ghosh

Catherine Ghosh is an artist, writer, mother of two sons and editor of Journey of the Heart: An Anthology of Spiritual Poetry by Women (Balboa Press, 2014). As a practitioner of bhakti yoga since 1986, she is co-founder of The Secret Yoga Institute with author and teacher Graham M. Schweig, Ph.D., her life partner. Catherine has been a contributing editor for Integral Yoga Magazine, and is a regular columnist for Mantra, Yoga + Health Magazine. Together with Braja Sorensen, she created the Yoga In The Gita series. Catherine is passionate about inspiring women to share their spiritual insights and honor their valuable voices on her Women's Spiritual Poetry site Journey of The Heart .. You may connect with her on FaceBook, or email her at [email protected] A lover of nature, she divides her time between her two homes in Northern Florida and Southern Virginia.


42 Responses to “Yoga in The Gita: Love Changes Our Perception.”

  1. Krishna Rose says:

    Beautifully written and dcoumented didi….. their Gita is a beautiful poetic journey….. I love it and highly recommend it to anyone who appreciates spirituality and ancient literature. Can't say enough glories for their presentation on the Gita, it is perfectly presented! Keep the awesome articles coming….
    Blessings to you,

  2. Lila says:

    Beautiful just beautiful! I love your writing.

  3. Peter S. says:

    Thanks for the post. I am really enjoying this series.

  4. Annakins says:

    "The 'greatest secret of all', … is that we move through our lives –whatever they look like on the outside- feeling very loved on the inside." This, I truly believe, is the Universe's not-so-secret secret. It is what makes life's mystery no longer a mystery. And the most beautiful thing about it is that it really is quite simple when one is open to it. This is where yoga plays an important role — the more our bodies and our minds open up (through the practice of yoga), the more receptive we become. And the more we receive, the more we want to share … Thank you for this beautiful series. Looking forward to reading the other articles.

  5. Therese says:

    Thank you. This is beautiful.

  6. Anndrea Lewis says:

    Catherine, thank you for this article, which I stumbled upon at just the right time – surprise surprise 🙂

  7. Shana S. says:

    Wow–this is so powerful. Having recently gone through a terrible heartbreak (okay, who am I kidding? I’m still deep in it), I’ve been getting closer to my yoga practice. Sometimes I view my practice as a place of solace, but honestly, I sometimes feel as if it’s a scary challenge to have to get myself on the mat and be alone in my head. This piece is a wonderful reminder that in our practice, we are never alone. Thank you.

  8. Amy J. says:

    My yoga practice has transformed every aspect of my life and I appreciate you spending time writing and sharing this illuminating post. Powerful and thought provoking. Thank you.

  9. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Posted to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  10. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  11. ValCarruthers says:

    Love the way you say that, Annakins!

  12. ValCarruthers says:

    Fabulous, as ever, Catherine. You open so many doorways.

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Spirituality Homepage.

    Valerie Carruthers
    Please go and "Like" Elephant Spirituality on Facebook

  13. @AAPremlall says:

    What a treat, thank you for sharing!

  14. Subhadra Hemphill says:

    I especially appreciated the perspective that, as the Sun takes time to shed light on everything, so with practice of yoga, it takes time for us to be able to see with increased perception. Also, the perspective that yoga is circular is very inspiring.
    Look forward to your next article.

  15. David Wolf says:

    Catherine- Thank you for this illuminating article. I much appreciate the creative, poetic and inspired way that you integrate the universal principles of Bhagavad-gita in grounded terms that I can practically apply. I am moved by how you communicate the essence of the Gita, and let us see all of yoga and the teachings of Sri Krsna in the light of that essence. Sincerely, David Wolf

  16. Thank you Krishnaji! It is lovely to have you following my Gita articles. xoxox

  17. Thank you Peter! Happy to hear that!

  18. You're welcome Therese. Thank you for commenting!

  19. Wonderful observation, Annakins! This beautiful dynamic between giving and receiving is indeed critical to one's experience of love within this universe. One's experience of yoga. I will be looking at this in two weeks when we begin the theme of balance. So you are anticipating this already! Fantastic! Thank you for starting, Thrilled to have you following the series.

  20. You are so very welcome, Anndrea! it is wonderful how when we open ourselves up to what we need, the universe seems to magically manifest it for us! So happy to hear your finding my article was timely for you.

  21. I hear you are experiencing your yoga practice as both a shelter from your heartbreak, and also a workshop for it that can be scary to enter into at times. Yes, yoga brings up everything we need to let go of in our hearts, so that we may find the deeper calmness within us -a calm that is independent of our heartbreak, and yet engages it to help us find our own strength. I will be looking at this in the next article on "Letting go" coming up in two weeks. Thank you so much for sharing Shana.

  22. Thank you for sharing Amy. I am happy to hear my post has further fueled your already thriving yoga practice.

  23. Thank you Valerie! Your Gita is in the mail! :))

  24. I am delighted you found the sun and circle reflections inspiring. Thank you so much for commenting here. I am very happy you are following the series!

  25. I am very inspired by hearing your perspective of my article and how it moved you. Thank you so much for taking the time to read it and share your feedback. I hear my article gave you a view of the universal teachings in the Gita in a way you can integrate and practically apply to your life. This make me very happy to hear! Thank you again for sharing. And I hope you do so again in my next article two weeks from now on "sacrifice and renunciation", or "Letting go". It would be an honor to have you follow the series!

  26. Thaddeus1 says:

    "In bhakti yoga, the search for real love is parallel with the search for authentic yoga. The authentication of one leads to the other. Everyone wants to know, but do you really love me? In today’s yoga market, with so many teachings to choose from, aspiring yogis and yoginis ask is this REALLY yoga?"

    So beautiful.

    Posting to Elephant Bhakti. Be sure to Like Elephant Bhakti on Facebook.

  27. […] and positive reinforcement heralded. Yoga philosophy has been confused for New Age rhetoric; quotes about ultimate freedom in the Bhagavad Gita are treasured while those pesky passages about Krishna telling Arjuna to murder his friends and cousins are oddly […]

  28. shaktipetal says:

    This is beautiful thinking Krishna . What a great contribution too.
    Thank you for your Love d.d.

  29. […] The Bhagavad Gita’s “reading guide”, or internally generated hermeneutic is one of love, and it is clearly reflected in the verses. Graham Schweig speaks more about this in his own […]

  30. […] provide healthy nourishment to a relationship. Too little can certainly cause malnourishment, but so can too much “junk” sex. (I apologize for the heterosexist nature of this example. Of course, the concepts of brahmacharya […]

  31. […] many other identifications, only so he could pick them up again, and move forward in his life with a yogic perspective. Arjuna did not renounce the roles he was playing in his life, instead, he just adjusted his […]

  32. Myriam says:

    This is why I love yoga so much! These are the words my friends and family need to hear in order to understand why I practice, why I live to go on yoga retreats.

  33. […] into the second phase of our Yoga in the Gita series on the subject of Love & Perception with Love Changes the Way We See Things. […]

  34. […] the third phase of our Yoga in the Gita series on the subject of Sacrifice & Renunciation with Time To Let Go. […]

  35. Thank you Thaddeus. :))

  36. Thank you so much Mukhara! So happy to see you here! Much love! xoxox

  37. Thank you for sharing Myriam. Please feel free to share my posts with your friends and family. It sounds like you have a lovely life full of yoga!

  38. […] The path of light is dynamic and represents growth, evolution and progress. Darkness represents stagnation and returns us to relive the same experiences over and over again. This becomes most obvious to us in relationships, when we see ourselves stuck in repetitive patterns with others. How to break out of this cycle can be bewildering. […]

  39. […] for years and understood this to mean doing work for others for free. With the help of the Gita course, I have a more accurate understanding of Karma […]