April 29, 2012

Love is Found Through Balance (Yoga in the Gita Series)

Last week, Catherine showed how “Balance is Found Through Love” in the unfolding process of Yoga in the Gita. Today, we turn that on its head, in the nicest possible way!

image @ Lost & Found in India

I find the words more often used in the Gita to express “balance” are “equipoise,” which means a counterbalance or balancing force, and “equilibrium,” which the dictionary artfully explains as a state in which opposing influences or forces are balanced.

Those are both such wonderful descriptions that embody a state of physical balance and a calm state of mind.

Now tell me, doesn’t that sound like a foundational yoga principle to you? This is truly living yoga from the Gita…

In so many places in the first few chapters of the Gita, Krishna uses both these words in his teachings to Arjuna. Early on, in chapter 2, he tells Arjuna, “Perform your duty equipoised, O Arjuna, abandoning all attachment to success or failure. Such equanimity is called yoga.”

Our attempts in the beginning to enter into meditation through regulative principles in life and the practice of asanas — which are merely preparatory postures for accommodating and controlling prana — are simply activities that lead to achieving mental equilibrium in order to control the senses. When one is accomplished in the practice of meditation and breath, all disturbing mental activities cease.

Krishna tells Arjuna, “One must deliver himself with the help of his mind, and not degrade himself. The mind is the friend of the conditioned soul, and his enemy as well.”

All that glitters is not yoga...

Therefore, the mind should be trained so that it will not be attracted, as Bhaktivedanta Swami puts it, to “the glitter of material nature.”

And right here we’re swept to the heart of the subject for this week: balance. How does a person in the 21st century—bothered by the daily burdens of family, mortgage, debt, security, working 10 hours a day, securing education for the children, and the million other details that formulate the daily grind—focus on controlling the mind and senses? Seriously, sometimes the “glitter” is truly a welcome relief, right?! We are not yogis: far, far from it. As my teacher in the Himalayan foothills is fond of saying, “Don’t worry—none of you have to fear becoming yogis in this lifetime!”

While that may sound defeating or negative, it’s more like reality. I’m somewhat averse to the flippant use of the words “yogi” and “yogini,” used more often only to describe someone who dresses in designer yoga pants, carries a rubber mat, and has a good body. But that’s not a yogi. We’ll struggle with the elements of the material world daily, battle traffic, argue with the store owner, yell at the parking attendant, become frustrated with the peak hour traffic, scream at the kids, have a glass of wine, watch some tv to “neutralize the mind,” and so on. No…we’re in no danger of becoming yogis or yoginis…

As Bhaktivedanta Swami says in his purports to these verses on mind control in the fourth chapter,

“For a man in the practical world who has to fight so many opposing elements, it is certainly very difficult to control the mind. Artificially, one may establish a mental equilibrium toward both friend and enemy, but ultimately no worldly man can do so, for this is more difficult than controlling the raging wind.”

And for me, this brings up one of the foundational elements of balance: honesty. As the Swami writes, it is “artificial” to imagine some kind of mental peace in the mind and pretend to be equal to all, a friend to all, super calm, super balanced, super-yogi!

Control the mind!

I like this point the Swami makes, actually. It doesn’t strike me as very “personal” to jump forward to the level of loving everyone and being a friend to all and balanced, equipoised, and calm in the face of anything. It’s mostly a false attempt, an imitation. When I say “impersonal,” I mean in terms of individual endeavor. It might be the goal, but pretending it’s reality before its time is false. So for me, this is one of the key elements of balance: truthfulness and reality in our dealings, our friendships, our relationships, and our attainment of a goal that is only possible with a controlled mind, with balance.

If we claim what we’re seeking is “love,” then we have to have the courage to reach the level where we’re qualified to know what “love” is.

Krishna tells Arjuna, “A person is considered still further advanced when he regards honest well-wishers, affectionate benefactors, the neutral, mediators, the envious, friends and enemies, the pious and the sinners all with an equal mind.” I know a few people like this, and they really do warrant the label “yogi.” But it’s rare.

To actually attain that level, the first real friend we need to make is the mind. Bhaktivedanta Swami summarizes this perfectly:

Real balance

“Unless the mind is controlled, the practice of yoga for show is simply a waste of time. One who cannot control his mind lives always with the greatest enemy, and thus his life and its purpose are spoiled.”

So are we seeing how this works? Balance means honestly approaching the goals that yoga sets for us; practicing means honest endeavor; the result is more balance, a greater sense of equilibrium. And ultimately, that ability—from the foundation of controlled senses, mind, and ego—of seeing everyone equally, friend and enemy alike. That is balance. And that is a balanced aspect of love…

For earlier posts in this series, see the Elephant Journal author pages for Catherine Ghosh & Braja Sorensen
For continued posts in the series, see Yoga in the Gita.

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