Welcome to our Yoga In The Gita Sunday series!
Last Sunday, Catherine Ghosh led us 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.
And this topic, “love,” this is our cue to dive deeply into the trove of Gita’s wisdom, lift the veil on our spiritual vision, sweep away cobwebs of conditioned thought and action that cloud our perception, and rise to the surface on a current of understanding. Catherine summarized it beautifully:
Yoga is the perfect combination of everything that causes life to thrive.
There are varying opinions on the practice of yoga and what it even means. So many articles, so much discussion and comment, and the question is often asked: “Yes, but is what you’re doing really yoga?”
Yoga is the perfect combination of everything that causes life to thrive: it isn’t an exercise for the body but a process for the entire package, the perfect union of body, mind, and soul, directing them all towards the highest attainable realm of pure love.
America’s twist on this ancient practice has seen yoga become the 21st century’s equivalent of aerobics in the 1980’s. Everybody’s doin’ it, but what is “it”? Are yoga’s practitioners really “doing” anything more than a preferred choice of exercise or, maybe if they’re a little deeper, adopting a “yoga lifestyle”?
Not really. Most of what we see, at least, is the media driven creation of yoga’s personality: designer yoga clothes, beautiful people with beautiful bodies in any number of beautiful poses, show-off celeb-yogis, and teachers posing in all kinds of asanas to advertise their classes and skill sets.
Yoga studios, too, have created a very different take on the original yoga process, and the emphasis is most usually on asana. The body, mind, and senses form so many different layers, and modern yoga’s emphasis has been placed largely on the annamaya kosha, the outer sheath. The purpose of asana is to gradually go deeper — manamaya kosha and pranamaya kosha — into the mind and life-giving energy that run the body: the perfect combination of everything that causes life to thrive.
But how often do you hear in a yoga class that the goal is loving devotion?
Who knew that love was a science, that it has a process, that it is the ultimate goal of life? There are so many cliched sayings about what love is. But the real question is, while we all want love, would we recognize it if we saw it?
Possibly not. Unfortunately, we’re mostly dictated to by our mind and senses. In that condition our intelligence doesn’t control us: the mind does, and it chooses how to engage the intelligence. Krishna tells Arjuna that sometimes the mind is the best friend, at other times our worst enemy.
So how can we be so sure of what we think is “love,” based on our mind and senses — both of which are not at the purified stage where we are preparing for the oath of concentration, meditation: bhakti-yoga.
Krishna tells Arjuna in Chapter 10:
To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me. To show them special mercy, I, dwelling in their hearts, destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance.
In his purports to the verse, Bhaktivedanta Swami emphasizes the significance of the word “buddhi-yoga,” or the process of utilizing the intelligence towards the goal of life. We’re still in the beginning stages of the Gita, and it is specifically in Chapter 2 that Krishna instructs Arjuna in the process of buddhi-yoga. And in this verse from Chapter 10, buddhi-yoga is now explained. He writes,
Buddhi means intelligence, and yoga means mystic activities or mystic elevation. Buddhi-yoga is the process by which one gets out of the entanglement of this material world…this complete yoga is the highest perfectional stage of life.
To use Catherine’s analogy, our yoga practice is like the sun that shines its light into our minds, senses, and intelligence, giving us the clarity of vision and understanding to engage in the process of revealing that which is already in us: pure loving devotion.
This, then, is yoga’s final goal: it’s not an optional extra, a value-added bonus, a complimentary add-on. No: this love IS the goal of yoga!
As Catherine wrote last Sunday, yoga refines our sense of perception. Without that refinement, we are clouded, conditioned, led by our mind or ego. Krishna tells Arjuna in Chapter 2, “When your intelligence has passed out of the dense forest of delusion, you shall become indifferent to all that has been heard and all that is to be heard.”
So when we next go into the studio, we might stop a moment at the doorway and consider that we’re entering our own battlefield that is manned by the soldiers of false perception, pseudo-love, and other similar obstacles that block our access to the simple and pure goal of loving devotion.
Last week, Catherine ended her article by reminding us that the most powerful yoga we can partake in is fueled by our freedom of choice: we are, it is said, the architects of our own fate. As Krishna says to Arjuna at the end of the Gita, “Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.”
So the only real question is: are you ready?
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. The winners will be announced next week and more giveaways will follow so stay tuned!