Take Back Your Power: Yoga in The Gita.

Via Catherine Ghosh
on Jul 2, 2012
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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.

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.

~Please scroll down to comment~

♥Thank you♥

Copyright © 2012 Catherine Ghosh

 All rights reserved


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.


16 Responses to “Take Back Your Power: Yoga in The Gita.”

  1. Thaddeus1 says:

    Such sweet words to live by Catherine.

    The web you weave between power and love and how it is that true love only emerges in the absence of control is a lesson for the ages crafted in your simple and wonderful words. Thank you.

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

  2. Thank you Thaddeus. I always appreciate your comments! :))

  3. cathywaveyoga says:

    Have you ever tried to get a parking place in a business zone to ge tto the gym in time to get on the short list of spinning class students?

  4. lol… :)) No, I can't say I have, Cathy, but you make a very strong point. ;))

  5. cathywaveyoga says:

    thanks.. it is the closest gym by far to me which offers spinning along wiht other classes.. so although I am smart enough to use conscious language and nto say I am stuck with them.. I sometimes feel like going, getting parking ( and ther eis major construction) and getting in and them having the instructor on time and not cancelled takes a universal alignment which I can nto make happen.. and I have said it feels like I ma going to war.
    On the other hand I know to love my life, my city traffic patterns and all of that…
    Thank you for a nice article and for commenting.

  6. I'm sure Catherine wasn't referring to this particular frustrating life experience! :). There are exceptions, after all. LOL.


  7. Another powerful article, Catherine.

    The question that usually gets asked at this point is, if love is the answer, not control or power, why is Arjuna cajoled to slaughter his opponents instead of extending love to them? As you know, the rest of the story is that the two sides maul each other until there are literally just a small number of combatants remaining alive out of many thousands.


  8. […] hat on your head cocked to the side. Now is the time to dress the part. Fake it ‘til you make it. Buff and polish. Rise and shine. Expansion is the whole point of life. Right?! So as you move forward with conviction […]

  9. Chris Fici says:

    Really really great essay Catherine!
    Thank you so much for the reminder to try and project this real love inwards and outwards.

    Its also wonderful to read of such an astute and heart-felt understanding of the Gita. This is really a book which has more answers than we even realize.

  10. […] Take Back Your Power: Yoga in The Gita. […]

  11. Like yourself, Bob, violence makes me cringe, and I automatically conclude that one who is acting lovingly will not kill other people. I have a utopian image of a world where everyone does yoga and no one behaves violently toward anyone else. That would be my dream. Naturally then, the Gita begs your very question: Why did Arjuna resort to killing over loving?

    There are multiple levels of interpretation in the Gita, as you know. From academic to the various, traditional yoga schools, one can approach answering this inquiry in a variety of ways. Here's how i like to think of it: When Arjuna is moved to “fight” in the Gita, what he is really being asked to do on a deeper level is participate fully in his life. Plain and simple.

    Every part of life is valuable to our yoga practice, even the one’s we resist participating in, and the Gita emphasizes this by making a battlefield the setting of the whole book. After all, what could be more repulsive than a field where humans are slaughtered? To me, it is a symbol of all those things we fear most in life. And the Gita asks us not to cower away from them, but instead, to face them, with love. "Do not fear" is the message. For fear is contrary to love, as is injurious violence.

    And yet, in yoga philosophy, there are natural cycles of creation and destruction. One might ask themselves this question then: Is destruction "negative" when what is being destroyed is a force that opposes love?

    Perhaps the Gita points to a destruction of fear in our lives. Or a destructions of all those forces that oppressive prevent us from really being ourselves. The Kauravas after all, represent the "dark side" of the force. Arjuna is on the side of the pious Pandavas. The popular "light eliminates darkness" theme echoes on the Gita's battlefield. This is one of many interpretations. Love's triumph over fear is the one I always prefer.

    As this is one of the main questions people ask when reading the Gita, I feel the answer merits a whole article, in oder to really do it justice. Then we could engage all angles. But for now, that is how I, personally, think of it. Thank you so much for this very important question.

  12. Thank you Chris. :)) I certainly agree with you when you say that the Bhagavad Gita has way more answers than we even realize, as the depth of interpretation of this ancient text seems to be endless! Thank you for your appreciations.

  13. Yes, life can feel like a battlefield sometimes. This is precisely what the Gita focuses on, Cathy. HOwever, if you can't do anything to change the "battlefield" on your outside, you can indeed change the way you relate to it on the inside. So, there is not need to give up on your desire to go to the gym because the battleground you need to go though is too intense. Instead, carry on and march through the "battlefield", the traffic, the crowds, etc, with the determination that you will end up where you wish to, and then you shall see that perhaps the world on the outside arranges itself to fulfill your desire! Just keep this your focus, and you never know, life may open up some parking spaces for you just when you need them most. I have personally experienced this in my own life. Thank you for sharing! :))

  14. I also agree with Bob. It is a powerful article. It is deep while so very approachable.

    Bob's relating what "usually gets asked" regarding the Bhagavad Gītā to you. His question is simple, perhaps simplistic, so I'll respond simply myself.

    It is, of course, naive to think that governments do not need a means of protection externally, or that governments do not need internal mechanisms of protection as well. This is stating the obvious. The Mahābhārata war, as it is presented, was unavoidable after every possible negotiation was sought to have the evil leadership of Dhritarāshtra be removed. In this war, away from society, warriors fought warriors, albeit, loved ones, family, friends, and even teachers. There is nothing more painful and agonizing than war. Arjuna feelingfully walks us through his conundrum.

    Love here is the dharma of protecting innocent persons and the goodness of society; love here is in doing what is for the highest good in protecting, not in unnecessarily aggressing (which is too often the case, as we all know–Iragi war, and plenty of other instances). Love here is not acting out of fear, rage, and hatred as a warrior, but a love for what ultimately needs to be done for the betterment of society.

    It's simple: There are aggressors in the world: what constitutes "protection" must be carefully considered. The Mahābhārata offers one example of this in its ultimate message of the importance of an elevated state of consciousness and the achieving the deepest regions of the heart . . . EVEN in the most trying of human circumstances. It is not a simple or flippant matter. It therefore moves us into endless inquiry as perhaps what Bob is attempting to do here.

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