Monday, February 4, 2013

Essence of the Bhagavad Gita

Essence of the Bhagavad Gita

India’s most beloved scripture consists of one chapter of the world’s longest epic story, the Mahabharata. This chapter of some seven hundred verses is composed as a dialogue between Lord Krishna and his disciple, Prince Arjuna. It takes place as they are sitting in Arjuna’s chariot surveying the opposing armies: theirs, the Pandavas (think, “good guys in white helmets”) and the Kauravas, (the quintessential “bad guys”).

Of course the scene is allegorical although the battle of Kurukshetra is considered a historical one. The exhortation to do battle is a metaphor for the battle of life to which the soul is called in its mission to seek freedom through reuniting its consciousness with that of its Creator.

As each culture is divinely guided to its highest potential, it is curious to contemplate that the Hindu “Bible” is a call to war while the Christian bible (New Testament) is a call to “turn the other cheek.” East and West, respectively, embody certain attitudes that would do well to seek balance: the one, perhaps too passive; the other, too aggressive.

The are many great themes in this wonderful scripture for the instruction of souls in all times and places . Among the themes in the Gita (that I will explore in a 3-week class series—see below) are the soul’s very first encounter with suffering and good and evil. Arjuna, seeing that the opposing forces consist of his very own cousins with whom he was raised, questions the rightness of killing them in battle. Are they not, his very own?

Did not Jesus ask, “Who are my family but those who walk the path toward God with me?” The "family" may be taken literally as one’s birth family who typically resists the effort to dedicate oneself to the search for God. Or, more deeply and more importantly, the "family" is our  own subconscious material desires. The soul, upon reaching adolescence or early adulthood, comes face to face with the need to separate himself from his past in order to begin his spiritual journey aligning the conscious mind towards the guidance of superconscious (guru) mind. And yet, this past, these familiar traits, are my “family!”

Krishna eschews all sentimentality and urges his devotee to take up his “bow” and fight in this just and noble cause -- the very purpose of our creation. All habits and traits which are of the ego are never killed but their energies transmuted and sublimated into higher forms, just as in the teaching of the law of karma and reincarnation, the soul never dies but is simply reborn into new forms. In the wilderness and silence of meditation, we don’t “die” but in fact are reborn into the kingdom of the soul’s consciousness. 

Our fears are groundless -- that without our past, subconscious or ego affirming traits there is no "I." But everyone must confront this existential dilemma face-to-face.

What, then, Arjuna asks, is right action? How can you know what is right or wrong? Outwardly it is difficult, Krishna admits, but that action which is not in pursuit of ego-motivated results, which is offered to God in self-offering and devotion and with no thought of personal gain, will guide us to the heights of Self-realization more surely than any other.

The grace of God and guru, the preceptor, must be sought in silent, inner communion and in righteous outward action. In attunement with the silent flow of grace and wisdom, which like the quiet sound of oil pouring from a drum, guides our thoughts, feelings, and actions, we will sail our raft of life toward the seemingly distant shores of freedom.

The greatest wisdom is found through the practice of yoga: silence of mind and body in contemplation of the divine Presence. The greatest action is that which is offered without thought of self in devotion at the feet of Infinity. The greatest feeling is love for God and for God in all, given without condition and expressed in daily life with humility, compassion, and the wisdom of the soul.

Krishna gives Arjuna a taste of his overarching, infinite consciousness as Spirit but the experience proves so overwhelming that Arjuna at last asks to see his beloved friend, Krishna, again! Thus it is that we do best if we approach God in form: as the preceptor, or in the impersonal forms of love, light, sound, peace, etc., or in the form of a beloved deity. The abstract thought of infinity is too much for the human mind and heart to bear, much less to love.

Much, much more wisdom is shared in the Gita: the qualities of nature and consciousness and how to distinguish the higher from the lower, whether in religion or in daily life.

Tuesday night, at the East West Bookshop, 7:30 p.m., February 5 (12, & 19th), I will share these beloved teachings with friends. My text is Swami Kriyananda’s most inspired work, based on the wisdom of Paramhansa Yogananda, Essence of the Bhagavad Gita, (Crystal Clarity Publishers, Nevada City). We will film the series and the hope is to make it available online at a future date.

Blessings to you,

Nayaswami Hriman