Love is the easy yoke, the discipline which removes every burden. The yoke of love is known as Bhakti Yoga. Bhakti, pure devotion, is the short cut to realization. Please don't do yoga practices without love. Love is so easy; one moment of immersion in pure love dissolves all burdens. Love immediately centers you in the heart, the dwelling place of the Supreme.
Language, by its very nature as crystallized concept, can only stab at slivers of experiential fullness. It isn’t fine enough a sieve to completely capture the multidimensionality of any experience, including experiences beyond the familiar. To put something into words is to limit its limitlessness, to pin it down behind glass. The onlooker creates what they see in the very act of observation. If we are limited in our discussion of any experience, how then do we digest and integrate awakening experiences that are beyond language and concept?
Students of 21st Century Transnational Postural Yoga typically begin our study with little or no theory; practice is all. As we deepen our practice, we are introduced to what we are told is “Yoga Philosophy.” Depending on the tradition we are studying, this is usually a pat genealogy; we are told that “Yoga Philosophy” is found in the Yoga Sūtras, and that the philosophy they contain is called स़ाम्ख्य, Sāmkhya, and that it is dualistic. Because Yoga is supposedly Indian, we are also likely to be introduced to some Indian religious classics: the Vedas, Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gītā. In the course of this, we may be told that some of these texts expound another acceptable Indian philosophical system, that of Non-Dualism (or “Monism”). And there the matter is likely to be left.
The two historical texts employed by yoga practitioners to navigate the path are the Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita. The former promises freedom, or “kaivalya,” from the shackles of embodied existence through the state of samadhi; the latter promises a kind of blissful transcendence of the body-mind conundrum through union with God. These two texts offer a wealth of information to all who read them and pose an important question: what kind of yoga will you practice?
To the dreadlocked, inward gazing sadhus along the burning ghats of Benares, India the ultimate purpose of yoga is not to feel sexier, healthier, and more energetic. To the sadhus, the goal of life is to escape the attachment of samsara and the lusts of the body, escape the cycle of birth and death, stop the cause of bad karma, and, finally, to awaken one’s identity with the superconscious Self, or atman.
Well, we were not one-dimensional in ancient times, contrary to what some would have you believe. The spectrum of personal and spiritual beliefs was as wide back then as it is now. We had atheist intellectuals and fundamentalist believers and everything in between, just like you do today.
Of course there can only be one what I call Brahman, or “ultimate reality”. But, somewhat paradoxically, the ultimate reality of things has to include all sincere belief systems, because the belief systems themselves are certainly real, even if the actual facts believed in are an illusion. Does that make sense?
To study the Bhagavad Gita and place it culturally and historically in some sort of context, one must begin with the larger book that it belongs to, The Mahabharata. The Mahabharata is not only one of two major sanskrit epic poems/texts from ancient India (The Ramayana, being the other), it is also one of the world’s greatest epics. It is also by far the longest- ten times longer than the Iliad and the Odyssey combined, with over 100,000 verses.
Central to the theme of the beloved Bhagavad Gita is an invitation to a way of living that seemingly contradicts most of what we in the West have thrived on as our most basic human right- free will. The “Royal Secret” described in Chapter 9 of the Gita is this: there is no greater freedom than surrender to the Lord. Material reality is an illusion, our attachment to form and possessions is the obstacle to happiness, and in order to know the Truth we must participate fully with no expectations or attachments to the process that got us into this situation of suffering (dukha) to begin with: being human. In order to achieve the highest Yoga, Krishna says, each of us must fulfill our duty of being human- engage, participate, honor discipline and responsibility to our household, but ultimately this incarnation is a temporary gift and as such we must give up identification with everything, the pleasant and the unpleasant, by offering it up to God.
We must start with the primary premise of Yoga philosophy and related schools of thought: True Reality is free from all qualities, atemporal, all-pervading, and impassive. Given this premise, various philosophies from the Indian subcontinent have converged on a single origin for all suffering - Ignorance, or avidya. The word vidya derives from the same Indo-European root as “vision,” and it links, as comparable words in many languages do, correct understanding with correct sight. If someone is explaining something to me and I say, “Yes, I see!” I mean, “I understand!”