Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Bhagavad Gita, Karma Yoga= Selfless Service

I have been rereading The Bhagavad Gita. I have read the Gita a few times and have always found it inspiring, but I have never felt the connection, and impact of these lessons like I am now. I am reading a new translation by Eknath Easwaran his translation is really helping me grasp the knowledge much better, I also think I am in a different place in my life right now and I am being shown new aspects because of where I am now. That is one thing I love so much about myths and spiritual books, you can read or hear a teaching many times and yet each time something new is revealed, something else sticks out. I am really connecting and understanding that the Gita is not about this external war, but instead addresses “the war within, the struggle for self-mastery that every human being must wage if he or she is to emerge from life victorious”. And “Krishna is not an external being, human or superhuman, but the spark of divinity that lies at the core of the human” (21). The Gita is a map of how to connect to the divine, within and without; it reminds me of the Anusara invocation.

I am now focusing on the first six chapters. I have read, taken notes, contemplated/meditated, reread my notes, and I am now rereading the first six chapters again. I think there is so much knowledge in this book. If you read through it to quickly you miss a lot. I choose to break the Gita up in these 6 chapters chunks since there are 18 chapters of Krishna teaching Arjuna about yoga. “The Gita is brahmavidyayam yogashastra, a textbook on the supreme science of yoga”. However, what can be confusing is that Krishna teaches about yoga but he presents three different forms of yoga but he never distinguishes between the different forms of yoga and just refers to them all as yoga. These three forms of yoga are taught in six chapter sections, chapters 1-6 is focused on karma yoga (the yoga of selfless action), chapters 7-12 is focused on jnana yoga (the yoga of knowledge), and chapters 13-18 is focused on bhakti yoga (the yoga of devotion).

As I read the chapters on karma yoga, Krishna keeps saying that we shouldn’t be acting out of our ego, out of our selfishness. The Bhuddha called this tanha “thirst”: the fierce, compulsive craving for personal satisfaction. Krishna teaches that it is this tanha, this selfish craving that comes from the ego that makes a person feel separate from the rest of their life. Instead, Krishna teaches to act whole heartedly without selfish attachment because acting without the ego purifies your consciousness. When we act based on selfish attachment we are driven by the ego. All of our actions are based around wanting that which is pleasant or avoiding that which is painful.

Krishna tells Arjuna to renounce the fruits of his action. Krishna tells Arjuna that he needs to act for the higher Self and not for personal gain. By surrender to the Divine out of love, Krishna teaches that you can transform the motivation from “I,I,I” to “thou, though, thou”. When we act without the ego, without trying to better the “I” we become more established in identification with the higher Self. When we are integrated with the higher Self instead of the self (the lower self driven by the ego) we have inner peace and harmony. He teaches Arjuna this when he says “you have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction. Perform work in this world, Arjuna, as a man established within himself- with- out selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat. For yoga is perfect evenness of mind” (2:47-48).

Krishna also talks about how we are all a part of one essence, and that through maya (a clock of illusion) we get confused. We believe we are separate and as a result we get overly attached to the physical body. Krishna says that “the wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead. There has never been a time when you and I and the kings gathered here have not existed, nor will there be a time when we will cease to exist. As the same person inhabits the body through childhood, youth, and old age, so too at the time of death he attains another body. The wise are not deluded by these changes” (2:11-:2:13)… “Realize that which pervades the universe and is indestructible; no power can affect this unchanging, imperishable reality. The body is mortal, but that which dwells in the body is immortal and immeasurable.” (2:17-2:18) This sounds very similar to the non-dual Shiva-Shakti Tantric philosophy of Anusara yoga.

Practicing yoga is hard. I practice, study, and contemplate on the teachings of yoga. I try very hard to act in ways that serve the higher self, and work very hard to let go of the pull of the ego that makes me want to chase after pleasurable things and run away from painful things. I work so hard at this, however I make many mistakes, I think I am acting toward the higher Self and then I noticed that along the way maya has tricked me and I am really acting out of the self. It can become discouraging. I am reassured when Krishna tells Arjuna “…now listen to the principles of yoga. By practicing these you can break through the bonds of karma. On this path effort never goes to wastes, and there is no failure. Even a little effort toward spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fear. Those who follow this path resolving deep within themselves to seek me alone, attain singleness of purpose.” (2:39-41). I remind myself of this often when I feel discouraged that my “effort never goes to waste and there is no failure.”

How can we practice this Karma yoga on are matt? Easy notice when are actions are being driven by our ego. This happens when we push into pain so we can get deeper into a pose, when we move out of stability to go deeper, when we look around and judge ourselves to others. And instead we can make actions that help us remember our Self, that help use connect to our divine essence. The more we do this on the mat the easier it becomes off the mat.
“Reshape yourself through the power of your will; never let yourself be degraded by self-will. The will is the only friend of the Self, and the will is the only enemy of the Self” (6:5)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kimberly,I just came across your blog post having recently written something myself about the aims of yoga and whether we should or shouldn't have them! My first time reading BG, so I've got a long way to go with my understanding. If you're interested, here's what I thought:


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