Kindness. Consideration. Friendliness. These words embody ahimsa meaning non-violence and one of the yamas in the eight limbs of Ashtanga yoga. In the second chapter of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the Sadhana Pada, Ashtanga is referred to as the eight practical integrated steps leading to a greater gradual awakening of yoga. The first limb or step is yama, our social observances and behaviors, in other words, how we relate to others. In Yoga Sutra 2.35, ahimsapratisthayam tatsannidhau vairatyagah, it is explained that when we live in a state of non-violence, those around us will cease to be hostile. It’s rather simple really…as old adages go…it takes two to tango or two hands to clap. If we do not react when someone has a conflict with us, no dance, no sound, the conflict will end. This interpretation does not imply to just turn the other way and ignore it. In fact, it is far from that.
My heart has been really heavy from the repeated and increasing gun violence in our American culture over the last two decades. It can’t be ignored which is exactly what we are doing. We hear of another deadly mass shooting as we say, oh god not again. We see the homeless on the street and look away. We go into a difficult asana and hold our breath. If we don’t like something we move away from it instead of working through the uncomfortable depths of ourselves. How about we look into the person’s eyes who we have conflict with and see ourselves responding with empathy and compassion? How about we look into the homeless person’s eyes and see ourselves with a genuine smile? How about we speak kind words to ourselves to build positive attitudes? When we cease harmful actions, speech and thoughts, love can shine through. It is the force that underlies the energetic structure of the universe. When we align ourselves with love others will no longer feel angry, fearful, and alone because there is nothing that separates us. And in that peace, harmony begins. Ultimately we help one another remember that we are all part of something so much greater than each of us as individuals. Cultivate love yogis, Namaste.
The Bhagavad Gita, originally delivered in Sanskrit, is a sweeping saga on the epic war about the Kuru dynasty of India translated today in nearly every language. This story of a 3,000-year-old battle is considered a foundational text for the practice of yoga. But how can reading about war lead to inner peace? And what does this have to do with yoga today? The Gita serves as both an ancient story of battle and a spiritual text on the inner struggle for self-mastery and the attainment of happiness through yoga.
The Bhagavad Gita takes place as a dialogue between Prince Arjuna and Sri Krishna who is disguised as his chariot driver, friend and council. The story opens with a scene on the battlefield with Arjuna asking Krishna for guidance. Knowing that by engaging in this war family members and friends will be lost on both sides of the battle line, Arjuna is faced with a personal and ethical crisis. The resulting conversation between Arjuna and Krishna develops into a discourse on the nature of the soul, the purpose of one’s life, and the threefold path of yoga. Scores of philosophers have likened the battlefield of Kurukshetra to the battleground that lies within each of us. Though Arjuna’s conversation with Krishna is deeply personal, it touches on topics of concern to people everywhere that continue to trouble us today.
For students of yoga, the Gita brings to life its foundational principles and methods: discernment, equanimity and non-attachment. By incorporating the yogic philosophies within his responses to Arjuna’s dilemma, Krishna patiently and eloquently teaches Arjuna how to apply them to his life to relieve him from his suffering and to attain eternal happiness. Through hearing Krishna’s examples and allegories, we too learn how to further understand and apply these teachings to our daily lives. With every age, the important words will carry new and expanding meanings but its central teaching will never vary. Join me Friday, June 1st at 6:30pm for An Introduction to the Bhagavad Gita in which we will dive into this deep well which reveals the complete science of yoga and self-realization by refining our understanding and practice of the tools of yoga.