Over this past yoga teacher training weekend, we dove into the sacred Hindu text, the Bhavagad Gita. We paired this text with Paramahansa Yogananda’s The Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita and the reflections of Tai and her teacher Monorama, in a lecture titled “The Warrior Within.”
Song of God
According to the translation of Paramahansa Yogananda, Bhavagad Gita means “Song of the Spirit.” It is a song sung in the most reverent manner because truly it is a song of God. It is a text that, regardless of where we are on life’s journey, will offer wisdom guiding us forward. To ourselves. To God.
My first introduction to this text, gifted to me within the satsung composed of my teacher Tai and fellow student Jai, has changed my life. This weekend was a pivot point in my practice, my worldview, and revealed so much to me about my journey with God.
The Bhavagad Gita is the sixth of eighteen books that make up the Mahabharata, one of India’s great epic poems. The tale is one of battle, war, surrender, and what Paramahansa Yogananda calls ‘sacred dialogue’. Written by Sage Vyasa, it interweaves “historical facts with psychological and spiritual truths, presenting a word-painting of the tumultuous inner battles that must be waged by both the material and the spiritual man (5).”
This dialogue takes place between Bhagavan Krishna, who is both a prince and the divine incarnation of God, and his most devoted disciple, the Pandava Prince Arjuna. This dialogue takes place on a battlefield, on the eve of a terrible war. It is a story that reflects the paralyzing effects of crisis as well as the journey taken with God when we face these crossroads of our lives.
What is the purpose of this tale? To remember and return to oneness with God. Our souls made the choice to descend to earth and become matter. The Gita is a tale to help human beings remember that we can reverse the limited conscious state defined by our embodiment. Instead, according to Paramahansa Yogananda, we can become “a mortal being to the immortal consciousness of his true Self, the soul, one with the infinite Spirit (6).”
So lesson number one? Wake up. Wake up your soul to God, Spirit, Love, Bliss that defines your very essence. Because an awakened soul helps to bring in a world filled with peace, wisdom, abundance, and vitality.
The War Between Wisdom and Ignorance
When we are born, our souls are immediately influenced by maya (cosmic delusion) and avidya (individual delusion or ignorance). In other words, we believe ourselves defined by our body, our family, our name, and our possessions. In this state, our souls no longer remember the Christ consciousness that resides within and we become prisoners to the idea that we are limited and small beings.
Paramahanasa Yogananda sums this up wisely when he states that “The human body and mind are veritable battlegrounds for the war between wisdom and the conscious delusive force manifesting as avidya, ignorance (24).”
In the Bhavagad Gita, Prince Arjuna’s chief counselor is God himself, who is in the incarnate form of Krishna. Krishna represents the Christ consciousness that instructs his devotee Arjuna. on how to lift himself up in alignment with God.
Patanjali, author of the Yoga Sutras, believed that the Bhavagad Gita was the song “by which the Lord wanted to unite the soul of His ignorant and wandering children with His own Spirit (28).” It was Patanjali himself who explained the process human beings could take to find and realize this union with God through the Eight-Limbed Path.
Single Pointed Focus
Just before the Bhavagad Gita begins, Prince Arjuna makes it clear that he is the greatest warrior of the story. Why? Because he chooses to look and listen only to God, to the exclusion of all else. Krishna gave Arjuna a choice: to go into this fearsome battle with all of Krishna’s armies or with Krishna himself.
He chose Krishna. He said that with God by his side, he could not fail. He chose God.
We Are All Warriors
We all have the opportunity to take on the story and dialogue within the Bhavagad Gita for ourselves. According to Sri Baramanda Saraswati, “You have no choice but to be a warrior.” The battles of everyday life are happening. What is the number one job of the warrior, as related to us by the Bhavagad Gita? It is to awaken to our hidden potential. When we are unaware of our inner god-spark, then there is suffering. Awareness of our connection with Source, with God frees us from this suffering.
Sri Baramanda Saraswati also says “Pray for more problems.” Now this may seem absolutely insane because problems inherently mean suffering. However, awareness of our god-spark ultimately brings us a freedom from suffering. For example, through Arjuna’s suffering we get to learn and realize, as Arjuna does, the reality of who we are.
Humanity is the entry point to this really deep connection with God. When we open ourselves to fear and suffering, when we allow ourselves to be broken, we can create a commonness with others. We are no longer separate from one another. We are no longer separate from God.
When you hit a wall in life, where everything stops, and you’ve exhausted all your options then you just decide to be. Your mind, in a state of exhaustion let’s go. It feels like giving up, but instead, it is giving in to who you really are without all of the self-imposed ideas of self that limit you and cause you grief.
For example, I remember when my marriage was crumbling and I was in the process of separating from my husband. I was so distressed. I felt like a failure as a mother and a wife. I was so distraught because my belief in my identity was destroyed. It was at that moment, that crossroads, that I was able to accept something new. To think about myself in new ways. To understand that my new, more fully present self, had to be born from the heartbreak of a failed relationship.
The Yogic Path
Every soul can find its way back to remembering it’s God spark. However, we can speed this process back to spiritual consciousness through the yogic path. This includes living a life dedicated to the practices of mediation, mantra, mindful movement, and pranic awareness.
These are the tools to tune up our own bodily instrument.
Paramahansa Yogananda say that each of us, through the practice of meditation, can connect with God and as a result strengthen our own spiritual consciousness. The more we commune with God, in other words, the greater our divine influence in the world. With a meditation practice we can cultivate awareness and engage our outer struggles as transformative points that draw us into our stable and connected core. Instead of stamping our feet at the unfairness of situations, we can instead view these trials as an opportunity for transformation.
Tai’s teacher, Manorama, offers these words of wisdom:
“They turn around and say bring the problems forward, let all the good ones come. And I will stand as a human being and do my very best. Because I am not this. I am that and that I am.”
For the yogi, what we do on our mats is to know ourselves as the warriors we are. To know ourselves is to know God. And with that the battle is won. But remember, it’s good to have the goal of awareness, but you have to fall in love with your practice. It is the soul’s journey to God that is the greatest teacher. We consciously choose through our practices of mediation, mantra, mindful movement, and pranic awareness to remember that the battle over ignorance is already won.
Finding the Divine in Our Lives
How can we be sure to cultivate worthiness or the divine in our lives? Here are several tips that are alluded to in the Gita:
- Let go of self-criticism as it drains our energy and makes us paralyzed.
- Spend time for yourself. Just for yourself. If you want to know yourself…hang out with yourself. Awareness is everything. It is in those moments that we connect with ourselves and, thus, with God.
- Do more of what you like doing. Whatever makes your heart sing is what pulls you closer to God.
- Cultivate the satsung of your life. Satsung is keeping good company. Choose people and environments that lift your vibration up, that develop your wisdom, and inspire compassionate thoughts and actions.
- Purify your body and mind with practices that draw you closer to God. Devotion to God is an entry point to knowing God.
- See God in everything. When you see God in everything, you source your thoughts and actions compassionately and with the greatest love.
The Warrior Within
As I went through this weekend synthesizing both the Bhavagad Gita and the Yogic Path I came to the realization of how very blessed I am. I have been given many opportunities in my life to choose the Yogic Path and to remember my god-spark within. Synthesizing the tale of Prince Arjuna and Krishna helped me realize how awe inspiring this yogic journey truly is. It is not to be rushed.
Like Prince Arjuna, I hope always to keep my single pointed focus on God, Spirit, Love. I will continue to embrace my yogic practice and firmly devote myself to this journey. I will seek wisdom and peace. I will give this journey daily attention so that it develops deep roots to ground me, even in times of crisis. I will be the spiritual warrior who acquires wisdom and knowledge for the purposes of serving others. Finally, I will be the warrior who hold faith close and allows my life to be a meditation on God, who is Love.
So with this I conclude – Lokah Sumastah Sukihino Bhavantu. May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.
Om Bolo Sad Guru Bhagavan Ki Jai. God is the only real teacher, Alleluia!