Bhagavad Gita

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Overview of the Bhagavad Gita ( Based on Swami Dayananda’s home study course )

The Bhagavad Gita, one of the oldest and most profound articulations of spiritual awakening in human history, is a story within a story. Vyasa, an ancient sage, poet and historian enfolds the story of Arjuna’s confusion and Krishna’s teaching into the epic poem The Mahaabhaarata which is centered around a large battle between two factions of the royal clan of the Kurus. It is a classic story of good versus evil, of right versus wrong, with plots, sub plots twists and turns, culminating an a great battle scene. The bad guys are organized around the 100 sons of Dhrtaraastra. The good guys center around the 5 sons of Paandu, the Pandavas, one of whom is Arjuna.

As the Gita begins, the armies are facing each other, awaiting the beginning of the battle. Krishna, the Divine one overseeing the battle could not take sides, so he offered a deal to the leaders of the two armies. One could have his vast army, the other could have him as a charioteer, although he would not fight. Arjuna chose to have Krishna, and Duryodhana, the opposing leader, was delighted to have Krishna’s army. Arjuna asks Krishna to take his chariot to a place where he might see all of those whom he would be fighting. Upon recognizing relatives and revered teachers among the enemy army, Arjuna falls into a great despair. Krishna’s teachings begins at this point.

One of the foundations to understanding the Mahaabhaarata concerns the Vedic teachings on the human condition, the four purushaarthas or the fundamental pursuits of all human beings. These are:

Artha: security

Kama: pleasure

Dharma: joy or satisfaction in doing what needs to be done

Moksha: (freedom from all wanting and insecurity, enlightenment).

The teachings of the Mahaabhaarata center around upholding dharma and in the Gita, Krishna’s teaching to Arjuna expands this into upholding dharma plus moksha, or total freedom from suffering.

All human beings pursue artha and kama, security and pleasure. Security may be very basic: food and shelter. It may be financial, in the form of money, real estate, stocks and bonds; social in the form of power, education, a title; physical with a guard dog, burglar alarm, or karate lessons; emotional security is sought in relationships and spiritual security can be sought in religion or belief systems.

Pleasures of all sorts are also pursued. Sensory pleasures include the obvious food and sex, but also physical activities such as skiing, hiking, basketball and other sports. Intellectual pleasures may include reading, puzzles and games, discussions and debates. Emotional pleasures are derived from following a sports team. Aesthetic pleasures such a music, art and nature are also desired and desirable to all.

If we observe ourselves, we will notice how large expenditures of energy and time are devoted to these first two pursuits.

Dharma is a Sanskrit word with many layers of meaning. Here it refers to a pleasure different from artha and kama. It is not based on acquiring or achieving anything but rather on being friendly, compassionate, honest and trustworthy. It is the delight in gratefully doing what needs to be done. There is an inherent joy in being nice and at some point in our maturing, this becomes even more desirable than security and pleasure. In fact we can say that becoming more mature is awakening to the role of dharma in our lives and living more and more in conformity with it.

As maturing beings we can now re-prioritize our pursuits: dharma, atha and kama. Without violating dharma, we are free to pursue security and pleasure. This is the way an intelligent society self organizes, and without the concept of dharma as a guide, the pursuits of security and pleasure can lead to much suffering. The concept of dharma plays a large role in the Gita as we will later see.

Moksha is the most important of the purushaarthas but is rarely recognized in human societies. Perhaps a few wise ones in any given generation will have the maturity and wisdom to recognize the subtle and not so subtle dead ends hidden in the previous pursuits. Moksha means freedom from being a wanting person, freedom from wanting or desiring to be different, freedom from a lack of self acceptance. Moksha is freedom from seeking itself. Krishna’s teaching to Arjuna is, in Vedantic language, brahma vidya, knowledge of Brahman, a term which signifies wholeness, fullness, The divinity plus creation, the world of time and space and the times unbounded source out of which creation appears and into which it (including time and space itself) dissolves.

As Krishna points out, this wholeness is the Truth of ‘I’, of everyone, but most believe themselves to be limited, small, wanting and thus suffer struggling to overcome this confusion. It takes 18 chapters to unfold the simplicity of this, as confusion arises continuously in the seeker. Part of Arjuna’s confusion involves the differences between two approaches to acquiring this wisdom, the path of knowledge known in India as sanyaasa, and the path of action, karma yoga. He feels that sanyassa, which involves dropping out of society and leaving behind all social obligations, is the only path to self knowledge. Krishna’s teaching goes into depth as to why karma yoga is an equally valid path, if understood, and that moksha is available to anyone, not just the renunciates.

Although we will not study each chapter in depth,  I recommend you go through the whole 18 chapters several times to get a feel for the approach Krishna takes. Find a translation that speaks to you. Find verses that speak directly to your heart. The one I first discovered in 1971, the Penguin Classic translated by Juan Mascaro, is very simple, (120 pages), beautiful and rich. Swami Dayananda’s home study course has four 500 page volumes. Stephen Mitchell, translator of the Tao Te Ching (and husband of Byron Katie, an Ojai neighbor ) has a new translation out, but I have not seen it yet.  This web site will focus on a few key verses to help in the understanding and we will tie these into to other teachings and the study course. Everything here is based upon the brilliant expositions of Swami Dayananda, my primary teacher for the Gita and other Vedantic teachings as well as the Yoga Sutras.  Om tat sat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Related Links

Essential Verses of the Gita
Yoga in the Gita
Sthita Prajña (Stable Wisdom)
Summary of the 18 Chapters

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Recent Posts

Micro-Cosmic Orbit: Pt 2

Exploring and Embodying Three Dimensions

In the previous post we explored the micro-cosmic orbit as a means to refine our focal attention (samadhi) through bringing our attention to specific points along the orbit and linking these points into lines, arcs and circles. As we work more deeply this way, we may discover that we can find these points at three levels. The first is out beyond the confines of the skin, in an ‘orbit’ in the energy field around the body. The second is directly on the skin, where an acupuncturist or shiatsu practitioner would apply needles or pressure. The third is in the interior of the body along the planes of fascia interwoven through the organs, blood vessels and nerves. When we can feel all three of these levels simultaneously, we are inhabiting our spherical energy field and can begin to fully realize the possibilities of having three dimensional/spatial sensitivity, perception and consciousness.

images-5The girdle vessel (Dai Mai,) the fourth vessel we use, is a latitude line and is essential in finding our three dimensional perceptual field. This yang vessel pairs with the yin ‘thrusting vessel, the vertical center axis, creating horizontal stability, and allowing us to rotate/twist. Rotation inherently builds the third dimension of depth ( A circle has length and width. To create a sphere you add depth. ) and is the gateway to cosmic awareness as well as a more vibrant embodied presence.

Rotation drives the whole manifest universe. In our solar system, the planets spiral around milky_waythe sun. In our Milky Way galaxy, the stars, including our sun, spiral around a center (probably a giant black hole! If you can find Sagittarius in the night sky, and you will probably have to wait until next summer, look through and imagine 26,000 light years off in the distance.) The earth rotates on its own axis creating weather patterns as well as a sense of day and night.

The spinning top (one of the oldest toys known to humans, found in archeological sites all over the world) demonstrates the cosmic principle in physics we are embodying. The faster it rotates, the more stable the vertical line. When the top slows down it starts to wobble and when it stops spinning, it falls over. To keep the rotation, you need to keep feeding it with energy. The bicycle uses this same principle, flipped 90 degrees. Another aspect we explore is the radius of the horizontal circle. Rotation pushes from the center outward (yang) in what is called centrifugal force. As this is counterbalanced by theGM2434B-1 yin centripetal (center seeking) force, we can change the volume of the energy field by playing with this ‘expanding – condensing’, yang – yin relationship.

In this top, the widest circle with the most outward thrust, the purple one, is below the center of the vertical axis. Lowering the center of gravity adds even more stability, which is why we emphasize the lower dantien in our breathing, movement and meditation practice. When we discover how to work with this principle in the energy field, our twisting poses can actually help expand the body. If we work muscularly, you will feel constricting in twisting poses.

SBK_1711254-24Traditionally the ‘dai mai’ girdle vessel surrounds the body at the level of the pelvis in the lower dantien. but we can move our attention to awaken other ‘latitudes’ of the body. To begin in the feet, stand with the right foot forward, the left foot back, as if you are about to move into a standing twist (without the forward bend), but haven’t yet begun. Before you move any further, imagine a spiraling coil of energy beginning below the floor (the Antarctic Circle) and traveling up the center. Notice how this mimics the girdle vessel. Now imagine the coils widening as they rise up from the base ( moving toward the equator), as the yang energy expands outward. The girdle vessel is very yang so this is quite natural. Feel the energetic volume expanding and condensing with the breath, but slowly expanding in overall volume

To awaken the front body-yin energy field, we can take the hoop forward to fully engage the arms and shoulders. Now imagine the hoops extends through the back body, receiving the rising spiral and expanding as the action of twisting. SBK_1711254-2SBK_1711254-9Most students eventually leave half of the body behind and end up contracting rather than expanding, especially along the spine column. Imagine the center of the spinal canal opening outward in an expanding circle/spiral, melting the tissue, feeling spaciousness, transcending the limitations of structure.SBK_1711254-4 (My front foot turns out much more than average to release the inner groin. Don’t feel you have to imitate this, but find out for yourself where openness and balance meet.) The hoop is moved to the front to expand the yin/organ/front body qi field and expand the ‘wings’ of the body, but also feel the back body softening and opening. This feeling can be evoked in sitting, lying and inverted twists as well. If you do not have a hula hoop handy, you can also use a thera-ball to find the volume.SBK_1711254-8

 

Another key component awakened here is the Pericardium 8 point, PC-8 (or P-8) in the center of the palms. Analagous to the K-1 points on the feet, P-8 is a gateway between the inner and outer qi fields. The SBK_1711254-11Pericardium, the fascial connective tissue membrane surrounding the heart, arises embryologically from the same cells and tissues that create the diaphragm and liver. The ‘heart protector’ literally does this, on many levels. As someone with a well-armored heart, I am finding that opening and nurturing the heart protector so that is does its job with over doing it is awakening a level of sweet vulnerability that is both precious and scary.

SBK_1711254-12In acupuncture, the pericardium meridian is part of the JueYin channel and connects all the way through the femoral canal to the legs. For those of you who have been practicing ‘climbing the wall’ for the last few years, you can actually trace the whole fascial continuity of the Jue Yin. (Use imagination to fill in the blanks.) Rise up from K-1 (not the heels, even though they do rise on their own) (DFL for those of you who know Tom Myers’ ‘Anatomy Trains’ system) to P-8, passing through liver, diaphragm and pericardium.

You can also track the qi from P-8 back into the body horizontally, again using the wall.SBK_1711254-14 Using the tip of the  middle finger of your other hand (PC-9) to feel the connections, trace the qi from the the wall and P-8 into the area around the pec minor muscle and then go inside the body to the pericardiam itself, along with the liver and diaphragm. Use the breath and your imagination. Then go back and try the twistings shown above with these new perceptions.

SBK_1711254-20To continue our building of a three dimensional perceptual qi field, we can return to the thera-ball to provide sensation and visualization. I like the feel of my third chakra having organ support, so I find placing the ball there and using a wall creates a powerful presence on the inside. Embryologically speaking, this is the extemely yin yolk sac which becomes the entire gut body. The conception vessel points on the micro-cosmic orbit are stimulated by the ball, bringing sensation and perception here. The liver comes from the yolk sac, so I can use this position to also find the Jue Yin channel we explored above. Lying SBK_1711254-19over the ball in a forward bend creates a similar feeling, with even more yielding and softening to the yang back body erector muscles. By moving the ball to the sternum, I can activate a new set of points on the conception vessel and engage the inner tissues surrounding the 4th chakra

If I want to build up my back field perception, I use the ball from behind and awaken sensation on the yang Governing Vessel.SBK_1711254-16 Here I have dropped it a bit lower to find the sacral-lumbar junction and here I can feel the possibility of both lumbar flexion and extension, from S curve to C curve and back.  The very important GV-4 Qi gong Image‘gate of vitality’ is here The inner abdominal space also opens and the front back and center plane begin to become conscious. This becomes trickier as you move upwards towards the liver. You can place the ball anywhere and feel different points coming alive. Feel their inner as well as outer presence. Back support can also help open the front. I haveSBK_1711254-17been trying to open my throat more for my sax sound and using the ball (or any elastic support) helps soften and melt tight tissue.

SBK_1711254-21Fish body support, opening some Gall Bladder Meridian points is another way to use the ball. I am using the wall, but this can be done on the floor as well, with slightly different effects. All of these ways of playing with the three dimensional field are ways of awakening and establishing a dynamic energetic field, centered in your heart, and radiating out throughout the whole of the cosmos. When you are out in Nature, feel this. When you are out and about in the human sphere, feel how you respond. It is fascinating to see what happens.

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