|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 390 ]
The Bhagavad Gita is comprised of eighteen chapters, each one title a specific yoga. Its teachings are mostly practical in nature, laying down both the fundamental construct of the Universe and the essential nature of man, while expounding the systems for understanding the Self and for actively engaging in the world with higher action and purpose. Krishna tells Arjuna that the message he brings is one of imperishable yoga, the way to a unified existence which has been taught since time immortal.
Within these teachings are explanations on karma yoga (selfless action), bhakti yoga (devotion), jnana yoga (knowledge/wisdom) and sannyasa yoga (renunciation). Krishna further reveals the principles of Transcendental Mind (vijnana yoga), devotional service to the Absolute (taraka-Brahma yoga), the principles of meditation (dhyana yoga), and the principles of the Divine Manifestation and its extensions (vibhuti yoga).
In the final six chapters, this epic poem enters into the deepest of spiritual concepts, wherein one must be a jnani (a wise yogi) in order to understand all of the subtleties of its higher teachings. Here Krishna elucidates the distinctions between matter and spirit; the distinction between the qualities of the gunas; the yoga of attaining the Supreme Absolute; the distinction between Divine and un-Godly qualities; the three-fold divisions of Faith; and the "yoga of Freedom," or final emancipation of the jiva from its encumbrance of the ego-Self.
Some major yogic lessons from the Gita are:
- Action - In recognition of the Eternal Oneness of all, one's essential dharma is to actively engage in this world, devoid of ego and selfishness (with detachment), as a vehicle of the Supreme Divine, for the uplifting and betterment of their fellow mankind.
- Service - Selfless service, the renunciation of personal gain and the performance of 'right action' is the path to liberation.
- Equanimity - The yogi possesses sthithi prajna, an unshakable state of mental equipoise, whereby great fortunes and unfortunate circumstances are equally received; without delight or sorrow, but with perfect detachment and contentment (santosha).
- Fearlessness - The material world is wrought with perils for the one in pursuit of the Highest. The “warrior spirit” will cast aside all anxieties, doubts, worries and fears, and enable the sadhak to nobly fulfil his/her dharma and to conquer all obstacles on his/her quest for truth and understanding.
- Right Views - The veil of ignorance (maya) is the inhibitor of all that is right and good. It is in thinking in terms of 'I', and 'me' that we fall into despair. Before we can act in an evolutionary way, we must remove this illusion and conquer the ego-self.
- Self-Realization - Krishna reveals that the Supreme, Highest Self lies behind the phenomenon of the sensorial, manifest world. It is the ego which masks our realization of the Supreme, Eternal Nature. Once the ego is brought under control, the 'pure Self' shines forth. This realization is achieved through the 'right action' and 'right living' of the Bhagavad Gita.
NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.
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