|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 387 ]
Thousands of years ago, the great warrior and prince Arjuna of the exiled Royal Pandava family found himself embroiled in one of the fiercest wars ever to be fought upon Indian soil.
On the morning of the first of 18 battles, he found himself shaken and immobilized by the recognition that he would soon have to fight and possible kill many of his friends, cousins and former teachers who were among the ranks of his enemies. He was confused and utterly dejected, on the verge of throwing down his weapons and relinquishing his responsibilities as a military leader when the God-man Krishna intervened.
Lord Krishna proceeded to instruct the bemused, despondent prince in the necessity of fighting for truth, and his dharma to conquer the forces of evil. In order to make sense of what seemed a senseless task before him, Krishna instructed Arjuna that he must remove his vision from the material realm and open his eyes to the spiritual reality of the situation, which would make everything clear and end his confusion.
This episode initiates the grand finally of the great Indian epic, the Mahabharata, and the next 18 chapters where the lessons of yoga are imparted by the Guru Krishna to his student are known as the Bhagavad Gita.
Thus instructed, Arjuna understood that he must not succumb to inaction out of fear, but make a conscious choice. In performing his dharma, Arjuna elected to fight, yet to do so without self-interest, hatred or resentment—which is the great ideal of karma yoga, the path of selfless or self-transcending action.
Swami Gitananda Giri referred to the Bhagavad Gita as the yogic version of the Book of Revelations:
"Revealed here are the three beautiful pictures of Sri Krishna [the higher Mind]. He is shown as the Supreme Guru or Teacher, the Master who gives us the ancient wisdom of the birthless and deathless Atman. Here we also find the picture of Krishna as the greatest lover of humanity… The third view is as the servant, the refuge and the healer of the down-trodden, the oppressed, and the poor. Here is the picture of the ‘Supreme Friend’. The whole story of the Gita is of the triumphant life which grows out of disciplining oneself as though a warrior preparing for battle, but under the guidance of the Supreme [higher] Mind."
~ Yoga, Step by Step
The Bhagavad Gita is as a remarkable allegory of the spiritual life, which demands that we confront the ignorance of the ego within. Krishna refers to this as 'conquering the self'. Arjuna represents the spiritual seeker, who, before receiving the illuminating guidance of his teacher, walks through life in ignorance, causing himself and others needless suffering.
Krishna elucidates to Arjuna in a systematic fashion, his true, underlying Self, which is the Divine, Eternal Spirit. He helps him to understand the illusionary nature of the lower, ego-bound personality which clouds one from understanding their true, immortal, eternal nature—that which could never be lost, but which must, however, be re-discovered through the cleansing of the darkened mind. This is the central message of all the yoga-s. Enlightenment means the recovery of our true identity as the Eternal, Cosmic Self (Spirit), which spells the end of all pain, suffering and confusion.
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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