What I’ve Learned from the Bhagavad Gita
When I was in University, I took a course in Indian Philosophy. I’m half Indian, and I’ve always been interested in yoga so I thought the course would be a good opportunity to learn more about the thought behind it. Little did I know, this class would involve rising at the ungodly hour of 7:00 am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. While this is no problem for me now, it can be a difficult feat for a university student at the ripe young age of 21. So, I was forced to teach myself the Bhagavad Gita. It was a great opportunity for me to learn about my own interpretation of the text, which may not be nearly as informed as my professors, but it’s something.
The Bhagavad Gita meaning “the song of the Lord” is composed as a poem and is part of “The Mahabharata”, the longest Indian epic. The ancient text contains a wealth of information on key topics of Indian faith and philosophy, particularly of the Hindu tradition.
It tells the story of Arjuna, who is about to engage in a battle for the throne. He decides to withdraw because he fears the blood shed of his loved ones and takes the path of inaction. His charioteer is the Lord Vishnu who has taken the form of Krishna. The Bhagavad Gita is the conversation that Krishna has with Arjuna, presented in 700 verses and divided into 18 chapters. Through the course of the conversation, Krishna gives advice to Arjuna on a number of topics such as the self, the concept of yoga, and the path to liberation. Krishna outlines the three paths one can take that lead to moksha or liberation:
Karma Yoga is the path of action. It is a form of selfless service in which you perform your prescribed duties without attachment to the outcome.
Jnana Yoga is the path of knowledge or wisdom. Through this path you find union with God through a course of study.
Bhakti Yoga is the path of unconditional love, in which you become liberated through sincere devotion.
In the text, Krishna provides conflicting claims for why each path is superior in order to get across that all paths are equal. Each person goes on an individual journey that is uniquely their own, and so your path must be chosen based on your nature.
The Bhagavad Gita is required reading for Certified Yoga Teachers and is an important text because, in the words of Ghandi, it acts as a “spiritual dictionary”, full of references and meaning. There is a lot to be learned from the Bhagavad Gita, but what I’ve taken away is the importance of letting go. This was a hard concept for me to get my head around. I equate letting go of attachments with encouraging myself to feel less. So, I think of it as letting go of expectations – I still “attach” myself to the things that I care about, but without demanding anything in return. Or at least I try. It’s a journey, right?
Through my practice I am able to detach myself momentarily, and just concentrate on pranayama, asana, and meditation. Hopefully you can join us at Yoga Tree this week to do the same!