Bagavad Gita

Be the Change

I had the humbling honor of writing the Focus of the Month for the Jivamukti Yoga School for the month of May. You can read it on the Jivamukti website, or right here! You can also find my newest playlist (and all my playlists) on Spotify 

BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD

Focus Of The Month – May, 2017

yad-yad ācarati śreṣṭhas / tad-tadevetaro janaḥ / sa yat pramāṇaḿ kurute / lokas-tad-anuvartate
A great person leads by example, setting standards that are followed by others all over the world.

Bhagavad Gita III.21

The streets of Calcutta were dangerous and dirty. Thousands were infected with leprosy, cholera, and other contagious diseases. At overcrowded hospitals, nurses were forced to turn away dying patients onto the cockroach-infested streets. A group of activists, led by Mother Teresa, risked their own health to treat the sick and poor, even though most could not be saved. Why would Mother Teresa dedicate her life to working in the most unsettling conditions for people who did not have anything to give in return? She responded by saying, “I see the divine in every human being. When I wash a leper’s wounds, I feel I am nursing the Lord himself. Is it not a beautiful experience?”

The great leaders of the world – Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, the Dalai Lama, Malala Yousafzai – all share certain characteristics. They are clear communicators as well as great listeners. They have a firm and steady grounding that reflects an unwavering commitment to their cause. They inspire and empower. They are also confident, honest, and discerning. There is another quality each great leader has, that perhaps outshines all the others – humility.

Business philosopher Jim Rohn says, “Humility is almost a God-like word. A sense of awe. A sense of wonder. An awareness of the human soul and spirit. Humility is the grasp of the distance between us and the stars, yet having the feeling that we are part of the stars.” In other words, humility is seeing yourself in others; it is seeing all life as holy.

The word humility is derived from the Latin humilis, which is translated as “grounded” or “from the Earth.” The Chandogya Upanishad teaches tat twam asi or “you are that.” This mahavakya, or great saying, relates to the idea that everything is Brahman, that the supreme Self and the individual self are one and the same. If you are Brahman, and the tree is Brahman, then you and the tree are one. The yogi has the humility to understand they are the same as all that exists on Earth. Its natural resources support life, so it is our responsibility to support the Earth just as much.

According to Vedic scripture, we are currently living in the Kali Yuga – an era of conflict and struggle – and great leaders are especially needed. If we want to see peace and happiness in the world, then we must live the kind of life we want to see. There was a point in time when humanity lived in harmony with nature. We only took from the Earth what was necessary to survive. Now, each year, humans kill billions of animals and destroy millions of acres of land. We are fighting wars over natural resources and the Earth can no longer sustain us. The business of taking all the earthly resources we want was once thought of as progress. We have instead regressed, causing billions of humans, animals, and plants unhappiness.

A great yogi offers strength to others so that they too can learn to be steady and joyful. Humility allows the yogi to be the change they want to see in the world. We can consider progressing in a different way, one that would help us rediscover our higher consciousness and realize that we are the same as the stars and shine just as bright. We can also lead by example, setting standards that are followed by others all over the world.

April Dechagas

Teaching Tips:
  • The asana practice is an expression of humility. For example, when practicing Hanumānāsana, we take on the qualities of the great leader Hanuman. In his unwavering devotion to Lord Rama, he is the epitome of virtue, strength, power, humility and courage.
  • Standing asanas – and warrior asanas in particular – convey the qualities of a great leader: having a firm and steady grounding, a steady gaze, and unwavering intention.
  • Teach alignment of tadāsana/samastithi. Explain that the alignment of this āsana exists within all the others. The mountain, or Earth, is also the connection between all the other forms we take on: humans (warriors, sages, saints), animals (dogs, frogs, monkeys, etc), insects (locusts), plants (trees, mountains), and even inanimate objects that come from materials from the earth (plows, boats, compasses).
  • Have students hold asanas for longer than five breaths while maintaining ujjayi pranayama with peace and humility.
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Be the change you want to see in the world

Bhagavad Gita III.21

yad-yad ācarati śreṣṭhas / tad-tad evetaro janaḥ / sa yat pramāṇaḿ kurute / lokas-tad-anuvartate

“A great person leads by example, setting standards that are followed by others all over the world.”

– Translation by Sharon Gannon

The great leaders of the world – Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, the Dalai Lama – all share certain characteristics. They are clear communicators as well as great listeners. Each has a firm and steady grounding that reflects an unwavering commitment to their cause. They inspire and empower. They are also confident, honest and discerning. There is another quality each great leader has, a quality that perhaps outshines the others – humility.

According to Vedic scripture we are currently living in the Kali Yuga – an era of conflict and struggle – and great leaders are especially needed. As yogis, it is our responsibility to lead by example, to be spiritual activists.  If we want to see peace and true happiness in the world and live on a thriving Earth where all beings are happy and free, then we need to live the kind of life that we want to see.

In an article from Success magazine, Jim Rohn says, “Humility is almost a God-like word. A sense of awe. A sense of wonder. An awareness of the human soul and spirit. Humility is the grasp of the distance between us and the stars, yet having the feeling that we are part of the stars.”  Humility is seeing yourself in others; it is being able to see all life as holy.

The word humility is derived from the Latin word humilis, which is translated as “grounded” or “from the Earth,” since the word humilis itself originates from humus (Earth).  We can associate the concept of humility to “sthira-sukham-āsanam” – PYS II.46 (“The connection to the earth should be steady and joyful” – Sharon Gannon). Being firmly connected and balanced with the Earth is also an expression of “tat twam asi” (You are that) – Chandogya Upanishad, the knowing that you are the same as all life on this Earth. A great yogi has the humility to understand that they are the same as all that exist on Earth. The Earth and its natural resources support life, so it is our responsibility to protect and equally support the Earth. A yogi has the responsibility of living life in the most compassionate way possible, following the dictates of the Yamas: ahiṃsā, satya, asteya, brahmacharya, and aparigraha (non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, sexual responsibility and greedlessness) – YS II.30. When we embody these five ideals as the way of life, others will see how happy and free we are, and then they will follow suit.

A great yogi is the embodiment of what it means to stand for what is right. A great yogi offers strength to others so that they too can learn how to be steady and joyful, to be humble and to be the change they want to see in the world. It is time for humanity to progress in a different way, to rediscover that we are same as the stars and shine just as bright, and to lead by example, setting standards that are followed by others all over the world.

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Radiate Love

Govinda Hare Gopala Hare hey prabhu dinadayala Hare

 

Hey, you sweet Govinda, my closest friend, who loves me and allows me to love without inhibitions.

When you meet someone you have a strong connection to, there is always this initial excitement – butterflies in your stomach, a bit of tingling in the heart… just a hint of what love could be. And when you truly feel love, when you find someone who will be in your life forever in some way – a partner, a friend, a teacher – our perspective of the whole world changes. There is an overwhelming sense that everything is perfect, and everyone else around us can tell. Happiness exudes out of every pore of the body. But it’s fleeting…when this feeling is gone, we may find ourselves pining for it, waiting for the next moment we get to feel that way again…and there is also fear that comes along with that sense of love, often we put up walls, afraid to dive in and see what happens…

My Bhagavad Gita teacher, Joshua Greene, says that we thrill for love because that is what our soul truly is, LOVE. The butterflies and tingling – it’s like our body knows what our mind can’t quite grasp – giving us a tangible glimpse of what our true nature is. It doesn’t last because we are looking for it externally, when all we need to do is look internally. It is who we are – we don’t have to look very far. We practice yoga to connect with that true love, deep down inside. We work through past relationships and experiences, all those “issues” and “stuff”, often also putting up walls, and afraid to dive deeper. Hopefully, eventually, we realize we are love.

When you say to someone “I love you”, you are reflecting back to them who they truly are; love itself.  Radiate that love outwards. Give to someone what you truly want for yourself.

Radiate Love

 

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Your Own Personal Jesus

sarva-bhūtastham ātmānaḿ

sarva-bhūtāni cātmani

īkṣate yoga-yuktātmā

sarvatra sama-darśanaḥ

Through the practice of yoga, the yogi sees the Divine Self in all beings and things.

Bhagavad Gita VI.29

I, like maybe some of you, have an aversion to the word God. But I really couldn’t figure out why.  I have been contemplating it for a while…and then I was riding the subway at 7:30 a.m., had not had coffee yet, and someone in the  subway car started preaching, VERY LOUDLY, about how only Jesus can save me, and I am going to hell if I don’t give my life over to God. This situation alone might cause an aversion to God. If God loved me, I wouldn’t be subjected to this at 7:30 in the morning!

But in all seriousness, one of the reasons it bothered me so much is that I was raised Jewish, and I don’t very much enjoy having someone else’s God being pushed on me.  But I’m not sure I feel comfortable with Judaism’s version of God either…where, like in many other religions, God could be wrathful, punishing you for something done wrong. While growing up, I can remember my mom saying many times “God’s going to punish you.” I also found that I was doing things, like going to temple or fasting on Yom Kippur, because “I am supposed to,” or “I should,” and not because I truly believed in what I was doing.

And then there is yoga.  I wasn’t very comfortable with yoga at first, with chanting the names of different deities, and having altars to those deities in front of me – the complete opposite of Judaism – where God doesn’t even have a name, and any imagery at all is considered idolatry. But the more I dove into my practice, the more I came to love it, because it is all about love.  While the yogic scriptures refer to a higher power, it is an unnamed higher power. Yogic philosophy allows you to view a higher power in whatever way you need to, your own personal God.  Jesus, Allah, Krishna, Mother Nature; whatever you need it to be. Yoga is all-inclusive, non-denominational, without any preferences.  Where it is ok to have feelings and emotions that may seem negative, like anger, jealousy, fear; and there are no “shoulds” – the key is how you react to those feelings.   In fact, throughout your asana practice, a lot of those feelings may come up. Maybe the teacher calls out a 5th wheel when we typically only do 3,  or asks you to think about someone who may have hurt you while you are in that last wheel. Or in my case, asks you to do an asana in a different way than you have been for the last 5 years. How do you react? The practice, as our Sanskrit teacher Manorama said recently, is having the courage to sit with it. Allow yourself to have those feelings, even if they seem negative. There is no judgment.  And if there is judgment, sit with that too. Eventually, through the practices of yoga, you will realize that you are the same as the annoying preacher on the subway, the person who hurt you, the trees, cows, grass, even the subway rats. We all come from the divine – however you choose to view it.

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