Category Archives: Bhagavad-gita

Yogic Values, Diversity, and Inclusivity

LuluLogoDiversityI had the good fortune to score one of only a hundred seats for The Practice of Leadership, a panel discussion held at the Yoga Journal Conference in New York City this past weekend. The discussion grew out of Seane Corn’s decision to decline an invitation from Lululemon to participate in a leadership training program they were developing for the Yoga Journal Conferences. Ms. Corn explained the reason for her decision:

I told them that I couldn’t be a part of a training program they were hosting unless they themselves were willing to model true leadership, which includes ownership. Their lack of transparency and silence around the controversy in 2013 was irresponsible.”

The “controversy” was a perfect storm of long-standing questions regarding the compatibility of Lululemon’s philosophy and ethics with those of yoga combined with incendiary statements by Lululemon founder and majority shareholder Chip Wilson regarding, among other things, problems with Lululemon’s product line. It all resulted in a public relations disaster and an invitation from Alanna Kaivalya in a phenomenally viral Huffington Post article.

The Practice of Leadership panel discussion was described as follows:

“In this session, we will take on the delicate balance of spiritual values and corporate responsibility featuring community leaders, social change activists and Lululemon leadership. It will be an open and honest dialogue that gets at the heart of our practice, our role as conscious leaders and how to create community in conflict.”

Yogadork posted a nice summary of the proceedings and asked readers to stop and ponder a significant question: “Do you feel Lululemon (a corporation) should be held responsible for upholding yogic values, diversity and inclusivity?”

My answer is that Yogadork rolled two very different questions into one. A coherent response is not possible until the two questions are separated. Here’s why: Continue reading

The Supreme Personality of Godhead

Krishna

As is so often the case, Carol Horton wrote a wonderfully thought-provoking article recently. You can find it on her blog, Think Body Electric. The post was an appreciation of ‘American Yoga’ and, as the long parade of comments that her post generated rolled on, the topic of the Bhagavad Gita’s relevance to contemporary yoga came up. Within the sub-discussion that nested inside the larger conversation, one participant suggested that a definition of “Krishna”, the speaker of the Gita, was required in order to ascertain how one should try to understand the Gita and apply its teachings.

I couldn’t agree more.

One edition of the Gita that was cited among examples of how different translators arrive at different philosophical conclusions was A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is. In his translation, Prabhupada coined a vivid descriptive for Krishna: The Supreme Personality of Godhead. Continue reading

Tall Tales of the Lonely Void

Void

Let’s think about nothing. It’s a little different from not thinking about anything. If we don’t think about anything then we actually just give the mind free reign to wander without constraint. The mind is always active so not thinking about anything really means not directing thought to a particular object, not thinking about anything in particular.

On the other hand, thinking about nothing means making ‘nothing’ the object of one’s meditation. This carries an exceptionally high degree of difficulty precisely because a void offers nothing to direct one’s thoughts to. In one sense, it’s impossible to think about nothing because there’s nothing to think about: in a void, qualities are conspicuous by their absence. A void can’t feel anything because there is nothing in a void that can generate feelings or be affected by anything. And a void can’t do anything because it has neither the power to act nor any mechanism for action. A void is neither sentient nor is it an automaton.

Curiously, the absence of qualities, energies, and instruments in a void does not always stop people, even scholars of yoga philosophy, from assigning qualities to that which is, by definition, quality-less. Continue reading

In The Beginning

OmGong_Mantra_200As is sometimes the case for those of us who become yoga teachers, my first few classes were a little rough. Fortunately my classes were so small that my early missteps were endured only by an unfortunate few. And, since some of my fellow Teacher Training alumni as well as friends with years of teaching experience mercifully subjected themselves to my classes, I got valuable feedback to help me improve. On one such occasion it was brought to my attention that I was so anxious to get everyone moving on their mats that I had forgotten the first order of business: I had forgotten to chant “Om”.

Of course, not every yoga teacher chants “Om” to begin a class. And some yoga students are just as happy to get centered and focused by other means. But as a general rule, at least in most yoga studios, we begin and end a yoga class by chanting “Om”. Continue reading

The Super Bowl Gita

While millions of people are watching the Super Bowl this Sunday I’m going to be studying the Bhagavad Gita… by watching the Super Bowl. Yoga wisdom texts are not for armchair quarterbacks… uh, I mean armchair philosophers: they are filled with instructions about how to actively see and live in the world. So when we try to see the world through the eyes of revelatory texts like the Bhagavad Gita, even something as mundane as a football game becomes an opportunity for enlightenment.

You can associate almost any aspect of a football game with a passage or concept in the Bhagavad Gita. For example, by virtue of the magic of modern technology I’ll be able to watch from afar as two opposing armies, the Giants and the Patriots, align themselves at the edge of a battlefield, prepared for combat. Similarly, Sañjaya, the narrator of the Bhagavad Gita, possessed a mystic power that enabled him to witness the events on the battlefield where the Gita was spoken from a location many miles away. Continue reading

Understanding the Structure of Bhagavad-gita

Bhagavad-gita presents us with a hierarchical concept of reality. The coherence of the Gita’s message can more easily be experienced when we understand this hierarchical conception, which consists of two major levels of experience and an intermediate level that acts as a bridge leading from one to the other. Continue reading

The Force

Now that the annual celebration of calculated violence and conspicuous consumption known as the Super Bowl is over, let’s contemplate the spiritual truths hiding within one of this year’s most critically acclaimed Super Bowl commercials: The Force.

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Criswell Predicts

“We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.”

‘Plan 9 From Outer Space’ remains perpetually on my list of movie favorites if for no other reason than the majestic scale of its unaffected weirdness. The poetic virtues of Criswell’s opening monologue notwithstanding, I’m obliged to take issue with his premise: none of us are going to spend the rest of our lives in the future because the future never gets here.

This is not to say that time doesn’t affect us; we move forward in time like fish swimming upstream. The current of time is an energy of Brahman – the source of all being – and as such is a divine and bewildering energy. But its influence is only felt in a state of separation from Brahman, when our cognitive faculty for perceiving transcendence is switched off. Living in the moment, being as fully aware of the present as we possibly can be, is an exercise that helps to turn that faculty back on.

Continue reading