Updated: Jan 25
In my yoga teacher training we had the privilege of listening to Swami Chidananda talk about the Bhagavad Gita. The Bhagavad Gita translates to "Song of God" and is one of the most important texts of Hinduism. The Bhagavad Gita is a part of the great Indian epic Mahabharata and is essentially about a conversation with God that takes place on a battlefield. The following are my notes from the lecture as well as some of my thoughts sprinkled in here and there.
Svadharma - Specific duties that we have for this life here. These are our highest duties and what we are born and destined to do.
There are 2 types of dharmas:
Para Dharma - spiritual duties
Apara Dharma - material duties
The duty we all have is Love. Expressed through selfless service of humanity. (Seva)
Being at peace with ourselves and continuing to work on ourselves is a service to others. Being the best versions of ourselves helps others just by doing that because we are putting our best loving selves out into the world. Lead by example. When people notice how this is working for you this is the best way we can help others start to notice this of themselves and want to work on themselves as well. Working on ourselves is a duty that we have to ourselves.
Dharma is not something that can change, we can make choices that ignore it or differ from this, but humans are the only beings that can do this. Every other sentient being on the planet cannot go against their dharma. He gave the example of a plant. A plant is here to serve the planet by providing oxygen, food, shade, just exist as a plant. A plant cannot decide that they want to do something different, that is what they are on the planet for.
A human is the only one that can go against their dharma, and this is because of the ego. (Ahamkara) The ego is what makes us forget our true nature. Ego tricks us into thinking we can find eternal bliss (ananda) in this reality. This is how we create energetic knots. (Karma) There is no such thing as good karma, only energetic entanglements. When we are following along with our dharma we support and help others which brings us happiness. The ego looks to just make "I" happy. The reality of eternal happiness in a constantly changing world is not possible.
There is no good or bad karma but there are different types of karma. There is Sanchita karma which is the karma of all past lives. Prarabdha is the karma that you have chosen to work through in this lifetime. One interesting thing about prarabdha karma is that whatever we signed up to work through in this lifetime will be worked through. This is why death in Hinduism is celebrated because it means that the work is done for this lifetime. However, as we work through the karma we signed up to work through as we go through this life, we create new energetic entanglements and create new karma to work through in other lifetimes. What we are working on now could have been from thousands of lifetimes ago.
Samsara - the cycles of birth and death.
A few very significant moments were the mention of autistic people and people on the spectrum being more likely to be highly advanced souls because they come here to teach others because of their lives. Once you are an enlightened being you can choose to return to help humanity. You can choose how long you want to live, and he mentioned there being 5,000 year-old yogis that live in the Himalayas. He said that children are also divinely speaking until they start to get to the stage of wanting to possess. Life is a game or play working itself out and when you are incarnated here, no matter how advanced your soul is, you have to work with the rules that are set out for this world. Enlightened beings still have to come through these avatars like Jesus Christ being a main example. He was an enlightened being that chose to come back to help humanity.
He stated that there are two ways to grow, grace or suffering. We all have samskaras that we also need to work with. Some people refer to this as their shadow work, Hinduism refers to this as a samskara. Samskara is the patterns and feelings that come up because of karmic events. They are always there; they are what gets stirred up when we are triggered. These make the mind cloudy and create more karma like when a boulder is thrown into a still pond. The karma is the boulder or action, the samskaras are the dust and muck that gets stirred to the surface and make the water muddy. When we engage with the behavior that is created by karma, we make these samskaras more intense. They have to be dealt with at the root or they will come back.
There was a beautiful question asked in how this related to working on generational healing. The answer is, as you work through your generational traumas you unentangle form the other atmas(souls). You ancestors are rooting for you because this also sets them free. This moment felt very powerful. So many of us in the room teared up instantly and had goosebumps as we each felt the presence of our ancestors there. We each felt this moment of, yes this is why I am here, this is why I am doing the spiritual work. I could feel such intense love of and pride in my heart in this moment that it was very powerful and beautiful. In that moment, not only were my ancestors there but so were the ancestors of my yoga family and it still feels very moving.
He also stated that more advanced souls reincarnate about every 25 years. This was a poignant moment for me because of my son's birthday. My grandfather died December 7, 2000. My son was born December 7, 2020. 25 felt like a very specific number but that was also very striking. He also said that a person will know the purpose of their lives 3 days before they die. Clearly, this gets complicated because of how death happens, but he said the soul will know.
How do we rise above karma and samskaras? Dharma sankat- a moral dilemma you face in your life that has no right or wrong answer. The example being the lion that is going to eat the deer. If you save the deer the lion doesn't eat and will starve, if you let the lion eat and do what it needs to do to survive, the deer dies. How do we navigate these choices? With service and love. Every choice is a dharma sankat. The actions can be chosen from the ego which will lead to momentary pleasure and long-term suffering. The moment we start to make different choices and not choices from the ego, we will find freedom. We can choose from atma - love and service. God is unconditional love.(Brahman, narayanaya)
Unconditional love is all of our true soulmate. It has always existed and will always exist. There is no higher feeling than this love. God does not know God because love is fully growing and changing. Bliss is the atma and Brahman together becoming one with this unconditional love; take action from this point of view. When we take action from this state of mind it helps us with our samskaras.
Samskaras are like piles of negative energy and live in our energetic body. We need a "pick" to get it out which are our spiritual practices like yoga. Asana prepares the mind to meditate and disperse negative energy. Another way to disperse the negative energy is through chanting mantras. We need to have a daily practice(sadhana), self analysis is never enough. My teacher likes to say you can read about meditation all you like but it isn't the same as sitting and doing it. It is one thing to have awareness, it is another thing to work on it. Another energetic pick is seva, selfless action. Spiritual community(sangha) is also important to be uplifted and supported with others. Two main goals of spiritual practice is to transcend the samskaras and to lessen the sanchita karma. An enlightened being can help with sanchita karma.
Sanatana - the path to the true self. Yoga - union. We do yoga to calm the mind so we can do our dharma.
Now that we know all of this, we get into the Bhagavad Gita. The Bhagavad Gita is a conversation with an enlightened being and someone trying to figure out their dharma. This takes place in the middle of a war but it is a dharma yhudda or righteous war. Having war in a religious text may seem hard to understand but also very much isn't when it is broken down. Doing something from a space of love, doesn't mean there will be no harm. Sometimes a little harm has to happen for a greater good. We shouldn't run away from this because we are scared.
The first 25 verses are just names and setting up for the conversation between Prince Arjuna which represents the embodied atma(who we all are, a soul inside of a meat suit), and Krishna. Krishna is the embodiment of unconditional love and in this story, he is the charioteer for Prince Arjuna. Krishna drives Prince Arjuna to the middle of the battlefield where a great war is about to take place. On one side are his allies who represent positive samskaras, there are 1 million. On the other side there are the people that are wanting to fight to take his land, they represent negative samskaras, there are 3 million. Prince Arjuna has a conversation with Krishna because now he doesn't know if he can fight, and Kirshna tells him that he must.
This all represents the beginning of our spiritual journeys taking a look at our samskaras and facing the fear and finding out what must be done. Having fewer positive samskaras shows us that we only need a few positive samskaras to overcome the negative. Why do we overcome our fear to do this? Removing samskaras is scary because they have been with us for lifetimes but removing them reveals who we actually are. It is a jump into the unknown. We want to transform and when confronted with what that actually entails, we get scared. This is why a spiritual guide is so important.
He gave the analogy of the Cafe on the Cliff. You are ready to start working on your spiritual journey and decide to take a look at what it is you need to do. This is like walking to the edge of a cliff where you cannot see the bottom. A lot of times these journeys require sacrifice and big changes that scare us. So, we look at the edge of this cliff and then maybe decide to wait and have a tea. Then, we wait more and have a croissant. Then we are tired, so we just rest and maybe some people also gather here with you. This is why a spiritual guide is important so they can help you make the leap that is required for this journey. The little pushes that are needed. It is scary and difficult, not even a Swami is denying that, but it is worth it. What would you do to find true bliss and peace? What would you do to find and exist as yourself as you are truly meant to be?
Swami said, if you know the Gita you know the predicament of life. I am so grateful for the spiritual community I have found and am continuing to grow with. There was real magic that happened during that discussion that I really took to heart and feel empowered to continue on my journey and hopefully inspire others to continue on theirs as well.