The Bhagavad Gita: The Song Celestial
The key to understanding the 'Bhagavad Gita' for a westerner is good study materials. It's a magic book but you do not become an adept of its understanding by mere recitation of the words. You have to look more deeply into it.
If you don't read Sanskrit - and that accounts for almost all of us - then it is essential to have a good translation. The one i consistently use (at this moment) is the Sacred Text's pocketbook version 'The Bhagavad Gita: The Song Celestial', translated by Sir Edwin Arnold (with the introduction to this edition by Alan Jacobs (Watkins, London, 2005)). i promise you, the words are more revealing with each reading.
The interpretation, as always, is left up to you - the reader. You will, however, benefit by the wealth of information in these texts:
'The Bhagavad Gita as it is' by AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Brahupada, a publication of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (the 'Hare Krishnas'). It has the original Sanskrit, a literal English translation, and then A.C.Bv.S.B's consideration and interpretation of the text and its meaning.
You could begin at this wiki feed:
Believe me, it helps if you hum this as you read:
"Hare Kŗşņa Hare Kŗşņa
Kŗşņa Kŗşņa Hare Hare
Hare Rāma Hare Rāma
Rāma Rāma Hare Hare"
[For those who are struck by the magic of Krishna's words to the bowman Arjuna at the Battle of Kurukshetra, then you will undoubtedly gravitate towards the yoga sutras of Patanjali. If you are reading this then you have successfully penetrated another layer in the many that constitute the 'Umm el-Kitab' ('The Matrix Book'). And you are now being told that, like anything from the Middle East - whether it be the Mother of all wars or the Mother of all Invention, there is a 'Mother lode' book that encompasses even 'The Matrix Book'. In Sufi this is called the 'Umm el- Qissa'. More will be revealed about this extraordinary ethereal document as God wills it.]
Patanjali's yoga sutras capture the essence of the 'Bhagavad Gita' and are almost a perfect prescription for the yogi learning the path. This eight-limb path ('ashtanga yoga') is simply:
1 yama - moral injunctions;
2 niyama - fixed obsevances;
3 asana - posture;
4 pranayama - regulation of breath;
5 pratyahara - internalization of the senses towards their source;
6 dharana - concentration;
7 dhyana - meditation, and
8 samadhi - absorption of the consciousness in the self, oneness with God.
From my notes (based on Patanjali) it can be expanded:
1 yama - non-violence ('ahimsa'), truth, abstention from stealing, continence ('brahmacarya') and absence of greed for possessions beyond one's need;
2 niyama - cleanliness, contentment, religious zeal, self-study and the surrender of the self to the Supreme Self or God;
3 asana - perfect firmness of the body, steadiness of intelligence and benevolence of spirit;
4 pranayama - regulation of the incoming and outgoing flow of breath with retention (and ultimately these three are combined and non-deliberate);
5 pratyahara - withdrawal of the senses, mind and consciousness from contact with external objects, and then drawing them inwards towards the seer;
6 dharana - fixing the consciousness on one point or region is concentration;
7 dhyana - a steady, continuous flow of attention directed towards the same point or region is meditation; and
8 samadhi - when the object of meditation engulfs the meditator, appearing as the subject, self-awareness is lost and one is absorbed in God ('Isvara pranidhanat va').
Check these sources:
http://dailyreadings.com/sutras_1.htm and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoga_Sutras_of_Patanjali
For a more western reading see:
The best book on the sutras, by far, is B.K.S Iyengar's 'Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B.K.S._Iyengar. If you by chance get this book out of a library your yogic path has well and truly begun. And a word of warning - you will not be allowed to turn back...
And be assured, you have now found your teachers, dispensing their knowledge through the words writ.
photo by inanga, the rest courtesy of Picasa 3, SmugMug, Google and Mozilla Firefox 2009
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