Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What is Gita Yoga?

In 1999 I left India and moved to Norway. I was newly married, just starting a promising career and things were looking quite positive. I achieved an enviable running start in life when I rather suddenly encountered a brick wall.

Sitting among the shattered debris that remained of a once promising life, you can imagine the amount of soul-searching that takes place. I had been immensely proud and confident in my spiritual education and felt that the knowledge I had gained would help me navigate the stormy seas of life. I was right on both counts; I did receive an excellent education and the knowledge could help me throughout life; if only I could figure out how to apply it.

I sank into depression and antipathy and became little more than an automaton. I deliberately, and almost vengefully, rebelled against all that I had been taught while growing up. It was a time in my life of which I am not particularly proud. In any event a friend of mine recommended a book I read. It was a book by the Jesuit priest Anthony De Mello, “Awareness”.

In “Awareness” De Mello tells the story of a junior priest receiving guidance and support from a senior priest. The senior is quoting scripture, telling the young adherent how to enhance his prayers and to whom he should offer which prayers and at what times of day and so on. As I grew up in religious Hindu boarding schools for umpteen years this story began to resonate quite strongly with me. Finally the young priest looked the Father straight in the eye and said, “Sir, all that you say is entirely true but thoroughly useless.”

At that moment Gita-yoga was born.

Here I had all the spiritual knowledge and theoretical understanding to create and live a successful life and I had fallen flat on my face. I was galvanized, after having read that book, to take spiritual teachings, philosophy and principles turn it into practices that resonate fully, completely and immediately in modern life.

“and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and know the place for the first time”

- T.S. Eliot

This was the first time in my life, and it wouldn’t be the last but that is another post, that I had come full circle and saw with clarity where I had been, where I currently stood and where I needed to be.

I broke open all my boxes of books, re-read old articles I had written, listened to recordings of past seminars I had given, ( lectures, re-studied old texts and assignments of my teachers and set to figuring out a way to turn valid, spiritual principles into effective, tangible practices.

Commonly, though erroneously, referred to as the Bible of Hinduism, the Bhagavad Gita has always been among my favorite philosophical books. This was a natural and very easy starting point. How to make the Bhagavad-Gita relevant to those who are unable to spend 15 years trying to figure it all out?

I was rejuvenated to the point that I once again began giving lectures and coaching, ( throughout the Scandinavian countries. However, the difference is that I now focused specifically on principles taken only from the Bhagavad Gita and concentrated on finding ways my clients could implement those principles the very same day! If, after a lecture, seminar or coaching session, the participants or client did not leave with a clear idea of what they needed to do, specifically, the very next day then I had failed.

Not surprisingly I failed numerous times and in countless ways, and continue to do so even to this day! However, as I carried on refining my approach, studying, receiving feedback, researching, receiving more feedback a pattern or several patterns began to emerge. Now I all had to do was link what people wanted and needed to my realizations, understanding and experience. Presto! Gita Yoga.

The word Gita is of course in reference to the Bhagavad Gita. Yoga, as I assume we all know, means to connect or link. Gita Yoga very simply is about how to get the teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita to make sense in our everyday reality.

Gita Yoga is based on four basic principles taken from the philosophy of the Gita. I will list the Sanskrit terms and English translations as well so that you may look them up at a later time.

1) Saucam – Purity To live with honour
2) Satyam – Truth To confront with maturity
3) Tapam – Self-mastery To achieve self-mastery
4) Daya – Compassion To conquer with love.

Saucam (Purity) - to live with honour:

This principle is for those of us who say “yes” when we really wanted to say “no”. Honourable living means that our actions, words and motives are all in alignment. To live with honour means, “to say what we mean and mean what we say”. This principle is based on the understanding that if our motives are less than transparent then we cannot speak with credibility. If our communication is out of sync with our motives and our motives are out of sync with our actions what kind of life are we creating for ourselves? A person who lives without honour is deceitful and lacks integrity thus causing harm to themselves, their relationships and the world at large.

To practice this principle is the easiest of the four, though no less significant, we must simply ask ourselves, “why”. We must examine or question our motives. When we question our motives we bring them light, when we bring them to light they become transparent and thus pure.

Satyam (Truth) - to confront with maturity:

As the first principles deals with our personal character development this, the second principle, deals with how we interact with others; specifically, how we communicate with them. We confront with maturity by dealing exclusively in truth. If we have not examined our motives, gained transparency and begun to live true to ourselves then how can we possibly interact with our loved ones on the basis of truth?

We must live with honour before we are able to confront the world with the compassion and courage of truth. We must know our own truth before we can relate to others in truth.

Confronting with maturity has two components:

1 The Art of Truthfulness
2 The Art of Listening

The Art of Truthfulness has three facets:

1 Honesty – This is the “what” you are saying. Our communications should be factual representations of our, now purified and transparent, motives.

2 Pleasantness – This is the “how” you say it. If our speech and language is crass, uncultured, insensitive and arrogant we will come to be known as crass, uncultured, insensitive and arrogant. Who listens and pays attention to such persons, let alone take them seriously.

3 Benevolence – This is the “why” you are saying it. If you harbour feelings of ill-will toward another it is highly unlikely that what you say of, or to, the other person will hardly be to their benefit. Once again we see the importance of examining, acknowledging and clearing our motives.

This is the Art of Truthfulness. Communications on this level is profound and extremely powerful, ask Mahatma Gandhi.

The Art of Listening has six sub-components:

I will not list or go into the Art of Listening here because that discussion is a post in and of itself. However, the overall principle in the Art of Listening is to ask a question. A person who has the courage to ask a question is extremely rare to find these days. Most of us fear to ask questions, not so much because we do not want to appear foolish, no. Most of us fear to ask a question because we are afraid the answer may cause us to change.

It is change that we fear. We do not want to receive new knowledge that may interrupt our comfortable life patterns, or worse, dismantle our belief system. The courage necessary to ask questions; the personal strength and internal security necessary to ask questions is quite hard to come by. This is the essence of the Art of Listening.

Tapa (Self-mastery) - to achieve self-mastery.

In this principle we turn our focus back on our selves. To achieve Self-mastery is key in creating, sustaining and nourishing relationships. If we have not mastered our actions, habits, communication and thoughts we are setting ourselves, and our relationships, up for disaster.

We achieve mastery on three levels:

Body – (Our Actions)
Word – (Our communication)
Mind – (Our Motives)

We gain mastery over our actions by regulating our daily habits; eating, sleeping, recreation, work and so on.

We gain mastery over our communication by practicing the Arts of Truthfulness and Listening.

We gain mastery over our motives by identifying and acknowledging them.

When we have gained total self-mastery our relationships will rest on solid foundations. This principle is critical in developing and living the final and fourth principle of Gita-yoga.

Daya (Compassion) - to conquer with love

I use the word conquer deliberately. Christ, Gandhi and King all conquered with love. Love is defined quite nicely in the Bhagavad Gita. Love means knowledge. Love means that you will seek out the truth no matter where it will lead.

To love a person means to understand and acknowledge the unique and individual wants, drives and motives of another person. To conquer them is to then address those wants, drives and motives according to their uniqueness.

However, in order to truly and deeply understand another person we must have the maturity, courage and personal security to ask questions. Without the ability to ask and listen we will be unable to nourish relationships.

These are the four principles of Gita Yoga. There will be more detailed posts following that goes into each principle in-depth but this will have to suffice for now. You can listen in on my daily Tele-seminars, topics and schedule are posted at, and hear firsthand about Gita Yoga. The Tele-seminars are free. E-coaching is also available.

So that is Gita-yoga, in a nutshell, I hope you are inspired to pick up a Gita and check it out some time

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The teachings of Gita are very well explained in a simple form.