10 months later…

It’s taken me nearly 10 months to go through the Gita this time, a slow study of a few shlokas a day with some short stretches of breaks from reading. I turned the last page at about 4:30 this morning and as I sat thinking about the journey through these pages, it was interesting to see how much change was happening in my life during the course of my study. An extremely uncertain and challenging phase which fugued into an even more displaced time.

While my copy of the book is marked with words that spoke directly, it feels like I’ve barely begun to dip into its nectar. 701 verses concluding with Sanjaya’s conviction, “Wherever is Krishna, the Lord of Yoga, wherever is Partha, the archer, there are prosperity, victory, happiness and firm (steady or sound) policy; this is my conviction.”

यत्र योगेश्वर: कृष्णो यत्र पार्थो धनुर्धर:।

तत्र श्रीर्विजयो भूतिर्ध्रुवा नीतिर्मतिर्मम ।।७८।।

There are a couple of interesting points in this shloka. The first being, the presence of both the Lord of Yoga and the archer as a necessary condition. The second is the fruit of their joint presence.

Swami Chinmayananda speaks about Krishna as the ‘marriage between the secular and the sacred’ and the natural progression of such a union being prosperity, victory/ success, happiness and firm policy.

Shree, Vijaya, Bhuti, Dhruva neeti are the sanskrit words and it intrigued me enough to spend some time wondering on the promise they held. While the common translations seem adequate, I cannot help shake a sense of something that goes beyond the word meaning to the root meaning. Unanswered for now but there is a churn inside that throws up flashes like exalted earthly existence, sthiratha and sukham of the Sutras etc. Perhaps, I’m barking up the wrong tree, perhaps not. We’ll see in time.

The last shloka is Sanjaya’s conclusion of the Divine Song and appropriate to one in the thick of a battle for dharma in the context of the Mahabharata. Goals of victory, prosperity and a stable rule. Outside of that context, in the modern day scenario, the battlefield is our internal mindscape. No less intense and the promise is a prosperity of radiant thoughts, small victories over the fears conquered, steadiness of contentment and the permanence of the purpose of our lives, like the pole star.

Finishing this slow plod through the book has only made me feel how much of an Arjuna I remain in between armies, suspended in time and space.

A wooden inlay panel that I love looking at in my home.

What is my dharma?

Ever since the talk on Geeta Jayanti, I’ve gone back to studying the book again. It’s different with every reading and in the progression of thought, very logical. I discovered that there were sections within sections in all the chapters.

I read and ruminate on a set of shlokas that is part of a thought or an idea and usually one shloka captures the central theme. Like today for instance was

स्वधर्ममपि चावेक्ष्य न विकम्पितुमर्हसि।

धर्म्याद्धि युद्धाच्छ्रेयोऽन्यत्क्षत्रियस्य न विध्यते।।३१।।

Further, looking at thine own duty thou oughtest not to waver, for there is nothing higher for a Kshatriya than a righteous war.

– Translation by Swami Chinmayananda

The word swadharma caught my attention and prompted me to question what is my dharma? In the recent talk by Geetaji, the line that galvanized me into picking myself up again was her exhortation to ‘Do your duty’. Often we ask ourselves about our purpose. Rarely do we question about our dharma. I confused it for a long time with what we do as a passion, a living, a career etc. And since it remained a quest on the outside, it never felt as though I found a sure answer. I just went where the wind took me. I did many things but not necessarily my dharma. Of course, there’s the usual playing many roles but as I understand it today, my dharma is what I do regardless of reward or punishment, just because it’s my song of existence. Sort of like why the earth goes around the sun. That’s her raison d’etre.

It’s also scary to own up to it just like Arjuna experiences right before the war of his life begins. Despite his skills, training, aptitude and dharma, he quivers with fear. He loses his confidence and belief at seeing the mighty fathers, teachers and mighty warriors. He loses sight of his place in the grand scheme of life and forgets his dharma. As a warrior, his job is to fight, regardless of the outcome or the enemy. He fights for a principle and not against people. That’s his dharma.

These few lines by Erin Hanson echo something similar…

There is freedom waiting for you,

On the breezes of the sky,

And you ask “What if I fall?”

Oh but my darling,

What if you fly?

On the matter of my naughty knee😊, it feels as if on the mend. There are brief spells of normal and I have to remind myself to maintain the nonviolence. I’m filled with so much gratitude for all the help I receive in the remedial class. My mom said something in malayalam, ‘pacchha pidikyennum’ loosely translated it means to take firm root. And that requires undisturbed soil. A seed is allowed to germinate and reach a certain level of growth before transplantation. The cartilage needs that silence to regenerate. All things need the dark to grow, no? Like the foetus in the womb, the butterfly waiting to be born in the cocoon and the seed in the earth. In the meanwhile, the propped asanas water and nourish gently. The elaborate prop setups are interesting in their principles and there are many questions in my head. The answers will come, in time. For now, it’s a relief to let go of a timeline for recovery and justbe.

Hari Om

Imprints

Last class started with adho mukha svanasana in the rope. We rarely do it considering the number of students. However, it is an everyday pose for me at home as I slip into the ropes for a quick release and recharge. While the rope cut in for most students, it was a familiar sensation associated with relief from pain for me. One of the students remarked how the imprint of it was felt even after. That deep impression was missing for me, perhaps it is the familiarity with the cutting action. Or maybe, just a tolerance for discomfort.

On the other hand, I did find a great deal of opening in my knees. As an asana, I’ve seen it as a bare minimum if I cannot practise everyday. But, most of the time, I think of keeping the legs straight and releasing the back. I’ve never considered it as something to address the knees. One of the things our teacher says is to use the pose for your problem areas, be it the knees, back, shoulder etc. It’s so easy to forget all the things I remember from class when I get on my mat at home.

Often, the imprints of practising in a certain manner carry on without my realising it. Just like the imprints of thought patterns, behaviour tendencies etc. Externally, I am working but it is not with awareness or intelligence. It’s just repetition and a little increase in range of motion. Going through the motions of life without really being aware with every thought, word and deed. Sure, repetition makes actions easier and change happens. But, transformation needs imprints of a different kind to channel his will, not mine. I think it is more of a removal of all imprints to allow the full expression of the Self. Definitely not in this lifetime. Vasanas give rise to desires which in turn are responsible for the agitations in the mind, as Swamiji says. 

I’ve found myself quite in the grip of these ‘tendencies‘ yet again. It’s so easy to slide back while the climb is painfully slow. So, I turn back to the texts. I find writing/ typing them therapeutic. (Phase 1 of my reference project is almost at an end.) As always, the brilliance of the Divine Song is beyond compare and calms my heart. It kindles hope. Arjuna’s doubts are my doubts; his despondency, mine. As are his curiosity, awe, and all other emotions. It never fails to make me stand up and fight, even if it be for just a moment. How can one not, when the charioteer blows his conch?

Image: part of the book cover of Jaya by Devdutt Patnaik
Hari Om

Light

Sometimes it feels unreal, coming out of savasana. I roll the mat, get out of the room and am swept into the current of the day. The mat, though, is a different experience. Within its boundaries, there is space and time. Today’s thought stayed with me for most of the day.


ज्योतिषामपि तज्ज्योतिस्तमस: परमुच्यते।

ज्ञानं ज्ञेयं ज्ञानगम्यं हृदि सर्वस्य विष्ठितम् ।।१८।।

That (BRAHMAN), the Light-of-all lights, is said to be beyond darkness; (It is) Knowledge, the Object-of-Knowledge, seated in the hearts of all, to be reached by Knowledge.

Translation by Swami Chinmayananda 

Swamiji begins his commentary on this shloka by saying- “Brahman, the illuminator in all, is the One Consciousness by which everything is known intellectually, realized intuitively, and experienced spiritually.” The different touch points in this short verse paint the entire cosmos within and without. As always, the clarity and beauty of the words of masters never fails to fill me with awe.

The Gayatri mantra is an invocation to the same illuminator who resides within. In his commentary, Sri Shankaracharya speaks about meditating on the source of illumination of the Sun. His brief explanation provides many facets for contemplation on the one light that lights all. It is no coincidence that we speak of the realized ones as enlightened or illumined. Guruji’s books also use Light in their titles…

All light is one

न तत्र सूर्यो भाति न चन्द्रतारकं नेमा विध्युतो भान्ति कुतोऽयमग्नि:।

तमेव भान्तमनुभाति सर्वं तस्य भासा सर्वमिदं विभाति ।।१४।।

The sacred texts and commentaries take their time to seep in- Intellectually, Intuitively and Spiritually. Yogasana is also like that. The head and the heart, culminating in the union of both to transcend. 

Hari Om