, the challenges one is likely to face along the way, and the marvelous benefits of Yoga. Thousands of books, describing many different approaches to Yoga, have followed these simple and straightforward guidelines. No matter which type of Yoga one may choose to study, it would be valuable for anyone to return to this primary source of information to be reminded of the basic goal and purpose of Yoga. The Bhagavad Gita The Bhagavad Gita , or “Song of the Blessed One,” is a fascinating story, with great religious significance if one accepts it at face value (Mitchell, 2000). It consists primarily of a conversation between Krishna , a great Avatar or divine incarnation, and Arjuna, a great warrior, on the eve of a battle. The battle is a civil war, with noble warriors and relatives split between both sides. Arjuna decides that no good can come of killing so many people in this battle, and he decides not to fight. Krishna, who is driving Arjuna’s chariot, instructs Arjuna in Yoga as he discusses what is right both for Arjuna and for all people. Many of the principles of Yoga derive from what Krishna told Arjuna, thus it is believed by many that these Yoga principles come from the mouth of God. This is similar to what Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe about the Torah, the Bible, and the Qur'an: that they are divinely inspired texts. My favorite quote from the Bhagavad Gita refers directly to the self: "Personality Theory" by Mark Kelland under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
The Self is a friend for him who masters himself by the Self; but for him who is not self-mastered, the self is the cruelest foe. (pg. 89; Mitchell, 2000) This quote suggests that we can be our own best friend, or our own worst enemy. Indeed, Krishna tells Arjuna that what he must do is to be himself. It is only through his own actions that Arjuna can fulfill his potential. However, Arjuna must not remain attached to the consequences of his actions; he must simply act and allow the universe to move forward as it will. Only by truly understanding the nature of the universe, and the nature of ourselves, can we properly make this choice. The practice of Yoga helps us to see this reality, and the Bhagavad Gita helps to describe the essential practices. Together, the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras contain all of the basic information on Yoga we will explore in this chapter. There is actually a fair amount of overlap between the books, but it is unclear which one may have been written first. Most scholars believe that the Bhagavad Gita was written between 500 B.C. and 100 A.D. (Mitchell, 2000), which falls right in the middle of when Patanjali is believed to have written down the Yoga Sutras . Since both philosophies seem to come from much older sources, it may well be that they owe their commonalities to some older tradition that can no longer be specifically identified.
- Fall '13