From the Jacket
This contemporary companion to the Bhagavad Gita addresses the heart of human yearning. T offers the possibility of transforming the battle of life into a path to Truth, a living process. Each chapter presents a road toward our inner, universal Self, bringing a deeper and wider perspective along the way. A psychological orientation invites the reader to move from abstract idea to individual insight. As the book proceeds, the relationship between the personal and the eternal gradually unfolds in an ever-expanding process of self-discovery.
Quotes from the great teachers are included in the text to inspire, uplift and help us cross over the sea of illusion.
Naina Lepes has been receiving inspiration and wisdom from the Bhagavad Gita since 1970, and studied Vedanta with Swami Chinmayananda. Her longtime guru is Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Other major influences in her life have been the work of G.I. Gurdjieff and C.G. Jung. Naina is the author of The Cat Guru, and for many years, she worked as a Jungian trained psychotherapist in New York.
Her formal education includes a degree in Music, an M.A. in Psychology, and a Ph. D. in Counseling. She was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, and now lives in India, in the Kumaon region of the Himalayas.
Without any conscious intention on my part, the Gita has become a secret driving force behind the unfoldment of my life. In the days of doubt, this wonderful book appeared and supported my spiritual search. Then for many years, I carried the tiny Juan Mascaro edition around with me, and read a bit here and there. Before long, I began turning to her wisdom in times of need. And she has remained a faithful guide ever since.
In 1988, while living in India at the ashram of Sri Sathya Sai Baba, I came to experience the miracle of divine energy-its inordinate power and indomitable capacity for quickening inner purification, healing, and love. Cradled by the presence of this higher energy, all the mundane annoyances, physical inconveniences and emotional turmoil became almost inconsequential. For the worlds of mind, matter, and emotions were being linked to the higher, the inner witness (sakshi), and purified. In this way, past conditioning and confusion could be seen, suffered, and left behind. Throughout this time of the coming together of the opposites, I continued reading the Gita, one verse early in the morning and subsequent events would often illumine the meaning.
Then one day, after having been contented with eighteen years of independent study, I was suddenly overcome by a strong desire to study the Gita with a Vedanta scholar, who was also a God realized soul. I communicated this wish to Sai Baba in an inner way. The next day, an acquaintance approached and handed me a tiny piece of paper with a name, address and phone number written on it. She said, “Swami Chinmayananda will be in Bangalore at this address. Call and find out when you can receive his darshan. Sai Baba will also be going to Bangalore.” Needless to say, I was stunned! Although I had heard the name Swami Chinmayananda before, I knew nothing about him.
Before calling, I attended his Gita teaching in a large tent at 6AM-and was uplifted by his spiritual dynamism, intelligence and humor. He was so articulate that I found myself struggling hard to remain centered, not to get lost in the words, but to maintain a connection with my inner consciousness . In the presence of this dynamic realized soul, simply listening to his teachings invited the mind to transcend itself and purify. Laughter, wisdom and holiness intermingled. And the knowledge streamed forth to be lived.
Upon returning to the U.S., I began reading commentaries of other Gita lovers and great souls. Soon I felt the urge to try to express in words something of the essence and meaning of each chapter in a flowing way, that would help strengthen my inner connection and integrate the spiritual, the psychological and the somewhat scholarly.
This writing has been very much influenced by Swami Chinmayananda’s The Holy Geeta and by his videotaped lectures. Another important source has been The Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living (3 volumes) by Eknath Easwaran. Commentaries by Swami Chidbhavananda, Yogananda, and Ramanuja (translator, Swami Addidevananda), also contributed greatly to this book. And ultimately, the direct experience of the lilas and presence of Sri Sathya Sai Baba offered a real glimpse into the universality of Krishna’s teachings, in a most individual way.
My wish is that this book will contribute to self-reflection, finer feeling, and deepen the journey of one’s inner process. When this occurs, seeing, healing, and wholeness follow naturally without doing much of anything. As a companion to the Gita, the book would be more powerful if read slowly, so as to allow time for intuition and awareness to connect us with where we are. One approach might be to read a discourse of the Gita, the concordant chapter of this book, and afterwards return to the same Gita discourse again. Then notice whatever questions and personal thoughts emerge from each chapter. May the wisdom of loving consciousness ever guide us on our journey!
The Bhagavad Gita can be experienced as a powerful catalyst for transformation. Bhagavad-Gita means song of the spirit, song of the Lord. This extraordinary poem was sung by Krishna to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra while multitudes of men stood by waiting to fight the largest battle in history.
In this eternal moment of intense dramatic necessity, we are shown how to live in the world and not be of the world; how to utilize living itself as a means of spiritual growth, no matter what the external circumstance; how to experience all our joys and sorrows and shortcomings as a means of spiritual upliftment. The Gita helps us integrate our separate personality into harmony with the whole. It teaches an alchemy of transforming our raw material as well as transcending it. Spirit and matter are equal partners. The individual and the divine are part of one whole.
This knowledge is revealed through a dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna. Krishna is the loving teacher; Arjuna is the questioning disciple. Krishna is a king; a married man with many duties. And he’s also an avatar-one who descends to earth with the express purpose of uplifting humanity. Krishna is the inner Self-eternal, omniscient, present within each of us. Arjuna is the insecure individuality making its way in the world subject to confusion and doubt. An aim of the Gita is to help us forge a link with this inner Self as we dance through life, so we can come to know who we really are. Then genuine self confidence emerges.
Gradually throughout each chapter, Krishna teaches Arjuna the nature of Truth or Reality. This helps him come closer and closer and closer to his inner Self until at the very end, Arjuna’s memory of his true nature returns.
The knowledge of our true identity cannot occur without a battle. This battle takes place on the field of dharma. Dharma means justice, righteousness, the inner essence of a thing-that which sustains. Although the location of the war is called Kurukshetra, it is really placeless and timeless. This is a battle each of us will be compelled to fight, if we yearn for liberation.
Liberation from suffering, liberation from ignorance cannot occur without yearning for freedom. Like Arjuna we must know we do not know. And to gain freedom, we must learn to participate in the battle of life with right knowledge.
What makes the Gita a practical psychology of transformation is that it offers us the tools to connect with our deepest intangible essence. Only when the connection becomes ongoing does suffering cease. In order to be able to forge this inner link, much baggage must be discarded along the way. All the external conditioning which is not a reflection of our essence must gradually go our anger, fear, greed, jealousy, confusion, worry, attachment, selfishness, pride, expectations and desire to control must be given the means to melt down as the beginning process of the work. This occurs not only through technique, but also through ever heightening yearning, spiritual practice and consequent insight that proceeds from deep within each person. First we must recognize the tools and then learn how to use them.
The process consists of many small steps along the way of practice and understanding. As each fresh insight brings new joy and a different obstacle, a flow is established between inner knowing and outer happening. Events are no longer seen as separate and segmented but part of a giant continuity of great nature of which we are all a part. We are each students at the university of prakriti learning lessons from nature tailored to our individual level and inner needs. And eventually we might come to see that what constitutes liberation is the qualitative depth and breadth of our experiential vision.
There is no theory to be internalized and applied in this psychology. Ancient practices spontaneously induce what each person needs as the individual and the universal coincide. The work proceeds through intellectual knowledge of the playing field (jnana yoga), emotional devotion to the ideal(bhakti yoga) and right action that includes both feeling and knowledge(karma yoga). With ongoing purification we approach wisdom.
Each of the eighteen chapters presents a yoga or graduated means of linking the separate individuality with the selfless Self. Yoga derives from the Sanskrit “yuj,” which means to join. The various philosophies and methods of joining the mind to eternal Truth find expression within each chapter. When the different aspects of oneself become connected to the One center, the goal of yoga is near.
Then all our seemingly individual thoughts and actions become linked to the higher Intelligence. If each individual who experiences an inner calling could work in accordance with his or her capacity to forge this connection, there would be peace and contentment within the individual, the family, the society and the world.
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