Category Archives: Bhagavad Gita

An Opportunity to Serve the One who Serves So Many

By Smita Kumar

Sant Kabir wrote this verse to sing the glory of guru and wonders: “If both guru and God were to appear at the door, whose feet will I worship first?” He then adds, “The guru’s feet because without the guru how would I have recognized (known) God?”

Two years ago when I started practicing Dharma Yoga, I thought it was going to help me deal with the challenges of my graduate study. When I graduated from 500 hour LOAY teacher training in May, it was clear that I came to the U.S. to learn from Sri Dharma Mittra. If I had not undertaken the 500 hour training last year, I would have been participating in the graduation ceremony at my school. However, instead of graduating from school, I graduated from teacher training on the very same day!

A desire to spend time with Sri Dharma took me to training, and during the last several months I often found myself speechless when someone asked me about the training. I still do not know what happened and I am not sure if I will know. All I know is — I lived several lifetimes and became aware of a certain silence deep inside me. There were days when the training felt challenging, but interestingly, everything fell by the wayside and all I did was to carry out my daily practices.

I also encountered a challenging life experience that questioned my faith in God, guru and my practice. I felt let down and forsaken, as though I was suffering despite my practice. In those dark moments, I received messages from Sri Dharma to go beyond fear and doubt, but I did not know how. To my surprise, I found the answer in one of the daily meditation practices– have faith! I learned I could not have survived the test without God’s grace and the guru’s support.

It is interesting to learn that nothing moves without God’s grace and the guru’s guidance. The following incident taught me that Sri Dharma is ever so perceptive and gives us way more than we desire. I do not recall when, but somewhere over the last two years I had a desire to serve Sri Dharma like he served his guru; cooking, cleaning, taking care of all his needs and just doing everything. I had dreams of cooking for him and sometimes I made vegan sweets, which I took to New York, and Sri Dharma lovingly accepted them.

With Sri Dharma’s Washington DC visit, my dream came true — I was blessed to have the opportunity to cook for him. I even planned to submit my dissertation before his arrival to ensure there was no distraction. Just as I was busy deciding the menu and preparing for his visit I received a call from the organizers to inquire if I would be available to take care of Sri Dharma during his visit — such as receiving him from the train station and dropping him back. I just froze. I was amazed at God’s lila and the guru’s blessings.

Lastly, my mother had planned to visit from India to participate in my dissertation defense, but somewhere deep down I hoped she would come for my 500-hour graduation. However, I was shy to ask, as it meant showing my deep love and faith for my guru, it meant opening myself for any judgment, and most importantly, it meant making myself vulnerable—what if she declined?

Nonetheless, I faced my fears and asked. She was interested, but was unsure if it was logistically feasible. A day was left for the graduation and I still did not know if Ma (mother) was coming, so amidst my anxiousness I offered it all to God and Sri Dharma — “You will bring Ma if she is meant to come.”

An hour later I received a call from my mother confirming that she was going to be there! My mother came and all I did was cry. I was overwhelmed with her presence, and more importantly, I realized there was nothing more to complain about. Slowly, it was becoming clear that I was receiving all that I desired and more — not just with my mother’s visit, but by coming to this country to learn yoga, finding my guru, getting an opportunity to serve my guru (for a day), and simply everything.

 

Smita KumarGrowing up in India in a family of Karma Yogis, Smita was exposed to the teachings of Bhagavad Gita and started practicing asana nearly a decade ago to find peace (and something more). However, it was only after coming to the U.S. that she found her yoga home with Dharma Yoga and since then her life has not been the same. She continues to be surprised and humbled with all that she has received and continues to receive from Sri Dharma and his teachings.

Internal Spring Cleaning: Time To Let Go of What’s Holding You Back

By Kali Om 

“Be kind to everyone; forgive everyone everything.” Sri Dharma Mittra

Flower_by_Cyndi_Lawler

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”  —Mahatma Gandhi

On the season opener of Yogi Cameron: A Model Guru, ayurvedic therapist YC treats a 25-year-old with autism named Zach. Zach is angry, and YC wants to know why. Zach says other children at the synagogue he attended harassed him. “How old were you when that happened?” YC asked. “Seven or eight,” Zach replied. “That was a long time ago,” says YC. “When are you going to let it go?”

In modern American culture, we tend to hold on to ancient grievances and use them as an excuse to avoid dealing with the things we don’t like about our life: I’m not living up to my potential because my parents beat me / spoiled me / weren’t there for me / were too strict with me / gave me too much freedom or attention / ignored me / favored my siblings over me / [your excuse here]. In America, we like to play the blame game and say that our problems are someone else’s fault.

But in yoga we understand that the soul is eternal, and that our soul, or Atman, chooses the parents we will have, and the circumstances we find ourselves in. In yoga, we know that these birth families or circumstances give us the best possible opportunity to burn off our old karma and learn the lessons we need to know in this lifetime—that each unpleasant thing is happening for a reason, according to our deeds from the past.

Cali_Om_by_Cynthia_Lawler

I first heard about the laws of karma and reincarnation in the 1970s, when the film The Reincarnation of Peter Proud aired on TV. But I didn’t really believe in it until 30 years later, when I heard about it from the lips of my guru, Sri Dharma Mittra, and realized that everything we are going through now is a result of our past deeds. He shared his own experiences and backed them up with passages from the great yoga scripture the Bhagavad-Gita. When I thought about what he said, I realized that everything “bad” that happened to me in my life—and believe me, there was a lot of unpleasantness—led to something good. Every single time. I realized that these “bad” or unpleasant experiences taught me a lesson, fostered personal growth, or set my life in a new direction (such as when my mother died, and I started practicing yoga) and stopped taking them personally.

As Bhagavad-Gita says, “That which is like poison at first but like nectar in the end—that happiness, born of the clear knowledge of the Self, is said to be of the nature of sattva [peace and harmony].”  Sri Dharma often says he is thankful when something unpleasant happens to him, because it means he has burned off one more karma.

This is easy to understand on an intellectual level. Yet many of us still have doubts and see ourselves flogging the same old dead horse, over and over, stuck in our old ways of being, thinking, and acting. If we do this long enough, we could end up with a terrible illness. Because in yoga, it is believed that all disease begins in the mind (and then migrates straight to the colon).

So give it some thought: Is there something you haven’t let go of that is holding you back? Is there someone you need to forgive, or someone of whom you should ask forgiveness? Is there someone you need to thank?

Is there someone you need to confront, or to cut loose from because the relationship is no longer serving you?

Do you need to forgive yourself for something?

What is holding you back from doing what you want with your life?

Cali_Om_by_Cynthia_Lawler

It is never too late to ask these questions, and spring is a wonderful time of year to let go, an opportunity to begin anew. The most direct way is to do this internally, by practicing svadhyaya, or self-study. This can be done in meditation and through journaling, by asking and answering the questions posed above.

Svadhyaya can be helped by the physical act of letting things go and clearing out the clutter in your living space. Because if there’s clutter at home, there is clutter in the mind. Perhaps it is your stuff—mental, physical, spiritual—that is holding you back.

Often, when we make an external effort, what we need to do internally becomes abundantly clear. After all, cleaning and organizing is a type of meditation (and spring is the best time to do it). Still not convinced?  Read my comprehensive March 2010 Yoga Chicago article, “Paring Down Can Improve Your Yoga Practice and Help the Planet.Another wonderful resource for getting started is Karen Kingston’s book Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui: Free Yourself from Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Clutter Forever.

Once the physical debris is out of the way, it is much easier to work on internal letting go.

There are many ways to express forgiveness. It can be done in person, or on the phone, or in a letter (I do not recommend doing it via e-mail, voicemail, Facebook, or texting, which would smack of insincerity). It can also be done mentally, if the person is no longer around or still poses a threat to you. (There is no need to stir up trouble or reopen old wounds; in some cases it is best to let sleeping dogs lie, and offer forgiveness mentally. Sri Dharma always says, “Love the bad man, but keep the distance.”)

Sometimes, we come to realize that we have caused harm and need to ask forgiveness, which can be done in much the same way. Just keep it simple and straightforward, name exactly what you are sorry for, express your regret at causing harm, and do not make excuses for your behavior.

There are many types of forgiveness meditations. One of the most simple and direct is from former Buddhist monk and author Jack Kornfield. As with any meditation, begin sitting comfortably in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed (if the floor is not comfortable, sit in a chair with the head, neck, and spine in a straight line). Breathe deeply and comfortably, and contemplate how forgiveness can help you soften your heart.

Begin by asking forgiveness of others you have harmed. Visualize each situation where you have caused pain, and experience the emotions it elicits. Realize that you only caused them harm because of your own pain, fear, anger, or confusion. Then, say to each person, “I ask for your forgiveness, I ask for your forgiveness.”

Orchids_by_Cynthia_Lawler

Next, focus on forgiving yourself for all of the times you have wittingly or unwittingly been the cause of your own pain. Visualize each instance and feel the emotions. Then, say to yourself, “For the ways I have hurt myself through action or inaction, out of fear, pain, and confusion, I now extend a full and heartfelt forgiveness. I forgive myself, I forgive myself.”

Finally, focus on forgiving those who have harmed you. Imagine each episode, and allow the emotions to come up. Then, repeat the following: “I now remember the many ways others have hurt or harmed me, wounded me, out of fear, pain, confusion, and anger. I have carried this pain in my heart too long. To the extent that I am ready, I offer them forgiveness. To those who have caused me harm, I offer my forgiveness, I forgive you.”

Don’t be surprised if this practice is difficult at first. It can take a lot of time to master it. You may find it helpful to start with small things, and work towards bigger ones.

As Kornfield said, “Forgiveness cannot be forced; it cannot be artificial. Simply continue the practice and let the words and images work gradually in their own way. In time you can make the forgiveness meditation a regular part of your life, letting go of the past and opening your heart to each new moment with a wise loving kindness.”

You may find you prefer a different forgiveness meditation, such as this simple yet very specific one from the Buddha Dharma Education Association. Or you may create your own; it is important that the practice feel authentic to you. That way you’re more likely to actually do it, and your efforts will be unforced.

Just remember that any sincere effort to let go of physical and emotional clutter, no matter how small, will yield rewards. As if by its own accord, you may find your practice starts to deepen, roadblocks fall away, old injuries disappear, and wonderful new things start to appear in your life.

But don’t take my word for it. Try it for yourself and see.

(All pictures by Cindy Lawler)

 

Cara_JepsenKali Om (Cara Jepsen) , E-RYT 500, is a disciple of Sri Dharma Mittra and has been teaching yoga since 1998; she is the senior teacher of Dharma yoga in Chicago and has completed Sri Dharma Mittra’s LOAY 200-, 500-, and 800-hour trainings. She also studied five times in India with Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga master Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. She will lead yoga and meditation retreats November 1-2, 2014 at the beautiful Port for Prayer in Frankfort, IL and in Belize February 7-14, 2015. For more information, visit yogikaliom.com.

The Four Core Concepts from the Bhagavad Gita

By Gary Mark



Krishna and Arjuna at Kurukshetra, c. 1830 painting

“Bhagavad” means “God” and “Gita” means “Song.”  “Bhagavad Gita,” therefore, can be translated as “The Song of our Lord.” Krishna, one of many incarnations of The Lord, explains that he lives in each and every one of us, meaning that “Song of our Lord” is also the song that praises the beautiful divine within each one of us! As I type these words my heart cries tears of joy. I feel so fortunate to have found the Gita and to have found Sri Dharma Mittra.


There are four core concepts from the Gita which extolls the beautiful potential that exists vibrantly in each one of us and, indeed, in every atom of the entire cosmos, known and unknown, seen and unseen.


Concept one:  Look to your Dharma


Dharma can mean “law of the universe,” “social and religious rules,” and/or one’s own individual mission or purpose.  On the individual level, it can also mean a number of things. For example, in the Gita, Krishna points out to Arjuna that his Dharma is to be a warrior whether he likes it or not. He cannot escape his Dharma and he must fulfill it. Arjuna is a warrior for what is right and just. He is not just a warrior for fighting’s sake. His Dharma must be grounded in a proper purpose. Whatever role we are fulfilling at the moment is our Dharma at that moment.


Applying this on a personal level, I followed my Dharma as a Finance and Accounting professional for the last 30 years. Recently, coinciding with my new practice of Yoga Asana and study of Hindu or Yoga scriptures, I began to find less and less meaning in my profession. I am now in a period of transition, seeking to find a new and more meaningful personal Dharma.  I am a “householder” (someone who lives among and provides for his or her family), and as much as I would love to throw caution to the wind and become a Sadhu, I need to be mindful of the effect of my actions on those around me. Therefore, following the counsel of the spirits, I am proceeding on a step by step basis, finding my way with the Lord’s merciful guidance.


Concept two:  Do it full out


Both Hinduism and Buddhism extoll this virtue of absolute commitment.  In fact, many books have been written about the power of focus and single-mindedness, including the Gita. I first learned about this concept when I began practicing Buddhism in 1977 and I poured myself wholeheartedly into my career development. As a result, I was very successful from a materialistic standpoint. Success in life is no accident and it is a result of pursuing one’s Dharma full out, no holding back.


Upon looking back, I see that I did not always carry out my Dharma as a husband and father and I have made mistakes that have impacted others’ lives unfavorably. Had I had the vision to take the longer and broader view on things, I may not have made these mistakes. I feel that I was more concerned with material success at any cost, even if others had to pay a price. I now see that I was not acting properly in these and probably many other cases. In this last chapter of my life, I would like to pursue my new Dharma with more mindfulness and focus on proper context and big picture focus.



Krishna displays hisVishvarupa (Universal Form) to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra (Bhagavad-Gita, chapter 11).

Concept three:  Let go of the fruits of your labor


When we invest our efforts or resources, it tends to take on our self-identity in our minds. Subconsciously, we associate this identity with life/death.  This mistaken association leads us to regard all critics or those who appear to get in our way as mortal threats to be neutralized, lest we “die.”


The Gita exhorts us to release this incorrect view and to realize that our self and the phenomenal world at large are not real.  What is real is “Self,” the divine within all life, sentient and insentient. Even the air we breathe has the divine nestled in every particle. Therefore, instead of jealously guarding our self-worth, we are much better letting all that go and acting out of gratitude for the opportunity to work on our Dharma. Krishna says we our entitled to work, but not to any of the fruits of our work. When we adopt this attitude, all we can feel is gratitude, no matter what happens.


I have found that as I endeavor to embrace this concept, I am shown which areas need work and I am grateful to be shown these things and grateful to be able to improve so I can one day serve others with gratitude and without attachment to the fruits.


Concept four:  Offer it all up to the divine


I feel this concept is closely related to its predecessor. How much easier it becomes to let go of the fruits when one is offering every moment up to the divine. The ultimate form of this is when one feels that God is acting through him/her.  In truth, this is what is happening all the time, we just fail to see it and that failure results in suffering and angst.


Sri Dharma Mittra has a saying on his website and in his teachings.  He says, “Reduce your wants and lead a happy and contented life. Never hurt the feelings of others and be kind to all. Think of God as soon as you get up and when you go to bed.”  

I believe this last sentence resonates with this fourth core concept from the Gita upon which this post is focused. It provides a very practical way to begin to incorporate this concept in one’s life. Begin the day focused on God and end the day focused on God.  What a beautiful way to live! Om Namah Shivaya.



________________________________________________

Gary Mark has practiced yoga for the last three years and studied Bikram and Dharma Yoga during this time. He has spent the last year studying intensely at Dharma Yoga Los Angeles and completed his LOAY 200-Hour Teacher Training and Certification at the Dharma Yoga New York Center in June to September 2013.  Gary is currently enrolled in the LOAY 500-Hour Teacher Training at the Dharma Yoga New York Center.

    

      

Om: Everything You Wanted To Know But Were Too Afraid To Ask

By Kali Om (Cara Jepsen)
 
“Brahman is Om, this whole world is Om.” ~ Taittirya Upanishad
“Om is the bow; atman is the arrow; Brahman is said to be the mark. It is to be struck by an undistracted mind. Then atman becomes one with Brahman, as an arrow with the target.” ~ Mandukya Upanishad

 

Mispronounced, misunderstood, and misconstrued, the sacred Om, or Aum, is the root of all mantras and contains all the sounds in the world. Yogis believe the Aum is one and the same as Brahman, or the ultimate reality underlying the phenomenal world.
But sometimes the meaning – and pronunciation – can get lost. A couple of years ago, I was waiting for a large class to end so I could teach a workshop. The class finally finished with three loud, wall-shaking “Ums.” Not the “Aum” that rhymes with “home,” but “Um,” which rhymes with “thumb.”
The Aum and all the mantras that spring from it are like asanas for the mouth and should be pronounced with care and concentration as well as with proper motivation, faith, devotion, and understanding. In the scriptures, the Om or Aum is also referred to as the Pranava, Omkara , and Udgita .
According to yogis, the sound and form of Aum is the same as God. The Rig Veda says, “In the beginning was Brahman, with whom was the Word, and the Word was truly the supreme Brahman.” The Bible says something similar: “In the beginning was the Word” and “The Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Most mantras begin and end with Aum; it is the highest of all mantras or divine words, as well as Brahman itself. In the Bhagavad Gita , Lord Krishna says to Arjuna, “I am the father of this universe, the mother, the support and the grandsire. I am the object of knowledge, the purifier and the syllable Om. I am also the Rig, the Sama and the Yajur Vedas.”
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali also state that the Aum is Isvara , or God: “The sacred word designating this creative source is the sound OM, called Pranava. This sound is remembered with deep feeling for the meaning of what it represents. From that remembering comes the realization of the individual Self and the removal of obstacles.”
Because the Aum is considered to be one and the same as God by many yogis and Hindus, it should be treated with respect. Having it tattooed on the foot or ankle or printed on a pant leg or across the buttocks or on shoes or a meditation cushion or a yoga mat (where the feet step on it), or placing the Om symbol on the floor are considered highly disrespectful by many Hindus and yogis. Knowingly offending others in this way is a violation of ahimsa, or non-harming.
The Aum has four parts:
  • The first is the “A,” which sounds like the “a” in father and is pronounced in the throat, with the mouth wide open. It is usually fairly short.
  •   The second is the long, loud “U,” which rhymes with shoe and is pronounced with the mouth actively shaped like an “O”–not with a slack mouth. The sound rolls over the tongue.
  • Then the mouth slowly closes and the sound becomes the “M,” which is pronounced mmmm with the lips together, creating a pleasant vibration.
  • The fourth is the silence that follows. My guru, Sri Dharma Mittra, says that during the silence one should focus on the vibration behind the forehead and repeat Om mentally.

The three parts of the Aum represent the three states in the manifest world:
  • the A is the waking state (represented by the bottom curve of the Aum symbol);
  • the U is the dreaming state (the middle curve);
  • and the M is the state of deep, dreamless sleep (the top curve).
  • The silence that follows represents the fourth state or turiya –pure consciousness, the goal of yoga. It is represented by the bindu , or dot, at the top, while the curve separating it from the rest of the Om symbolizes maya , or illusion.

The Aum also relates to the three bodies:
  • the A is the gross body;
  •  the U is the subtle body;
  • and the M represents the causal body.

It also contains the three gunas , or qualities of the phenomenal world that are constantly shifting: A is rajas (action), U is sattva (harmony), and M is tamas (inertia). Finally, Aum represents the Hindu trinity: the A is creation or Brahma, the U is preservation or Vishnu, and M is dissolution, or Lord Shiva.
Yogis believe that what you are thinking of when you die is where you will go next. So if you only learn one mantra in this lifetime, let it be the Aum, which represents the supreme goal. If Aum is always on your lips when you are alive, it will be in your mind when you pass.
As the Bhagavad Gita says, “He who closes all the doors to the senses, confines the mind within the heart, draws the prana into the head, and engages in the practice of yoga, uttering Om, the single syllable denoting Brahman, and meditates on Me – he who so departs, leaving the body, attains the Supreme Goal.”
Aum Meditation – learned directly from Sri Dharma Mittra
There are many Aum meditations. This one is suitable for all levels.
Face east or north. Sit tall on the floor or a chair, with the back of the neck in line with the spine. Inhale, and exhale, create a long, loud, resonant Aum. The mouth is wide open during the A, in the shape of an “O” during the U, with the lips coming together for the M (the M should last for at least one third of the Aum). Then remain silent and do an internal mental Aum, while focusing on the vibration between the eyebrows, behind the forehead. Then repeat – a verbal Aum, followed by a mental Aum. Keep repeating for ten minutes. This practice stimulates the pituitary gland, activates the sixth sense, and is an antidote to depression.
Kali Om (Cara Jepsen), E-RYT 500, lives in Chicago, where she has been teaching yoga since 1998. She first studied with Sri Dharma Mittra, in 1999, and has completed his 200, 500 and 800-hour teacher trainings. She also studied five times in India with Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga master Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and has completed trainings in Hormone Yoga Therapy, therapeutics, senior yoga and ashtanga vinyasa yoga.  She also specializes in yoga for back care, yoga for depression, and yoga for menopause. She will lead a yoga and meditation retreat in Belize February 9-16 in near Chicago April 12-13.  For more information, visit www.yogikaliom.com or e-mail kaliom108@yahoo.com.