But learning the Bhagavad Gita, and taking away the life lessons it offers, is not an easy task. Lisa Dawn Angerame sat down with Manorama, founder of Luminous Shabda, Sanskrit Studies in New York City, who is teaching a telecourse starting April 10th, to discuss how to approach this sacred work and use it in our 21st century lives.
Lisa Dawn Angerame: How did you learn the Bhagavad Gita?
The Gita is referred to as a Yogic Upanishad. Upanishad means texts or teachings that were taught in proximity to the one teaching, let’s say, the teacher. It’s about sitting in proximity to – or in connection with – the highest part of the Self.
Yoga means union. In our modern times, we are constantly trying to get connected. There is something about connection and union that go together. We have to work on understanding individual self and Absolute Self and how to bring those together. And the Gita gives us that opportunity.
LDA: Guru ji taught you the heart of the Gita. Could you describe it?
Manorama: The Bhagavad Gita is the song of the Lord, the Divine, the connective source, or light. The heart of the Gita is asking us to come into conversation with the light that we already are.
In a traditional Yogic context, it’s coming into dialogue with a teacher. For some people it’s a dialogue with nature. For others it is through art, through marriage or through being a parent. It’s living alongside the Bhagavad Gita. We all have battles that we have to evolve ourselves through.
LDA: Speaking of battles, is this just a story of war?
Manorama: I don’t think it is just a story of war. But you can’t say there is no war. But the question is, “What does war mean from a yogic perspective?” The mythology of the Gita is that of war, with characters that represent light and dark forces in our selves. How they come together and break apart is the interesting part.
The story is exciting and keeps us engaged so that we can slowly uncover the layers of metaphoric meaning. The more we understand those metaphors, the more we begin to understand our selves. Then we are able to bring the teachings into our daily lives and live them.
Guru ji used to say, “You don’t have a choice about fighting. You have to fight in this life. But the choice you do have is whether to fight the inner battle or the outer battle. But fighting is certain.” The yogicUpanishad says the real battle is knowing your Self. And when you understand your Self, the whole world is transformed. We think the world has to awaken for us to be happy, but we come to find out, as we study yoga, that when we awaken, the whole world awakens for us.
LDA: Ah, so it’s the internal battle. Does the external battle on the field in the Bhagavad Gita represent the internal battle we all have?
Manorama: From a yogic perspective, yes, it does. It represents the internal battle, the battle of self-knowledge, which may manifest itself outwardly. Everybody is here to evolve to greater understanding. We all go through difficulties and suffer disappointments. And we all have to learn the process of surrender. Most people in the modern society feel that if we could just avoid difficulties we would win. But life is not about avoiding difficulties. It’s about having the courage to meet the moment with all that you are, and to take what you understand through those moments and integrate them with teachings.
The battle doesn’t have to be a blood bath; it can just be what you’re working on right now. Everybody’s got different things that they’re working on. For example, some students are working on just showing up to practice. Others are working on integrating their practice into daily life. Some are working on a mantra and others on the Sutras.
LDA: What do you think has kept this book in the consciousness of the world?
Manorama: It’s the timeless story of the light and the dark and what happens when they come together. The story of Arjuna, the warrior, is our story too. How we unify this play of opposites will be our evolution, will be our freedom. The more we come to understand our individual self and its relationship with the higher self, the more we find freedom.
LDA: Last question then, how do we live the Gita?
Manorama: We are living the Gita whether we know it or not all the time! To me the question ‘How do we live the Gita?’ really means, “How do I live a conscious life? How do I enter into a dialogue with light?” Well, make a start, one step at a time, and listen to the teachings. The Gita teaches us how to become one with light. And I don’t mean that in a contrived way at all. I mean it in a very experiential way. It’s teaching us how to ground in the light that we truly are.
To sign up for Manorama’s teleclass “The Year of Living Gita” click here. The next module, “Developing Practice, Focus & Santosha” begins on April 10th.