The Bhagavad Gita
The Bhagavad Gita is one of the greatest spiritual texts ever written and one that has been studied as much by Western Scholars as Eastern mystics. Why? It’s even more widely read than the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. And where does it fit into the practice of yoga and everyday life?
The Gita is written as a story, while the Yoga Sutras are a practical “how to” manual on why and how to practice yoga. The Sutras are also a guideline for how to live life and advance spiritually. At first read it may seem like these books are very different. I would like to present some of the ways that these books say the same thing.
Both the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras describe yoga as am meditative path to enlightenment. In chapter 2 the Gita starts talking at length about avoiding distraction of the senses. Patanjali mentions that the senses are obstacles are distractions on the path of yoga in the first chapter.
The Gita describes the Self in chapter 2. The Sutras mention the Self very early, sometimes referred to as the seer, as in Sutra 1.3. The Gita says in verse 2.47 “ you have the right to work but never the fruits of work”. 2.49 “seek refuge is the attitude of detachment”. Patanjali talks about practice (work) and detachment from the results of the work in Sutras 1.13 – 1.16.
Patanjali mentions the Gunas – qualities of nature – in Sutra 1.16. The Gita first talks about the Gunas in chapter 3, and goes into detail in chapter 14. This is a very important part that all yoga student need to study.
The Bhagavad Gita in chapter 3 talks about the paths of jnana – knowledge – and karma – action. Patanjali talks about Karma, Jnana, and Bhakti in first sutra of chapter 2. Chapter 5 of the Gita starts right off talking about the path of action – karma – as the better path.
Patanjali talks about the practice of Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), Dharana (concentration) and Dhyana (meditation) as an important sequence or transformation in the practice of yoga. The Gita says “when meditation is mastered the mind is unwavering like to flame of a lamp in a windless place”. It continues with “meditation frees one from all afflictions”. Sutra 2.2 states “the practice of yoga reduces afflictions and leads to samadhi”.
I encourage every yoga student the read the Bhagavad Gita carefully. It has many details about yoga and a perspective on the whole Universe that you may find very inspiring for your own practice. I would suggest reading the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali first, than the details of the Bhagavad Gita will make your practice richer and more fulfilling, and lead you on the path to enlightenment!
-Gary Reitze,IYCD teacher-