every Tuesday night from June 7 to July 26, 2016
Each call will be recorded so even if you can’t participate in real-time you can listen to the recording and post questions and comments.
EPISODE 1 – GETTING INTO THE BHAGAVAD-GITA
TUESDAY NIGHT, JUNE 7
9:00 PM to 10:00 PM
In this session, we’ll look at the story arc of the Gita in terms of Arjuna’s journey and transformation, discuss the key elements of the Gita’s dramatic unity, and consider the difference between looking at the Gita through the lens of the modern world and looking at the modern world through the lens of the Gita. We’ll also chant two key Sanskrit verses associated with the evening’s topic during each call.
I will be sending resources and fun freebies to everyone who registers, so
and – most importantly
The backhanded benediction, ‘may you live in interesting times’, is neither ancient nor Chinese. Nevertheless, we appear to be the unfortunate recipients of this odious blessing.
As our hearts ache for the victims of all manner of terrorists, we practically pull our hair out asking ourselves ‘Why?” It’s our nature to question the will of providence. When terrible things happen, especially terrible things visited upon us by our fellow humans, the question takes on an infuriating urgency.
There’s no shortage of apparent causes for extremist violence: racism, misogyny, economic inequality, bone-headed ideologies, war-mongering industrialists, psychopaths and global warming all have a place on the list of how terrorism raises it’s ugly brow.
The tenacious extremism emanating from the Middle East can be blamed on a century’s worth of western interventions that have progressively destabilized the entire region. In America, our run of domestic terrorism can be blamed on the ease with which any kook with an ax to grind can arm himself to the teeth. Aside from easy access to weapons, terrorists of all stripes always seem to have one other thing in common: religion. [Read more…]
PART 2: PARADOXICAL ETHICS OF THE BHAGAVAD GITA
Last month, I was invited to give a pair of talks about the Bhagavad Gita at ISKCON of DC in Potomac, Maryland. This video is a combination of the audio recording of my second talk and the Powerpoint slides I used as visual references for it.
A longer explanatory note than last time: The most conspicuous challenge to understanding the ethics of the Gita is the fact that Krishna urges Arjuna to wage war against his family members in spite of Arjuna’s reluctance to do so. We would like to think that Krishna, as the ‘Supreme Ethicist’, would support Arjuna’s antipathy towards warfare but Krishna does precisely the opposite. The ‘ethics of God’ and the delicate subject of whether or not there is such a thing as ethical violence is one worthy of a comprehensive examination far beyond the 45-minutes the forum in which I was speaking allows. Since the talk was so short it should come as no surprise that, as time was expiring, I made a comment that was not accompanied by sufficient context in order to ensure a proper understanding of my intention. I will take this opportunity to provide the missing context: [Read more…]
PART 1: THE STRUCTURE OF THE STORY
Last month, I was invited to give a pair of talks about the Bhagavad Gita at ISKCON of DC in Potomac, Maryland. This video is a combination of the audio recording of my first talk and the Powerpoint slides I used as visual references for it.
A brief explanatory note: ISKCON of DC is the local center of gravity for the spiritual community known as the Gaudiya Vaisnava Sampradaya, the lineage of devotional yoga with which I am directly affiliated by initiation. As such, you may occasionally hear me speak inclusively, using the word ‘we’ to refer to myself as a member of the community to which I’m speaking, when I refer to a particular philosophical position or angle of vision shared by the Vaisnava community.
I hope you enjoy the talk and look forward to your comments and questions. – Hkd
We usually place faith and knowledge in two separate categories: we think of faith as referring to something we may believe whether or not there seems to be any empirical proof or logic to support it. As often as not, the first word we associate with ‘faith’ is “blind”. By contrast, we think of knowledge as something you can prove, something that anyone can experience. Faith is subjective, knowledge is objective, and so we might think that knowledge, the objectively provable, is superior to faith, the subjectively un-provable.
Traditional yoga doesn’t make the same distinction between faith and knowledge; yoga sees faith and knowledge as two sides of the same coin. In fact, yoga considers faith to be the mandatory pre-requisite for knowledge because we don’t pursue a path of knowledge without faith that the path will actually lead to knowledge. In that sense, we might think that faith is more important than knowledge since you can’t have knowledge without faith.
The process of yoga is scientific: there’s a theory (proposed knowledge), an experiment to test the theory (practice), and the results of the experiment (realization of knowledge). Faith in the process is demonstrated by taking up the practice. The result of the practice is that theoretical knowledge is transformed into experiential knowledge, which validates our faith in the process. It’s subjective in that we personally experience a unique validation of our faith and it’s objective in that anyone can take up the practice and do the same experiment.
We go where our hearts take us. According to the disposition of our heart we develop a particular kind of faith. The disposition of one’s heart is affected by the qualities of material nature that we associate with: if we associate with the quality of goodness then our heart will be influenced by the quality of goodness and our faith will follow our heart. If our heart is in the mode of passion, our faith will also be in the mode of passion. And if our heart is in the mode of darkness then our faith will be darkened accordingly. Thus we ﬁnd varieties of faith throughout the world and a particular kind of faith residing within our own heart.
The experience of yoga is both an evolution of consciousness and a softening of the heart. When the heart is receptive to the possibility of the evolution of consciousness the potential for that evolution awakens within the heart. When the potential for evolution awakens within the heart we feel inspired to work towards the realization of that evolution and with steady practice our evolution is realized. Faith unlocks the potential for knowledge, the potential for knowledge inspires our practice, our practice kindles the fire of realized knowledge, and the illumination radiating from that fire deepens our faith; the process comes full circle.
Yoga invites your faith in the possibility of attaining the highest knowledge: knowledge of your own true nature.
Image: Swans, M.C. Escher (wood engraving, 1956)