So, we would like first to welcome all the guests. Very nice of you to come and spend this afternoon with us.
We are practicing our regular afternoon program which is part of the process known as Bhakti yoga. Bhakti yoga is the yoga path that we are practicing and teaching.
The word yoga is more and more popular. I think in every part of the world people have heard of yoga or are practicing yoga, or somehow are familiar with the idea. And normally when people think of yoga, they think of physical yoga, hatha yoga: bending, stretching, twisting, various poses which are known as asanas. And this is certainly a bona fide yoga system. It greatly improves the physical condition of the body and it can also improve the mental condition. We have learnt that we have two bodies: our gross physical body and the subtle mental body. And certainly they need to be kept in as good of condition as possible. And hatha yoga is one of the systems given by the Supreme Lord to achieve this.
We are practicing Bhakti yoga. It is not that we don’t do hatha yoga. Many of us do hatha yoga on a regular basis for the reasons just described. But this is not our spiritual path, so to speak. Our spiritual path is Bhakti yoga.
And yoga has many meanings. One of the most pure understandings is: yoga is a union with the Supreme Lord, union between the individual person and the Supreme Person. Our lives are filled with relationships. We have relationships with parents, children, husbands, wives, friends – many, many, many relationships. It is the nature of the soul to be in relationships with others. So the process of Bhakti yoga is a process to reestablish a loving relationship with the Supreme Lord. To do so, we need information about our self and about the Supreme Lord.
That information is contained in and clearly described in the Vedic scriptures. One of the main scriptures is the Bhagavad-gita. Of all Vedic literature, this is known as the foundation or ‘the cream,’ the essence of Vedic knowledge. And in the Bhagavad-gita we begin our education by learning who we are. So in the second chapter of Bhagavad-gita this is explained.
The Bhagavad-gita is a conversation that took place on this planet 5 000 years ago. 5 000 years ago the Supreme Lord appeared on this planet in His original form. And that form is the form of Krishna (Shyamasundara, Gopala, Govinda; God has many names). The names of God describe God. Krishna means the All-attractive person. Certainly, God is number one in all categories, so in the category of attractiveness, He is Number One. So the name ‘Krishna’ describes the all-attractiveness of the Supreme Lord. So He spoke this Bhagavad-gita when He was on this planet. He spoke it to His very dear friend and disciple Arjuna. This is a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna. And in this conversation one can actually achieve enlightenment. Enlightenment meaning full understanding, full knowledge. And it begins with understanding of our true identity.
So we are going to read a few texts from the second chapter. We have already discussed this in our class previously in Sochi. Maybe we have heard it from other sources as well, maybe we have had some experience of this. Nonetheless, it is always purifying to hear it directly from the Supreme Lord. So Krishna is speaking here to Arjuna. This is Chapter 2, text number 12:
“Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.”
Krishna is reveling two truths here. Number one, that we are eternal. Krishna says, “Never was there a time when I [Krishna] did not exist, nor you [Arjuna], nor all these kings.” There was a great assembly of kings present. He says we have always existed and He says, “nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.” That means we will always continue to exist, it is not a temporary thing.
This very clearly indicates that we cannot be this material body. We know very well there was time when our bodies did not exist. We all have our birthdays, when we were born. And that was not very long ago: 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, whatever years ago we were born. We entered the body approximately 9 months before the birth. So prior to that time, the body did not exist.
But Krishna says, “We existed.” Of course, many people think that life begins in the womb, that after a certain point in the development of the body, life enters. Or they may think it enters at conception, that is when life begins. But according to Krishna, that is not correct. Long, long before we entered this body, we existed. We have always existed. And Krishna says we will always continue to exist.
But, again, we have to accept, often unwillingly, that we will have to die. We do not like that idea, not a very comfortable idea. But it is a fact, a fact we cannot deny. We can put it aside, we can ignore it, we can not think about it, do not talk about it, but still we know, yes, that is the reality. So the body will cease to exist, for sure. But according to Krishna, we do not, we always continue. So, again, this points to the truth: we are not this material body. We have to be something different than the body. Also here it is revealed that we are eternally individuals.
There are many new age philosophies or impersonalist yoga philosophies that teach that we are all one and this individual condition that we perceive now is going to cease in the future. We are temporarily under the illusion we are individuals. But really we are not individuals, we are all one. And when we reach enlightenment, perfection (many names for the same idea), we merge and become one with the Supreme Spirit, we are that spirit.
The concept is: you take a drop of water from the ocean. Now this ocean is individualized in this drop. You could give it a name, you could dress it in a certain way, you could do many things with this drop of water. But if you put that drop of water back in the ocean… Say, you name this drop Sergey but put Sergey back in the ocean, and then try to go to find Sergey, where is he? Sergey, come in! No Sergey. He has gone. Now he is just the ocean. So their idea is that this is how it is with us. We are just some little drop of spiritual energy that has entered into the material body and has an identity. But once we become enlightened, liberated, self-realized, whatever, we merge back into that ocean of light.
According to Krishna, this is not true. We eternally remain individuals. So this is the first point that Krishna makes to Arjuna.
In understanding life, we must start in the beginning. We think we understand life but we do not even know who we are. We go to educational institutions, we spend years studying, getting knowledge, we have our degrees, we become doctors, professors, scientists, some big knowledge. But we do not even know who we are:
– Who are you?
– I am professor Jones
I remember I gave a lecture in one University and, as I was walking down the hall to the lecture room, there were many doors, and everyone had a name on it: professor Jones, professor this, that, all the professors. I started to go in one and asked:
– Who are you?
– Can you not read? Can you not see who I am?! I am professor Jones.
Sorry, you made a mistake. Next lifetime who will you be? Not professor Jones. He will be somebody else. New identity and just as convinced that is who he is. Who are you? Next lifetime: who are you? who do you think I am? A new identity.
This is all illusion. The bodies come, the bodies go. They have their identities, the ever changing nomenclature. But we remain the same, the same person. So Krishna is telling us we are eternally individuals.