To Understand Yoga, Stand on Your Head – Bhagavad Gita, Ch 15, Vs 1-2

Ashvattha Tree

1
The Blessed Lord spoke:
It is said that the Ashvattha tree has its roots above and its branches below, and that its leaves are the Vedic aphorisms. He who knows this tree, is a knower of the Vedas.

  • Vedic aphorisms, or sutras, are similar to what we would call ‘sayings’, that teach something specific.
  • Vedic, concerning the Vedas. The word veda means ‘sacred knowledge, knowledge of Truth’. The Vedas are a large body of knowledge texts originating in ancient India around 1500 BCE, constituting the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature, and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism.

Yogeshwar was fond of saying, “To understand Yoga, you have to stand on your head.” And here we have an upside down tree! So let’s run with it.

Ashvattha Tree 1The Ashvattha tree represents the upside-down purpose of chasing desires. This action is contrary (upside-down) to Truth, hence its roots are above and its branches are below, signifying moving away from God/Truth and down into the earth, the mundane world. Facing endlessly downwards it represents those persons who misuse their lives by acting solely for the purpose of fulfilling desires. In this respect it appears to be indestructible, and yet, as far as the yogi is concerned, this is not maintained for even a day.

Trying to satisfy desires is upside-down because there is nothing you can desire that you don’t already have. You have but to call it to you.

If we think of this tree as the Tree of Life, the message is that we’re seeing Life upside down. We’ve got our roots in the wind and our branches buried in the ground, the earth, the mundane world.

Every time you use your will to get what you want, you move yourself farther away from God/Truth. Yet realizing God and your Real Self is why you are here!

2
Below and above it spreads, fully developed by the gunas, with the objects of the senses as new branches. Below, the roots keep growing downward, engendering binding action in the world of man.

  • Gunas – The three modes of Nature.
  • Sense objects – Anything perceptible by the senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell).  
  • Binding action – ‘Binding’ (anubandhana) is ‘the state of being a slave’. ‘Action’ (karma) refers to action that binds — acting for self motivated purposes.  

Sense objects are all the things we are made aware of by means of our senses, and which we either like or dislike to varying degrees. We act in order to have the ones we like, and avoid the ones we don’t like. In this way we live in bondage to our senses and our desires, and are constantly collecting more karma that keeps us bound to die and return over and over again, like a merry-go-round that just keeps going around in circles and never gets anywhere.

Acting for the purpose of fulfilling desires is not ‘bad’, it just stops your progress.  

Isn’t happiness what you really want? Isn’t that why you try to fulfill your desires? But your efforts to get desires fulfilled are upside-down — the result is the very opposite of what you want. This is what this verse is trying to tell us.

Remember that what you want or need is already yours. You have but to call it to you.

We are slaves to our desires and the price is bondage. This is upside down from how we really are — it is contrary to our Real Selves, who should properly be situated Above.

  • Aśhvattha – ‘where the horses are’.  Aśhva means ‘horse’, and represents the senses. Tha means ‘stay, stand or dwell’. ‘Where the horses dwell’. The Ashvattha tree is the body and the horses are the physical senses. Submitting to their influence keeps us where we are — we don’t move forward. Why? Because we are acting in opposition to our Real Selves. 

The Real You knows everything.
The Real You has everything.

Thus the Aśhvattha tree is cast in the role of samsara, the bondage of recurring deaths and births, and samskara, the continual resurfacing of previous tendencies. We must cut this tree in order to be free. How do we do this? The remainder of this chapter will tell us how.

What you want or need is already yours. You have but to call it to you.

Namaste (I bow to the divine one that you really are),
Durga Ma
durgama.com

Surrender Meditation

Shaktipat Kundalini Yoga
Spontaneous Experiential Meditation

Slip into a natural state of meditation with ease. Experience the relief of reaching a true meditative state without any effort and without using your will.

Receive shaktipat and become initiated into the original meditation of ancient masters from which meditation techniques were eventually derived.

Increase your knowledge base and begin Shaktipat Kundalini Yoga, Surrender Meditation. Though correct knowledge you will increase your progress by a thousand times, and bring about even deeper meditation and amazing experiences.

Shaktipat Intensives with Durga Ma are held in Phoenix, Arizona


“Every step you take pulls every one of us with you.”

The Whole World Is One Family


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Royal Yoga, Bhagavad Gita, Ch 14, Vs 21-27, Continued

From left to right: Kali (darkness), tamas. Lakshmi (wealth and pleasure), ramas. Saraswati (music and learning), sattva.
Trinity of Goddesses from left to right:  Kali (destroyer of darkness and dissolution, tamas). Lakshmi (bringer of wealth and pleasure, rajas). Saraswati (giver of music and learning, sattva).

All action occurs in Nature. The gunas are the active influences of Nature, but you are not Nature. The Real You is not involved in action at all.

The varying degrees of predominance of the gunas cause certain kinds of actions. This chapter has given examples of the influence of each guna. The state of trigunatita (‘three-gunas-gone beyond’) surfaces when the individual is not in a state of assuming doership. This takes place over time through meditation, and eventually becomes the full and complete state of trigunatita.

Three Gunas of Nature (Prakriti) holding people down, with Lord Krishna above it all.
The Three Gunas of Nature (Prakriti) ensnaring people, with Lord Krishna above it all, trigunatita.

When trigunatita has been achieved, the three gunas continue to cause action in Nature, but they do not affect you. You are not influenced by them.

For the Embodied One, even though actions occur in Nature, he is not the doer of actions. All actions are the interactions of the gunas of Nature, and nothing else.

“All action occurs in Nature, but You are not Nature.” If this statement concerning non-doership causes you to wonder what is, this is your answer: the gunas.

Sitting here writing this for you, action is taking place. If I am trigunatita, this action is not taking place under the influence of any guna. Instead, it is under the influence of God, Truth itself, for That is my surrender.

Any action occurring after trigunatita has been achieved, is influenced by Truth Itself.


Approaching the End of the Journey

“Thy will be done, O Lord, not mine.” — Lord Jesus

In the body from the sixth chakra up is Rudra Loka, the world of Rudra (Rudra is another name for Shiva). This is the realm of the storm gods, where Kundalini takes a new name: Maruti, ‘wind’. The name Rudra means ‘roaring, terrifying, wild, fierce’ and also ‘auspicious and kind’. This is where Raja Yoga takes place. It is the last frontier of the journey Home.

Awaking Kundalini
Sun-Moon Union Awakens Kundalini

In this phase of Yoga, the guna of tamas (darkness), the least active of the three gunas, ushers in the onset of  trigunatita  (‘three-gunas-gone beyond’).

This is one of those places where everything seems to be upside-down and one becomes confused. But this is only because, as a human being, you find yourself once again in unfamiliar territory. But this time it is so different that it may seem down right scary. Tamas, darkness, has gotten a bad rap before this, but now it is the star player. Instead of being a word for delusion and ignorance, it is the literal absence (darkness) of delusion and ignorance, and the doorway to the Absolute at the crown chakra.

Three Gunas: States of Mind and Stages of Yoga

Rudra Loka

Rudra is the agent of the dissolution of delusion and ignorance. It is here in Rudra’s World that nirbija samadhi appears. In this samadhi, no-thing exists but Absolute God/Truth, so there is no light, for it would serve no purpose. All is revealed, and one now understands that it is Lord Shiva in the form of Rudra who defeats evil, impurities and fear, leaving only Truth.

Ascent of Kundalini
Royal Union is Ascendent Kundalini

Raja Yoga means ‘Royal Union’, the union of you and Absolute God. Before this, union was ‘sun-moon union’, Hatha Yoga, the awakening of Kundalini. This phase was centered in the body below the sixth chakra, but in the stage of Raja Yoga, most of the work is going on in the head where endocrine glands take the leading role.

In the Absolute there is nothing, not even light. Having reached this place and trying to describe it to others, it may seem to them that you are dealing with a great darkness. So you learn not to talk about it. But for you, this darkness is the rolling bliss of certain Truth and non-stop Happiness. Later, all you have to do is to remember this and it’s right there.

Obstacles to Yoga

Non-achievement refers to not reaching a state or stage that one believes is imminent. It may be that one does not reach the expected stage. Or it may be that one has expectations as to how the that stage will look, and because his experience does not match his expectations, he assumes non-achievement when achievement is starring him in the face. Or he may assume the worst and stop his sadhana in defeat. Or, if he is persistent, he continues his sadhana and the Truth is revealed.

Bhrānti darśana means ‘incorrect seeing’. One might be fooled into thinking he has reached a higher state or stage than he has. He may assume that he has reached sainthood, for instance, or even godhood. He may believe he is the incarnation of a god, or even that he is Jesus Christ returned. This stops his sadhana and he makes no further progress, unless he comes to realize his mistake and moves forward.

Kundalini Fully Awakened
Fully Awakened Kundalini

It is because of these two obstacles that your guru will insist that you continue your sadhana no matter what. If you are devoted (committed) to your guru, you will take his or her advice, for this is the only way you will get past these two walls. Then…

You will enter into Brahman, Absolute God. And because Absolute God is Immortal and of unending Happiness, this is now Your state.

Namaste (I bow to the divine one that you really are),
Durga Ma
durgama.com

Surrender Meditation

Shaktipat Kundalini Yoga
Spontaneous Experiential Meditation

Slip into a natural state of meditation with ease. Experience the relief of effortlessly reaching a true meditative state without using your will.

Receive shaktipat and become initiated into the original meditation of ancient masters from which meditation techniques were derived.

Increase your knowledge base and begin Shaktipat Kundalini Yoga: Surrender Meditation. Though correct knowledge you will increase your progress by a thousand times, and bring about even deeper meditation and amazing experiences.

Shaktipat Intensives with Durga Ma are held in Phoenix, Arizona


“Every step you take pulls every one of us with you.”

The Whole World Is One Family

Beyond Bondage, Bhagavad Gita, Ch 14, Vs 21-27

Yogini liberated from bondage of the gunas

21
Arjuna spoke:
What are the signs of those who have gone beyond the three gunas? How do they act? How do they get beyond these three gunas?

Alternate translation:
What are the characteristics of someone who has transcended the three gunas? How do they do it, and what does it look like?

22 – 23
The Blessed Lord spoke:
He neither likes nor dislikes the presence or absence of illumination, passion or ignorance. Situated in the neutrality of sameness, he knows that these are merely the gunas in motion, and unshaken, he stands firm.   

One who has transcended the three gunas has transcended the like or dislike of the enlightenment of sattva, the desire-driven activities of rajas, and the non-enlightenment of tamas. Knowing all this to be merely the gunas in action, one is not fooled by them, but remains firm in the practice of yoga (union). 

24 – 25
He is self-composed and the same in difficulty and ease, equally disposed toward the desirable and the undesirable, and looks upon a clod, a stone, and a piece of gold as the same. He remains the same in pleasant and unpleasant circumstances. He is intelligent, and accepts both praise and blame with equanimity. He remains the same in honor and dishonor, treats both friend and enemy alike, and avoids new undertakings. Thus he is said to have transcended the guṇas. 

Anandamayi Ma
Anandamayi Ma

I can see how people might stop their sadhana when reaching this point. This is not familiar territory. One feels like a failure and is self-critical for being useless and not getting anything done. One feels apathetic, and it seems as if one were steeped in tamas. However, this turns out to be the sameness, or indifference, mentioned in these verses, but it is so unfamiliar that it looks like tamas. So it can take a while to see it for what it really is: the onset of trigunatita (‘three-gunas-gone-beyond’).

Shirdi Sai Baba
Shirdi Sai Baba

Have you ever felt intimidated by God, imagining that seeing God, He would be stoic and immovable, and a little inaccessible? I know what you mean. I think about my lineage and see them this way. And yes, I feel … well, I don’t know whether to say ‘humble’ or ‘overawed’ or a little of both. But it turns out that what I am really seeing is a group of people who have transcended the three gunas. There is a striking difference between stoicism or aloofness and trigunatita — they have ‘gone beyond the gunas‘. Nothing rattles them. They fit the descriptions in these verses.

26 – 27
Serving Me with undeviated devotion and transcending the gunas, he becomes absorbed into Brahman (Absolute God). 
For I stand firmly in immortal imperishable Brahman, and the eternal dharma of unending Happiness.

  • Undeviated devotionbhakti (devotion) yoga (uniting) seva (service to guru, the teacher).
  • I – Lord Krishna
  • Eternal dharma – the way things are in the Absolute
Swami Kripalvananda (Kripalu)
Swami Kripalvanandaji (Kripalu)

These verses tell us how we can become absorbed into Brahman: By singular devotion to God to the extent that everything you do in your life is in service to God and Guru. You are fixed on That, so what other outcome could there possibly be?

You become what you worship.

In this way, you become absorbed into Absolute God, and the activities of the gunas no longer have any effect on you. Then, because Absolute God is beyond the gunas, your absorption into God is inevitable. 

To apply this to your own situation, just remember who Krishna really is: He is Arjuna’s guru, so by devotion and service to your guru you can overpower the influences of the gunas and become absorbed in Brahman (Absolute God). Without taking this road, there is no escaping the gunas for human beings. The best most of us can do is to aspire to become more sattvic overall, for sattva is the guna closest to what we are really like as Divine Individuals.

There is, however, this state of trigunatita (‘three-gunas-gone beyond’) in which one is not in a state produced by any of the gunas. Instead, one’s state is Real rather than phenomenal. This state can be experienced in yoga meditation done correctly: the surrender of oneself to Absolute God in meditation.

All actions are the interactions of the gunas of Nature. 

All action occurs in Nature, but the Real You is not Nature, and is therefore not involved in action. It is the predominance of a guna that causes certain actions, not You. What You really are is an eternal non-doer.

This chapter gives examples of what causes certain actions to take place, and how you can rise above these guna influences. The state that is beyond them all surfaces when the individual is not in a state of doership — when there is no sense of ‘doing’ going on. This takes place in small bites through meditation practiced correctly, and eventually becomes the full and complete state of trigunatita.

Namaste (I bow to the divine one that you really are),
Durga Ma
durgama.com

Surrender Meditation

Shaktipat Kundalini Yoga
Spontaneous Experiential Meditation

Slip into a natural state of meditation with ease. Experience the relief of effortlessly reaching a true meditative state without using your will.

Receive shaktipat and become initiated into the original meditation of ancient masters from which meditation techniques were derived.

Increase your knowledge base and begin Shaktipat Kundalini Yoga: Surrender Meditation. Though correct knowledge you will increase your progress by a thousand times, and bring about even deeper meditation and amazing experiences.

Shaktipat Intensives with Durga Ma are held in Phoenix, Arizona


“Every step you take pulls every one of us with you.”

The Whole World Is One Family