The Bhagavad Gita and The Yoga Sutras are two of the most valuable resources in learning about the various methods and goals of the Yoga path.
Introduction to the Bhagavad Gita
The Bhagavad Gita is one of the most revered chronicles in India and very important to Indian culture and philosophy. It is a part of a much longer epic legend called the Mahabarata, written around the 5th century BC, one of the sacred texts that make up the Vedas. Gita means "song", and the Bhagavad Gita is variously translated at Song of the Dive, Song of the Beloved, Song of God, Song of the Blessed One. The tale takes place on the field called Kurushetra, an actual place in India you can visit. A great battle was about to transpire between the armies of one divided family with a long history of disagreement and betrayal. Arjuna, the captain of one faction, at the moment before combat ensues, has a crisis of conscience. He cannot fathom a compelling reason for going to war against relatives and causing so much violence. He asks his charioteer, Krishna, for council. Krishna is an avatar, an aspect of God appearing in human form. Krishna relates to Arjuna the true nature of life. He describes the practice of Yoga and the meaning of life. Krishna describes yoga as a path of action, service, wisdom, and self-realization.
For many people the scene of impending battle is hypocritical to yoga's ideal of non-violence and find it difficult to understand why this legend conveys the meaning of yoga. However, upon further investigation and understanding, the war is seen as a metaphor for man's inner struggles to realize his purpose and true nature.
As Arjuna converses with Krishna, he realizes his charioteer is actually God and asks him many questions about the nature of life. Some of my favorite elucidating quotes from Krishna include:
“The peace of God is with them whose mind and soul are in harmony, who are free from desire and wrath, who know their own soul.”
“He who has let go of hatred
who treats all beings with kindness
and compassion, who is always serene,
unmoved by pain or pleasure,
free of the "I" and "mine,"
self-controlled, firm and patient,
his whole mind focused on me -
that is the man I love best.”
“It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else's life with perfection.”
“The happiness which comes from long practice, which leads to the end of suffering, which at first is like poison, but at last like nectar - this kind of happiness arises from the serenity of one's own mind.”
“Perform all thy actions with mind concentrated on the Divine, renouncing attachment and looking upon success and failure with an equal eye. Spirituality implies equanimity.
“The man who sees me in everything
and everything within me
will not be lost to me, nor
will I ever be lost to him.
He who is rooted in oneness
realizes that I am
in every being; wherever
he goes, he remains in me.
When he sees all beings as equal
in suffering or in joy
because they are like himself,
that man has grown perfect in yoga.”
“You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction. Perform work in this world, Arjuna, as a man established within himself - without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat.”
“Set thy heart upon thy work, but never on its reward.”
“Perform all work carefully, guided by compassion.”
“It is Nature that causes all movement. Deluded by the ego, the fool harbors the perception that says "I did it".”
“The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead. There was never a time when you and I and all the kings gathered here have not existed and nor will there be a time when we will cease to exist.”
“Just as the dweller in this body passes through childhood, youth and old age, so at death he merely passes into another kind of body. The wise are not deceived by that.”
“While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises.”
“Nothing should be accepted blindly; everything should be accepted with care and with caution.”
“When a person responds to the joys and sorrows of others as if they were his own, he has attained the highest state of spiritual union.”
“Seek refuge in the attitude of detachment and you will amass the wealth of spiritual awareness. Those who are motivated only by desire for the fruits of action are miserable, for they are constantly anxious about the results of what they do. 50 When consciousness is unified, however, all vain anxiety is left behind. There is no cause for worry, whether things go well or ill.”
“When meditation becomes very deep, breathing becomes slow, steady, and even, and the windows of the senses close to all outward sensations. Next the faculties of the mind quiet down, resting from their usually frantic activity; even the primal emotions of desire, fear, and anger subside. When all these sensory and emotional tides have ceased to flow, then the spirit is free, mukta – at least for the time being. It has entered the state called samadhi.”