Wa Yo Yogi

Leanne Kitteridge's adventures in Yoga

Day One- Ram Dass and John Friend on The Bhagavad Gita September 24, 2009

The puja

The puja

What are you a disciple to?

This was really the first question of the day. I am still puzzling as I write this what I am a disciple to. The problem is really that the logical mind wants to make the decision for you but I think the whole purpose of this intensive is that the heart is really what needs to decide.

John started the day by contextualizing the Bhagavad Gita. The Gita is part of a larger text called the Mahabharata which consists of 18 volumes…and the Gita is 18 chapters. The Gita is then divided into three 6 chapter sections. Each becoming more detailed in their teachings. One of the most important things that both Ram Dass and John reiterated is that the Gita is a living text- it not “just a book”. It is Krishna. That will make me think twice about resting my coffee mug on it so I don’t make a ring on the table.

The Gita describes three paths or margas to God- aka Krishna- which are Body , Mind and Heart. In Sanskrit we know them as Karma, Jnana and Bhakti. John has the room set up as a mandir or temple so we enter the room with certain gestures and rituals and we observe silence in the room. His idea is that rather than teaching the margas separately that we blend them all together in the teachings so that no marga is more superior to the other.

This was emphasised when we hit the morning practice and we would do a full backbend and then pick up our books and read a quote. Then backbend again and read a quote. I mentioned to Sjanie how much we like to stay in the body when we are in the body ( asana) and how we want to stay in the mind when we are in the mind(studying) and how John’s approach really rocked the boat in a way. Really at its essence that is Anusara and our method because as teachers we are trying to teach all 3 margas at the same time…we chose to call them the 3 A’s ( Attitude ( bhakti) Alignment ( Jnana) and Action( Karma) ).

We did a writing exercise today as well that I liked. Rather than hastily scribbling in your note book your intention( sankalpa) you made it matrika ( words holding power or shakti) by incasing your writing with symbols and words. I used little om signs and the word “shanti” above mine but it could be anything. I am wondering if that is why “Be Here Now” by Ram Dass is so powerful- it is matrika- all the pictures are not just a trippy hippy experience but really something much more. They are the imbedded shakti of Maharaji ( Neem Karoli Baba) delivered through Ram Dass.

The next thing that John talked about was the use of tapasya or austerities to clean the mirror so to speak. During the three day period we will be performing purification and restrictions. I have given up coffee and sugar for the intensive, committed to a 9 pm bedtime and a 5 am wake up ( which is killer without coffee) and to eat only non-processed food. Thank God Sjanie is here because she is doing the cooking so that is easy! The last one is “to tell the truth”. This is an internal restraint and I liberally stole it from Ram Dass’ experience with Maharaji but it works for me. That means I have to tell myself the truth too….not always easy.

John Friend and Ram Dass

John Friend and Ram Dass

We spent a lot of time talking about dharma. How do you find your dharma? Ram Dass had  a great point where he said you know you are in your dharma when it feels intuitively right. John said that whatever expands the light is dharmic and when the dharma goes up so does the karma- the responsibility goes up. Karma are actions that keep us in the web. For example if you give someone a gift and you are waiting for thanks for something in return that is karma- it makes impressions in the web. If you are dharmic you just give for the delight of it; no expectations of thanks or something in return- just give.

Karma is the very basic of all action, it creates ripples and patterns on the web. The Gita is telling us that the Divine- Krishna in this living text- is acting but making no ripples. That action is called kriya. So the idea is to keep acting but to become more dharmic and move from karma to kriya. We never stop acting, doing our work so to speak, but we offer it all as a gift to the Divine. It is much harder to be in and of the world and hold this mindset which is part of Arjuna’s problem and therefore our problem. How do we live life fully and effect change if we stop acting? If we stop fighting? We cannot just leave the battlefield, though some have I suppose by leaving society, but we cannot fight blindly either. We fight from a place of deep wisdom, from the depth of our heart where the seeker is the witness. Arjuna fights from the place where he is Krishna- we act from the place where we are Krishna. This is how the karma becomes kriya I think.

I believe that is what Ram Dass was getting at when he said the jivatman– the soul inside of us- needs to be where we act from. He said, ” When you identify with your soul you see other people as souls. Be one to see one.” He said we get very tied up in our roles: ie. mother, father, flight attendant, teacher, friend, etc. but they are not who we are. That dosen’t mean we can stop being them. I mean I can’t stop being a mother; that is my dharma. But there is something deeper there that I can act from, something that could make my “role” more dharmic. This is a thought that needs further contemplation but hopefully you get the drift.

It was so special to once again sit with Ram Dass and hear his teachings. The same beautiful Hanuman banner was up that I remembered from satsang and the only thing missing was my husband who so loved being there with Ram Dass. I hope that he gets the chance to do satsang again next time we are on the island. I silently thanked him and my children for making it possible for me to be present for these teachings and I felt the responsibility of being there.

 “You are the next generation, you are the custodians of the lineage.” John said this to us with such sincerity and intensity. Maharaji and Mukatananda are gone and Gurumai is in retreat and Ram Dass’ health is precarious. I might be one the teachers that says “Yes- I was with Ram Dass and John Friend on Maui in 2009” and that will be something significant. I am not sure. It doesn’t really matter. It is significant to me.

Hare Krishna~


6 Responses to “Day One- Ram Dass and John Friend on The Bhagavad Gita”

  1. Josie Houpt Says:

    Thank you Leanne for sharing this auspicious event. I look forward to hearing the purification enfold into incredible transformation and enlightenment. Hare Krishna indeed!

    Much love and light~Josie 😉

  2. Marcia Says:

    Beautiful Leanne- your words are far reaching, and help me to know that I am heading in the right direction. Thank you for your willingness to share and your honesty as you too consider the big picture!

    In love and light-

  3. I dont know If I said it already but …Cool site, love the info. I do a lot of research online on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    …..Frank Scurley

  4. Savannah Says:

    Awesome blog!

    I thought about starting my own blog too but I’m just too lazy so, I guess Ill just have to keep checking yours out.

  5. Hi,

    thanks for the great quality of your blog, every time i come here, i’m amazed.

    black hattitude.

  6. David Fahey Says:

    Thank you. I have the opportunity to take a three-day Gita exploration with John Friend in September (2011). I was looking for some description of his teaching style and to get a feel for whether it would be a good fit for someone with my limited background. I’m IN.

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