Welcome to the Bhagavad Gita Course!
I am so proud and excited to begin this journey with you. This letter is an introduction to the course- in effect it is the first lesson- but the actual text exploration will begin with Lesson One. Nonetheless, please take a moment and ready yourself to receive this lesson. In this intro lesson, I will tell you a little bit about the course, about the Gita, and give you your first assignments and provide some logistical information. Please take time to read the lesson all the way to the bottom.
I will invite you to do this in every lesson. Take a moment to clear away other distractions. We are used to dealing with emails while multi-tasking. These lessons are like email meditations. They are meant to bring a different energy into your day, into your being. What we’re studying in this course are not just words, they are living teachings passed down for more than 2500 years. Open yourself to that power. Right now, take moment and breathe consciously. Relax. Feel your body sitting in your seat. Open yourself to receive a shift in your perception. Shift into a mode of inner learning.
Let Me Introduce Myself
For those of you who don’t know me, I am David Harshada Wagner. I will be the writer and teacher for the course. I am a teacher living here in New York City. I teach meditation and personal transformation in private lessons, retreats, and classes of many shapes and sizes. I’ve been exploring the science of personal transformation since I was 16 years old and now enjoy offering the fruit of my journey to others. For me, spirituality and transformation is not a hobby or a casual pastime. My spirituality has saved my life and given me tremendous freedom and happiness. My approach to personal transformation work is grounded in real-life situations and the experience of human life with all of its ups and downs. I have a deep love for this work and cherish the opportunity to share this process with you.
My exploration of the Bhagavad Gita began early in my spiritual journey. In those days, one of my teachers lent me a series of audio tapes featuring lectures given by Baba Ram Dass on the Bhagavad Gita. There were hours of tape, and I listened to every one intently. Those talks are now compiled and published as a wonderful book called Paths to God- Living the Bhagavad Gita. I highly recommend getting the book and using it as a supplement to our lessons. Since then, I have had the privilege to study with many brilliant teachers and have examined the Bhagavad Gita from many different perspectives. It’s important to say I am not a scholar; I have not studied Sanskrit formally, nor have I taken graduate courses in Religious Studies. My commentary on the Gita is purely experiential. It comes from my own 25 years of working with the Gita and my experience of transformation and the experience of my students. I really hope you enjoy it and derive something worthwhile.
Why the Gita?
We have chosen the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita because they offer a very broad exploration of Yoga Philosophy. In its chapters all areas of human life are covered. There is really something for everyone in the Gita – no matter where you’re coming from or what your challenges are. The many topics in the Gita will provide wonderful jumping off places for us to discuss life, the spiritual journey, daily practice, and personal growth. It is vast enough to hold our interest for 9 months and provide us with this time together to grow, transform, and explore.
Krishna and Arjuna- Guru and Disciple
Like many of the Indian sacred texts, the 700 verses of the Gita are arranged in a conversational format. The two main speakers are Krishna and Arjuna. Let’s take a minute to get to know both, Arjuna first. Arjuna is a great warrior. He is the general of the army of the Pandavas – the “good guys” – who are engaged in an epic battle with the “bad guy” Kauravas. Arjuna is the best warrior, the most skilled, the most virtuous, the wisest, and the bravest. In the Bhagavad Gita, he is about to go into a major battle and suddenly gets “cold feet”. He freezes and is unable to fight. He reaches out to Krishna for help. Krishna is his chariot driver and good friend. Krishna is also God. Krishna is also Arjuna’s Sadguru– his spiritual master.
Krishna and Arjuna here embody the archetypal Guru and Disciple– but on an even deeper level, they embody the very heart of human spirituality. Arjuna is the voice of the seeker. His is the voice of our humanity. His voice is our voice as we reach out for Divine support and guidance. He is the embodiment of our strength, our valor, our worldly skill, our bravery. He is also the embodiment of our frailty as human beings. He gives a voice to our confusion, to our ignorance. He also gives a voice to our devotion and our willingness to learn, grow, and transform.
The name Bhagavad Gita translates as the Song of the Lord. Krishna’s voice in the Gita is the voice of the Absolute. His is the voice of the Source of the universe. His voice is the voice of our own Divine Essence – our own deeper, steady Heart wisdom. Krishna is there for us as a form of God to relate to, to look to, to listen to. He is there to guide Arjuna. His words are there to guide us.
In the Gita, the quiet unspoken prayers we wish in the dark of the night are articulated into a deep and involved conversation.
If you examine your own heart, you will see how this basic relationship has been there since the beginning of your spiritual journey. There is “you” – the seeker, the questioner, the one who needs help. And there is “God” too. Whether you believe in God or not – there is something to which the questioner questions. There is a Force or a Goodness or a Grace that we all reach out to, that we all long for the blessing of in some way. Isn’t it true there is something in you that reaches out for unseen help? Even if you don’t pray formally, you probably pray with your feelings, in your silence.
In the Gita, the quiet unspoken prayers we wish in the dark of the night are articulated into a deep and involved conversation. Krishna lays out in 18 Chapters a sophisticated and holistic philosophy and system of practice that can be a part of our healing process. “Healing what?”, you might ask. Healing the divide between Krishna and Arjuna. The philosophy and system of practice outlined in the Gita is about healing the divide between our humanity with all of its ups and downs, and our Divinity – the innate, unconditional, unwavering sacred power that dwells within us.
The Sanskrit word sadhana refers to this process of reuniting these parts. In the beginning of sadhana we are there asking for help, longing for the presence of the Sacred in our lives. At the end of sadhana, we realize we are that Sacred Power. We realize we are Arjuna, and we are Krishna too.
The Bhagavad Gita is a book about sadhana. Krishna is singing us a song about our own ultimate transformation.
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Lessons begin November 3rd!