The Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita
A by-donation weekly online class beginning January 18, 7:00-8:30 PM
Stationed between two great armies arrayed for battle, Arjuna, the great hero of the Indian epic Mahabharata, is suddenly gripped by fear. Distraught and questioning his duty, he collapses in his chariot with his eyes filled with tears. Right there, in the midst of his circum-stance, a moment before the clash of the two armies will begin and taking pause on the battlefield - the Field of Dharma, the field of life - he receives the Yoga teachings of Krishna in the form of The Song of the Blessed One, The Bhagavad Gita.
The Bhagavad Gita is the seminal text of Indian philosophy and spirituality. To study the Gita is to encounter not only the central themes of Indian thought: karma (action); maya (illusion); dukha (suffering); dharma (duty); moksha (enlightenment), Yoga philosophy and more, but to also engage intimately with life's most profound questions and concerns: Does life have a purpose, a meaning, a foundation? What is the nature and purpose of sorrow, fear and anxiety? Is the visible, tangible world all there is? What is the nature of the self, of my life? Is freedom possible? What is a good life?
In this weekly, ongoing class we will follow a close reading of the Bhagavad Gita along with an evolving conversation and exploration of related texts and traditions. The themes of the Gita will draw us into a consideration of the Yoga Sutras, the Upanishads, the teachings of the Buddha, and the Tantric traditions of India. We will also explore the connections between the insights of the Gita and our own Western wisdom and spiritual traditions: Biblical teachings, philosophy, alchemy, mystical poetry, depth psychology, neuroscience, music, literature and the arts.
Although we will start from the beginning of the text from the dramatic first moments of this great dialogue, and wind our way through to it's conclusion, you will not be lost if you had not participated from the beginning or missed a class. Each class will both stand on its own, and carry forward the discussions from the previous sessions. The class is ongoing and will continue until we complete our reading of the Gita. Weekly attendance is not required but we suggest you do you best to commit to consistency. This is not an academic course, but it is modeled after a traditional yoga-sadhana (yoga practice) class with a focus on svadhyaya (self-study), vichara (inquiry) and samvada (harmonious dialogue). The process is straightforward: show up, open the text, and follow along with the reading and discussion.
The Bhagavad Gita contains a plethora of philosophical and spiritual references, allusions, symbols, archetypes, mythology, tales and innuendo. Like every sacred text and great work of art, the meaning of the Gita changes as we change, and reveals deeper dimensions of truth as our heart and mind opens to them. There is no telling where we will wind up each week, but one thing is certain, in the words of the final verse of the Gita:
Wherever there is Krishna, the lord of yoga
Wherever there is Artjuna, the archer
There will surely be
auspiciousness, victory, well-being,
and righteous, enduring character.
No previous knowledge of Yoga philosophy is required. You will only need to purchase a copy of the Bhagavad Gita if you don't already own one (see below for suggestions and links to Amazon), other materials will be provided as PDFs to all participants. Classes are held on Zoom.
Cost: By donation
Begins: January 18th - 7:00-8:30 PM
Ends: Class is ongoing, weekly
Suggested versions of the Bhagavad Gita
Recommended translations if you do not already own the Bhagavad Gita:
by Eknath Easwaran
by Stephen Mitchell
The best deep-study version, provides devanagari (Sanskrit script), transliterated Sanskrit, and word-by-word English translation of each verse. Expensive, but well worth it:
by Christopher Key Chapple (Editor, Preface), Winthrop Sargeant (Translator)
Translations not recommended as your primary text for this class (good additions to your library however):
The Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners
by Jack Hawley
The Living Gita: The Complete Bhagavad Gita - A Commentary for Modern Readers
by Sri Swami Satchidananda
Translation to avoid:
Bhagavad-Gita As It Is
by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
About the instructor, Salvatore Familia
I began Classical Yoga training and study in 1972 and have been both an active participant in, and astonished witness to, the evolution of yoga in the US ever since.
My teaching is inspired by a personal four-decade journey along the many paths of Yoga and Meditation; academic study of Western and Eastern philosophy; struggles with the translation of Sanskrit Yoga texts into English; encounters with inspiring teachers, scoundrels and charlatans; explorations of life through yoga, meditation, Jungian analysis, business ventures and the founding of a non-profit Yoga & Meditation studio.
Although I’m thrilled by the explosive popularity of Yoga today, I’m also convinced that other traditional dimensions of Yoga like spiritual inquiry, meditation and an openness to embrace all contemporary forms of wisdom would bring greater balance and insight to its practice. My teaching style is dialogical in nature and is informed by the insights of the ancient Yoga Shastras (the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, etc.) as well as ancient and modern philosophy, the contemporary arts, modern psychology, and neuroscience.