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Season 1 - Episode 6

Yoga and The Battle

55 min - Talk


If yoga is about peace, why are so many of our beloved yoga texts set on battlefields?  James discusses Yoga and the Battle, where the battle resides, and how it is that we may all become “yogic warriors”. We learn that the true weapon of the yogic warrior is 360-degree global equivision and equipoise, allowing us to draw on and unify all of our intuitive resources in order to move from fixation and towards centeredness. We each are individually responsible for our own engagement with this path, which, with constant, steady, vigilant effort, can help us learn to compromise without compromising integrity. In this engaging talk, James references the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and uses the example of Luke Skywalker in the movie Star Wars to illustrate the internal battle between the inertia of our habits and the deeper wisdom of our soul.
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Mar 29, 2021
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Aum Gannam Tha Gannapatigam Vamahe Kavin Kavi Namopamashravastamam Jishta Rajam Brahma Na Brahmana Spata Anishvarnam Vannotebesirasaranam Bongamy Krantaivitupmahe tailor What ho Seg Am Gannapati Namara Brahma Namopam Gannapati Namara Muchpause Bhagavan Vaishw GOOD Vakaitra Puranthakaitra Kagnikalayakalagner Drayanira Kantaayamitan Jayaya Sarvesh Faraya Sarashivaya Sriman Mahadeva Yana Ma Om Guru Brahma Guru Rishnu Guru Devo Mahishwara Sarvesh Faraya Sarvesh Faraya Sriman Mahishwari Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Hello. Namaskar. Welcome to Yoga Now on Yoga Anytime. And today our theme is yoga and the battle or the battle of yoga. I don't know about you, but when I first started to get into yoga, I thought, well, isn't yoga all about peace? So what is it with all of these teachings that are set on battlefields and these yoga texts that are full of these epic battles? What's all that about?

And especially when I was told about this amazing text, which is an especially treasured text in the yoga tradition, the Bhagavan Gita, and then I found that that was set on the battlefield. And when I was a boy, I actually read large sections of the Bible, including the Old Testament. But now and again, when I was reading the Bible, I would just have to put it down because I just had enough for that day on lists of names and battle scenes. And so I'd go and read a bit of Roald Dahl, for example, or something else. Anyway, years later, I'm getting into yoga and I've heard the Bhagavan Gita is just this absolute wonder text.

And so one year I asked for the Bhagavan Gita for Christmas, and I was given a copy and a translation of the Bhagavan Gita. And Christmas morning came, gifts have been exchanged. All of the plans for the meal are in hand. What do we do? Well, play with your new toys here, which in my case at that day meant read my new book.

So I go off with my new book. Slim edition. And there's a brief introduction. I don't bother with the introduction. I thought, let's dive straight in. Chapter one. And what do I encounter? I encounter a long list of names on a battlefield.

And I think, again, what's all this about? And I think, I'll just put it to one side for now. And then very fortunately for me, it wasn't very long after that that I got the chance to study the Gita with my teacher from within the Indian tradition. And from that perspective and the perspective that he shared, then it all just came wonderfully alive. And I started to realize what the significance of the battlefield setting was, how realistic and practical it was, and also the resonance of these names and their symbolic value.

So it can seem a bit strange that yoga is all about peace and these treasure teachings again and again, we find these battlefield scenarios. It's not just the Bhagavad Gita, you know, in like, for example, the daily Mahatmyam, which is another wonderful 700 verse teaching. It's absolutely full of tremendous battles. The Ramayana, one of the great epics of the Indian tradition started through the great epic. They have, as some of their major episodes, these very big battles.

So what's really going on with all this? And when I started studying the Gita with my teacher, he prompted a question and the question that was prompted was, James, have you ever done anything that was not in your own highest interest? I said, well, the only answer to that is yes, for sure. And then I was thinking, yeah, and does a day ever go by when I don't do something that's not in my highest interest? And then I have to think, well, no, I don't think there does.

And further, you know, sometimes not only do I do things that I know I don't want to do, but they're not in my own highest interest. But sometimes I do things even though deep down, really, I know I don't want to do them, but I do them anyway. So what does this show me? It shows me really that there's a battle going on right here and that this field, this microcosm of my awareness, my body-born conscious vehicle, this is actually a battlefield because if I take an honest appraisal of the situation in the field of my being, I do feel myself pushed and pulled in different directions. Sometimes it's like I'm at war with myself.

Sometimes I sabotage my own interests. Perhaps I'm not the only one. And I know when I've been sharing this type of content live, most people kind of agree, yes, I can relate to that. That is true. So the setting on the battlefield is actually very appropriate because it's very realistic. Yes, there is a battle going on here. And not only is it realistic, it's also, I feel really kind of pragmatic and down to earth.

It's very inclusive. So it tells us the setting on the battlefield that's really rather extreme, that no situation is a barrier to yoga. I can be in the most challenging situation imaginable. This doesn't mean that I cannot practice yoga. Rather, as the Gita tells us, the bigger the challenge, the greater the opportunity.

So these challenging situations are actually great arenas and opportunities to deepen my yoga practice, to learn and, let's say, uncover more of my real capacity for yoga, for reconciliation, harmonization within the whirling wonder and tumult of life. So it's realistic, it's practical, and it's inclusive. Now another thing, like the Bhagavad Gita, it comes in the middle of this huge epic called the Mahabharata. And when the Bhagavad Gita gets given, it's like this kind of peak in the drama that's been building for so long. It's come to this moment of a kind of showdown.

The battle has been brewing for a long, long time, and now it's about to start. So if we've been following the story all along, how are we feeling when this moment of high tension emerges? It pulls us to the edge of our seat. And in pulling us to the edge of our seat, it kind of arrests and holds our attention. And this is also very significant, because attentiveness is really vital for yoga practice.

So the student in the Bhagavad Gita, he's called Arjuna, he's in dire straits. He's really in need. And so he's very receptive to any type of guidance that can show him something different from what he's been able to think of for himself. So in that straightened circumstance where he feels challenged, he doesn't know what to do, and he owns that he does not know what to do, it's like he's very receptive. He is, in a certain sense, on the edge of his seat.

It's more extreme than that. He's collapsed on the floor of his chariot with his hair standing on end, his throat part dry. And he says to his charioteer, his friend, his guide, his teacher, Bhagavan Sri Krishna, I don't know what to do. I am your student, give me your shelter. And as he surrenders, he makes himself open to receive the teaching and he can receive it.

But more broadly than that, this moment of high tension and high drama, it really grabs our awareness. It grabs our attention. And so it makes it hopefully more likely, as we get involved in the story, we'll be able to learn from it more readily. We'll be able to assimilate its practical lessons in ways that really resonate for us that bit more easily. So it's realistic.

Another thing about it being realistic is that I would say that when we are a human being, a certain experience of conflict is kind of inevitable because we live in a realm of constant change. But as human beings, sometimes we get a little bit resistant to change. In the yoga method and the yoga system, they say anything that is in existence, as well as its existence, it is also subject to dynamism, subject to change. But as soon as something has started to exist in a certain way, that begins to gather inertia. And so once something has inertia, there is some resistance to change.

But when we start practicing yoga, we are in the business of changing and transforming into a more harmonious, fuller, holer, more congruent and integrated version of ourselves. For every action, there will be an equal and opposing reaction. So we're going to encounter resistance. We're going to encounter some pushback, a type of battle, a type of conflict, we might say, using this symbolic language. And the symbolic language I feel is also accurate because when we are working through transformative change in our own life, it can sometimes be quite challenging.

It can sometimes feel painful. It can sometimes be difficult. And so the dramatic situation of the battle reminds us that a certain degree of struggle is an ordinary part of the experience. It's nothing to get cast down about, nothing to be intimidated by. We can kind of expect it.

And the teachings of yoga equip us to then deal with those moments and those periods of conflict and challenge more skillfully, more harmoniously, hopefully. Sometimes in our life, we might get to these points where our conscience starts to whisper to us, amen, you need to shift direction. You need to do this. You need to try that, enough of that. But when the inertia of our already established habits is very strongly pushing us in one direction, sometimes we might ignore that subtle whispering, that intimation of our conscience.

When we ignore those calls from deep inside, what are we basically setting ourselves up for? Sooner or later, that whispers going to become a scream and it might slap us in the face. So we can expect to encounter these moments of trial or conflict when we're a little bit negligent, when we're not so attentive to the deeper needs or the deeper drives and longings of our soul versus our conditionings, we might say. So one thing that I would say is that yoga teaches us to learn to compromise without compromising our integrity. And that can sometimes be quite challenging because this system, we mentioned this, the law of inertia, the powers of our being, sometimes it's likened to a chariot.

We mentioned the Bhagavad Gita, it's on the battlefield, and Arjuna, he's riding in a chariot with Krishna as his charioteer. Good for Arjuna, he's got Krishna as his charioteer. But our bodily vehicle is sometimes likened to a chariot. Now the horses, how will they behave? How will the powers of our senses behave?

How will the powers of our bodies behave? They will behave as they have been trained to behave. So sometimes when our conscience whispers or shouts, we may have to go against our previous training. And then that's likely to feel like something of a conflict. That's likely to feel like, hmm, we have to work through something.

And that involves friction. It can involve heat. It can involve some degree of pain. And so that's why it's very realistic. Now another thing that I feel realistic that is kind of encoded in the way that the yoga teachings are often set on a battlefield is that when we look more closely, they make clear who and what are we fighting against.

Really, yoga, it's about, it's a DIY project. It's a do-it-yourself job. There's a beautiful quotation in the Bhagavad Gita. It's in the sixth chapter. And Krishna is telling Arjuna that basically, you can be your own best friend and you can be your own worst enemy.

We have these different tendencies in ourselves, the tendencies that would urge us towards our true longings and the actualization of our soul's deep longings and deepest desires. And those are the tendencies that basically reinforce our habits. Now it's very interesting, the way that these different forces are represented or encoded in the Sanskrit literature. In the Bhagavad Gita, we have on the one side Arjuna and his brothers who are called the pa-navas. And these basically mean the bright, clear, pure tendencies.

And their adversaries are the kauravas. And the kauravas, that word is related to the verb kra, the verb to do. So basically they represent the force of the things that we have been doing for a long time, the force of our accrued habits. In the Ramayana, the two sets of adversaries, one way they are referred to is the rakshasas on the one hand. And rakshas means those that protect the established way, that want to control, that want to keep things in a certain way.

And the varneras, those who know how to live in harmony with nature, those who dwell in the forest. So the ones who work with nature, and that means accepting the uncertainty of life and accepting that I as a human being, with my limited mind and my limited capacities, can never see the whole picture. And those other tendencies, the rakshasic tendencies, sometimes translated as the demonic tendencies, that want to control and dominate nature. And then in Puranic literature, we speak about the suras or the devas and the asuras. So notice how similar it is.

Sura, these are the light beings. And asura, they also have the sura part. They are also full of luminosity, but there is this a. There's something other than luminosity. They are veiled.

So we have this consciousness. We have these capacities as a human being. Do we use them for the sake of ongoing evolution? Do we use them for the sake of becoming more and more enlightened? Or do we allow ourselves to stay blinkered, blinded and bound by our pre-existing limiting habits?

So this is the struggle between these two parts of ourselves, that part that would like to recognize more of our innate self and those are the parts that prefer to cling to the known. So Krishna says in the Gita, and this is chapter 6 verses 5 and 6, He says, Uddarit atman atmanam natmanam avasara yeet. Atmaiva yatmano bandur atmaivare puratmanah. So I think you'll be able to see this on the screen in just a moment. And then he goes on.

Bandur atmanastasiya ye natmaivatmanajitah. An atmanastu shatrutve, varthe atmaivashatru vatte. So he says, Uddarit atman atmanam natmanam avasara yeet. The individual human being should lift up him or herself. Do not cause yourself to go down.

So do everything you can to lift yourself up. Do not allow yourself to get sunk or crushed down. And he said, one's self can be like one's own true friend, one's greatest friend. Or one's self can be like one's worst enemy. What is the difference?

And in the Gita it said, When one is acting in true friendliness and true friendship towards oneself, this is when one's self, in the sense of one's tendencies, one's habits, one's mind, one's sensory and bodily patterns, when they have been jitaha, when one is emerged victorious in this field of life. Now, what does that mean? We could encounter a translation that says when we have conquered ourself. But the English word conquer has this rather dominating connotation, which is misleading. What it really means is, when we have invited all these different parts of ourselves to be mutually supportive, then we can victoriously inhabit this realm of our awareness as our own true friend.

We can be friendly with our soul and with that deep intuitive wisdom that shines in the pilot light of our conscience. So what type of company do we keep? Do we hang out with people who lift us up, who encourage us, who inspire us? Or do we keep the type of company that keeps us mired in the pits of self-sabotage and blame and negativity and scapegoating? And Krishna Gita and the yoga teachings are always very clear about that.

It's a do-it-yourself job. Certainly we can all help each other. We can learn from each other, but we have to walk our own path. We have to claim and own that responsibility for taking each ongoing step. Will we be our own true friend or will we persist in self-sabotaging patterns?

So this is the battle. It's nothing to do with anything outside ourselves. Now I mentioned the idea of becoming friendly and intimate with our soul. So one thing that also yoga encourages us is to grant ourselves time and space for that. Habits often involve this autopilot situation where we will just keep running according to the habitual ways.

Now, I don't know about you, but what I've noticed is that when I get busier, I tend to rely a little bit more on my previously established habits. And so sometimes when I'm very, very busy, what I might notice sometimes is that it takes me a little bit longer to notice that I'm getting input from my intuitive capacities that I need to make a shift. But in that busyness, I'm kind of moving too quickly to notice those subtler hints. And so then I might not notice quickly enough until I get kind of a tighter slap from nature to arrest my attention in a way that I cannot ignore so easily. So while the teachings are set often on a battlefield, there's always this idea.

Can we transform that field of battle into a place of harmony? Can we transform the battlefield into a dance floor? And one of the things that can really help this is to actually grant ourselves that intimate time with ourselves, that sacred space, that space to really tune in and give ourselves time to connect to the guidance of that pilot light of our conscience and our soul. So I think I might have mentioned in a previous talk this lovely quote from Kerissa Pincola S.D.'s where she says, do not make the mistake of deciding, of choosing what you want to do in life from the menu that the external culture, she calls it the overculture, offers you. Instead, take care to quieten and tune inwards and check with your own heart, with your own guts, with your own soul, with your own intuitive wisdom.

Yes, what do I really want to do with my life? How do I really want to be today? What energy do I want to share and give to the world and choose from that deep internal space rather than going along with the inertia of the old habits or the ways that others might foist upon us? So in a yogic perspective, one way this can be described is as doing one's dharma. Now, dharma is a very beautiful Sanskrit word and it kind of defies translation with any single English term.

The verbal root of this word means that which supports, that which sustains. And as a noun, dharma also means the essential quality of a thing. So one way we can understand dharma is that type of action which supports the well-being of the whole and actually allows us to be our true, whole, full selves. So in order to be our true, whole, full selves, that means that we might have to overcome some of our previously established but now obsolete or limiting habits and hence the battle. Now, the very beginning of the Bhagavad Gita, it talks about how when these different tendencies within us meet, when they come together, there is almost an inevitability of a certain type of clash.

So the very first verse in the Bhagavad Gita, verse 1-1, it says, and I think you ought to see this on the screen, it says, dharmakshaitri kuruksaitri samavita yoyutsava mamakav pandavashchiva kimakurvatasanjaya So the verse asks what happens or what happens, we can interpret it, when mamakah, those tendencies of my sense of I, me, mine, my established identity, my established ahankara or egoic identity, what happens when they meet, when they samavita, when they come together with pandavashchiva, with those purer parts of myself, those parts that are more attuned to my innate divine intelligence. When those two sets of tendencies within me come together, yoyutsava, eager to do their natural tendency, the established habits to maintain themselves and the pure drives to invite evolution and growth and renewal, what's going to happen? There's going to be struggle. And so yoga asks us, or yoga tells us, basically, can we resist the inertia, the momentum of our compulsions so that we may enact and foster the ways of our calling? So instead of acting on our compulsions, can we heed that deeper calling?

And in the Bhagavad Gita Krishna says, while this may be hard, it is always worth it. Basically, it means leaving aside the lose-lose situation and moving to a win-win situation. What does this mean? If, for example, I do something, but deep down, or even quite evidently my conscience knows that this is not really what I want to do, it doesn't sit well in my heart and my guts, what's going to happen if I persist with that thing? I'm going to suffer for it.

As one of my Indian teachers says, he's a rather dramatic character, and he says, betray your conscience and you're damned. And it's accurate, yeah? Not in the sense of going to eternal damnation, but if I do something that I know I don't really want to do, I'm going to burn for it sooner or later, or perhaps sooner and later. However, if I hear my conscience and I act on it, then it's like I cannot lose. It's the win-win situation, because if I act in accord with my conscience and I access or gain or achieve the results I might have hoped for, then I can enjoy them with a clean conscience.

And if I fail, no problem, because I know I gave my best. I can learn from that. And whatever the outcome, I sleep easy at the end of that day. And what is more, I strengthen my self-trust. I make myself a more cohesive individual, an individual in this yogic sense of the word, an entity, a person who is no longer subject to division.

If, however, my conscience is telling me, you need to go in this direction. I know you've never done this before, but this is where you need to step now. And then you think, oh, yeah, but I've always done it like this before. Krishna is very clear about this in the Bhagavad Gita. This is very beautiful section in Chapter 2 from verse 30.

It goes on for several verses. And he says, Arjuna, human being, when you come to these moments, when your conscience is asking you to stand up for dharma, this is a wonderful opportunity to strengthen yourself, to discover more of who you really are and what you're really made of. But what will happen if you shrink back from this? If instead of heating your conscience, you allow those old, obsolete patterns to dominate you, what then happens? And Krishna says, it's basically like you give ammunition to those negative tendencies, those sabotaging tendencies.

You reinforce them, because the next time you come to that brink, that junction of possible growth and development, then those old habits, they've got ammunition, they can throw at you, Arjuna, but you never do those things. You can never break through now. You just stay here. And it's like you're giving them food. Instead, if we make that heroic, valiant effort to push through the inertia, then we can actually cultivate a lot of self-trust and strength so that next time, perhaps when there's an even bigger challenge, we know that we have what it takes to push through and we know that it's worth it because it brings its own reward, because we do sleep better at the end of those days, and we do feel that greater degree of congruence.

Now, as we're doing this, another thing that can sometimes happen is that we make it through one set of struggle and then things settle for a moment. And even before it felt like we've got our breath back, it's like another challenge emerges. And sometimes people can think like, wow, it's such a struggle. Could I not just sit back and take it easy? Sometimes people say, you know, ignorance is bliss.

I wish I'd never started this process of inviting greater integration. But Krishna says to Arjuna, he says to all of us in the Gita, no, no, no, that's not a valid argument. He says, you really need to fight when you're a human being, because the prize is so worth it. Now, this verb fight in English, the connotations are not really the same as the connotations of the Sanskrit verb yud. We're going to speak about that more shortly.

But before we talk about that, why Krishna says it's really worth striving, engaging, making that effort, because he says when you're a human being, there is a part of you that is the deathless, the eternal, the conscious essence, and you have the opportunity to recognize that. The more you can bring yourself into cohesion, then you can actually access the opportunity that's right here in this birth to realize yourself. So this is an amazing opportunity not to be missed by allowing yourself to hang back in your tent or wallow in the doldrums. Krishna says, no, no, no, get up, stand up, own what it means to be a human being. That will involve struggle.

Your conscience will test you. This is inevitable. But when we deal with that skillfully, the rewards are self-propelling and self-validating. It's always worth it. Krishna says just a little of that dharma, just a little of acting like that, will protect you from the greatest fear.

It will protect you from the fear of death, because the more that we do this dharma, the more we will actually attune to that deathless part of ourselves. And that recognition and that attunement will fortify us for greater and greater challenges. So coming back to this idea of yud, and the word to fight. So if we read the Bhagavad Gita in translation, we will encounter Krishna, the teacher, exhorting us to fight on numerous occasions. Now, I don't know about you, but if I hear the word fight, the connotations that immediately spring to mind are of kind of violence and aggression.

But this is a bit different from the Sanskrit verb yud, which has much more the sense of engage. It's what a yogic warrior does. And these principles of what it means to engage as a yogic warrior, these are given, they're encoded, they're enshrined, even in those yoga texts in which there are not epic battle scenes, such as, for example, the yoga sutra. In the yoga sutra, when Patanjali describes yoga practice in sutras 13 and 14 in chapter 1, he describes it as a yatna. So think about to see this on the screen in just a moment.

A yatna. So a bhyasaha means yoga practice is a yatna. And yatna means an effort, a sustained, honest, wholehearted engagement. And then the definition continues. Satu, furthermore, that effort is It's a long time thing.

It's a long term effort. Satkara, attended to with real presence. Ah, sevita, and a spirit of dedication, devotion. Then dridabhumihi. Then it will become well-rooted, well-established, so it can actually grow.

So yoga practice is a constant, steady, vigilant effort. It requires constancy. And there's a beautiful teaching in the yoga tradition. It says, we are all of us practicing all the time. Everyone is practicing all the time.

Whether we realize it or not, everything is training. Krishna says in the Gita, the fourth verse of chapter 3, When we are a human being, when we are incarnate, none of us, even for an instant, can stand outside the field of activity. Just the sustenance of our bodily vehicle requires constant activity. So we have to be doing something all the time. So Krishna says, do things that are conducive to self-realization.

Do things that are conducive to congruence. Do things that are conducive to yoga. You are training all the time. Are you training the type of habits that are going to lift you up? Or are you training the type of habits that are going to keep you down in the mire of delusion?

And Krishna is very pragmatic. He says, don't waste your time, human being. This human birth, the gods in the heavens envy you for it. Do not waste it. Every second counts.

Have your bags packed. You never know when that time is coming. You never know which day might be your last. So live each day like it could be your last. Every experience you meet, can you taste it, meet it, save it like it's the very first time?

And can you honor it like it could be the very last time because it could be? So can we lift ourselves up? That requires that constant, steady, vigilant effort. In other words, that requires these qualities of a yogic warrior. But another thing Krishna tells us that we can do to help us cultivate this constant, steady, heartfelt effort is what's referred to in Sanskrit as Isvara Pranidhana.

So I think you're able to see that on the screen now. Isvara Pranidhana is principle of consecrating our actions, of making what we do and offering. Offering what we do to that which we consider the highest. So Krishna says at once, engage, fight, make that effort, keep striving, get up, stand up, take responsibility, take your own steps. And then he also says, and offer everything to me, he says, as a representation of that which is beyond representation of the ultimate reality.

Do Isvara Pranidhana, consecrate your actions, give everything you do to me, to the Supreme, to that which you consider the highest. Now this can seem like a paradox. He's asking me to take full responsibility and then he's telling me to offer everything to him. Is that not a contradiction? And this is a classic example of these things that at first glance can seem like a paradox or a contradiction.

But yoga is always about the resolution of paradox. And the idea is that really, if I'm going to surrender, I can only surrender as something that I actually had. If I'm going to give or offer, I can only give something that I have to give. So in order to surrender, in order to dedicate my actions, in order to offer them, I have to actually assume full responsibility for them. And this is what Krishna asks us to do.

Claim responsibility for your experience and your actions. And then offer them to the highest. And these are not actually contradictory. These can be mutually supportive. So there's a very beautiful verse in the Bhagavad Gita.

It's a very famous verse. It's the 47th in Chapter 2. And Krishna says, Karaman yeva adhikar asthe maa palyeshukar achana maa karama palyetur buhu maa te sangost for Karaman. So he says, Karaman yeva adhikar ahate Your actions, human being, they are your responsibility. You have, as it were, jurisdiction over what you do and how you do it. Maa palyeshukar achana. You never have any control over the outcomes or fruits of your actions.

So offer what you do to the highest. What we do and how we do it, that's up to us. But when we make it an offering, it's like we give up our expectation of the outcome. And Krishna says also, just because we have no control of the outcomes doesn't mean we can't take responsibility for the outcome. We take responsibility for the quality of our actions.

So if we know that certain types of actions tend to bring suffering, no need to keep persisting with them. But with a clear conscience, we do our best, not worrying about the outcomes. And he also says inactivity is not an option. Inactivity is its own type of action and it doesn't lead anywhere positive. So resist that temptation to hang back on the sidelines. The battlefield setting reminds us it's always on.

What does the yogic warrior need to be alert to? Where will the enemy come from? When will the enemy ambush us? The enemy is likely to spring from our blind spot. It's likely to ambush us when we are not paying close attention. So the idea in yoga is can we be attentive in a steady way?

Can we maintain that steady, careful, vigilant awareness all the time? And that's why we also need to maintain that quality of serenity and relaxation, married to that quality of active engagement. So one thing I'd like to also come to now, we've mentioned this verb yud, the verb which means to fight or to engage in yoga. And in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna will instruct us yud yasva in the imperative form and imperative mood to engage, to fight. And he uses the word yud.

Now, if somebody picks up the Bhagavad Gita in translation, you keep saying fight, fight, fight. It might give you this false impression. So one thing that I find very helpful to give a clearer idea of the spirit of the Sanskrit word here is to consider this word yud because this Sanskrit verb root yud has actually given us the name of a quite famous character in one of the great, what I would call Puranic, in the sense of a perennially valid teaching story or wisdom story of the late 20th century. And in this story, one of the greatest warriors, his name comes from this Sanskrit root. Now, some of you may already be getting an idea who this person is.

So the story I'm talking about, I was born in 1977, the same year I understand that this film came out. And the film I'm talking about, the story I'm talking about, if you haven't guessed already. He did. Which is part of the Star Wars music. In Star Wars, who is the greatest warrior?

People may have different opinions, but I think Yoda is, he's the Jedi master. He's the greatest yoga warrior. Say the word Yoda, just say Yoda and now say yoga. Notice, so Yoda has two Sanskrit sounds and Yoda is a Sanskrit word. Do you know what the Sanskrit word Yoda means? It actually means warrior.

A yogic warrior and Yoda in the Sanskrit story is a great example of a yogic warrior. His apprentice has another interesting name, Luke Skywalker. Skywalker is also a translation of a Sanskrit term. A class of being the Skywalkers, those are the ones who, they live in this kind of more celestial realm. And because they have this celestial dwelling place, their perspective is much vaster. They can see the whole much vaster picture.

So one thing, if I don't know how familiar you are with the Star Wars stories, but Yoda, when there is a disturbance in the galaxy, he can feel it. He can feel a disturbance in the force. How? Because where does he live? He lives, metaphorically speaking, in the medistate, the space of yoga. He lives in the hub of the wheel, and so he is connected to the whole circle, the whole womb of existence, the whole extended space of the galaxy, and he's attuned to it all.

So when there's disturbance, he can feel it. Now, in the Star Wars myth, in the original three films from the 1970s and 80s, we were given what we could consider a classic Puranic setup. So Purana is this beautiful Sanskrit word which refers to the whole realm of myth and story, which is perennially valid. So Purana, we can see perennial Purana. We can see the link from the Sanskrit all the way through to the English.

So the Puranic stories, they often give us this setup of a battle, of a struggle. And what is the struggle between? We mentioned already between those tendencies that would grip onto and protect the already established ways and try to control and dominate existence, and those other tendencies that would actually invite freedom and evolution and would respect the majesty, the magnificence, the unfathomability of the cosmic intelligence of life, nature, and existence. And in Star Wars, we find the same conflict. We have on the one side Yoda and Luke Skywalker and the rest of them, who are the Rebel Alliance fighting for freedom.

And then we have the dark side of the Empire trying to control. And the first of the Star Wars films was called A New Hope. And The New Hope is Luke, Luke, son of the light, Luke Skywalker. And in that first episode, Luke has his initial training under the guidance of a Jedi knight, a yogic warrior, called Obi-Wan Kenobi. And Luke, having had his initial training, also basically completes his first mission.

And this is why there is a new hope with some of his Rebel Alliance comrades. They manage to score a thrilling victory over the forces of tyranny, symbolized by who? I'll resist the temptation to do the theme tune of Luke Skywalker's father. It's called Darth Vader, the Dark Father, the one who succumbed to the temptations of the dark side. But the Rebels have scored this victory.

So then what happens in the next episode? The Empire strikes back. Is this familiar? Of course it is. This is what happens. If we all of a sudden decide, enough of these old obsolete self-sabotaging habits, get thee gone. No more. You're no longer welcome here. Now those old habits, they have lived in this field of our awareness, in this field of existence for who knows how many days, months, years, decades.

And like everything else in existence, they want to stay alive. So when we tell some part of ourselves, obsolete self-sabotaging habit, thank you for being with me all of these decades, but I've decided today we part ways forever. Goodbye. Does the old obsolete habit say so long? Thanks for having me. It's been a nice ride.

I'll never see you again and I'm off. No. What will old obsolete habit do? It may go into hiding. It may sleep. It may put on a new disguise.

And it may lie in wait until that day when we are feeling a little bit more tired, a little bit more vulnerable, a little bit more pressed down. When we decided to throw it out and be done with that old obsolete way, we were feeling very clear. We were feeling centered. We were feeling supported by the feeling of cohesion that our yoga practice had brought into the field of our awareness. And we felt strong and confident to be done with that old self-sabotage. But then one day we're tired.

We've been just challenged in so many ways day after day after day, and we're feeling really rather forlorn. And then who emerges from the shadows? The old habit. And he says, I'm still here. He extends his hand. An old habit says, shall we do the old dance?

And in our weakened, tired, despondent state, we may well act as we would previously have done an autopilot because the empire is striking back. The empire of our accrued limiting habits is fighting for its life. Now, in the Star Wars myth, when this happens, Luke Skywalker, he had his initial training under Obi-Wan Kenobi, but now he has to go to the next level. And where does he have to go for the next level? He has to go to the Jedi Master Yoda, the yogic warrior.

And where does the training take place? On a swamp planet, of course. He has to get low down dirty, dig into the depths of his being and integrate it. And as Yoda starts advancing his training, Luke Skywalker encounters his own capacity for murderous rage, mayhem, devastation, hate and fury, the same tendencies that his father succumbed to. And Luke is very perturbed by this. He's shaken by it.

How does Yoda respond? He is not shaken. He is not perturbed. He maintains serenity. He's a little bit disappointed that Luke isn't catching on a little bit more quickly, but he maintains that great serenity. Why? Because he's already been through all that. He knows what Luke needs to do.

He has to go into the dark depths of his being and integrate all of those potentially destructive tendencies in such a way that they can be harmonized and support his centeredness. Yoda has already done that work. Luke still needs to learn how to do it. And so this is a lovely reference of what it means to walk this path of yogic warriorhood. To fight does not mean to be aggressive.

Yoda is not an aggressive, angry, violent character, but if he needs to fight, he can do so with tremendous skillfulness because he's free from anger. He can fight from a clear place, so he can deploy the appropriate resources when they are required. But in order to come to that place, the battle is within, with our own potential tendencies to scupper ourselves, to cut ourselves down, to behave in ways that we know we are going to suffer for sooner and or later. Can we face down those internal enemies? What Luke Skywalker needs to learn, what the yogic warrior apprentice needs to learn, is what is the true weapon of the yogic warrior.

And that's what Yoda already has once he's become established in the hub of the wheel. The weapon and the armor of the yogic warrior is 360-degree global equivision. I'll say that again, 360-degree global equivision and 360-degree global equipoise. When we are centered, when we're drawing on all our intuitive, sensory, intelligent resources, we're able to notice when we're being pulled off-center that much more quickly. And so the yogic practitioner learns a broad-centered focus.

We learn to step out of the traps of fixation and invite ourselves into a broader yet centered focus. Now, enough of Star Wars, but I hope that illustration was clear. But I'm just reminded of another very archetypal film of my childhood. My mother was a bit of a Sean Connery fan. I don't know if you've ever saw the film called The Untouchables in which Sean Connery plays one of the leading parts.

And we have Elliot Ness, played I think by Kevin Costner. And one of Elliot Ness' lines is, never stop fighting till the fight is done. Stephen Pressfield, who wrote a story based on the Bhagavad Gita, he says, the artist, like the warrior, has to do the work anew every day. And the yoga practitioner is not just an artist, not just a warrior, but both of those things. Yoga is the art of living and dying, and it requires this constant steady effort, application, vigilance of the yogic warrior.

And this is why, in order to practice, we have to actually, I feel, we have to love our practice. Because if we're going to be constantly at it, we're only going to actually stick to it if it's something that lights us up, if it's something that really inspires us, if it's something that we actually love. So, the Bhagavad Gita, it's set on the battlefield, but Gita means song, and Bhagavan means totality. So the Gita is the song of totality, making the whole field sing, transforming this field of sometimes conflict and hostility into a place of lasting harmony. And so, in the words of Bob Marley, let's get together and feel all right.

One love. Can we bring that deep centered loving presence to our experience so we can actually get all of ourselves together and then do that patient steady, valiant, courageous, loving work of inviting ourselves into a lasting harmony? Let's get together and feel all right, as it was in the beginning, so it shall be in the end. I'll give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right. Thank you.

I look forward to seeing you again.


Jenny S
3 people like this.
Fantastic! I could listen to you all have a real gift of making sense out of things and passing your knowledge along in a way that helps the listener make sense out things as well.
James Boag
1 person likes this.
Thank you for your encouragement Jenny, I am looking forward to sharing more in the coming sessions
Rachel H
1 person likes this.
Amazing James, Thank you.  I Love listening to your talks and  the mantras at the beginning of the practice.  
Wondered if it'd be okay to ask for the translation / meaning of the opening mantras. 
I'm familiar with some of it but only a little.
Looking forwards to your next talk and listening to the ones that are here already again. 
Thank you 


James Boag
Thank you Jenny and Rachel. For the mantras at the beginning, thanks for asking, maybe we provide a pdf. The mantras that I have sung to Patañjali and the guru-s at the beginning of a couple of sessions will be explained in more detail in the upcoming Yoga Sūtra-s chapter 2 course. I also have some videos on Sanskrit mantra on my youtube channel:
I will speak to my colleagues at Yoga Anytime and see about linking pdfs to the slides and mantras referenced in Yoga Now to the show page
Kate M
1 person likes this.
I was in high school when the first Star Wars film arrived, and for me, then, it held the meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything! So your discussion of yogic themes in terms of the Star Wars Universe resonated strongly : ) I also love when you chant, or break into song! Wonderful series. Thank you again and again.
James Boag
2 people like this.
Thank you Kate, I sometimes think of the first three Star Wars films' story as the first Purāṇa of my life. They were very present in my consciousness in my early years and I am grateful for that introduction to the world of archetypal story I find so nourishing and helpful.

Caroline S
I just watched the first the Stars Wars films.  Yes!! Pure Yoga and I wonder now why I resisted for so long.   I am grateful James for mentioning them here and so many times in your other courses.
Caroline S
360 degrees equipoise and equivision - we are a sphere, the most perfect complete shape, all round consciousness.  I love this definition of the state of yoga and meditation.  I often think of that when I meditate, it is worth more than a thousand techniques, thank you James x

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