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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Weekend studying the Bhagavad Gita with Douglas Brooks

This was by far my favourite weekend so far. Our last 4 day retreat we studied with Hareesh, who was also amazing, intelligent and wonderful to listen to, however meeting Douglas Brooks was a completely different experience. I can’t say that I liked one more than the other, they’re just two different men, with different stories, life experiences, and ways of teaching. I connected to Douglas right away. He was hilarious, affectionate, bubbly and just so fun to be around. The 5 hours of lecture went by in a heartbeat.

Here is a little information on this brilliant man I had the honour of spending 4 remarkable days with:

Dr Douglas brooks is among the world’s leading scholars of Hindu Tantrism. After he received a Masters Degree from Harvard Divinity School, he continued his studies in religion, Sanskrit and Indian studies to receive his Master’s and Doctorate from Harvard University.
He has lectured around the world, and currently is a Professor of Religion at the University of Rochester in New York.
Along with his formal Western education, he lived for many years in India studying Indian classical Sanskrit, philosophy, yoga, ritual and worship. He is the author of a number of books and scholarly articles on Hinduism and the Comparative Study of Religion.
His most recent work consists of a new commentary on the Bhagavad Gita from a Tantric point of view. This work is in collaboration with John Friend, world renowned yoga teacher and founder of Anusara Yoga.

There is so much more to say about this man, but I don’t have enough room. You can even begin to understand how extraordinary he is, and definitely won’t just by reading my little blurb. Our day with Douglas started on Friday night with a lecture at the Burlington Kula studio. It was packed! The yoga studio was filled with students, teachers, and even families. All eager to hear him speak. Our lecture for the weekend was about the Bhagavad Gita, in a small nutshell : is simply known as a sacred Hindu scripture, considered among the most important texts in the history of literature and philosophy [3]The Bhagavad Gita comprises roughly 700 verses, and is a part of the Mahabharata. The teacher of the Bhagavad Gita is Krishna, who is revered by Hindus as a manifestation of God himself,[3] and is referred to within as Bhagavan, the Divine One.
Douglas Brooks wrote a book called Poised for Grace- Annotations on the Bhagavad Gita from the Tantric View. I started reading this book a month ago, along with my 28 other yogis. We all pretty much got to the second chapter (if you were lucky enough to get through the Introduction) and had to put the book down. Not because it was boring, but because it was just too difficult to understand. Not knowing anything about Hinduism, Tantric Philosophy or Krishna...a lot of it made no sense to me. I made the choice to wait and listen to Douglas’s lecture first. Wow did I make the right choice. His teachings were very laid back and very easy to understand. He related everything he taught to a story in his own life which made us connect to him on such a deeper intimate level. My favourite story he told (along with all the “daughters” in the class) was one about a time when he was cooking dinner for his two daughters (17 and 19 I think) One mentioned she wanted to see the Mona Lisa one day. Douglas said “sure, we’ll see it one day!” she asked “WHEN” Douglas replied “ about tomorrow...” In less than 36 hrs the three of them were standing in front of the Mona Lisa in Paris! A big AWWWWW was let out from the class...what a GREAT story! I’m definitely going to start reading the rest of Poised for Grace NOW!

I learned a lot over the weekend, and had several revelations of my own. At one point I went up to Colin and asked him if we could chat again. Tonight we’re meeting before class. I have questions about my “Suttva”-the optimal place of you. How does this relate to Colin wanting me to push harder? I feel I am in my Suttva, why doesn’t he think I am?

We had a LOT of homework to do for tonight. I was kinda freaking out when looking at it all and reading the questions. Maybe i didn’t get it? Once I actually started doing it, It all began to come together. These are some my questions and answers for tonight. I’m proud I actually understand this stuff. I love it! Much easier (and more interesting) than fractions and math.

1.According to Douglas, what is the first Teaching of Karma Yoga?

That the universe is a reflection of itself-I’m not you, I’m similar, I’m nothing but you. Differences are what makes things real and beautiful. We’re all different but we’re all a reflection of ourselves.

2.What are the three kinds of actions - explain each in your own words. (clue: Nitia, Naimittika, Kamya)

Nitia-Things we must do. “Now or later, not never” for example, brushing your teeth, you can do it later…but you can’t NOT do it…that’s gross! Routine duties.

Naimittika-An occasion or event that happens when it happens and you rise to the occasion. Like a funeral. If it happens, you deal with it.

Kamya-Done to gain all you can gain. Knowledge, abundant fruits. You do it to learn more…like going to University, or taking a yoga teacher training course.

3.What is Dharma, Swadharma, and Adhikara?

Dharma-Ones Journey through life- what you want to do, how you do it, when you want to do it. Growth “If you got it, you missed it” You keep learning, asking, researching to keep rising to become more, never anything less. “It’s real”

Swadharma- The law of your being (why you are here) Your duty in life to help fulfill your Dharma. What you need to do to help pave the way for an enlightened path towards your Suttva. “Keep it real”

Adhikara-A requirement, qualification, prerequisite: I don’t have the adhikara (YET) to become a yoga teacher…I will soon!

4.In Tantra, Lila is defined in 3 ways. What are they?

Entanglement: We’re all connected “Indra’s Net”

Randomness: anything can happen at any time for no reason at all.

The Lucky: (non karmic events) You simply “got lucky” when you liked it, it’s a miracle. When you don’t, its shit.

5.What are the Gunas?

Gunas mean tendencies of the universe. Energies of life.
There are 3
Rajas-exciting energy
Tumas- slow/dull energy
Suttva- calm/centered energy (being perfect as you are-your Swadharma)

6.What are the three main components of Karma?

Doing something in accordance to ones Dharma (journey through life) without thinking of the benefits you’ll reap from what you do. For example: Giving someone a gift, and expecting nothing in return. Doing something for someone and doing it because you want to, not because you expect something back.

I look forward to hearing Douglas speak again. He lives at Finger Lakes. When I told him I went camping near Letchworth Park he actually invited me to come visit sometime! I can’t imagine what it would be like to hang out with him…so much more to learn. VERY exciting! He also does a retreat through India once a year. My heart is open and my fingers are crossed!


1 comment:

  1. Nice posting. Do you know about this edition of the Gita?