From the back of the Book
This unique commentary emphasizes the psychology of this timeless scripture and its application to daily life. By synthesizing the ancient teachings of the East with the modern Western perspective, Swami Rama has made the Gita as useful to the modern reader as it was to the yogis centuries ago. The student of Eastern studies, the psychotherapist, and the spiritual seeker will all find a storehouse of wisdom in this volume.
"The Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita deals with analyzing and training the internal processes of the human being so that one becomes creative in the external world and attains a state of tranquility at the same time
. The outside world can be mastered only when the inner potential are systematically explore and organized."
About the Author
Swami Rama founded the Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy, the Himalayan Institute Hospital trust in India, and many centers throughout the world. A student of both Himalayan cave monasteries and European universities, he founded the Himalayan Institute to create a bridge between the ancient teaching of the East and modern scientific approaches of the West.
Born in 1925 in northern India, Swami Rama was raised from early childhood by a great yogi and saint of Bengal who lived in the Himalayas. In his youth he practiced the various disciplines of yoga science and philosophy in the traditional monasteries of the Himalayas and studied closely with many spiritual adepts, including Mahatma Gandhi, Sri Aurobindo, and Rabindranath Tagore. He also traveled to Tibet to study with his grandmaster.
He received his higher education at Bangalore, Prayaga, Varanasi, and Oxford University, England. At the age of twenty-four he became Shankaracharya of Karvirpitham in south India, the highest spiritual position in India. During this term he had a tremendous impact on the spiritual customs of that time: he dispensed with useless formalities and rituals, made it possible for all segments of society to worship in the temple, and encouraged the instruction of women in meditation. He renounced the dignity and prestige of his high office in 1952 to return to the Himalayas to intensify his meditation practices.
After completing an intense meditative practice in the cave monasteries, he emerged with the determination to serve humanity, particularly to bring the teachings of the East to West. With the encouragement of his master, Swami Rama began his task by studying Western philosophy and psychology, and teaching Eastern philosophy at Western universities. He worked as a medical consultant in London and assisted in Para psychological research in Moscow. He then returned to India, where he established an ashram in Rishikesh. He completed his degree in homeopathy at the medical collage in Darbhanga in 1960. He came to the United States in 1969, bringing his knowledge and wisdom to the West. His teachings combine Eastern spirituality with modern Western therapies.
Swami Rama was a freethinker, guided by his direct experience and inner wisdom, and he encouraged his student to be guided in the same way. He often told them, "I am a messenger, delivering the wisdom of the Himalayan sages of my tradition. My job is to introduce you to the teacher within."
Swami Rama came to America upon the invitation of Dr. Elmer Green of the Menninger Foundation of Topeka, Kansas, as a consultant in a research project investigating the voluntary control of involuntary sates. He participated in experiments that helped to revolutionize scientific thinking about the relationship between body and mind, amazing scientists by his demonstrating, under laboratory conditions, precise conscious control of autonomic physical responses and mental functioning, feats previously thought to be impossible.
Swami Rama founded the Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy, the Himalayan Institute Hospital Trust in India, and many centers though out the world. He is the author of numerous books on health, meditation, and the yogic scriptures. Swami Rama left his body in November 1996.
The Bhagavad Gita is the fountainhead of Eastern psychology, and this commentary is designed to draw out its psychological concepts and make them accessible to all students. These profound psychological insights are intertwined in the Bhagavad Gita with philosophical concepts. so the task undertaken here is to separate the psychological principles and to explain their practical application.
Self-realization is the goal of human life. The purpose of Eastern religion. philosophy. and psychology is to fulfill that goal. Philosophy as it is understood in the East is neither a mere speculative exercise nor an intellectual adventure. The word "philosophy" is a compound of two words: philo and sophia. which mean "love for knowledge." But this term is not applicable in the East. for those who consider the prime questions of life such as: Who am I? From where have I come? Why have I come? and Where willI go? are not interested in only the intellectual answers to these questions. The subject matter of Eastern philosophy leads the student through a systematic way of directly experiencing the truths of existence and the height of Self-realization. After realizing one's real Self. one knows that this Self is the Self of all. In the Vedantic tradition the term Brahma Vidya* is used instead of the term philosophy. It has a different connotation and a deeper meaning than the word philosophy conveys, and it is unique in its approach to knowledge. Brahma Vidya means the knowledge that leads one to realize Brahman. the Self of all. The Bhagavad Gita conveys that wisdom in its entirety and teaches the practical methods for the study and transformation of one's inner being. Philosophy and psychology are thus intermingled. Without the help of psychology- knowing, analyzing, and learning to use our inner potentials-we cannot fulfill the goal of human life: Self-realization.
In contrast, Western philosophy is intellectual and deals with man's relationship with the universe. With the knowledge he gains, he tries to understand his status in the universe. In Brahma Vidya, however, one comes to know all the levels of his being and finally to realize his true Self. According to the Eastern system, knowing the real Self is the first and foremost purpose of life. After Self-realization all the mysteries of the universe and one's relationship with the universe are revealed. Because of their contrasting approaches, there is a wide gulf between philosophy and Brahma Vidya. One is only theoretical, but the other is practical as well.
Though the Bhagavad Gita is composed of only seven hundred verses, it contains all the principles of the philosophy and psychology of the East. There are eighteen lessons in the Bhagavad Gita, each describing a different aspect of the process of self-transformation. This commentary emphasizes the psychological principles found in each chapter of the Bhagavad Gita. The sadhana (spiritual practice) described in each section is explained so that aspirants can help themselves progress in the inward journey and attain the highest state of bliss. The aim of the Bhagavad Gita is to teach the aspirant how to establish equanimity both in his internal life and in his activities in the external world; to help him develop tranquility within, and to explain the art and science of doing actions skillfully and selflessly.
. The teachings of the Bhagavad Gita help one to understand the distinction between the real Self and the mere self. The mere self is subject to change and destruction; the real Self is not. The aspirant should understand both and should finally establish himself in his essential nature: Atman. Then he can live in the world without being affected by it. In the domain between the real Self and the mere self lies our antahkarana (internal instrument), which plays a most important part in both our internal and external life. If not understood, both goals of life-living in the world and Self-realization-are defeated. Our psychological life needs profound and deep study if we are to free ourselves from the quagmire of emotionality, egotistical preoccupa- tions, and self-delusion and if we are to realize our fullest potentials for the unfoldment of consciousness.
The perennial psychology of the Bhagavad Gita deals with analyzing and training the internal processes of the human being so that one becomes creative in the external world and attains a state of tranquility at the same time. That which needs detailed analysis, understanding, and unfoldment is the mental life, which is vast in its characteristics. The outside world can be mastered only when the inner potentials are systematically explored and organized. Without understanding one's inner potentials, it is not possible to function effectively and harmoniously in the external world. for all things happen within before they are expressed externally.
. The wise man knows the distinction between the real Self and the mere self, but he still does sadhana so that barriers are not created for either. Sadhana is for the inner level that creates delusion or mirage; it is not Atman or the external world that creates confusion but one's mental life. The internal and the external are two inseparable aspects of one single life. Practice or sadhana should be modeled in such a way that it does not lead the aspirant from one extreme to another. Some aspirants think that retiring from the world will help them attain the purpose of life. Others believe that doing actions and performing their duties in the world will fulfill the purpose of life. It is the moderate path, however, that creates a bridge between these two extremes and that is the most useful for the general public. This commentary is neither written specifically for the renunciate nor for those who are scratching the surface of the mundane world for the sake of their self-existence, without understanding that if the world is meant for them. they are also meant for the world. If one is to live life happily, he needs to be aware that others are also striving to attain happiness. Consideration for others is a primary requisite for finding happiness and building a good society.
. One may wonder why the Bhagavad Gita came into existence when we already had such scriptures as the Vedas and Upanishads. The great Vedantic sage Shankara explained, "The Vedic dharma was practiced over a long time. But eventually discrimination and wisdom declined. Unrighteousness became more predominant than right- eousness.'* The Vedas are the source of all streams of Indian philosophy and psychology, and the Upanishads are the later parts of the Vedas. With the decline of discrimination and wisdom, it became difficult for those who were not scholars to understand the teachings of the Vedas and Upanishads. So it was necessary to restate these teachings in a way that could be appreciated and assimilated by all. The Bhagavad Gita contains in condensed form all the philo- sophical and psychological wisdom of the Upanishads. It is said that the Upanishads arc like a cow that Sri Krishna milks to bestow its nurturing wisdom to his dear friend and disciple. Arjuna. Sri Krishna imparts all the wisdom of the Vedic and Upanishadic literature through the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita. Rather than imparting a new trend of thought or expounding a new philosophy, Sri Krishna modified and simplified the Vedic and Upanishadic knowledge. He speaks to humanity through his dialogue with Arjuna. The word Arjuna means "one who makes sincere efforts," and the word Krishna means "the center of consciousness." One who makes sincere efforts inevitably obtains the knowledge that directly flows from the center of consciousness.
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