Today's Daily Tip
The Divine Life
It's not often that a book of annotations to an ancient spiritual scripture is cause for excitement. But Poised for Grace: Annotations on the Bhagavad Gita from a Tantric View (Anusara Press) from Tantra scholar Douglas Brooks, professor of religion at the University of Rochester and a philosophical adviser to the Anusara Yoga movement, is something to stand up and cheer about. Made up of 700 verses, the Bhagavad Gita recounts a conversation between the god Krishna and the warrior prince Arjuna, who is in the midst of a moral dilemma.
His family is in a feud over the throne, and Arjuna is agonizing over his participation in a battle that requires him to fight his cousins and friends. Written somewhere between 500 BCE and 200 CE (scholarly opinions vary greatly) and belonging to the sixth book of the epic Mahabharata, the Bhagavad Gita is a central text of the yogic cannon and has been translated innumerable times, as yogis and scholars ceaselessly interpret its themes and wisdom.
As anyone who has wrangled with the Bhagavad Gita knows, the Hindu text is by turns inspiring and frustrating, enlightening and maddening, and full of apparent contradictions. That's all part of its charm and intrigue, Brooks notes, and a good part of the reason the Gita remains so relevant today. Brooks' aim is to carry on in the Gita's tradition, offering his own insights but always inviting the reader to find personal meaning in the text. This Tantric view introduces new ways to think about the text, sharing an all-embracing, life-affirming path that contrasts sharply with an alternate yogic viewpoint: that of the renunciate focused on withdrawing from the world.
"Immanence is transcendence," Brooks writes. "The real world of decision-making, law, real estate, human choice, and the blessings and tragedies of embodied life is the place where the ultimate meaning of life is to be created, sustained, and finally decided. We are not living to get to heaven after death, but rather deciding how we might experience more fully the divine while we are living."
Read the Gita from this vantage point, and Arjuna's battle is not just a family feud but an unfolding journey of self-discovery. Arjuna's every decision, every feeling, every movement is an exercise in touching the Divine. Read this book side by side with your favorite translation of the Gita or on its own as an engaging introduction to Tantric philosophy. And if you're an Anusara yogi, consider this required reading you'll emerge with a much deeper feel for what Opening to Grace (one of Anusara's five Universal Principles of Alignment) is really all about.