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Leadership & Kriya Yoga (the “missing” Monday post) February 21, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Baha'i, Changing Perspectives, Dharma, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Faith, Food, Gandhi, Healing Stories, Hope, Karma, Lent, Life, Mysticism, One Hoop, Passover, Philosophy, Ramadan, Religion, Wisdom, Yoga, Yom Kippur.
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Many blessings to to anyone preparing for Lent. Peace and ease to all during this “Season for Non-violence” and all other seasons!

This is the “missing” post for Monday, February 20thSome elements of this post appeared in a different context, which you can click here to review. You can request a recording of either practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

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“There comes a time when we should be together
United in our fight to make things better.
Our world is here,
But will not be forever,
Depending on our will to change [the] matter.”

“This is a song of hope.”

– quoted the song “Song of Hope” by Avishai Cohen

During the Season for Non-violence (January 30th – April 4th), the Mahatma Gandhi Canadian Foundation for World Peace offers daily themes or elements for contemplation, which are derived from the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the theme for February 20th is “mission.” We can think of a mission the way some people think of a goal or desire, we can think of it as a calling – or, in the sense of the Yoga Philosophy, we can think of it as sva-dharma (“one’s personal duty in life”), which can also be called one’s personal law). No matter how we view it, the Bhagavad Gita indicates that we all have such a role – which means we all have a mission.

The Bhagavad Gita is set during a lull in battle during a great civil war. Arjuna is a prince and military leader on one side of the battle. As others magically look on, he stands in the middle of the battlefield and has a crisis of faith. He looks at his family and friends on both sides of the battlefield and he “loses his resolve.” He questions why he is fighting and what will be resolved. He shares with his best friend and charioteer that he is filled with an amalgamation of emotions, including the possibility of shame and unhappiness if he were to kill his own friends and family. As Arjuna shares his deepest worries and fears, his friend and charioteer (Krishna) reveals himself as an avatar of God and then emphasizes the importance of doing what’s right even when it (and everything else) seems wrong.

Krishna outlines several different methods by which one can live a “truth-based life” and experience ultimate fulfilment (which, spoiler alert, has nothing to do with the spoils of battle). He is very clear that there are different methods or paths for different people and (sometimes) for different situations, but that all paths ultimately lead to the Divine and to self-realization. One of the big takeaways from his explanation is that everyone has a role to play in society.

“‘Your very nature dictates that you perform the duties attuned to your disposition. Those duties are your dharma, your natural calling. It is far better to do your own dharma, even if you do it imperfectly, than to try to master the work of another. Those who perform the duties called for by their obligations, even if those duties seem of little merit, are able to do them with less effort – and this releases consciousness that can be directed Godward.”

– Krishna speaking to Arjuna (18.47) in The Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners by Jack Hawley

As Krishna explains in Chapter 18 people’s different personalities play a part in determining their different roles and duties. In very general (but explicit) terms, he describes “Seers, Leaders, Providers, and Servers.” He also emphasizes that “No particular group of people is superior to any other, but like limbs of the body, each has a respective role to play.” (BG 18.41) The descriptions are clear enough that we can easily identify ourselves and also recognize that there are times when we are called to serve more than one role.

For example, a professional teacher could be described as a seer and/or a leader. But, even if someone is not a professional teacher, the way they live their life sets an example. The way any of us lives our lives teaches others – especially younger generations – how to love, how to care for each other, how to stand up for what’s right, and how to do the right thing… even when it is hard. In this way, we are all leaders.

“‘Consider them one by one. Society’s Seers are the holy ones (in some societies referred to as Brahmins). Seers are expected to establish the character and spiritual underpinnings of society. Their duties are generally of pure, unmixed sattva and are therefore congenial to a person of sattvic nature. This is what is meant by the term “born of their own nature.” Providing spiritual and moral leadership is generally “natural” to Seers.

‘Seers must have spiritual knowledge and wisdom – knowledge of God-realization obtained through devout study – and wisdom beyond knowledge, acquired through direct experience of the Atma. Seers must have purity of heart, mind, and body; and allow no perversity or corruption to creep in. They must possess serenity, calmness, forbearance, forgiveness, and patience – and hold to an unwavering faith in the divinity of all life. The primary purpose of the Seers is to help transform society’s exemplary human beings into godly beings.

‘The primary objective of society’s Leaders is to help transform ordinary human beings into exemplary human beings. The Leaders (referred to as Kshatriyas) are expected to guard the welfare and prosperity of society by serving the people. They are charged with bringing moral stamina and adherence to duty through courage, fearlessness, resourcefulness, and ingenuity in the face of changing conditions. They must be examples of law, justice, and generosity. They must lead by inspiring the populace through good example and yet be ready to enforce their authority.

‘Both groups are strong in their own ways. The strength of the Leaders lies in their courage; the strength of the Seers lies in their spiritual glow.’”

– Krishna speaking to Arjuna (18.42 – 18.43) in The Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners by Jack Hawley

In the United States, the third Monday in February is a federal holiday intended to honor the country’s highest leader, the president. Officially designated by the federal government as “Washington’s Birthday,” it was named to honor George Washington (born Feb 22, 1732), who served as a general during the American Revolution and was the newly-formed country’s first president. It is also known, federally (but not officially), as “Presidents’ Day,” to honor all U. S. presidents. Some states call it “President’s Day” (singular) or some combination of “Washington and Lincoln’s Day” (since Abraham Lincoln played a prominent role in shaping the United States and also had a February birthday). In Alabama this Monday is called “George Washington/Thomas Jefferson Birthday” (even though the latter of whom was born April 12, 1743) and in Arkansas it is “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Bates Day” (the latter of whom was not a president; but, rather a Civil Rights activist, born in Arkansas on November 11, 1914). Many states also have other president-related celebrations at throughout the year; however, Delaware does not observe a Presidents Day at all, while New Mexico, Georgia, and Indiana have celebrations around Thanksgiving or Christmas.

In some ways, this holiday has fallen into the same trap as other federal holidays: it’s become a paid day off for federal employees, a three-day weekend, and a weekend for sales. That’s it. However, it can still be a day to reflect on what it takes to be a great leader and, maybe, even a great leader who is also a great seer. It could also be a great day to consider what kind of effort it would take for a great leader to be a wonderful human being – if that’s even a thing in our modern society.

“The literal meaning kriya is “verb.” Every verb is representative of a distinct process or function and no process of function reaches fruition without a doer.”

– quoted from the commentary on Yoga Sūtra 2.1 from The Practice of the Yoga Sūtra: Sadhana Pada by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD

Over the last couple of days, I have mentioned a suggestion Sadhguru offered people celebrating Maha Shivaratri. The founder of the Isha Foundation suggested that people write down three things that would make them a wonderful human being and then to put those three things into action. Of course, action is a big deal in the Indian philosophies and their corresponding sacred texts.

There are two Sanskrit words that can be translated into English as “work” or “effort,” and which both apply to our thoughts, words, and deeds/actions. The first word is kriyā and the second word is karma. Most English speakers are familiar with the word karma (or kamma in Pali). Even if they are not 100% certain about the meaning, they understand the general concept of cause-and-effect. What they may miss is that karma is the effect or consequence, while kriyā is the cause. Kriyā is an ongoing process and also the steps within the process; it is active. You could also think of karma as fate and kriyā as destiny; where the former is unchangeable and the latter is the journey to your destination.

Another perspective is to think about karma as an intention. Classically, when we talk about karma, we talk about planting seeds and things coming into fruition. So, one way to think of it is that we plant seeds that already have within them the image of the final product and kriyā is what we do to nurture and harvest what’s been planted – and/or what we do when we need to uproot the poisonous weeds.

Some traditions specifically use kriyā in relation to internal action or work and speak of karma when referring to external work. In some ways, this dovetails with Yoga Sūtra 2.1, which defines kriyā yoga (“union in action”) as a combination of the final three niyamas (internal “observations”): discipline/austerity, self-study, and trustful surrender to a higher power (other than one’s self). In this context, kriyā yoga* is a purification ritual. It is an opportunity to let go of what no longer serves us and move with more strength, focus, and determination.

Of course, we all have different rituals and traditions.

Just as we all may describe the attributes of a leader, a seer, and/or a wonderful human being in different ways, the work needed to reach that potential is going to be different for everyone. However, the basic structure of Patanjaliʼs kriyā yoga remains the same and there are several religious and philosophical observations that can fit within this rubric, including Yom Kippur and Passover, the Baháʼí 19-Day Fast, and the holy month of Ramaḍān. Lent, for which people are currently preparing, can also be considered a form of kriyā yoga.

“Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people….”

– quoted from King Solomon’s request in The Second Book of the Chronicles 1:10 (NIV)

In the Western Christian tradition, the Monday before Lent may be known as Shrove Monday by people already focusing on “shriving.”  Shrovetide, which includes the three weeks before Lent, is a period of self-examination, repentance, and amendments of sins. Similarly, in Eastern Orthodox traditions, which use a different calendar, the Monday before Lent is next week and is sometimes referred to as Clean Monday.

On the flipside, some people will spend this same period of time – anything from three weeks to two or three days – focusing on indulging in the things they are planning to give up during Lent. For instance, the Monday before Lent is also the last Monday of Carnival. In places like New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast, it is also known as Lundi Gras (“Fat Monday”). Rose Monday, Merry Monday, and Hall Monday are also names associated with pre-Lenten festivities around the world. In parts of the United Kingdom, people may refer to this day as Collap Monday, because their traditional breakfast will include collaps (leftover slabs of meat, like bacon) and eggs. In east Cornwall, however, people traditionally eat pea soup and, therefore, call today Peasen (or Paisen) Monday.

Just like with the aforementioned federal holiday in the United States, each name reflects what people value and, more importantly, each name reflects the different actions people are taking in order to fulfill their mission or serve the purpose in life.

“‘Wherever Divinity and humanity are found together – with humanity armed and ready to fight wickedness – there also will be found victory in the battle of life, a life expanded to Divinity and crowned with prosperity and success, a life of adherence to dharma, in tune with the Cosmic Plan. I am convinced of this.ʼ”

– Sanjaya, the minister, speaking to “the blind old King, Dhritarashtra”(18.78) in The Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners by Jack Hawley

There is no music for the Common Ground Meditation Center practice.

*NOTE: In the Kundalini Yoga tradition, “kriyā” is the term applied to sequences with specific energetic intentions.

### Do The Work (with Grace). ###


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