9/30 at Evolution Yoga...

Jason - October 1, 2006 7:00 pm

Last night at Evolution Yoga, Maharaja gave a class that in my mind was the perfect class to give at any yoga center. It touched on things that most people can grasp. Perhaps the class was a departure from his characteristically longer and more in depth classes, but I felt that after his announcement about his desire to alter his preaching approach, this class was indicative of how Maharaja can undoubtedly reach a broader, less experienced yet interested audience if the situation calls for such. While reinforcing some seemingly basic principles to the devotees present, he still finds a way to say things that just blow you out of the water.


During the initial kirtan, led by Agnidev, before Swami even arrived, Agni briefly paused to explain the significance of the word Govinda, since it appeared in one of the bhajans we were singing. He explained that “go” can mean “cow” or “senses”, and in either sense, Krsna is the “One who gives pleasure to the cows and the senses”. It was interesting that shortly after Swami arrived and began to speak, he almost started where Agni had left off; as if he knew to reinforce the points that Agni had mentioned and also to tie it in with Audarya’s coming festivities for Govardhana-Puja.


Maharaja hadn’t decided on a specific topic to lecture on, but after a brief introduction, he chose the topic of ritual and it’s involvement in the progression from karma to lila; work to play; kama to prema. By beginning class reading his poem from the 3rd chapter of “Aesthetic Vedanta”, the devotees could understand his underlying message of inevitably moving beyond rules and regulations to spontaneous devotion. At the same time, through the course of his lecture, he explained that we can’t just throw out the rules and try to access lila with no qualification. His mood was both serious and humorous as he weaved through explanations of some of our Gaudiaya Vaisnava rituals as well as a recent encounter with a European ritual involving the topping off of the new temple roof! He then proceeded to define “ritual” as acts that may seem material, but in essence are the means for the individual to interact with the Supreme. He explained the temple and subsequently other holy places, as the meeting ground where this interaction takes place; where, Krsna willing, the “…finite can come to know the Infinate.” Without actually stating such, Maharaja also explained how the process of bhakti is not an ascending process, rather a descending process, and to the extent to which mercy is involved. I was really trying to focus so hard on the class. I could really “read between the lines”, and realized that Maharaja is so expert in giving a single class that while apparently geared towards those new to the philosophy, it is so loaded with even deeper meaning. I almost felt that I was in fact listening to a class within a class.


I also think that the question that was asked at the end of class was incredibly important. I would go as far to say that the question asked should probably be asked at every yoga center program that Maharaja may speak at in the future. Considering that many yoga centers, and the people that attend them are coming from an impersonal perspective, and that despite so many centers that are having kirtan and bhajan nights in the name of bhakti, very few may truly understand the difference between the monist conception and the conception held by Gaudiya Vaisnavas. “Can you explain a little bit about the difference between the idea of the self as Brahman and the Upanisad’s description of God as Parabrahman”, was the question offered to Maharaja. His explanation was succinct as he gave the example of the man who had left the cave to experience the sun, and how he described that to the man who had never left the cave. The explanation given by the man who had experienced the sun was correct, yet incomplete. What was interesting (and really sweet) to me was that Maharaja pointed out the difference between the two, but did not speak negatively towards the incomplete Brahman conception; just that “…you have to start somewhere.” He spoke of love being the supreme motivating factor, so merging with and becoming God is not only “ludicrous”, but would eliminate the possibility of any reciprocation from God. Two may become one, but their individual identities are still present. Love doesn’t exist without two persons. It’s this explanation that I find incredibly important for many yoga center attendees to hear. I really feel that if heard from the right person, this ten minute explanation could change many people’s hearts. Had this lecture occurred in any other center, I think that the guest would have found it quite enlightening. I would venture to guess that many people that attend these countless yoga centers, who move from just an interest in hatha-yoga, to the philosophical component of yoga, probably just don’t know any better; their only encounters with Indian philosophy is from the impersonalist lineages. Maharaja brilliantly shed light on the difference with a sense of cultural awareness that would be greatly respected and appreciated if/when he is the guest at other centers. It’s this ability and more that makes him so wonderfully attractive to the devotees, and that will inevitably, given the right audience and facility make him just as attractive to those who have never heard him before.


For what it’s worth, that’s my take on last night’s class. I hope to hear many more like that in the future at many different places in the Bay area. As I mentioned to Prema in an email the other day, Swami’s like a treasure on a mountaintop that many don’t have access to. While his distance and seclusion and the effort that it takes to visit Audarya may make our times of association sweeter, I’m down with helping the monks get off the mountain from time to time.

Vinode Vani Dasa - October 1, 2006 8:35 pm

Jason, I am really impressed with how much you were able to glean (and remember!) from last night's lecture. You are clearly an excellent student, and your insights into the subject matter of Guru Maharaja's talk show that you take each word to heart. I only wish I could be the same!

Jason - October 1, 2006 9:38 pm

Vinode Vani,


Thanks for the kind words, but the truth is, I'm most likely one of those persons that needs to hear the simpler, "reader's digest" version of Maharaja's talks in order to follow along. For instance, when you and Maharaja and some of the other devotees get to talkin' on here, I struggle to keep up. After a few back and forths, I'm usually pretty much lost. When I'm listening to Maharaja's lectures, I really have to focus; probably a lot harder than his other students just to be able to walk away with something.


I'm fortunate that he:


1.)...is willing to alter his preaching for newcomers because, subsequently, I benefit more......and


2.)...has the ability to give a class that is more than surface level, so that when my ego gets the best of me and I think, "Oh, I know this...", I'm hit upside the head with something that makes me realize, I haven't actually got a clue. Maybe it helps keep me grounded a bit.



Gaurangi-priya Devi - October 2, 2006 1:17 am

Thanks for that rendition of the yoga center talk. It's always nice for us to hear what's going on out there on the west coast. I could almost feel like I was there with your writing. :Party:

Tadiya Dasi - October 2, 2006 3:48 pm



Thank you so much for sharing this. :Party:

Babhru Das - October 2, 2006 7:14 pm

Me, too--thanks so much, Jason. You've set a good example here.