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The Royal Road: Gandhi, Social Activism, and Yoga

Gandhi March by Nandalal Boseby Nina“It contains the profound idea that nothing done is ever lost, that there is no sin in the path of action. This is the royal road. This route is the path of Truth.” — Mohandas K. Gandhi Mohandas K. Gandhi is known worldwide for his part as a social organizer and for developing the practice of non-violent passive resistance( satyagraha ), which inspired the social activism of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela, among others. However numerous beings don’t realize that Gandhi was a dedicated practitioner of yoga. No, this doesn’t mean that he practiced 108 Sun Salutations every morning or even that he studied for days at a time. What it implied was that his lifelong work as a social partisan was inspired by his practice of “yoga in action”( karma yoga) as identified in the Bhagavad Gita: II. 40 Act thou, O Dhanajaya, without connect, steadfast in yoga, even-minded in success and flop. Even-mindedness is yoga. Work without connect, being firmly established in yoga. — Translated by Mohandas K. Gandhi This meant that in all the social activism that Gandhi engaged in, whether he was fighting for the independence of India or working for religious accord in the country after independence was achieved, he rehearsed a constitute of yoga called “skill in action.” Skill in action implies accepting both success and los with equanimity and doing your work without being attached to the results it will bring. As Gandhi gave it: “He, who, being thus equipped, is without desire for the results and is yet utterly engrossed in the due realization of the duty before him, is said to have repudiated the fruits of his action.” — from The Bhagavad Gita According to Gandhi This is the “royal road” to inner serenity and eventually to self-realization or liberation. As the Gita says: 3.19 “Therefore, do thou ever act without feeling the exertion thou must do; for performing action without feeling husband reaches the Supreme.” — decoded by Mohandas K. Gandhi The philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita was so important to Gandhi that he even did his own translation of it, The Bhagavad Gita According to Gandhi, which includes a commentary based on lessons he contributed to students at an ashram about the Gita.( There are different publications of this, so if you demand the one with the commentary, be sure you buy the right one !) And I believe that this philosophy, which admitted Gandhi to attain some measure of inner peace and reinforced him as he developed and engaged in non-violent social activism–where he often employed his working life on the line–can help everyone who is engaged in social activism or service of any kind. Now you might be wondering how Gandhi, who was such a protagonist in non-violence( ahimsa ), could find the story of a warrior being encouraged to fight by Krishna a lodestar in his own life. These types of questions come up for almost everyone who predicts the Gita these days: How can Krishna encourage Arjuna to enter a battle where he will surely kill people, including relatives and respectful elders? Isn’t an important part of yoga the practice of ahimsa( non-violence )? Gandhi himself visualized the campaign in the Gita as a analogy: “Even in 1888 -1 889, when I first became acquainted with the Gita, I felt it was not a historical work, but that, under the guise of physical warfare, it described the conflict that perpetually gone on in the hearts of mankind, and that physical war was brought in simply to perform the description of that internal confrontation more alluring.” — from The Bhagavad Gita According to Gandhi Yoga scholar Georg Feuerstein supports this interpretation. He was of the view that in the Bhagavad Gita “Arjuna found himself in an important personal quandary–a struggle between right and wrong that is symbolic of all of life’s great predicaments.” So you can think of the impending battle in the Gita as a struggle in your own mind between good and evil or as any kind of battle you find yourself in in your life. For example, perhaps you are engaged in a fight for social justice for marginalized people. Or, perhaps you are doing service of some kind, such as volunteering to help those in need. And for all of us, as I said during my upright Arjuna is Us, there will come a time in life when we need to stand up for what’s right. For all those duels, the yogic approach–the coming that allows you to achieve some measure of inner peace–is to practice skill in action, doing your work “without attachment” and “even-minded in success and failure.” Obviously, it’s hard to remain detached from solutions when you’re “fighting” for a just cause, working for positive change, or standing up for what is right. But we can try our best and the Gita says those efforts alone will be rewarding. II. 40 “Here no endeavour undertaken is lost , no disaster pass. Even a little of this righteous course delivers one from immense fear.” — altered by Mohandas K. GandhiGandhi justified this section by saying: “A beginning uttered is not wasted. Even a little effort along this road saves one from great danger. This is a royal road, easy to follow. It is the sovereign yoga. In following it, there is no fear of stumbling. Once a beginning is originated , nothing will stand in our way.” from The Bhagavad Gita According to GandhiI hope that you will find these ideas inspiring and that this message will help you find a way to live your yoga through your work in social activism or service. However, I want to conclude by saying that I recognize some of you may have heard disturbing things about Gandhi, such as that he was a racist, supported the caste system, and can participate in sexually abusive action( construe A New Biography Presents Gandhi, Warts and All ). Certainly it now appears that Gandhi was a seriously shortcoming adult. I speak his autobiography years ago and even that was somewhat disturbing. Since then I “ve never” announced him “Mahatma, ” which represents “great soul, ” for that very reason. But for me, I feel as long as we keep in mind that Gandhi was just a human being and something of a religious devotee, and we rehearsal critical envisioning as we evaluate his learns, we can still learn from him. As Georg Feuerstein says about the Bhagavad Gita: “We do not have to accept the Gita’s–or any other scripture’s–teachings uncritically. In fact this would prove unhelpful and even harmful for us. The only proper way to relate to this type of knowledge is with an open psyche, which is by no means a filter through which anything can pass freely, without critical inspection.” — from The Bhagavad-Gita: A New TranslationThis post was originally appeared on the Accessible Yoga blog, where it was edited by Patrice Priya Wagner, Managing Editor of Accessible Yoga blog and member of the Board of Directors.Subscribe to Yoga for Healthy Aging by Email deg Follow Yoga for Healthy Aging on Facebook deg To degree Yoga for Healthy Aging: A Guide to Lifelong Well-Being, go to Amazon, Shambhala, Indie Bound or your local bookstore.

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