An interesting conversation I had once with parents of a friend, around how India was one of the few continuous civilizations in the world not to have eradicated the local population and its culture for centuries. Most other civilizations have faced some form of eradication of local cultures be it the native Americans or the ancient Spanish civilizations like the Aztecs. This was fascinating because for me, time is a big factor in compounding and the compounding at the tail end of the time scale is exponentially higher.
I wasn't very big on history in general and most of school history was an extremely biased version of history, which should be true in most cases. India though has a very colourful history of different emperors, princely states, the mughal invasion and then the British invasion. Through thick and thin, ancient learnings ingrained in our culture has still survived that I can see around me to this day.
Either ways as I continued to read The Story of Yoga, which is strongly intertwined with the story of India. The text of Mahabharata reached its final form in 200 AD or so. In the Bhagavad Gita there is no long discussion, nothing elaborate. The main reason for this is that every stated in the Gita is meant to be tested in the life of every man. It is intended to be verified in practice.
The Bhagavad Gita comprises part of the sixth chapter of India's greatest epic, the Mahabharata, which, running to 100,000 stanzas, is the world's longest literary work by far, longer than the Iliad and Odyssey combined, and four times the length of the Bible. It was finalised in first or second century AD, the Mahabharata talks quite a lot about yoga.
The Gita, is essentially a dialogue between the warrior Arjuna and his divine mentor Krishna. Seen in a wider context, Arjuna is an everyman figure whose predicament symbolises the human condition. We live in a world of conflicting interests and making the right choice about which course of action follow is often a difficult and contradictory affair.
The Gita presents yoga initially not as a means of theological salvation, but as a practical method of bringing a broader perspective (and ultimately higher wisdom) to bear on human agency. It offers a way to act with dispassion and potency in the everyday world, for as the Lord himself states very early in the text, 'Yoga is skill in action'.
These three words alone - yogah karmasu kaushalam - are in themselves a masterly double edged teaching. Not only does it make clear that the unifying power of yoga is means of handling the world of activity with adroitness, but he simultaneously implies that the most 'skilful' action of all is in fact that which leads to 'yoga', union with the divine.
In this context Krishna is not referring to modern postural practice, but advocating for mind yoga. According to Krishna, the prerequisite for successful action is conscious inaction; all worthwhile 'doing' depends on establishing a prior state of 'being'.
The means to this settled state of awareness is meditation, which takes the mind beyond mutual duality and into a stable, centred and unencumbered space that exists independent of outer possession, devoid of physical and mental disturbances.
In the state of yoga, then, the entire realm of time, space and causation is seen to be quite separate from one's own inner ground of awareness. Patanjali would term this kaivalya- aloneness; solitude; independence
Just going through the summarisation around Bhagvad Gita has renewed my interest to go through it again. It's incredibly fascinating that this was the level of discourse 15 centuries ago and we're still mostly there though science has helped us separate the rational from the irrational.
"The Bhagavad Gita is the most systematic statement of spiritual evolution endowing value to mankind. It is one of the most clear and comprehensive summaries of perennial philosophy ever revealed; hence its enduring value is subject not only to India bu all of humanity. "
Since the 9th century, waves of Islamic invasion had been flooding into northern India and was creating chaos. The invaders at the time were not so much God fearing followers of the Holy Prophet as voracious warlords and ruthless freebooters lured by India's reputation as a land of fabulous riches.
Successive conquerors drove Buddhism from the country of its birth, destroying its monasteries, razing its universities and decimating its communities who fled south to sea and beyond. Numerous Hindu and Jain temples were destroyed, along with their libraries, communal kitchens and almshouses.
When Islam arrived, the two cultures could have hardly have been more different.
The newcomer was a young, dynamic faith bent on conversion and highly mobile. The followers of which worshipped a single transcendent God. It came up against an ancient and static way of living that accepted no converts but was extraordinarily diverse and generally tolerant.
The meeting of Sufism, the mystical brotherhood of Islam, with indigineous Hindy devotianal and yogic sects was to create an extraordinarily rich spiritual culture over much of North India. The Sufists connected the most with Hindu schools of Bhakti, who sought union with the divine through the path of heartfelt devotion. They both worshipped a formless lord of all forms through music, poetry, song and the visual arts. Both groups preached a unifying message of social egalitarianism.
The apogee of the Mughal firmament was the Emperor Akbar. He had long been interested in the teachings of Sufism. Before long, Akbars religious tolerance was to take an eccentric deviation from orthodoxy. He founded a new faith called 'The Divine Religion', with himself enthroned at its centre.