Annie Wood Besant on the Yoga of Action

I’ve been reading Intro to Yoga by Annie Wood Besant, which consists of four lectures she gave in December 1907, “intended to give an outline of Yoga, in order to prepare the student to take up, for practical purposes, the Yoga sutras of Patanjali, the chief treatise on Yoga.”

I like what she has to say here and am sharing it with you:

The world is meant for the unfolding of the Self: why should you then seek to run away from it? Look at Shri Krishna Himself in that great Upanishad of yoga, the Bhagavad-Gita. He spoke it out on a battle-field, and not on a mountain peak. He spoke it to a Kshattriya ready to fight, and not to a Brahmana quietly retired from the world. The Kurukshetra of the world is the field of Yoga.

They who cannot face the world have not the strength to face the difficulties of Yoga practice. If the outer world out-wearies your powers, how do you expect to conquer the difficulties of the inner life? If you cannot climb over the little troubles of the world, how can you hope to climb over the difficulties that a yogi has to scale? Those men blunder, who think that running away from the world is the road to victory, and that peace can be found only in certain localities.”

If you’re unfamiliar with the Bhagavad Gita, it is an old story (aren’t them all :)) of a warrior named Arjuna and his struggle with a TPS report… eh, no, I mean, with a war he’s called to fight. The whole thing is a conversation between him and a guy/god named Krishna, whose blue skin might have inspired James Cameron’s Na’vi people in the movie Avatar.

The Bhagavad Gita is also a book that profoundly influenced Gandhi. You can read more about it on Wikipedia. Or, you can remember how my friend Mehal summarized it: Krishna told Arjuna, “suck it up.”

I like what Annie Besant said in her lecture, and I like that Ghandhi said that whether Lord Krishna is God, in whatever definition of god, is not the point. The point is yoga is about applying the teachings in the world and in our daily lives. I forget this teaching often, and I greatly appreciate it when I’m reminded of it.

Krishna and Arjuna talking on the battlefield of Kuruksetra

Krishna and Arjuna talking on the battlefield of Kuruksetra