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Interview with Dave DeLuca Author of "The Sacred Jewels of Yoga"

by New World Library


What is the meaning of the title of your book, Sacred Jewels of Yoga?

Sacred Jewels of Yoga is a compilation of one-page passages from the most important source yoga scriptures of ancient India, along with yoga teachings by two of India’s most beloved yoga masters of the modern era, Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda. Among the scriptures drawn from in this anthology are the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and Narada’s Bhakti Sutras. Of course these are all sacred Indian yoga scriptures, and the passages presented in the book are the jewels.

What did you most want to accomplish by creating this anthology of ancient yoga wisdom?

First, I wanted to give both lovers of yoga and those new to yoga alike a reference book in which they could easily find cherished passages from some of the most revered yoga scriptures and commentary in India’s history. And second, with such misunderstanding in America about what yoga truly is both historically and essentially, I wanted to present yoga’s most important source scriptures and teachings in the clearest and most accessible way possible so that readers could experience for themselves the original and highest intent for the word, the wisdom, and the practices of yoga.

What would you say is the original and highest intent for the word, the wisdom and the practices of Yoga?

Well, the actual word yoga comes from the root word yuj, meaning to “yoke” or “unite.” The oldest, truest, and highest meaning of yoga is Spiritual Union, the union of our spirit with the Infinite Spirit, and the many paths and practices that lead to that union. Swami Nikhilananda put it beautifully:

The word ‘yoga’ denotes the union of individual soul with Universal Soul, and also the means to such union. Hence yoga is the goal of all religions and the basis of all religious practices.

And what scriptures first introduced the word yoga and its teachings to the world?

Both the word yoga and its earliest teachings are first found in the Upanishads, which are the final portions of the Vedas, India’s most ancient and venerated scriptures. The Upanishads contain the oldest extant teachings of the spiritual wisdom, ideals, and practices of yoga: the Oneness of existence, the divinity of each human soul, meditation, karma, rebirth, maya, dharma, spiritual psychology, Self-realization, and others.

This wisdom of the Upanishads is known as the Vedanta, meaning the culmination of the Vedas. The Upanishads are the ecstatic expressions of unknown sages who lived thousands of years ago regarding the nature of reality and our relationship to that reality. And, as incredible as it may seem, the Upanishads contain not only the original seeds of the yoga wisdom from which the vast library of the world’s yoga practices would eventually be fashioned and perfected, but they contain the very first revelations in recorded history of some of the most profound and beautiful spiritual truths ever offered to humanity.

Would you give us a brief overview of some of these profound spiritual revelations first found in the Upanishads?

Sure. The first monumental revelation of the Upanishads is that the true nature of reality is Oneness. The Upanishads call the Eternal Oneness Brahman, the “great breath” or “expanse.” According to the Upanishads, everything in the universe is a temporary expression of the One Infinite Existence: everything comes from the One, has its being in the One, and returns to the One. There is nothing in the universe that is not a manifestation of Brahman. According to the Taittiriya Upanishad,

He who has no form assumed many forms;

He who is infinite appeared finite;

He who is everywhere assumed a place;

He who is all wisdom caused ignorance;

He who is real caused unreality.

It is He who has become everything.

It is He who gives reality to all.

Before the universe was created,

Brahman existed as unmanifest.

This is not mere pantheism, which equates God with nature. According to the Upanishadic seers, even the vast, unimaginable expanse of the known physical universe is absolutely insignificant in scope when compared to the totality of Existence that is Brahman. As the Isha Upanishad proclaims,

Filled with Brahman are the things we see,

Filled with Brahman are the things we see not,

From out of Brahman floweth all that is:

From Brahman all

Yet He remains the same.

And what is the next great Upanishadic revelation you’d like to share with us?

The next of the great Upanishadic revelations is of the divinity of each human soul. The Upanishads teach that the true essence of each human being is the Atman, the sacred Self, Brahman indwelling. Atman is Brahman, Brahman within, and this is the reality of who we are. We are not our bodies, we are not our minds, we are not our thoughts, we are not our ego. We have a body, we have a mind, we have thoughts, and we have an ego, but our highest truth is the Ever-Blessed Atman, the fountainhead of all joy and light and love that is the core and fundamental truth of our being.

One of the most beloved spiritual affirmations, or mahavakyas, of the Upanishads is “Tat Tvam Asi,” “Thou Art That.” It is the supreme teaching that each of us is actually the Divinity in expression, and it is beautifully expressed in the Chandogya Upanishad by Uddalaka as he teaches his son Shvetaketu about his and about our relationship with the Infinite:

In the beginning was only Being,

One without a second.

Out of Himself he brought forth the cosmos,

and entered into everything in it.

There is nothing that does not come from Him.

Of everything He is the inmost Self.

He is the truth; He is the Self supreme.

You are that, Shvetaketu; you are that.

And what would you say is the most important revelation found within the Upanishads in regards to the practice of yoga?

In my mind the most important Upanishadic revelation in regards to yoga practice is that the highest purpose of life is realizing and manifesting the Divinity within us. As the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad so eloquently expresses, union with Brahman is the supreme goal and the supreme treasure of life:

Where there is unity,

One without a second,

That is the world of Brahman.

This is the supreme goal of life,

The supreme treasure,

the supreme joy.

Those who do not seek this Supreme goal

Live on but a fraction of this joy.

The scriptures teach us that not only is it our sacred duty, our dharma, to attain to the highest in us, but it is the only way to abiding joy and peace. They tell us that by dedicating ourselves to the sacred goal of uniting with the highest within us, we will eventually reach the goal, the bliss of union with the Supreme Soul. And that goal of union with the highest within us is yoga, as are the many pathways and practices to that sacred goal. Yoga is, above all things, spiritual. It is both the supreme spiritual goal and the practices to that goal first revealed in the Upanishads and perfected over the millennia.

And from these remarkable revelations of the Upanishads, how and where does the spiritual yoga of the Upanishads continue to develop?

The next great yoga scripture to emerge after the Upanishads is the Bhagavad Gita, or Song of God. For thousands of years the Gita has been revered for its spiritual power, beauty, clarity, and catholicity. Although not technically an Upanishad, it carries on the Upanishadic tradition in philosophy and form, taking the great and uncodified revelations of yoga wisdom and practice first offered in the Upanishads and fashioning them into a masterwork. To this day it is the most beloved yoga scripture in the world.

Could you give us an overview of the Bhagavad Gita?

Sure. The teachings of the Gita are presented in the form of a dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. The background story of the Gita is important because it forms the basis of an exquisite allegory on the human condition that most profoundly encapsulates the power and the glory of yoga philosophy and practice.

Facing each other at Kurukshetra are two families of royal cousins, the Pandavas, the sons of Pandu, and the Kauravas, sons of the blind king Dhritarashtra. Arjuna is one of the Pandava brothers. The Pandava brothers grew up as great testaments to goodness and righteousness, while the hundred sons of Dhritarashtra grew up to be greedy, cruel, self-centered, and unscrupulous. The Kauravas sabotaged the rightful ascension of the Pandavas to the throne and assumed the rulership of the territory. As a result, the kingdom experienced great pain and suffering for many years at the hands of the unrighteous Kauravas. Finally the Pandavas had no choice but to take up arms against the Kauravas for the welfare of the kingdom. And so the Gita begins.

You said the Bhagavad Gita is allegorical. How so?

The kingdom being fought for in the Gita represents the kingdom of the soul within each of us, and the battle, a perennial one, represents the struggle between the power of goodness and the power of selfishness within, and whether the highest or the lowest will be allowed to rule. Arjuna represents you and me, the spiritual seeker, while Krishna represents the Supreme Soul, the Atman within each of us.

The blind king Dhritarashtra represents the blind and undisciplined mind under the spell of ignorance, blind to its divinity, and his hundred sons the numerous selfish tendencies and forces of negativity that live inside us and rule over us: our selfishness, worry, cravings, fears, self-doubts, anger, greed, possessiveness, and so on. The Pandavas, on the other hand, represent the highest qualities of goodness, wisdom, selflessness and love within us.

The Gita teaches us that if we don’t fight against the lower urges within us, they will continue to rule over us. The Gita gives us detailed instruction on the spiritual practices available to us in our quest to successfully eliminate those forces of selfishness and negativity that are standing in the way of our uniting with the highest within us. And the paths to Self-realization that Krishna teaches Arjuna are the four sacred yoga pathways to spiritual union.

What about the other yoga scriptures represented in Sacred Jewels of Yoga. Could you tell us about them and their place in the ancient yoga tradition?

While the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita form the foundation wisdom for all subsequent yoga pathways and practices, each of the four yogas has other later scriptures essential to its path as well, and I have included passages from five of them. They include Patanjali’s magnificent Yoga Sutras, which is the uncontested bible of Raja yoga, Narada’s Bhakti Sutras and the Srimad Bhagavatam, two of the most revered Bhakti scriptures, the Astavakra Samhita, an important Jnana yoga scripture, and the Dhammapada, the revered yoga wisdom of the blessed Buddha.

Finally, what is your hope for the book?

It is my hope that the sacred jewels offered in this book will provide readers with the kind of joy, illumination, understanding, and spiritual guidance that they have provided to countless lovers of yoga wisdom throughout history, and that these passages will inspire those new to these yoga treasures to pursue the study of the complete scriptures they are drawn from. I include suggestions on further study in both the recommended books and acknowledgments sections of the book.

--------

Dave DeLuca is one of the West’s most passionate and highly regarded teachers of India’s ancient Vedanta yoga wisdom and the editor of Sacred Jewels of Yoga and Pathways to Joy. He speaks and presents workshops on spiritual growth at temples, churches, conferences and learning centers all over the United States. He lives in Irvine, California. Visit him online at http://www.davedeluca.com.

Based on the book Sacred Jewels of Yoga Ó2011 Edited by Dave DeLuca. Printed with permission from New World Library.


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