Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Religion: His Yoga is Easy?

After pointing out the etymological connection between the Sanskrit word “yoga” and the English word “yoke,” Graham M. Schweig, in the “Textual Illuminations” section of his translation of the Bhagavad Gîtâ, goes on to speak of “four elements in the yoke” [which] are clearly present in the yoga of the Bhagavad Gîtâ.”

The first of these is Yoga-Maya, which he defines as “the power of yoga.” The second is Yogeshvara, a title of Krishna’s which means “the Supreme Lord of Yoga.” The third is characterized by Krishna’s command to Arjuna to “Be a yogi!”, that is, a practitioner of at least one of the forms of yoga revealed by Krishna to Arjuna as the Gîtâ unfolds . The fourth is Yoga defined as the union of the soul with divinity as a result of practicing yoga. Of the four, I am interested here in the first: Yoga-Maya, abbreviated as “Maya.”

Concerning Maya, Schweig writes: “This power can be seen as the potency found in all forms of yoga. Broadly, it is the power that both reveals divinity to souls and conceals divinity from souls. More specifically, it is the divine feminine power that either facilitates intimacy between the two entities of yoga or keeps souls who are not interested in this intimacy from discovering it. Yoga-Maya thus keeps secret all that is divine, and reveals that secret only to those who are ready to receive it.” (p. 247)

This concept of Maya as a revelatory power, similar, perhaps, to the Christian idea of the Holy Spirit, is a concept that I had not internalized. I had always thought of Maya as “illusion”—the beguiling aspect of material existence that serves as a kind of scrim between human perception, particularly sense-perception, and ultimate Reality. This function of this aspect of Maya is described by Schweig thusly: “When this divine power of union is not facilitating intimacy between the soul and the divinity, it is arranging a binding connection between the soul and this world of mixed happiness and suffering, in a state of complete forgetfulness of divinity.” (p. 247)

It is interesting that this power is feminine. I have noted in some Catholic commentary that the Virgin Mary, as a celestial being, sometimes seems to usurp the role of the Holy Spirit in the mediation of heavenly grace to her devotees. As for the Gnostics, Sophia is, of course, feminine. In Judaism, there is the concept of the Shekhinah, defined in a Wikipedia article as “a dwelling or settling in a special sense, a dwelling or settling of divine presence, to the effect that, while in proximity to the Shekhinah, the connection to God is more readily perceivable.” So the revelatory power of the feminine is apparent also in the Jewish idea of the Shekhinah.

All of this might be considered in light of our contemplation of an alternate interpretation of the role of Eve as a bringer of moral agency, and thus, free will and full humanity, rather than as the agent of sin and death.