08 Jul Your Favorite Quote from the Gita that Isn’t
I first saw this quote on Facebook. Or maybe it was Pinterest. Or perhaps some yoga blog. And I thought to myself, “hmm… interesting quote. Make note of that to write about on the blog.”
So I pulled out my blog posting schedule and wrote ‘Gita Tolerating Quote’ next to 7/8/15.
A few days later, I started googling around to find out more about the quote. What was the citation for it in The Bhagavad Gita? Whose translation? Why didn’t I remember reading that quote in the Gita? And didn’t the language sound a bit off from any translation I had read before? I thumbed through my Eswaran translation but I couldn’t find anything like it.
And then I found this article on It’s All Yoga, Baby, and things started to make more sense.
Oh, internet, you peddler of fake quotes.
You make us believe that Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” And that Einstein said all kinds of things. And thanks to facebook, pinterest & social media in general, these quotes get reiterated and dressed up and put over pretty pictures all over the internet. The above images are just a smattering of what you find when you google image ‘Gita tolerating quote’.
According to It’s All Yoga, Baby, the quote is Dinabandhu Sarley’s distillation of the central message of the Gita. It’s on a wall at the Kripalu Center. But the thing is, on that wall, apparently, it’s attributed to the Gita, not Dinabandhu Sarley.
Roseanne Harvey from It’s All Yoga, Baby says,
If this is the case, then this meme-worthy Gita quote is some spiritual CEO’s wise distillation of the text. Which leads me to question the integrity of the Kripalu Center, if they feel they can just attribute a former CEO’s paraphrasing as an actual quote from a text. Perhaps The Bhagavad Gita sounds more “authentic” than Dinabandhu Sarley.
But even if this quote isn’t from the Gita, what can we learn from it?
First, we can learn not to create some inspiring Instagram photo with our favorite yoga quote unless we’ve double checked for ourselves that the attribution is correct. This is part of svadhyaya. Purna Yoga teachers often recite poetry or cite quotes as applied philosophy offerings in a class. I find this technique truly inspirational when one has actually read the poem or text oneself, and has some connection to the original source rather than a secondary one.
Second, we can address the quote on its own merit as a source of discussion for what yoga is. For me, I think the word tolerating is off. Toleration is not a neutral activity. On the scale of ‘I’m enjoying this’ to ‘This is horrible and unacceptable,’ tolerating is closer to the unacceptable end. Since, yoga teaches equanimity of mind and emotions, I don’t think it is a practice of toleration. Acceptance, maybe, but not tolerating.
So, I don’t think that yoga is the practice of tolerating the consequences of being yourself, but I do think it is the practice of understanding that our thoughts, words, and deeds have consequences, or to quote Will Bowen, “We make our own lunch.”
My reworking of this quote: Yoga is the practice of recognizing, understanding and accepting responsibility for the consequences of being yourself.
What is yoga to you?