An Unusual Gathering

From May 4th to May 6th, the Brooklyn Yoga Club, is presenting a very special event. Four experts are doing a workshop that spans four of the main Indian spiritual traditions: Ayurveda, Yoga, Jyotisha and Vedanta.

The presenters, who jokingly say they’re not a law firm, are Svoboda, Stern, Moses and Mahan. Dr. Robert Svoboda was the first Westerner to graduate from a college of Ayurveda, has been practicing since 1980, and is one of the world’s leading teachers. Eddie Stern, is perhaps New York’s most well-known Ashtangi, Robert Moses is a long time yoga teacher, an expert on Advaita Vedanta and the co-publisher of Namarupa, Categories of Indian Thought. Marga Mahan, is recognized as one of the world’s leading Jyotisha practitioners, having studied and taught for 25 years.

Lisa Dawn Angerame talked with Mahan and Moses to find out how this came about and what we can expect from this very educated group.

Lisa Dawn Angerame: How do you know each other?

Robert Moses: My wife and I met Dr. Svoboda in Hawaii when he was writing his book The Greatness of Saturn, because we knew the guy whose house he was staying in. Our son Satya was three months old at the time and it seemed like there was some karmic connection between him and Dr. Svoboda. We have been friends ever since.

A few years later I suggested he visit Eddie’s Broome Street Temple and they’ve been good friends ever since. I’ve yet to met Marga but have heard wonderful things about her and her knowledge of Jyotisha so I am looking forward to meeting her at last.

Marga Mahan: My connection to this group comes through Dr. Svoboda, who has been my doctor, a mentor, a business partner and a friend over a period that now spans some 30 years. I first met him in 1986 when he came to the town where I lived in rural British Columbia.

I'm frankly a little astonished to find myself teaching from the same stage as these three men, who are so accomplished and provide such important leadership in these subjects.

LDA: What was the impetus for this event?

RM: Eddie and I had a Martin Luther King Weekend event for a few years running. Because of his move to Brooklyn and other time consuming events around the MLK Weekend this year, he decided to postpone. But then when he realized that Dr. Svoboda and Marga Mahan would be in town at the same time, he thought it would be good idea to have this event in lieu of the MLK weekend.

LDA: Marga, how do you perceive the connection between the four vidyas?

MM: Come to the workshop - you'll probably get four slightly different views! Kidding aside, my Jyotisha teacher, the exquisite Hart de Fouw, used to say that each Indian spiritual is like a pearl on a necklace. They all can get you into the center of truth, to the Source. Samkhya. Vedanta. Jainism. Buddhism. Tantra. Jyotisha. Ayurveda. These are all the classic arts and sciences of India and just like any point on a circle, they each will lead to the center.

LDA: Robert, how you see yoga - a dual philosophy - and Advaita Vedanta - which is not one - fitting together?

RM: The problem with Advaita Vedanta is that it is really a viewpoint that is probably out of

the reach of 99% of us. We can understand it intellectually but it requires complete negation of individual identity. Who is really ready for that?

So yoga is a very practical system, available to anybody, that can help one start to still one’s mind which is the first step towards any kind of Advaitic realization. The philosophical viewpoints are not in conflict with each other. Each is a help to gain more insight into the other.

LDA: Marga, can describe Jyotisha?

MM: Jyotisha means the Lord (Isha) of Light (Jyoti). It's the science and art of the heavenly lights and their relationship to life on this earth. Jyotisha therefore concerns itself with the study of the effects of the larger lights of the universe on the human and all other things on earth, in the appropriate span of time, most often a human life span.

The purpose of Jyotisha is, broadly speaking, to help people bring light to illuminate the nature and timing of one’s potential in all areas of life – health, education, career, wealth, family, and spirituality. Every person is a unique creation of the cosmos, and that uniqueness is determined by the specific – sometimes astonishingly specific – factors at play at time and place of birth, as shown by the types of light that are coming from the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars in the background. Jyotisha provides a vast array of constructs and tools for analyzing those factors.

LDA: What will the different daily lectures be about? Are there specific topics?

MM: Our format is designed so that people can attend one session, or all, and so to a certain extent I will adapt my lectures and topics to the interests of the people who show up.

But in general I will try to give a basic overview of Jyotisha on the first day, speak to some of the ways in which Jyotisha analyzes a birth chart, making use of some famous peoples charts for that session, and generally have some fun. On the third day I'm likely to try to help people make links between basic Jyotisha and physical and mental well-being.

I'll also be seeking to integrate - as appropriate - the gems that will have emerged from Eddie, Dr. Robert and Robert.

RM: Eddie is teaching an Ashtanga class each morning except it turns out that one day is a moon day and so he will be giving a talk instead about the Nadi Shodana and the purification of the nervous system. I am really interested in how the yogic practice of pranayama relates to the nervous system. This is really interesting stuff - particularly how the simple focus and control of the breath along with basic bandhas can have such a profound effect on an individual.

I will be basing my talk on a well-known text by Adi Guru Sankaracarya called Vivekachudamani or The Crest Jewel of Discrimination. This text clearly outlines all the essential aspects of the study of Advaita Vedanta, particularly the qualifications of a student, a teacher and the means to attaining knowledge.

LDA: At the end of each day, there will be questions and answers, bringing together these traditions in a way that is specific to those in attendance, shaped by the presenters, but also the interest and needs of the students.

For more information, click here and sign up via the link. Pricing is dependent on each session.

Marga Mahan will be giving personal Jyotisha readings over the week. For more information or to schedule a reading email Erin Lemkey at elemkey@gmail.com.

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