An Ordinary Life Transformed: Lessons for Everyone from the Bhagavad Gita - Second Edition
Originally published in 2006 by Hobblebush Books, the second edition was released by Wipf and Stock Publishers in January of 2021. Providing a description of the Bhagavad Gita as an allegory of the spiritual journey, Rev. Dr. Rutt makes the concepts readily available for application to everyday living. The result of nine years of facilitating Bhagavad Gita study groups, Rev. Dr. Rutt shows how ordinary people have discovered that when they speak, live and act from their deepest impulse, truth is served...How, when ordinary people have fallen in love with that which is the same in all of us, that experience changes everything. For each chapter there are key points highlighted, Sanskrit terms defined, and questions offered for personal reflection. These key additions make this book a great guide for either individual or group study.
"In this insightful commentary [Stephanie Rutt's] approach is very much in harmony with the Gita itself--a conversation between Krishna, the Divine Shepherd, and Arjuna, a soul overwhelmed by uncertainty and doubt. The book contains useful background information and questions for self-reflection . . . and the translation is simple and direct, bringing the personal quality of the Gita to life." Eric Somers Yoga + Joyful Living, March/April, 2007
"Stephanie's prose is, like the Gita itself, insightful, compassionate and filled with moments of personal enlightenment. If you read this, let it settle snugly in your heart; you will see the extraordinary in every ordinary moment. It is a journey of discovery that begins and ends in your soul." Gurucharan Singh Khalsa, Fish Interfaith Center at Chapman University
"For those who truly wish to understand the important messages found in the Bhagavad Gita, Rev. Rutt's book gives us all a clear picture of the life-directing principles of Hindu philosophy. It shows, in an easily understood format, how we may apply these principles directly to our own life experiences. It is a "do not miss" book for anyone who is looking for answers to life's everyday challenges." Rabbi Roger and Reverend Deborah Ross, Directors of the New Seminary for Interfaith Studies
Excerpt: Why Study the Bhagavad Gita? From Sorrow to Joy Bhagavad Gita means Song of God. Its purpose is to bring about an end to sorrow through the realization that we are That which we seek. All of us seek peace, happiness and joy, but within ourselves is not usually the first place we look. Instead, we look outside ourselves, searching from place to place, experience to experience, teacher to teacher for That which we already are. It never occurs to us that what we’re looking for is literally as close as our breath — that we already have all we need to be content in any circumstance. In our desperate search, we overlook the place of true joy — our inner sanctuary, where joy resides, not in response to a particular set of circumstances, but simply as a humble response to continued self-acceptance. Here, all is received. Here, the quiet truth whispering softly from the center of our being can be heard. Here, joy is immune to the changing tides of outward circumstance. By turning inward to embrace all, we find what we have so desperately been seeking. It’s called freedom.
But we are not aware. So, we search.
And then, something happens. Maybe it’s an event that suddenly catapults us out of our comfortable existence. An unexpected diagnosis, accident, loss of a job, divorce, death of a loved one. Or maybe it’s just waking up from a long period of sleepy boredom that shouts, something’s got to change! Like Arjuna, we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory, feeling overwhelmed, inadequate, unable or just simply unwilling to meet the challenges ahead. Our rudder is broken, and night is falling fast. Desperately, we may continue searching for someone or something outside ourselves to save us. But, this time, nothing satisfies.
It’s a critical juncture. We can continue the old ways of coping, or we can choose a less familiar route called surrender. At first, this surrender route does not appear to be such an attractive option. We fear the loss of control. But this time, as skeptical as we are of the surrender route, we are even more reluctant to repeat the same old patterns. And so, it is with Arjuna. His rationalizations for not rising up to do his duty aren’t working. His familiar ways of thinking aren’t providing escape from his self-imposed bondage. Overwhelmed and desperate, he chooses surrender and cries out to his Lord for guidance.
And, where he thought he would lose himself, he finds himSelf.
But the old ways are not so easily shed. Again and again, Arjuna, and we too, must choose. Over time, we start to trust this new route called surrender, for a joy comes that passes all our old understanding. Slowly, we start to trust the Potter within. We begin to suspect that each experience is just a stroke of the Potter’s hand molding us for a higher purpose. We begin to see that surrender makes us free.
And, more and more, we start to fall in love. Not with what used to make us happy or even with what we think will make us happy — but with the Potter Himself, for nothing will satisfy now short of the Potter Himself. Loneliness and our sense of separateness fade. We start to see with new eyes as the Potter reveals His face — the face of God — everywhere.
There is God bagging our groceries, cashing our check, finding the right size shirt, bringing our food. We start to notice that it doesn’t matter what mood folks are in, what they have or haven’t done, what they believe or don’t believe. All we see is God. And when we hear an ambulance or fire engines or learn about “collateral damage” on the news, our heart aches for the one whose name we don’t even know. Because now no one is outside the bounds of our love. No one.
Now, we love our neighbor as our self.
And, like water to parched lips, this is the only joy that matters. It is all that can truly sustain us through the changing seasons of our life. It is our compass when the storm hits, the rudder breaks and darkness falls. It is what is left when we fear all is lost. It is what brings us to our prayer mat. It is what looks at the enemy and sees our self. It is what can raise the sword of courage to combat hatred without hating. It is what can love the saint and sinner the same.
This joy sees what’s the same in all of us. And having seen, knows. And knowing, is never the same.