Living in the Presence of Divine Grace
In 2023 I had the immense pleasure of taking an extended course in Vedanta spirituality taught by Gordon Yonel that, I truly believe, would be of great benefit to all of humanity. If a 9-month course seems a bit extreme, like a late-stage pregnancy that you’re not sure how to budget in your schedule, please believe that I survived without any labor pains at all. In fact, the experience felt more like an ecstatic virgin birth in 34 stages!
The Art of Living Organization’s 34-session Ashtavakra Gita course is dedicated to studying the titular Hindu text that, I now appreciate, should be required learning in every high school worldwide. The Ashtavakra Gita is a sacred text written in the form of a dialogue between a sage, Ashtavakra, and a king, Janaka, exploring the illusory nature of reality and the bondage that obstructs our view of Divinity. The Knowledge shared in this course offers a radical vision of non-dualistic philosophy. In its proclamations about the absolute oneness of existence, we are re-united with the peace, love, and joy that is our inalienable birthright: equal source, destination, and essence of all life as we know it.
If all this sounds a bit too much, just do yourself a favor and check it out. The course is structured as a series of video recordings documenting talks by His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (also known as Gurudev)—the Art of Living founder, spiritual leader, and global humanitarian—interpreting one of the classic Hindu sacred texts that have been especially influential for him. Of course, the referenced text can be accessed in the public domain for free. But Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has a remarkable way of whittling lessons to the quick with poetic tangents and interpretations that often seem as profound as the source material; and he does it all while leavening the text with a touching sense of humor and a childlike innocence.
And then there’s the course teacher, Gordon Yonel. Although Gordon may modestly prefer the title of facilitator, like all those who are truly devoted to their calling, Gordon is as enthusiastic about teaching as he is about learning. With his scholarly attention to detail, Gordon is a plum-hearted, humble-headed conduit for the timeless Knowledge he shares in sincere service to his classes. Gordon has a way of firmly, yet gently, nurturing your understanding, guiding you when you stray off point. As the class struggled along the way, grasping for awareness about the meaning of Vedantic non-dualism, he always encouraged us to reflect deeper and explore further—attending to the seams of our understanding from the inside out.
Whatever title bestowed upon Gordon, he is perceptive, articulate and bright, pausing while speaking to gracefully shape his insights into deep connections of thought that benefit the entire class. He has a great way of pulling out a learner’s understanding naturally, empowering each individual to experience the Knowledge on their own terms—rather than merely intellectualizing it from the sidelines. I often felt simultaneously calmed and vitalized by the learning process, resting in the illuminating field of Knowledge until it unveiled a fathomless space within me.
Is Gordon a flawless vessel of Divinity? Well, to gamble some much-deserved blushing on his end, it’s worth issuing a couple of closing comments. If you’re considering signing up for an Art of Living course led by Gordon, take under advisement that the core of timeless Knowledge which Gordon shares can sometimes be ornamented by two natural qualities of Gordon’s individual being: 1) an indefatigable charm; and 2) boyish good looks. If that’s not enough, you’ve been forewarned: Gordon’s eager smile and contagious laughter might just make you reconsider…
In closing, as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar writes in An Intimate Note to the Sincere Seeker, Volume 5: “Knowledge is a burden if it robs you of innocence. Knowledge is a burden if it is not integrated into life. Knowledge is a burden if it doesn’t bring joy.” Throughout the 9-month Ashtavakra Gita course, I experienced fleeting moments of profound clarity, moments when I believed I could see glimpses of my soul reflected off of Gordon’s gleaming forehead. It’s this type of translucence of self that I wish to cultivate in my life and see reflected in the world around me.
On behalf of the Art of Living and the entire Vedanta tradition, thank you, Gordon and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar for sharing this Knowledge of joy in such a joyful way. May I continue to integrate it into my life with sincerity, responsibility, and freedom.
In addition to the Ashtavakra Gita, Gordon teaches the Bhagavad Gita and Sudarshan Kriya Yoga through the Art of Living Organization. To inquire about his Art of Living courses, email Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, Gordon is trained in Gestalt methodology and has extensive experience developing a practice that mixes holistic spirituality and coaching in a way that empowers the individual to harmoniously integrate their personal and professional lives. To learn about his spiritual counseling and executive coaching, visit Gordon at www.renaissancexcoaching.com/.
Written by Todd B. Gruel