What I have learned from the Srimad Bhagavat Gita

The Gita is actually a mysterious book. It was given by Lord Krishna to his friend and cousin Arjuna, the great warrior and the middle one amongst the Pandavas, at a time when our country was passing through a great upheaval, when the forces of adharma had spread all over Bharat and appeared to be much stronger than the forces of dharma. The question put by Arjuna was pertinent to his own dilemma, placed in a specific context of time and space. The Gita is Lord Krishna’s answer to him, which He phrased in such a way that it has the ability to solve all problems on a universal scale regardless of the space and time in which they take place. Even though almost ten thousand years have passed since the discourse was first given, the Gita has such a modern approach to life that even now anyone who reads it feels that the advice given to Arjuna has a tremendous bearing on his own particular problem. I was introduced to the Gita at a very young age of 16 years by the great guru Sri Swami Chinmayanandaji. The very first time I heard him speak on the Gita I felt a tremendous thrill pass through me as if some electric current had gone through. Even at that first hearing something resonated within me and I felt that I had come to the end of my search for all the thousands of questions about life that had been buzzing in my mind for many years. Later on as I started reading the Gita on my own, I found that with every reading I discovered more and more valuable information, both of a general kind as well as of a personalised nature! How could any book have such an amazing effect unless it was divinely inspired as indeed it was! It was given through the holy lips of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Incarnation. However old we are in physical years, we are still very immature. Everyone longs for happiness but we all get an equal share of unhappiness as well and we don’t know how to deal with this. We grope about in the dark until we are old and yet we never come to realise our mistakes. It was only after I started practicing the advice of Lord Krishna that I felt that I was indeed nearing my goal. One of the questions which had always bothered me was as to how people who were desperate for happiness always ended up by creating more and more unhappiness for themselves. The Gita gave me the answer. We have been born on this earth and we have to adjust to the rules of this planet. This is a simple truth. When we go and visit someone’s house we have to obey the rules of that house. We cannot try to change the rules to fit our own idea of how a house is run! This is exactly what we have been doing. Even though we have been living on this globe for centuries, we have not been able to understand and adjust to the nature of the world. Scientists may have understood the external aspects of many things which we find in this universe but they have not analysed the root cause of unhappiness which is something that lies in the mind. They think that unhappiness is caused by the external world and they have found many ingenious methods of giving us hundreds of physical comforts which they think will automatically lead to happiness. Had we been purely physical creatures like animals, we might have been blissfully happy with all the physical comforts which modern technology has loaded us with. But we also have an emotional and intellectual side in us which refuse to be wholly content with bodily satisfaction. However we don’t like to accept the fact that we cannot become completely fulfilled with only worldly goods. Having discovered the Gita, I felt I was capable of diagnosing this strange ailment which affects all humanity. The fault lies in our perception and understanding of the nature of the world. We seem to be deliberately refusing to accept the truth which is painfully apparent to the true seer. We have developed a one-sided view of the truth of life and the world. This world is a “world of duality.” Even though this is a fact which we know and experience every day, we have shut our eyes to this fact since it does not fit in with our notion of how we want the world to be. We are determined that with our intellect and our imagination we can overcome this “defect in nature” which we cannot and will not accept. From the time we were born we have been experiencing these different states like happiness and unhappiness, joy and sorrow, good and evil, beauty and ugliness, day and night and so on. We have seen time and time again that everything in nature that we experience has its opposite experience which will come to us whether we want it or not. It is an inevitable fact of life which for some inexplicable reason we refuse to accept. After reading the Gita, I discovered that the major cause for the unhappiness in society is due to the fact that we always focus on the first of these two opposites, suppressing the other. This gives us a one-sided view of life and of values. We want everything that is positive and nothing which appears negative to us but however much we might want it, the world is not going to change its pattern to suit our taste. When we look at a rose and say that we want only the rose and not the thorns we are going against nature because in nature there is nothing that is totally negative or ugly. Everything has a place and purpose. The thorn is kept as a protection for the rose. Without the support of the strong thorn the rose would be in danger. Similarly when we ask for happiness we certainly will never get perfect happiness for the simple reason that happiness and unhappiness are two sides of the same coin of life and we can never have a coin with only one side. These opposites are what are known as counter-correlatives, meaning to say that they cannot exist by themselves. No one can keep smiling for the whole of his life. But the good news is that no one can keep crying for the whole of his life either. This is so with everything in life. We keep on praying and hoping only for one side of the coin, not realising that such a thing does not exist. This was really a great breakthrough in my own life. It changed my whole attitude to life. When I started looking at life from this angle I realised that even though we might never get eternal joy in this world, we will never get eternal sorrow either or eternal damnation!! The river of life keeps flowing with or without our consent or even our participation. If we want to participate we are allowed to do so but if we fight against the current we will bring only misery on ourselves. If we want to be happy participants we will have to accept this dual face of nature. Thus Lord Krishna advises us to accept happiness and unhappiness with equanimity. Be not over elated when happiness comes, nor totally depressed when unhappiness comes as it surely will. This is the most valuable lesson that the Gita taught me. Everything that happens to you during the course of your life has a purpose. Nothing is a coincidence. If I’m given unhappiness I should accept it as a part of the intricate fabric of life which is woven with shades of many colours. How drab it would be to have a carpet which has only one colour. It is the contrasts and contradictions which we have in life that gives it colour and zest and purpose. Not understanding this we keep on asking only for joy and thus end up by making ourselves miserable since it’s obvious that we will never have a life of joy alone. So the first lesson everyone has to learn is the technique of living which the Gita gives, which is to accept the true nature of the world as one of “duality.” The faster you learn to accept this as part of life, the faster we will become contented. But we are constantly trying to twist and mould the nature of the world to fit our personal concept of what is good. We fail to see that every “good” has a “bad” tagging behind it. The more we try to evade this truth, the more complicated we make our own lives and the more sorrow we accumulate. The next and perhaps most important lesson I learnt from the Gita is that Nature has a strange way of and taking and giving. The more we give, the more we get. Even though we may not be able to accept this statement, my life has made me fully aware of this truth. Giving need not necessarily mean the giving of charity or material goods but it could just be the giving of a smile or a kind word at a time when someone really needs it. Another important point which goes along with this, is the fact that if we give with desire to get something in return we may get our desire but we will be given only an equal measure of what we gave. However if we give without any desire for personal benefits, the reward will be far greater than anything we can ever expect. If we give a gift with the hope of getting something in return we will surely get some gift of equal value but if we give a gift of anything — of time, money or love without any expectations of a favourable reward, our results will be enormous. Of course these results may not manifest themselves immediately in our lives but it is hundred percent sure that they will come to you at some time or other when you need them most. I have seen this miracle occur many times in my life. The final thing I learnt from the Gita is something which can be understood only when we start to accept the world as duality and also practice karma without expectation of reward. Equality of vision in the outside world and equanimity of the mind inside are the two things which are stressed in almost all the chapters of the Gita. Once this attitude becomes fixed in us, the charioteer of Arjuna will reveal himself to us. He will show us that He is indeed the divine charioteer who lives in the heart of every creature and directs each one of us along the right path. If we surrender our ego to him as Arjuna did, He has the ability to take us to a glorious victory. Arjuna was an archer and all he was asked was to shoot in the prescribed manner and as advised by his charioteer. “Nimitta maatram bhava”, “Be thou an instrument alone”. This is a clarion call to all of us to forego our ego and become a simple instrument in the divine hands. This is the only way to be victorious in the race of life! Be a flute in the hands of Lord Krishna and divine music will flow through us without any effort on our part. Always remember that in the chariot race of life we have only one travelling companion and that is Krishna!

Hari Aum Tat Sat

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