God proposes, Man Accepts
“Man proposes, God disposes.” This was the frustration of the Romans, the Babylonians, the Aztecs – indeed of all humanity— since time immemorial.
Most people try to tackle this existential dilemma by trying to increase their ability to control their situations by acquiring wealth, power, knowledge, fame, beauty and even renunciation. Though these opulences seem to give us control over our lives and surroundings, they themselves are beyond our control – and so they end up increasing our anxiety instead of decreasing it.
The Bhagavadgita (BG) offers a dramatically different remedy for this existential perplexity: God proposes, man accepts. Accepting reversals faith fully and gracefully as the inconceivable but benevolent will of the Lord is a teaching common to almost all major religions. The prayer of Jesus, “Let Thy will be done, not mine” is a celebrated example. The Bhagavadgita offers a solid intellectual springboard and a welldefined spiritual trajectory for this leap of faith. German Noble Laureate Herman Hess admired the Gita’s unique synthesis of philosophy and religion, “The marvel of the Bhagavadgita is its truly beautiful revelation of life’s wisdom which enables philosophy to blossom into religion.”
This extraordinarily empowering Gita perspective is:
1. We are not gross bodies or subtle minds, but are eternal souls BG (7.45). Therefore the sufferings due to the mind, the body and their extensions – relatives and friends, possessions and positions – no matter how devastating, do not deprive us of our essential spiritual identity and purpose in life – to revive our loving relationship with God. Knowing that we have a changeless core, which can always bring us inner happiness, is a source of tremendous strength when everything around us seems to be falling apart. BG(2.1316)
2. The Lord, our Supreme Father, out of unconditional love for us, creates and maintains the entire material world by arranging for all
the universal necessities such as heat and light. He further maintains the material body – the vehicle for material pleasure—by keeping all the bodily functions such as digestion in proper order. BG (15.1214)
3. All events in the material world occur as per the universal laws of action and reaction. Reversals don’t come upon us by cruel chance, but are a result of our own past misdeeds – either in this or earlier lives. A mature understanding of the impartial law of karma, far from being psychologically damaging, is empowering, as it reveals to us that we still have control over our lives. By harmonizing with the universal laws of action, as explained in the Godgiven scriptures, we have the power to create a bright future for ourselves, no matter how bleak the present may seem to be.
4. For those unflinchingly devoted to the Lord, things don’t happen due to karmic laws alone. The Lord personally orchestrates the events in the lives of His devotees so that they are most expeditiously elevated to the platform of unlimited, eternal, spiritual happiness. BG(12.67) Indeed, for the faithful the Lord transforms material adversity into spiritual prosperity. An intelligent transcendentalist is therefore able to see a painful reversal as a spiritual catharsis performed by the Lord to free him from the shackles of the lower self and to unleash the potential of the higher self, just as a surgery, though painful, frees the body from dangerous infection and promotes the recovery of health. This spiritual surrender awakens our dormant love of God, which enables us to use all our talents and resources to act as instruments of God’s compassion for all living beings. This divine love is the ultimate achievement of life; it conquers even death, for it continues eternally after bodily death in the highest abode, the spiritual world, our eternal home.