14.26 – The unemotional emotionality of the Gita
Some readers of the Bhagavad-gita are struck by a paradox: “The Gita asks us to be neutral towards emotions like happiness and distress. But it also recommends bhakti, which is, through and through, an emotion. How can we be both unemotional and emotional?
By being unemotional materially and emotional spiritually, answers Gita wisdom.
The Bhagavad-gita explains that we are souls who have an emotionally rich life with Krishna at the spiritual level. Presently however, we are misidentifying with our temporary material bodies. This misidentification cuts us off from spiritual emotions and fills us with material emotions.
We are like movie spectators who identify with a movie character, and so become cut off from their real life emotions and get filled with reel-life emotions. To return to normalcy, the spectators need to stop being emotionally involved in the movie and start having emotionally stimulating exchanges with others in real life. The Gita recommends these same two steps by urging us to be unemotional materially and emotional spiritually.
Most of us are too materially entangled to access spiritual emotions immediately. So, we need a path and process to raise our emotions from the material to the spiritual. The Gita paves the path through the analysis in its fourteenth chapter of how the three modes of material nature trigger various material emotions within us. Emotions in goodness are the most conducive for activating spiritual emotions, so we need to harmonize our lifestyle with the mode of goodness. Then, we can transcend even goodness and unemotionally observe the arrival and departure of various material emotions in our consciousness.
As the most practical process to traverse this path, the Gita exhorts (14.26) us to practice consistent and constant devotional service. By activating our spiritual emotions, devotional service makes tolerating and transcending material emotions easier and faster.