02.56 – When neither the summits nor the valleys matter…
The Bhagavad-gita’s repeated instruction (as in 02.56) to stay equipoised amidst pleasure and pain seems puzzling to many people. It is especially antipodal to the modern sporting ethos, wherein the winner is elated and the loser, devastated.
The Gita doesn’t ask us to become unemotional, but instead to invest our emotions in something far greater than winning and losing at the material level, which after all is temporary. When the material level is all that we can see, the difference between successes and failures seems to be everything, just as when one is on the ground. the difference between a summit and a valley seems to be everything. But for a bird flying high in the sky, the sights are far grander and higher; the differences between the summits and the valleys, though noticeable, are not life-defining.
Gita wisdom offers us the wings to fly high in the sky of spiritual experience. By providing us the process of devotional service, it enables us to relish emotions far deeper and richer than those experienced at the material level. As souls, we all have an eternal loving relationship with Krishna. Every moment offers us an opportunity to grow in our love for him by remembering him internally and serving him externally, and to thereby fly higher and higher in the sky of exhilarating devotional experiences.
But if we let ourselves become obsessed with material emotions, then we never take off from the ground or keep landing back there. By concentrating our emotions in our relationship with Krishna, we still pass over the summits just as a flying bird passes over them, but we don’t get caught in them. Thus we attain successes at the material level, but we also attain something far greater and stabler: eternal love for Krishna.