02.45 – Be flexible, but not fickle

by August 23, 2013

As students of the Gita, we may face this question. “How can we live according to the Gita’s ancient tradition in today’s world?”

By being flexible but not fickle.

Being fickle means changing our actions based on the moods of the mind, doing whatever recommendation of the Gita feels good and avoiding whatever doesn’t feel good. By being fickle, we stay stuck on the mental level without rising to the spiritual level.

Being flexible, on the other hand, means adjusting our behavior according to time-place-circumstance by clearly understanding what is essential and what is peripheral in the tradition.

The Bhagavad-gita points to such focusing on the essential when it urges Arjuna (02.45) to rise beyond the Vedic rituals that are material, being within the three modes. This verse concludes with a call to become atmavan – the possessor of the soul.

When we are ourselves the soul, what does being a possessor of the soul mean?

It means staying conscious of our spiritual identity and choosing our actions so that our spiritual consciousness becomes strengthened, not weakened. We don’t change the essential spiritual practices such as mantra meditation and scriptural study, because such monkeying with the tradition will injure our spiritual health. But that which is peripheral – certain cultural specifics, for example – can be adjusted so that we don’t exhaust our limited energy in fighting over externals, and so are left with no energy for the internals.

Being a possessor of the soul doesn’t imply mere abstract theoretical mentation about the soul. It implies concrete practical action in devotional service to Krishna, for such service is the real life of the soul. The more we internalize this attitude of service, praying, “Krishna, how can I serve you best?” the more we will gradually gain, by Krishna’s grace, the insight to focus on the essential.


The Vedas deal mainly with the subject of the three modes of material nature. O Arjuna, become transcendental to these three modes. Be free from all dualities and from all anxieties for gain and safety, and be established in the self.

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