Overcome discouragement through spiritual wisdom
Gita class at ISKCON, Laguna Beach
Overcome discouragement through Spiritual wisdom
Transcribed by: Argha Maji
So we will discuss today in this weekly Gita programme, the tenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita. The Bhagavad Gita as the name suggests, Gita is song, Bhagavad is of God, the Bhagavad Gita is the song of God. And it is a song, a poetic philosophical composition, that addresses the fundamental questions, that confronts all living beings sooner or later. That question is what is life meant for. What am I meant to do in life. Most of us we go through our lives, guided, shaped, influenced by various factors, external and internal. Sometimes society tells us choose this career, do this type of education, get this kind of job, we may follow that trajectory. And sometimes our own mind tells us common this looks good, let me get this, let me acquire this, let me have this. And in this way we go through our lives. While going through our lives in this way, sooner or later, we face the situation which Arjuna, the student in the Bhagavad Gita faced. He speaks this in the 1st chapter, 30th verse
I did not see the long term good in whatever I am doing. He says that
nimittāni ca paśyāmi viparītāni keśava (BG 1.30 )
He says in the first chapter, 30th verse that whatever I do I am seeing only reversals, I am seeing only misfortunes. So in today’s terminology he is saying that I am facing a lose-lose situation. Whatever I do there doesn’t seem to be any way ahead for me. So his specific situation was that he had to fight a war and because of the opposite side where his relatives, his venerable relatives many of them, felt I can’t fight against them. And thinking thus he decided that I will not fight.
He had his bow which he had raised, ready to fight but on seeing his relatives, he felt I can’t fight against them and put aside his bow. The Bhagavad Gita has eighteen chapters, and the first chapter ends withs Arjuna putting aside his bow.
visrijya sa-śaram cāpam
śoka-samvigna-mānasah ( BG 1.46)
visrijya – put aside his bow, sa-śaram cāpam – bow and arrow, śoka-samvigna – filled with dejection, being filled with indecision and lamentation. So now what followed was not just pep call, C’mon cheer up and fight. If the Bhagavad Gita had just been a call to a disheartened warrior to fight a war it would have not resonated for a millennia for millions across dozens of civilisations and cultures. When Arjuna at this time stops fighting, he doesn’t ask that question alone whether he should fight or not.
pricchāmi tvām dharma-sammūdha-cetāh ( BG 2.7)
I want to know what is dharma. The word dharma often has a religious connotation but the way it is used in the Bhagavad Gita is a universal implication. Dharma means what is our nature. Dharma is the process of harmonizing with our nature. Water is naturally liquid, fire is naturally hot, the sun naturally gives heat and light. And these are the natural states of these corresponding objects. Similarly do we all have any natural state and is there any way by which we can harmonise with our natural state. That process of harmonizing with our natural state is dharma. And because this is a question that all of us get some time or other.
We feel that when we are in an uncomfortable relationship, an incompatible relationship, we feel I am in the wrong place. I shouldnt be here. That may happen with not just a relationship, but can happen with a job, that can happen with a whole way of life. So we all want to be in a situation that seems natural, comfortable. Situation where we feel at home. So we often spend a lot of energy, money and thought in building homes for our body. To have a good house to stay and this is important. But if our heart doesnt have a shelter then we can be homeless at home. We can be in home physically but we can be lost internally, we can be homeless. SO when we talk about being situated in our nature, that is not just about eating natural food or living in a natural setting. All these are good. But it is of being in a natural state of being internally. And the process by which we can attain that natural state of being, that process is dharma. So Bhagvad Gita’s universal appeal is because it deals with this time independent question of human heart. That question is how can I live in harmony with my nature. Socrates across another civilisation, the Greek civilisation, he said “Know thyself.” So now what does this mean? We know the whole process of education, we go to school, and study the purpose is to know. But quite often we come to know about external things.
Once a group of ten friends, came from a rural place to an urban place and there were hundred storey skyscraper buildings. And they got a room in the hundredth storey of such a building. They went up, came down and went for an outing in the city and when they came back they found to their dismay that there was no power. So now the elevator had no power to take them up. So they had to climb up hundred floors. So they looked at each other in daunting faces and then one of them got an idea. He said let us all tell each other stories. And each of us can tell stories that last up to ten floors while they were climbing the stairs. And like that there are ten of us, we can entertain ourselves take our mind of the ardour of climbing up to the hundredth storey. They agreed. The first person started, story went up to ten floors. Second person went on. So some people told longer stories. So by the time they came to the ninety-ninth level, the last person’s turn had come. Please tell your story. No I cant tell my story. It’s a tragedy. No no tell your story, doesn’t matter. This will break your heart, I cant tell my story. Come on tell, everybody is prompting him. Finally he came right in front of the door, and then he said now I have to tell you my story, My story is I have forgotten the key downstairs.
The whole point of climbing up is to get to the room. But if we are so busy climbing up, that we forget after climbing up there is something that we need without which the whole climb becomes pointless. Similarly in our life, we climb up various ladders. We climb up the social ladder, where we get more and more respectable positions. We may climb up the economic ladder where we earn more and more money. We climb up the educational ladder, where we get better and better degrees. And all these climbs can lead to growth. But there is something which is required and that is the key. And the key is the art of finding inner happiness. Unless we can find inner happiness, no matter how much we climb up, we will not be happy. Whatever talents we have, we need to do justice to those talents. Bhagvad Gita actually invites us to act according to our nature and to fulfil our potential. At the same time it tells us that
atyantam sukham aśnute
6th chapter 28th verse Krishna says That when we turn inwards, when we understand and experience spiritual reality, brahma-samsparśam at that time, atyantam sukham aśnute, we experience supreme happiness. So to the extent we are internally satisfied to that extent we can be positive contributors externally. Internal satisfaction it gives us a stable foundation by which we can perform externally. Suppose somebody has to dance, there are special dancing floors where people can perform expertly and dance. Now suppose instead of a very conducive dancing floor there is instead a very slippery jerky uncomfortable floor then the dancer more than half of the energy will go in the staying of foot and dancing will become much more difficult. So the foundation is vital for dancing well. Similarly our inner stability our inner satisfaction is the foundation that enables us to perform externally. Without that inner satisfaction whatever we do, that will if we have talent, if we have temperament, there may be achievement in our life. But that achievement will not be sustainable. Martin Luther king said that we live in an age of guided missiles and misguided men. Guided missiles, we have climbed up the ladder of technological progress and almost half a century ago there were missiles. Now there are far more devastating weapons and they can be guided with far greater precision. But still the other part of it misguided men. We have people, who just a few couple of months ago there was an airplane in Europe. The airpilot, he was depressed and he wanted to die with a bang. So what did he do, he took this plane perfectly normal plane and crashd into the ground. And all the passengers died. And he had locked the co pilot outside and nobosy could do anything about it.
Now whenever people enter into aircrafts, there are security checks to ensure that there are no terrorists with bombs or no such dangerous items there. But what can we do if people have a bomb in their head. If a pilot is carrying a bomb in his head, the self destructive mentality which also becomes not just individually destructive but also socially destructive. Then that is a blatant example of climbing up the ladder but missing out the key. One may become an expert pilot, but instead of flying people expertly one destroys people expertly. These are of course sensational eye catching jaw dropping examples. But they are indicative of a fundamental malaise in society. The WHO states that one million people commit suicide every year. And that is just the recorded number of suicides. So even within this set of recorded number one million amounts to something like 40 suicides every thirty minutes or something like that.
So practically since we have started this talk, there are around fifty people who have committed suicide in different parts of the world. And this number of people committing suicide, 1 million is actually greater than the number of people who are killed either in wars or in murders or in any violent crimes. That means more than the number of people, who are killed by others are the number of people who are killing themselves. Why is that? So WHO called suicide a tragic social health problem for which there is no known cure. There is of counselling can and should be given for who are meant to be suicidal but there is a fundamental malaise. There are people who may be in extreme physical pain for which they may choose euthanasia. But most people who commit suicide it is not just because they are in physical pain. Just at that time, they feel their life has become pointless. That they had come to what Arjuna had come to. A lose-lose situation. That they come to a point where there doesn’t seem to be any way ahead. nimittāni ca paśyāmi viparītāni keśava (BG 1.30)Whatever I do, things are only to become worse. And when a person comes to that situation, that person may feel it is better to end my life. What is the point of living like this?
The Bhagavad Gita answers Arjuna’s questions by expanding his vision of his self. Our self runs deeper than the body, and our self runs longer than our lifespan. The Bhagavad Gita tells us that we are not just physical creatures. Yes our body is a part of who we are. But at our core our existence is beyond the body. We are spiritual beings. Essentially, the body, the hand, the eyes or even the brain is made of the same atoms and molecules, that this mic is made up of or this desk is made up of. And yet this mic or this desk they are not conscious. Whereas we are conscious. And consciousness is not something which matter can produce. Matter and consciousness are two distinct categories. And consciousness has a non material source.
avināśi tu tad viddhi
yena sarvam idam tatam
na kaścit kartum arhati (BG 2.17)
In the Bhagavad Gita, 2nd chapter, 17th chapter Krishna states that avināśi tu tad viddhi – that which pervades the whole body, O arjuna know that to be indestructible. And that is the consciousness and consciousness is the energy of the soul. So sometimes, if people are very passionate about certain sports, so for example here people are very passionate about soccer or baseball. I come from India where people are passionate about cricket. So below India there is a small nation, Sri Lanka. And Sri Lanka is also quite passionate about cricket. So Sri Lankan cricket team in several tournaments for five successive times, it came to the finals and lost in the finals. The fifth time when it lost in the finals, something like several hundred people in Sri lanka committed suicide. Because they felt our favourite team has lost. So now , OK in sports losing is normal, but why one has to commit suicide. If a team has lost, it has lost, fine. But what has happened is that the people’s mind get so attached so caught so obsessed in that sports. They feel if a team has lost, what is the point of my life. Now we may see, why would somebody do like this? But we can consider how misidentification can lead to misperception. Misidentification means suppose people are watching a movie, now when people are watching movies. Essentially people will say I like a movie or I don’t like a movie. There are various factors. But one of the factors is whether the spectators can connect to the characters on the movie or not. Whether spectators like the hero or the heroine, so if they can connect then they get caught in the movie. And say the hero and the villain are fighting and then the villain punches the hero. And then the people because they identify with the hero they will look back in shock and when the hero and heroine embrace each other people cheer. So what is happening here, identification. Now with identification with something there are emotions which are created. And suppose if a person is playing a virtual game in which a person is a car driver. The car is good ng across a bridge and suddenly the bridge breaks. And then the person falls with the car. When a person is very absorbed in watching a video game, just as a car driver falls to his death the person will feel as if I have died. To the extent there is identification to what is being observed to that extent there is the emotional impact. Based on whatever is happening to the character whom are identifying. So the Bhagavad Gita explains similarly on the 13th chapter , 22th verse
purushah prakriti-stho hi
bhuńkte prakriti-jān gunān
kāranam guna-sańgo ‘sya
sad-asad-yoni-janmasu ( BG 13.22)
purushah prakriti-stho hi – we as souls are spiritual . we are indestructible. We are beyond the body. But we identify with the body. Our sense of self worth gets lo ked in the body. And when that happens. When something goes wrong at the physical level, we feel as if things are collapsing for us.
Our own world is collapsing. So when Arjuna feels that he is confronted with a lose-lose situation its like say a person is watching a movie and the movie is going towards a tragedy where whatever the hero does, the hero is going to die. So Krishna says that first thing is know that it is a movie, not reality. Understand your spiritual identity.
Albert Einstein said that problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created the problems. So the Bhagavad Gita doesn’t try to deal with the Arjuna’s problem, should I fight or not. It says this is not the fundamental question you should be asking. The fundamental question you should be asking is who are you. Understand that. Just like in Maths if you are doing a complex calculation, if you do the first step wrong, everything else you may do, even if it is precisely done the result will not come out right.
The fundamental question before we can understand our destiny, we have to understand our identity. And when we understand our identity that we are spiritual beings then we can deak with material ups and downs without undue frustration without undue agitation. So now when I use the example of a movie, the Bhagavad Gita doesn’t dismiss the life and the world as false. Ok the movie is just show there is no reality to it. The Bhagavad Gita doesn’t say that we have to reject the world as if it is false. What it tell us is that we should not let the world consume our consciousness. We have to give the world our attention but we should not give the world monopoly over our attention. We have a life that extends beyond the world. We have an existence which will go beyond our birth and death. Between them is our present life. But we as souls will continue to exist after our death and we had existed before we were born. So the end is actually not the end. The end is simply a transition. This long term vision of life transforms Arjuna’s perspective of looking at things. Arjuna is able to see things from higher perspective. Supppse a person is caught in a disaster hit area. Maybe there is a hurricane and the whole communication network, the electricity, food supply, water supply everything has collapsed. The person is in a great panic. Maybe there is a nearby building which has caught fire. And now the person is in a panic, not knowing what to do, feeling threatened. But then a rescue helicopter comes and drops a rope, the person is airlifted up. Now the person is still in the same area but on being airlifted up the person no longer feels that sense of personal threat. There is fire and if I can do something to extinguish the fire then I will do that but I am now being airlifted. So same way when we understand our spiritual identity our consciousness becomes raised above our circumstances. So we can be concerned without being disturbed. We can be concerned, its not that we are irresponsible and we reject the whole world as false. It’s not Bhagavad Gita’s message. Bhagavad Gita tells Arjuna to act responsibly but while telling him to act responsibly, the Bhagavad Gita tells him that a part of acting responsibly in the world is to not let the world consume us. If we get too obsessed in the things of the world then we lose perspective. When we lose perspective then we cannot act intelligently, we cannot act coherently. So the spiritual dimension of life which Bhagavad Gita reveals that if we understand it then our consciousness gets airlifted above our circumstances. And when it is airlifted we may still face problems, but those problems, we can be concerned about them without being consumed by them. And the Bhagavad Gita ends with Arjuna lifting up his bow. The Bhagavad Gita ends as
yatra yogeśvarah krishno
yatra pārtho dhanur-dharah
tatra śrīr vijayo bhūtir
dhruvā nītir matir mama ( BG 18.78)
It says that wherever there is Krishna, who is the supreme mystic, who is the supreme magician, yogeśvarah, and yatra pārtho dhanur-dharah, Partha is a name of Arjuna, dhanur-dharah, one who had picked up his bow. So where there is Krishna and Arjuna, there will be victory.
So the point is Arjuna had picked up his bow. So the bow which he had put down, dejected, by the end he has picked out again. So what does it mean, that bow represents our determination, when we face predicaments in life, we lose heart. We put down our metaphorical bow, we think what to do, there is no way ahead, we become dejected. But when we understand there is spiritual side to our life, that spiritual side is indestructible. That is never affected by what happens in life’s material side. Then we can face whatever happens in the material face of life without being unduly disturbed. And the spiritual reality is not just our own spiritual identity, yes that is one part of it. But another part of it is that we have a relationship of spiritual love with the supreme spiritual being and that spiritual being is revealed in the Bhagavad Gita to be Krishna.
yatra yogeśvarah krishno
yatra pārtho dhanur-dharah
So when we understand that there is God, who Bhagavad Gita tells us that’s God’s love for us is unconditional, there is nothing anyone can ever do that can stop Krishna from loving them. He will always be there for us.
sarvasya cāham hridi sannivishto (BG 15.15)
He is always there in our hearts closer than the closest person can ever be even when that person gives us the tightest hug. So Krishna is always there in our hearts and he always loves us. And the Bhagavad Gita doesn’t just offer an abstract analysis. O understand, you are not the body, you are the the soul. It offers us a practical process for experiencing spiritual reality. And that process is the process of bhakti yoga. Bhakti yoga enables us to direct our love towards Krishna. So we were singing the holy names before we started this talk. This singing is also yoga and this is the part of the bhakti yoga where we use sound. Just now we were discussing philosophy by which we are using our intelligence to understand what is going on. So we use the intelligence to get some conception of our spiritual identity. But just as our intelligence can help to elevate our understanding similarly the sound of mantras, mantras are special sounds which act like elevators for our consciousness. Our consciousness which is caught at the material level, if we chant mantras, if we sing mantras, if we meditate on the mantras then our consciousness gets elevated more and more upwards. And we become airlifted by the power of mantras. and we experience higher spiritual reality, we experience the spiritual love of God for each one of us. So we can chant mantras, sing and dance and when all of that is done prayerfully gives us an experience of some higher reality.
So there are two kinds of blindness, I will conclude with this point. Then we can have some questions. There are two kinds of blindness. One is congenital blindness and other is adventitious blindness. Congenital blindness means people are blind right from birth. They have never seen anything and the other is adventitious blindness. where people had sight but because of some reason they have lost sight. Now people who have lost sight regain sight they can make sense of the world. But people who were blind right from birth and then after that they gain their sight for the first time because of medical advances or someone donating their eye whatever, they get sight but they don’t gain comprehension.
There are videos which show that a carpenter, he has his tools maybe knife, hammer and gets sight and he looks at his tools but nothing makes sense. I read a first person account. That person said when the doctor opened the bandage from my eyes, I looked and all that I saw was just a confusing muddle of black and white colours. And then I heard a voice from that. Now because I knew that voices came from faces, so I thought that this must be the face. And the same video shows that this carpenter sees a hammer and “what is this, it doesn’t make sense. ” but as soon as he touches it he understands that this is hammer and works with it. So the point is we don’t see just by getting the eyes to see. we see when we get the intelligence to make sense of what we are seeing. So because those people who have got the eyes for the first time they have had no previous experience of visual perception and that’s why they had no context in which to make sense of the visual data entering through their eyes. It. Is only when they touch with their hands.
So we don’t see just with our eyes. We see with the intelligence that enables us to make sense of what we see. And the same principle applies to the spiritual quest. So anybody who tries to prayerfully meditate, devotionally sing the mahamantra Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, anyone who does this that person will experience something special. Experience some feeling of relief, some feeling of joy, some feeling of upliftment. So that experience will be there but unless we have a philosophical context we will not be able to make sense of it. OK I went to a temple, I sang, danced, felt good and then let me go on with my life. But if we have a philosophical context then we will understand that this experience which we had, is actually an experience of spiritual love. Just as if we have intelligence then we can make sense of what we are seeing with our eyes, similarly when we study the spiritual wisdom, the spiritual sound of mantras act as an elevator for our consciousness. It helps us get relief and release from whatever stress and burden we may be having in our life. But why are at getting it, how can we replicate it, how can we make it a sustainable relief and release. All that if we have to understand and experience then we need a philosophical context. And that is what the Bhagavad Gita offers. Bhagavad Gita tells Arjuna not to bother so much about whether he should fight or not fight. Understand your nature and act according to your nature.
So Krishna is the speaker in the Bhagavad Gita and Krishna finishes speaking in 18.72. Krishna finishes with a question. He asks Arjuna if he had understood what Krishna has spoken.
kaccid etac chrutam pārtha
pranashtas te dhanañjaya ( BG 18.72)
He asks Arjuna if his illusion is gone and has he understood what Krishna has spoken.
Arjuna doesn’t say that, Yes I am going to fight now. His response is karishye vacanam tava . I will do your will. He is not concerned whether he is going to fight or not. The act of fighting is incidental. The important principle he had learnt is to live in harmony with the divine will. I will do your will. So that harmonising with our higher nature which is actually or spiritual nature, which links in love with Krishna. That is the universal message. We are not going to fight wars in the physical sense. But we all have to fight wars inside us. There are negative thoughts, self defeating inner dialogues that go on inside us. If we look at ourselves we will find that often there is a voice within which sabotages us. We start doing something good and the voice starts saying, You will never be able to do anything good.
Suppose someone is carrying a glass of water and by chance that person slips and the water spills. So OK it has to be cleaned. But the voice will say, you are a careless fool. And if we go for an interview and we are not able to pass the interview, the voice says you are never going to do anything in life. From one mistake to a whole judgement about one’s life, this is how this inner voice sabotages us. So we all have to fight battle against the negativity which is inside us.
prakriti-sthāni karshati (BG 15.7)
The Bhagavad Gita says that we are all fighting against our own mind, we are struggling against it. So when we learn to harmonise with the divine will, just as Arjuna got empowered to fight and eventually he attained victory, similarly the spiritual wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita can empower each one of us in our inner battles and move forwards towards victory.
I will summarise. I started by talking about how the Bhagavad Gita’s universal appeal is not because it is a manual for a warrior to fight but rather it is a address to the universal question what am I meant to do in life. And the Bhagavad Gita says us to act according to our own nature. So what am I meant to do in life. And it begins by telling us that when we are facing a lose-lose situation, I explained how with respect to lose-lose situation, like if we can climb up, like the ten people who climbed the hundred stories but forgot the key downstairs, we can climb up to success in various aspects of our life, but if we don’t have inner happiness, then our external successes would be hollow and unproductive. And we see this in terms of say we have guided missiles, but misguided men. So what does it mean to find inner happiness. That firstly means understanding our spiritual identity. If we don’t understand our spiritual identity then we take externals too seriously. Just like the cricket fans committing suicide because their favourite team lost the match, or a person playing a video game and the car driver falling to death and the person getting a traumatic shock. This is due to excessive misidentification.
So the Bhagavad Gita says if we let the world have monopoly over our attention, monopoly over our consciousness, then we get battered up the ups and downs of the world. But if we understand our spiritual identity then we can hold on to our perspective and respond maturely to life’s ups and downs. The inner satisfaction is like for a person who wants to dance, a good dancing floor. So if we have inner satisfaction, whatever we want to do in life, we can do that better. And that inner satisfaction comes when we understand and experience our spiritual identity. When we understand that we as souls are indestructible, we become airlifted above the agitating circumstances of life so that we can be concerned but not disturbed.
I explained towards the end how the Bhagavad Gita concludes not so much with the rejection of the world but connection with the higher reality. So Arjuna who had become disheartened, he became encouraged once again. Similarly, we may become disheartened in life but when we understand life’s spiritual wisdom, our spiritual side then we would become reheartened. And especially if we understand our spiritual relationship with Krishna, if we understand the unflinching nature of his love, and we experience the higher happiness by connecting with him. The mantra is like an elevator for our consciousness, and we will experience relief and release by chanting these mantras. But just as we need not only eyes to see but intelligence to make sense of what is entering to our eyes, similarly, when we experience something good by chanting mantras, if we have a philosophical understanding of what we are experiencing, then the study of the Bhagavad Gita will be sustainably transformational to enable us to experience life at a higher level of consciousness. And Arjuna when he was combined with Krishna, the Bhagavad Gita concludes that he was victorious, so similarly whatever battles we face, especially with the negative self sabotaging voices within us, we will be able to overcome those voices, win our inner battles and attain outer victories. Thank you very much. Are there any questions?