Gita Jayanti special_ Gita’s message for hope amid hardship
On the sacred occasion of Gita Jayanti, I would like to contemplate how the Bhagavad-gita’s message is immensely relevant to all of us because it is a message of hope amid hardship. I will talk about it in terms of three key terms and one broad context.
The Gita’s purpose
Jiva Goswami explains that we can understand the essence of a book by looking at what comes in the start and what comes in the end.
The first instructive words spoken by Krishna in Bhagavad-gita are in (02.11). Before that, he has spoken in (01.25), (02.02), and (02.03), but those are more descriptive or indicative or friendly words. The first instructive philosophical words come in (02.11).
aśocyān anvaśocas tvaṁ
prajñā-vādāṁś ca bhāṣase
gatāsūn agatāsūṁś ca
So, the first word ‘aśocyān’ means ‘not worth lamenting.’
And the last instructive word spoken by Krishna is (18.66). He speaks some more verses afterward, which are the glorification of the Gita, and he asks Arjuna a question in his concluding verse in (18.72), but the last instructing words are (18.66).
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
‘mā śucaḥ’ means do not lament.
In essence, the Gita starts by saying that whatever we are lamenting is not worth lamenting; whatever we are in agony about or distressed about is not worth getting distressed about. And lastly, it says do not be distressed. This is akin to a doctor telling a patient who is terribly upset about something, “Oh! I am in so much pain. I might have cancer. I might be going to die.” The doctor says, “This is not worth worrying.” Then the doctor explains why it is not worth worrying, and finally concludes by saying, “Do not worry.”
So how does the Gita give us this message that the things that we are getting disturbed are not worth getting so disturbed up about?
I will explain the Gita’s message in three T’s. Let’s look at the first T
The Gita states that the things that get us worked up are all temporary.
mātrā-sparśās tu kaunteya (02.14)
The Gita says the contact between the senses and the sense objects just comes and goes. The thing that is disturbing us today, six months later or one year later, we will not be so disturbed about it. How do we know that? We can look back at something that disturbed us one year ago or five years ago; we may not even remember that thing. If we have some journal or if somebody tells us that we were so disturbed at that time about that thing, we will wonder: “Was it really worth getting so disturbed about?” Even the worst of problems that we may face whether they are in terms of health, relationships or finance, whatever it is – they all are temporary. Do not get too worked up about them, Krishna says. Does that mean that we do not care about anything at all? No, that brings us to the second T.
Timeless is God and timeless is God’s love for us and timeless is God’s plan for our ultimate well-being. In (5.29) in the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna says suhṛdaṁ sarva-bhūtānāṁ. That he is the well-wisher of all living beings. Ups and downs are happening in this world, but through all those ups and downs, Krishna is always working for our well-being. He is within our hearts, and he is guiding us.
hṛd-deśe ’rjuna tiṣṭhati (18.61)
Whether we are devoted to him or not devoted to him, he is still our greatest well-wisher. The Gita urges us to focus on that timeless reality through contemplating and practicing yoga, especially bhakti yoga which directly gives us access to God and God’s infinitely loving heart through the connection of love. That brings us to the last T.
Basically, we need to turn from the temporary to the timeless. And what do we need for that? Tolerance.
Tolerance is sometimes misunderstood to be passivity. But the Gita is not talking about tolerance in those terms. The Gita, for example, tells Arjuna to tolerate ‘tāṁs titikṣasva bhārata.’ But what must be tolerated? The Gita is not saying to Arjuna, ‘Oh! The Kauravas have committed atrocities; just tolerate them.’ No. While doing one’s duty in the mood of service to God, while turning from the temporary to the timeless, there will be some pain in giving up the temporary. Consider what this means for Arjuna. In fighting against Drona who is Arjuna’s guru and in fighting against Bhishma who is his grandfather. Arjuna may feel some pain. But if that is the price required to do God’s will for the ultimate welfare of the world, then Arjuna should tolerate that.
Thus, tolerance means keep small things small so that we can keep big things big. It does not mean to let big things go away from us. For this, we need to first understand.
What are the small things in life?
What are the big things in life?
The wisdom that the Bhagavad-gita provides all of us says that the temporary things are small and the timeless things are big. While navigating the temporary, how can we link with the timeless? That sometimes requires us to change our mindset, our disposition, and sometimes it may require us to change our situation, but the focus is on how we can connect with God. To have this tolerance, we need to remember that there will never be any perfect situation in the world, there will always be a trade-off. We will always have to settle for a less-than-satisfactory situation in this world, but if in that situation we are steadily making a connection with God then we are going towards a destination of ultimate peace and joy. We will find relief and rejuvenation even in this world by turning from the temporary toward the timeless and ultimately, we will be united in Krishna’s eternal embrace for a life of unending joy.
To summarize, the Gita provides us hope amid hardship by guiding us to turn away from the temporary to the timeless through tolerance.
End of Transcription.