God proposes, Man Accepts

by January 30, 2012

“Man proposes, God disposes.” This was the frustration of the Romans, the Babylonians, the Aztecs – indeed of all humanity— since time immemorial.

Most people try to tackle this existential dilemma by trying to in­crease their ability to control their situations by acquiring wealth, power, knowledge, fame, beauty and even renunciation. Though these opulences seem to give us control over our lives and surroundings, they themselves are beyond our control – and so they end up increasing our an­xiety instead of decreasing it.

The Bhagavad­gita (BG) offers a drama­tically different remedy for this existential perplexity: God proposes, man accepts. Accepting reversals faith­ fully and gracefully as the inconceivable but benevolent will of the Lord is a teaching common to almost all major religions. The prayer of Jesus, “Let Thy will be done, not mine” is a celebrated example. The Bhagavad­gita offers a solid intellectual springboard and a well­defined spiritual trajectory for this leap of faith. German Noble Lau­reate Herman Hess admired the Gita’s unique synthesis of philoso­phy and religion, “The marvel of the Bhagavad­gita is its truly beautiful revelation of life’s wisdom which enables philosophy to blossom into religion.”

This extraordinarily empowering Gita perspective is:

1. We are not gross bodies or subtle minds, but are eternal souls BG (7.4­5). Therefore the sufferings due to the mind, the body and their extensions – relatives and friends, possessions and positions – no matter how devastating, do not deprive us of our essential spiri­tual identity and purpose in life – to revive our loving relationship with God. Knowing that we have a changeless core, which can al­ways bring us inner happiness, is a source of tremendous strength when everything around us seems to be falling apart. BG(2.13­16)

2. The Lord, our Supreme Father, out of unconditional love for us, creates and maintains the entire material world by arranging for all

the universal necessities such as heat and light. He further maintains the material body – the vehicle for material pleasure—by keeping all the bodily functions such as digestion in proper order. BG (15.12­14)

3. All events in the material world occur as per the universal laws of action and reaction. Reversals don’t come upon us by cruel chance, but are a result of our own past misdeeds – either in this or earlier lives. A mature understanding of the impartial law of karma, far from being psychologically damaging, is empowering, as it re­veals to us that we still have control over our lives. By harmonizing with the universal laws of action, as explained in the God­given scriptures, we have the power to create a bright future for ourselves, no matter how bleak the present may seem to be.

4. For those unflinchingly devoted to the Lord, things don’t happen due to karmic laws alone. The Lord personally orchestrates the events in the lives of His devotees so that they are most expeditiously elevated to the platform of unlimited, eternal, spiritual happiness. BG(12.6­7) Indeed, for the faithful the Lord transforms material adversity into spiritual prosperity. An intelligent transcendentalist is therefore able to see a painful reversal as a spiritual catharsis performed by the Lord to free him from the shackles of the lower self and to unleash the potential of the higher self, just as a surgery, though painful, frees the body from dangerous infection and promotes the re­covery of health. This spiritual surrender awakens our dor­mant love of God, which en­ables us to use all our talents and resources to act as instru­ments of God’s compassion for all living beings. This divine love is the ultimate achieve­ment of life; it conquers even death, for it continues eternally after bodily death in the highest abode, the spiritual world, our eternal home.

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