- Gita is for the Youth
Bhagavad-Gita was told by Krishna to Arjun who at that point of time was in his prime. Arjun was young, inquisitive, energetic, enthusiastic, adventurous and enterprising. These are essential qualities that represent the youth. Gita, therefore, naturally is meant for the young.
- Simplicity is the hallmark of Gita
Gita has a simple beginning. There is great depth in Gita, but it is obtained and attained by simple conversations. No conditions are attached. No high sounding sermons appear. The book starts with a simple question, a simple request, and a simple desire.
- Gita is an art of crisis management
The first chapter ends with the title of "Arjuna’s vishad yoga". The closest English word to vishad is despair. Depression and crisis come close too. Can vishad be yoga? The more I think of it the more I feel that perhaps this is the best way to manage a crisis. If you really look at the situation at the end of chapter I, it is pretty dismal. There is a crisis inside of a crisis. War is a crisis itself. The Pandavas and the Kauravas are at the beginning of a war. The formalities have been completed. The war has been declared by blowing of the concshells. And, Arjuna goes numb. He does not want to fight. He has put down his bow and is prepared to die if that comes of it. How bad can it get? And the Bhagvadgita says it is yoga (vishad yoga).
What makes it yoga? The view that Gita is presenting here is that every crisis has a hidden opportunity for growth. A crisis has occurred. If you have come across a crisis, you can relate to it as well. And who has not had a crisis of some sort or the other. Yes, a crisis does create opportunities, and here although the situation at the end of the first chapter of Gita looks dismal, the writer sees a tremendous opportunity for growth of Arjuna's being. Arjuna is in a state of being as low as it can get for him. He is shaking, he can’t hold on to his bow, but his receptivity is heightened. His awareness is razor sharp. And above all, all this is happening in the presence of Krishna’s divine presence.
What happens in any crisis is that the comfort zone is lost. Crisis is not hard to find. It happens all around us. Sometimes it is a car accident and sometimes it is death in the family. Sometimes one is fired from an job and sometimes a business goers bankrupt. We live and die through multitude of crisis situations. Vishad can be an opportunity for growth. And this can only happen if you can keep your awareness and alertness fully ready. Normally, when a crisis happens, we loose our mind and create another crisis and so on. Why me? What did I do wrong in my past life? God is angry with me. If we can get past these approaches, then anything is possible. Even sky is not the limit. If you can keep your cool and deal with the crisis as a situation (and not as a problem), vishad can lead to yoga; it can become the path towards the center. Crisis is a situation, crisis is easy to find and crisis can bring kranti (revolution) in ones life.
- Gita is a message for Freedom
We all know that Krishna was born in Jail. The locks of the Jail all broke. The doors were flung open. The guards fell asleep. The night was dark and it was raining outside. The birth of Krishna was a sign that freedom is here. Krishna’s birth appears to be synonymous with liberty in his times. His whole life is a living example of freedom. How can any one imprison a person like Krishna?
There are two expressions in Sanskrit, Swatantrata (freedom of express) and Swachandata (freedom of disruptive expression). Krishna was definitely against the latter form of expression.
How do you then define what is freedom of expression (Swatantrata) and what is freedom of disruptive expression (swachandata).This is a question we face today as well. Is terrorism an expression of freedom? Krishna does not believe in freedom of disruptive expression. This freedom of disruptive expression is the root cause of terrorism and cannot be condoned at any cost.
Gita is a guide and Guru for this. Krishna wants a society of sthitapragyas to decide what is right and what is wrong. The state of being has to change. That is why Krishna talks about gyan yoga, Buddhi yoga and karma yoga. Buddhi yoga is the cornerstone here. The clarity, Ek-buddhi, and Nishcaltattva are important factors. Krishna is committed to freedom of expression. But he does put conditions on the leaders. Arjun needs to understand what is expected of him. It is not only to fight and win. Arjun needs to get to the clarity of Buddhi yoga as well.
- Gita is a formula for success
Yogah Karmashu Kaushalam
Arjun was successful individual. After Bhagavad-Gita he becomes more successful. There are many aspects of Gita that contributed to his success. Let us understand the Karma Yoga in brief here.
There are many definitions of yoga. Krishna’s definition is so practical. Yoga should make us work efficiently. How do we bring efficiency in our work? There are several modern concepts of how to become efficient. It usually revolves around decreasing waste and increasing productivity. Lean thinking is one of the concepts of reducing waste. Krishna’s karma yoga deals with these issues right here in Bhagavad-Gita. Let us try to explore it here.
Let us recapitulate on three important aspects of Karma Yoga:
- Results are not in our hand (2:47)
- Accepting of results (4:22)
- Karmaphalatyag (4:20)
Krishna in second chapter verse 47 talks about the fact that the results are not in our hand. People often conclude that we should not worry about results. I differ from this conclusion for several reasons.
So, what is Krishna talking about? He is simply saying that results are not totally in your hand. Result depends upon other factors as well as the effort that you make. It is a fact of life. There is no advice here. Krishna is changing the focus of our work. Most of us are result oriented people. We spend most of our energy worrying about the results. Krishna wants to bring that focus on the preparation and the work itself. The result depends on our work and other factors.
Krishna knows about the other factors as well. Divine forces or call it luck factor is one of them. In our example above, I have done all my preparations for my examination. I go for the examination but there is a traffic jam because of an accident. I am already late getting to the examination place. I am exhausted. I am so tense as to what will happen that I freeze. I can’t think. The examination is not going to wait for me. This is luck factor. Can something be done about these factors?
Krishna does address this briefly in 2:40 when he says:
- No effort of nishkam karma is wasted
- There are no obstacles (pratyavaya) in the path of nishkam karma and
- Nishkama karma protects one from the greatest fear
The divine supports people who flow with the current. Efficiency is increased because the focus is on the process and on the produce. It is bound to. All the energy is directed to the work. The divine factors are in line and hence the result has to be the best possible possibility.
- Kaamana (desires) are the driving forces for most of us and this is what generates a project for the next step Karma (action).
- Karma is needed to have the project completed. How can we bring efficiency in to Karma? How can we keep our mind off the eventual result and bring all the energy to the karma itself, is what Krishna focuses on when he talks about his karma yoga.
- Karma will produce a result. The net result also depends on other factors. Krishna focuses on how we deal with coming of results. Should we expect the result, not expect the result, accept the result or not accept the result. Many interpreters have placed excessive focus on not expecting the result. I personally do not see that conclusion in Bhagavad-Gita. Krishna clearly favors accepting the results in 3:22.
- What do we do when the results have arrived? How do we process them? This is an important aspect of karma yoga. Do we want to carry on all the baggage of
Results or do we want to drop them (karmaphal-tyag). Krishna will argue that all results become a thing of past and are worth dropping. We might treasure them as medals that we have won. The results are what we have to show for. Yet, it is always better to travel light. Medals can stay on the wall or in the room; they do not need to become part of our being.
- Gita teaches Devotion
Success can easily make us feel proud. We can forget all the other factors that might have contributed to our success. Success puts that chip on the shoulders. How do we stay humble? How can we still remain in touch with the masses? We have to realize that all that has happened to our life is an opportunity provided to us by the existence. We can then be thankful for what we have got. Devotion is nothing but a deep gratitude that arises inside our hearts and expresses as a “thank you.” We do have to stay in touch with our hearts. Otherwise the head can make us full of pride and take us away from our hearts. A balance has to be achieved. Bhakti Yoga teaches us this very quality that is such an essential part of our lives.
- Gita is a search
We all ultimately want to know who we are. How do we get to our center? The answers are there in Bhagavad-Gita.