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Tag: bhagavad gita

Calculus

Okay, I admit, I suck at math. I used to hate it in school, and I still don’t find it fun. And calculus? Oh man, I never understood it. It just wasn’t intuitive you know?

There was a point though, when I learned that everything in the world around us, is actually mathematical, to an amazing degree. Like fractal patterns in snowflakes and plant designs and what not. Wow. I also remember how a dog that runs to catch a frisbee in the beach, intuitively does calculus. Same for the archer fish that shoots its prey from underwater, implicitly calculating refraction angles. Pretty amazing instincts.

As one of the senior satsangis says, all of the learning around us is additive. If we study math or history or geography or medicine, we actually become more knowledgeable about those subjects, and hence those ‘add’ to us.

However, a scriptural book like the Gita? It was just a conversation between a charioteer and a warrior. Not much to add to oneself really. Why? Because the Gita is not really a book of knowledge. One could read the meanings of the 700 shlokas maybe in a few hours and come out none the wiser. That is because, the Gita is a book of action. Calculus applies here. The Gita is not additive, it is integrative. Like a spoon of sugar dissolving in the coffee.

The same Gita when read over and over again, and its lessons put into action, can result in the reader being transforming into a better and better person each time.

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Role reversal

Arjuna in the Mahabharata underwent a role reversal. He spent years and years training and performing as one of the greatest archers / warriors that ever lived. But on the day of the Kurukshetra battle, he underwent an unexpected role change.

He saw no foes or enemies, only brothers and uncles and teacher.

He was suddenly not a warrior on that battlefield, but only a family man. Can a doctor perform a high risk surgery successfully on his own child? Very difficult. Why? Because he has entered he operating theatre less as a doctor and more as a father. Can we clinch a business deal if we are constantly thinking about being with family or vacationing?

The pangs of attachment begin to play on the mind, leading to what Arjuna faced as well – delusion.

What is the solution? Before solution, must come acknowledgement of the problem. One the problem is located, the resolver is the Guru. But the resolution happens, only if the ego is surrendered to him.

As Swami Paramarthananda says, the disciple needs to first identify that a problem exists. And then the Guru needs to not only know the remedy, but also be free of the problem!

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Pretty girl

On the theory of relativity, Einstein once said “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute.”

And so time is a matter of perspective. We often hate office and work, but love vacations. It might seem like the 12 hours we spend a day at work just drags on forever, while the 24 hours in a vacation goes off in a jiffy.

Satsangs are similar too. At times, they may feel boring. Almost like we have heard the same things (messages, quotes, stories) over and over again. And to find even that 1 hour a week would be the hardest thing in the world. Why waste an hour when we can do something else – like catch a movie on Netflix or Amazon Prime?

If we have spent countless births stuck in Maya, the thought to ponder over is, will just an hour a week suffice, to get us out of it? We will have to fall in love with satsang, just like Einstein’s pretty girl, if we wish to make tangible progress. Eventually, every waking minute will become a satsang, just like a Guru’s life.

As Guruji says, satsang is the most noble place, because it is a zero-liabilities place. There are no downsides to satsang, only humongous benefits.

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Angrrr

Here’s a thought on anger management. Many people believe they cannot stop being angry. However, when they scrutinize their own lives, they will realize that in front of their own family at home, they quickly fly off the handle every now and then. However the very same person, in front of his/her boss or an even higher superior – manages to stay calm, gritting and grinding their teeth, often in far worse circumstances than those presented at home.

One argument is that in the workplace, we are paid a salary, and a part of that goes towards handling such bouts of anger. That may be true to some extent. But imagine being put in front of the leader of your district / state / country / someone you respect. Of course you would not lose your temper in front of them – even though there is no payment!

The argument supporting anger-towards-one’s-family goes, “But hey they are my loved ones, and it’s only because I care so much that I get angry with them!” But think about it – if you truly loved them, why would you lose your temper on them? Would we want anyone to lose their temper on us? Also, if a cute little 3 month old baby pees or poops on us, do we lose our temper and beat the child up?

The Gita states definitively that anger comes from unfulfilled desire which in turn springs from attachment. The question is not about whether there is more anger when dealing with loved ones versus less when faced with others. If we can control anger in one case, surely we can control it in the other? The focus of all our scriptures and of spirituality itself, is always us – we ourselves. Of an internal transformation, not by chance, but by deliberate choice.

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How to be equanimous

One of the mainstays for a liberated life according to the Bhagavad Gita, is samatvam or equanimity. This is also called having sama darshanam or equity in vision, i.e. looking at everything as inherently the same, irrespective of whether it is good or bad, pleasure or pain, joy or sorrow and so on.

To live comfortably and mentally unblemished in the face of criticism, one must begin by eschewing praise. We cannot have the proverbial cake and eat it too. We want equanimity in hardship, but our pleasure receptors shoot through the roof in the slightest hint of praise and recognition.

How can we then practically be equanimous? When the boss says “Wow you’ve done amazing work here, you deserve this promotion!”, do we just scowl at him and walk away? Or do we say “No sir, it wasn’t me.” The boss is then likely to keep the promotion/bonus for himself 🙂

The way prescribed in the scriptures, is ‘surrender’. Surrender with faith, to the divine, or if that’s too abstract, then to the Guru. In Hindi, sur means head. So putting your head under the Guru or ishta devata, offering everything to him or her. Everything means all good and all bad without distinction. So grab that promotion by all means, but mentally prostrate and offer it to your deity of choice. This will keep us grounded, always. Difficult, but worth it.

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Over and over

A question arises, “Why should I keep doing the same things over and over?” Why read our scriptures daily. If we’ve read it once, that should be enough no? Or why participate in satsang as many times as possible? Why not just listen to one lecture once and then implement and chill?

Marcel Proust, one of the greatest French authors of the 20th century said “”The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

As the story goes, a child asked his grandpa why he was repeatedly reading the Gita. To which grandpa asked the child to fetch water from the nearby river, but in a basket. The child did as instructed, but obviously much of the water leaked out through the gaps in the basket. The grandpa asked the child to go and get water, again and again, and each time most of the water had leaked out. Finally, when the child was frustrated, the grandpa asked his grandson to look at the basket closely. This child remarked, “Wow, the the basket has now got cleaned so nicely!”, exactly like how the mind would need to be cleaned by multiple readings.

My Guru follows this principle very closely, and takes it a step further – adding that reading alone is not enough, but acting upon the lessons learned is critical. Like the Chinese philosopher Confucius once said. “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand”.

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My job or someone else’s?

Verse 35 chapter 3 in the Gita can be confusing. Krishna has said that it is better to do one’s own duty badly than to perform someone else’s duty well. Prima facie, it sounds silly. When I’m able to do someone else’s work well, why should I then waste time doing my own work even if done poorly? Does this not bring down efficiency, productivity and quality of the end result? Granted that this can be a bit controversial, but here’s my take on it.

Firstly, the entire Gita talks only about how to work, and never once talks about the type of work itself. Therefore, the focus is on us, the worker, and not the work. Secondly, while we may be great at a neighbour’s job, we may not have the ready opportunity to work there. We can certainly try for a job switch – but whether that fructifies or not, may not be in our control.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, karma yoga is all about treating work as worship. It is a means of attaining the Lord – by not just giving up the results, but by also giving up doer-ship. This is only possible when I do work that is comfortable for me, and that plays to my innate nature. I might love being a librarian for instance, because it gives me peace of mind – reading books, comparing them, learning from them. However, it might seem like a low-paying job, and so I might want to use my bookish knowledge to become an author – which might give me money, but leave me unable to tackle the associated fame. Here our focus must be clear – are we doing the job for our love of books? Or for the money?

In the Gita with Krishna talking to Arjuna, the Lord says that Arjuna might make a great saint, but that as a warrior, it is his duty and innate nature to fight. He adds that it is better to die performing one’s own duty than running after another’s duty. If the work we are doing, feels more like play than work, then we are likely in the right profession. Running after someone else’s work might seem attractive at this moment, but could bring much despair in the future.

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Branching out

A man paid a princely sum to buy two falcons. These were special falcons, that could fly higher and faster than any other. When he took them back to his mansion and let them loose, one flew high and fast. The other just went and perched itself onto a nearby tree.

The man tried shooing the sitting bird, shouting at it and prancing around but to no avail. The falcon just wouldn’t fly. He called the seller angrily and asked for half his money back, as only one falcon had taken to the air. The seller calmly said “Tomorrow, I will fix the problem.”

The next day, when the man woke up and came out of his house, he saw both falcons flying high and fast. He was ecstatic, but also puzzled. He immediately called the seller, and asked “How did you make the falcon fly?”. The seller replied, “It was easy, I just cut off the branch on which the bird was sitting.”

A look back at each of our lives would suggest the same thing. Maximum growth has always happened when our backs were to the wall, when the chips were down, and when the branch underneath us was ripped away.

Applied differently, Chapter 15 of the Bhagavad Gita (the best and most practical version here for free!) likens the whole world around us to be an inverted tree. We are at the fringes of the branches, having forgotten the roots where we came from. The tree (creation) is impossible to understand, even though we spend a lot of time trying to. The only way out of this tumultuous inexplicable experience of life is to cut the branches (our attachments, desires, ego) and return to the Source.

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The 2 most important words

The Bhagavad Gita has two amazing words in Sanskrit, to describe the world.

One is ashaashvatam – which means impermanent.

The other is dukhaalayam – which means sorrowful.

If we think back to most (or all) of our possessions and experiences, these two words sum them all up. What we think brings great joy to us today, eventually results in great unhappiness. Because those things either make us want more of the same. Or they are things that we realise we cannot cling on to forever.

The reason the world is summarised this way, is not at all to dash our hopes, or to make us morose and depressed.

Instead it ably reminds us of the inevitable, and aims to shift our focus to how we must live.

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Enjoy the Unjoy

Maybe you’re stuck in the worst job, with the worst boss. Or maybe you’re stuck in the worst relationship, with the worst partner. Or stuck with the worst degree, in the worst college.

The circumstances we find ourselves in right now may be hard to change immediately.

The tools we are given must be accepted. But the design we create with those tools is on us. And in the process, we may chance upon better tools as well.

How can we do this? Only by loving and enjoying what we are already doing, irrespective of what we are doing. We must find the positives, even if only temporary. There is no other way.

But I don’t enjoy my job, you say? No one does. Given a choice, most people would prefer to become a couch potato, or maybe ‘find their passion’. Whatever that goose chase is about!

Interestingly, the entire of the Bhagavad Gita never once mentions whether one should be in this profession or that. But only about how to do the work associated with any profession.

It helps if we accept that the circumstances in a way stem from our own past karmic doing, from this life or before. It helps because we can begin to sow the seeds for better future circumstances.

If we anyway have to do our jobs, deal with our partners, study what we are studying – we might as well do it happily. Because being unhappy about it will only increase anxiety. Our positive energies will dissipate. This will prevent us from spending time on finding and building toward new circumstances quickly – that dream job at Google, that dream partner from Hollywood, that dream Harvard MBA.

The future can certainly be changed. Dreams can surely materialise. But only if we begin to enjoy the now, now.

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