Musings on the Bhagavad Gita 2: The Yoga of Commonsense

Life is not a specialty.

In order to live life fully we do not have to be a specialist in any field. Indeed, a specialist may not be able to live life fully. It is the all-rounder who can live life fully.

A doctor of medicine or in any other field must drop his work to enjoy an evening walk with his partner. A highly paid chief executive may still have to do dishes at home to help his wife.

Life is general knowledge. Life is commonsense. This is Krishna’s message to his friend Arjuna, and to all of us through him, as recorded in the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, the Song Divine.

Use Your Logic

Samkhya Yoga, as this discourse is titled, is the way to perfection through logic, through commonsense. Arjuna is trembling with fear at the sight of his more powerful enemy barricade. He is not willing to take any chance. He is not sure of his victory. Perhaps he is thinking, “Instead of losing the war, I better withdraw.”

For more than a decade living in exile he has been preparing himself for this day, for a decisive war to regain his lost kingdom. Now, when the opportunity comes, he is unsure of his capacity.

He was fortunate to have Krishna as his charioteer and personal advisor: “Arjuna, what are your chances? Can you really avoid the war?”

Krishna, the greatest mind of the time, asks Arjuna to use his commonsense, his logic, and to ponder on his duty as a warrior: “Your weakness is neither appropriate nor manly or honourable. Consider the ill-reputation you shall have if you run away from the battlefield.”

Krishna takes the role of a logician-cum-economist. He talks to Arjuna about the so-called Maximum Risk Theory.

Samkhya also has the meaning of “numbers”: “Consider Arjuna! Consider your risk, and consider also what do you stand to gain. If you lose, you die a martyr’s death; generations to come shall fondly remember you as a great hero. And, if you win, you have your kingdom back.

“Also consider, if you run away…

“Your reputation as a hero, as a warrior, goes down the drain. You shall be remembered as a renegade. Your children and grandchildren will be ashamed to have your name associated with theirs.”

It is a matter of life and death for Arjuna.

Live as a hero, or die a hero’s death. It’s a do-or-die situation. Well, this is the situation with each one of us. You do, you die. You don’t do, you still die. In other words…

Death Is Unavoidable

So why not die a hero’s death? Why not die doing, rather than die not doing anything? So the economy of maximum risk is “death.”

We cannot guarantee anything in life except death. Death is the only guarantee. Live life fully, live life halfly; live life smiling, live life sighing; live life dancing or despairing, singing or sorrowing – death is unavoidable. So why not make the best of life?

Our mind is not always willing to take risks. Our emotions are often mixed. Krishna, therefore, asks Arjuna to rise above mind and emotions. Krishna’s logic is not mental and emotional gymnastic. Krishna’s logic is the commonsense about life. Whatever you do or you do not do, at the end of the day you die. So why not die doing?

Take Risks, Take Chances

No growth, no real progress is possible without taking risks and chances. Grab each and every opportunity to grow and progress in life. Living a static life can be comfortable for some time, initially, yes. But after some time you shall despise such a life. A static life is a boring life. You can be bored to death.

I have seen people, rich people, dying an untimely death. They lack the necessary challenges that make life worth living and adventurous. Back in the 1980s, I remember reading a report in the International Herald Tribune about the growing rate of suicides among the youth in the prosperous Scandinavian countries, such as Sweden. Some of the survivors interviewed said they had nothing to look forward in life. Life had become dull to them.

They enjoyed social security and guaranteed jobs – those days – and yet they were not happy. They lacked meaning in life.

Let us now consider the isle of Bali, one of the most beautiful isles – a favourite tourist destination – and consider the rate of deaths by suicide. It is the highest in all Indonesia. Why? We may find one thousand and one reasons and justifications, but all of them finally lead us to just one prime cause. And that is our apprehension in facing the challenges of life.

Not all renegades commit suicide, though. Many choose to die a slow death, dying bit by bit each day of their meaningless lives. We, you and I could well belong to this latter group. What kind of lives are we living? Let us be honest with ourselves.

We see people wandering through their lives. We see couples desperately clinging to their marriages, although they know well that the relationship is no longer healthy. We also see people in relationships for convenience.

Life is about taking chances. One who is not willing to take risks, not willing to take chances, is more dead than alive. More on this next week when we meet again.

This article was published in The Bali Times on Jul 3, 2012.

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