Musings on the Bhagavad Gita 4: Focus on the Purpose

How would you remember Julius Caesar and Jesus Christ? Or Martin Luther King Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi? We remember them for the roles they played. Their names would mean nothing without those roles.

They discovered their soul-role and were persistent in enacting the role. Thus, they gave meaning to their life. Otherwise, life is meaningless. Life is like a blank sheet of paper; our writings upon it make the paper meaningful and valuable.

Now, Arjuna’s life was not a blank sheet. He had passed more than 70 autumns of his life. His story was already writ and he had enjoyed writing every bit of it. It was neither timely nor wise to change the story at that point. It would be an anticlimax.

Krishna, his charioteer, cousin, friend and philosopher, knew that having fled the battleground, Arjuna would never ever be at peace. He would live to regret his decision.

Indeed, Arjuna was also not in the mood of rewriting his story. He was simply afraid, and Krishna knew the reason of his fear. Thus, continues the Second Dialogue of the Bhagavad Gita.

We become fearful because we keep thinking about the end result. Our mind is distracted and full of anxiety. And this distraction, this anxiety, is the root cause of our failure.

“Focus upon the noble cause and purpose of your action that brings glory. Waste not your energy in thinking about the end result. Use all your energies to act wholeheartedly and with onepointedness.”

Thousands of years later, James Braid (1795-1860), the modern father of hypnosis, would call this state monoideism, meaning the same. This is the state of consciousness that guarantees success. Just before his death, Braid tried to correct his earlier finding on the sleep-like state, which he had called hypnosis, deriving from Hypnos, the Greek God of Sleep and Dreams. But he was too late. His earlier finding had become popular, and nobody bothered about his later finding.

Coming back to still fearful Arjuna, Krishna continues: “Petty minds think about the result.” A mind that must be motivated to think and work can never be creative. It is a weak mind. We are being paid for the work we do, true. It does not mean that we refuse the payment. However, being motivated to work for payment, or for any other reward, is a weak mind. It does not have a standing of its own. It is the kind of mind that is often exploited.

The Bhagavad Gita refuses all such outer motivations. Krishna is not a motivator. Krishna is just a finger pointing to Arjuna’s own being: “Find the source of motivation within!”

“You are not the senses, neither the sense organs… Disturbing thoughts and anxieties are sensory. You are beyond the senses.”

I remember reading somewhere: As a writer if you are being affected by what others write and say about you, then you should either stop writing or stop paying heed to what others say or write about you. But – there is a big but – you should be 100 percent sure of what you are writing about. You should believe in what you write.

Krishna’s advice to Arjuna is the same, with no option given. Krishna is directing Arjuna towards his course of action, “Face it! Use your intelligence. Use your wisdom. Having fled from this destined course of action, you shall find no happiness. Where can you find happiness? In the forest, living an ascetic’s life? You are wrong in thinking that, Arjuna. You shall live to curse and regret this day. You shall have an ongoing battle in your mind.”

Krishna shares his secret: “Indeed, to be an ascetic. You don’t have to be a renegade. Asceticism is a quality of mind. It has nothing to do with the renunciation of matter. It is renouncing your attachment to matter.”

“Ever be in equilibrium. Celebrate life, enjoy all the comforts, but without getting attached to any of them. This is true asceticism.”

Arjuna finds this pill too hard to swallow, “Is that possible, Krishna? Living in such a detached manner?”

Krishna could have said, “Look at me!” He was living such an exemplary life. But he didn’t say that. Not yet. He would say it later in the right time. For now, he explains that “attachment is the root cause of all sorrows.”

Whatever we are attached to – things and relations – both are slipping away anyway. Nothing lasts forever. Yet, in our ignorance, we seek peace and happiness from such fleeting experiences.

It is for this very reason that in spite of having all our desires fulfilled, we are still not at peace, not happy. We desire for more and more. When we do not acquire what we desire for, we feel dejected, disappointed, angry, and in anger we loose the clarity of our mind; our emotions go berserk. Thus, we make mistakes and create agony for ourselves.

“Rise above your desires… Your desires and attachments are born out of the contact made by your senses and sense organs with the triggers outside. Desires, hopes, expectations, obsessions and etcetera – all these siblings bind you with the changing matter. Know this, and be free; gain the true spiritual knowledge and freedom.”

Arjuna found Krishna’s statements contradictory – but that is the theme of next week’s column.

This article was published in The Bali Times on Jul 19, 2012.

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