There are ordinary teachers who go by the books. They cannot teach anything beyond the written words. You can learn under such teachers and graduate, but be careful, lest you end up becoming their clone. My master refers to this type of teacher as “informers.” They merely pass along information.
The teachers of next genre do not go by the books alone; they have their personal experiments and experiences to share. They are the desirable ones. Learning from and under them you can transform yourself.
However, it is the third type of teacher who excels and inspires you to excel in your chosen field. This kind teaches by example. They practice what they preach. All spiritual mentors should rightfully belong to this last genre – alas this is not always the case.
Krishna of the Bhagavad Gita belongs to the last genre of teacher. He is sharing his life experiences with Arjuna. He is not quoting the scriptures. He is an authority by himself. Thus continues the fourth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita:
“There are several disciplines to pursue… And choose from. Not all disciplines are suited to all. Stick to your own discipline, Arjuna. You have chosen well. There is no reason for you to drop it midway and choose another one.”
One of my entrepreneur friends has wasted several golden years of his life, and also missed many opportunities, because of his unstable mind. One time he is into furniture, another time into garments. He has spent an entire lifetime in futile trial and errors.
Finally, he realises that his heart has always been in the arts – painting in particular. However, he was conditioned to think that artists didn’t make any money. So he ended up becoming a businessman, a trader. They say it is better late than never. But consider this – at what cost? At the coast of wasting an entire lifetime and suffering heavy losses!
Krishna continues: “Many are the ways to perfection; use your conscience to choose the way that is right for you. And act wisely based on such careful choice. Furthermore, Arjuna, allow your “self” to be in command at all times. Do not give away to the vagaries of your mind, emotions, and senses.
“Look at me, Arjuna, I have no reason to be your charioteer and become part of this war. Yet I am here – why? This is because I realise that this war is being fought not for any personal gain, but to uphold justice. The peoples of Hastinapura are deprived of their rights. They are heavily taxed, and they have no voice. I would not be here if it had been a family feud for power between you and your cousins.
“I am here to uphold truth and serve the cause of righteousness, of justice. And I know in the end it is truth alone that prevails. When your actions are so motivated, Arjuna, you are free of all doubts. You do not worry about the end result. You are focused on your act in the present.
“Wise, indeed, is the person who acts in this way, for then he acts effortlessly. He acts naturally, in accordance with the dictates of Mother Nature. Mother Nature is all abundance, and she shares unconditionally. By raising your weapon against those who are robbing Her for their own benefit, you are actually helping the course of nature.”
The Modern Environmentalists
May have a lesson to learn here. No real success can ever be achieved without the joint support, efforts and cooperation between the policymakers and the lay people.
The cry for climate justice alone is not sufficient. The cry must be for justice in all fields and for all peoples. Reforming a small part of the system does not help. There has to be a total reformation of the entire system.
“Perform all your actions in the spirit of service. Remember, service calls for sacrifice,” Krishna continues, “and the greatest sacrifice is that of your ego, of your selfishness. Act for the welfare of all – this is the course of wise action.”
Nowadays, the word “sacrifice” is dreaded. “Why should I sacrifice for anyone? I am responsible for all my actions, and others are responsible for their actions. Why should I sacrifice for them, and why should they sacrifice for me?”
The Freudians, who consider the human ego as the sole reality, may reject Krishna. However, philosophers like William James, or modern thinkers like Ken Wilber, would stand by Krishna. The limited self, the false ego, must be transcended in order to realise our true nature.
The old-school of psychology idolising the ego is slowly but surely giving way to the latest findings in the field of transpersonal psychology.
For the Welfare of All
When you work for the welfare of all, your welfare is automatically taken care of. Your welfare is included in the welfare of all. So what is there to worry about?
When you sacrifice your ego, when you give up your selfishness – you are actually moving away from the limited and getting closer to the limitless.
Businessman Isaac Burton Tigrett, founder of the Hard Rock Café, makes a simple one-liner, Love All, Serve All, his guiding principle, his applied mantra – and his entire life is transformed.
For many, many years and generations to come he shall be known for his charities, his service to the ailing humanity, his hospital in the rural south Indian district of Anantapur.
One day he may be forgotten as the founder of the Hard Rock Café, but his charities will not be forgotten. Thousands who have benefitted from such charities, and many more who shall benefit in the years to come, shall bear witness to his generosity.
“Act for the welfare of all, Arjuna – this is the wise course of action.”
Thus ends the fourth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita.
This article was published in The Bali Times on Aug 6, 2012.