Choice

In life, one is faced with multiple options and it is difficult to know choosing which option leads to the best results.

After having explained the ideas of dharma, karma, yoga among others, Krishna extraordinarily gives Arjuna the choice to do as he sees fit.

iti te jñānam ākhyātaṁ guhyād guhyataraṁ mayā
vimṛiśhyaitad aśheṣheṇa yathechchhasi tathā kuru

This can be roughly translated as:

Thus, I have explained to you this knowledge that is more secret than all secrets. Ponder over it deeply, and then do as you wish.

– Bhagavad Gita, 18.63

Results

Humans have evolved to realize that performing certain actions which are tough in the present moment, but lead to great rewards in the future. Also, it has been observed that hankering after results also leads to several problems.

Hence performing actions without the anticipation of results appears to be the best approach.

As Krishna delineates the three ways to perform actions, penances etc, he categorizes those actions performed for their own sake as belonging to the the Sattvika category.

aphalākāṅkṣhibhir yajño vidhi-driṣhṭo ya ijyate
yaṣhṭavyam eveti manaḥ samādhāya sa sāttvikaḥ

This can be roughly translated to:

That sacrifice which is offered by men without desire for reward as enjoined by the ordinance (scripture), with a firm faith that to do so is a duty, is Sattvika or pure.

 – Bhagavad Gita 17.11

Transcending

With the evolution of the human mind, the possibility to transcend the base nature of human existence appeared possible with the help of knowledge.

prakāśhaṁ cha pravṛittiṁ cha moham eva cha pāṇḍava
na dveṣhṭi sampravṛittāni na nivṛittāni kāṅkṣhati
udāsīna-vad āsīno guṇair yo na vichālyate
guṇā vartanta ity evaṁ yo ’vatiṣhṭhati neṅgate

This can be roughly translated to:

O Arjuna, The persons who are transcendental to the three guṇas neither hate illumination (which is born of sattva), nor activity (which is born of rajas), nor even delusion (which is born of tamas), when these are abundantly present, nor do they long for them when they are absent. They remain neutral to the modes of nature and are not disturbed by them. Knowing it is only the guṇas that act, they stay established in the self, without wavering.

– Bhagavad Gita, 14.22-23

Practice

In overcoming limitations or in achieving goals, practice is essential. This is the idea behind Krishna’s message to renounce all fruits of action as a way to perfecting the practice of yoga. By practicing the performance of work without expecting rewards, one can gain a lot in terms of control of the mind.

athaitad apy aśhakto ’si kartuṁ mad-yogam āśhritaḥ
sarva-karma-phala-tyāgaṁ tataḥ kuru yatātmavān

This can be roughly translated to:

If you are unable to do even this, in that case, take up Yoga for Me and renounce the results of all works by becoming controlled in mind.

– Bhagavad Gita 12.11

The doer

When it comes to performing any actions, it may be interesting to think about who the doer is. The nature of consciousness is something which is not well understood.

If one understands it to be independent of the body because the same self exists during sleep, waking and dream states, the body cannot be said to be the doer.

This is the idea behind Krishna’s counsel regarding action:

karmaṇyakarma yaḥ paśhyed akarmaṇi cha karma yaḥ
sa buddhimān manuṣhyeṣhu sa yuktaḥ kṛitsna-karma-kṛit

This can be roughly translated as:

Those who see action in inaction and inaction in action are truly wise amongst humans. Although performing all kinds of actions, they are yogis and masters of all their actions.

– Bhagavad Gita, 4.18

Bringing the truth

The realities of life often get eclipsed with sentiment and the resulting weakening of resolve. It is at such moments that truth gets sidelined and a false sense of hopelessness prevails. Arjuna faced a situation like this when he felt overwhelmed at the sight of battle with his own cousins. Krishna reminds him of his duty to uphold the law or dharma. He instructs Arjuna about the reality that underlies all of creation.

mayādhyakṣheṇa prakṛitiḥ sūyate sa-charācharam
hetunānena kaunteya jagad viparivartate

This can be roughly translated to:

Working under my direction, the material energy brings into being all animate and inanimate forms, O son of Kunti. For this reason, the material world undergoes the changes (of creation, maintenance, and dissolution).

– Bhagavad Gita 9.10

 

Modes of nature

In nature, there are certain patterns which can be observed. The ancient Indians identified three modes or qualities which can be applied to everything from people, food to behavior: sattva (peaceful), rajas (agitated) and tamas (dull).

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna indicates to Arjuna that the early portion of the ancient Indian texts, the Vedas, mainly deal with the three modes of nature. The way to overcome the limitations poised by these modes is to perform the Vedic duties without desire. To be situated in the mode of sattva, one needs to be self-collected without excessive worry about oneself in the manner of a hypochondriac.

trai-guṇya-viṣhayā vedā nistrai-guṇyo bhavārjuna
nirdvandvo nitya-sattva-stho niryoga-kṣhema ātmavān

This can be roughly translated to:

 O Arjuna, the Vedas have the three qualities as their object. You become free from worldliness, free from the pairs of duality, ever-poised in the quality of sattva, without (the desire for) acquisition and protection, and self-collected.

– Bhagavad Gita, 2.45

Wisdom

As Krishna describes the man of wisdom, he explains the characteristics of such a person.

duḥkheṣhv-anudvigna-manāḥ sukheṣhu vigata-spṛihaḥ
vīta-rāga-bhaya-krodhaḥ sthita-dhīr munir uchyate

This can be roughly translated to:

One whose mind remains undisturbed amidst misery, who does not crave for pleasure, and who is free from attachment, fear, and anger, is called a sage of steady wisdom.

– Bhagavad Gita 2.56

Krishna indicated earlier that people commonly are heavily influenced by their nature and their specific daily situation. Above, the characteristics of a man of wisdom (a muni) are described.

Such a muni is not disturbed by misery and does not crave pleasure. He is also not perturbed by attachment, fear, and anger.

Of course, this standard is difficult to meet if taken absolutely. However, in spite of imperfections, one can practice regularly to achieve this in daily life.

A little progress

In the ancient Sanskrit classic, Bhagavad Gita, as Krishna continues to instruct Arjuna on the battlefield, he specifies the benefit of performing duties without expectation of rewards:

nehābhikrama-nāśho ’sti pratyavāyo na vidyate
svalpam apyasya dharmasya trāyate mahato bhayāt

This can be roughly translated to:

Working in this state of consciousness, there is no loss or adverse result, and even a little effort saves one from great danger.

– Bhagavad Gita 2.40

The last line appears to be interesting and significant: “svalpam apyasya dharmasya trāyate mahato bhayāt” : even a little progress in this dharma can save one from the greatest danger.

There is similar advice from the ancient philosopher, Adi Shankara, who suggests that reading even a little bit of the Bhagavad Gita (along with doing other minimal things) is good:

bhagavad giitaa kijnchidadhiitaa
gangaa jalalava kanikaapiitaa
sakridapi yena muraari samarchaa
kriyate tasya yamena na charchaa

This can be roughly translated to:

If one reads but a little from the Bhagavad Gita
Drinks but a drop from the holy River Ganga
Worships but once Lord Murari (Krishna) he then
Will need no confrontation, with the lord of death, Yama

– Bhaja Govindam 20

These above ideas are captured by the ancient Indian idea of samskara, which means the impression left on the mind from life experiences. There is thus a traditional emphasis to impart samskaras in accordance with dharma on the mind from a young age. The idea being that even minimal exposure to wisdom goes a long way.

Being ready to be taught

The timeless classic, Bhagavad Gita, is a great handbook to guide one in Dharma.

When Arjuna expresses doubt and concern about fighting the righteous war against his cousins, he is wisely counseled by Krishna.

In verse 2.7, Arjuna realizes the magnitude of his doubt and begins to turn to Krishna for counsel.

kārpaṇya-doṣhopahata-svabhāvaḥ
pṛichchhāmi tvāṁ dharma-sammūḍha-chetāḥ
yach-chhreyaḥ syānniśhchitaṁ brūhi tanme
śhiṣhyaste ’haṁ śhādhi māṁ tvāṁ prapannam

This can be roughly translated to:

I am confused about my duty, and am besieged with anxiety and faintheartedness. I am your disciple, and am surrendered to you. Please instruct me for certain what is best for me.

– Bhagavad Gita 2.7

There is a saying that “when the student is ready, the teacher appears”. In the above verse, Arjuna indicates clearly that he is ready to be instructed by the master Krishna.

This idea definitely is valid in most walks of life when it comes to learning something about one’s trade or any other topic of interest.