Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bhagavad-Gita (Part 1 of 3)

By Eknath Eswaran.

I haven’t taken a philosophy workshop in a while due to life circumstances, but this one not only worked out financially, but time wise as well. Sunday was the first meeting and it was a group of about 15 who gathered at the studio on a very blustery, misty night. I am excited to be delving further into this ancient and revered text and so far I have not been disappointed.

To summerize greatly, the Bhagavad-Gita takes place on an ancient, but very real battlefield. The story actually begins in the great text known as the Mahabarata, but we pick up the battle here in the Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna, one of 5 brothers, is leading an army into battle against his upsurper uncle who has banished Arjuna and his brothers for the last 12 years. The uncle was to be regent until Arjuna’s brother came of age, but he decided he liked the power and refused to reliquish the throne. Arjuna, the warrior, is fighting for the rightful heir, his older brother.

On the eve of battle, Arjuna has asked his charioteer, Krishna, to show him both armies. As they ride by, he observes his uncles, cousins, former mentors and teachers. Arjuna is overcome with despair, for how can he justify fighting against family, friends, mentors and teachers who will only be slaughtered in the coming fight? There can be no good outcome from this battle, and Arjuna throws down his arms. Krishna must convince Arjuna to choose the right path.

While on one level this seems like a fantastic story (and it is that), on a much deeper level this is an analogy of the “battle” between our ego and our spirit . Our spirit here represents the Divinity found in all of us. Through Arjuna we witness the struggle between the ego and the spirit/Divinity as Krishna guides Arjuna.

The First Chapter sets the stage as described above. We are introduced to the characters, plot and the setting. It is here Arjuna loses his courage and refuses to fight.

In the Second Chapter Arjuna asks Krishna to be his spiritual guide. Krisha goes on to explain that only the gross physical body may be killed, but the eternal self is immortal. Krisha tells Arjuna to get some kahunas and stand up and fight as is his duty as a warrior.

These passages in particular have resonated with me:

(2:40-41) On this path, effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure. Even a little spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fear. Those who follow this path, resolving deep within themselves to seek me alone attain singleness of purpose. For those who lack resolution, the decisions of life are many branched and endless.

(2:47- 48) You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the fruit of reward, nor should you long for inaction. Perform work in this a man established within himself - without selfish attachments and alike success and defeat. For yoga is perfect evenness of the mind.

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