The blessed Lord said: The vision that you have just been granted is difficult to attain. Even the gods are always longing to behold me like this, not by study or rights or alms or aesthetic practice. Can I be seen in this cosmic form as you have just seen me only by single-minded devotion, can I be known as I truly am Arjuna, can I be seen and entered. – Bhagavad Gita, 11:54
An epic tale that’s nearly 4500 years old, the Bhagavad Gita captures the essence of the warrior and how to deal with life’s intense moral decisions.
The Gita is relevant today for its potent depiction of a conversation that illuminates the questioning we have within ourselves when we face the hard questions. Through Arjuna, the warrior, and his charioteer, Krishna—who represents God/Divine/total consciousness—the reader is presented with themes that illuminate the virtues to overcome life’s hardships.
The Warrior Archetype lives in each of us. We call upon the warrior to act with courage, integrity, and devotion.
Action for action’s sake, non-attachment, and devotion are a few of the themes that arise in the conversation between Arjuna and Krishna. When examining the Gita, we can apply the essential concepts to our lives today, making this story so relatable and compelling.
The reader is able to identify with Arjuna as he prepares for war; the battlefield is the metaphor for any tough decision or event we must go through and face.
One of the most celebrated legends of Indian philosophy, the Bhagavad Gita, appears in many, if not all, of Clara’s training. We discussed some of the key themes in our podcast discussion and how they relate to current events we experience as a global community.
Read the highlights from our talk below, or listen to the full discussion.
About the Bhagavad Gita
The Bhagavad Gita presents a metaphor for wherever we’re standing on the precipice of a hard decision that we need to make. The conversation between Arjuna and Krishna is the questioning that we go through within ourselves. The narrative is, essentially, a tool kit on how to deal with intense moral decisions.
By being inactive, you are still choosing. You’re choosing not to act, and it’s also creating an impact. So the question is: what kind of impact do you want to create? The quote you’re thinking of is action for action’s sake, not to bear the fruit of one’s actions.
And the idea of that as you do it, to get it done; you don’t do it for the result.
Let’s talk about in terms of what’s currently happening, the skeptics would say, you stand up and raise your voice, but does it even matter?
Can we even make a difference? And what Krishna would say is that it doesn’t matter whether or not it makes a difference. You need to do it because that’s what needs to get done.
And by not attaching to a specific outcome because our ego is striving for that. The ego strives to create a narrative that we control.
Speaking to it in a larger platform, just in terms of the youth in America and the idea of not voting, a large movement of people don’t believe that they should vote because it doesn’t make a difference. So the question is, why even put energy towards something if it’s already been decided pre-decided. What’s the point of doing it?
The practice then, taken from the Gita, would be to practice non-attachment to the outcome but still act.
How We Become Instruments of Change
One of the biggest things I believe in is that it’s not personal, that none of this is personal.
I do believe that when particular energies come together, friction creates a particular trajectory.
I think of it more along the lines of when I make a decision; I’m propelling myself in a particular direction. I believe that wherever there’s an action, there’s a reaction. There are cause and effect.
The question of action becomes, how will you be an instrument for change?
That’s essentially what is happening in the world. And it’s what is happening in the Bhagavad Gita as Arjuna needs to be the instrument of change. He must act. To save his family.
Arjuna plays a pivotal role because of his position in society within his family and the kingdom. Would you say that our position in society depicts how much of a catalyst for change we are?
This brings up an interesting story that my dad told me about children in a playground. Researchers were trying to understand the rhythm of energy created on a children’s playground. There’s an energy that’s propelling everybody in a certain rhythm. Researchers wanted to know who was making that rhythm? Is it the alpha child? They realized that it was a child playing by themselves and tapping the side of the sandbox.
And by tapping the side of the sandbox, it was creating vibration and energy in the field around it.
The lesson is that sometimes it’s the quiet one that you don’t recognize that creates the change versus the one that’s being the loudest.
Bhakti Yoga and Surrender
When Krishna’s divine form is revealed, Arjuna sees the interconnectedness of all things. Another way I think about it is it’s like tapping into the matrix and seeing the matrix itself. It’s something that you can’t understand and is overwhelming.
Krishna reveals himself because Arjuna is the ultimate devotee and student of Krishna. And this occurs at the very beginning, before the battle, when Krishna asks Arjuna and his cousin what they want to have on the battlefield as their weapons. And the choice is between an army or Krishna as the charioteer. Arjuna chooses Krishna without flinching.
This is part of the ultimate test and a sign of pure devotion. Devotion is another theme of the Bhagavad Gita. It shows this idea of devotion to something bigger than yourself.
Bhakti, which is devotion in Sanskrit, is the idea that you should do everything from a pure place in your heart.
All actions become an act of devotion, meaning an offering to something greater or something outside of yourself. Devotion is the idea of surrender and of letting go of the person we think we are. It’s surrendering and softening into being the piece of sand on the beach. And that realizing that you are not the beach, you’re just a piece of sand and part of something that is much, much greater than you.
The ultimate goal of all, in Eastern practices, is to let go of all attachments to release the suffering.
We’ll always have pain, but suffering is a choice. And how we let go of suffering is we surrender. We let it go so that we’re not holding on. We surrender to all of it.
My teacher likes to describe it as life is like a flowing river. And attachments are what hold us to the bank of the river. We need to let go and go and be with the river.