Bhagavad gita, ch. 18

Krsangi Dasi - July 3, 2005 7:16 pm

Dear devotees


Our last Bhagavad Gita meeting, held last week, was quite popular: Bhrigu, Mikko, Nea, Hanna, Jananivas, Gokula Chandra, Mohan, Kamalaksa and I gathered to discuss the 18th chapter and to talk about the upcoming island retreat.


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18: Yoga of Freedom


In the beginning of this chapter Krishna defines his ultimate opinion about renunciation: obligatory work should be performed dutifully, but without attachment for its results. Work should not be given up out of delusion or fear of hardship.


In the purport to verse 10 Guru Maharaja, talking about the genuine renunciate, says that misery is a result of trying to be happy. How we react to misery is the key to becoming happy. For me it's been a huge step to try look at happiness in this way. I was very unhappy as a child and considered happiness to be some magical propensity that some people just have and some don't. But this outlook on happiness presented here by Guru Maharaja puts happiness within anyone's reach, no matter how difficult our lives may be at times.


Krishna also explains to Arjuna that while performing his duties he should not think himself to be the doer. At this stage in spiritual life it's quite difficult to realize how to actually work without thinking that it's I who is working, but maybe we can try to learn to look at our achievements from this angle: if I succeed in something it's not just my doing. And if I fail in something I've honestly tried to achieve it's not entirely my fault either.


Next Krishna moves on to speak about different kinds of knowledge. It was interesting to note that he defines rajasic knowledge as thinking that in every body there's a different kind of living entity. This made me think of some religions that state that animals have no souls and therefore can freely be exploited by people. Some people also believe animals to have a lower kind of soul, lacking in the finer qualities of the human soul.


Krishna then describes different kinds of work, doers, intellect and fortitude as well as happiness. It's once again surprising how well these descriptions fit into the modern world we live in. It shows how these general truths about material life apply to situations that on the outside appear to be completely opposite, but are similar on the inside.


The qualities of the four different classes of people are discussed next. We wondered why the qualities of the sudras were described so shortly. I'd imagine that the position of a servant includes such good qualities as humility and tolerance. But maybe Krishna concentrates here on the qualities of brahmanas and ksatriyas as he's talking to a ksatriya.


In verse 18.47 Krishna returns to the subject of chapter three, verse 35. He repeats that it's better to do one's own duties even faultily than someone else's without fault. This time we thought of a new example of this: Parents often try to influence their children in their choice of profession, and sometimes even put so much pressure on the children that they end up working in a field they didn't originally feel attracted to. If someone really wants to study art, then what's the point of becoming an engineer? Even if your livelihood as an engineer will be more secure than as an artist it won't be of much help if you're unhappy about the work you do. Maybe our duties could also be seen in this way as work that we naturally feel attracted to.


Krishna then starts to speak about the higher goal of life, attaining him. Krishna tells Arjuna how he should always fix his mind on Krishna, trust in him and take shelter in his grace. Arjuna should rise above material delusion and his karma and fight simply because Krishna asks him to, to please Krishna. Then Krishna pauses, after giving Arjuna the freedom of choice.


But Arjuna is so dear to Krishna that Krishna can't stand the thought of him choosing not to fight, to turn his back on Krishna. So he continues, out of love, by revealing the most confidential knowledge. He speaks about true devotion to him in the spirit of the inhabitants of Vraja. This devotion is something so high, so pure, that at the same time when I feel inspired reading this I also feel that this is a goal completely out of my reach. The mercy of Guru Maharaja and Krishna is my only hope, and it has come to me in the form of the instructions given in the Gita. Bhagavad Gita ki jaya!