Lessons from The Bhagawad Gita : Avidya- Kama- Karma – Desires Drive Actions

srimad_bhagavad_gitakarmano hyapi boddhavyam, boddhavyam ca vikarmanah

karmanas ca boddhavyam, gahana karmano gatih

My desires arise from the karmic imprints of my past life (vasanas). It is these desires that drive my actions. I have the ability to choose either to indulge in the desires or refrain from indulgence. My intellect can help me make these choices and create better vasanas.

1) I am defined by the actions I indulge in. My actions are outer manifestations of my vasanas. If I indulge in a morally weak action, a vice, ill treat someone, deal with a situation without thought, speak rudely, it is essentially thoughtless actions as decided by my vasanas.

2) Unless I involve my intellect, I give my vasanas free will to decide how I behave, act, speak or exist. If I use my intellect to think through an action (behavior or speech) before I indulge in it, then my vasanas lose  the power to overwhelm me.  Only my intellect has the power to direct me, to act or speak in a way that won’t hurt people involved.

3) When my desires alone drive all my actions, without the help of my intellect, then the actions (the way I speak or behave) that result from such desires don’t qualify as karma.  Such actions often turn out to be of malicious intent (vikarma) that create even stronger desire to indulge in amoral actions. It is a vicious cycle that I cannot get out of. Without involving the higher realm of my mind (the intellect), I have no hope for respite from the cycle.

4) My first lesson is to gracefully accept that desires stem from vasanas or the karmic imprintof past actions. Such actions usually tend to be vikarmic or undesirable actions;  How can I hope to understand the subtle differences between action and unaction before that?

5) All desirable actions  that contribute to my self development and growth, qualify as good karma. When I use my life force (atman) for opportunities that keep me busy, productive, constructive, vibrant and happy, then I am involved in good Karma. So it becomes incredibly important to ponder over every action before I  indulge in it.

karmanya karma yah pasyed, akarmani ca karma yah
sa buddhiman manusyesu, sa yuktah krtsna-karma-krt

1) When I have perfected all my actions to be karma and not vikarma (forbidden actions), will it mean that I have become perfect?  It’s not what I do that makes me what I want to be (perfect). I don’t have to be engaged in spiritual activity to be called spiritual. If the underlying intention of all my actions is spiritual – focused on the atman – then I am spiritual.

3) So long as I am able to detach myself from my body, mind and intellect and identify with the underlying spirit of truth (atman), so long as ‘ the awareness principle’  (tat-tvam-asi) is at work and I train my mind to introspect and observe, not just when I am busy speaking or doing something but even when I am inactive, then I can hope to reach a divine state of mind or state of perfection. When my mind is chaotic and agitated how can I expect to succeed?

4) As long as I am not involved in actions purely driven by desire (to please others or myself), as long as my actions are a discharge of duty without expecting it to pay back in some form, as long as I am not affected by what others think of me or my actions, I may still hope to reach the state of a karmayogi.

Lessons from The Bhagawad Gita : Atman vs. Jiva; Karma vs Akarma

 

atman-JivaThere are two parts to my identity. My body, mind and intellect (Jiva) is one, my spirit (atman) is another. Which identity I see as myself  decides how I deal with what happens in my life. I can identify myself as the Jiva and be affected by the experiences of the body, mind and intellect or identify myself as the atman and remain unaffected, feel liberated.

na mam karmani limpanti, na me karma-phale sprha
iti mam yo ‘bhijanati, karmabhir na sa badhyate

1) I realize that who I identify as ‘ me’ is not my spirit but my body, mind and intellect. I am affected by the trials and experiences perceived by my body, mind and intellect. When I face challenges in life, I feel low energy and tired because I imagine that it is the ‘real me’ that is going through that experience. With my limited capacity to understand, I ignore the all pervading, underlying truth that my atman is a real entity that remains unaffected by what is happening to my Jiva.

2) I am capable of riding over the challenges and emerge victorious. If I stop identifying the body as “me”, then the trials and tribulations of my body, mind and intellect will not bother me. When I begin identifying with the spirit (atman) as “me” that is when I can feel liberated. That is the way to live enthusiastically.

3)  It is my Jiva that experiences imperfection of the body, mind and intellect and not my atman. It is my Jiva that feels incomplete, looks for validation, aches to fill a void, gets entangled in the laws of karma, identifies itself as the doer (karta) and yearns for the fruits of action (karmaphal).

4) I know now that I live in the borrowed glory of the spirit, the underlying truth, that what I call ‘myself’ is only an object in the given time and space, that the real me is not my body, mind and intellect but the atman.

5) When I begin to identify myself as the atman, it will become possible not to get overwhelmed and depressed and feel more insulated and grounded, when things don’t go well, when I experience setbacks, when I face disappointments, pain, separation and ill health.

evam jnatva krtam karma, purvair api mumuksubhih
kuru karmaiva tasmat tvam, purvaih purvataram krtam

1) All these findings about spirituality is new only to me. There have been people before my lifetime (my forefathers and elders) who have understood the lessons and have aligned themselves to live by the teachings of the Gita.

2) Being spiritual is not easy. But it is possible to learn how to live spiritually by observing our ancestors. Mirroring is a psychological phenomenon of miming the attitude and life of people that you want to emulate. Instead of questioning or challenging the knowledge, it is easily laid out for me to mirror and copy how my ancestors and the great sages lived their lives.

3) My actions should aim to liberate instead of entangle me. I have to learn to move away from working to fulfill my desires (selfish), to fulfilling other people’s desires because I can ( Unselfish), to realizing that no one really needs my help to fulfill their desires, yet I will continue to work since it is an opportunity I revel in. (selfless). My actions should not taint me and have to be with the aim to liberate myself and benefit people around me. Neither should  I let other peoples actions affect me.

kim karma kim akarmeti, kavayo ‘py atra mohitah
tat te karma pravaksyami, yaj jnatva moksyase ‘subhat

1) The Gita tells me that I have to question all my actions. Why did I do what I did? What is my motive behind every action?  Oftentimes, my actions are mere habits that I mindlessly indulge in, without questioning, without regulation.

2) The idea of spirituality is to be self introspective, question all my actions and refrain from questioning another’s action. Who am I to judge another human’s action, when I have undiscovered layers in my own mind?

3) Even If I mean well, and I am spiritually motivated, my actions are often desire ridden (karma). It is through such karma that I will finally understand what selfless action (akarma) is.

 

Lessons from The Bhagawad Gita: The power of the Trigunas

varnashrama-dharma

kanksantah karmanam siddhim, yajanta iha devatah

ksipram hi manuse loke, siddhir bhavati karma-ja

1) I know that when I invoke the Creator sincerely, I will experience divine interference. Yet, I am so caught up in pleasures that give me instant gratification. I am involved in actions that drive me away from divinity.

2) I give in to my sensual pleasures that satisfy my ego, I make no time for spiritual understanding. The eternal bliss through spiritual invocation seems so implausible, imagined and futuristic compared to the pleasure that material comforts give me today.

3) I am an evolved being, different from the rest of the animal kingdom. I am capable of thinking from a higher realm of my mind. I have to be more introspective and not look for opportunities and situations that enrich my senses and leave me impoverished spiritually.

 

catur-varnyam maya srstam, guna-karma-vibhagasah
tasya kartaram api mam, viddhy akartaram avyayam

1) My temperament and innate tendencies depend entirely on the texture of my thoughts (Gunas). The ratio of the trigunasSattva- Rajas- Tamas– is what drives the actions (karma) that I get involved in.

2) When I reflect on which of the trigunas have been the primary driving force of all my past actions, I realize that there has been a constant competition for superiority among the trigunas within me and Sattva has not always won. I aspire to be more satvic in my actions and way of life here on.

2) So far, most of my actions have been driven essentially by two of the lower gunas – Rajas and Tamas, Passion and indolence. I am at that stage in life where I am reflecting on deeds and past actions and understand that I have the power to change the default ratios of the trigunas that make me who I am.

As Brahmacharini Vishaka ji beautifully concluded with this shloka:

janmanaajayathay shoodraha, karmanaajaayathay dvijaha

I have the power to control my gunas and the freedom to choose my actions, even though the texture of my thoughts (varnas) that made me who I was at birth, was not entirely my choice.

 

Lessons from The Bhagawad Gita : On Understanding Divinity

Gita

The ‘Gnana Karma Sanyasa Yoga‘ (Chapter 4 of The Bhagawad Gita) outlines the God principle. Whenever dharma (righteousness) fails and corrupt practices take over, we have depended on a manifestation of divinity (an avatar of God) to interfere, to prune out the negativity and bring about harmony and cosmic equilibrium in the Universe.

In the exact same way, there comes a time in each of our lives when we realize that we have lived our lives on our own terms and may not be necessarily proud of the quality of life that we have created for ourselves. For some of us, our spiritual journey begins then- when we want to set right our priorities, our goals and seek to do something more meaningful with the rest of our lives.

As I begin my spiritual journey, I naively believe that to be called a seeker, I have to understand the creator. I am easily carried away by any teaching that promises me ways to seek the creator. In my reductive capacity to understand, I will try and make sense of the God principle.

 

janma karma ca me divyam, evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma, naiti mam eti so ‘rjuna

1) I have begun to realize that my search for divinity must start within me. If I don’t understand his creation (myself), what hopes can I nurture of understanding the
Creator?

2) Divinity lies within me. Every little act of kindness I indulge in, every time I make someone feel blessed and happy, every opportunity I use to serve someone in need, is a gesture of divinity.

3) When I am engulfed in a sense of unworthiness, as I often do, I am clogging up my divinity and not letting it flow freely. I have to let myself experience the divinity
that I am capable of expressing.

4) I have to understand that there is only one divine being that is the karta (doer) of all actions and the karmaphala or the fruit of all the actions belong only to Him. When I recognize that I am not the doer (that I have only borrowed the life force to think and act like I do), I will stop wanting to be acknowledged for whatever I have done. Only when I have the maturity to accept that, I can hope to escape the cycle of birth to repeat after this life.

vita-raga-bhaya-krodha, man-maya mamupasritah
bahavo jnana-tapasa, puta mad-bhavamagatah

1) I humbly believe that there is a reason why I have been given life on Earth- to complete my karma.  How can I hope to meditate on the Lord if I am preoccupied with the unfinished karma haunting my thoughts?

2) For now, as I begin my spiritual journey to seek, to understand and appreciate the divinity within and around me, I commit to listen, reflect and absorb all teachings
that my Guru shares with me.

3) I will not judge anyone based on the path he/she chooses to seek the ultimate truth. I now know and appreciate that  the path each of us choose to reach the ultimate goal can be different and is not in any way lesser or inferior to the path I choose.

ye yatha mam prapadyante,tamstathaiva bhajamyaham
mama vartmanuvartante, manusyah partha sarvasah

1) My religion permits me to invoke the Creator in any form I choose.  So long as I am sincere in my effort, I have the freedom and the space to choose how I tread the path to spirituality.

2) I know that there is a spiritual path that will help me live a better quality of life, I am willing to find out more, through my Guru and the satsangs I attend.  Armed with what I find out, I hope that the newly learned principles will guide me to act and live a way of life that is worthy of the divinity in me.