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

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.



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