Bhagavad Gita- yes, the name is scary

shel-silverstein-the-voiceAs part of my yoga teacher training requirements, we were also asked to read the Bhagavad Gita, which is essentially an ancient, spiritual mecca of literature from India. Regardless of your religious affiliation or non-affiliation, in my case, this text has something meaningful to offer.

It begins: “On this path effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure. Even a little effort toward spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fear.” Essentially, it tells us that there is no right or wrong path to leading a more spiritual life; simply our efforts to lead it are what matter. In a story written much like those in the texts of other religions, a Yoga God of some sort named Krishna has a conversation with a man, a prince, named Arjuna. This story is a metaphor for man or woman’s search for meaning- their search for the truth. In the dialogue, Arjuna repeatedly asks for guidance, as he has lost his way and does not know what decisions to make or how best to go about living. Although Arjuna is really looking for more of an answer than Krishna affords him, his will and faith are tested by the open interpretation of the spiritual words provided to him. Arjuna is repeatedly told to abandon his dependency and his search for the truth in everything else, and to trust himself. Perhaps just because he is in the role of a guru, Krishna does present various ways for Arjuna to grow spiritually, with the goal of reaching enlightenment, including Karma yoga, Bhakti yoga, Jnana yoga, and Raja yoga. These methods, according to Krishna, are equally sufficient paths towards realizing our true selves.

In short, here is my translation of some messages worth holding onto:

-When we give up selfish attachments to material things and people, we are free to enjoy life (hopefully this doesn’t include attachment to messages, as stated above).

-Put forth your best, regardless of what the result may be. And when the result comes, try to feel the same whether it is pleasant or unpleasant. “You have the right to action, but not to the fruits of your action.”

-Do things not for your own interest, but for others, realizing that we are all a product of the same stuff and this idea that we are individuals, better or worse, “separate, but equal,” richer or poorer, is b.s

-“Good karma” is not actually what we are striving for. Funny that we as Americans love this idea of karma but we have actually misinterpreted it. Our goal is to have no karma- good, bad, doesn’t matter. Essentially, we want to act in a way that we do not care about, or do not even think about whether or not the outcome puts us in heaven or hell. This does not mean that we act recklessly or don’t make any plans for the future, as I’m sure you were concluding, but that we detach ourselves from doing things for that purpose. Instead, we do things that are in lines with our dharma, our true nature. Because a ‘yogi’ is not a person who wears Lululemon, practices 3x a week, and recites ‘OM’ in the street; a yogi, as defined by the Bhagavad Gita is “a person who does his or her job with detachment from the rewards” (pg. 134). Isn’t that food for thought? Do things because you do them, not because of what you may receive as a result.

-You have reached self-realization/enlightenment when you free your mind from its preoccupation with mind and matter. How simple!