Verse 2.48: Perform your duty equipoised, O Arjuna, abandoning all attachment to success or failure. Such equanimity is called yoga.
~This post is dedicated to my spiritual guide and all my bhakti mentors. Without your love, gentle chastisement, continuous encouragement and empowerment, I would be lost.~
Yesterday I went to my weekly yoga/pilates class. At the end of the class, during the relaxation period, the instructor asked everyone to focus on their breathing. She added, "If thoughts come to your mind, acknowledge them with compassion and let them go." I was left thinking, "What in the world does that mean? Acknowledge your thoughts with compassion." It sounds really beautiful, but how does one actually go about doing it?
In a similar vein, many persons today, equate yoga with feeling peaceful. My question to all of you today is, what does peace mean? That's the challenge with words. No one actually decodes the intangibles like peace, compassion, humility etc., as what is given in the dictionary. They are coloured by our experiences and perceptions. That's why spirituality, which promotes the development of so many of these intangible characteristics, can be confusing to many.
This is why bhakti yoga is not only practical but complete, as it not only gives one the process but explains what the outcome is. Here, a very beautiful and practical definition of yoga is given - "Practice your duty in an equipoised frame of mind, abandoning all attachment to success or failure." Let's stop and really understand what the word equipoised means as, for most of us, this is not a common word we use in our vernacular. Simply put it means balanced or equilibrium.
In the context of yoga, equipoised means to do things for the sake of doing it and giving up the attitude and motivation of "I'm doing this because somehow it will benefit me."
The thing is, we all need some motivating force to drive us to accomplish something. If we don't have one, we won't do anything! Wouldn't you agree? So that begs the question, "If I'm not doing this for me, then what should motivate me?" One could respond and say, "Well, the motivation why I do certain things is certainly not centered on me. I'm motivated because I'm doing it for my friends, family, my country or even for the world." To this, the Gita replies, "Wonderful! That is huge step up from always focusing on ourselves!"
However, like any well-wishing coach or guide who wants to help us attain the best goal possible, Krsna gives us something even higher to strive for. That's right, we can actually operate on even higher motivating principle.
So what is that principle? Prabhupada, our wonderful bhakti guide and teacher, explains in the purport, "Yoga means to concentrate the mind upon the Supreme by controlling the ever-disturbing senses." See the step-wise progression? Let's break it down.
In order to perform one's duties in an equipoised frame of mind (i.e. in yoga):
1. One needs to control the ever-disturbing senses. The senses are like tentacles that are always trying to grab some object so that they can derive some pleasure from it. So how do we control the senses? By purifying them. More on that to come later!
2. One concentrates the mind upon the Supreme. This can be a hard one for many people. The simplest way, however, is to engage in mantra meditation. Simply by repeating transcendental sound vibration, it immediately calms the mind and focuses it. If you've never tried it, just try repeating the simple mantra "Govinda".
3. When one concentrates the mind upon the Supreme, one of the effects we experience is that of gratitude. How's that? Mantra meditation naturally results in the transfer of one's attention from oneself to a higher consciousness. When we tap into that higher consciousness, the worries and anxieties that normally swirl through our mind are exposed for what they really are - temporary and insignificant. That's not to imply that we don't need to take care of them. It means we take care of them with the proper perspective, and thereby don't experience the anxiety factor.
4. This leads one to feeling grateful. Grateful to the Supreme who is always taking care of us and is looking to help us. When we really feel grateful, we want to find a way to demonstrate it to the object of our gratitude, don't we? This is the motivation that drives us - we offer everything we do in appreciation of our gratitude to the Supreme.
In this way, we can be equipoised and naturally give up our obsession with success or failure. We become inspired to do our very best since it's an expression of our gratitude for all that we have been given, but notice how the attachment has changed! It's very subtle. We become attached to offering our best and become unattached to the conception of successful and failure. As they say, "It's the thought that counts." We don't realize it, but it's actually true!
And the best part of it all? The Gita states that the Supreme doesn't measure success or failure the way we do. It's the motivation that matters, and if we become attached to offering our best in a spirit of gratitude, there is nothing greater than that.