Thursday, February 14, 2013

one of my favorite verses!

Verse 2.14
: O son of Kuntī, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.

I'm so happy! Today I get to write about one of my top three ABSOLUTE favorite verses of the Gita. Verse 2.14. Why do I love this verse....oh probably for a million different reasons. I'll share the top five that came to mind today.

1. It's so beautiful. From a purely literary standpoint, this verse screams poetic. The imagery is just so vivid. Can you not just picture the melting of the snow, the warmth of the sun, the coldness of a windy, screaming blizzard and the scorching heat on a mid-summer's afternoon? These images mimic so beautifully our own experiences of feeling happiness and distress.

2. I love similes. For those of you who might have forgotten the rules of English (hehehe!) a simile is used when comparing two things using "like" or "as". In this case Krsna is comparing our experiences/feelings to seasons.

3. The reminder that happiness and distress are non-permanent is so expertly conveyed here. Everyone can relate to the winter and summer seasons having a definite beginning and an end, right? (Though that being said, sometimes Canadian winters do seem to drag on forever!) We often hear people say, "I can't wait for Spring," or conversely "I can't wait until Winter is over!" The thing is when it comes to experiencing feelings of happiness or sadness, we forget that the same temporariness applies during our actual experience of them. When someone is up they are really up and often feel like nothing can bring them down, but conversely the opposite is so true as well. Krsna is so sweetly and kindly reminding us of that fact and saying, "Hey! Don't get too caught up in those waves of highs and lows."

4. An extremely important truth is brought here. The idea that happiness and distress arise due to sense perception. What does that mean? One way of looking at is that one person's pleasure is another person's pain. Hence, there is no such thing (in the material world) of absolute happiness or absolute distress. As well, this reminds us that this happiness and distress we are experiencing is the interaction of the senses with the sense objects. It's not the soul that is actually taking pleasure or displeasure in these experiences, it is the body and mind that are decoding it as "good" or "bad".

5. So Krsna begins with a beautiful comparison that illustrates the temporariness of our enjoyment, then delves deeper by explaining exactly it arises from come from (sense perception) and then finally concludes powerfully by saying "one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed" Wow, personally, that's a pretty tall order. But before getting into that a bit deeper, let's first just rewind and unpack what "tolerate without being disturbed" actually means.

First of all, this does not propound that one shouldn't feel and/or repress one's emotions. Secondly, it is crucial to note that this phrase applies not just to our experiences of distress but ALSO those of happiness (and everything in between). That's right. One should "tolerate" happiness. So why does Krsna use the word tolerate here? He does so because he's trying to stress that these experiences actually have no impact on the soul and since we are the soul, we should tolerate them!.

The soul cannot be satisfied by anything material. Krsna is saying that everyone will have these experiences, since these experiences arise due to the bodily senses coming in contact with the sense objects. But remember! We are not our senses! So if we are not our senses, why are we investing so much time and energy and throwing ourselves into the experiences that arise due to them? Doesn't make a lot of sense does it? Instead Krsna is giving us a recommendation. Why not accept that these experiences come, but learn to be aloof. That way when these experiences come and emotions arise you can view them more objectively instead of becoming attached to them.

On the most practical level, when a bhakti yogi learns to tolerate happiness and distress, it allows him/her to become fixed in their practice of bhakti yoga. How often have we not accomplished or done something simply because we didn't "feel like it"? Furthermore, when one actually tolerates happiness and distress (go ahead and try it out for yourself!) one can see more clearly how often we attach importance to little things. This doesn't come easy and it take purification of heart, but next time you feel yourself feeling very distraught or supremely happy, take a step back. Analyze where those feelings are coming from. If you're happy, take the opportunity to thank God and if you're sad, remember that this too will pass.


  1. I really loved this verse too! I can see why it is your favorite. To me, the idea that the conditions our senses experience are impermanent gives me a sense of peace. Life seems full of waves, of constant crests and troughs...Sometimes we feel elated, sometimes we feel despair. But the thing is when we are feeling despair if we can keep the perspective that "this too shall pass", and realize its only temporary we can begin to become more objective and also it brings with it a sense of hope.

    Great post! :)

  2. It does bring such a comfort and so much peace, doesn't it? Everything we experience is temporary, we just need to tune into what is the most important thing and keep that as the focus: i.e. reconnecting with God. That will always keep us grounded and like you said, bring us a sense of hope! Thanks so much for your reflections Jessica!