Sunday, March 31, 2013

making the sacrifice

Verse 2.44: In the minds of those who are too attached to sense enjoyment and material opulence, and who are bewildered by such things, the resolute determination for devotional service to the Supreme Lord does not take place.

Sacrifice is necessary to achieve anything of substance. For an athlete it's about giving up late nights, junk food and so many other things that gratify the senses. Instead, they are subjected to rigorous practice schedules, rigid sleep times and a coach who guides their training. These athletes are able to follow such a demanding life because they have a long term goal of becoming the best in their particular sport.

So why does society laud the sacrifices that such athletes make and question when anyone else decides to decrease their sense enjoyment and need for material opulence? Just ask any bhakti yogi who first started on their path. In the beginning, oftentimes family and friends just couldn't understand why their loved ones would give up their excess material possessions and stop engaging in activities such as drinking alcohol and eating meat.

The answer is simple. They found something that gave them a higher taste - bhakti yoga. The yoga of love and devotion that gives lasting happiness to the soul.

See, sense enjoyment and material opulence in and of themselves are not negative. It's when we become overly attached to them that they act as obstacles in our quest of understanding who we really are. They act like a drug. We become attached to the temporary high that we get when we engage in them and as soon as that high wears off, we're itching for another hit. They trap us in our conception that we are this body, thereby weakening any determination we may have to pursue bhakti yoga.

We're spiritual beings who have forgotten that we are spiritual. That is the reason why we are left feeling confused all the time and, as some of us have experienced, feel out of place in this world. Krsna is giving us the solution here. He's our coach who, along with his star student, Prabhupada, is setting the guidelines by which we can remember who we really are. The success of the athlete depends greatly on the coach and as bhakti yogis in training, we have the greatest coaches. All we need to do is follow the program.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

if you don't know where you're going...

Verse 2.42-43: Men of small knowledge are very much attached to the flowery words of the Vedas, which recommend various fruitive activities for elevation to heavenly planets, resultant good birth, power, and so forth. Being desirous of sense gratification and opulent life, they say that there is nothing more than this.

Not only is goal setting important, but in any practice or activity we perform, it's just as important to know what the top-most achievable goal actually is. Take for example school. I don't know about you, but one of the reasons why I found University so challenging was largely due to the fact that I didn't have an end goal in mind. I only had an intermediate goal which was to graduate with a degree in Biochemistry, hoping that somehow in the process I would figure out what I would want to do.

I chose to major in Biochemistry mainly because those were the subjects that I got the highest marks in in high school. When I entered first year University and my grades took a nose-dive, I remember feeling so stressed out. Not only did I realize that I had to learn how to learn, but I felt that the majority of the courses I had to take were uninteresting and useless. As second year and third year rolled around, I learned how to teach myself, but still felt unsatisfied. For years I didn't understand why. It's only know that I understand it's because all that knowledge and information was just that - knowledge and information. I couldn't put it into context of a larger picture of how and when I was going to apply it. Because of that University was more about grades as opposed to understanding the application of the subjects I was studying.

Here, Krsna is saying something very similar about the process of yoga. He's saying, "Don't just get attached to the external results of what yoga can give you that will simply help to gratify your senses. Understand that there is a higher purpose, a higher goal and strive towards that." Just like I was short-sighted in simply striving for a degree, here the student of yoga is being advised to see beyond the short-term benefits of what yoga has to offer.

So what is the top-most goal one can achieve in practicing yoga? Bhakti. The ability to truly tap into our loving propensity by realizing who we are (the soul) and reviving our eternal and increasingly joyful relationship with the Supreme. Now practically speaking, that may seem a little bit difficult to conceptualize for one who just wants to apply principles of yoga in their life or is just starting their yoga practice, but that's ok. The point is that everyone should be aware that there is an ultimate goal in yoga.

In the meantime, go on and set your intermediary goals. Whether that goal is to simply make it to your yoga class on a weekly basis, to engage in mantra meditation daily or to offer everything you do in a spirit of gratitude, that's wonderful. We all need to take the first step. But from time to time, check and in and see where you're at. That highest goal is only achievable if you know where you're going. Otherwise, if don't know where you're going, as the saying goes, any road will take you there.

Friday, March 29, 2013

true yoga

Verse 2.41: Those who are on this path are resolute in purpose, and their aim is one. O beloved child of the Kurus, the intelligence of those who are irresolute is many-branched.

There are many conceptions and ideas about yoga floating around the world today. As yoga becomes increasingly popular, it seems as though it's also becoming increasingly difficult to understand what true yoga is all about.

It's simple really. Yoga is a way of life. It's not something you "do", it's how you live. Since yoga is spiritual in its essence, the ultimate result of living a yogic lifestyle is to reconnect ourselves with the spiritual. What is that spiritual? It is to realize that we ourselves are eternal spirit souls, that all other living entities are also eternal spirit souls and that we are all connected by a common relationship. That relationship is with the Divine, the Supreme, who different people call by various names.

However, for many, that is a lot to take in at once and so the yoga texts take it step by step. First, the yoga texts start with the body, since it is what we mistakenly identify ourselves with. Yoga asanas, or postures, are there to help us experience the body. Think about it. How often during the day do you think about blinking, breathing or even walking? We tend not notice any particular part of our body unless we experience pain there. Through performing various postures, we get to "experience" the body as well as keep it healthy.

For many, that's enough and they are happy to think that is complete yoga. This is, however, just the beginning. Once the body is regulated, it only makes sense that we try to control the wild and turbulent mind. One of the most effective ways of taming the mind is through the practice of mantra meditation. In contrast to trying to empty the mind of all thoughts, which is near impossible to do, mantra meditation engages all the senses. Instead of trying to fight the senses to control the mind, the bhakti yogi uses them as tools.

Now we come to the main point of today's verse, which speaks of the intelligent. Did you know that the bhakti texts categorize the mind and intelligence as being different? In fact, there is a hierarchy. The intelligence is higher than the mind which is higher than the senses. Higher than the intelligence is the soul. Are you noticing a pattern here? The first two steps began with first understanding the nature of the senses and the mind and then regulating them. Now we move on to the intelligence...which begs the question: what does one do with the it?

One purifies the it by hearing from advanced bhakti practitioners and reading the bhakti texts. Here, Krsna the ultimate yogi, is giving the characteristics of a person who has purified intelligence- they are resolute in purpose and their aim is one (i.e. they are focused). In addition, to help us diagnose ourselves, he also gives a description of those persons whose intelligence is not purified - they are irresolute and scattered. But that isn't all. The aim and the purpose of such intelligent persons is also given. It's not that one can be resolute about anything and that should be the benchmark by which we assess purified intelligence. Purified intelligence means one's aim is on living a bhakti lifestyle, a yogic lifestyle. That lifestyle in no way discounts achieving success or aspiring for greatness, it just means that it is done so in a spirit of gratitude (i.e. karma free).

The crux, or most important step for all those aspiring to live a yogic lifestyle really centres on understanding and controlling the mind. That's exactly what Krsna will speak of in the verses to come. So stay tuned! It could change your life and turn you into a focused and empowered individual.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

breaking free!

Verse 2.40: In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.

Yesterday we left off with the question of how to get out of a bad contract. Today, we find out how!

As a quick recap, that horrible contract we've gotten ourselves into is the trap of constantly accumulating good and bad karma. Luckily for us, Krsna is our expert guide who hands us the solution to getting out of this mess- perform activities that are "akarmic" or that result in no karma.

That's right, it's a little known fact but there is such a thing as "karma free". This takes us out of the situation of wondering whether we will receive our just deserts in this lifetime or the next. But what does it mean to act in a way that results in being karma free?

All of one's actions are knowingly or unknowingly motivated. Normally that motivation is tuned into the "what's in it for me" station. In other words, we are trying to find happiness the only way we know how - through experiencing pleasure through our senses. The downside to this type of lifestyle is that it increasingly makes us body-centric. Our world revolves around our bodies and we forget the soul, the actual eternal self, which is desperately requiring our care and attention.

Living a karma free life is about feeding and nourishing our soul and to live such a life requires knowledge about what the soul really needs. The soul is not only spiritual by nature but also craves relationship, hence our fundamental need to love and be loved. In order to re-invigorate the soul, the bhakti texts outline certain spiritual activities one can perform. Such activities include reciting and singing beautiful mantras (mantra - sound vibration that frees the mind from anxiety) and spending time with advanced practitioners of bhakti.

The beauty of the bhakti is that most "everyday" actions you perform can also be converted into karma free activities. The only thing that actually changes is the motivation. Instead of acting for "me", we act in a consciousness of gratitude. We are all blessed to be the recipients of so many talents, gifts and opportunities. When we perform our activities with the consciousness of giving thanks instead of expecting something in return, we naturally invite empowerment and blessings in our life, instead of karma.

So go on and feed your soul and experience what it's like to live karma free.

"like" us today!

Good morning everyone!

As you may have noticed, we have a new Facebook Page called "Everyday Gita"! Here we'll be gathering and posting articles written on the incredible hints the Gita gives us to lead successful and fulfilling lives. Please feel free to "Like" the page (you can find the button located conveniently on the sidebar to the right) and join in the conversation by commenting and sharing your experiences! Wishing everyone a wonderful day and stay tuned to find out the answer to yesterday's post of "the key to getting out a bad contract".

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

the key to getting out of a bad contract

Verse 2.39: Thus far I have described this knowledge to you through analytical study. Now listen as I explain it in terms of working without fruitive results. O son of Pṛthā, when you act in such knowledge you can free yourself from the bondage of works.

"Knowledge is power." Sound familiar? My question has always been, "What kind of power does it give you?" The answer is finally revealed today in this verse of the Gita.

True knowledge gives us the power to free ourselves from the bondage of work. That bondage of work is more commonly known as karma. I find it interesting that the word karma is used quite commonly these days as another way of saying "You got (or will get) what's coming to you." It actually puts into perspective what karma is all about: a binding contract.

However, karma is no ordinary contract; it's one that you can't get out of! If we operate on the good karma and bad karma platform, there's no escape. As well, there's no cancelling of each other out! So for all of you out there thinking, I'll just do x amount of "good" things to cancel out the "bad". Sorry! No can do. It just doesn't work like that

If you perform some "good" activity then you are due to receive something "good" in return. Same rules apply with performing "bad" activities. But like all contracts, we're either blissfully unaware of or ignore the fine print which reads: That reaction that's due to come to you may not come in this lifetime. It may come in later lifetimes.

Any intelligent business person knows that that's a BAD deal. Would you enter into a contract knowing fully well that your investment may not come in this lifetime? I sure wouldn't!

Say you did sign on the dotted line and got yourself wrapped up in this bad mess. What do you do then? You immediately call the most brilliant lawyer you can find a loop hole or way out. That's exactly what Krsna is presenting to us here today - our ticket out.

So how do we get out? Come back tomorrow to find out!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

don't play by the rules

Verse 2.38: Do thou fight for the sake of fighting, without considering happiness or distress, loss or gain, victory or defeat — and by so doing you shall never incur sin.

We live in a world filled with duality. No one experiences happiness without distress or victory without defeat. In other words, to understand one thing, you also need to understand the opposite. So what do we do? We try to minimize the "bad" and maximize the possibility of getting the "good".

However, Krsna is presenting something really interesting here. He's telling Arjuna, "Don't play by the rules." What rules am I speaking of? Those that come attached with living in this world.

Did you know that? Yoga is all about not playing by the rules. Perhaps the rebel in you is rejoicing just reading that; I know my inner rebel did!

By acting in ways that increase the chances of us being "happy", we are conforming to the rules of the material world. Instead, Krsna is informing Arjuna, "There is another option!" Instead of searching after happiness, and trying at all costs to avoid distress, Krsna presents the concept of balance.

Instead of thinking of oneself and the "happiness" or "distress" that will come according to the action we perform, Krsna is suggesting that Arjuna act for the sake of acting. Interesting concept, isn't it? Putting it another way, we're being presented with the message: Focus on doing the right thing, not on doing things right.

What happens as a result? Instead of living in the future, you are forced to live in the present. Observe yourself the next time you are doing something. More often that not, when we act with the intention of getting a result "for me" (i.e. money, fame, happiness etc..), our minds tend to jump automatically to that desired result. It becomes hard to focus on the task at hand. However, if we act for the sake of doing something properly, our mind doesn't wander as much.

How is this balance, you ask? One could argue, "But isn't this actually going completely in the opposite direction. We're being asked to give up all self-interest!" Not really. The complete opposite would be to simply not care at all which is not what balance is about. The motivation to act still remains, it's just centred on performing the activity the best we can.

So go ahead and be a rebel! Take the opportunity to focus on doing the right thing, and not on doing things right.

Monday, March 25, 2013

a lesson in reading

Verse 2.37: O son of Kuntī, either you will be killed on the battlefield and attain the heavenly planets, or you will conquer and enjoy the earthly kingdom. Therefore, get up with determination and fight.

When reading, do you imbibe the true meaning of the shapes and letters your eyes are taking in? Answer honestly now. :) I freely admit that I often read but don't truly ingest what I'm looking at.

Case in point, today's verse. As I was reading the verse, my attention fell upon the word "determination." Captured by that word, I decided to do something new- I looked up its etymology. What I came across surprised me and threw the meaning of this verse into a completely different light.

My definition of "determination" is a mix of these adjectives: strong-willed, perseverance, not giving up. However, looking on the online etymology dictionary, I was intrigued to find out that this word is derived from the mid-14th century Old French word déterminacion (decision, sentence) and from the Latin word determinationem (conclusion, boundary). For those who may not be so familiar, etymology not only refers to the derivation of a word but the chronological account of its birth, development and evolving changes in form and meaning (as per

What's interesting is that the definition of determination has changed over the years. Its meaning went from decision or conclusion to the quality of being resolute. Now one might protest and say, "Well that's the same thing, isn't it?" My humble answer to that question is yes and no.

See, it's easy to say "the quality of being resolute" if one knows how to be resolute. That's where the problem lies. How does one become resolute? The original definition gives the complete picture because it gives one the tools of how to be resolute - make up your mind! Come to a conclusion, decision and stick with it!

That's what being determined really means. It means nothing can sway you from your path/choice. In fact, it makes me realize that my original understanding of the word "determination" was quite inadequate. Being strong-willed and not giving up are important factors, but that can only come into play if you are truly convinced and fixed.

Why is this word so important? Because that's what it takes to follow through on any decision, whether it be fighting for righteousness and protection, as is the case for Arjuna, or attempting to follow a spiritual path, like that of bhakti yoga.

Determination is crucial in the path of bhakti since one faces so many impediments, the most dangerous of them being the mind. The fickle mind flits about from idea to idea and never likes to rest in one place. The thing is, love isn't about being fickle. Love is about steadiness and depth which doesn't come easy. It takes great determination to stick to a practice, person or relationship and that's how bhakti (the yoga of love) helps us in not only connecting with the Supreme, but with one another.

So the next time you feel yourself floundering when it comes to your personal practice, whether it be listening to the sound of the mantra you are chanting or simply taking the time to read a bhakti text, take heart. Determination is about conviction, making a conscious choice of commitment and never giving up.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

becoming a spiritual warrior

Verse 2.36: Your enemies will describe you in many unkind words and scorn your ability. What could be more painful for you?

Pain is a type of suffering, distress. It comes in different forms whether it be physical, mental or emotional. That, everyone will agree with. What most people would concur with is the fact that pain should be avoided at all costs.

However, what's interesting is where people differ in their attitude towards pain. For example, if we polled a group of individuals, it would become clear that people differ in their perception of pain. One man's pain can easily be another one's pleasure. Along with perception, people also tend to have various thresholds of pain. For example, some may be able to tolerate high doses of physical pain but may fall to pieces when exposed to a hint of emotional pain.

Here, we are introduced more deeply to how pain can be perceived depending on the individual. Specifically, Krsna here is pointing out for that person who is a warrior/leader/protector, such as Arjuna, the greatest pain for such a person is derision. It's not insult to the body that such a person feels afflicted by but insult to one's character and example.

I found this to be an interesting point which led me to recognize something I witness everyday but don't necessarily do anything about - it is so easy to hurt each other. Often we forget that pain is not limited solely to the physical, which more often than not, heals faster and more easily than the emotional scars and traumas that we cause by our careless words and actions.

One great bhakti practitioner coined a beautiful phrase which I'd like to share with you today. He said that we should aspire to become "spiritual warriors". Instead of arming ourselves with insults, derogatory remarks and flippant sarcasm, instead we arm ourselves with compassion, well-wishes and words of encouragement for one another.

There is a lot of pain out in the world today. The question that needs to be posed is, "Who out there wants to help heal it?" It's too easy to point the finger at one another and say "You caused it!" That just keeps the cycle going. Instead, we need to first desire to become spiritual warriors. Those warriors that, as the great bhakti text Srimad Bhagavatam describe, aspire to the ideal of "The lovers of the Lord are so forbearing that even though they are defamed, cheated, cursed, disturbed, neglected or even killed, they are never inclined to avenge themselves."

That's a pretty high ideal. In fact, for most of us, it may seem impossible! However, it's important to have an ideal or a goal to strive towards. Whether we only imbibe one percent of that statement or ninety, the fact is we become all the better for attempting to become such empowered individuals. Why not aim for the moon? After all, even if we fall, we'll land amongst the stars!

With respect to becoming a spiritual warrior, it's important to recognize and remember the saying, "Physician, heal thyself." For most of us, we first need to recognize the scars and hurt that we've experienced and let go of it. It's hard to help others when we ourselves are suffering. However, it doesn't mean that it's impossible. Such is the beauty of bhakti. Bhakti not only helps the process of self-healing but also helps one to recognize and help others simultaneously.

In a world that's becoming more and more impersonal by the day, this is an invitation to become more personal and more loving. Are you in?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

do you want to be famous?

Verse 2.35: The great generals who have highly esteemed your name and fame will think that you have left the battlefield out of fear only, and thus they will consider you insignificant.

Do you long for fame? Do you want to be recognized and adored for being expert at something or contributing meaningfully to the world? I think there are few persons who could actual answer "No!" honestly to that question.

The bhakti texts describe how fame and adoration can actually be impediments for the aspiring spiritual practitioner. They don't say that it will be an impediment, but that they can be. It depends on how one actual uses name and fame. If used in the spirit of helping others understand that they are an eternal soul who has forgotten their loving relationship with the Supreme, then wonderful. But if used solely to promote one's own self for personal adoration, then definitely it acts as a barrier.

But that's not what I really want to talk about today. I want to talk about the downside of fame, which is something most people often ignore. I think it's necessary that one is educated about the pitfalls since so many people want to be famous. Then, at least a person knows what they are getting themselves into.

That is exactly what Krsna is talking about here. Arjuna is famous not only for being an expert archer, but being the best archer in the world. Krsna is reminding Arjuna here that fame doesn't come cheap. It means one is scrutinized in everything that one does. All sense of privacy is lost. In fact, such a person's life becomes an open book. The only way one can live such a life sanely is by behaving in an exemplary manner. If one doesn't, not only is one's good name dragged through the mud, but all faith and trust is also lost in such an individual. These are the intangibles that money can never buy back.

Furthermore, there will always be different types of people who will be looking to bring you down. Those who are envious and also want to be well recognized for the same achievements and talents that you have. Those who also have similar talents and want to become better than you and those who just want fame and will stop at nothing to achieve it.

Finally, and Krsna specifically makes reference to this point here, there will be those who have been looking up to you as a role model or example. Such persons may be well-wishers or competitors but it doesn't matter. They are bound together by one thing- respect for you. If you fail to live an exemplary life, such persons will lose respect for you. Out of all these possibilities, this is what hurts a self-respecting individual the most.

So think long and hard if you want to be famous and look to see what motivates you. That motivation can act as roadmap to discover what it is you really want. A lot of times people just want to be recognized since they equate it to being loved. The thing is, love has nothing to do with numbers. It has everything to do with connection.

If you can touch people's lives by being the ear they can listen to, the shoulder they can cry on and the steady rock in their life, that's even greater than being famous. After all, that's what yoga is all about. It's about connection. Bhakti yoga is about connecting through love. So go ahead and make some soul connections. After all, fame is fleeting. Establishing meaningful relationships with each other, while keeping God in the centre, is eternal.

Friday, March 22, 2013


Verse 2.34: People will always speak of your infamy, and for a respectable person, dishonor is worse than death.

Dishonour is worse than death. Powerful words. For a person who lives by these words, it means that their good name is everything to them. Funny isn't it? Everything is so topsy-turvy nowadays. So many of our "celebrities" have a made a name for themselves due to doing something dishonourable. In fact, it doesn't matter whether one is famous or infamous anymore, all that matters is that they are known.

The bhakti texts speak of how name, fame, adoration, prestige and wealth can blind one to what is really important - our relationship with the Supreme. All of these attributes may appear to satisfy the mind, but do they really satisfy the heart? Although we hear time and again that they don't, why are so many people out there willing to sacrifice everything, even their good name, for a few fleeting moments of fame?

Here, Krsna is explaining to Arjuna what true honour is all about. It's about fulfilling one's duty.

It's important to note though that Krsna is speaking in stages in trying to convince Arjuna to do the right thing. First he spoke on the highest level- you are the soul and you need not lament for the material body. Then Krsna speaks from the perspective of the body. "Ok Arjuna, if you can't act on the level of the soul, then realize that along with this body comes a specific nature. Work in line with that nature." Now Krsna is speaking to Arjuna on the emotional level to convince him to do the right thing.

Just see the different perspectives that Krsna offers! Although the eternal bhakti perspective is the most important, Krsna does not discount other perspectives. This is the beauty of bhakti. There's something for everyone on all levels. So whether you are just curious about the bhakti path or are trying to make it the centre of your life, you'll always walk away with something invaluable.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


Verse 2.33: If, however, you do not perform your religious duty of fighting, then you will certainly incur sins for neglecting your duties and thus lose your reputation as a fighter.

Krsna is encouraging Arjuna to fight. Growing up with the culture of bhakti being practiced by my parents, I have to admit that this always confused the heck out of me! The path of bhakti is all about compassion, love, tolerance, humility and respect. Krsna encouraging Arjuna to fight seems completely contradictory to the essence of bhakti. So what gives?

It was only when I studied the Gita under the guidance of extremely advanced and qualified bhakti practitioners that I began to understand something crucial. There is a time and place for everything. Nothing is good or bad. Take for example a knife. In an expert surgeon's hand, it's an instrument of healing and help whereas in the hands of a criminal it can be used to inflict harm.

In this case, Arjuna is a leader, an administrator and a protector. Therefore it is his duty to take care of those who depend on him. Duryodhana, who wrongfully usurped the kingdom, is not a qualified leader due to the fact that he took power through trickery and force. We forget that the consciousness of anyone in a position of power has a direct impact on others. In this case, since Duryodhana is the epitome of selfishness, deceit and unlawfulness, this is what would get propagated within the kingdom.

Krsna is not asking to Arjuna to fight for himself, but on behalf of his subjects who need to be saved from this type of rule. Imagine a parallel situation. A thug is harassing someone on the road. A policeman is witnessing the situation and realizes that to help the victim, he might need to inflict some force on the thug. Thinking that utilizing force is always bad, he simply walks away. Do you think the policeman did the right thing?

Most people would probably agree that the policeman's inaction could be considered even worse than what the thug was doing! It is the policeman's duty to help those who are in need. The application of force and fighting is sometimes necessary to help those who are dependent and helpless.

Consciousness is also extremely important. Krsna is not encouraging Arjuna to fight so that he can enjoy the kingdom. Similarly, the policeman or law enforcement officer should not be motivated to help others just for recognition. It is a duty, a responsibility.

In today's day and age, the concept of acting in the right consciousness and out of duty are foreign concepts, what to speak of the fact that we don't have very qualified leaders and protectors. But that doesn't mean that the aspiring bhakti yogi doesn't fight. Oh no, we do. Our fight though is against our mind that compels us to remain complacent and lazy when actually we should endeavour to be spiritually active. Reading bhakti texts, hearing inspiring talks and engaging in mantra meditation all take effort.

It's about time, place, circumstance and above all motivation. Everything can be utilized in bhakti, even applying a little force.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

embracing opportunities

Verse 2.32: O Pārtha, happy are the kṣatriyas to whom such fighting opportunities come unsought, opening for them the doors of the heavenly planets.

Are you one to shy away from opportunities? The adventurous and free-spirited part of me screams "Of course not! Bring them on!" It's shameful to admit, but in actuality I know that I have oftentimes turned a blind eye to said opportunities, given numerous excuses as to why I won't advantage of them to appease myself and promptly gone and tried to forget about them. Of course, what happens next is inevitable...someone else (who might have been just as fearful as you) takes advantage of that opportunity and great things come from it. Once hearing about it you feel a myriad of emotions - a little envy with "I could have totally done that better" thrown in for good measure, disappointment in yourself and a general feeling of dissatisfaction.

Sound familiar? I think it's common, especially when it comes to those opportunities that are in line with your nature. As mentioned yesterday, your nature consists of your proclivities and qualities and act as a roadmap to figuring out what you are meant to do with your life. The challenge, however, often lies in - 1) figuring out our nature and 2) embracing opportunities to engage that nature in effective, influential ways. Think of a super talented singer whose nature it is to be artistic and creative through singing. She gets an audition and instead of getting the support that she needs to overcome her fear and wow the record label, she doesn't show up and instead continues to work at the corner store. Drastic example, but I'm sure it happens everyday. You might be wondering though, how in the world does this tie in with bhakti?

You see, Krsna is starting with the basics in explaining the intricacies of bhakti. Krsna first taught lesson 1 - we misidentify ourselves with the body which covers who we really are - eternal souls. Krsna then goes on to explain in great detail the nature and characteristics of the soul, educating all of us since we have forgotten and ignored it for so long.

Now, Krsna is further explaining that even though in reality we are the soul, if we don't actually understand this on a practical level, then we need to use our body, mind and intelligence to help us get us to the soul platform. How do you do that? Krsna gives the formula - you work with what you have. Just like you have a particular body, you also have a certain mind and intelligence that has been given to you. Literally, no two living entities are alike. Everything has been tailor made just for you (the soul).

In this basic program, which acts as a brilliant foundation to build upon spiritually, the key requirement is acting according to your nature. That means if you are a person who loves to learn and teach and guide others, then you act in that capacity. It doesn't mean that you slave away and try to become a businessmen just because it may be more lucrative financially. No. Be true to the nature you have been given.

After having done so, the next step is to embrace opportunities that arise so that those gifts and skills (which ultimately are given to us by the Supreme) can be properly utilized. In doing so, this program actually helps one progress in the bhakti path when one works in the consciousness that all this is possible due to the gifts bestowed upon us by Krsna. It opens up our eyes to recognizing that we can be empowered to become instrument of greatness. The take away message being we are empowered by God. The greatness doesn't originate from us. When we understand this, we naturally feel grateful to Krsna for choosing us to be instruments of inspiration and talent.

That's what Krsna is telling Arjuna here. He's saying, "You have been empowered to be a great leader and administrator for millions of people who count on you for your protection. It is your nature to lead them and care for them. Are you going to turn a blind eye when the moment of truth comes to stick up for them?"

In our own day to day lives, we may face these defining moments on a smaller scale, but they are nonetheless important. Even if our circumstances don't allow us to engage in activities that are in line with our nature, the goal should be to move in that direction. Why? Because it's easier and will make us happy.

So the next time an opportunity arises for you to engage in your nature, take it! It's not only an opportunity to develop your skills and talents and contribute something to the world, it's also an opportunity to realize that everything is only possible by blessings and grace.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

career advice - part 1

Verse 2.31: Considering your specific duty as a kṣatriya, you should know that there is no better engagement for you than fighting on religious principles; and so there is no need for hesitation.

Did you know that we all have two occupations in life? One is the occupation of the soul and the other is the occupation of the body based on your psycho-physical nature.

Let's focus on the latter first, as it seems that most of us have a hard enough time figuring that one out. The word occupation is not being used in reference to a job that you are applying for or are currently working in. It refers to your raison d'être. That activity, that call to action which you are meant to do based on your nature.

The Gita is so incredible. It not only presents the highest truth and objectives but also gives us insights into how we can function more effectively and successfully even in the material world. Case in point, Krsna is here (and will expand further later on) presenting the message that every single life coach/job councilor is propounding out there today - you need to find what you love to do.

How many of you out there have heard that advice before? In fact, how many of you out there have struggled to figure out what you want to do? As someone who has been there and struggled personally with this maddening question, let me tell you - just hearing this one phrase ain't enough. I mean, it's a solace to the heart to hear what you know to be true confirmed by others, but it doesn't practically guide you to figure out what you want to do, especially if you like to do a lot of things!

Enter the Gita and Krsna. The way in which you figure out what it is that you are meant to do is by understanding the qualities and proclivities that you have.

Krsna describes how society naturally falls into four categories according to these qualities and proclivities - the educators/academics, the protectors/administrators, the businessmen/agriculturalists and finally the artists/workers. It's further interesting to note, persons can be a mix of each of these (i.e. educator/protector).

It's noteworthy that society today encourages most of us to fall into the worker category. Go to school, get a job and work for a company. That's the line that most of us have been fed. The thing is that society cannot function on workers alone. It is a noble and honourable position, just like the others, but it only represents one piece of the whole. In order for society to function properly, we need qualified individuals who are encouraged and guided to understand where they fit and not just shoved into a round peg if they obviously don't belong there.

Here, Krsna is speaking to Arjuna who is a protector/administrator (the sanskirt word being ksatriya). The main quality of one who is a ksatriya is that of being a protector. The nature of such an individual is to take care of all persons/living entities who are under their leadership and ensure their safety and well-being. Krsna encourages Arjuna to not run away from his qualities and proclivities that make him a ksatriya.

This is a valuable lesson. Many of us also try to run away from our psycho-physical tendencies. Instead, we try to take on roles that we've been told will give us stability and money. As most of us who have tried this, it doesn't make you happy. In speaking with numerous individuals who were brave enough to throw away their careers to pursue what is in line with their nature, I heard one thing over and over again - it may be hard and it may be challenging, but be true to yourself. Find out how you can contribute to the world, instead of trying to take from it.

That in itself is a bhakti principle. Bhakti is about selflessness and giving. It's not about being miserly and hard-hearted. So go on and take part 1 of Krsna's career advice - be true to your nature and work according to it. You'll be amazed by the results.

Monday, March 18, 2013


A couple of months ago I joined a group where the participants are not only exceptional writers but take the time to visit and comment on each others writing. The group, Blogplicity, is a beautiful community and I am honoured to be a member. Recently, one of the members proposed a group of us take on a writing challenge called six-word memoirs. For the past month individuals have been writing such deep and insightful memoirs. Yesterday, it was Cairn's turn who courageously opened her heart and summed it up in six words.

One could ask why I'm choosing to post this here, as this blog is dedicated to delving into the practical applications of the Gita. There are two reasons. Firstly, the Gita is all about the essentials and gets right down to the heart of the matter. Nothing superfluous or dressy about it. It's concise. Similarly, this exercise forces me to think carefully about my life so far and boil it down to six words. Secondly, the Gita has shaped my life in such incredible and tangible ways. These six words below not only represent me, but more importantly, how the Gita has impacted me.


I now pass along the torch to Sulekha who will be writing her six-word memoir tomorrow on her blog!

observation: one of the keys to having succesful relationships

Verse 2.30: O descendant of Bharata, he who dwells in the body can never be slain. Therefore you need not grieve for any living being.

Do you think that you are a keen observer? Being a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes, I always marveled as to how Holmes seemed to notice all the little things. In fact, in one story Holmes asks Watson the question, "How many times have you gone up the stairs to this apartment?." Watson replies, "Hundreds of times" and then Holmes poses a seemingly simplistic question, "How many stairs are there?" Watson can't answer and Holmes enlightens him.

The aforementioned conversation highlights an important truth that we often forget - observation is based on being intentionally attentive and conscious. It's not something that just "happens" with our eyes and ears. Only when one is focused and alert can one even hope to observe anything. In the explanation to today's verse, our exalted Gita guide and teacher, Swami Prabhupada, makes note that "The Lord now concludes the chapter of instruction on the immutable spirit soul." An excellent teacher, Prabhupada reminds the reader (who many have forgotten or gotten distracted) that for the past little while Krsna has been talking about the soul and he is now concluding his discussion on it.

This prompted me to do a little experiment of my own. For those who have read, are reading or (I hope!) will one day read the Gita, I counted how many verses Krsna has now spoken on the soul. If one counts from the first time Krsna mentions the word "soul", there are 18 including today's (starting from 2.13 and ending at 2.30). In fact, this is the first topic that Krsna talks about as soon as Arjuna asks Krsna to be his bhakti teacher.

It was an exercise that took me a grand total of 30 seconds to count how many verses there were and by doing so I learned something valuable. It's not difficult to be observant, but it takes active effort. It's a skill, which like any other, needs to be developed.

Bhakti is all about being observant. Why? Because bhakti is about relationships. In order to have successful relationships with each other, what to speak of having one with the Supreme Person, it requires that we become actively observant. Not only should we become observant of our own thoughts and actions which indirectly or directly have effects on others, but we also need to be observant of the words and actions of others. This will allow us to become more attentive to each others needs, interests and concerns.

People often helplessly say, "I don't know what you want or need!" I think that we unreasonably expect one another to communicate effectively through words. Although it would be ideal, it's hard for many persons. Living in a world that has now become saturated by communication via text, email and messaging doesn't necessarily help the matter either. We forget that non-verbal communication is just as informative. Sometimes, all we need to do is literally just look at the person really closely and observe their facial expressions, their eyes and their body posture.

The basic desire for each and every one of us is to love and be loved. So why not learn from this ancient bhakti text? The answer is simple and just requires some practice. Invest in your relationships with the Supreme and one another - strive to actively and intentionally observe. It shows that you care.

Monday, March 4, 2013

the amazing soul

Verse 2.29: Some look on the soul as amazing, some describe him as amazing, and some hear of him as amazing, while others, even after hearing about him, cannot understand him at all.

Good morning from Kolkata! It's been a few days since I've had a chance to write and I think I'm experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Such is the power and beauty of the Gita - you become addicted!

There are numerous things in this material world that amaze us. Skyscrapers, intelligence, relationships, underwater sea life...well those are some of the things that never cease to amaze me! Here, Krsna is telling Arjuna that of things that are amazing, the soul is the most amazing.

Amazing things tend to bewilder us. Ever notice that? In fact, I think the reason why we label them as such, is due to the fact that we don't understand them. Most of the time, however, they can be understood. It just takes great effort on our part and the willingness to invest the time and energy.

To understand the soul, one must invest that time and energy and most importantly, follow the process that is outlined. No one can just learn the intricacies of and how to build a skyscraper on their own. They must understand the principles of engineering, architecture and so many other fields to comprehend how they fit together.

Similarly, to understand the soul properly, one must follow the path of the bhakti yoga. Bhakti yoga explains the interconnections of karma, reincarnation, the material world, the body, God and so many other aspects which will help the skeptical side of us understand the place, importance and existence of the soul.

I'll conclude by saying this. I've added another item to the list of things that amaze me and that is driving in India. For those who have never had the haven't seen amazing or mystical until you've seen this. For the past two days, my friend Divya and I have been visiting various places in Kolkata, and although this isn't our first to India, we can't help but be amazed. Horns blaring, dust engulfing us, scooters, motorcycles, auto-rikshaws, cars, pedestrians, and animals are all competing for the same space. There are so many near misses, that one loses count of how many potential crashes, scraps and bruises should have happened, but didn't, after the first five minutes.

In fact I think that understanding the soul is actually much easier than trying to wrap one's mind around how traffic moves in India! It's enough to convince anyone that Krsna (God) does exist!

Friday, March 1, 2013

note to all gitaasitis readers

Dear gitaasitis readers,

First of all, I would like to thank you all for taking the time to read this blog and for all your continued support and encouragement.

I wanted to let you know that for the next two weeks I'll be travelling and may not be able to post anything regularly. I'll definitely try my best if there is an internet connection, but if not, please know that I will be back to my daily exploration of the Gita once I return!!!

All the best and may your hearts be filled with bhakti!