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.

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