Monday, March 18, 2013

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.


  1. Great post, the details do count and the observant mind will note them all.

  2. I'm starting to realize it in my own life more and more Cairn! I think the challenging part is being intentionally and actively observant...I tend to run on autopilot most of the time which certainly does not serve me well in trying to become more observant!

    1. My brain and I have developed a lovely little thing called trust. Brains are amazing things, they do exactly what you tell them to do, so tell your brain to observe more closely. The hard part is the trusting, but it's all you have to do, just trust the magnificence that is you :)

  3. Ah, you have inspired me to pay attention today, or at least try to! Great post. Thank you.

  4. Wishing you a day filled with beautiful and insightful observations, Galen! :)