Monday, April 29, 2013

lessons from the ocean

Verse 2.70: A person who is not disturbed by the incessant flow of desires — that enter like rivers into the ocean, which is ever being filled but is always still — can alone achieve peace, and not the man who strives to satisfy such desires.

Waves and salt, power and grace, mysterious yet serene - these are some of the images and words that come to mind when I think of the ocean. In fact, as yogis have discovered, the ocean has a soothing effect on many. It puts one back in touch with nature and many have often said that just looking upon it helps puts things into perspective.

It is no wonder then that the Gita refers to it specifically. However, as with everything, the Gita pulls out a supremely deep lesson we can take away from the ocean - the lesson of steadiness. As we are coming to the close of Chapter 2 which is aptly entitled "Contents of the Gita Summarized", everything that has been explained thus far is being put together into the comprehensive and holistic process known as bhakti yoga.

Krsna began with explaining that we are eternal souls who are wearing a dress of a particular body. This was followed by stressing the importance of performing one's activities in accordance with one's nature in a spirit of gratitude. Invaluable truths were presented as to the nature of the mind and the secret science of learning how to control the process of attachment.

The Gita now speaks of how this all interlocks together, through the process of bhakti yoga. It is only after understanding these various truths and realizing them (through practical application in our own lives) that we can become undisturbed. Such a person remains equipoised irregardless of their external surroundings and the inner chaotic demands of their minds.

We can learn how this is done by just observing the ocean. The ocean is always full, just as we are. Although we are externally searching for happiness, happiness is already within. The soul is always blissful. Due to wearing this external body we are currently inhabiting, we have become habituated into thinking that happiness is something that is experienced through the senses. True happiness is not experienced through the senses, mind or intelligence. It is experienced through the soul.

By understanding this fundamental truth, we can remain steady, just like the ocean. Although various rivers may keep pouring water into it, the ocean isn't dependent on them to feel full. Similarly, although we may be subjected to various desires, if we understand that satisfying those demands isn't the path to eternal happiness, then we will remain calm. It's important to remember, as the great bhakti master Prabhupada highlights:

"As long as one has the material body, the demands of the body for sense gratification will continue. The bhakti yogi, however, is not disturbed by such desires, because of his fullness. Such a person is not in need of anything, because the Lord fulfills all his material necessities. Therefore he is like the ocean — always full in himself."

This is the secret. The Gita teaches us that "it's ok to let go." We don't always need to be in control. By performing our actions in a spirit of gratitude for all that we have been given, we start to realize that the Divine is always helping us. He is providing for every living creature from the little ant to the gigantic elephant. So why are we so worried that He won't take care of us?

When we start living our lives in such a way, it only becomes natural that the we "stop sweating the small stuff". Instead, we start introspecting and putting our energy and effort into what really matters - our connection with the Supreme. Of course, that doesn't mean that we neglect ourselves, our job or our family and friends, it just means that we realize that true happiness exists on the soul level, not just on the level of the senses.

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