Friday, June 28, 2013

what is sin?

Verse 3.36: Arjuna said: O descendant of Vṛṣṇi, by what is one impelled to sinful acts, even unwillingly, as if engaged by force?

**I'd like to dedicate this post to two bhakti yogis - my father and Dr. Carl Herzig (Kalachandji Dasa). Thank you so much for sharing your valuable insights and realizations.**

Today's post was written in fact, I started it yesterday! I knew I wanted to focus on the word sin when all of a sudden I realized, "I don't know what the bhakti yoga definition of sin actually is!!!" It served as a reminder as to why I started writing on the Gita.

This blog is a humble effort to make the Gita practical, relevant and understandable to those are reading it and/or are interested in - yoga, self-discovery and life. Well...that's one of the reasons why I write. ;) The other is so that I can continue to learn, grow and understand the Gita better so that I can become a better bhakti yogi.

That's why I'd like to preface this post by saying - this is just an introduction to the topic of sin. By no means is it a comprehensive and complete explanation.

Awhile back, I wrote a post on how each of us view words, situations and ideas based on our own experiences. Certainly, this holds true when one hears the word "sin". I'm sure that all of you have different definitions based on cultural context, religious/spiritual traditions, and personal opinion.

Personally, I've always found sin to be a somewhat vague concept and so I was curious to find out what the bhakti texts had to say. After hearing from two of my bhakti mentors and doing further research, I was able to distill it down to this:

Sins are impediments, in the form of attitudes and activities, that prevent one from experiencing their natural state of "eternal joy".

Now that might sound a bit simplistic to some and I would have to agree. However, it does help to shed a bit more light on the subject matter. An impediment is a hinderance or obstruction and that's exactly what sins do. Specifically, they impede us in two ways:

1) Prevent us from understanding that we are eternal souls.
2) Prevent us from connecting (i.e. yoga) with the Supreme.

So what are those attitudes and activities that prevent us from experiencing eternal joy? Let's start with activities first as they're a bit easier to tackle. Essentially, any activity that results in karma (whether good or bad) acts an impediment. Why's that? Because we don't always get the result of our karma in one lifetime. In order to receive that karma one needs to take on another temporary material body.

The solution is that we perform activities that result in no karma (akarma). This naturally leads us to the question of attitude. When one performs any action with the attitude of enjoying the result, one automatically receives karma. As we previously discussed when exploring the topic of non-attachment, when we perform our activities, all the while giving thanks to the Supreme, we incur no karma. It's not that one can't enjoy...don't get me wrong. It's about offering it to the Supreme in gratitude first; then we enjoy.

This is just the beginning of our exploration into the topic of sin, so stay tuned! Tomorrow we'll find out the answer to Arjuna's very interesting question - By what are we sometimes impelled to perform sinful actions acts, even unwillingly, as if engaged by force?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

uncover the masks

Verse 3.35: It is far better to discharge one's prescribed duties, even though faultily, than another's duties perfectly. Destruction in the course of performing one's own duty is better than engaging in another's duties, for to follow another's path is dangerous.

I was thinking about today's verse and that was the first image that came to mind - uncovering the layers and layers of masks.

To me, a mask signifies hiding one's identity. After all, it's hard to see the full picture if there's something covering it.

Bhakti yoga is about realizing we are wearing different layers of masks, using them effectively and gradually letting go of them; thus, allowing our real selves to shine.

Let's talk about two masks that are specifically prominent - the body and our proclivities and tendencies (i.e. our nature). The body is like a full-fledged mask. It does such an effective job of hiding "the real us" that it's hard to distinguish that the body is just a covering.

Any actors reading this today? Perhaps you can relate. When diving into a role or part, you might have delved so deep into a character that you started to identify yourself with it. Similarly, we have spent so much time wearing different bodies (in this life and in so many previous ones) that we've forgotten that it's not who we really are.

As if one wasn't enough, there's another mask that covers the body mask. Sigh....I know. Like I said - layers up on layers.

That mask is our psycho-physical nature. Not only do we identify with the body, but we also identify with certain tendencies, inclinations and proclivities. What's interesting to note here is that Krsna is not stating that we just take off this mask - i.e. He is not stating that we abandon our nature. Oh no. In fact He is stating the opposite.

Krsna is encouraging that we work in line with our nature - i.e. perform our duties/work in accordance with our nature. He goes one step further in fact and states "It doesn't matter whether you are good at it or not, work according to your nature. Even if you can do something better, it doesn't matter."

So what does that mean? Previously we described that there are four natural divisions of society (in terms of work) - the educators/academics, the administrators/leaders, the businessmen/agriculturalists and finally the artists/workers. That's not to say that people can't be a mix of these four - they certainly can! In fact, nowadays it's hard to find someone who has just the nature of an educator, leader etc..

It commonly happens that we can easily do the work of another extremely well, even if it's not in our nature (i.e. an artist might be excellent at typing). Thinking that it's easier to find a job typing, that person might give up their art. Krsna says here - don't do it! By engaging one's nature, it not only promotes a sense of fulfillment but allows one to naturally advance in bhakti

These masks can act as tools, rather than obstacles, if we know how to properly use them in our journey of self-discovery.

The body and our individual natures are not bad. After all, they are gifts given to us by the Supreme. It's how we utilize them that makes all the difference.

By working with an attitude of appreciation and detachment, we can offer our talents and gifts in gratitude to the Supreme. Similarly, we can utilize our body to glorify the Supreme through song, prayers and our very existence. These bhakti processes allow us to work with what we've got, instead of rejecting them. Like we've said so many times before - bhakti is about transformation, not simply negation.

It's up to us what we do with these masks - we can stay covered by them, or use them to free ourselves. What do you choose?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

aversion and attachment

Verse 3.34: There are principles to regulate attachment and aversion pertaining to the senses and their objects. One should not come under the control of such attachment and aversion, because they are stumbling blocks on the path of self-realization.

On any path one follows, there are challenges and obstacles. Identifying these challenges is a key step to becoming successful in any endeavor we choose to pursue.

Now I don't know about you, but I've always felt that life should come with an instruction manual. That manual would contain clear guidelines as to how we can lead happy lives; as well, it would include a listing of all the unexpected trials, tribulations, twists and turns we are to encounter.

Imagine my surprise when I first read the Gita - I had found it! My guidebook for life! Within its pages, the Gita speaks at length as to how we can become happy. Equally important, it warns us of the problems we may face as living souls inhabiting a temporary body.

Now the Gita doesn't get into specifics...although sometimes it certainly does seem like it's been written specifically for me! Instead, it does one better.

The Gita empowers an individual.

For most of us, our issue is that we tend to look outside instead of looking in. In other words, we think we are so many "external" things - I am male, female, my mind, my body, my intelligence, my senses etc etc... We neglect who we really are- the soul.

In order to successfully live a happy life, we need to become cognizant of those things that can prevent us from achieving the goal of self-realization. After all, if we don't know who we are, how can we relate to anything/anyone else properly? Two such obstacles are identified today - the senses and their objects.

In a previous post we spoke at length discriminating between regulating and repressing one's senses. In concluding that topic, this perspective was offered:

Regulation isn't a lack of freedom. A lack of freedom is being bound by the dictates of our mind and senses and constantly succumbing to them. True freedom is being able to make a choice.

That being doesn't just end there. See it's not just about the senses and their objects, it's how we relate to them. As today's verse describes, we can essentially categorize our interaction with them via these two adjectives - attachment and aversion.

Now, as many of you might have noticed, the Gita doesn't give everything away all at once. It slowly builds on points so that we get an opportunity to digest it all.

From the senses and sense objects that we can perceive and easily relate to, we now are moving on to a more subtle sphere. After all, it's easier to control our hands, tongue, ears, eyes and nose, but it's much harder to control whether we become attached to or averse of something.

That takes more than just knowledge. Knowledge may help us in practicing regulation, but it is only realization that can release us from the control of these two characteristics.

And what is that realization? That we are not this body. After all - attachment and aversion arises as a result of how something, someone or a situation affects or interacts with the body. It has nothing to do with the soul which is eternal and spiritual.

Monday, June 24, 2013

if everyone was the would be so boring!

Verse 3.33: Even a man of knowledge acts according to his own nature, for everyone follows the nature he has acquired from the three modes. What can repression accomplish?

Why bother fooling yourself? It's a question I've asked myself a lot. We all have our nature and working with our tendencies and proclivities is so much easier than always trying to fight against them.

Yoga is all about personalism. There's none of this "Oh...I wish I was someone else!" Sure, we might aspire to follow in the footsteps of others so we too can also gain realization, knowledge and skills - but that's it. There's no merging or becoming someone else!

After all...where's the fun in that? If everyone was exactly the same, it would be so boring...

In fact, this reminds me of a story that one of my role models, Radhanath Swami, once narrated and which I would like to share with you here. If you've never read his story of how he came to bhakti yoga, I highly recommend it. He's written a book called The Journey Home.

Once, he was giving a talk on bhakti yoga to bunch of students at a University. At the end of the talk he opened it up for questions and one student stood up and obnoxiously said, "That's all well and good you speak of bhakti yoga. But if all of us were renounced monks like yourself then how would this world run?" Smirking, he sat back down to the applause of his fellow classmates. Radhanath Swami asked this boy, "What are you studying to become?" The boy stated he was to be an accountant. Always witty, full of good humour and no malice, the Swami replied "Well....what would happen if the world was full of accountants like yourself?" To this, the audience roared with laughter. Radhanath Swami concluded by saying that everyone is needed whether they be monks, accountants, businessmen etc...

The point of the story is this - we are all individuals. The soul, although a part and parcel of the Supreme, is also separate. Just like a drop of water has the properties and consistency of the ocean, similarly we too possess divine characteristics, but in a limited amount.

As one bhakti yogi put it:

Bhakti yoga is about discovering your personality as lover of God.

I can't tell you how relieved I felt upon hearing that. Although we may face challenges and strive for personal improvement, it's not at the cost of losing our personality.

There's no one like you in this's true. In fact, it's confirmed here. There's no need to repress our nature; instead we transform it so that we can do the most good with it.

So the next time you find yourself comparing yourself to others, just remember: we are all like diamonds in the rough. We just need some polishing and bhakti yoga is the process by which we can discover who we really are and shine.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

service: the solution to envy

Verse 3.3: But those who, out of envy, disregard these teachings and do not follow them are to be considered bereft of all knowledge, befooled, and ruined in their endeavors for perfection.

In our last post we discussed how can envy can actually help us get a better idea as to our aspirations, interests and dreams. That is, we focused on the positive.

And that's what bhakti yoga is all about. It's about elevating not only our consciousness, but our very existence to the spiritual platform.

Sometimes the question arises however, "If bhakti is all about the positive, then why does the Gita (as well as all other bhakti texts) seem to focus on "negative" qualities and tendencies we may face within ourselves?"

And that, my dear readers, is an excellent question. As many of you may have experienced, the bhakti texts are holistic in nature. It is for that reason alone that they describe eternality and temporality hand in hand (i.e. the body and the soul) as well as all other aspects that relate to the material and the spiritual.

If bhakti is meant to elevate us, then we need to understand why we would want to be elevated and the present level we may be on. That's why the Gita speaks of three important topics. In sanskrit they are known as sambandha, abhidheya and prayojana. In English these words translate to - relationship, the activities performed to re-establish that relationship and the finally, the goal.

Yoga is all about our ultimate connection (i.e. relationship) to the Supreme. So in this way the Gita is outlining not only a path to get to the goal, but giving us the understanding as to why we should even try out the path.

In trying to establish our relationship with anyone, what to speak of the Supreme, there are many obstacles we may face. One of those challenges is envy. In today's verse we get to understand how envy can really hurt a relationship. That is:

Out of envy, we may reject not only a person but the valuable teachings the person may have to offer.

That's how destructive it can be. Krsna, the Supreme, is offering valuable advice as to how we can become happy. As a perfect guide and well-wisher, He's also giving us a "heads up" as to how envy can prevent us from implementing His loving advice. then how can one rid oneself of envy? The bhakti texts give a simple solution:

Serve the person you are envious of.

I said simple, not necessarily easy! This solution may seem counter-intuitive to many of us. I don't know about you, but my first inclination is to avoid those I am envious of! However, it's important to remember that that type of thinking is self-serving in the short-term. Bhakti is, after all, about "rising to the occasion".

Although it may be tough, by actually serving those persons we are envious of, we get numerous benefits.

1) As we mentioned in the last post, often we are envious of someone because we are attracted to what they are doing. This offers one an opportunity to learn from the individual.

2) We get a "reality check". Often we may looking at someone or something through rose-coloured glasses thinking that everything was just handed to them on a silver plate. WRONG. 99% of the time, this individual has worked hard and sacrificed to get where they are today.

3) We are effectively ignoring our false ego. By trying to serve the individual, we are tuning into our eternal position of service.

So the next time you feel a surge of envy, understand that it is not you (the soul) who is feeling envious and take the opportunity to serve.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

taming the green-eyed monster

Verse 3.31: Those persons who execute their duties according to My injunctions and who follow this teaching faithfully, without envy, become free from the bondage of fruitive actions.

Envy can be such a destructive emotion. In encountering this unwanted feeling in our hearts (after all, who really wants to be envious!) it can sometimes feel as though there's no way to escape it.

Personally, I've always looked upon envy as my enemy until I heard a thought provoking perspective offered by one of my bhakti mentors. Since we tend to feel envious of someone (note: person/s, not things), this yogi suggested that we try focusing on what the person did that provoked this emotion, as opposed to focusing on the individual themselves.

The explanation this incredible bhakti yogi gave was this:

Often we feel envious of others because they possess something or are getting recognition for something that we also want to have or perform.

In this way, envy can actually help us determine what we want! Isn't that amazing? So instead of feeling disheartened, we can actually feel enlivened and inspired.

In my experience, I've noticed that I'm only envious of others when they are doing something that I have an interest in or am attracted to. In fact, more often than not, it's often when I'm interested in something but not doing anything about it that I feel the most envious.

So go ahead and try this out. The next time you feel a veil of green starting to cover your heart and eyes, take a step back and introspect. You might be shocked to discover something more about yourself!

skipping to chapter 6...just for today!

One of the things I love about blogging is the fact that you get to connect with all sorts of wonderful people. Case in point - Ms. Vidya Sury. A few months ago I had commented on one of her posts she had written on the Gita....little did I realize then that she would invite me to be a guest blogger!

After some gentle encouragement on her side, it's finally been published! Please feel free to mosey on over to her blog to check out the post:

For all the regular everydaygita reader's out there, you might notice that the post is on a verse in Chapter 6. Please don't fret! We'll get back to continuing Chapter 3 shortly. Also, please feel free to leave comments!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

everydaygita is now on pinterest!

A picture is worth more than a thousand words, and that's why everydaygita is now on Pinterest! Check out daily Gita inspirations and meditations on the everyday inspirations board! Just hit the Pinterest icon located on the right sidebar or click on today's image to check it out.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

is fear of success holding you back?

Verse 3.30: Therefore, O Arjuna, surrendering all your works unto Me, with full knowledge of Me, without desires for profit, with no claims to proprietorship, and free from lethargy, fight.

Seems odd to ask, doesn't it? In fact, some of you might be incredulously asking, "Are you serious? You're fearful of success?"

The funny thing is....I think a lot of people are. Although it may seem normal to be afraid of failure, success can sometimes be even more daunting. In fact, the one quality that success and failure both have in common is:

The Unknown.

Although we may throw all of our efforts, expectations and heart into our work or project, there is no guarantee that success will look as we've envisioned or imagined it to be. Similarly, failure might lead us to face unexpected emotions, thoughts and "seemingly" unwelcome situations.

If you've ever felt this way, today's verse is for you. So far, we've been investigating the art of working without being attached to the results and the Gita has explained how we can do this in a practical way:

Working as an expression of gratitude to the Divine.

The benefit of working in this way is that one does not accrue any karma. We live an "akarmic" life which does not tie us to the temporary, material body anymore. Granted, this is the long-term benefit; so for all of you who have been wondering, "Is there any short-term benefit?" you need not look any further:

Acting without attachment allows you to become free from fear of success and failure!

No longer do you have to live in your head where the mind paints portraits of what success and/or failure might look like. Instead, by working in gratitude, we make ourselves open for Divine empowerment.

Even though we might pride ourselves on thinking big, it's absolutely nothing compared to what can manifest if we allow ourselves to become the instruments of blessings.

My personal role model who embodies this incredible mood of working in gratitude is the great bhakti yogi, Srila Prabhupada. It is he who translated and gave the world The Bhagavad Gita - As It Is. He threw all of his efforts and heart into giving all of us this incredible gift of the Gita and various other bhakti texts, coming over to America at the advanced age of 69 with only forty rupees in his pocket.

He had no fear and no expectations, because his faith was placed in something unshakable - bhakti yoga. He placed everything in the hands of the Supreme and because of that, unbelievably amazing things manifested.

The branches of a tree have the potential to grow to amazing heights since they are connected to the root; similarly, our potential for greatness is limitless if we tune in and connect to our source - the Divine. That's what yoga is all about.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Wake up! You're under a spell...

Verse 3.29: Bewildered by the modes of material nature, the ignorant fully engage themselves in material activities and become attached. But the wise should not unsettle them, although these duties are inferior due to the performers' lack of knowledge.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be under a spell? If you haven't realized it yet, it might come as a shock. Most of us are living under one!

We are under the spell of the three modes of material nature.

These modes, otherwise known as influences or qualities, affect us all the time. Our moods, our activities, our choice in music, food, association - you name it and we're influenced.

So why is it that we are influenced by the characteristics of goodness, passion and ignorance? In Chapter 14 of the Gita, Krsna will explain this in greater depth. The answer is simple though - it's because most of us identify ourselves with the body. Since we identify with the material and temporary body, we are influenced by the material and temporary modes of material nature.

There is good news however: it's a breakable spell!

The secret to breaking the spell has already been elucidated, but it's worth mentioning again. The spell of these three material qualities is powerless the moment we start to realize that we are eternal souls. Material influences are no match for the eternal.

If you're thinking "Easier said than done!" you're right. least partially. ;) After all, after lifetimes of identifying with the material, a paradigm shift is now required. After focusing on the external for so long, trying to reconcile the truth that happiness truly lies within can be difficult.

It is difficult, nearly impossible for one to realize and act as a soul...that is, if you try to do it yourself.

That's why the practices of bhakti yoga are cultivated and done in the company of other aspiring bhakti yogis. Whether it be kirtan (mantra meditation to music), reading the bhakti texts, eating food offered in love to the Divine or praying - it's done together because there is power in numbers.

It also serves as a great help when our minds start flipping out on us. We have friends and well-wishers who gently remind us that we're under a spell and encourage us by their own example how to get out.

To fight the spell of the three modes of material nature we need all the help we can get. All the facility is out there...the question remains - are you ready to wake up from the spell?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

a win-win situation

Verse 3.28: One who is in knowledge of the Absolute Truth, O mighty-armed, does not engage himself in the senses and sense gratification, knowing well the differences between work in devotion and work for fruitive results.

Today was a day of productive reflection for me. Despite it being Saturday, I was able to knock off several things from my to-do list. Item 2 was taking time out to introspect and take stock of everything that's been going on lately.

One of my contemplations was the fact that often we are presented with lose-lose scenarios. We may want to speak the truth, but it's at the cost of a friendship or we may want to pursue our particular path in life but it's at the disapproval of friends and loved ones. There are innumerable scenarios such as these that we encounter and it's often hard to swallow.

Now if you were presented with a win-win situation, wouldn't you just jump at it? That's exactly what working in gratitude is all about. Right now, whether we are conscious of it or not, many of us perform work with the intention of enjoying the results. Looking at it from a subjective perspective, it actually seems quite reasonable. After all, if we put in the effort and time to do something, it only seems fair that get to take credit for the outcome, right?

That perspective is just a snapshot. It's not a holistic picture of what is actually going on. Most of us in fact realize that the talents and abilities that we use to perform our work are blessings from the Supreme. However, the challenge is in actually recognizing and acknowledging that on a day to day basis. Granted, it's hard to do so when we are constantly bombarded by material society trying to convince us that we are in control and everything is "mine".

Constant exposure to this type of consciousness can make us forget that:

Our talents, abilities and gifts are all blessings that have been given to us by the Divine.

Bhakti yoga helps us clear away the fog of misconception that we are in control. It reminds us that life is about connection, service and gratitude. By living our lives in such a way, we start to re-connect with our selves and the Divine in a spirit of appreciation.

That's choosing the win-win option.

Whatever work we perform carries with it some karma, whether it be good or bad. That karma binds us to the temporary, material body. Instead, we can continue to perform work but with the consciousness of offering it as our appreciation to the Divine for everything He has given us. By shifting our consciousness to one of gratitude, we incur NO karma. That's more ties to temporary, material world!

Such win-win situations are very rare. The best part about this one is the fact that nothing externally changes. It's all about what's going on inside - in your heart and in your mind. The option is out there. Will you choose win-win?

Friday, June 14, 2013

air freshener anyone? living under the influence...

Verse 3.27: The spirit soul bewildered by the influence of false ego thinks himself the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by the three modes of material nature.

There is a phrase that the great bhakti yogi, Srila Prabhupada, often uses in reference to the soul. That phrase is:

"one's constitutional position"

I love this description because it strips away everything that is irrelevant and gives us the essence. Sometimes, when things are wrapped up in nice and glitzy packages, we get distracted. Case in point - many of us are so fixated on the body with all it's functions, abilities and appearance that we may forget what's really important - the soul inside.

Equally important to realizing that we are eternal souls, is the nature of the soul. Its nature can be summed up in two words: to serve.

Everything really falls in place if we understand these two points of service and the soul. Our desire to find our true calling and contribute to the world is in fact rooted in our innate nature to serve.

But...we face a challenge. We encounter it on a minute to minute basis and may not realize that it is in direct opposition to the soul's propensity and inherent nature of service. That challenge is otherwise known as: the false ego.

The false ego is like a voracious eater and the food it subsists on is control and recognition. Now before going any further, it's important to highlight that desiring control and recognition is not wrong or negative. It does, however, become a challenge when the false ego, which is always screaming to take credit of all activities that are being performed, interferes with our inherent nature to appreciate and recognize the Divine.

In fact, the soul doesn't crave recognition, control or anything else. It simply craves eternal and ever-lasting love. Under the influence of the false ego, we get bewildered into thinking that these other externals may somehow lead to that love.

In today's verse, Krsna is very beautifully explaining how the false ego affects us. It acts as an influence. That in and of itself gives great hope for all those who want to be freed from the tyrannical demands of the false ego. If the soul is under the influence of the false ego, it implies that the soul can also become freed from it!

Just as the air takes on the smell of any environment that it passes over, similarly the soul (having been in contact with the false ego for so many lifetimes) also takes on the influence of the false ego's association.

The temptation may be there to cover up the outward manifestations of the false ego, similar to trying to cover up a bad odor with a pleasant one. However, it just doesn't work. It may be a temporary fix, but those tendencies always comes out, often at the most inopportune times!

The only way to give up the influence of the false ego is by changing our association. By practicing mantra meditation, introspection and spending time with advanced bhakti yogis, we'll start to recognize the stink of the false ego. After all, it's only when you recognize the stink that you'll want to disassociate from it! By becoming aware of the ways that the false ego lures us in, we'll learn to not only ignore it, but gradually give up it's association completely.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

think before you speak

Verse 3.26: So as not to disrupt the minds of ignorant men attached to the fruitive results of prescribed duties, a learned person should not induce them to stop work. Rather, by working in the spirit of devotion, he should engage them in all sorts of activities [for the gradual development of Kṛṣṇa consciousness].

Ever get so excited about something that when you get a chance to talk about it with others you just talk their head off? If so, you're not alone!

In some cases though, you may find out that the person you were speaking to got turned off by your rambling because they just couldn't relate to what you were saying.

At some point in time our lives, I think most of us have been both the source of such over-exuberance and the recipient of it! Today's verse speaks to this type of situation by offering some extremely practical advice to the super excited individual who is just bursting at the seams to speak:

Think before you speak.

Communications 101 teaches us that knowing your audience is just as important as how, what and why you're sharing information. The most effective communication occurs when we address the needs, interests and concerns of whoever we are talking to. Also extremely important is the relationship we have with the person we are conversing with.

Here, the Gita is saying that it takes time to understand bhakti. That's why it's important to start at the beginning. If you recall, one of the key topics Krsna speaks to Arjuna about (the first being the importance of the soul), is the necessity of working according to one's nature. Note: Krsna did not advice Arjuna to give up everything and run away to the forest to meditate.

Essentially, Krsna addressed Arjuna's needs, interests and concerns on a very practical level. Now as we continue to journey through the Gita, we'll learn more about the intricate nature of bhakti and how the most advanced bhakti yogis are not obligated work. But....that takes time, knowledge and the practical and steady application of the bhakti process.

Sometimes when we get really excited or inspired, we can overwhelm our listeners. What I love about this verse is that it's so applicable and relevant in our everyday lives. After all...I don't think anyone can argue that it's always best to think before we speak

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

don't be fooled by what you see

Verse 3.25: As the ignorant perform their duties with attachment to results, the learned may similarly act, but without attachment, for the sake of leading people on the right path.

The Gita speaks of four limitations that all embodied beings face. They are:

1. tendency to cheat others
2. tendency to commit mistakes
3. tendency to fall under illusion
4. having to deal with imperfect senses

It should be noted that these conditions are attributed to the body, NOT the soul. In fact, if anyone feels slighted or even put off by this fact, take comfort in knowing that in no way do these characteristics reflect who you really are. The soul is above these limitations as it is full of eternity, knowledge and bliss.

This knowledge is there to open our eyes to the fact that identifying with the body isn't all that it's cracked up to be.

Yoga goes beyond the body and is about making soul connections. Often, when we try to connect with one another, we use our senses to interpret and understand what the other is saying.

In reading today's verse, the limitation of having to deal with imperfect senses really jumped out at me. If we solely rely on our senses to determine what is truth and what isn't, this will invariably limit our ability to understand a person, place or situation effectively. Although actions do normally give a greater glimpse into what a person is thinking or feeling, it's not always the case.

It's especially not the case for those who are practicing bhakti yoga. Living a life of gratitude and detachment by offering the results of one's work may appear externally similar to one who is completely attached to the results of their work. (i.e. two people can work the exact same job, but their consciousness may be so different). If we simply rely on our senses to understand one another, we can land in trouble because:

Consciousness is not something that can be perceived by the eyes.

Acknowledging that we face these limitations, that come hand in hand with owning a material body, actually helps the aspiring yogi to interact with the world more effectively. It reminds them that there is more to life than just the externals.

To be clear, the body itself is in no way bad. It's our attachment to identifying with the body that causes us unnecessary pain and difficulty.

When we realize that the body is an instrument by which we can utilize our talents to do good in the world and offer the results in gratitude to the Divine, we won't ever have to worry about being fooled by our senses. We'll be taking our first step to living a soul-full life. ;)

Monday, June 10, 2013

to follow or to imitate?

Verse 3.24: If I did not perform prescribed duties, all these worlds would be put to ruination. I would be the cause of creating unwanted population, and I would thereby destroy the peace of all living beings.

As the Gita continues to speak about the necessity of leadership, it brings to mind another question that perhaps some of you have also pondered. Is it better to follow great persons or better to imitate? Please find below today's "post" in the form of an infographic I put together highlighting some of crucial differences between following and imitating.

Are you convinced?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

spirit of leadership

Verse 3.23: For if I ever failed to engage in carefully performing prescribed duties, O Pārtha, certainly all men would follow My path

For the past few verses, we've been discussing two essential aspects of leadership: 1) walking one's talk when everyone's watching and 2) walking one's talk when no one is watching.

Today though, I'd like to discuss a very subtle aspect of leadership and that is: motivation.

Our motivations and consciousness behind pursuing or doing anything has a huge effect on others. This especially holds true when a person is in a position of leadership.

In our world today, we have numerous examples of leaders whose motivations are questionable. Some may be in it for the power, others for the prestige and others due to the amount of money such positions may bring.

Note the one thing all these motivations have in common - they all serve the interest of one person alone; the person who is the "supposed" leader.

True leadership is when a leader puts their self-interest last and puts the welfare of others first. That leader is the one who doesn't micro-manage but instead allows and encourages everyone elses' gifts shine. Their yardstick in personally measuring how good a job they are doing as a leader is in witnessing the successes and growth of the people they are in charge of. In fact, if someone surpasses them in their own skills or talents, they take great happiness in that.

In other words, they are interested in creating more leaders, not just gathering more followers.

That's exactly what we are hearing today from the Supreme Leader. Krsna is revealing his consciousness in this verse by saying, "If I fail to set an proper example, then everyone else will follow that." As the Supreme, He has the best excuse not to have to follow anything but Krsna doesn't opt for that route. Why? Because He is showing by example what it means to be a true leader.

So if you're ever in a position of leadership or given that opportunity, think back to this verse. It's an important one to meditate on as it will always guide you to adopt the true spirit of leadership.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

yoga and leadership

Verse 3.22: O son of Pṛthā, there is no work prescribed for Me within all the three planetary systems. Nor am I in want of anything, nor have I a need to obtain anything — and yet I am engaged in prescribed duties.

Krsna, the speaker of the Gita, is known as Yogesvara. The name Yogesvara refers to the one who is the master of all mystic powers and the greatest of all yogis.

For all those of you who consider yourselves to be practitioners of yoga (or aspiring practitioners), this verse is of great importance since it teaches a key lesson in leadership. And for the rest of you, by the end this post you might realize that yourself are an aspiring yogi!

But before we get to that, I'd like to ask all of you a question today:

What does the word yoga mean?

I'm sure something came to your hang on to it! As many of you may know, Sanskrit is a complex language where one word may have several meanings. The context a word is used in is just as important as the many meanings it may have. That being said, there is always an essence or root from which each word stems from and for the word yoga that is: to link up

Link up in the sense of establishing relationships. The first step starts with establishing a relationship between the body and soul by recognizing they are different. After all it takes a minimum of two things to even have a relationship! By recognizing that difference, then it becomes easier to understand how they relate with one another (a key to any successful relationship). In conjunction with understanding that relationship, as one progresses, the linking aspect goes deeper.

It's about making soul to soul connections.

That's what we all crave and what we are all seeking for, whether we are aware of it or not. Ultimately, the goal of yoga is to re-establish our loving and eternal connection with the Supreme.

That's why spiritual texts like the Gita are so invaluable - because it's not just anyone giving us practical guidance and help but the Supreme Himself.

Recognizing that aspiring yogis (i.e. persons who want to "link up") may need some step by step guidance, Krsna is not just telling us what to do, but showing us by His own example.

That is, He's walking the talk. In Chapter 2, we discussed at length the importance of performing work and the spirit in which one does so. One question that we didn't address there was - why do we even need to perform work? That answer is given today - to obtain things that we need (i.e. food, clothing, shelter etc...)

What's amazing is the fact Krsna, being the Supreme, doesn't need to obtain anything because He has everything! That is, there is no need for Him to do work. However, just to show us by example "how it's done", He does so.

This is what real leadership is all about. It's about recognizing the fact that actions inspire and motivate others and getting out there and doing what you speak!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

walk your talk

Verse 3.21: Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.

Have you ever had the experience where you've met someone for the first time, yet you immediately felt that they were your well wisher? Or conversely, you knew instantly that someone had ulterior motives while talking to you? If so, you've experienced exactly how sensitive the soul is. The soul can sense these subtle energies that we give off to one another.

That's probably why we tend to judge people by their actions first and their words second. It makes sense if you think about it. After all, actions can reveal a lot more about how a person feels and where their intentions lie much than their words which can mask their true thoughts. That is why the Gita is stating here that a great person is revealed by the exemplary actions they perform. They don't just speak inspiring words, but inspire others by their very actions.

We may have the great fortune of having such individuals in our own lives. One of the things you may notice about them and marvel at (I certainly do!) is that:

they always try to act consistently irregardless of whether or not anyone is watching.

In fact there is a beautiful story I'd like to share that demonstrates this incredible quality. Once, a mother of a young boy asked Mahatma Gandhi to help her. Gandhi, being the loving individual that he was, immediately asked how he could be of service. The mother stated that her boy was addicted to sweets and requested the Mahatma to please tell the boy not to eat them. The Mahatma was more than willing to, but he had one request for the mother. He asked her to come back with her son one week later. Although the mother was puzzled, she agreed and after a week passed by she came back to see Gandhi along with her son.

At that time, Gandhi spoke to the boy and with great conviction in his voice said, "Please don't eat sweets!" The boy immediately nodded and promised he wouldn't. The mother, although happy, was still confused. She voiced her bewilderment by asking Mahatma Gandhi why he hadn't simply instructed her son the week before. Gandhi answered saying, "How could I tell your boy not to eat sweets last week when I myself was eating them! This week I gave up eating sweets and so only now I feel comfortable requesting your son to do the same."

I remember when I heard that story I was struck by two things. Firstly, our own behaviour and convictions can have a great effect on others whether they are aware of what we do or say privately. This is greatly illustrative of how sensitive the soul actually is. Secondly, it also demonstrated to me that words carry greater weight if we ourselves are practicing whatever advice or observations we offer.

Although it's a high standard to aspire to, what to speak of maintain, it's a worthy goal to work towards. It's a win-win situation if we try to live our lives this way. After all, most of us would probably like to be considered persons of integrity and as the saying goes: integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching. The second win is the fact that our personal dedication to "walking our talk" may have the incredible ripple effect of inspiring others in a positive way. So try it for yourself and "walk your talk!"

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

someone to look up to

Verse 3.20: Kings such as Janaka attained perfection solely by performance of prescribed duties. Therefore, just for the sake of educating the people in general, you should perform your work.

Role models. We all need them. Their stories of struggle, perseverance and success often serve as bursts of inspiration for us when we experience times of frustration and apathy in our own lives.

Personally, I find that there is a real lack of true role models for the current generation that is growing up. Being exposed to instant forms of communication and media, younger persons can easily equate role models as those persons who fill up the airwaves and Twitter feeds. Constantly bombarded by "perfect" bodies, fairy tale relationships, fame, money, and the accumulation of material possessions, it can be easy for one to think that the attainment of such goals is what life is all about.

The beauty of yoga is that while it addresses the necessities of the body, its focus is on feeding the spirit. Yoga teaches us that we need a foundation of spiritual values upon which we can grow to become empowered spiritual personalities. After all, we are spiritual beings and no amount of material possessions will ever satisfy us. Equally important to realize is the fact that these values aren't dependent on external validation and can't be measured by wealth or fame. They develop as a result of realizing that challenges aren't obstacles, but opportunities for internal, spiritual growth.

One individual who embodied these qualities is mentioned in today's verse - King Janaka. A great ruler who was not only a devoted husband and father, he was also a true well-wisher for all his subjects. Though the leader of his kingdom, he never sought honour or recognition. Instead, he always considered everything he had to be gifts given to him by the Divine. Following in his footsteps, his people also adopted this lifestyle of expressing gratitude to the Supreme. Due to this abundant spirit of gratitude and care, it is recorded that all his people lived a life of utter contentment and fulfillment.

Sometimes when we hear of such persons, we may think "Yah, that was xyz number of years ago, there's no one like that anymore." Not true! There are still such persons who live amongst us today. Their goal is to live a life of gratitude and connection with the Supreme and to help anyone who is sincerely interested.

So take heart, there are incredible role models amongst us. It might just takes us a little time to recognize them.

Monday, June 3, 2013

and on behalf of...

Verse 3.19: Therefore, without being attached to the fruits of activities, one should act as a matter of duty, for by working without attachment one attains the Supreme./

Ever watch award shows? Often times when a winner is announced and they are not present to accept the award, these words are spoken: "Accepting on behalf of so and so..." That person who accepts the award smiles and graciously acknowledges the honour, but all the while they are fully conscious that it is not theirs.

That's essentially what acting without attachment is all about. As has been previously described, everything we think of as "ours" like the body, mind, senses and even the intelligence are all given to us by the Divine. They have are on loan to us for this present lifetime as a result of the past karma we accrued.

When we are attached to the fruits of any results that are performed using these various facilities, it is akin to the person accepting the award on behalf of the winner thinking, "This actually belongs to me!" Anyone would agree that in the scenario of the award show that such kind of thinking is ridiculous. Why so? Because we get the fact that the person who accepted the award didn't actually do the work which the award represents.

Similarly, when we start to realize that all the facilities (i.e. intelligence, body, senses etc..) we have been given are actually not ours, but gifts given to us by the Supreme, acting without attachment becomes easier. Even the work we perform cannot happen without the blessings of the Divine. Since that's the case, isn't it only right that we acknowledge and appreciate that Supreme? This is what real yoga is all about - connection through love and gratitude.

This is how we can practically live a life of gratitude. When we acknowledge the greatness of the Divine and all that He has given to us, we naturally become unattached and grateful. It's not an artificial process but one that comes as naturally as breathing. So the next time you catch yourself becoming obsessed with the results of "your" work, remember the analogy of the awards show - even if you receive acknowledgement for it, pass it on to the One who deserves it.