Wednesday, July 17, 2013

great expectations

Verse 4.1: The Personality of Godhead, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvān, and Vivasvān instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikṣvāku.

History and experience can teach us so much. In fact, the great bhakti yoga master, Srila Prabhupada would say (and I paraphrase):

First class intelligence is hearing about the mistakes of others and not committing them. Second class intelligence is making mistakes, learning from them and trying to avoid making them again and third class intelligence is making mistakes and not learning from them.

The Bhagavad-gita is giving us the opportunity to exercise first class intelligence. As we hear in today's verse, this science of yoga has not just appeared randomly. It has been passed along for lifetimes upon lifetimes to the most intelligent and empowered personalities. We are so lucky to now have the opportunity to hear that same knowledge - unadulterated and just as powerful. By following this process we have an opportunity to save ourselves time, effort and disappointment.

One of the great lessons that the Gita teaches us is that of learning to manage expectations. At the beginning of the Gita, we see Arjuna expressing his doubts and misgivings to Krsna. But if you look a little deeper, you find something more - Arjuna is stating that he has certain expectations and is worried that by doing the right thing, those expectations will not be met.

Is that not what we go through everyday? We all have expectations of ourselves, of situations and perhaps the trickiest of them all - of others.

At the heart of expectation is the belief that somehow we will be happier if x, y, z manifests.

Is that not really it, if we strip away all the other coverings? It's a belief. There is no actual guarantee that we will be happier, but we have built the expectation to work out a certain way in our heads that just the thought of it not playing out leaves us more miserable than we originally were!

So how do we practically manage expectations? For advanced bhakti yogis, the answer is simple. They understand that they are not this body but the eternal spirit soul. Since many of our expectations are related to the material, temporary world and relationships that are based on the body, not the soul, such yogis realize that disappointment is inevitable. Essentially, they don't put much stock in it and choose to rest their expectations on the grace of the Divine who never disappoints.

For those of us who may not be on that level, what are we to do?

Recognize that expectations rest on a belief of happiness, not a guarantee.

This can help ease the sting of disappointment, keep things in perspective and help us not to flip out when we are caught in the tight claws of expectation. For many, when we don't get what we expected it tends to weigh heavily on the mind, causes us to speculate and drives us mad.

The next time this happens, give yourself and others a break. Failed expectations can actually be the greatest gift we can receive if we can just approach it in the right perspective. It reminds us that true happiness lies within and doesn't rest in the hands of others.

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