Wednesday, March 11, 2015

mistaken identity

Verse 4.35: Having obtained real knowledge from a self-realized soul, you will never fall again into such illusion, for by this knowledge you will see that all living beings are but part of the Supreme, or, in other words, that they are Mine.

Ever been mistaken for someone else? How did you feel? I've been mistaken for someone else a few times and its normally resulted in an awkward/amusing encounter once I've let the other person know that I'm not who they think they are. It's often followed by an apology and sometimes even an explanation - i.e. Wow! Your hair looks just like my friend's.

Although its personally never happened to me, I've heard rare cases of people insisting that they are right, saying things like, "You have to be such and such person! You're trying to fool me!" I can only imagine the poor recipient of such words. I'm sure if that type of questioning and conversation carried on for sometime, the recipient could get frustrated and even angry.

Regardless of the circumstance, the point is that in the majority of cases, we are quick to correct if we are mistaken for someone else. It highlights how strongly attached we are to our identity and ensuring that we recognized appropriately.

In fact, it's rare that we question and ever think that we might not be who we think we are.

The Gita flips this illusion on its head. Think you are the mind, ego, intelligence or body? The Gita resoundingly answers "No! You are experiencing a case of mistaken identity!" The Gita proclaims, "You are the soul! A spiritual spark that is part and parcel of the Divine."

This central teaching of the Gita has the capacity to revolutionize our lives and is exemplified by a beautiful analogy given by the great bhakti-yogi Prabhupada. Once a man visited his friend who had a bird which lived in a bird cage. The man was very proud of his bird cage and took great pains to ensure it looked shiny and new. The friend, when entering this man's house remarked upon the bird cage and praised the man saying that it looked beautiful. He then asked, "What's that smell? What happened to the bird?" The man looked inside and was shocked to see that the bird inside his beautiful cage had died.

In this analogy, the bird is the soul and the cage the body. Often, emphasis is placed on maintaining the body to ensure its health, beauty and abilities, which are, no doubt, important. However, the Gita explains, solely focusing on the body can result in ignoring the precious cargo it carries inside - the soul.

The purpose of physical yoga is to ensure that the body is strong enough to engage in activities which serve to nourish the soul. Activities such as hearing, chanting, meditating, serving etc.

So take heed of the reminder that the Gita gives us: there's a soul inside all of us that's crying out for nourishment. Please make sure to remember to feed it.

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