fredag 13. mars 2009

The Gita

(image from Malawi)

My personal (and humble) interpretation of The Bahavagad Gita .

It is more than a year ago I read this massive, poetic work for the first time and I must honestly admit that it has taken me time to approach the essence of it. BG begins with Arjuana and his cousin getting ready to fight a war. Arjuana feels doubt and asks Krishna for advice. Krishna then encourages him to go to war. A solution viewed in the context of our own time seems quite remarkable. It took time before I got an understanding that this is not a question whether he is for or against war, but it is a question of following your truth and to do your duty. There are also other foreign concepts. Atma (Am I really God?) And Avatar (God in human form?). I have found that Atma is a version of my soul, a concept that is more tangible for me, which in principle do not belong to any form of organized religion or faith. I still have my spirituality. My belief is associated with a greater spiritual whole, which I believe we all are a part of and that we are all affected by. I read therefore BG more as a philosophical and poetic text, rather than religious. This is still a strong text, and with widespread use of symbols. BG tells us that life is a constant internal battle. The real struggle in life is not against an external enemy, but the inner struggle against our desires, our anger and greed. The full text is a dialogue between Krishna and Arjuana that stretches over 18 chapters. These chapters can be again divided into three sections. The first six chapters discusses the importance of getting in contact with the self and the importance of carrying out your worldly duties effectively to ensure the community's welfare. The next six focus on God's nature and the love that comes out of having an intimate and close relationship with him. The last six chapters have focused on the purpose of our existence here on earth. BG describes how we can free ourselves from pain and sorrow through seeking spirituality.
The first part of the book discusses the importance of correct knowledge (Jnan yoga) and karma yoga (selfless action). Proper knowledge is to be able to distinguish between prakriti (nature) and purusha (the spiritual). The concept of Karma yoga means union with God through action. To get closer to God, it is important to act independently of your own wants and desires. If you are able to free yourself the mind will clear and you can easily fix the focus on God. If, however, you are concerned with the outcome of your actions it will manifest it self in fear.
But what does this mean in my life today? In light of the ongoing financial crisis that characterizes our global economy and the climate change this brings up some important questions. Many believes that the crisis is fundamentally represented in precisely these factors that BG emphasize that man's biggest enemy namely lust, greed and anger. This is the wheel of karma tangling people into their own destiny. It is according to the BG not God that is underlying our actions and results. It is we in the power of our ignorance that is responsible for these consequences - God is only the origin of nature, not our actions.
And as long as man's strongest force is his own ego and his own desires, represented by the market economy that has been the prevailing philosophy in the West for decades, this development will be difficult to reverse. The term altruism is well-debated term in philosophy. How can human beings act without having their own gain in mind? Krishna has the answer: we must seek knowledge, knowledge that we are more than nature, we are something more than money in the wallet, our job and all the things that we surround ourselves with, and if we come to this recognition, we will also see other in ourselves, or will no longer differentiate between you and me, and instead could trade for society and the whole of humanity rather than just the desire to meet our own needs. For Krishna stresses the importance of action. There is no solution to apply the correct knowledge without action. Proper knowledge is of little value without action. We must do our duty for the community's best.
People, who act unselfishly, as the Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa, are widely considered to be abnormal. Selfish people are the most common. We are most committed to meet our own needs. This constant chase fills us with fear, fear of losing job, money, or our home. We are afraid of being robbed of our possessions, or someone to go to physical attacks on us. So there is the fear that controls our actions. The fear is directed towards the unknown, towards other cultures, other people who we feel can threaten our existence. This leads us even further from the goal of selfless action for the common good and not towards the individual's liberation.
The lesson that Krishna gives Arjuana through the section 18 are different forms of yoga such as empathy and to surrender to God, which brings with it clarity in the mind, a clarity that you need to make better decisions. Many use their entire life to escape from unpleasant situations, rather than creating a distance to the mind and the fear by accepting life's up and downs as they are and to meet all situations with a smile.

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