Gita is a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna in the middle of the great war - the
Mahabharta. In the larger epic of the same name , Krishna is the multifaceted incarnation of the God - as a king, a diplomat , a messenger and a friend and the one who stands up to the evil . Among all these and many others, his role as the driver of Arjuna's chariot is the one that is contextually (and probably otherwise), the most fascinating . This role is symbolic of one who is leading you on a righteous path; particularly when you are stuck into dilemmas.
Gita targets a timeless, universal problem - the cyclic nature of our life. That is what makes it ever so relevant. The birth and death are cyclic , so are the day and night. In observable universe, everything grows and then diminishes. Greater the rise, bigger the fall. Every success finally meets it's failure. This is as true in business as in our emotional lives. Happiness and pain is a never ending cycle. Planets, stars and even black holes can't escape this truth.
Krishna says ..
Jatsya hi druvo mritur, dhruvam janm mritasya cha
All things born in truth must die, and out of the death in truth comes life.
Krishna, in said conversation, lays out an elaborate method to help us stay afloat in the waves of joy and grief associated with the rise and the fall . A method that was unheard till he said it and remains unique to date. This message of
Karm Yoga is both - rational and practical. It doesn't warrant a leap of faith. Not only does it offer the exit from the cycles -
Nirvana, it also makes the follower feel "blessed and blissed " that obviously translates into worldly success. Thus
Karm Yoga is a useful guide rail to navigate modern life.
It wasn't easy for me to jump into Gita. Here is my rationale before I took on the journey. First obvious comfort was ..
I love my life. Frankly, there are not many complaints. The ideas of Gita appealed to me because it is not asking me give up my life for a strange unknown blessing. All it basically says is just do your duties. The things that you would anyway be doing. And if not you will be forced to do anyways.
It didn't ask me to visit a temple or light up the candles at a church. In fact it didn't sound religious at all. It calls for realization of your inner "self" and it says once you know yourself, you are the God. And that is what the scientific inquiry is. We climb the heights of Himalayas and sink to the depths of oceans; we venture deep dark space , for what ? Ultimately we want to find out who we are ? Or is there someone else like us ?
Despite being part of Hindu scripture (s), Gita doesn't belong to any religion nor does it advocate a specific God or a specific way to worship. In fact, it rejects the popular religious ideas. The situation itself was very symbolic - You have a king talking to a prince in the middle of a war. There were no long bearded monks there. This discourse was NOT at a Himalayan cave . In fact , it was not even a discourse - it was a one on one conversation. And the out come of this conversation was the biggest blood shed ever known to the mankind - at least, till the time of its writing. There sure is nothing religious about it.
It came as a fresh air to my goal (outcome) oriented thirty years through the corporate ladder. Everything should not be a calculation. I should be able to do things just for my (inner) sake.
Being attached to "Actions" made me more effective at my chores. I got better at fitness. Once I stopped chasing a number for "Financial Independence" and started focusing on right investment actions, the number automatically came through.
All above are good, but the thing that really won me over..
If we start a game, a common perception is that there are two possible outcomes - we win , or we lose. Win means we are happy, lose means life sucks. In a normal game, if we keep on losing, ultimately we will run out of the chips or the casino will close (assuming we are not at 24 X 7 Las Vegas :-) .
So the third possible outcome is the game ends
What if we are in a game that can't be stopped ....ever.
Isn't life one such game ? Leaving the concept of reincarnation at a bay (for the time being ) - I asked myself - Is it possible to be alive but not play the game !
The obvious answer was to get to a sustainable financial independence[FI], resign the regular job. Try to live with in my means. I did all that .. But many of you who reached FI would vouch - the game doesn't stop. Portfolio, pandemics and politics never stop. And of course the body itself needs us to go on .. It goes on and on . Only the events change - cycles don't. Desires , happiness and Pain are kinda built into us. No matter where we go , no matter what we do, our mind can't get over the game .
There seems no option to pack the cards , sit in the casino bar and just enjoy a drink - no game.
Even if I don't "use" the exit, there must be one. Where is my third option ? To just "be" .. at peace. I thought doing "nothing" .. I thought doing "nothing" might work. It doesn't. In fact , being able to do nothing is very difficult. It is the freedom. Freedom is actually tied to the actions. Anyone can think or imagine whatever they want to ; but that is not so when it comes down to actions. For actions we need permissions. There are permissions to be sought at the work place, at home ; even from our own body. Our ability to do what we want to is freedom. And if you want to do "nothing", then being able to do that is freedom. Turns out this ultimate freedom ain't possible. No matter what we do , we still need to breathe, drink , eat and millions of other chores to run this body. With every single layer of sophistication or automation, we add another layer of chores that must be done. Charging your cell phone is now as important as drinking water :-)
It just seems unfair that I was neither asked if I wanted to play in the first place, nor do I have permission to leave. No doubt this is a beautiful physical reality but it seems like a beautiful jail if we don't have the permission to see past it. Or do whatever we want to . On top of that - the reincarnation thing (if true) sounds as if , I am stuck here for the eternity , playing these Squid games :-) . Isn't it ?
Gita says where the world looks at only two outcomes - heaven or hell ; both being here in this physical reality , there does exist a third option -
Nirvana - that is to exit this game . Heaven is symbolic of the pleasures of favourable outcome - hell is quite the opposite - the sustained stay of pain. But there is no "Peace" if that is what exit looks like.
In a way, the physicality around us doesn't limit our imagination but it puts a control on our actions. It lets our imagination fly but it mandates certain actions if we want the same thing in real life. In other words, thicker the physical layer, more effort does it take to get to what we want to do. The actions that our inner self drives. For example let us say a its a beautiful sunny day outside. You want to walk with your dogs but then you have deliverables tied to your job. That job ensures payment of the bills. The roof on your heads and the food on the table.
While most religiously oriented philosophies and even the common sense would suggest to renounce this physical reality ; cut down our needs because that seems like an easier path to get to what we want to do, Gita says, such a path doesn't work because the impulse to indulge is lot stronger than what we can renounce. It suggests to indulge in everything that this reality needs because we must pay the cost attached, but it adds to do so without any attachment. In fact, it says we must do all that the physical reality demands of us for not meeting our obligations is a theft . On the other hand , if we do all that is required of us and then return all the rewards back with humility, that is the path to exit. It is a win win approach .. Krishna says
Ishtaan [ Desired] Bhogan [ necessities and indulgences] Hi [ certainly] Vo [ unto you] Devah [ demi gods] Dasyante [ will reward] Yajna-Bhavitah [ Satisfied with your ritualistic approach to the tasks];
Taih [ by them] Dattan [ things so given] Apradaya [ without offering] Ebhayah [ to these demigods] , Yo [ one who] Bhukte [ enjoys the things] Stenah [ thief] Eva [ certainly] Sah  .
if you indulge in actions as a ritual, the universe will return the favor. It will give you all that you want. But if you consume all that without first offering it back, you are a thief.
In essence giving up the fruits of your worldly actions is the path to exit - The
Nirvana Krishna says -
Nirvana is the real victory and that is the real goal. And he proposes
Karm Yoga as the only path. In essence, Gita gives a new destination and also paves the singular path to it . Why singular ? why only path ? Because , it says , all other paths finally lead to
In nutshell, it says that the pains and happiness are attached to the "the expectations v/s the outcomes". If favorable we are happy , Otherwise not. Actions done without attachment , on the other hand, have two different properties - peace and knowledge. If we focus on actions (and do them as a ritual without attachment-
Yajna) we will attain the peace and decrypt the knowledge. And finally this knowledge automatically solves the puzzle and thus exit -
And here is the Kicker - It says that we don't need to perform any special drill ... All we need to do is just change your approach to "Actions" . From attached to detached.
That sounded like a no Brainer.. Isn't it ? If all I need to do is change the approach to things I anyway do - invest in stocks, love my dogs, run , chat with friends, take care of a family , drink some good wine and come up with occasional tweets :-) ; then obviously there is no down side to trying out
Nirvana route ..
Unfortunately , Alexa still doesn't have the
Nirvana skill :-) . So the journey is really to learn (and experiment) how to focus solely on "Actions" . Without any consideration to "outcomes".
Turns out it is harder than what I thought. Desires creep into every thing we do. Thus
Karm Yoga is a skill , just like playing the Violin. The good news is Gita has all the information. We still need to practice though ; because just information is not sufficient. Gita is experiential.
Even better news is, the work done on this path never goes wasted. This assurance comes from the "auto save mode" :-) Krishna knows, we will wander off track ; get swayed by the desires- thus the assurance that once we start on
karmYoga , just like swimming , we will never forget it. We can always come back at any point, reset our password (if forgot), and get started from where we left ..
Yes it is, aspiring to exit is also a desire, a desired outcome..what a catch :-) .. I thought to myself !
Gita says - only till we are learning . Once we attain
Karm Yoga, even the desire to exit vanishes - thus the eternal peace. In fact
Karm Yoga is not about exiting the life. It is about ridingthe wave above the cycles of happiness and pains. Exit happens whenever it needs to happen .. At this stage we are not even a
Karm Yogi ..we are simply a
Yogi - means connected.
It is hard to label Gita as spiritual or scientific. It offers experiential method that is as testable as science. At the same time it warrants dedication, commitment and rigor which is common to any "problem solving" apparatus. A new reader might see the later as a "call for faith".
The best approach is to treat it beyond labels. Walk the line and determine yourself if it works. If it does, take on to the next iteration.
It simply means "Arjuna Said" . Think of it as Arjuna explaining what he understood. A loop back mechanism to ensure intact delivery of communication and also its intent. And also using his own language, his metaphors and his analogies.
My goal is to say it in the most accessible way. My hope is, in the process, I will be able to boil it down to a modern document that is beyond blind faith and is logically appealing. At the same time I do want to quarantine numerous
Yogas into their boundaries and stay put on the core message.
There are four parts of this book.
- Getting Started - is where I want to modernize the age old concepts of Gita. The goal is to develop a common Vocabulary and solid grip on the core message.
- Conciousness - is where I try to build the larger construct of our reality. Who we are. How the whole thing works. Again based on the concepts of Gita but using modern metaphors.
- Triangulation - is the ways and means to figure out where we stand in the maze of matrix and conscious agent and what is the righteous path forward.
- Test - As we know Gita is experiential. This section in "Test" is the way to test the ethos of Gita. The goal is to develop a scientific approach to testing rather than asking for a leap of faith. In addition to being a separate chapter in itself, I have tried to add sections on "test" inline with other chapters to supplement the ideas and the flow.
Just like in any other scientific faculty, it is difficult to watertight the different sections. You may find yourself hopping from one chapter to other because the knowledge is always integrated. My humble request is to follow the flow with patience.
As you will find in the reading, a book is only information ; it is a way to organize the knowledge in a template. We can get the template but we need to fill it up with our imagination. No matter how descriptive an information artifact , there is always room to read between the lines. I feel knowledge lives in that unwritten space. Thus, my request to not hold back your imagination. With each section, try to fill the gaps with your experiences, your perception of reality and hopefully, it will align.
The work here is not mere reflections of what I read, it, in fact comes from the me putting the ethos in practice to whatever little I could. I don't claim
Nirvana but I vouch I have seen the tip of iceberg. Peace and happiness were alien to me. I was a wandering soul ever so lost in "what next" and consuming my way to bloat. Gita has helped me focus, remove the unnecessary baggage and fine tune my life. And it remains a work in progress though I see a light at the end ...