A skeptical mind is a good thing. After all, we owe our survival to our ability to question everything that comes our way. We must take on a direction only if it appeals to our rationale - beyond dogma and hearsay.
Whenever we approach a faculty that is somewhat in the realm of religion or spirituality ; typical way to address any initial inquiries, is to black box the questions. I have been through this rigmarole many times. First do the following and then you will know the answer. And they would say , you had automatically know the answers, just have blind faith :-) . For that matter, even in science or technology, when we try to pursue a new stream , we need to wait, put some effort , at least understand the basic vocabulary before we could even frame the right questions .. That said , it is easy to black-box our questions into an unknown variable and have us perform certain set of activities before the variable is exposed. Only to find later that black-box was actually an empty box. There was no cat in it . Is the concept of
Atma , the [protected] knowledge one such black-box?
I also challenged the concept with the same argument. Here is my rationale before I took on the journey. I mean that is what we do for we can't see or forecast the future. We apply rationale to choose the most optimum way to spend our time, and move forward. The 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.
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. 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 life time, 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.
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, on the other hand, have two different properties - peace and knowledge. If we focus on actions (and do them as a ritual -
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" ..
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. Exit happens whenever it needs to happen .. At this stage we are not even a
Karm Yogi ..we are simply a
Yogi - means connected.
In chapter 3, the first verse of Krishna responding to questions of Arjuna. He says ..
Loke [in the world] Asmin [this] Dwi-Vidha [two kinds of] Nishtha [faith] Pura [previously] Prokta [said] Maya [by me] Anagha [O sinless Arjun];
Jnana Yogena [with ritual of knowledge] Sankhyanam [by philospphers] Karm Yogen [with ritiual of actions] Yoginam [by Yogies].
So Krishna, having understood the confusion that still prevailed in the mind of biggest warrior and his friend and he talks back to him with love and respect, he says - O sinless Arjuna , There are two types of faith in this world as told by me previously Nyana yoga for the philosophers and scientists and Karma Yoga for the Yogies - those who are connected to me.
And eventually the
Nyaan Yogies too find that
Karm Yoga is the path to realize the knowledge that they were anyway striving for.
Having been on this path for now five-ish years , I had say that there is no down side to
Karm Yoga because it makes you more productive and efficient in whatever field you are in ; however, I wouldn't misguide you that it is an easy choice. Separating actions from desires is HARD. Desires keep creeping into whatever we do. And that is the topic of first chapter of this book -
Karm Yoga - the ritual of Actions.