Every time I open the Bhagavad Gita, it is a whole new experience. I read one excerpt and am filled with love and inspiration. I won’t summarise the entire novel but I will touch on a certain chapter – The Path of Action (Karma Yoga).
In this chapter, Krishna enlightens Arjuna about the awful force that is desire. When we hear the word desire, it generally comes with positive connotations. It can mean love, lust, wanting, needing and acceptance. However, Krishna offers an alternative interpretation. He states ‘desires cloud your spiritual light and bury your power of discrimination…for spiritually advanced people, desire is like smoke and is easily blown away to reveal the light of knowledge.’
I didn’t really understand what Krishna was trying to convey…or how to apply it to modern times…until I went to a talk given by the venerable Devamrita Swami. He too began to quote the Bhagavad Gita and discussed this chapter with a relevance to present day. He said that all desires lead to expectations and that all expectations lead to anger and disappointment. ‘Desire,’ he said. ‘Is an expectation that may or may not be fulfilled.’ When Krishna discusses desire with Arjuna, he is referring to our baser desires of lust, greed, envy and all those delicious, deadly sins. All of these desires have the ability to leave you incredibly unhappy. These types of desires are fleeting and may provide you superficial happiness in that moment but ultimately they will end and you will be left feeling unsatisfied once more, eager to chase the next desire…the next fix and so on…
So how do we not have desires and expectations? Well it is very difficult! It is only human nature to desire, want and expect certain things out of life. How many of us expect our partner to treat us well? How many of us expect to get paid for the work that we do everyday? How many of us expect to have a wonderful, memorable time when we go on a holiday? Every single one of us has these exact desires/expectations and as such experience a life of ups and downs. Sometimes things turn out better than expected and the happiness that follows is unexplainable. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan at all and we feel sad, disappointed and frustrated.
Krishna continues to instruct Arjuna about doing his duty (or in our case our everyday jobs) for duties sake. He says that Arjuna should not expect anything from his work but he should just perform his duties everyday because it serves a purpose and contributes to society. By removing the expectation, Arjuna is free to work at peace with a balanced mind. He will experience neither the dizzying highs or the disappointing lows and this is because he has removed all expectation from what he does.
The reality is, we human beings are going to automatically expect certain things from life. It is very difficult not to. Devamrita Swami urges us to practice mindfulness and meditation so that when life does not go according to plan, we are able to remain firmly rooted in the earth. We will quite literally ‘go with the flow’ and no longer place our expectations on the things that are changeable. The changeable being a job that can suddenly be terminated, a lover that may suddenly leave you and a flight that may suddenly be cancelled causing you to postpone your holiday.
I am not a Hindu nor do I worship any idol/god/religion of any kind however I am deeply spiritual, love the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita and the principles of Buddhism. Krishna urges Arjuna to place his expectations on the things that are permanent (i.e. not changeable) and those things are Krishna himself and our Atma (the soul) which Krishna says is the real Arjuna – not the shell (body) he is wearing or the mind that produces negative, misguided thoughts.
To summarise, we will find love and peace simply within ourselves. We do not need to seek eternal happiness as the universe already exists within us. The next time something doesn’t go quite according to plan ask yourself why is it upsetting? With your self-awareness becoming more finely tuned you will instantly recognise it was because you placed an expectation on something that was changeable.
And that is okay 🙂 just be aware…
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