There are many reasons why a battlefield was the appropriate place for the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita to be spoken. Life itself is a battle, and the world is the battlefield. Those who are developed enough in consciousness to take upon themselves the responsibility for their evolution and ultimate liberation are certainly warriors. Krishna is the voice of the Supreme Commander–our own divine Self and Brahman the Absolute, the Self of our Self. He issues to us our marching orders in a single verse:
Renouncing all actions in me, intent on the Supreme Spirit, free from desire and “mine,” free from fever: fight! (3:30)
It is important to realize that good intentions, dedication, and enthusiasm are not sufficient in the spiritual battle. That is why Krishna leaves the order to fight for the last. Here they are.
Renouncing all actions in me. The Sanskrit term sannyasya means relinquishing, entrusting, and renouncing. All apply here. First, we give up or give over to God all that we do, saying: “This is all done by your power, by your instruments, by me who also am yours. So may this all be your doing.” This is a very important attitude. We entrust our actions to God when we offer them and rely on God to make everything come out all right. When I was little we used to sing in church: “When you have done your best, let Jesus do the rest, and keep your eyes upon the goal.” I did not understand what I was singing, but many years later after reading the Gita I did. Reliance on God is often the secret of detached action. Renouncing all action has pretty much been covered, but it is very much an attitude of indifference–not being numb in the mind or alienated from our surroundings, but being so intent on God that our actions are no longer ours but God’s. And if God is not interested, neither are we. So no problem. This gives profound peace of mind.
Everything we do must be seen as serving a single purpose: the revelation of the Divine Self within our own Self. Obviously Infinity needs nothing, and the idea of giving It anything is absurd. But since the intention of the Absolute in manifesting the relative is our ascension to complete freedom in spirit, whatever we do to further that can be considered dedicated to God. Here, too, Krishna is speaking of Ishwarapranidhana, the offering of the life to God.
Intent on the Supreme Spirit. Adhyatma chetasa means consciousness absorbed in the Self within (adhyatman), both the individual Self and the Cosmic Self. No need to look for fire in water or dampness in fire. The Self and the world mutually exclude one another. So we need not flee the world or even reject it; we need only turn within and enter the realm of the spirit. Then like the chick’s shell the world will fall away, no longer able to confine or hold on to us. “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
Free from desire and selfishness. There is no use in facing west to see the rising sun. In the same way there is no point in looking to material existence for fulfillment of that deep longing which impels us into so many frantic and fruitless searches from life to life. We do not expect a stone to fly or sing to us. In the same way we must not expect from the world the very thing it prevents us from attaining.
The ego only exists in the world–or rather in the mind that is absorbed in the world and identifies with the world, thinking the Self is a part of it, capable of affecting it and of being affected by it. That is a sure gateway to frustration and false assurances. The only way to be free from the sense of ego is to become identified with the Self.
Free from fever. Ignorance is the root of all our problems and their attendant sufferings. Unfortunately, it is not a passive condition like blindness or deafness, but actively produces the fever of a myriad delusions and desires which impel us into a myriad of thoughts and acts that proliferate into more delusions and pains. It is horrible to contemplate, engendering in us a sense of utter helplessness and hopelessness. But that mistaken view is the ultimate delusion which, if we accept it, will ensure our perpetual confusion and misery.
The truth is that all our delusions and suffering are illusions, having no substance other than our own mind or any power other than our own intellect and will. They are dreams from which we can awaken. No external force can produce this awakening–we must do it ourself. Teachers can instruct us in the means and ways of awakening but the cure must be totally accomplished by us.
Ignorance is only a shell, a veneer. Beneath it lies the eternal truth of our Self. The shell need only be cracked open and shaken off. Just as the chick cracks its shell from within and pushes its way outward, breaking and casting aside the shell, so are we to do, becoming, like Buddha, Self-awakened.
Fight! When ignorance and delusion are vanquished, dependence on the world ended, consciousness of the Self established, the sense of ego dissolved, and all our life seen as an offering unto God, we have not attained the goal–we have only then become capable of fighting and conquering the cosmic evil that has dominated and enslaved us from the moment we became an atom of hydrogen.
One of the greatest errors of spiritual life is mistaking mere spiritual fitness for spiritual perfection. Saint Clement of Alexandria lamented that already in the beginning of the third century the Christian Church mistook for perfection and the end of the struggle that which at the time of Jesus was looked upon as just the beginning, only the readiness to begin the path to perfection. The same is true in all religions today. Those who are hardly qualified novices are acclaimed masters and even avatars. This is a tragedy beyond calculation.
But we need not fall into the illusion. We can and will move onward to the real battle; and we will win.
Fighting is going forward, but many people get stuck on their successes in spiritual life rather than pushing onward to better things. There are people who sit and rhapsodize about an extraordinary meditation instead of keeping on and having even more remarkable meditations. Or they go on and on about some incredible incident in their spiritual search, not realizing that they are no longer searching but mired in self-congratulation. It is good to be pleased with our spiritual life and progress, but that must be a stimulus to keep on moving into new territory. Alexander the Great, whose kingdom was but a fraction of the earth, sat and wept, lamenting that he had no more lands to conquer. We must avoid his small-mindedness and press on.
No matter how good things are at the moment, they can become better–even to the extent that what we are impressed with now will in time seem very elementary, and even negligible.
Read the next article in the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening: Freedom From Karma