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Our Spiritual Marching Orders

Part 28 of the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening

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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

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Introduction to The Bhagavad Gita for Awakening

Preface to The Bhagavad Gita for Awakening

Bhagavad Gita for Awakening links:

  1. The Battlefield of the Mind
  2. On the Field of Dharma
  3. Taking Stock
  4. The Smile of Krishna
  5. Birth and Death–The Great Illusions
  6. Experiencing the Unreal
  7. The Unreal and the Real
  8. The Body and the Spirit
  9. Know the Atman!
  10. Practical Self-Knowledge
  11. Perspective on Birth and Death
  12. The Wonder of the Atman
  13. The Indestructible Self
  14. “Happy the Warrior”
  15. Buddhi Yoga
  16. Religiosity Versus Religion
  17. Perspective on Scriptures
  18. How Not To Act
  19. How To Act
  20. Right Perspective
  21. Wisdom About the Wise
  22. Wisdom About Both the Foolish and the Wise
  23. The Way of Peace
  24. Calming the Storm
  25. First Steps in Karma Yoga
  26. From the Beginning to the End
  27. The Real “Doers”
  28. Our Spiritual Marching Orders
  29. Freedom From Karma
  30. “Nature”
  31. Swadharma
  32. In the Grip of the Monster
  33. Devotee and Friend
  34. The Eternal Being
  35. The Path
  36. Caste and Karma
  37. Action–Divine and Human
  38. The Mystery of Action and Inaction
  39. The Wise in Action
  40. Sacrificial Offerings
  41. The Worship of Brahman
  42. Action–Renounced and Performed
  43. Freedom (Moksha)
  44. The Brahman-Knower
  45. The Goal of Karma Yoga
  46. Getting There
  47. The Yogi’s Retreat
  48. The Yogi’s Inner and Outer Life
  49. Union With Brahman
  50. The Yogi’s Future
  51. Success in Yoga
  52. The Net and Its Weaver
  53. Those Who Seek God
  54. Those Who Worship God and the Gods
  55. The Veil in the Mind
  56. The Big Picture
  57. The Sure Way To Realize God
  58. Day, Night, and the Two Paths
  59. The Supreme Knowledge
  60. Universal Being
  61. Maya–Its Dupes and Its Knowers
  62. Worshipping the One
  63. Going To God
  64. Wisdom and Knowing
  65. Going To The Source
  66. From Hearing To Seeing
  67. The Wisdom of Devotion
  68. Right Conduct
  69. The Field and Its Knower
  70. Interaction of Purusha and Prakriti
  71. Seeing the One Within the All
  72. The Three Gunas
  73. The Cosmic Tree
  74. Freedom
  75. The All-pervading Reality
  76. The Divine and the Demonic
  77. Faith and the Three Gunas
  78. Food and the Three Gunas
  79. Religion and the Three Gunas
  80. Tapasya and the Three Gunas
  81. Charity and the Three Gunas
  82. Sannyasa and Tyaga
  83. Deeper Insights On Action
  84. Knowledge, Action, Doer, and the Three Gunas
  85. The Three Gunas: Intellect and Firmness
  86. The Three Kinds of Happiness
  87. Freedom
  88. The Great Devotee
  89. The Final Words
  90. Glossary

Visit our e-library page for Free Downloads of this and other ebooks in various formats.

Read the Maharshi Gita, an arrangement of verses of the Bhagavad Gita made by Sri Ramana Maharshi that gives an overview of the essential message of the Gita.

Read The Bhagavad Gita (arranged in verses for singing) by Abbot George Burke (Swami Nirmalananda Giri).

Read about the meanings of unfamiliar terms in A Brief Sanskrit Glossary

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