Several thousand years ago in north-central India, two people sat in a chariot in the midpoint of a great battlefield. One of them, the yogi Arjuna, knew that it would not be long before the conflict would begin.
So he asked Krishna, the Master of Yoga, what should be his attitude and perspective in this moment. And above all: What should he do?
There was no time to spare in empty words. In a brief discourse, later turned into seven-hundred Sanskrit verses by the sage Vyasa, Krishna outlined to Arjuna the way to live an entire life so as to gain perfect self-knowledge and self-mastery: The Bhagavad Gita.
The Bhagavad Gita tells us that we can attain a Knowing beyond even what it tells us. And it shows us the way.
In The Bhagavad Gita for Awakening, Abbot George Burke offers a practical commentary for leading a successful spiritual life. With penetrating insight, he illumines the Bhagavad Gita’s practical value for spiritual seekers, and the timelessness of India’s most beloved scripture.
– Russ Thomas
Excerpts from The Bhagavad Gita for Awakening
“He who imagines this [the embodied Self] the slayer and he who imagines this [the embodied Self] the slain, neither of them understands. This [the embodied Self] does not slay, nor is it slain” (2:19).
The immortal part of us, the Atman, the pure spirit (consciousness) ever looks on at the experiences of the lower self–the mind, ego, subtle and gross bodies–all that go to make up our relative “self.” But so convincing is the drama, so compelling and literally engrossing, that it loses itself in the spectacle and thinks it is born, lives, and dies over and over, feeling the pain and pleasure that are nothing more than impulses in the field of energy that is the mind.
These are the vrittis in the chitta spoken of by Patanjali at the beginning of the Yoga Sutras, the permanent cessation or prevention of which is Yoga. Through meditation we come to separate ourselves from the movie screen of illusion.
Learning is the purpose of the movie, so we do not just throw the switch and leave the theater. Rather, we watch and figure out the meaning of everything. When we have learned the lessons, the movie will stop of itself. Yoga is the means of learning.
“In whatever way men approach Me, I reward them. Men everywhere follow My path” (4:11).
For us raised in the “light that is darkness” of Western religion, every verse of the Gita is a revelation of stunning proportions. Certainly this is one of the most revelatory of them all–it opens vistas that free and expand the heart as we never dreamed possible. Let us look at them and rejoice in them.
For the truth of the Gita is not a dose of medicine or a contract of obligation; it is the key that unlocks our shackles, the light that dispels darkness and reveals the wonders of The Way Things Are.
“(The wise man is) the same in success or in failure.” (4:22)
This is not because he shrugs and says: “Oh, well, that is my karma,” and bumbles on without a sense of responsibility. Yes, indeed, it is his karma, whether of the present or the past, and the result reveals how well or how poorly he acted. He may not desire certain results of his actions, but he definitely gets their message. Success and failure are only symptoms of wisdom or folly.
He astutely evaluates the root of his consciousness, seeing his actions as the branches and leaves of that root. His work is with the root–the rest will follow suit when the right quality has been attained. Effects have value only as indicators of the nature of the cause. He knows this, and is intent only on the rectification of the cause–his state of awareness.