As Ravi drove through the narrow by lanes of the housing complex, through the corner of his eye he noticed an unnatural splashing in a roadside puddle. A tiny puppy was struggling in a pothole. Ravi hastened to park his car, rescued the tiny creature, some biscuits and milk, and a happy, fed puppy later he proceeded to the bare room where he taught children from the construction site. Education was the best charity for it empowered the child to rise above his depressing circumstances
For all his goodness, however, Ravi had one problem. It was the ever-critical Hemant. At the office, Hemant would leave no opportunity to ridicule Ravi. Sometimes it would be his tallness, sometimes his complexion at some others his unfashionable clothes or his receding hairline. Ravi could not understand why Hemant liked picking on him. Sometimes frustrated, Ravi would gnash his teeth in silent rage unable to pay back in the same coin partly due to his decency and partly because Hemant was a superior. Once it became especially difficult when Hemant said all the charity Ravi ever did was merely to please his ego and there was no real goodwill for anyone. Quiet, gentle Ravi, hurt to the core, almost came to tears.
How could Ravi deal with the situation? What does the Gita teach in this regard?
Life sometimes comes upon seeming dead ends. Five thousand years ago, Arjuna too had arrived at an impasse unable to fathom the way forward. In utter helplessness, he surrendered to Krishna.
The remarkable perspective that Lord Krishna gives to Arjuna and all humanity is that our disturbances are a result of identifying with entities we are not. This is akin to a person identifying with his car feeling disturbed if the car were to be somehow damaged.
We are neither the body nor the mind. Both the body and mind are delicately situated. The world offers countless threats to their well-being and to their very existence. It can take something as small as a pebble to send waves of pain into the body when stepped on. A low whisper or a false gesture can bring anxiety to the mind. When we identify with such fragile, transient entities as the body and mind, their state defines our happiness. Consequently, our lives become consumed by anxieties.
It is through the false ego that we develop the identity with body and mind. The false ego has the nature of fostering notions of greatness, goodness, control and lordship. An insult or a slight is generally an attack on the false ego. Someone intending to hurt will, in essence, say, “You are not great.” Or, “You are not good.” Or “I control you.” Or “This is not yours but mine.”
Lord Krishna teaches that we are all souls wrapped in the subtle covering of the mind and gross covering of the body (BG 2.13). He teaches that just as the soul changes from one body to another within a lifetime (childhood to youth to old age), at death the soul changes bodies yet again. Only this change is more drastic completely changing bearings in terms of time, space, form (even species) and relationships. Throughout the changing circumstances, the soul endures unchanged!
Lord Krishna teaches that all the happiness and distress of this ever-changing world is transient. The love and hate, the nice and not nice, the good and the bad – all experiences of duality are impersistent. They come and they go. He instructs that one should learn to tolerate the transient, knowing well one’s eternal nature.
What this revelation does for us is that it diminishes the significance of the problems that the body and mind face. This knowledge separates us from our material experience. The respectability, honor and good name that we so cherish are seen as a needs only of the false ego and not ours’ as souls.
The real life of the soul is in a beautiful dimension where love and harmony abound. We try to seek these very things within the temporary sphere, which are impossible to find here. In the eternal spiritual world, there is no trace of the deficiencies that plague the material world. The human body is understood to be an ideal vehicle for returning to transcendental Vaikuntha – the region free from anxieties.
If Ravi could realize that the office, and Hemant and his body and mind were not the real sources of his happiness or distress. It was his identifying with them that caused him pleasure and pain. If he could learn not to energize the false-ego, by practicing tolerance, he could see the insignificance of life’s events. If he could see that whatever negativity the world brings pertains only to the body and mind and not to the real self, then this knowledge would empower him to transcend his circumstances and in an undisturbed mind deal effectively with the vicissitudes of material life.
Actually, there is no need to contemplate the dualities of material existence. Lord Krishna instructs that one should not get captivated by raga(attraction) and dvesha(repulsion) that is created by the senses contacting the world. (BG 3.34)
The appearance and activity of a person are reflections of something deeper in him. They show the state of a person’s false-ego. They reveal where in the material region the soul has placed his hopes of happiness.
If one were to reorient one’s life and make it a journey towards the eternal spiritual destination, then every problem would be seen as a fleeting inconvenience not deserving of our undivided attention, but something to be only tolerated. One’s vision would be fixed on something far beyond the ephemeral reality that the body and mind are products of. This is the path of transcendence that the Gita teaches us. Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has taught that by chanting Hare Krishna Mantra one can easily achieve these higher stages of consciousness.