Tag Archives: Gita

Arjuna’s Doubt


Doubt is a big part of all of our lives. This can be especially so in regards to our spiritual lives. The scriptures abound with stories of our most revered saints doubting their path. The Bhagavad Gita can be said to be a story of how Arjuna overcomes his doubt.

These doubts of Arjuna are not the doubts of someone just coming to yoga like most of us here in the west as something separate from our culture. Arjuna had been trained and lived with the highest masters of yoga his whole life. He was a follower of dharma; an exemplar of moral living. Compared to most of us he’d be a god. When he had to face his family and kinsmen in war; when he had to face some decisive action of magnitude like we all do a various times of our life — you know, those times when we have to make a choice between two (or more) unfavourable action – he cracked; this god of man lost his composure. He doubted everything he knew and felt inside. He doubted his dharma, the whole tide of his life that had brought him to that moment was questioned in every way. He became like a child again. Fearful of making a choice. His mind wavered incessantly. He tried to cling to universal rules instead of following his individual path for dealing with the difficult situation in which he found himself.

He was born a warrior king and knew deep inside what he had to do. As readers, we all knew what had to be done. It’s hard to imagine the kind of disappointment reader would have felt if Arjuna would have dropped his bow and refused to fight. His brothers would most certainly have killed him without ceremony or remorse. The lesson of the Gita would have then perhaps been to follow the rules and do as your told; don’t think for yourself even if you’re faced with tyranny. But Arjuna rose above even the most sacred of the universal laws that states we should not kill our own family and gave us the lesson of looking within and following our own path; that each and every moment and choice is unique and cannot be legislated universally as one set of laws for all times. We cannot discount universal law altogether, but we must know that as individuals, each of us gods unto ourselves, are capable of rising above the universal. I’n fact, it’s our duty to do so.

Arjuna was in a unique position in that he had a god as a chariot driver and counsellor. It would have been easy for Krishna to just give him a smack and tell him to snap out of it and fight, but he never does this because he knows that it’s up to each of us to decide for ourselves. Krishna merely answers his questions and tells him to choose. Like the sun, he illuminates the way but he does not force anything upon him.

Arjuna is free to choose, just as we are all free to choose. Of course fate and circumstance and our own inner fires often makes choices for us leaving us with but one path to follow; but it’s still up to us to choose that path and often times struggle with the choice even if fate has already decried what is to happen. Unfortunately we cannot stop time as Arjuna and Krishna seem to do in order to make our choices, but the pain of indecision can most certainly be lessened by having faith that our inner chariot driver knows the way.

Putting the Mind on the Self

How does one satisfy all desire by putting the mind on the self?

If we know the self, then we know our desires and our potential; we know what we want and what we can get. It often seems, however, that we don’t know ourselves. This is why we practice meditation and yoga and travel and contemplation and even foolishness; so that we can come to know the self. This is also why many people come to me to have their astrology chart read for them. But something that becomes clearer and clearer to me is that people do know themselves. Pretty much everyone I talk to has self-knowledge. People know their hopes and desires, their skills and abilities much better than I’ll ever know from looking at their chart. If people start disagreeing with everything I get from the chart, I have to assume the chart is incorrect or I am incorrect. It would be madness for me to say that the chart is correct and they merely don’t know themselves. Their own self-knowledge is confirmation of the chart and not the other way around.

Knowing our true selves, it should be easy to put our awareness there and forget about everything else going on. When we do this, we align our abilities with our desires so that what we hope for matches closely to what we receive. This is how we use self-knowledge to achieve satisfaction in life. You could say that once we have knowledge of our true selves we don’t have to worry about anything anymore. We know the program so why worry about the details. The details, of course, being the karma; the daily grind of making effort to achieve results. If we accept karma, not just our own karma, but the concept of karma and its effectiveness of giving results, then it becomes really easy to put our minds in places other than where our next meal will come from, or how we will get educated.

Our physical existence runs on a kind of automatic pilot thru our karma. We use the moment of our birth as the first action, which leads to the next and the next and so on. From our limited perspective, this first action appears to be beyond our control and without our consent. And from that moment onward our lives generally feel split between being the active subject choosing our fate and being a passive object being swept away by the currents of fate and time. In one sense our path is absolutely determined, but in a more immediate sense, we continually affirm our path through our free choice. So what’s going here?

I’m beginning to believe that our material existence is more or less fixed at the moment of birth. Our health, our wealth, our aptitude, our studies, generally everything the typical person associates with their “self” is pretty much fixed. This is the stuff most of us spend our time worrying about. Some will complain that we have to put effort into things or nothing will get done; such worries are the hallmark of modern ambition and are necessary to advance as individuals as well as a society. Or it could be that the effort is also fixed.

Cause will follow effect, which will be the cause for further effect. But when we focus on the cause and effect nothing seems fixed. The very nature of cause and effect is change, but the whole process is fixed. According to Vedanta, whatever is unchanging is truth or true-self according to Tantra. The true self does not change

If we take the example of chair, we find that many things about a chair can change and it will still be a chair. The number of legs can change, the colour, and many things about the design can change. Even some of the firmer qualities can change such as the amount of weight the chair can bear and whether you can move it or not. But at some point there are certain things that are common to all chairs; certain qualities that make a chair a chair. This essence of chairness can be summed up as a thing made for sitting up off the floor. Humans are no different from chairs. We come in all shapes and sizes and abilities but there are certain qualities we all share that make us all human.

On a deeper level we can even say that there are certain qualities that we share with chairs that that are also the same so that we can say things are things. For everything to be there must be some base upon which ‘beingness’ rests that is the same for all beings; both chairs and humans.

It’s this foundation of ‘being’ that we seek through meditation or contemplation or awareness or yoga or whatever your practice might be. Finding the sameness of humans will surely help you to be a better human (a more aware human) in society, while finding the sameness in all beings will surely help you to be a better being on this planet.

So, as I read a birth chart, I see the individual moving thru his or her dasha periods, changing and evolving as they progress as an individual. I also take note of the transiting planets and the changing and evolving world that we have as a ground for action. Both ourselves and the world we live in are being swept away by time and karma. I think often of the scene in the Gita where Krishna shows his true self to Arjuna, the whole of the world rushing to its destruction, being swallowed unflinchingly by the great movement of time (MahaKaala, a god whose important shrine sits outside of Ujjain in the west of India). If I focus only on this change I loose the true individual sitting in front of me. The change is only happening to the object, the mind and body in front of me. My own body and my own fortune too are constantly in motion. If I focus on these things I will only see the object measured in relation to my own bodily object. In this condition we are no more than beasts of burden with the strongest among us doing the least work while the weakest toil.

Life will carry on of it’s own accord. Our functional minds will also complete their tasks over time. Much of this is set for us, but if we begin to search our own minds probing the various layers, we find a layer that is quiet like a placid lake. It’s from this lake that thoughts emerge like trout leaping out of the water; some of which are caught by our lower minds and sustained in thought, from which point we may use this fish to give us the power of action; or we could just put the fish back in the water and leave it disappear into the depths.

The placid lake is our deeper self, our true self, the unchanging consciousness from which all change emerge. This is where we are advised to put our minds. From the silence we can witness the change while keeping our inner consciousness focused on the silence of the true self.

I can see this too in an astrology chart, the layers of our being that don’t change. Just as change occurs on various the individual that persists in the body, the things that make us all human and of course that space in which everything takes place; that space from which everything arises. When we focus on these things our expectations tend to match with the results and we find satisfaction. We experience the peace because we have found the place of peace within ourselves and put our minds there. Otherwise we only experience the change: the suffering of the Buddhist aspirant and the binds of the Tantric that keep us from freedom.