Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Searching for Enlightenment

Note to Self: Be careful when you tell people that you have been reading an amazing, life-altering book. It may be assumed that you're talking about The Secret. Also, when such assumptions are made, be sure not to blurt out phrases such as, "Why would I tell anyone about THAT piece of crap?"

So anyway, I've been on the hunt for further enlightenment. I haven't been meditating under a Bodhi tree or anything, I've just been searching for more meaningful literature and ideas. My new roommate majored in near-eastern studies and we've been talking a lot about Islam, ancient Judaism, Israel, India and Hinduism. It's been fascinating since I don't know a lot about the middle east and I really want to learn more so I have an understanding of that part of the world. My roommate mentioned a Hindu book called the Bhagavad Gita in our discussions and I remembered reading it in college. I took a world literature class that included the Mahabharata (which contains the Gita) and the Ramayana. I remember really loving those texts, so I went to the library and checked out the Bhagavad Gita (since this is a translated text, not all copies are that great. I recommend this particular translation by Eknath Easwaran).
I will tell you one thing - it did not have the same impact on me in college as it does now. Maybe because I understand a bit more about real life. This is one of the most amazing texts I have ever read. I was completely enthralled by it's insight and wisdom (not to mention basic alignment with my own religious beliefs - which really surprised me). This ancient Hindu religious text supports truths I already understand and believe. It is not difficult to see how all major religions contain elements of truth; which shouldn't be any great surprise since all religions stem from an original single source: In the beginning, there was only one truth.

The Gita is beautiful - it is such an inspiring message of how to achieve enlightenment through living the best life possible. I love that Lord Krishna lovingly chastises Arjuna about human nature vs. our eternal nature, the true self, and mortality's tendency toward short-sightedness. Lately I've been discovering that truth is not at all hard to find in the world, it's everywhere, you just have to recognize it when you hear it/read it/experience it. Because not everything that is called "truth" by the world is actually true; and I have found that you can actually feel the difference (this applies to everything, not just religious beliefs).

The Basic storyline: Sri Krishna, who is God incarnate, speaks with Arjuna who is about to go to battle with his relatives over the kingdom. Sri Krishna then counsels Arjuna on the path to eternal life and happiness.

I absolutely love these quotes from the book:

“I am ever present to those who have realized me in every creature. Seeing all life as my manifestation, they are never separated from me. They worship me in the hearts of all, and all their actions proceed from me. Wherever they live, they abide in me.” (6:30-31, Easwaran, pg. xviii)

“The man or woman who realizes God has everything and lacks nothing (6:22). Life cannot threaten such a person; all it holds is the opportunity to love, to serve, and to give.” (Easwaran , pg. xxv)

And my personal favorite:

“You have the right to work, but never to the fruit [outcome] of the work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction. Perform work in this world Arjuna, as a man established within himself—without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat. . . . Seek refuge in the attitude of detachment and you will amass the wealth of spiritual awareness. Those who are motivated only by desire for the fruits of action are miserable, for the are constantly anxious about the results of what they do.” (2:47-49)

“What Krishna means is to give up attachment to the results of what you do: that is, to give your best to every undertaking without insisting that the results work out the way you want. . . .

[Ghandi explains]:

‘By detachment I mean that you must not worry whether the desired result follows from your action or not, so long as your motive is pure, your means correct. Really, it means that things will come right in the end if you take care of the means and leave the rest to Him. . . . But renunciation of fruit in no way means indifference to the result. In regard to every action one must know the result that is expected to follow, the means thereto, and the capacity for it. . . .’

“This attitude frees a person completely. Whatever comes – success or failure, praise or blame, victory or defeat – he can give his best with a clear, unruffled mind. Nothing can shake his courage or break his will; no setback can depress her or make her feel burned out. . . . Again, Krishna repeatedly tells Arjuna to surrender everything to Him in love. . . . Krishna is asking Arjuna to act entirely for His sake, not for any personal gain. The whole point of the path of love is to transform motivation from ‘I, I, I,’ to ‘thou, thou, thou’ – that is, to surrender selfish attachments by dissolving them in the desire to give.” (Easwaran , xxxix-xli)


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