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The Bhagavad Gita

Talk

The message of the Bhagavad Gita is to fight, to act, to play our part in life.  If we work well then we discipline our mind and body and the strength that results stays with us and leaves the body with us.  The Bhagavad Gita also urges us to seek enlightenment to go beyond the wheel of birth, death and rebirth.

The Bhagavad Gita is talk 19 of 27 in the Tantric Buddhism series.

© ℗ 1990, The Frederick P. Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism.

More Detailed Explanation: 

In this talk, Rama focuses on the underlying theme of The Bhagavad Gita [Note: A 700-verse Sanskrit scripture that is part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata] and how it can lead us to a happier, more meaningful life. In the Gita, we witness a conversation between Sri Krishna, an Avatar, and Arjuna, a great warrior. This narrative is really a discussion between Enlightenment and that which unconsciously seeks Enlightenment.

Sri Krishna represents Enlightenment. Krishna's mind is different - he lives in, and radiates, light. Arjuna is that which seeks Enlightenment. Arjuna is a worldly individual, engaged in a civil war - the battle of Kurukshetra. The conversation between Krishna and Arjuna takes place on the battlefield, representing the battlefield of life.

In this war of Kurukshetra, Arjuna is pitted against his loved ones - he has to kill them. Arjuna says he will not fight. This moment where Arjuna refuses to fight, represents a place inside our minds where we are facing certain attachments and illusions particularly dear to us, that we have to dispel. Arjuna won't fight because he is attached to his illusions.

Krishna tells Arjuna to kill these people - it is his job to kill them - and to look at the big picture. Krishna says Arjuna can't really kill anybody and that he can't really be killed because we are all eternal. Life is a game, or lila - where light takes on different shapes and we play certain roles. Maya means we identify with our forms or shapes, and forget who we really are. Krishna says it is a mistake to believe we are the different shapes.

In this life - the world, the things of life - emotions, careers, us - are shapes made from the light. Yoga is the study of the essence of the shapes - the light out of which the shapes emerge. Yoga teaches us to see the bigger picture in terms of the light - so we are not so concerned about the shapes.

This world, and everything we love in this world, is transient. To be upset when we don't get what we want is to attach ourselves to phantoms. If we could see further into the process, we would see that the transient forms that go back into the light, remain unharmed. If you live in the world of the senses this is hard to understand. If the senses are all you know, of course it will make you unhappy.

Krishna tells Arjuna he can go beyond the world of the senses with meditation. When you make the mind still in meditation, you go through a doorway into a world of perfection. When you do that more and more, you get to the point where your outer form will experience the world, while your mind will be absorbed in perfect light. Krishna advises Arjuna to get a teacher and follow their instructions - they will teach you how to free yourself from the wheel of dharma - the world of transient form. Enlightenment is when you've gone into the light so much - there is no difference between you and light.

Krishna tells Arjuna he has to face his greatest fears and attachments - and let them go. He tells Arjuna that he can't kill anybody - don't take it so seriously. If you choose not to play your role, it is a mistake - you must assume responsibility for your role. Whatever persuades us to turn away from our responsibilities is the enemy. You must play the game to win. Winning is better than losing - and it's better to lose, and play the game well, than not to play at all. To become Enlightened, to become free, we have to face life and slay our illusions. Life is a game of winning and losing - like a war.

Rama explains, "A war is an incarnation - a battle is a day of your life. And if we win more than we lose, we say we've won the battle...So we do one day at a time in self-discovery...and we win - because our method is sound..." Meditating and staying in the light as long as you can - using your will - allows the light to mould you into what you need to be to face and slay your illusions.

We must always respect our opponents. With a talented opponent - you are forced to draw more power from your being, accelerating your growth and development. When you decide to fight - you gain power. When you retreat from the fight - you die inside. Krishna says to fight and use your fear to make you a better fighter. You alone direct your attention, and anything that distracts you, leave behind.

It is important also to make your physical body very strong to deal with the world and to deal with the experiences we have when we go into the light. Meditating in an ashram doesn't create Enlightenment. What creates Enlightenment is a person with purpose, someone who meditates several hours a day and follows their teacher's recommendations - someone who does their tasks perfectly, even while knowing everything will be washed away.

Yoga means we accept responsibility for the tasks in our lives. It doesn't matter what the task is, it's about how we handle what comes to us. We should take on a task that is equal to or a little greater than our strength - so we can get stronger. We gain strength in every lifetime - and we take that strength with us.

If you meditate for 16 hours a day with no thought - it is the same thing as living in the world - but it is not better than living in the world.  Living in the world and having a teacher can be better than being in a monastery. While a monastery provides a certain support structure, there is a danger that a person there will not progress because they are just going through the motions. It can be better to be in difficult situations so you are inspired to go beyond the transient.

To remove yourself from life isn't the answer - "...you must walk among the things you desire, and your aversions - the things that you fear - and be unaffected. That's Buddhism...to be in a monastery and ashram is not always the answer because we don't fight, we kick back - we don't listen to Sri Krishna."