Bhagavad Gita Study: Chapter 2, Verse 38

Integral Yoga Teachings   |   May 29, 2015

Maintaining a steady mind through pleasure and pain, gain and loss, victory and defeat,
engage in this battle, indifferent to the outcome.
Thus you will incur no sin.

Sri Krishna has been encouraging Arjuna to not run from this battle. He has the same message for us: If, like Arjuna, our heart is in the right place, the cause is good, and we are the right person to fulfill the task (it is our swadharma*), then we should go for it, despite the challenges and obstacles that will come our way. Krishna isn’t promising us smooth sailing, but in this verse, Krishna gives Arjuna guidance for holding the boat steady. Here in Chapter 2, Krishna gives His first lesson in karma Yoga, explaining the how when we approach any undertaking.

Krishna ArjunaOften when we act, some part of our mind is worrying about the outcome. The irony is that the worry divides and weakens the mind, making a successful result less likely. With equanimity of mind, if we gather all our faculties and focus them on the action, without the mind jumping ahead to concern for the end result, we tap into powerful resources that will lead to the best possible result. And even if things don’t work out exactly as we had wished, it is better than the ego achieving “success” by hook or by crook, which will leave us with a bitter taste in our mouth and an uneasy conscience.

Anxiety is the litmus test to let us know how much ego is involved in what we are doing. If we start to feel anxious about gain or loss, victory or defeat, etc., we know that the ego is not ready to let go, trust life, or let us leave the outcome to a higher will. It is foolish to hope for a coin to always drop on one side. Our life will always be a mixture of what we want and what we don’t want. We’re usually doing well if it comes out 50/50. It is a sure-fire, direct route to unhappiness to think that everything should unfold the way we want. If we cringe from facing what we don’t like, our mind will be continually on edge.

Swami Sivananda:

“If anyone does any action with the above mental attitude or balanced state of mind
he will not reap the fruits of his action.

Such an action will lead to the purification of his heart and freedom from birth and death.”

But Krishna’s point is that, even with these inevitable ups and downs, it is possible to still remain at peace 100% of the time. As we keep recalling the teaching of this verse and make our sincere, though seemingly inadequate, efforts to live by it, the mind will steadily gain balance, clarity, and strength. We know that this is not going to happen overnight, or possibly even in this lifetime, but there is no doubt that over time we will find ourselves remaining more and more in our natural state of well-being.

The more we are able to act from this inherent sense of well-being, the more that action itself becomes its own reward. And this is the way to “incur no sin.” I see that most Western translations of the Gita avoid translating the word “papam” as “sin.” It is just too filled with baggage from our Judeo- Christian heritage. In Sanatana Dharma (now known as “Hinduism”), “sin” simply means that the soul is moving in the wrong direction. Rather than thinning out the samskaras that shroud our inner light, our actions deepen our conditioning.

Rather than finishing off the karma we came to complete in this lifetime, we pile on new karma. In this verse Krishna is teaching us how to transform karma-generating action into karma-purging action through fulfilling our swadharma with the right attitude. Many of us, like Arjuna, when faced with difficulty, decide it is time to abandon duty and focus on our “spiritual development.” To our dismay, we usually discover that these challenges are able to find us again somehow and somewhere.

Living Gita 2The Bhagavad Gita is a 2,500 year old Sanskrit text that offers profound insight into the deeper practices of yoga. As the seeker in the Gita metaphorically prepares for the battle of spiritual transformation, he asks his teacher a series of questions. In his answers the teacher explains the many challenges and stages of the yogic spiritual path.

IYTA members receive a 45% discount on the Bhagavad Gita at Integral Yoga Distribution.


Upcoming Related Programs in 2015:

  • “Advanced Hatha Yoga Teacher Training” from  August 9-30, 2015 with Swami Asokananda
  • “Understanding the Bhagavad Gita” from August 21-23, 2015 with Yoganand Michael Carroll
  • “Intermediate Hatha Yoga Teacher Training” from June 21-23, 2015 with Satya Greenstone

The ITT course includes the study of the Bhagavad Gita, one of the world’s great scriptures. Many may not realize that the Bhagavad Gita is a manual of Yoga par excellence. The treasure revealed within the Gita expounds the philosophy and practices of the Four Main Paths of Yoga, introduced to Integral Yoga students in the Basic teacher training course. In ITT we will expand our understanding of the comprehensiveness of yoga which comprises Integral Yoga.

*Use this Sanskrit dictionary to look up words.

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