“I don’t think anything can extinguish this fire of grief raging within me
even if I were to become the prosperous and unrivaled ruler of the earth and even over the heavens.” (Arjuna)
Through our application of the teachings of Yoga, we are all probably making some progress in not getting as upset about things as we used to. As we get more strong and steady, we are more ready to face the difficult karmas that have yet to come. We know that purification is needed to remove the veil that is covering our eyes, and we have more trust that we will be given the resources to pass through the challenges we must undergo.But occasionally in our lives we find ourselves in a situation like Arjuna where the time has come to face a special karma— one that truly brings us to our knees. We start to shake in our boots, doubt replaces trust, and rather than feeling we are being purified, we may feel that we are being crushed.
Practices like pratipaksha bhavana–cultivating the opposite positive thought–might help. But there are some situations where it just seems that the mind that got itself into this mess will not be able to think its way out of it. Have you ever been in this place? How have you dealt with it? It can help to find someone we can open our hearts to who can listen with a quiet, empathic mind. In this verse, we find Arjuna pouring out his distress to Sri Krishna—his innermost Self and the Heart of the Universe.Through this burning “fire of grief,” Arjuna is starting to get a sense of vairagya—the understanding that nothing in this world or the next will bring enduring fulfillment. He says here that if he was the unrivaled ruler of this world, and if there is a higher world, he was also the ruler there, it still would not alleviate the pain he is experiencing. This type of internal grief cannot be assuaged by the external situation.
Both the Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita speak of the need for both abhasya—practice—and vairagya. Vairagya without abhyasa can lead to the sense of emptiness and purposelessness that Arjuna is feeling. Abhasya is needed to give him something to hold onto. Abhasya without vairagya is like rowing a boat without untying the rope holding it to the dock. You can end up working really hard but not getting very far. Krishna is about to help Arjuna out of his despair. Through a combination of discovering a higher goal and letting go of habits and thought patterns that block his way, Arjuna will begin to steady his mind and regain his enthusiasm for the spiritual life. Thank God we also have this scripture, as well as Sri Gurudev’s beautiful teachings, available to us to guide our way Home.
The 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:
- “Understanding the Bhagavad Gita” from August 21-23, 2015 with Yoganand Michael Carroll
*Use this Sanskrit dictionary to look up words.