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Focus not on life’s specific problems – focus on life’s universal purpose (Based on Gita 18.62)

During life, we all face various specific problems – our health may go down, our relationships may run through rough patches, our workload may become excessive. These problems need specific solutions, but we can’t let ourselves get consumed in seeking such specific solutions. Sometimes, solutions may elude us. Or some problems may have no solutions – they just need to be endured. Most exasperatingly, problems keep coming, just as waves keep coming in an ocean.

That’s why we need to look beyond life’s specific problems to life’s universal purpose. Ultimately, the purpose of everything in the world – indeed, the purpose of the world itself – is spiritual evolution. We are spiritual beings who are eternal parts of the supreme spiritual being, Krishna. We can fulfill our innermost longings for enduring life and love when we help our consciousness evolve from love for worldly things to love for our eternal Lord.

The Bhagavad-gita (18.61) states that Krishna accompanies us through material existence as our indwelling guide. Knowing his presence and prescience, we can turn our consciousness towards him and focus on our essential eternal function of serving him. When we surrender to him, he guides us towards our highest well-being (18.62).

Problems feel most problematic when they make us feel helpless and hopeless. When we focus on life’s universal purpose of spiritual evolution, then we see hope and help: hope because the door for spiritualizing our consciousness by remembering Krishna is always open, and help because Krishna is always available in his many manifestations to aid us in remembering him.

When we see life’s problems as impetuses for remembering Krishna, we can practice bhakti-yoga intensely and experience spiritual strength through absorption in him. Thereby, we can re-emerge, reassured and rejuvenated to face life’s problems more calmly, more wisely and more effectively.

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Verse 18.62 - "O scion of Bharata, surrender unto Him utterly. By His grace you will attain transcendental peace and the supreme and eternal abode.”

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GitaDaily articles are written by Chaitanya Charan Das
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If we don’t give up our attachments voluntarily, we will have to give them up involuntarily (Based on Gita 01.01)

At the start of the Bhagavad-gita (01.01), Dhritarashtra asks: What did the two armies assembled for fighting do? Herein, the unspoken query was: did his sons, the Kauravas, win against the Pandavas?

Sanjaya answers in the Gita’s last verse (18.78) prophesizing victory for the side that features Krishna and Arjuna together, thus implying Dhritarashtra’s imminent bereavement. Prior to the war, when Vidura, Vyasa, various sages and Krishna himself had counselled him, he could have voluntarily relinquished his unholy attachment. But he refused to renounce voluntarily and so was forced to lose involuntarily.

We all have a Dhritrashtra-like mentality which makes us obsessed with our pet attachments. We may be attached to, say, wealth, but no matter how much we scheme to hold on to it, we will lose it inevitably at death, if not earlier. When we lose things involuntarily, we gain nothing except lamentation.

Thankfully, such devastating deprivation doesn’t have to be our fate; Gita wisdom offers a spiritually enriching option. It explains that we are indestructible spiritual beings, who are eternal parts of the all-attractive supreme spiritual reality, Krishna. Whatever our particular attachment, it is a misdirection of our soul’s longing for our Lord. Our present lifetime is a precious opportunity to redirect that attachment to him by practicing bhakti-yoga diligently. Through such practice, if by the time of death, Krishna has become our strongest attachment, we rise to indestructible spiritual reality to be united with him for a life of eternal love. Even if he hasn’t become our foremost attachment, still we carry whatever devotional attachment we have developed to our next lifetime to build on it there.

Understanding that material loss is inevitable at death, why not spiritualize our consciousness and thereby prepare ourselves to receive the ultimate spiritual gain?

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Verse 01.01 - "Dhrtarastra said: O sanjaya, after my sons and the sons of Pandu assembled in the place of pilgrimage at Kuruksetra, desiring to fight, what did they do?”

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GitaDaily articles are written by Chaitanya Charan Das
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Focus not on the pain of failing – focus on the pleasure of learning (Based on Gita 05.20)

When we fail in something important for us, we naturally feel disheartened. If we don’t process this feeling intelligently, we may quit.

Failure is an event that happens to us, often because of factors beyond our control. However, failing or quitting is a choice that we make. How can we ensure that failure doesn’t make us quit? By shifting our focus to learning from the failure. We can introspect, “What went wrong? What could I have done better? What can I carry with me from this experience?”

To aid in such change of focus, we can re-envision failure and success. When we see failure and success as if they are opposite, failure disheartens us. But if we see them as existing on the same path, with success awaiting those who move forward from failure by learning, we get the inspiration to persevere. And we find that we can learn a lot from failure, sometimes much more than what we learn from success.

Gita wisdom aids in such a re-envisioning. Its central recommendation of bhakti-yoga is not about events such as failures or successes – it is about a relationship between us and Krishna. Through any event, if we learn how to serve Krishna better, then we grow in that relationship, even if the desired result hasn’t worked out. And as connecting with him is deeply strengthening and satisfying, we stop catastrophizing failure. Seeing both success and failure as landmarks on our life-journey, we keep moving through both towards Krishna, finding deep fulfillment therein. The Bhagavad-gita (05.20) states that those who are spiritually situated stay equipoised amidst both pleasure and pain.

By thus focusing on learning how to move closer to Krishna through both failure and success, we can stay steadily situated in sublime, spiritual serenity.

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Verse 05.20 - "A person who neither rejoices upon achieving something pleasant nor laments upon obtaining something unpleasant, who is self-intelligent, who is unbewildered, and who knows the science of God is already situated in transcendence.”

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GitaDaily articles are written by Chaitanya Charan Das
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Let our life’s script be shaped by scripture (Based on Gita 16.24)

When we make decisions, we usually think that we are choosing freely. However, we decide not just by our conscious intentions but also by our script – our subconscious conceptions that shape how we think, feel and act. Though we think we are acting freely, we are often acting out our script’s promptings.

Our scripts originate from our past influences. During our childhood, we may have been introverts who were compared unfavorably with an extrovert sibling: “Why can’t you be outgoing like him?” Such comparisons make us driven by an external reference point – we slave to become something we are not endowed or inclined to be, and when we fail, we beat ourselves up. Overall, because of unhealthy scripts, we dissipate our mental energy and even our life in endeavors that are disharmonious with who are.

To stop such self-damage, we need to replace our present script with a less socially-determined self-understanding. Such a self-understanding is provided by the Bhagavad-gita, whose worldview integrates our whole being – spiritual and material. It outlines a holistic program of bhakti-yoga that cultivates our spiritual essence with its potential for enduring happiness and channels our body-mind machine with its particular inclinations. When we make scripture the basis of our decision-making, as the Gita recommends (16.24), we slowly reshape our script.

Ultimately, scripture is the guidance provided by Krishna who is our greatest well-wisher (05.29). Rather than let our script be shaped by people who don’t know our best or maybe don’t even want our best, we can choose to let it be shaped by the one who knows and wants our best.

When we study scripture regularly and apply it diligently, making Krishna the center and purpose of our life, then we become guided by a sublime script that prompts us to fulfill our potentials, material and spiritual.

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Verse 16.24 - "One should therefore understand what is duty and what is not duty by the regulations of the scriptures. Knowing such rules and regulations, one should act so that he may gradually be elevated.”

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GitaDaily articles are written by Chaitanya Charan Das
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Resist the temptation to expect immediate resistance to temptation (Based on Gita 05.23)

When we start practicing spiritual life, we may resolve to give up sensual indulgence. But as our material attachments are deep-rooted, they frequently overpower us. On floundering thus, we may become frustrated and give up our spiritual practices.

How can we deal with such frustration? By contemplating that spiritual growth rests not as much on self-mastery as on connection with Krishna. And staying connected with him requires humility, acknowledging our dependence on his grace. In contrast, our ego makes us feel that we are controllers and enjoyers, with no need for him.

Usually, when we are in materialistic consciousness, the ego wants us to be the enjoyer of worldly objects. When we start orienting ourselves spiritually, this ego doesn’t easily let go – it attacks in a different garb, wanting us to be the enjoyer of our renunciation. Desiring to look down at those still enjoying sense objects, it wants instant detachment: “After I decide to renounce sense indulgence, I shouldn’t feel any temptation. If a temptation somehow comes, I should immediately feel averse to it.” Whereas earlier it wanted enjoyment by summoning sense objects at will, now it wants enjoyment by rejecting sense objects at will. Either way, it keeps us obsessed with ourselves and distracted from Krishna.

While we are thus controlled by the ego, whatever frustration we feel on failing in sense-control is largely ego-induced. To avoid such frustration, we need to be humbly patient and perseverant. The Bhagavad-gita (05.23) assures that those who tolerate lifelong the forces of desire and anger – the twin machinations of the ego – gradually become spiritually connected and fulfilled.

When we resist the ego’s temptation to expect immediate resistance to temptation and focus instead on humbly seeking Krishna’s shelter, even in the presence of temptation, we progress authentically towards pure fulfilling absorption in him.

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Verse 05.23 - "Before giving up this present body, if one is able to tolerate the urges of the material senses and check the force of desire and anger, he is well situated and is happy in this world.”

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The Absolute’s oneness is not in non-differentiation, but in non-disconnection (Based on Gita 06.30)

The Absolute Truth is one. This intuition has dawned on many thinkers worldwide who have sought first principles, the foundational reality underlying all things. Moreover, the Absolute’s oneness is stressed repeatedly in the Upanishads, metaphysical masterpieces within the Vedic library.

But what does this oneness mean? Monistic thinkers equate it with non-differentiation. They hold that reality features no differentiation at all – the differentiation between you and me is an illusion, as is the differentiation between us and God. Subjects that perceive and objects that are perceived are all illusion; a non-differentiated stream of consciousness alone exists.

However, this conception is profoundly impoverishing. It strips existence of its greatest driving force: love. We all long to love and be loved. Acknowledging the foundational reality of love, Gita wisdom offers a more nuanced and enriching revelation of oneness: not the dissolution of all individuality, but its loving harmonization. The Bhagavad-gita’s sixth chapter (06.28-30) describes progressively higher states of spiritual realization, culminating in vision of the all-attractive personal Absolute, Krishna. The most spiritually evolved souls see Krishna in everything and everything in Krishna (06.30). Thus, they see everything connected, not everything merged.

How do they see the Absolute’s oneness? By seeing that everything is Krishna’s energy (07.04-06), that nothing can exist without him (10.39), that everything derives its attractiveness from him (10.41). Realizing this oneness, they dedicate themselves to him with both their head and heart (10.08, 15.19). Illusion arises not from the perception of duality, but from the perception of disconnectedness of the part from the whole (15.07). Love, when directed towards the Absolute, reveals the connectedness of all of existence and connects the soul with the Whole in an eternal bond of ecstatic love. Indeed, pure love for Krishna with the resulting eternal union comprises the ultimate reality, beyond all illusion.

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Verse 06.30 - "For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me.”

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GitaDaily articles are written by Chaitanya Charan Das
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Suspension of the natural order alone is not miraculous – the natural order itself is miraculous too (Based on Gita 09.10)

Some people consider as miraculous phenomena that involve the suspension of natural order – phenomena such as walking on water or lifting a hill. Such miracles are derided as irrational and impossible by skeptics, who deem the natural order inviolable.

Yes, any suspension of the natural order is extraordinary – it requires an explanation. But, then, even the natural order requires an explanation. Nature’s orderliness is ordinary in terms of familiarity, but not in terms of explainability. A fruit falling is ordinary in that it happens regularly, but what makes it fall in a fundamental sense remains elusive. Can’t we attribute the fruit’s falling to gravity? Not exactly, because gravity is our nomenclature for that orderly behavior, not an explanation of that behavior’s origin. Can’t we attribute gravity to the curvature of space-time? Possibly, but then the source of space-time needs to be explained. Invoking one concept to explain another concept doesn’t yield an ultimate explanation – it only defers that explanation.

Taking the questioning spirit to the most fundamental level: if everything has emerged from unguided natural processes acting on insentient material particles – as most skeptics presume – why should the emergent phenomena feature any order, leave alone an order of mathematical precision?

Ultimately, the existence of the natural order is most rationally explained by positing a trans-natural first cause, a transcendental intelligence. The Bhagavad-gita (09.10) indicates that overseeing intelligence to be Krishna. By his inconceivable potency, he arranges for the orderly functioning of nature; and occasionally, for serving some special purpose, he temporarily suspends that order.

When we thus seek the fundamental cause of things, we see that both the operation of the natural order and its suspension are miraculous – both point to an explanation beyond nature, and both enhance our appreciation of the transcendental divine.

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Verse 09.10 - "This material nature, which is one of My energies, is working under My direction, O son of Kunti, producing all moving and nonmoving beings. Under its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again.”

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Recollection is a function of connection (Based on Gita 10.17)

To remember some fact, say, the year of America’s independence, we need to connect that date with other dates we already remember. In general, placing a new fact in an existing framework of facts increases our chances of recollecting it, as against inserting that fact into our brain without any context.

If we wish to grow spiritually and relish higher happiness, Gita wisdom recommends that we strive to remember Krishna constantly. Remembering him is reasonably possible when we are engaged in direct devotional activities such as chanting his holy names, worshiping his deities or reading his glories. But we can’t do these activities constantly as we have many practical obligations. How, then, can we remember him constantly? By connecting worldly things with him.

In the Bhagavad-gita (10.17), Arjuna asks how he can meditate on Krishna while interacting with material objects. Essentially, his question is: how can he connect those objects with Krishna? In response, the remaining chapter describes how various attractive things can be seen as manifestations of Krishna (10.20-40), for their attractiveness reflects a spark of his all-attractiveness (10.41). When we too learn to connect with Krishna the objects we regularly interact with, our remembrance of him increases.

Undoubtedly, we need to directly remember Krishna by practicing focused bhakti-yoga regularly. However, our remembrance of him doesn’t have to be restricted only to these times of direct connection. Through such exclusive bhakti practice, we are meant to gain the conviction and realization that Krishna is the all-attractive source of whatever objects attract our attention. Thereafter, those objects can stimulate our remembrance of him, first by conscious intention and then by subconscious inclination.

By such an integrated, inclusive approach to remembering Krishna, we can ensure that our thoughts increasingly gravitate towards our all-pure Lord. And with the resulting purification, we will become perennially absorbed in him.

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Verse 10.17 - "O Krishna, O supreme mystic, how shall I constantly think of You, and how shall I know You? In what various forms are You to be remembered, O Supreme Personality of Godhead?”

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GitaDaily articles are written by Chaitanya Charan Das
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Following scripture centers not on legalistic conformity, but on loving reciprocity (Based on Gita 18.64)

When driving through unfamiliar territory, a map guides us. Similarly, during our life-journey, scripture is meant to be our map. But life is much more complicated than traveling, and scripture too can be more complicated than a map.

To live according to scripture, do we need to memorize thousands of verses and process through them to find out which applies to our particular situation? Memorizing scripture as much as we can is helpful; and consulting scripture regularly, and especially when life brings us to crossroads, is essential. Still, scripture-guided living doesn’t demand legalistic conformity. Following scripture doesn’t center on our head’s capacity to function as a high-speed verse processor; it centers on internalizing scripture’s essential message and molding our life accordingly.

This thrust on essence is seen towards the Bhagavad-gita’s conclusion. It (18.63) urges Arjuna to deliberate deeply on its message before deciding what to do. When Arjuna becomes pensive, contemplating the many levels of yogic practices outlined in the Gita, Krishna rescues him from getting caught in scripture’s technicalities. How? By sharing the most confidential knowledge (18.64). Stressing that he loves Arjuna and wants the best for him, he recommends wholehearted devotion (18.65) and promises protection (18.66). Indeed, the most confidential knowledge is that our life is meant for growing in our loving relationship with Krishna.

When appropriate scriptural guidelines seem elusive amidst life’s complexities, we can focus on the essence of loving reciprocity. With devotional sincerity, we can pray: “Krishna, you are my eternal Lord. I want to serve you; please guide me.” Reciprocating with our devotional receptivity, he will point us to the best way through both our spiritual mentors (04.34) and his indwelling manifestation (10.10). That way will be both harmonious with scripture and customized to guide us through our particular situation towards all-round growth.

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Verse 18.64 - "Because you are My very dear friend, I am speaking to you My supreme instruction, the most confidential knowledge of all. Hear this from Me, for it is for your benefit.”

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GitaDaily articles are written by Chaitanya Charan Das
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Fear boiled down to its barest is the absence of God (Based on Gita 06.01)

We all have our fears: loss of health, wealth or loved ones. To deal with such fears, we arrange for insurances, security systems or self-defense skills.

These practical measures, even though essential, don’t address the root cause of fear.

That root cause is the absence of God, our notion that he doesn’t exist or doesn’t care or doesn’t have control. We are on our own; if we can’t control things, we will perish. But so much that matters to us is beyond our control. Our simultaneous need to control and inability to control cause an existential angst that lies at the root of our fears.

Addressing this angst, Gita wisdom assures us that above whatever goes wrong is the one reality that always stays right – God is in control and is our well-wisher. The Bhagavad-gita (16.01) states that fearlessness is the first characteristic of the godly. They stay aware of God’s presence and benevolence, and that awareness reassures them amidst their fears.

How do we become aware of God’s presence? By practicing bhakti-yoga, which tunes our awareness to his universal presence. As he is the supreme spiritual reality, when we become aware of his presence, our consciousness becomes spiritualized. We understand the primacy of that eternal reality beyond the mundane reality that is the source of our fears. Further, we understand that we belong to that level of reality, for we are indestructible spiritual beings who are eternal parts of God.

By contemplating our immortal identity and our inalienable relationship with God, we access a sublime security that decreases the threat potential of our various worldly fears. The resulting calmness helps us see things clearly and address our specific fears appropriately.

When we thus learn to live in God’s presence, fear may still come, but it won’t overcome us.

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Verse 06.01 - "The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: Fearlessness; purification of one’s existence; cultivation of spiritual knowledge; charity; self-control; performance of sacrifice; study of the Vedas; austerity; simplicity; ...[ - these transcendental qualities, O son of Bharata, belong to godly men endowed with divine nature.]”

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GitaDaily articles are written by Chaitanya Charan Das
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