What can we learn from the Bhagavad Gita?

Since I was a child, I have heard of the Hindu epic Mahabharata, narrating two warring groups of cousins, the Kauravas and the Pandavas. One of the classic parts of Mahabharata is Bhagavad Gita [1]. At that time, I found the TV drama of Mahabharata too complex and contain too many conflicts for me to understand, yet now I accept that I must learn from it for we live in a complex world.

There are many lessons to be drawn from this Hindu classic, herein I share those that I found to be most relevant to my current spatiotemporal circumstances.

  1. Live a purpose-driven life. Do our dharma (purposeful actions) i.e. actions undertaken out of a sense of purpose, instead of actions motivated by desire. To do dharma, we need to know ourselves, discover our place in the much larger universe, and direct our envisioned lives. Benjamin Franklin reflected that "there are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self."
  2. Be decisive. Freeing ourselves from indecision can reduce stress and help us proactively accepting our personal responsibility. What would you do if you need to fight with people whom you love? This is a dilemma that Arjuna faced when he had to fight his cousins. The Godfather highlighted that we need to understand that the morality of war is different from the morality of peace. As a warrior, Arjuna’s responsibility is to fight the good fight.
  3. Do what we feel peaceful at, be peaceful at what we need to do [2].
  4. Do it anyway, as highlighted by Mother Teresa. Why should we bother to do anything good in a world that is predominantly bad? Serve the welfare of the world.
  5. Decrease object-referral, increase self-referral through meditation, reflection, and renunciation of ego ("I, me, mine"). Free ourselves from the need of approval from others. How? (i) Feel neither superior nor inferior to others. (ii) Be immune to non-constructive criticisms.
  6. Practice the art of detachment from (i) the outcomes or results of our work [4] (ii) negative emotions (fear, greed, anger, etc) [5]. Do not be swayed by the winds of emotions or events (failure or success), as the saying goes 是非成败转头空,青山依旧在,几度夕阳红.
  7. Love with no expectation. Unconditionally love our family, but do not expect each family member will reciprocate and do the same, especially when blood connection is getting diluted. Even siblings of the same parent(s) have plotted against each other, as history has disappointingly shown. A verse "We were originally grown from the same root; Why should we hound each other to death with such impatience?" (本自同根生;相煎何太急), which is part of The Quatrain of Seven Steps (七步诗), was composed after seven walking steps with a sad heart and streaming tears by the poet Cao Zhi to convince his brother Cao Pi not to kill him.

[1] see ref2016/*bhagavad_gita*txt

[2] This is parallel to do what we love, love what we do, if the former choice is unavailable. Elevate ourselves from Tamas to Rajas to Sattva.
Tamas = darkness, inertia, dullness, lack of care, ignorance.
Rajas = fire, passion, endless business, focus on gaining and attaining, lack of rest, fingers in too many pies, selfish desire – a product of the senses and mind – that leads people to be bound to the material world.
Sattva = light, feel peace in actions, noble intentions.

[3] Object-referral = defining ourselves through objects, such as people’s liking and approvals, situations, achievements, fame and fortune.
Object-referral ~= outer scorecard. Note: outer scorecard is not entirely bad because it allows us to receive feedbacks and sense others’ needs [1].
Self-referral ~= inner scorecard

[4] "Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant." ~ Robert Louis Stevenson 20160216

[5] Since we are human beings, I view that it is impossible to be entirely free from negative emotions. Some negative emotions may warn us of existing injustice or impending dangers. Nevertheless, we can journey towards this destination as a lifetime practice.

20160611 (6 pomodoro)

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