Sunday, March 22, 2009

My tryst with Gita

I have always been told by many people that Gita contains a wonderful philosophy which can help an individual in leading a more fulfilling life. Many people have given their interpretations of Gita. Many business schools, administrative service training academies and mentoring institutes have Gita in their curriculum. I used to ask myself what is so wonderful about it. Some days ago I had a chance to watch a video of Mahabharata (The one which was broad casted on Door Darshan) on Youtube. This video contained the part in which Arjuna shuns his Gandiva (His bow) saying that he can not kill his own relatives and Lord Krishna talks to him and conversation is the source of Gita. My interpretations for everything in that episode can not be put here in a post. I would therefore rather discuss things that he mentions about Karma Yoga in that episode. My personal opinion is that the learning can really be very helpful in today’s world. Everybody is free to agree or disagree.

My Interpretation:

There can be 4 states of any individual:

1- He does not have a goal in his life and is not working therefore: He is dead almost.
2- He does not have a goal and is still working: He should think why?
3- He has a goal and is not working: What is he waiting for? Better start now.

4- He has a goal and is working for it: (Most of us fall in this category and teachings from Gita about KarmaYoga are most relevant for persons in this category.) There can be two ways how an individual who comes in this category approaches his goals:

a) He works very hard to achieve a goal. He cares a lot about the goal. The goal become so important to him that achieving it or not achieving it becomes center of his thought process. He does not want to imagine a situation in which he fails to achieve a goal.
He becomes obsessed with success, he fears failure. He always works to avoid failure. He stops enjoying his work in the process and sometimes hates it also. If seen carefully it is not that he doesn’t like to work or the work, it’s that he doesn’t like to work with a constant fear of failure. He doesn’t like a sword hanging over him always.
It is a thing that is going to continue life long. When does he stop and live peacefully then? Where is his share of happiness then?

Gita recommends other way:

b) He works hard towards the goal but he is almost indifferent to achieving it or not. (I know it’s a difficult thing to believe, I mean if we are indifferent to a goal why would we work hard at all. But it is possible. I know some people who do it like this continuously and I have seen them happy even after tremendous work pressures, possibly this is one of the reasons why Gita is philosophy of life for many successful and happy individuals). An individual works hard because he wants perfection in the work that he is doing and that is his motivation. He improves by the virtue of his work not by the virtue of things he achieves.


As an individual grows in life, he is going to do things with higher and higher stakes for all. If he continues to care too much about his goals, when is he going to be happy? So to me what Gita says makes sense: Work with perfection and Become Indifferent to goals. Rise above them.
The things those I have put here in this post are just a part of my over all interpretations. The things in Gita are said in even bigger context. Though, I am skeptic about some of them and would like to find more about them.

27 comments:

Ankur said...

i think this is a very bold attempt. congrats!!

Abhinav Jain said...

An excellent post. I see a way which is more of a hybird of the two :-

I would say that there is a short term and a long term goal. When one says that he/she loves doing something , it is probably the feeling of achieving something maybe very small yet it is still a goal . ( Infact doing a particular piece of work with utmost perfection can also be a goal) .

My contention is that we all strive for recognition ( which may be external - to some friend boss etc or internal - i.e to oneself ). Though the process of enjoying the work is of prime importance, technically it is not without the realization that some smaller goal has to be achieved in order to achieve the greater goal . It is the satisfaction which one gets from achieving these small short term goals or milestones that makes one happy and motivated .

Probably it is something like climbing a mountain. If one keeps ones eye only on the tip one would loose the sight of the path. If on the other hand one sees just the path , he will wander on his way. A person would therefore look at milestones to reach the summit and then try and reach these milestones.

With the very small knowledge of the Gita which I have , I tend to believe that it is a great source of learning, but like any good source of learning very contextual - which makes it confusing to me. It definitely makes me think in various ways though. Waiting for more posts.

mohit said...

@Ankur sir
Thanks sir. Your comments are really a motivation.

@Abhinav I read your comments almost thrice and I really think what you said yesterday that probably it was very difficult to put the thoughts in words.
We will discuss it further sometime. Thanks for checking out posts and putting your wonderful thoughts on them. I really appreciate it.

Pal Sin said...

nice. thanks for visiting my blog.

su said...

Hey Mohit, great post! I am sure when you re-read it, this post will be edited with some more inputs and valuable thoughts!

I think Gita has all the answers to our questions. It's only that, the particular angle comes to the fore when you are facing the problem. (Hope I made sense here!)

For me, Gita has just one message - "Nishkaam Karma" -
It tells us to keep fulfilling our responsibilities without thinking about the results. It tells us to put full effort into everything that we do. If you think of it this way, then the whole point of working for a goal vanishes!
Actually, I feel that it's really tricky and risky to decide what you call as a "Goal"! What will happen once the goal is achieved?? Life doesn't end here. That's why one should call something a goal which continues with you forever in your life. If the goals that we keep are materialistic, then they will always have a deadline attached to them. This means they will always have a PASS/FAIL message tagged to them. This brings extreme happiness or extreme sorrow. Both are dangerous for complete/ true happiness!
On the contrary, if your goal is never ending, then these materialistic goals end up being just milestones. Which implies that their success or failure is nothing but an experience for u. It simply adds to our moving up the ladder of life. Then, even if you fail, you don't mind because you know what your ultimate goal is. You know that this is just for learning. If you win, you're one step closer to your goal. If you lose, then you're two steps closer as you have the learning with you, and you're through with another test.

That is how the goal stops to matter. It's only the journey which remains. And you start enjoying the journey, rather than waiting for the completion of the goal!!
Please do share your thoughts on my understanding. :)

mohit said...

Hii Swati,

I agree with your thoughts. As I mentioned that I am skeptic about somethings told in Gita, It is because many things are said in very large context.
This ultimate goal that you mention in one of them. But I liked one of the points that you made very much that is this one goal which stays there lifelong makes is really possible to be in a state of neither extreme happiness or extreme sorrow. I mean this can be reason for indifference. ( which I otherwise thought is an utopia)
I tend to believe this Idea, only with the caveat that I am not sure about the bigger goal. I would really like to read more about it. Because I think the skepticism that I have is very rational for anybody with the information that I have currently and hence getting more information or reading more is the right Idea. and that is what I am looking forward to.

Thanks for comments. :-)

su said...

:) This goal is the only thing that needs to be totally your own! It's like finding the answer to "Why MBA?" kinda question ;) You cannot pick anyone's answer. You have no option but to dig inside yourself and find it's answer. It's actually surprising that the process of getting to the answer brings so many changes in oneself, that it's like some overhauling of your self!
Again, it's like the journey of reaching onto the answer is more fun and enriching than realizing the goal itself. :)
As for reading some gud stuff, as I mentioned earlier, try reading "Thoughts on the Gita, by Swami Vivekananda". Amazing book and worth reading it. The best part is that it doesn't have Gita translated but has thoughts of Swami Vivekananda on The Gita.

ramesh_mishra said...

hmmm .. i think we can discuss this sometime next week .. looks heavy .. but interesting :-)

mohit said...

@Su

I agree with the points that you have made. I shall catch hold of the book soon and read it.

Thanks.

@Ramesh

Thanks for comments. Its good that you find it interesting. We can surely discuss sometime.

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Naveen Khajuria said...

I read the post. Then I read the comments. Some very well said things in here. Abhinav's example of climbing a mountain makes lot of sense and Su's observation of journey being important than the goal itself is also very lucid.

But a question springs to my mind.
"What is a goal?"
or
"How do I know the goal I have set for myself is my ultimate calling ?"
or
"If I don't set my goal correctly then is the journey going to be as enjoyable as otherwise ?"

So, "What is the bigger goal ?"
Any answers ?

mohit said...

Hii Naveen,

Thanks for a curious observation. This is the same point that I mentioned to Swati, where I mentioned that clarity about this bigger goal is still elusive to me.
Only hint that I got from my little tryst with Gita was that the goal is to leave a positive impact on the world before we leave this world. Where he says to Arjuna that he should not fight this war only for revenge or to take earn their rightful share of kingdom but to end the evil powers from society.
But I am not sure about this for I can not understand it completely as how can ultimate goal of an individual be centered outside him in the society. Taking this point further I am not able to understand also why at all God talks about society because It was a human formation, not really created by God.
As I said earlier , reading more would clear more things. Hence looking forward to that. :-)

Naveen Khajuria said...

"Society is man made !"
Are you sure about that ?
Can you really differentiate what was created by God and what was created by man ?
Don't you agree that God created everything and He guides our every action. So, even the action of men getting together to create a society was architected by God.

mohit said...

That is the question which is center of conflict at least for me? As you say, "God created everything and He guides our every action". If we agree on this, there is no conflict. I mean after the conversation( Of which Gita came as a result) Lord Krishna comes in the form of Absolute power(When whole universe is seen inside him, life energy flowing in and out of him, he is the creator and the destroyer). And then him talking about the society is justified as all our actions are flowing out of his will.
But Have we seen God in that form? Or Do we believe in this form of God? And that is where the conflict is? The existence/nature of bigger goal is also dependent on the existence or absence of this almighty form of God.

PS: I have tried to see Gita from the perspective that both Arjuna and Lord Krishna are human beings. And I am really not sure to believe in the other form of Lord Krishna. I mean I dont deny it but dont believe completely in it also. To resolve this conflict therefore I am looking forward to read more about it.

Naveen Khajuria said...

Hmmm...
So, you say that Gita doesn't give you all the answers ?

:D
Just kidding dude..
A good attempt at the Gita deciphering but the answers to ultimate questions are not that easy to find.

mohit said...

:-)

I surely agree that it is not easy.

Looking forward to more of your comments.I really liked them very.

su said...

WOW! This is getting really exciting! :)
@Naveen, Thanks for finding my observations worth.

I would like to make an attempt at answering your queries...from my understanding of Gita.
1. What is a goal?
At the end of your life, 70 yrs down the lane, when you'll be retired, you'll have this thought "Was my life worth it? I struggled so hard, I worked day in and day out, I sacrificed all this for something something....Am I happy? Did I achieve what I set out for? Did I make maximum use of this one human birth I got?"
At that point, what do you think will matter most to you? That is your goal!!!
Right now, you are at the doorstep of starting that strenuous journey. You're yet to make sacrifices, you're yet to achieve or accomplish the important milestones of your life. If you ask yourself these questions right now, rather than at the end of your life, when everything is already passed, then you can actually make your life worth it! You can actually ensure that you die happy! You can ensure the eternal happiness through out your life. That's why a goal is important.

2. How do you know it's your ultimate calling?
If you have answered the question no. 1 truly and honestly, and if it is really the answer to all the questions that I posed, then you know it's going to be so, forever.

3. Is the journey going to be worth it?
I don't know how you'll assess whether the journey was worth it or not. I think it'll be based on whether the goal was worthy enough to be followed through out your life or not. If it is, the journey will be worth it too!

Please do let me know what you think about my comments :)
@Mohit: I hope the above answers reply to your query too!

This is an interesting debate. Let's keep this alive! :)

Naveen Khajuria said...

@Su.
Very interesting answers.

Q1. What is a goal ?

The question still remains. What goal ?

If me being happy at the end of my life is the goal then it should lead to me being very selfish during my life. I could be very self centered and work towards my own personal happiness. I would work towards having lot of money, a bungalow, big car, family, children etc. But the ways I choose, to achieve my own happiness might not be correct. So, I might end up being un-happy instead.

So, now, we may say, the goal is not just my happiness but my happiness along with the society's happiness also. Correct ?
If that is the goal then why don't I see/feel God showing the path of social work to all of us. Why don't I see people working towards betterment of the society, eradication of poverty, elimination of diseases or doing lot of social work. There are hardly any people working on these aspects.

So, according to all this, my happiness coupled with society's happiness is the ultimate goal in life.
But Why is God bothered about society's happiness ? As Mohit said, society is made by men!

So, the elusive point is "What goal?"

Abhinav wrote about having an eye on the peak of the mountain that you wish to climb and keeping another eye on the path. The question I ask is "What if the peak that you are keeping an eye on is not of the same mountain as to the one that you are climbing?"

You talked about the journey being the ultimate goal and source of happiness. I agree with that. But what if I am walking on the wrong path ? Is the journey still going to be fulfilling and happy ?

You see, these questions are not that easy to answer.

su said...

:) It definitely isn't but anything easy is never sought after!
I don't agree with the conclusion that my happiness needs to be attached with society's happiness. Ultimately, EVERYONE is selfish. When you're talking of Life time goals, then I don't know how it can be something for others. You really need to be an ascetic for that. I think even if I do something for my mom or my dad then it's because I draw happiness when I see a smile on their faces. So, it's never about others. It's always about myself. You think it's selfish then you may. I think of it being practical and realistic.
So, don't mix society with your goal. If it's your goal, it's going to be personal and completely selfish. If in the way, society gets sm benefits, great!

:O Sounds odd? Let me explain.
When I talk of a goal, let's take sm examples of wat ur goal can be. A goal can be like
1. earning a lot of money,
2. owning a company,
3. working for orphans,
4. being honest, etc.
When your goals are something like 1 or 2, then the question of the path chosen come in. But, I think these materialistic goals are always short term. They come with an expiry date and a PASS/FAIL message. So, when they end, they leave misery behind. If we're talking of life long happiness and content feeling, satisfaction at the end of your life ,they can never get you that. They always bring dissatisfaction to your life.
What will happen when you achieve the goal? What when you did set up your company!? Your life doesn't end there, it continues. So, a goal should be more of a way of life than actually a "Goal". So, the concept of Goal is actually an elusion.
If the way of life that you chose is being honest, then that remains with you always. You may continue to set milestones for yourself. But, they are only milestones. They are not your reason to live. They are not really what you set out for.
Now, being honest seems too vague a statement or a goal. How Boring!!
To add spice you look for society benefits and short term achievements. If you feel driven enough for a cause, go ahead and work for it. Be true to whatever you do. That's the whole point Gita says. Even if you're brooming your home, be true and honest with your effort. Don't leave the corners thinking that tomorrow the Bai will come and clean it up so leave it for d day ;)
Give it your best and you'll start enjoying the life too. You'll see more reason come into your life. You'll see more satisfaction come into your life. More long term happiness, more supporters around you, more people following you. If you can, set a live example for others to follow. Lead a life that people see and wonder how you can do it so simply. And actually you're doing nothing special but living your life AND being honest to yourself.

Moral of the story: Be honest to yourself. Try it and all the answers will start coming to you yourself. Since you've started thinking of it, you've already overcome the limiting friction. The static friction is always lesser. :) So, just keep working. The answers will open themselves up to you soon.

Now, I can go ahead and open some Maa Swateshwari Devi 20000008888 School, I guess ;)

Have fun guys! Life is beautiful.
Enjoy it before it ends!

mohit said...

Well too much focus on the elusive goal!!!

From what swati says about happiness achieved by altruism, I remember Fountain head, which says "Perfect selfishness is perfect altruism." But that perfect selfishness in my opinion is an utopia to a certain extent. Only Howard Roark can achieve it.

And as Naveen says Goal is elusive. YES. Because what we consider ultimate goal depends on things we believe in. Do we believe in God? or Do we believe in Soul? Or do we believe in re-incarnation? Or Do we believe in none of this?

So As I had initially mentioned things are said in Gita in larger context. I think the ultimate goal may vary from person to person. The purpose of post was to mention that achieving perfection in work and not caring too much about the success/failure of the goal is the right idea to live a happy life. Work and be indifferent to result that is what Karmayoga says.

We can continue discussion for sure. And thanks to do that so far.

Umesh Shukla said...

True! From Alchemist (in my words):

Those wanted to make the gold, never became alchemist but those who wanted to become alchemist, finally became alchemist.

This post of yours reflects lots in you. I know :)

su said...

Hey! I couldn't understand how you related selfishness to Howard Roark..? I never found any selfishness in his character. Although, I do believe that being a Howard Roark in real life is really impractical, but I never attached "selfish" tag to his character.
Would you like to elaborate?

mohit said...

Some Excerpts from Fountainhead, I think they are self explanatory.
:-) :

“His vision, his strength, his courage came from his own spirit. A man's spirit, however, is his self. That entity which is his consciousness. To think, to feel, to judge, to act are functions of the ego.
“The creators were not selfless. It is the whole secret of their power—that it was self-sufficient, self-motivated, self-generated. A first cause, a fount of energy, a life force, a Prime Mover. The creator served nothing and no one. He lived for himself.

mohit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mohit said...

@Umesh

Yes. These lines say the same thing beautifully.

Nice comments. :-)

Abhinav Jain said...

Hey .. i missed all the fun !!!

@su : excellent comment regarding life being a journey. Also excellent thought of one being selfish ...

@ naveen : Thanks :) .. regarding the point on the mountain being other than the one you are climbing .. I think that at some time ... one would realize this .. and that realization would be great ... one would realise that the mountain he is climbing is not the one he had his eyes on .. so one could choose to either climb the other mountain .. or if one finds climbing the same mountain fun and interesting .. then maybe he keeps his eye on the peak of the mountain he was climbing first .. phew .... (dont know if it makes sense !!! ;)) ...

I think that goals keeps changing and that is what makes life interesting.