Dedicated to : Sri Swami Hamsananda Saraswati Maharaj
The Bhagavad Gita is the distillation of the entire Upanishads. It is a text that gives the synopsis of the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta and is also a practical guide to Yoga. These selected Slokas (verses) with a small discussion afterwards present the practice and goal of Yoga as it is taught in this wonderful scripture. I am grateful to Swami Hamsanandaji Maharaj of the Divine Life Society for helping bring this text alive for me.
Chapter II-39. This that has been taught thee is wisdom concerning Sankya. Now listen to wisdom concerning Yoga, endowed with which O Arjuna you will cast off the bonds of action.
As Lord Krishna begins his discourse instructing us in the path of Yoga, he first states the goal:
Cast off the bonds of Action.
How does action bind? In all of our actions, the mind starts well before any movement of the body thinking about what ends are wanted. It formulates the action in terms of what "I" will achieve or create and who will be affected for better or worse. Or it may what "I" desire – something material as wealth; tangible like a car, home, or boat; an intangible goal such as a position, a first in a contest; or even something for the world. Once the desire sets in, we measure all by our approach fearful of failure, if those difficulties become obstacles. We become anygry with any who stands in the way. We commence the work with the fruit in mind. If we fail, we become bound as we again look for another opportunity to achieve our desires, whether they are base or noble. If we succeed, there is a momentary happiness, sense of completion and then the mind again tries to find something to occupy and direct it. Krishna will now proceed to enlighten us to how we can become free and live in the eternal now.
Chapter II-40. In this there is no loss of effort, nor is there any harm. Even a little of this Dharma (righteousness) protects us from great fear.
Often if a project is started and for any reason it is incomplete that effort is lost. A half-finished book is useless. There is not much use to learning to drive if one can't pass the drivers test. Starting a program in medicine, law or any other profession gives no degree unless one completes the last paper or exam in the last course. If one cuts down a tree incorrectly or a doctor gives the wrong medicine harm is produced. Any practice of Yoga works towards loosing the bonds of action, moving us inexorably in the direction of freedom. If one works or studies late at night, one might get sick. If one struggles with too heavy a load, one can strain the back. But any sadhana (spiritual practice) that we do, even if only for short times or with inability to quiet the mind or irregularly, causes no injury. In Yoga there is no loss of effort, nor is there any harm.
When we live our lives in the world the fear of failure, embarrassment, ineffectiveness haunts us. We worry that we won't or can't measure up to an inner or outer standard. We fear loneliness, loss of support, or death of loved ones. We fear the diminishments of getting old and yet we fear dying young. Yoga protects us from great fear.