The Bhagavad Gita, which is a very important and beautiful and very ancient text on human spirituality, begins with Arjuna on the battlefield looking at his family. They represent the disappointments of his ancestors and the accumulation of tension in that system over how many eons that human beings reincarnate. For each of us, in a real way, our family represents the fundamental obstacle that we have to engage and transcend in order to become completely awakened. Our family is an intractable situation, in which, for the most part, people lack any real respect for one another. Family is the context in which the old saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt,” functions most fully.
Arjuna is called to battle with his family. It’s going to get ugly. He says, “I can’t do it. I just can’t do it. Whatever I’m working for is not that important.” Krishna says to him, “You have to do it, because first of all, because, if you don’t, you will be enslaved. You will totally lose any kind of freedom whatsoever. Secondly, you’ll lose your dignity and self-respect. And, thirdly, you’ll lose any respect anybody else has for you now. You have to do this.” This is a metaphor for each of our personal lives.
Krishna goes onto explain that nobody escapes work. The modern translators use the term “action.” Nobody escapes action. The discussion is then, “Should I be acting? Should I be a man of action? Should I be a man of inaction? Should I engage the world? Should I be completely removed from the world?” Krishna says everybody has to work. Nobody escapes work. We have to do it. It is in working that we develop the capacity to extract from our life the nourishment bound up in the tensions that we convert into energy. Working is about moving our energy and sustaining ourselves. We sustain ourselves by doing physical work to move the energy.
Before Krishna sends Arjuna out to war to do this extremely intense work, in the eighteenth chapter of the Gita, Krishna reveals his cosmic form. Krishna reveals himself to Arjuna as the life of the life of every being, not just human beings. He shows that he is the life of the life of all deities and all devatas, the life of the life of all angels and devils and ghosts and spirits and human beings. Arjuna says, “Oh, I get it.”
Krishna also says, “Don’t worry about the outcome. Don’t worry about what’s going to happen to these people. The fact of the matter is, who lives and dies in this upcoming battle is already written. This is not your business. Your business is to do your duty, and all the while, understanding and being devoted to the divine cosmic form and awareness of the breath of life, which is our foundation, our home and our ultimate end.”
So, if you have some interest in spirituality and some feeling within yourself to grow closer to the truth to become closer to yourself, what you need to do is shift your focus beyond the ordinary world that you walk around in. You have to shift your struggle from the fight with your husband and your kids and the bank and the mortgage. You have to establish yourself, your mind, your commitment firmly in your intention to experience the breath of life. You have to sustain yourself in that awareness, even as that awareness sustains you in an experience of total well being no matter what kind of chaos is going on in the world.
Krishna explains to Arjuna that in every aspect of our life, in every day of our life, through every circumstance of our life, rather than getting tangled up in all of the superficial tensions of the circumstance, we need to hold ourselves with dignity and grace in the awareness of the grace that allows us some dignity. Whatever our circumstance, if we live in contact with the breath of life, aligned with that purpose within ourself, that highest expression of creative energy, flowing in that and allowing that to flow in us, cultivating our awareness of the flow itself, we will become ultimately aware of our own truly divine and completely transcendent nature.
After Krishna has revealed his universal nature to Arjuna and Arjuna’s own universal nature to himself, Arjuna says, “I will do your bidding. I will do what you ask.” This may appear to mean he’s saying, “Well, I’ll take orders from you.” That’s not at all what he means. He’s saying, “I will live in contact, alignment and flow with my own universal divine nature, which is nothing other than the supreme deity, which is the essence of all there is.” When he says, “I will do your bidding,” there is no other that he is referring to. There is only the ultimate reality, which has a billion names: Buddha, Shiva, Vishnu, Lakshmi, Devi, Durga, Kali. It doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as you smile while you’re calling it.