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Bhagavad Gita is all about Krishna teaching Arjuna how to find and embrace his vocation.
Could the Gita teach us too?
In our fantasy, a fulfilling life is one where we acquire enough freedom and wealth so that we no longer have to work, and do whatever we like.
But the Gita point to a different truth: People feel happiest and most fulfilled when meeting the challenge of their true calling.
"How can I authentically express all that I truly am?"
Every man has a vocation to be someone: but he must understand clearly that in order to fulfill this vocation he can only be one person: himself.
-- Thomas Merton
A note to the reader
This book contains stories of lives that many of us admire, and also "ordinary lives".
This book examines the teachings of the two-thousand-year-old Bhagavad Gita.
What do you fear most in this life?
What is your biggest fear? Right now.
that I’ll die without having lived fully.
that I may be missing some magnificent possibility.
That perhaps I have not risked enough to find it. That maybe I’ve lived too safe a life.
Thomas Merton says, “What you fear is an indication of what you seek.”
I’ve become a voracious reader.
What can others teach me about desperation and fulfillment?
Es: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you; if you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
Have you had periods in life when you leapt out of bed in the morning to embrace your day?
Once this happens to you, you will never really be satisfied with any other way of living.
Everything else will seem vaguely wan and gray.
Am I living fully right now? Am I bringing forth everything I can bring forth? Am I digging down into that ineffable inner treasure-house that I know is in there? That trove of genius? Am I living my life’s calling? Am I willing to go to any lengths to offer my genius to the world?
why is it a no for me just now?
Seventy-five percent say it straight out: “I want to come home to my true self.”
contemporary seekers come to yoga, seeking—as I did, and do.
Yogis insist that every single human being has a unique vocation. They call this dharma.
Dharma means, variously, “path,” “teaching,” or “law.” For our purposes in this book it will mean primarily “vocation,” or “sacred duty.”
Yogis believe that our greatest responsibility in life is to embody this inner possibility.
Arjuna is supposedly the greatest warrior of his time, but really, he is just astonishingly like we are: neurotic as hell, and full of every doubt and fear.
The Gita tells how Krishna taught Arjuna to embrace his sacred vocation.
At first, I didn't get what the Gita was all about. But Deep in middle age, I get it. Reading a book like this is as important to me as breathing oxygen.
n unequaled method for bringing forth dharma. At the beginning of the story, Arjuna is paralyzed by doubt. Like Hamlet, he cannot act. Arjuna has tried to live a good life up to this point. the world has momentarily crushed him. Luckily for Arjuna, Krishna is at his side at the very moment of that crunch.
Krishna becomes Arjuna’s spiritual teacher, his psychoanalyst, his coach, his goad, his mentor.
“What am I really called to do in this circumstance?” he asks Krishna. “Do I fight this battle, or not?
How do I act in such a way that I fulfill my dharma?
The Bhagavad Gita is a brilliant teaching on the problems of doing. There is so much talk these days about being.
“All that is worthwhile,” says the great Jesuit scholar and paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin, “is action.” In fact, there is no being in this world without doing. Let’s get real: Most of our lives are spent in doing.
From the point of view of the Gita, the most sublime kind of doing is really a perfect expression of authentic being.
Arjuna asks "Who am I" and "how can I authentically express all that I truly am?"
Krishna gives some awesome talks about action versus inaction, about doubt and faith, about knowledge and love.
In the famous Chapter Eleven, Krishna pulls out his big guns (revealing he's a God). What follows is some of the world’s most inspiring teachings about devotion, love, work, and duty.
the Bhagavad Gita was written precisely to show us how to make the world of action (the marketplace, the workplace, the family) an arena for spiritual development.
it portrays the “battlefield” of life—real life, everyday life—as the most potent venue for transformation.
In our fantasies, a fulfilling life is one in which we acquire so much freedom and leisure that we no longer have to work and strive.
The teachings of the Gita point to a much more interesting truth: People actually feel happiest and most fulfilled when meeting the challenge of their dharma in the world.
It means to pursue our true calling, developing a profound mastery, with moments of effortless effort. So much so that they draw us even more deeply into the possibilities of our vocations.
At the end of life, most of us will find that we have felt most filled up by the challenges and successful struggles for mastery, creativity, and full expression of our dharma in the world. Fulfillment happens not in retreat from the world, but in advance—and profound engagement.
You cannot tell if the ordinary people around you are fulfilling their dharma or not.
But I tell you this: You are more likely to have X-ray eyes for such things if you are also pursuing your own dharma with the same ardency.
And this brings us to you: Do you fear that you may have missed the boat? That you’ve become unmoored from your true calling and are drifting aimlessly out to sea?
Most of the ordinary people whom I have studied, when first confronted with the notion of dharma, imagined that for them to claim their dharma probably meant inventing an entirely new life. Giving up their job selling insurance and moving to Paris to paint. Quitting their job as a hospice nurse and sailing around the world solo.
Not so. As it turns out, most people are already living very close to their dharma.
What is the problem, then?
They don’t own it. They don’t live it intentionally. Their own sacred calling is hiding in plain sight. They keep just missing it. And, as we will see, when it comes to dharma, missing by an inch is as good as missing by a mile. Aim is everything.
Part I - Krishna's Counsel on the Field of Battle
The battle of Kurukshetra is the definitive struggle of its age.
Imagine our two heroes as they prepare for this world-shattering conflict. Krishna, the charioteer, is dark-skinned and handsome. Arjuna, our bold warrior, too, is handsome. But not so steady as Krishna. He is young and brash and immature.
Arjuna sees his own family has taken up arms against him: “fathers, grandfathers, teachers, uncles, brothers, sons, grandsons, and friends” gathered in the opposing army.
He sees his own family deeply stained by the forces of disorder—by avarice, and the lust for power, land, and fortune. The forces of greed, hatred, and delusion are the destroyers of the world order and purveyors of suffering.
Arjuna is reluctant to take his part in this battle.
It is Arjuna’s duty to fight. And yet. He is confronted with a problem above and beyond the ordinary challenges of war.
He sees that his own people are standing against him. Will he kill them? If he does, he will have committed the heinous sin of fratricide, and he will take on the karma of this act, and suffer for many lifetimes to come.
However, if he does not act, he will betray his “code”—the sacred duty that has given his very life meaning.
If he slain his own kinsmen, he will not himself be able to go on living.
What should he do? Arjuna does, perhaps, the most sensible thing possible: He falls to the floor of his chariot. “I cannot fight this fight,” he cries to Krishna.