Leaders Are Readers: May Book of the Month – Ancient Wisdom

Bhagavad Gita | Hari Kalymnios | The Thought Gym

This month’s book is of a story that goes back too around the 4th or 5th century BCE. It’s called the Bhagavad Gita. A sacred Indian text which is a component of a much larger text called the Mahabharata, which tells of an epic battle.

The Bhagavad Gita is the story of a prince called Arjuna who is having doubts about fighting. On the other side are his uncles, cousins and teachers. He stops before the battle to seek counsel from his chariot driver, Krishna. Krishna is in fact, as later is revealed to Arjuna, God incarnate.

Through a dialogue between the two, we see Krishna slowly reveal to Arjuna various wisdoms. There are many teachings in the Bhagavad Gita, and it’s been interpreted differently by many different schools of thought. Often to fit their agenda. Which is fine. I’m not an expert by any stretch on this text, having only read it 2 or 3 times and done a short course on it’s teachings, but here are some main concepts that are good to grasp, as they help with life.

Life is transient and non-attachment (Wisdom Section)

Recognise that all things that appear are really in a state of impermanence. Human suffering can often come from this idea that we attach ourselves to certain ideologies, theories, people, products, places or feelings not truly recognising that they don’t last. The universe is ever changing and so we should not lament in the passing or changing of things. Know that they never last indefinitely. Avoid this desire for things that are pleasant, or this aversion to things that are not. They never last.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna explains to Arjuna how the people he fears to kill are already dead. It is law. Some day they will die, just as some day in the past they were not born. Just as he will die one day. It’s his duty, as prince, to perform this act and so he should not lament over it.

You only have a right to your actions, not the results (Action Section)

We can only control our actions (and effort, attitude) and not the results (or fruits) of those actions. We may work really hard on a piece of work (the effort and action) but we cannot control what grade we might get (the fruits of the action). Focus on just what you can control. And do your duty. Don’t be attached to the fruits of your labour. My duty is to write this blog post. I can’t control, or need worry, about how many views, likes or shares it will get. I don’t have a right to the fruits of my action. The other point, as hinted at above, is that each of us has a duty to perform and we shouldn’t shy from it. Whether that’s been a warrior or a pacifist. And it’s better to do your own duty poorly than someone else’s well.

Ultimately, none of it matters (Desire Section)

Krishna then goes on to talk about devotion and how ultimately, one way or another, all beings (which are ultimately part of Krishna, and there is “God” in everyone and every thing), comes back to source. I.e. Him (in this context). How you get there is another matter, but ultimately none of it really matters, as we all return to whence we came.

Confusing, I know. In fact, the Bhagavad Gita can be full of contradictions in it’s teachings. Some of this comes from trying to get Arjuna to understand things piece by piece. I guess that other thing is that perhaps even the teachings are impermanent!

You can, if you study this text well, learn most of what you need to learn about life in it. Many more modern self-help type of books take many of the lessons (known or unbeknown) from both this text and the other ancient texts of knowledge from India and around the world. There’s almost nothing new to discover in this realm. Expect for the self-discovery of what has already been taught.

Anyway, I suggest picking up a copy and seeing for yourself. This is the translation I have, but there are many others. Some with Sanskrit and literal translations, explanations and more. I suggest just reading a simple version first.

What do you think? Have you read the Bhagavad Gita yet?


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