yathā kurvanti bhārata
kuryād vidvāṁs tathāsaktaś
The ignorant work for their own profit, Arjuna;
the wise work for the welfare of the world,
without thought for themselves.
(The Bhagavad Gita, Eknath Easwaran)
When we look at translations of The Bhagavad Gita we will find that that each verse usually includes interpretative comment rather than merely sticking faithfully to a direct translation of the Sanskrit. This is because meaning-making is both part of what it means to be human and a direct fruit of studying The Gita and making it practical wisdom for our lives.
This verse occurs in the chapter on karma yoga (the yoga of action). This chapter is a turning point in the story. Arjuna’s distress has meant that he has not yet been able to engage with lofty teachings about the nature of his immortal soul. He has a dilemma and he wants some practical advice about what his next step should be. This means that Arjuna stays fully grounded in the reality of his situation and resists ‘spiritual bypassing’. Spiritual bypassing in yoga happens when we try and get away from our pain by trying to solve our problems through philosophical explanation alone.
Arjuna learns from Krishna that wisdom lies in ‘unattached’ action. This unattached action is action ‘intended to maintain the holding together of the world’ (loka-saṁgraham).
Living through a pandemic reveals to us how easily the world can fall apart. We are intensely living the truth of the teachings about prakṛti. Material things do not endure forever and when they fall apart the consequences can be very big, especially for those who have little health, little income, little community or little opportunity.
Questions for reflection:
- How are you feeling as the world goes through these immense changes?
- What are you doing to help hold the world together in these times?
- When has spiritual bypassing been a temptation?
- How are you going beyond your own circle and giving some of your time and energy to those who have little?