The Bhagavad Gita: Selfless Service and Wisdom in Action

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The Bhagavad Gita: Selfless Service and Wisdom in Action

 

III. Selfless Service:

 

Arjuna says: “O Krishna, you have said that knowledge is greater than action; why then do you ask me to wage this terrible war? You advice seems inconsistent. Give me one path to follow to the supreme good.”

Krishna replies: “At the beginning of time I declared two paths for the pure heart: jnana yoga, the contemplative path of spiritual wisdom, and karma yoga, the active path of selfless service.”

“Strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world; by devotion to selfless work one attains the supreme goal of life. Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind.”

“Just as fire is covered by smoke, and a mirror is obscured by dust, just as the embryo rests deep within the womb, knowledge is hidden by selfish desire–hidden, Arjuna, by this unquenchable fire for self-satisfaction, the inveterate enemy of the wise.”

 

IV. Wisdom in Action

 

Many of Krishna’s words make most sense when we realize that when he speaks of himself, he is often not describing a transcendental reality so much as trying to tell Arjuna about the Self (atman) in every human being.

Krishna says: “My true being is unborn and changeless.
I am the Lord who dwells in every creature.
Through the power of my own maya
I manifest myself in a finite form.

Whenever dharma declines and the purpose of life forgotten
I manifest myself on earth.
I am born in every age to protect the good
To destroy evil, and to reestablish dharma.”

“As they approach me, so I receive them.
All paths, Arjuna, lead to me.”

“They live in freedom who have gone beyond
The dualities of life. Competing with no one
They are alike in success and failure
And content with whatever comes to them.
They are fee, without selfless attachments;
Their minds are fixed in knowledge.
They perform all work in the spirit of service
And their karma is dissolved.”

“True sustenance is in service
And through it a man or woman reaches the eternal Brahman.
But those who do not seek to serve
Are without a home in this world.
Arjuna, how can they be at home in any world to come.”

“The offering of wisdom is better than any material offering.
Arjuna, for the goal of all work is spiritual wisdom.”

 

Notes:

Jnana yoga:  The Way of Wisdom

Karma yoga: The Way of Action

Atman: The divine inner presence.  Other names include include “Counselor”, “Holy Spirit”, “Inward Light”,”the Father within me”, and many others.

Maya: Appearance.  Being immanent; revealed and manifested.  Related to the “you” (), as revealed in the “Dao De Jing” by Laozi.

Dharma: This word has several meanings: duty, universal law that holds all together, as well as the teachings of the spiritually advanced and their texts.

Brahman: God, Allah, Yahweh; the Supreme Reality; the all-knowing, all-present, and all-powerful.

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