Everyday Bhagavad-Gita: Getting There is Going to Be Rough.
Verse 2.42-43: Men of small knowledge are very much attached to the flowery words of the Vedas, which recommend various fruitive activities for elevation to heavenly planets, resultant good birth, power, and so forth. Being desirous of sense gratification and opulent life, they say that there is nothing more than this.
We should never underestimate the importance of setting goals, but as with any practice or activity we perform, it’s also crucial to be aware of what the top-most achievable goal actually is.
Take for example school. I don’t know about you, but one of the reasons why I found college so challenging was largely due to the fact that I didn’t have an end goal in mind. Sure, I had an intermediate goal to graduate with a degree in Biochemistry, but I was simply hoping that somewhere along in the process I would figure out what I really wanted to do.
I chose to major in Biochemistry because those were the subjects that I received the highest grades in during high school. But, during my first year of college my grades took a nose-dive and I remember feeling so stressed out. Not only did I realize that I had to learn how to learn, but I felt that the majority of the courses I had to take were uninteresting and useless. As my second and third years rolled around, I learned how to teach myself, but still felt unsatisfied.
For years I didn’t understand why. It’s only now that I understand it was because all that knowledge and information was just that—knowledge and information. I couldn’t place it in the context of the larger picture of how and when I was going to apply it. This is why college was more about grades as opposed to understanding the application of the subjects I was studying.
Here, Krishna is telling us something similar about the process of yoga.
He’s saying, “Don’t just get attached to the external results of what yoga can give you; the things that will simply help to gratify your senses. Understand that there is a higher purpose, a higher goal and strive towards that.” Just as I was short-sighted in simply striving for a degree, here the student of yoga is being advised to see beyond the short-term benefits of what yoga has to offer.
So what is the top-most goal one can achieve in practicing yoga? Bhakti.
The ability to truly tap into our loving propensity by realizing who we are, i.e., the soul, and reviving our eternal and increasingly joyful relationship with the Supreme. Now practically speaking, this may seem a bit difficult to conceptualize for one who just wants to apply the principles of yoga in their life, or for someone who is just starting her yoga practice, but that’s okay. The point is that everyone should be aware that there is an ultimate goal in yoga.
In the meantime, go on and set your intermediary goals. Whether that goal is to simply make it to your yoga class on a weekly basis, to engage in mantra meditation daily, or to offer everything you do in a spirit of gratitude. These are all wonderful. We all need to take the first step. But from time to time, check and in and see where you’re at.
The highest goal is only achievable if you know where you’re going.
Otherwise, if don’t know where you’re going, as the saying goes, any road will take you there.
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Editor: Thaddeus Haas