February 27, 2013

Everyday Bhagavad-Gita. ~ Vrindavan Rao

*Editor’s Note: I am pleased to announce the beginning of new Bhagavad-Gita series here on the pages of elephant. The intent (and hope) is that with “Everyday Bhagavad-Gita” the practicality of the Gita’s message will be made available through the down to Earth lens of Vrindavan Rao. Ms. Rao has undertaken a daily reading and writing on the Bhagavad-Gita and we here at elephant bhakti will be highlighting a number of her entries. And so to get things started, we turn our attention to what the Gita can teach us about dealing with “challenging situations.”

A practical guide to responding to challenging situations.

Verse 1.21-22: Arjuna said: O infallible one, please draw my chariot between the two armies so that I may see those present here, who desire to fight, and with whom I must contend in this great trial of arms.

I love philosophy and logic, but what I cherish the most is practical application.

Here we see Arjuna facing a challenging and adrenaline inducing situation in the midst of a large crowd. We’ve all been there before. Think back to when you last felt this way. Perhaps it was was when you were speaking in front of a large audience, or perhaps you were running for the bus and tripped and fell in front a group of people (been there, done that).

In those situations, it’s very easy for our minds to “freak out” and for us to react without thinking.

We forget cool logic and taking those long deep breaths and instead get caught up in the excitement, anxiety, embarrassment or whatever else of the moment. This verse is a goldmine of information on how we can handle such circumstances with grace.

Just see how Arjuna is so methodical. He not only wants to gauge the situation, but wants to break it down so he can assess the important variables.

First, he begins by asking Krishna to move him to the best vantage point, in this case between the two armies.

Similarly, we also can, and should, try to situate ourselves in the appropriate perspective whether it be mentally, emotionally, intellectually or physically in any given situation. For example, when in a heated argument with someone, sometimes the best thing to do is politely excuse oneself. Cool off a bit and then come back once you’ve had a chance to look objectively at the situation. Or the situation may be such that we need to “walk a mile” in the other person’s shoes so that we can better understand where they are coming from.

Photo: Jenna Lyons

Second, Arjuna wants to understand the mentality of those present before him.

As the saying goes, “The face is the index of the mind.” The soul is sensitive by nature. We’ve all had those moments where we can feel that someone is being sincere, and conversely, when s/he just want something from us. If we look for it, it’s there. Paying attention and watching people’s reactions when we interact with them will help us to determine whether we’re getting through to them, or if we need to find another way.

Finally, Arjuna wants to figure out who are the major players.

Who are the persons that he needs to watch out for? Brilliant. Arjuna is demonstrating the importance of identifying those persons, whether they be friends, allies or those who may challenge us, as doing so helps alleviate and calm our fears. How? Because we’re not facing the unknown anymore. Instead, by recognizing their mentality and having a better idea of what they stand for, we will be able to better anticipate what they may bring to the table.

Amazing isn’t it? I never realized that this formula for responding to challenging situations was here until reading the Gita today. Just goes to show that the path of bhakti illuminated throughout the Gita is practical and useful in everyday life.

This is why bhakti isn’t just a spiritual path, but a way of life.


Vrindavan Rao was born into the bhakti tradition and grew up enveloped in it. However, her personal discovery of the bhakti path began in 2004 when had the opportunity to go to a Vedic College in Belgium and from that time she has embraced it completely. Her love for travel has given her the opportunity to study Vedic texts, such as the Bhagavad-gita, in places such as India, Canada, Belgium, Ukraine and the United States under the guidance of several advanced practitioners. She especially loves the Gita and refers to it as her “Guidebook for Life” since it contains practical answers for complicated questions and is currently writing a daily blog on every verse of the Gita.

Her background is in science and she not only has a Bacherlor’s degree in Biochemistry, but also a Masters in Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology. In her free time she loves to write, read, give presentations, sing and work out.

Editor: Thaddeus Haas

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