July 14, 2013

I Bet You Didn’t Even Notice.

Everyday Bhagavad-Gita: Observation, A Key to Successful Relationships.

Verse 2.30: O descendant of Bharata, he who dwells in the body can never be slain. Therefore you need not grieve for any living being.

Do you think you are a keen observer?

As a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes, I’ve always marveled at how Holmes seems to notice all the little things. For example, in one story Holmes asks Watson, “How many times have you gone up the stairs to this apartment?” Watson replies, “Hundreds of times,” and then Holmes poses a seemingly simplistic question, “How many stairs are there?” Watson can’t answer and Holmes enlightens him.

This conversation highlights an important truth that we too often forget—observation is based on being intentionally attentive and conscious.

It’s not something that just “happens.” Only when we are focused and alert can we even hope to observe anything. In the purport to today’s verse, Swami Prabhupada, one of the foremost experts on the Gita, makes note that “The Lord now concludes the chapter of instruction on the immutable spirit soul.” Always the teacher and guide, Prabhupada reminds us (many of who have forgotten or gotten distracted), that for the past little while Krishna has been talking about the soul and is now concluding His discussion on it.

This prompted me to do a little experiment of my own.

For those who have read, are reading, or will one day read the Gita, I went back and counted how many verses Krishna speaks on the soul. If one counts from the first time Krishna mentions the word “soul,” there are 18 including this verse (beginning at  2.13 and ending at 2.30). The soul is also the first topic that Krishna discusses when Arjuna asks Krishna to be his bhakti teacher.

It was an exercise that took me a grand total of 30 seconds and by doing so I learned something valuable: it’s not difficult to be observant—it just takes  effort. It’s a skill, which like any other, we need to practice in order to develop.

The core of bhakti yoga lies in observation.

Why? Because bhakti is about relationships and in order to have successful relationships with each other, what to speak of with the Supreme Person, requires that we become actively observant. Not only observant of our own thoughts and actions, which indirectly or directly have effects on others, but we also need to pay attention to the words and actions of others. This allows us to become more attentive to each other’s needs, interests and concerns. All important features of a loving, devoted relationship.

People often helplessly say, “I don’t know what you want or need!”

I think when it comes to understanding others, we unreasonably expect them to communicate effectively with their words. Although it would be ideal, it’s hard for many persons. Living in a world that has now become saturated by communication via text, email and messaging doesn’t necessarily help the matter either. So, we should not forget the importance of non-verbal communication in giving us information. Sometimes, all we need to do is literally just look at the person really closely and observe their facial expressions, their eyes and their body posture to know what is going on. 

The basic desire for each and every one of us is to love and be loved. So why not learn the lessons of the Gita and put them into practice? The answer is simple and just requires some practice.

Invest in your relationships with the Supreme and one another—strive to actively and intentionally observe.

Above all else, it shows that you care.


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Editor: Thaddeus Haas


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