October 6, 2013

Acting Without Acting. Thinking Without Thinking. Doing Without Doing.

Everyday Bhagavad-Gita: Getting to the Heart of Balance.

Verse 2.48: Perform your duty equipoised, O Arjuna, abandoning all attachment to success or failure. Such equanimity is called yoga.

Yesterday I went to my weekly yoga class.

At the end of the class, during the relaxation period, the instructor asked everyone to focus on their breathing. She added, “If thoughts come to your mind, acknowledge them with compassion and let them go.” I was left thinking, “What in the world does that mean? Acknowledge your thoughts with compassion.” It sounds really beautiful, but how does one actually go about doing it?

In a similar vein, many people equate yoga with feeling peaceful. My question is, what does peace mean? This is the challenge with words. Few of us actually take the time to decode the intangibles like “peace,” “compassion,” and “humility” etc. Even turning to the dictionary is often fruitless since in the end, the words themselves are colored by our experiences and perceptions. That’s why “spirituality,” which promotes the development of so many of these intangible characteristics, can be confusing to many.

On the other hand, bhakti yoga is not only practical but complete, as it not only gives us the process but explains the nature of the outcome.

In this verse, Krishna provides a beautiful and practical definition of yoga: “Practice your duty in an equipoised frame of mind, abandoning all attachment to success or failure.” But let’s stop for a moment and really understand what this word “equipoised” means since I’m guessing it is not a common word for most of us. Simply put it means balanced as in an equilibrium.

james jordan

In the context of yoga, equipoised means to do things for the sake of doing them and giving up the attitude of “I’m doing this because it will benefit me.”

The thing is, we all need a motivating force to drive us to accomplish almost everything. If we don’t have one, we won’t do anything. Don’t you agree? So then, the question remains, “If I’m not doing this for me, what’s my motivation?” We might respond and say, “Well, the reasons why I do certain things is certainly not centered on me. I’m motivated because I’m doing it for my friends, family, my country, or even for the world.” To this, the Gita replies, “Wonderful! That is huge step up from always focusing on yourself!”

However, it doesn’t end just there. Krishna wants to help us attain the best possible goal, so He gives us something even higher to reach for. That’s right, we can actually operate on even higher motivating principle. So what is this principle?

A.C. Bhaktivedanta, our bhakti guide and teacher for the Gita, explains in his purport, “Yoga means to concentrate the mind upon the Supreme by controlling the ever-disturbing senses.” Did you catch the progression here? It’s subtle, so let’s break it down.

In order to perform one’s duties in an equipoised frame of mind (i.e. in yoga):

1. One needs to control the ever-disturbing senses. The senses are like tentacles that are always trying to grab some object so that they can derive  pleasure from it. So how do we control the senses? By purifying them. We will have to keep reading to understand the instructions the Gita provides for this crucial step.

2. One concentrates the mind upon the Supreme. This can be a hard one for many people. However, the simplest way is to engage in mantra meditation. Simply by repeating transcendental sound vibrations, the mind is immediately calmed and focused. If you’ve never tried it, just try repeating the simple mantra “Govinda.”

3. When one concentrates the mind upon the Supreme, we experience gratitude. Why? Mantra meditation naturally results in the transfer of one’s attention from oneself to a higher consciousness. When we tap into that higher consciousness, the worries and anxieties that normally swirl through our mind are exposed for what they really are—temporary and insignificant. This is not to imply that we don’t need to take care of them. It means we take care of them in the proper perspective, and thereby avoid the anxiety factor.

4. This directly leads one to feeling grateful. Grateful to the Supreme who is always taking care of us and is looking to help us. When we really feel grateful, we want to find a way to demonstrate it to the object of our gratitude, don’t we? This is the motivation that drives us—we offer everything we do in appreciation of our gratitude to the Supreme.

In following these steps, we can remain equipoised and naturally give up our obsession with success or failure.

We become inspired to do our very best since it’s an expression of our gratitude for all that we have been given. See how the attachment has changed? We’ve become attached to offering our best and become unattached to the notions of successful or failure. As they say, “It’s the thought that counts.”

And the best part of it all? The Gita states that the Supreme doesn’t measure success or failure the way we do.

It’s the motivation that matters, and if we become attached to offering our best in a spirit of gratitude, there is nothing greater than that.


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Editor: Thaddeus Haas


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