Over twenty years ago, after graduating from UCL (University College London) with a Bachelor’s degree, I opted out of the ‘suit and tie’ corporate world and adopted the robes of monasticism instead. Ironically, it’s all come full circle; dealing with people, projects and practicalities is an inescapable part of life. This monk must have some management karma to burn off! The reality is that whoever you are and whatever your situation may be, life is full of inescapable difficultyfinancial problems, family problems, career problems, relationship problems, problems, problems and more problems! In the midst of it all, how do we find the headspace to embrace spirituality with focus, optimism and determination?
Consider the problems that Arjuna encountered in his life. When he was young he lost his father, and later was subjected to severe mistreatment and exploitation from his own family members. He and his brothers experienced injustice and insult, their kingdom usurped, harshly stripped of their entire identity. It all reaches a climax when Arjuna faces the biggest obstacle of his life so far – the prospect of battle and bloodshed with his near and dear ones. A rollercoaster journey to say the least. If anyone was entitled to lodge a complaint about being dealt a bad hand, the Pandava brothers would probably top the list.
In Chapter Eleven, Krishna expertly allays Arjuna’s concerns by displaying His inconceivable feature known as the Universal Form. Within it, Arjuna witnesses the entirety of creation, all the planets, demigods and living entities, and the entire sequence of past, present and future. When Arjuna peered into this extraordinary display he saw all of his adversaries meeting their death, even though the battle had not even begun. Krishna poignantly told Arjuna that all of his enemies and obstacles had already been annihilated by the will of providence and his only task was to become an instrument in the plan.
The reversals of this world, Krishna says, flow in and out of our life like the cosmic seasons. Some periods are harsh and challenging, yet they have their part to play in the grand scheme of things. Spiritual practice won’t necessarily make all the problems disappear, but it will empower you with elevated spiritual vision and an inner immunity come what may. The problem is not the problem. The problem is our reaction to the problem. Instead of waiting for a peaceful situation around us, the greatest need of the day is to create a peaceful situation within us.
There were two boys who had an alcoholic father. One of them became an alcoholic while the other stayed away for his entire life. The alcoholic son was asked why he succumbed to this habit. He answered: “My whole childhood I watched my alcoholic father.” The other son was asked why he took the route of abstention. His answer: “My whole childhood I watched my alcoholic father.” Ironic! Subjected to the same problem, but influenced in opposite ways. The challenge is to become like water, effortlessly flowing around any obstructing rocks and moving steadily to the destination. The Bhagavad-Gita trains the avid student to reside in their sacred space, never allowing their inner world to be hijacked by the chaos of life.
“As the many waves of the rivers flow into the ocean, so do all these great warriors enter into Your blazing mouths.” (Bhagavad-Gita 11.28)
11.36 – Whatever Krishna does is always for the ultimate good.