2. Act First, Ask Later | Ask First, Act Later

The urge to find pleasure drives everything we do. Capitalising on this universal urge, society has trained us to seek satisfaction through romance, sports, the arts, education, our professions and much more. Yet we’re often left with feelings of dissatisfaction and emptiness. The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered "Man! Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.” Are we confused?
Before deciding where to invest time, resource and effort, a wise person clarifies their purpose. It seems logical to start with the question “Why?” Unfortunately, since we live in a world which is endlessly active, we’re often seized by the powerful current of busyness, neglecting to question how best to utilise our valuable life on earth. People think, “religion later, spirituality later, God later - first get on with life!”
In Chapter Two we witness a role reversal. Arjuna seeks the counsel of Krishna, his chariot driver, who should be the one receiving orders. He inquires about his predicament, purpose, and how happiness can actually be found. Though surrounded by intensity, Arjuna makes time to recalibrate his vision. He resolves to ‘Ask first, act later.’ In response, Krishna reveals something simple but profound – “You are not this body,” He says, “but an eternal, indestructible spirit soul.” We’re spiritual beings on a human journey! When our decisions factor in this crucial understanding, it re-routes our entire life trajectory, as Arjuna will himself experience.
Once, a group of friends visited New York and hired out the penthouse suite on the Hilton’s 80th floor. They dropped off their bags and headed out for a bite of the Big Apple. After exploring the hot spots, they returned, exhausted and tired, only to find a sign on the hotel’s ground floor which read “Lifts out of order!” Cursing and complaining, they reluctantly walked to the staircase, began their ascent, taking turns to tell each other stories to make it a little less painful. Having reached the 70th floor, they turned to one of their friends who had been unusually quiet and asked him to share something. “My story is a complete tragedy” he said. “We’re about to reach the 80th floor, but I forgot the room key at the reception desk!”
People climb to the peak of academia, top the corporate ladder, reach the heights of social prestige, and then realise that despite all those ‘successes’ they forgot the key to happiness. To be happy, we must first realise who we are in the deepest spiritual sense, and then act in accordance with that knowledge. Curiosity sits within, and existential questions confront all of us at some point in life. The earlier we ask, the wiser we become, the more purposeful our lives will be. Einstein reminds us: “Never stop questioning – curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of miserly weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me for certain what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me.” (Bhagavad-Gita 2.7)


2.7 – Human life is meant for inquiry into one’s real purpose in life.