Let me tell you the story of Stanislavsky Lech. The Nazis stormed into his home one night and herded him and his family into a death camp in Krakow. His loved ones were murdered, one by one, day by day, before his eyes. Weak, grieving, and starving, he worked from sunrise to sundown alongside the other prisoners of the concentration camp, destined for the same. How could anyone survive such horrors? Somehow he continued.
One day, he looked at the nightmare around him and understood that if he continued in this fashion, he would die. He resolved that he had to escape. Although no one before him had ever escaped, he fostered the belief that somehow there was a way. His focus changed from how to survive, to instead asking, "How can we escape from this terrible place?" His fellow inmates offered no encouragement. "Don't be a fool! There is no escape. Asking such questions will only torture your soul." Lech wouldn't accept this answer. His constant meditation was, "How can I do it? There must be a way. How can I get out of here?"
One day, Lech smelled rotting flesh just a few feet from where he worked. He peered over a large boundary wall and saw a horrific sight: men, women, and children who had been gassed and whose naked corpses lay there in a human mountain. Instead of focusing on the question "How could God allow something so evil to happen?" he asked himself, "How can I use this to escape?" As the sun set and the work party left for the barracks, he pulled off his clothes and dove naked into the pile of bodies while no one was looking. Pretending to be dead, he waited with the sickening smell of death all around him, the weight of all the corpses pressing upon him. Finally, he heard a truck engine start. After a short ride, the mountain of bodies was dumped into an open grave. He waited until all vehicles had departed, and then ran - naked - twenty five miles to freedom.
What made the difference between the fate of Stanislavsky Lech and that of everyone else who died in concentration camps? Likely several factors, but one key lesson was that he asked a different question. That curiosity became his meditation, a reference point for everything he observed. He asked it repeatedly, certain he would receive an answer. Our questions influence our focus, how we think and feel, and what we see. Asking powerful questions can be a major way to turn our life around. Instead of asking, "Why is life so unfair?" and "How can I eclipse that person?" we could reengineer our questions in order to elicit answers that will really help us progress.
In Chapter Thirteen, Arjuna asks Krishna to define six subjects: prakrti (nature), purusa (the enjoyer), ksetra (the field of activities), ksetrajna (the knower of the field), jnanam (knowledge and the process of knowing), and jneyam (the object of knowledge). These subjects are key elements of Vedic philosophy and Krishna therefore spends the entire chapter defining and discussing them. Arjuna, although an established transcendentalist, plays the part of a materially entangled individual so he can pose questions for the benefit of humanity. His astute inquiries create the opportunity for Krishna to offer answers to life’s most profound mysteries. Perfect questions and perfect answers – a dialogue that opens the doors to freedom on the highest plane. Now ask yourself, what questions am I asking in life?
“One who understands this philosophy concerning material nature, the living entity and the interaction of the modes of nature is sure to attain liberation. He will not take birth here again, regardless of his present position.” (Bhagavad-Gita 13.24)
13.1-2 – Arjuna’s inquiries and why these aspects of reality are so crucial to understand.