By Rudra Shivananda
How often are we faced with a situation where we are called upon to decide between the lesser of two choices that both have negative consequences? We often wish that we can just stop and not to choose and do nothing at all. Sometimes the consequences are minor while other times, even inaction can have huge impact.
Recently, there has been a lot of public hand-wringing about choosing between the two candidates for the upcoming presidential election. Both candidates are considered flawed by supporters as well as opponents with both having high un-favorability ratings. Some potential voters are somewhat stressed or depressed because they have difficulty rationalizing a decision while others are equally fervent in knowing what they think they want, even though their minds are being tugged in conflicting directions.
The situation of a conflicted mind reminds me of the classic example that is the basis for the spiritual text called Bhagavad Gita. This text is the insight into the meaning of life with the means to acquiring wisdom and skill in action. The first chapter is called the ‘Despondency of Arjuna’ and sets up the scenario for the exposition by the embodiment of divinity, Lord Krishna.
Arjuna represents us – his mind is confused with discordant thoughts and he requires guidance. He lacks the power of discrimination that would enable him to make the right choices in life.
The Bhagavad Gita takes place at the beginning of a battle between close relatives. The consequence of the upcoming battle has just dawned on Arjuna. He has just realized that he has to choose between two conflicting duties. The first is his duty as a prince to uphold righteousness and battle evil. However, he has an equally strong duty to defend and protect family members. What happens when one is faced with the situation that it is one’s family members who are unrighteous and performing evil actions?
Arjuna’s mind is stalled by thoughts of fighting his elders, teachers and cousins or letting them kill his brothers and friends. He throws down his arms in despair and would rather not do anything. Unfortunately, he realizes that his inaction is a choice and might mean the demise of his brothers. He therefore connects with his inner guide who has taken form as a charioteer, Lord Krishna and asks for his help.
Lord Krishna uses the rest of the Gita to explain the means by which a person can attain to the wisdom of higher consciousness and utilize discriminative intellect to live a life in tune with the will of the Divine. The wisdom of the Gita is timeless and is a source of guidance for us even now. It can help us to:
- Act freely and unconditionally
- Have confidence in the power and guidance of the goodness within the universe
- Choose between unclear alternatives to resolve dilemmas that we face
To paraphrase the Gita, the wise person unites his or her actions with insight (buddhi) and so is not bound by the results or karmic consequences. Yoga is skill in action. Persons who are wise and have insight into their own natures have no need to be told what to do.
Whenever you’re conflicted and your mind is torn between choices, remember the lessons of the Gita and seek practice and knowledge to achieve yoga.