The encouraging, more encouraging and most encouraging messages of the Gita

“I am my worst enemy.” Some of us may have felt like this when we came under the grip of sudden, irrational impulses, and spoke and acted in ways that hurt others or ourselves or both. We make plans and efforts to change our illogical, uncongenial behavior, yet the heat of the moment often overpowers us. When we repeatedly succumb to the same self-defeating behavior, we may become possessed by the gloomy thought: “Maybe this is just the way I am; maybe this is my unchangeable nature.”

In such disheartening situations, Gita wisdom inspires us with three increasingly encouraging messages.

The encouraging message of the Gita is that our nature is changeable. In fact, the Gita states that what we consider our nature is not actually our nature; it is just the programming of the body-mind apparatus that we are presently situated in. We are souls who have a pure nature that is transcendental to any physical or mental programming. We come under the impulses of the body and the mind only because we misidentify with them. By cultivating awareness of our spiritual identity, we become free from the control of material impulses.

The more encouraging message of the Gita is that becoming aware of our spiritual identity doesn’t have to be a dry, onerous, hyper-intellectual austerity. By the process of bhakti-yoga, we can experience spiritual happiness even when we are still misidentifying with the body or the mind. Bhakti yoga centers on rendering service to Krishna externally and cultivating his remembrance internally. When we engage in these dual aspects of bhakti to the best of our capacity, we relish a deep fulfillment that is entirely different from, distinctly richer than, any pleasure offered by the body or the mind. This fulfillment provides us experiential evidence that we are indeed souls, beyond our bodies and minds.  Convinced by this evidence, we become inspired to gain greater realization of our identity and thereby experience more of that higher happiness.  Thus, the process of bhakti-yoga utilizes our subjective experiences to complement our objective knowledge in the process for realizing our spiritual identity. This makes the journey much easier than if it had involved only intellectual analysis.

The most encouraging message of the Gita is that Krishna is willing and waiting to help us in realizing our spiritual identity. He can engage his omnipotence in demolishing all the illusions and misconceptions that make us forget our spiritual identity. If we just show Krishna by our actions that we want to come out of material misidentification, then he will happily and mercifully clear the way for us. By his mercy, the same self-transformation that had seemed impossible becomes possible – easily and joyfully possible.

Thus, the Gita informs us that in our attempts at self-transformation we can avail of three increasingly powerful resources: knowledge, experience and mercy. No wonder then that after hearing the Gita Arjuna felt so encouraged that he declared (18.73) his readiness to do whatever it took to successfully navigate the journey to self-mastery.