Bhakti-yoga trains us in unemotional emotionality

Some readers of the Bhagavad-gita are struck by a paradox: “The Gita asks us to be neutral towards emotions like happiness and distress. But it also recommends bhakti, which is through and through an emotion. How can we be both unemotional and emotional?

By being unemotional materially and emotional spiritually, answers Gita wisdom.

The Bhagavad-gita explains that we are souls who are meant for an emotionally rich life with Krishna at the spiritual level. Presently however, we are misidentifying with our temporary material bodies. This misidentification cuts us off from spiritual emotions and fills us with material emotions.

We are like movie spectators who because of identifying with a movie character become cut off from their real life emotions and get filled with reel-life emotions. To return to normalcy, the spectators need to stop being emotionally involved in the movie and start having emotionally stimulating exchanges with others in real life. The Gita recommends these same two steps by urging us to be unemotional materially and emotional spiritually.

Most of us are too materially entangled to immediately access spiritual emotions. So, we need a path and a process to raise our emotions from the material level to the spiritual level. The Gita paves the path through the analysis in its fourteenth chapter of how the three modes of material nature trigger various material emotions within us.  Among such emotions, emotions in the mode of goodness are the most conducive for activating spiritual emotions. So, we need to harmonize our lifestyle with that mode. Then, we can transcend even goodness and unemotionally observe the arrival and departure of various material emotions in our consciousness.

As the most practical process to traverse this path, the Gita (14.26) exhorts us to practice bhakti-yoga undeviatingly. By activating our spiritual emotions, this yoga of spiritual love enables us to tolerate and eventually transcend material emotions.

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 14 Text 26

“One who engages in full devotional service, unfailing in all circumstances, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman.”

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