Many people come to this question at some point in their lives, beginning a quest for the search of truth, of passion. We talked about the pursuit of happiness and how prevalent it is in our cultures today. So it's probably fair to say that most Westerners - me included - still hang on to the belief that we need a reason to be here.
Otherwise, what's the point, right?
The Bhagavad Gita offers an interesting perspective. Also known as the Gita, it is part of the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata and was written probably about 3000 years ago (yes, pre-dating the Bible). It describes Arjuna (a soldier’s) conversation with Krishna (God) and has influenced people across the world, including Gandhi, Huxley, Thoreau, Emerson, Einstein, and Jung.
I’ve recently started reading Jack Hawley’s translation, “The Bhagavad Gita – A Walkthrough for Westerners”. It’s an easy read so far, like a cool story with an interesting plot: Arjuna is a renowned warrior who is overcome by doubt right before an important battle. What is our hero supposed to do - fight, or go home?
In the second chapter, Krishna teaches him that
One's personal duty in life (one's sva-dharma) should be viewed as one's responsibility to his or her highest Self, the Atma.
Apparently, our “self” is not the same as our body or our mind – those perish. Reality in a spiritual sense is everlasting. Your Atma does not perish, it doesn’t die because it was never born – it has always been. That's why your Atma is the only Real thing. The Gita describes it as “immutable, unmanifested, and unknowable” (it doesn’t change, it can’t be touched, and the human mind can’t conceive it).
Are you freaked out yet? I know, me too.
Where does this soul of ours sit and how do we get in touch with it?
Deepak Chopra had a lecture in Dallas not too long ago, and he made us do a nifty exercise. Let’s see if we can recreate it here. As you pay attention to your screen right now, reading these words, turn that attention around to the person who is paying attention.
Do you feel a presence? When you observe the observer, yourself, do you note that split-second of “Huh? Hang on! There’s someone in here!”-weirdness? I noticed it at the time and was left quite impressed (and wondering if I was going mad).
While the Atma is immutable, unmanifested, and unknowable, we live in a world that is changing at an ever faster pace, our sciences explain all sorts of visible and invisible processes, and we strive to understand and grasp everything else, too. To become still and feel into our Atma, then, is wholly counter-intuitive. Yet taking that time may be an effective way for you to connect with your own inner wisdom of what your path would be.
Krishna told Arjuna that since he is a warrior, not fighting would “violate your sva-dharma”, his personal duty in life, that which he was on the planet for.
Leave a comment and let us know what your Atma told you?