Misunderstandings on the spiritual path

The following is an excerpt of the commentary on the Bhagavad Gita by Radhikaji from her forthcoming book to be published in 2017. Chapter 3 Verses 7-19 are covered in this article.

Verses 7-9 Life is an offering

Working joyfully is a yajna or offering. The word yajna is often translated as sacrifice. Unfortunately the word sacrifice has been associated with different things that no longer find popular acceptance in our modern life. Sacrifice has been associated with giving up something you do not really want to give up. Thus it is considered to be tyaga or external renunciation. Sacrifice is also associated with ritualism or animal or even human sacrifice. 

Performing your duties joyfully and skillfully is very fulfilling and it completes you. You do not perform the actions because of some sort of compulsion but for the joy of it. When you experience tremendous joy, what do you do with it? Naturally, you want to share the joy. If you have created a beautiful garden, you would like to share the garden with others. If you have cooked a wonderful meal, would you like to eat it alone? It is much nicer when you share that meal with others. These creative acts are far more fulfilling when we share them with others. This is an offering. We offer beautiful things to everybody. We do not want to keep it to ourselves. This idea of sacrifice is beautiful and it should not be turned into a negative idea.

There are 3 kinds of offerings:

1. Action performed with expectation of reward is rajasic or tainted. For instance, giving a gift as a bribe to buy favors and friendship.

2. Offerings given without expectation but in a wrong spirit or bhava are tamasic or dark. For instance, offering guests old food, giving a gift that is useless. 

3. Actions performed joyfully and lovingly without any expectations are sattvic or pure.

Verse 10-13: Shreyas, the good and Preyas, the pleasurable

Shreyas and preyas, these are two aspects, that all spiritual seekers should understand very clearly. Shreyas is that which is good, preyas is that which is pleasurable. That which is good for you may not necessarily be pleasurable, for example medicine. Medicine can be bitter. It is good for you when you are sick, but it is not providing you with pleasure. That which is pleasurable is not necessarily good for you, for example sweets, chocolates or alcohol. All the things that we derive some sort of pleasure out of, are not necessarily good for you, especially when you start abusing these things. 

When you understand the difference between shreyas and preyas and you will nurture and strengthen the good qualities, you attain the highest good when you learn to perform your actions in a skillful manner.  When this happens, the gods provide you with the desired pleasures. The gods that we are talking about here are not deities. These are your own internal qualities. 

This does not mean that you will start enjoying sweets, chocolates or alcohol. These are lower pleasures. Now you begin to enjoy the higher good. You do not crave material and sensual pleasures.  You begin to enjoy all of life. Everything around you becomes a feast. The objects of the world are like food and you are feasting on them with the senses.

Verses 14-15 The world is One family

You are not a separate individual as it may seem because you have manifested in a single body. It is because you see yourself as disconnected and separate, that you suffer and experience loneliness. With a deep understanding of these verses we realize that we are part of this beautiful cycle of nature, prakruti.  We are connected to all of nature, this entire planet, the sun, rain, trees, animals. We experience this interconnectedness in higher states of consciousness. Then we know: Vasudhaivam kutumbhakam,  the world is one family.

Verse 16: Expanding the Circle of Love

The first duty is your well being. Nourishing and maintaining the body is important because the body is the instrument that enables us to live out our samskaras in this plane. This is the path of expansion, and so even though you may be learning how to care for yourself, you must learn to share your life with your immediate family, take on responsibility and participate in family life. Your duty to your immediate family is the second stage in the circle or chakra of love.

You expand the circle to include your professional life, may be training others are helping others to learn certain skills or professions. This is your third duty. You expand the circle of love to support the extended family and friends and expand even further taking up community and voluntary work for a cause that you may feel strongly about. This is your fourth duty.

As the circle of love keeps growing it expands further to include the entire nation and finally includes all of humanity becoming utterly selfless. This is the fifth and sixth stage on the path of expansion. Then you have become desireless, attaining the Highest and working only for the welfare of others. The circle of Love has become all-encompassing.

Verses 17-19 Delight in Life

The child of Manu refers to all human beings. Manu is the first man.  Sri Krishna would dance the Raas lila along the river Jamuna. Lila is a game or sport, you enjoy it. It is not a burden. Life is beautiful and the one who is established in his own Atman delights in it. He is desirelessness. There is no action left to be performed, so he performs actions without attachments.


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