This book is one of my priced possessions; I keep going back to it as and when possible, in an attempt to refresh my memory. I even keep a copy in office so I could turn to it if I ever needed to take my mind off work. Swami Sukhabodhananda has written this book in layman terms with simple stories and real-life examples, making it easier for any one to understand the essence of the Gita. After years and years of some futile attempts at trying to understand the Gita, this book was a sigh of relief! It reminds me of a dialogue from one of my favorite movies, 'I've been going to a therapist for the past 3 years, and she has never explained it to me this well!'.
This book taught me that Spirituality is not confined only to Swamis, even normal people like you and me can imbibe the wisdom from the Gita and be more spiritually aware! It could transform your life!
Swamiji starts from the very basic but the most important lesson: Awareness. Awareness is not a destination, but a path. The basic idea is: Change your inner state of being rather than changing the events in life. Be Aware! I've experienced this through my own life, so I can vouch for it! When I first started working, I quickly realized that I hated my job. Adding salt to the wound were my team and the manager. I still remember waking up every morning, and dreading to go to work. I finally had to leave the job but frankly, it left a bad taste! Problems in my life used to make me crib and cry and get worked up. I would question God's intentions, get stressed out and finally give up! I have come a long way from that mindset - I still have problems, but I have started treating them differently now, and life is far less stressful.
The next chapter in the book is titled, Don't create a conflict within conflict. What Swami intends to stress in this chapter is to bring your words to life and not do things that go against what you preach.
Great words are good to hear, but unless we convert them into experience, it is not going to help. For example, someone talks of love, but every action is other than love. Love is something that unifies us, but then we start talking about division, in the form of caste, religion, etc.
That's why Swami wants us to be aware that the word 'Gita' and the word 'God' should not just become a concept. Swami says listening to discourses of Gita will not transform a person unless he has created a spiritual apparatus. First, learn to listen, then learn to reflect, followed by learn to meditate. Thus, we need to listen, reflect, meditate on it and start living it and for this, a spiritual apparatus has to be created. This is where awareness comes into picture.
Be in the moment, be aware. Every moment, we are blessed with an experience and mind you, in every moment there is an experience, but we see only the periphery, the outer layer, and treat it as if it's a wild fruit. We miss the message that is hidden inside the experience - the experience could be good or bad, but there are deeper meanings that come out of it. Like the Gita says, nothing is permanent, think of everything as transitory, and this will take away a lot of stress from our lives. The cause of your sorrow is delusion (moha), and therefore the Gita says, eliminate your sorrow (shoka) by removing the cause which is delusion (moha). When delusion is eliminated, sorrow is eliminated. For this to happen, you have to be very aware and also be silent. If you are not aware and not silent, you are not going to gain wisdom, you will only gain concepts. If you by-heart the Gita, it's not going to make you wise, but understanding it and practicing it will!
One of my favorite quotes from Swamiji is this: Worry is like a rocking chair - it keeps you busy but leads you nowhere
If you are aware and you are silent, it creates a certain synergy. When such Synergy is created you don't just get knowledge (gnanam), you get wisdom (vignanam). This results in intelligence, and when you have intelligence, even in a conflicting situation, you can be in harmony and this is the principle of warfare. The meditative type of warfare is, in a conflict, don't create a conflict. For example, you get angry, now you are angry that you are angry, then double-decker anger and you feel guilty that you are angry - so you are angry again! Now you get upset that you feel guilty and so you are double angry. When you experience anger, see the cause. When you see the cause of anger, the very cause will be defused. When you remove the cause, the effect is gone!
Once you learn how to avoid conflict in a conflict, the next step is to create harmony in conflict. The idea is don't get too attached to the fruits of your effort. Swamiji is a martial arts student (you might wonder how a Swami could be trained in martial arts! but like I mentioned in the beginning that anyone can learn from the Gita, also note that you don't have to renounce your worldly pleasures to be a well rounded and spiritiually aware individual). The parallels he draws between martial arts and the teachings of the Gita is so amazing! He says, The first lesson when someone attacks you is to try to relax, because the maximum that will happen is that you will die and you are going to die anyway, so by relaxing, you will die better. When he holds you and pushes you here and there, first be relaxed. Once you are relaxed, you are centered. Once you are centered, as you are relaxing, the next step is to enter and break the others' center; you enter and break the others' center of gravity. So this is one of the core concepts in martial arts: once you don't resist, you are going with the flow.
When you are going with the flow, you are centered, and once you are centered then you poke the other's eyes, hit his throat and smash his jaws in that flow. Therefore the whole principle is this: for personal excellence, create a harmony in conflict.
This applies to a lot of situations. I can speak from my own my public speaking or emceeing experience: whenever I've been relaxed and confident just before getting onto the stage, I have done a good job. Being in the moment is a quintessential part of being an emcee and you can't experience that if you're scared or stressed.
One way of maintaining a meditative mindset that Swamiji suggests is this: Reflect with a relaxed mindset. Your personal excellence will not grow when you are in tension. When ever you are meditating and your mind wanders off, let it go and let it go with a sense of wonder. Trying to block your mind from wandering off will only create more conflict in a conflicting situation (the conflict here is that you are trying to meditate while thoughts are flowing in like a barrage and you feel like you are wasting your time). Once you start looking at the situation in wonder, you automatically start creating a harmony within conflict. You don't have to get worked up about it, once you let it happen, it will slowly fade away. You will increase your awareness and increase your silence. Just look at everything as a wonder. In whatever you are doing, be silent and calm, and you increase your awareness. When these two start happening, there is a certain synergy which happens and it is this synergy and alchemy which brings about true transformation in a person. The essence of the Gita is: increase your awareness, increase your your inner silence, then you will create a harmony in conflict.
A beautiful example Swamiji quotes is this: A surfer in an Ocean is so aware, so relaxed, because he delicately balances when there is a wave - he takes the surf, goes with it and as the waves come, he knows how to glide through them. Even if he falls, he will fall with awareness.
He will enjoy that fall, pick up the surf board and do it again. He enjoys the wave, he learns the art of navigating through the wave, with awareness. He is also relaxed while he is doing that and he enjoys that.
In the Gita, the conflicting situation is the war, and Krishna is asking Arjuna not to run away from the conflicting situation, but to face the conflicting situation with inner harmony. We ARE going to have problems but we need to learn how to navigate them.
How do you create this harmony? Increase your awareness, increase the skill of being calm. Once you learn this you will learn to navigate, and then, just like driving, a certain skill will build up in you. When faced with a problem, effective people, even if they worry, worry effectively. They worry about whether they are part of a solution, rather than a victim to the problem. Every problem has a solution. Through out the Gita, the Lord says, we should see if our energy is focused on a solution and not on justifying the problem. Justification is one of the biggest obstacles in bringing about personal excellence, because as long as you are justifying, you say my problem is unique and instead of finding solutions, you end up cribbing about it. You need to be the part of a solution, no matter what the problem is, and that's how you manage to achieve personal excellence!