First off, I am finding this translation a bit harder to read, which I am surprised by since Christopher Isherwood and Prabhavananda have a translation of the Sutras that I find very approachable….but it is always good to have a new perspective on these topics or readings you “think” you know well.
The first few chapters of the Bhagavad Gita set the “stage” for the rest to come. “The Sorrow of Arjuna” in the first chapter is Arjuna on the battlefield facing his “foes” which are family members and people he knows well, so no matter what, he is not interested in killing them even if it does mean good karma for him and the ridding of some pretty evil people. But Krishna encourages him to “STAND UP” and fight, reminding him that the eternal being in all of us never dies, so Arjuna does not have the ultimate power of killing any thing or any one : “There was never a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor any of these kings. Nor is there any future in which we shall cease to be…Bodies are said to die, but that which possesses the body is eternal. It cannot be limited, or destroyed. Therefore you must fight.” (Ch2 – “The Yoga of Knowledge”)
The concept of Karma-Yoga, the path of action, is then described. It is a reminder that we are all put on this planet for a reason and we must figure out what that path is, work within it without distraction, eyes set on a more enlightened state, being closer to a higher ideal or power. Karma means “action”, so we all MUST ACT! However, that is all we have to do…the “fruits of labor should not be our goal” and “no small effort is wasted on this path”, but it has to be “YOUR PATH”…no one else’s. For Arjuna, his path is as a warrior, so he must go to war.
I think a lot about this idea of fear and karma. How do we know what our individual “dharma” (duty) is, how do we know how to follow it, and how do we not be paralyzed by fear when faced with it? When I was young and in school and planning my life, I would have NEVER EVER thought that yoga was my dharma, I didn’t even know what yoga was. “I” had a plan for myself and my eyes were set on that goal – to basically be running in the wilds of Africa with gorillas.
Obviously THAT didn’t happen and here I am, knowing fully well that I am following my dharma as set out for my life, but also at almost ever turn I am confronted with certain karmas and fears – fear of being in front of people, fear of taking responsibility for passing on knowledge and tradition in the best way possible, fear of being tested on not just my own external self, but also personally and alone facing every internal foible and knowing I must fight those down and conquer those fears in the end…and the greatest fear of all in facing our own perfect truth within…owning it and following that beauty and potential to its most perfect end. It is a crazy and exciting and amazing path that I now could never assume nor imagine would have been any different. To have turned away from yoga due to fear at any point would have been like turning my back on Krishna and walking off the battlefield. I may not be a “warrior”, but I have those obstacles on my path that must be faced and overcome.
So, no matter how imperfect, I will continue to act…no amount wasted! And so goes the Gita…