Here in India we’ve been teaching a course called Living the Gita. Part of our preparation has been to reread the Mahabharata, the long epic of which the Bhagavad Gita forms a part. We’ve been reading a delightful and enlightening version by Devdutt Pattanaik called Jaya, filled with stories from the Mahabharata as well as interesting additional information.
At one point in the story, Krishna goes to talk to one side of the ongoing conflict in an attempt to prevent the upcoming battle. The author talks about different methods of dealing with conflict. Here’s a quote:
“Saam, daam, dand, bhed are the four methods enumerated in the Artha-Shastra, the treatise on polity, to make people do one’s bidding. Saam means convincing people through talks, using logic and emotion. Daam means bribing people. Dand means using force or the threat of force. Bhed means dividing and conquering the enemy. Krishna uses all four methods. He talks to the Kauravas. He is willing to settle for just five villages for the Pandavas. He narrates tales of the prowess of the Pandavas. When all else fails, he decides to divide the Kauravas.”
We all have to deal with conflicts in life — some outer, but mostly inner. In fact, perhaps the main theme in Paramhansa Yogananda’s explanation of the Gita is the need to overcome our inner negative tendencies. All outer conflict, intense though it may seem, is simply God’s way of exposing us to our inner lessons.
We can apply Krishna’s tactics to our own battles, since he is a symbol of our own higher Self. Imagine using these four methods to get yourself to meditate when you are a little sleepy, a common enough problem.
We can try to convince ourselves using logic: “You know it’s good for you, and you know you’ll feel better if you meditate.” Or, we can try to bribe our unwilling mind: “I’ll make a deal with you. Just do a short meditation, and then you can have a nice cup of tea.” If that doesn’t work, we may convince ourselves with the use of force: “If you don’t at least try, you can’t have any tea at all today.” And finally, we can divide and conquer: “If you’re going to go all subconscious on me, then I’ll do affirmations until I can get a positive flow of energy going in my conscious mind.”
We must fight our battles in the here and now. Nothing can change things that have happened in the past. As Swami Kriyananda’s song goes, “Life flows on like a river.” Refusing to release old hurts and disappointments only produces pain and suffering for yourself and others.
Negative thoughts and memories are like a cobra’s poison in our system. It can be neutralized in a step-by-step manner:
First accept what happened, since you can’t change it anyway.
Next, forgive everyone involved, most importantly yourself. Until you can do this, you will erroneously think that others, or your own past actions, are the cause of your own reactions now.
After that, express gratitude, if for no other reason than the spiritual freedom and non- attachment that those events give you.
Finally feel love: real, heartfelt love. This will not only remove all of the cobra’s poison from your own mind, but will help heal as well all the others involved.
Ultimately, it is Krishna’s love for us, and our love for him, that ends the war between our positive and negative qualities. As Krishna says at the end of the Gita, “Forsaking all other duties, remember Me alone. I will free you from all sin (even that of not fulfilling other, lesser, duties). Do not grieve.”
In remembrance of the higher Self,