“He who cannot be ruffled by these (contacts of the senses with their objects), who is calm and even minded during pain and pleasure, he alone is fit to attain everlastingness!”
–Bhagavad-Gita, Chapter 2 Verse 15. Translation by Paramanhasa Yogananda.
This week I thought I would switch source material and move to the Bhagavad-Gita. If you’re not familiar with the Gita it is one of the most important books in Hinduism. It is the story of a man named Arjuna despondent over having to fight a war and the response by the god Krishna in encouraging him to go out and fight. If that sounds like an overly simplistic plot, especially for a supposedly spiritual book, it is. The Gita is one of the most finely crafted allegorical texts in the world with each of its 700 verses having many deeper levels—primarily being that this is really the story of having the courage to fight our own lower natures and achieve enlightenment. Next to A Course in Miracles, I would say the Bhagavad-Gita is the most advanced spiritual text out there.
And while you can write whole essays on just about every verse (I would recommend Paramahansa Yogananda’s commentaries on the Gita if you’re interested) I have chosen the above verse for this week’s meditation. This quote at the beginning of Krishna’s teachings is about the rather low importance of the outside world to our inner growth. (This quote also stood out because it is just goddamn cold out there this week, and I too needed reminding that it was a transitory sense perception).
In many ways this is but an extension of the thought from last week. Our internal happiness is something that isn’t to be dictated by outside forces and stimuli. The trick is to be happy at all times and realize it is because you choose to be happy. Both when things are not going well—like having to walk outside in this ungodly cold—and this alone requires force of will. But also implied in this is that when things are pleasant and outside circumstances are good, we need to remember that we are not happy because of the outside world, but because we choose to be happy. It is this pleasant moments that are actually harder to maintain the realization that happiness is a choice, we need in those good moments that we are happy as a result of choice and not because the weather is nice or our most annoying coworker has left.
Try to keep this in mind when you’re both happy and unhappy this week and see if it isn’t easier to stay in a positive mood.
Here are the words of our President:
“There’s only so much a church can do to help all the families in need, all those who need help making a mortgage payment or avoiding foreclosure, or making sure their child can go to college. […] There’s only so much that a nonprofit can do to help a community rebuild in the wake of disaster. There’s only so much the private sector will do to help folks who are desperately sick to get the care that they need.
“And that’s why I continue to believe that in a caring and in a just society, government must have a role to play; that our values, our love and our charity must find expression not just in our families, not just in our places of work and our places of worship, but also in our government and in our politics.”
I pulled this off of an article where some liberal wanted to whine about Conservatives misusing the Constitution called “It’s my Constitution too”…To which I can only respond 1. This quote has nothing to do with the topic provided by the columnist, and 2. Yes it is your Constitution too; now why don’t you actually try to read it and follow it…you’ll be the first liberal in decades to do so…but back to this quote.
I agree with President Obama that there is only so much that the individuals, families, churches, non-profits and business can do in the face of tragedy and adversity. I agree with him completely. They have limited resources after all. But why do they have limited resources? Oh, that’s right they’re taxed on EVERYTHING! Sales, income, corporate, gas and deductions for pyramid schemes like social security, Medicaid and Medicare. People can only do so much because the government is fleecing them for every cent they earn!
If Obama wanted a just society he would let the free market and meritocracy work out the problem created by government intervention and the welfare state, there would be no end to what we could do. Americans are the most generous people on Earth in both terms of money and time donated to churches, causes and charities (don’t believe me, go read Who Really Cares by Arthur C. Brooks, pages upon pages of statistical data to back up that assertion…oh by the way conservatives are more charitable than liberals) and maybe we could be more charitable if a third of our year wasn’t spent coming up with money for the modern day Sherriff of Nottingham.
Oh and if we had our money back to give as we please we would be far more effective in our charity. Individuals do not give money to drug addicts…welfare does. Individuals do not go out of their way to help criminals and the worst society has to offer…welfare does. Individuals may be very giving in their charity but, unlike welfare and entitlement programs, there is an unspoken bargain being made: I will give you food or money or time or help, but you must use this to help make yourself a better person. No such bargain exists in getting entitlements from the government—and thus no improvement occurs.
What Obama should realize is that there is only so much government can do. It can only give money. Individuals, families, churches, non-profits and businesses can give help.