RIP Robin! Krishna's Got Your Back, Now!

August 17, 2014

Only yesterday, I read the 1992 Playboy interview of Robin Williams. There is a wonderful quote there by Robin:

“If you take the chance, sometimes you’ll find something so magnificent that it was worth dying for, and sometimes you’ll find nothing and have a horrible night. To go deeper with it, that’s the most interesting challenge.”

I flashed back today to the news of Robin Williams passing during our Geeta study class. We were reading verse 1-32, 33. In these verses, Arjuna laments his existential crisis. "Why must I fight, O Kṛṣṇa?", he asks. "With the death of my loved ones, what is the point of winning a kingdom and gaining pleasure? Indeed, what is the point of living this life?" (Note: This is free translation, full verse and translation below).

Robin Williams undoubtedly loved and was loved by his daughter, Zelda and wife, Susan and millions of fans. His accomplishments as a comedian and actor are legendary. Through the non-profit Comic Relief USA, he and partner Whoopi Goldberg, have raised more than US$ 80 million for charity. What torment, then, drove him to conclude that life was not worth living?

One can only speculate on how Robin Williams spent his last hours. In these words of Arjuna, I glimpse the anguish of a man who struggled with his demons.

I found myself wishing that Robin Williams had met his own Kṛṣṇa who could have inspired him in many different ways:
1. न त्वं शोचितुमर्हसि - na tva.n shochitumarhasi, "do not grieve!" (2-27, 30)
2. त्यक्त्वोतिष्ठ - "Stand up" O Arjuna, and face whatever life brings! (2-3)
3. न तस्य विनााशः विद्यते - na tasya vinaashaH vidyate, "there is no destruction for him" (6-40)

On the one hand, it is true that even to understand and respond to Srī Kṛṣṇa's message, one needs a certain sense of mental self-possession. Yet, the takeaway for me is I must absorb, internalize and make this teaching my own, to overcome and avoid the existential sorrows that life may bring.

Arjuna was fortunate that Śrī Kṛṣṇa was at hand on the battlefield to help him overcome this crisis of confidence. I do not have to wait for that crisis. I need to find my Kṛṣṇa today.

Today is Krishna Janmashtami where we celebrate the birth of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa. What better day to start the search?

Dear Robin - Find peace in in your new life, my friend! In 6-40, Sri Ksna categorically states: "Neither in this world, nor in the next world is there destruction for him. No one who strives to be good, my son, ever comes to grief." Go deeper and find your own challenge, again!

RIP, Robin! You will be missed!

Hari Om and Namaskaar until the next post

Geeta source for the verses referenced above:

न काङ्क्षे विजयं कृष्ण न च राज्यं सुखानि च |
किं नो राज्येन गोविन्द किं भोगैर्जीवितेन वा ||१-३२||

na kāṅkṣe vijayaṃ kṛṣṇa na ca rājyaṃ sukhāni ca .
kiṃ no rājyena govinda kiṃ bhogairjīvitena vā ..1-32..
For, I desire not victory, O Kṛṣṇa, nor kingdom, nor pleasures. Of what avail is dominion to us, O Govinda? Of what avail are pleasures or even life itself? 1-32

येषामर्थे काङ्क्षितं नो राज्यं भोगाः सुखानि च |
त इमेऽवस्थिता युद्धे प्राणांस्त्यक्त्वा धनानि च ||१-३३||

yeṣāmarthe kāṅkṣitaṃ no rājyaṃ bhogāḥ sukhāni ca .
ta ime.avasthitā yuddhe prāṇāṃstyaktvā dhanāni ca ..1-33..
They for whose sake we desire kingdom, enjoyment and pleasures stand here in battle, having renounced life and wealth. 1-33

पार्थ नैवेह नामुत्र विनाशस्तस्य विद्यते |
न हि कल्याणकृत्कश्चिद् दुर्गतिं तात गच्छति ||६-४०||

śrībhagavānuvāca .
pārtha naiveha nāmutra vināśastasya vidyate .
na hi kalyāṇakṛtkaścid durgatiṃ tāta gacchati ..6-40..
The Blessed Lord said:
O Partha, neither in this world, nor in the next world is there destruction for him; none, verily, who strives to be good, O My son, ever comes to grief.

Why Smart People Should Love The Geeta's Most Famous Verse?

August 10, 2014
I was recently reading an HBR blog entry titled 
"Why Smart People Struggle With Strategy" by Roger Martin. Maybe I am weird, but I could not help thinking of Bhagavad Geeta verse 2-47,(probably the Geeta's most famous verse; see below for the full text of verse 2-47). The post opens thus:
Strategy is often seen as something really smart people do — those head-of-the-class folks with top-notch academic credentials. But just because these are the folks attracted to strategy doesn't mean they will naturally excel at it.

The problem with smart people is that they are used to seeking and finding "the right answer"; unfortunately, in strategy there is no single right answer to find. Strategy requires making choices about an uncertain future. It is not possible, no matter how much of the ocean you boil, to discover the one right answer. There isn't one. In fact, even after the fact, there is no way to determine that one's strategy choice was "right," because there is no way to judge the relative quality of any path against all the paths not actually chosen. There are no double-blind experiments in strategy.

What upsets normally smart people about the Bhagavad Geeta is Śrī Kṛṣṇa's repeated insistence to drop all anxiety and attachment for the fruit of one's action. Smart people find it counter-intuitive. Their logic goes thus:
I want a certain outcome 
--> My LOGIC tells me that there is an IDEAL SET of actions
--> I EXECUTE the plan of action, let us assume, perfectly
--> Ergo, It is ABSOLUTELY LOGICAL to expect THE result that I worked for!

Yet Śrī Kṛṣṇa has the audacity to state "do not let the fruit-of-action be your motive"! (maa karmaphala-hetur-bhuuH मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भू:). In fact, when we reflect with an open mind, we see how incredibly liberating this teaching is. Just follow the logic here:
  1. At every moment, I am faced with the choice to act. Act I must, that option goes away only when I die. 
  2. With the best resources and brains at my disposal, the unpredictability of people, time, governments and markets means that I can never be certain my action will produce the perfect outcome that I seek or that my investors hanker after
  3. So why not drop the anxiety for the perfect ouctome and be ready for whatever reality brings? What could be more logical?
  4. In fact, the extent of my anxiety, can seriously limit my ability to respond intelligently, no matter what the outcome. This freedom from anxiety frees me to stay focused on my vision as well as my moral and ethical imperatives

Now go back and read Roger Martin's blog. He goes on to say that the great strategist is marked by "flexibility, imagination, and resilience." Further reflection shows how these qualities follow from the verse:

  • Flexibility: A flexible leader's vision rises above the possibilities of a "single right answer" that Roger Martin warns against. The leader is prepared for the unpredictable and meet head-on challenges posed by competitors or regulators.

  • Imagination: This comes from an acceptance that there are many path ways to success; when I realize that there is a dead-end ahead, I am intelligent enough to retrace and find a different path.

  • Resilience: The resilient leader is ready for the long-haul and is not fazed by fickle swings in analyst reactions or stock price changes. Recall the innumerable start-ups that failed during the internet boom whose founders were left wondering why the venture capitalists lost interest.
This is the promise of Geeta 2-47, even in the material world of shareholders and regulators. The promise is greater for one who is motivated by higher goals. Hari Om and Namaskaar until the next post Starting with this post, I am experimenting with posting the full verse and translation at the end rather than have it interrupt the thought flow. Let me know if you think it works by posting in the comments section. कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन | 
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि ||२-४७||

karmaṇyevādhikāraste mā phaleṣu kadācana. 
mā karmaphalaheturbhūrmā te saṅgo.astvakarmaṇi ..2-47.. 
Your right is to work alone, but never to its fruits; let not the fruit-of-action be your motive, nor let your attachment be to inaction.

Lift Yourself By Yourself!

March 25, 2014

Pujya Swami Swatmanandaji is a dynamic teacher of the Chinmaya Mission, based in Mumbai. His post on verse 6-5 is a wonderful elaboration of a pivotal verse in the Geeta. Śrī Kṛṣṇa says, "Let a man lift himself by his own Self alone, and let him not lower himself".

Among the gems in this post:

Toys to Truth
Vanity to Vairagya
Doership to Divinity
Dreamer to waker
Theory to Practice

Hari Om and Namaskaar until the next post

Six Absolute Guarantees Made By Krishna To All In the Bhagavad Geeta

do hereby unconditionally guarantee that:

  1. If you should study, understand and apply even a little teaching of the Bhagavad Geeta, I SHALL PROTECT YOU FROM GREAT FEAR. 2.40
  2. I SHALL CARRY YOU ACROSS this endless cycle of birth and death, on the “boat” of aatmavidya, otherwise known as self-knowledge, even if you consider yourself to be a sinner of the worst kind. 4-36
  3. The gains of your SPRITUAL PRACTICE SHALL NEVER EVER GO TO WASTE in this world or any world. 6-40
  4. I SHALL FOREVER ENSURE THE GROWTH & PROTECTION THE YOUR WEALTH should you ceaselessly chant and reflect on my name to the exclusion of all other worldly distractions. 9-26
  5. Despite being a sinner, if you unwaveringly & constantly worship me, YOU SHALL BECOME RIGHTEOUS AND AS MY DEVOTEE, YOU SHALL NEVER PERISH. 9-30, 31
  6. When you renounce all that is dear to you, physical, emotional and intellectual, and you finally surrender unto Me as your only refuge, I SHALL FREE FROM ALL SIN FOR ALL TIME. 18-66

This guarantee is open to all seekers and devotees regardless of species, age, creed, color, gender or nationality.

Signed under seal

Yadavendra Krishna Paramatma

Witnessed by
Pandava Arjuna

Bhishma Pitamaha

Study The Bhagavad Geeta

March 15, 2014

From our facebook friends in Chinmaya Mission, Delhi comes this gem.

The Bhagavad Gita - Your Companion for Life
Learn in childhood, the verses of the Gita; in teenage years, its word meaning; in youth, its meaning and in adulthood abide in its knowledge - through satsang, study, reflection and practice.
We need to learn, practice and perfect the art of right living from an early age, not just as we are about to die

For a systematic study of the Gita at home, click here. For my previous posts and todbits on the Gita course, click here..

Hari Om and Namaskaar until the next post