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TWELVE SPIRITUAL PRINCIPLES FROM THE BHAGAVAD GITA
(Contributed by Peterananda)
1) TO HELP EACH OTHER IS THE FIRST COMMANDMENT OF THE CREATOR
In the ancient time, the Creator created human beings together with selfless service (Seva, Yajna, sacrifice) and said: By serving each other you shall prosper, and the sacrificial service shall fulfill all your desires. (3.10)
Nourish the celestial controllers with selfless service, and they will nourish you. Thus nourishing each other, you shall attain the Supreme goal. (3.11)
It is believed that selfishness saps our natural health and immune system also. When we take steps to move ourselves away from self and think about the needs of others and how to serve them, a physical healing process seems to set in motion. This is especially true if we personally help a person we may never meet again in life.
Peace, composure, and freedom from Karmic bondage await those who work for a noble cause with a spirit of detachment and do not seek any personal reward or recognition. Such persons enjoy the joy of selfless service that ultimately leads them to the bliss of salvation. Selfless service purifies the mind and is a very powerful and easy spiritual discipline that one can practice while living and working in society. There is no religion better than selfless service. The fruits of vice and virtue grow only on the tree of selfishness, not on the tree of selfless service.
One who makes no sacrifice, but grabs everything without helping others, is like a thief. It is said that celestials are pleased when people help each other.
2) PRACTICE MODERATION IN ALL ACTIVITIES AND MEDITATE
This yoga is not possible, O Arjuna, for one who eats too much or who does not eat at all, who sleeps too much or too little. (6.16)
The yoga of meditation destroys all sorrow for the one who is moderate in eating, recreation, working, sleeping, and waking. (6.17)
The Gita teaches that extremes should be avoided at all costs in all spheres of life. This moderation of the Gita was eulogized by Lord Buddha who called it the middle path, the right way, or the noble path. A healthy mind and body are required for successful performance of any spiritual practice. Therefore, it is required that a yogi should regulate his daily bodily functions, such as eating, sleeping, bathing, resting and recreation. Those who eat too much or too little may become sick or fragile. It is recommended to fill half of the stomach with food, one fourth with water, and leave the rest empty for air. If one sleeps more than six hours, one's lethargy, passion, and bile may increase. A yogi should avoid extreme indulgence in uncontrolled desires as well as the opposite extreme of yogic discipline --- the torturing of the body and mind.
3) METAPHYSICAL KNOWLEDGE IS THE ULTIMATE KNOWLEDGE
Transcendental knowledge destroys the ignorance of the Self and reveals the Supreme Being, just as the sun reveals the beauty of objects of the world. (5.16)
Persons whose mind and intellect are totally merged in the Eternal Being, who are firmly devoted to the Supreme, who have God as their supreme goal and sole refuge, and whose impurities are destroyed by the knowledge of the Self, do not take birth again. (5.17)
If intellect is not powerful enough to control the mind, the passenger will not reach the goal. Self-knowledge is superior to the intellect. The intellect yoked with the Self through Self-knowledge and contemplation becomes pure and strong to control the mind and the mind will control the senses. Thus it can be seen that Self-knowledge is essential for the success of the spiritual journey. Self-knowledge provides power of purification (See 4.37-38), scriptures supply necessary tools (the rein and the whip) and techniques to the intellect to be able to control the mind.
After discovering the metaphysical truth, one looks at everything with reverence, compassion, and kindness because everything in the material world is part and parcel of the cosmic body of Lord Vishnu.
4) FIND YOUR OWN METHOD OF WORSHIP TO GOD
Some perceive the Supersoul in their inner psyche through mind and intellect that have been purified either by meditation or by metaphysical knowledge or by selfless service. (13.24)
Others, however, do not know the yogas of meditation, knowledge, and selfless service; but they perform deity worship with firm faith and loving devotion, as mentioned in the scriptures by the saints and sages. They also transcend death by virtue of their firm faith in what they have heard. (13.25)
Blessed are they that have not understood, yet have believed (John 20.29). If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for (Matthew 21.22). It is not necessary to completely understand God to obtain His grace, to love Him, and to attain Him. Any spiritual practice done without faith is an exercise in futility. Our intellect stands in the way as an obstruction to faith.
5) LEARN TO FORGIVE OTHERS
If you forgive others, your Father in heaven will also forgive you (Matthew 6.14). Resist no evil with evil (Matthew 5.39). Love your enemies, and pray for those who mistreat you (Matthew 5.44). One should control anger toward the wrong-doer. The controlled anger itself punishes the wrong-doer if the wrong-doer does not ask forgiveness (MB 5.36.05). One who does wrong is destroyed by the same act of wrong doing if he or she does not ask forgiveness (MS 2.163). One who unconditionally forgives others is happy because the anger of the forgiver is exterminated. Progress in spiritual discipline is impeded if one's interpersonal relationship is full of hurt and negative feeling, even for a single living entity. Therefore, one must learn to forgive and to ask forgiveness.
6) RECOGONISE THE PRESENCE OF GOD IN ALL LIVING BEINGS
O Arjuna, I am the Supreme Spirit (or Supersoul) abiding in the inner psyche of all beings as soul (Atma). I am also the creator, maintainer, and destroyer --- or the beginning, the middle, and the end --- of all beings. (10.20)
The Spirit in the body is the witness, the guide, the supporter, the enjoyer, the controller of all events, and also the Supreme Self. (13.22)
The Supreme Lord is seated in the inner psyche as consciousness of all beings. The Spirit within us is the divine guru. Outside teachers only help us in the beginning of the spiritual journey. The Divine Being within all of us is the real guru, and one must learn how to tune in with Him.
7) LUST IS THE ORIGIN OF ALL SIN
Arjuna said: O
Lord Krishna said: It is the lust, born out of passion, that becomes anger (when unfulfilled). Lust is insatiable and is a great devil. Know this as the enemy. (3.37)
Managing your wants with a proper frame of mind gives control over Lust, the passionate selfish desires for all material and sensual pleasures. Lust becomes anger if it is unfulfilled. When the attainment of fruits is hindered or interrupted, the intense desire for their achievement turns into fierce rage. Hence, the Lord says that lust and anger are two mighty enemies.
8) MIND IS THE BEST FRIEND AS WELL AS THE WORST ENEMY
One must elevate --- and not degrade --- oneself by one’s own mind. The mind alone is one’s friend, as well as one’s enemy. The mind is the friend of those who have control over it, and the mind acts like an enemy for those who do not control it. (6.05-06)
All spiritual practices are aimed towards the conquest of the mind. Guru Nanak said: “Master the mind, and you master the world.”
9) ATTACHMENTS AND AVERSIONS ARE MAJOR STUMBLING BLOCKS
Attachments and aversions for sense objects abide in the senses. One should not come under the control of these two because they are, indeed, two (major) stumbling blocks (on one’s path of perfection). (3.34)
'Attachment' may be defined as a very strong desire to experience sensual pleasures again and again. 'Aversion' is the strong dislike for the unpleasant. We can have desires with a proper frame of mind that gives us control over attachments and aversions. If we can manage our wants, most of the things we possess become dispensable rather than essential.
A disciplined person, enjoying sense objects with senses that are under control and free from attachments and aversions, attains tranquility. (2.64)
Real peace and happiness are achieved, not by sense gratification, but by sense control.
10) GOD IS THE MACROCOSM AND MAN IS THE MICROCOSM