"Vedanta considers the highest achievement he who is happy by himself, with himself."
Vedanta is a name for the wisdom contained in the end portion of the Vedas, the most ancient body of scriptural and religious knowledge known to humankind. His teaching from chapter two of the Bhagavad Gita seems simple: If in my perception, I am acceptable; I am happy. If in my perception, I am unacceptable; I am unhappy. The key to lasting happiness is to gracefully accept our true selves. Then, also to gracefully accept others as their true selves, and to make no demands upon anybody. Plus, gracefully accepting the circumstances of life, without expectations.
He used an example. If the littlest thing makes you uncomfortable, what good is that? If it's too hot, I'm uncomfortable. Too cold, uncomfortable. If there's too much salt, I'm uncomfortable. Or too little salt! This means that you are empowering the salt to make you unhappy. Or perhaps you are empowering another person to make you feel unhappy or disappointed.
These Gita classes hold such profound knowledge. So I am starting the experiment, to gracefully accept what is. In the Gita, Krishna teaches Arjuna that the battle he faces is not undesirable, it is his perception of the battle that causes him sorrow. Krishna teaches that we need to have a mind that is comfortable with what is. But, how is this possible?
Swamiji said the way is to consider everything as "prasada" - blessings from the Lord (or God, or Universe, or use your own word). Desirable or undesirable, we must treat each thing that comes our way equally, as a blessing. If we win a prize, treat it as a blessing. If our car's transmission dies on the side of the highway, treat it as a blessing. If our child succeeds in school, blessing. If we are diagnosed with an illness, also blessing. It might be simple, but this is certainly not easy!
It requires personal transformation, it requires study, knowledge, and practice (Swamiji compares it to ripening of a fruit). That's because the ultimate problem is ignorance. Ignorance of what? Of the truth that each one of us is acceptable, lovable, as we are. Yes, without the trophies, promotions, white picket fence, and fancy car. Even without the constant striving to achieve more, to make the grade, to be a better person.
As we start to control the habitual reaction of the mind, and to stop instantly rejecting something we do not like, we start to see the sameness in things, the thread that runs through all things. This is yoga. Here's a primer:
- When something arises in your life (or in meditation), start by using a 2-step response. Pause before you reject something.
- By pausing, you realize how your constant demands and expectations (your likes and dislikes) actually restrain you.
- Practice gracefully accepting what is as prasada, as a blessing.
- Practice gracefully accepting each person, their values and their vices. Start with those closest to you.
I'll leave you to ponder this thought shared in the Gita class:
Our perception to what the world gives us, changes our response to the world.