Chapter 3

Awareness and Devotion

There are two general methods for the divine illustrated in the Bhagavad Gita.
One is the path of awareness, of meditation.
The other is the path of devotion, of love.

Before you can understand what these are, you must first understand what they are not, and what is not a path.

First, it is not a path to attempt to renounce action.
Trying to be an ascetic, to create a false discipline in yourself, is not going to help.
Because the source of your misery is not in your actions but in the attachments that cause them.

You might be obsessed with making money, and so you take a vow of poverty.
Does this mean that your lust for money will go away?
On the contrary, you will be even more obsessed.
You will constantly be thinking about it,and you will be struggling and resenting yourself for denying yourself access to this money.
You will act out, in other ways.
You may create other, even more unhealthy lusts to replace your need for money.
Either that, or you will simply give up your vow eventually, and begin seeking money again.
They you will feel guilty and weak.

But the problem was never your pursuit in the first place.
It was your attachment, your desire.
Renouncing the actions will not help, only renouncing your attachment, coming to understand the fruitlessness of it will help.

You will always have to take actions of various sorts.
And inevitably, these actions will sometimes put you in situations of pursuing your desires.
Then, to try to resist or fight those situations is pointless.
Instead, you can only free yourself by awareness when you come to accept whatever comes.
Our friend with the money obsession will only be able to find peace when he can welcome an environment where he is making money, and be absolutely equally welcoming to a situation where he will not be able to make money.
When he can see that being rich or poor are equally valuable, then he will be free.

And remember, the way to do this is to be centered, 'united' the Gita calls it, no matter what situation you are in.
Regardless of what is going on around you, some kind of action will be demanded of you.
Even if the 'action' is to do nothing, that will still be a form of action.
The key is that in each action you must focus on that force that is behind the material world, that unchanging unity, the Mystery.
Then you can accept any situation equally, and perform any action with equal detachment.

This is what Krishna means by 'actions done for spiritual purposes'.
In some verses of the Gita, Krishna speaks of how, 'in ancient times' the God Brahma taught that all manner of good things will come from these spiritual actions.
What is meant by this is that the more ancient Vedic cultures of India had taught this method of awareness, and knew that it led to wellbeing and a positive society.
But by Krishna's time already those old Vedic teachings had been corrupted into the dogmas of what Krishna called the 'false religionists'.
The real essence of the technique had been replaced with a dry, dead series of rules, and so Krishna had to once more restore the living essence to the dead teachings.

The other technique that Krishna wished to restore was the technique of devotion.
It too had degenerated into pointless ritual.
It is clear from what he says in the Gita that in Krishna's time there were rituals being performed, for food, for purification, for offerings to the 'spirits'.
But these rituals were being performed without any real essence.

The essence of devotion is to offer up your actions, to offer what you do and who you are, to the divine.
When you can experience gratitude, the feeling of joy that comes from being alive, and in that way feel that whatever is happening you will accept, then you can be free of the suffering that comes from attachment to your personality and lusts.
Ritual done with this real purpose will let you connect to the divine.

It is important to remember this, that all ritual is done with the ultimate purpose being devotion.
And a ritual done without this devotional attitude will lead to nothing.

On the other hand, when you capture that sense of devotion, then no ritual is truly needed.
Do not get hung up on particular forms, understand the function.
Understand that devotion is the purpose, not the ritual itself.
Ultimately, one who has understood devotion will know this, and will then perform devotional acts not for some ulterior purpose, but simply out of gratitude.
Even when they achieve, they can still show devotion, because these rituals will then be transformed into acts of gratitude.
Then their real beauty will come through, they will be completely alive, so alive that even those who witness these rituals can be transformed.

This is what Krishna means when he tells that Arjuna that even he practices devotion, and that if he didn't all the worlds would come into ruin.
It is because he can lead others, through his devotion, to achieving the unity he has.

But at the same time, Krishna warns Arjuna that there will be foolish or lazy people who will act out of their desires, who will not be devoted or grateful.
Of these he says "it is best not to disturb them".
What does this mean? 
First he says that you must help others, then he says you must not disturb them. 
But it is not a contradiction.

What Krishna means is that you cannot lead anyone to the Mystery.
You cannot save anyone or change anyone.
No one can.
You can only transform yourself. 
Thus, the best thing to do is practice devotion, and to let that be your effort to change the world. 
Let others see your devotion, let them see your gratitude, let them see your awareness, and let that be your evidence.
Let it be a torch.
Do not struggle to argue with them, or try to force them to see what you have seen, because that will only bring reactions to them.
Just by being, just by changing yourself, and by expressing yourself naturally, you can do the most good.
This is what Krishna means by 'human beings performing divine acts'.

When you can be human, it is a divine act.