“Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the nonexistent [the material body] there is no endurance and of the eternal [the soul] there is no change. This they have concluded by studying the nature of both.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.16)
नासतो विद्यते भावो नाभावो विद्यते सतः ।
उभयोरपि दृष्टोऽन्तस्त्वनयोस्तत्त्वदर्शिभिः ॥
nāsato vidyate bhāvo
nābhāvo vidyate sataḥ
ubhayor api dṛṣṭo ’ntas
tv anayos tattva-darśibhiḥ
“Have you ever met someone who is never happy? No matter what is going on, there is this intense longing for something. I guess the Sanskrit word kankshati applies. Never-ending hankering. I want this. I want that.
“When they are young, they want to find someone to marry. After they are married, they need a suitable house to live in. After settling into a job somewhere, they want more money. They want to improve the situation at home. If they only get a few more dollars, everything will be alright.
“But I know it won’t be. They will simply ask for more. They will continue to be miserable. I don’t mean to single anyone out on this. I guess every person has this flaw inside of them. It just seems that some people are more vulnerable to it than others.
“What should the advice be to such people? Most of the time the things they want seem reasonable. If you tell them the truth, that they will still be unhappy, after the fact, they will not take too kindly to that line of reasoning. They are looking for practical solutions, not high philosophy.”
One could say that Bhagavad-gita has a similar dilemma at the foundation. There is the person with a problem. That person wants something. They want it so bad that they are willing to step aside from their job in order to get it.
It doesn’t matter that thousands of others are depending on them. There is little thought given to the extensive leadup, how so many prepared for this final moment. It was a culmination of sorts, but this person was still ready to toss everything aside.
The justification was that he would be happier in quitting. He would then avoid getting blood on his hands. The meaning was literal. The job was noble warrior in an army. The consequences were control over a kingdom.
Arjuna thought that if only he dropped his weapons, everything would be alright. No lives would be lost. The rival party, the Kauravas, would maintain control. The status quo would extend indefinitely. Arjuna and his brothers were already accustomed to the hardships stemming from the illegal occupation of their land. There would be nothing new to the experience.
There is a quote attributed to Martha Washington, the wife of the first President of the United States. Found in one of her letters, the former first lady remarks that happiness and misery tend to depend more on disposition than circumstances. This is her feeling based on experience.
Shri Krishna presented a similar principle in response to Arjuna’s proposal, except with reference to those who have seen the truth. The tattva-darshis recognize that there is nothing lasting to the nonexistent. This refers to the material covering. There is no permanent stay within the body, for instance.
If Arjuna was concerned with maintaining the status quo, it was a foolish proposition. The status quo never remains indefinitely. Night ends the day. The morning sun dissipates the darkness. The young become old. The healthy become sick. The honored become dishonored. The prominent become obscure.
To wrap everything together, the alive become dead. Krishna instructed that a wise person should learn to tolerate the circumstances, in the way of experiencing the changing of seasons. Just a few months ago I was enjoying the heat of summer, visiting the beach and swimming in the ocean. Today, I am cleaning the multi-colored leaves that have fallen to the grass. In a few weeks, I will have to wear a heavier coat when travelling outside.
The circumstances change but the disposition does not have to. As the existent has a steadiness, so the individual who is that existence should be steady in both gain and loss. High or low, wealthy or poor, winning or losing, there is no reason to be so affected by the changes, which are constant.
This accompanies the foundational teaching of the spiritual science known as Vedanta. The individual is spirit soul. The individual is not the body. To be so concerned with the body is not wise. To focus on the spirit in a conscious way, to be always aware of the distinction, to know the everlasting nature of an existence itself is real knowledge.
Wanting circumstances to change,
That properly to arrange.
Then for sure happiness to see,
Since settled in desires to be.
But truth that disposition to make,
Take from wise spiritually awake.
Accepting knowledge from Krishna who,
Steady the many changes through.