April 7, 2017: Reading the Bhagavad Gita in the Age of Trump

MARCH 6, 2017, BHAGAVAD GITA TALK #5: WHEN A MAN GIVES UP ALL DESIRES THAT EMERGE FROM THE MIND, AND RESTS CONTENTED IN THE SELF, BY THE SELF, HE IS CALLED A MAN OF FIRM WISDOM. [2.55]

Steady Wisdom3

It’s been a dizzying week in the Age of Trump. Kushner up, Bannon down. Gorsuch in, filibuster out. Nunes falls, Conaway rises. Not to mention North Korea, China,  Syria, and Russia. I started writing this post last night, concerned that with Trump’s approval numbers plummeting, he’d be looking for a war. But I never thought he’d move so quickly. I tend to keep a pretty cool head, but honestly, when I saw the news last night my heart stood still. I have not agreed with American policy regarding the nightmare in Syria, but starting World War III is not the solution…

Which brings me back to the Bhagavad Gita’s teachings around stitha prajna, what I’ve always referred to as “steady wisdom.” Mitchell translates stitha prajna as “firm wisdom” and since we’re using his translation, I’ll defer to that language. First though, let’s have a look at the Gita’s succinct definition of what firm wisdom is not:

If a man keeps dwelling on sense-objects, attachment to them arises; from attachment, desire flares up; from desire, anger is born; from anger, confusion follows; from confusion, weakness of memory; weak memory—weak understanding; weak understanding—ruin. [2.62-63]

Needless to say, this pathology is perfectly embodied in Trump and his administration. And what can we do in the presence of rampant delusion and cruelty but keep pushing back. Arm ourselves with stitha prajna and as Krishna instructs Arjuna at the beginning of the Gita, stand up and fight…

When a man gives up all desires
that emerge from the mind, and rests
contented in the Self by the Self,
he is called a man of firm wisdom. [2.55]

Though the unwise cling to their actions,
watching for results, the wise
are free of attachments and act
for the well-being of the whole world. [3.25]

Cultivating stitha prajna is the work of a lifetime. And it certainly requires focused committed inner work alongside focused committed outer work. But every time we push deeper inside ourselves, unravelling the knots of psycho/emotional wounding and clearing the debris of the past, we create more space for our innate stitha prajna, our steady wisdom, to breathe. And that is a great and noble weapon. Every exhalation sends a flare of sanity into the world.

Here’s my dharma talk from March 6.

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