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Truth Beyond DespairThe Path of Selfless ServiceThe Path of MeditationThe Path of DevotionThe Path of Wisdom

Bhagavad Gita/Truth Beyond Despair

Meditation and Reading taken from The Bhagavad Gita, trans. Eknath Easwaran
All other text is by Cynthia Stewart

Today's Themes

Arjuna approaches a battle in which his cause is righteous, and he is never a man to back down from a fight. But when he sees his kinsmen and teachers arrayed on the other side of the battlefield his resolve breaks down. Now it is not just a matter of honor, for he knows that many of those on the other side are men of honor as well; and without a belief in the moral superiority not only of his cause but also of his companions, Arjuna is left with the stark knowledge that he is about to try to kill those who deserve his love and respect. He falls into despair and seeks Krishna’s guidance.

Rather than discussing the merits of the two sides in the battle, Krishna tells Arjuna to open his eyes and recognize a truth that goes much deeper than either morality or human emotion can reach: that the death he so fears to deal to his kinsmen is unreal. In truth all the combatants are immortal, with bodies and personalities being assumed and shed as easily as one puts on and takes off clothing. In his response to Arjuna, Krishna points not to a reality lying below the unreality of the world, but rather to a dual reality where one must act with purpose within the material world while at the same time understanding that all beings within that material world also and always live beyond it. He gives a metaphysical answer to a very pragmatic question, taking Arjuna on a journey of discovery far beyond what he had requested.

Words used in this session:
Arjuna – the warrior prince who must fight the army led by his cousins in order to establish his father’s right to the ancestral throne.
Krishna – Arjuna’s charioteer who reveals himself later in the Gita as the Source of all creation

Call To Worship

“Fight the good fight”, we are told.
But sometimes even the good fight seems more than we can bear.

If you come here today with your will bruised and your courage battered,
     know that you are not alone.
If the work of justice or the demands of illness or the care of a loved one or the strain of a life stretched thin make you feel as though you are falling down,
     know that we will help you stand back up.

This is what real love is.
This is what good community is.
This is what true worship is.


How can I ever bring myself to fight against [my kinsmen], who are worthy of reverence? How can I, Krishna? Surely it would be better to spend my life begging than to kill these great and worthy souls! If I killed them, every pleasure I found would be tainted. I don’t even know which would be better, for us to conquer them or for them to conquer us. [These kinsmen] have confronted us; but why would we care to live if we killed them?

My will is paralyzed, and I am utterly confused. Tell me which is the better path for me. Let me be your disciple. I have fallen at your feet; give me instruction. What can overcome a sorrow that saps all my vitality? Even power over men and gods or the wealth of an empire seems empty…Oh Krishna, I will not fight.

Chapter 2.4-9


As they stood between the two armies, Sri Krishna smiled and replied to Arjuna, who had sunk in despair. “You speak sincerely, but your sorrow has no cause. The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead. There has never been a time when you and I and the kings gathered here have not existed, nor will there be a time when we will cease to exist. As the same person inhabits the body through childhood, youth, and old age, so too at the time of death he attains another body. The wise are not deluded by these changes…

“One man believes he is the slayer, another believes he is the slain. Both are ignorant; there is neither slayer nor slain. You were never born; you will never die. You have never changed; you can never change. Unborn, eternal, immutable, immemorial, you do not die when the body dies. Realizing that which is indestructible, eternal, unborn, and unchanging, how can you slay or cause another to slay?”

Chapter 2:10-13, 19-21


“You were never born,” says Krishna, “you will never die.”
But still, you must choose to live.
Let devotion, not despair, be your guide.
Let engagement, not indifference, be your action.
Choose to live in devotion to your truth and engagement with your cause
until we choose to come together again.

          OM shanti shanti shanti