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Vishad-yoga: An art of crisis management PDF Print E-mail
Gita - Gita Articles

Bhagvadgita is unique in many respects. One of them is the ending of each chapter. We are used to giving a title to topics that is subject of discussion similar to one that I have done here. The title gives some clue as to what the content is going to be.

 

 

The Gita does this at the end of each topic as to what has been the content there in. At the end of each chapter, there is a descriptive ending of the chapter and each chapter ends in some form of yoga e.g. Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga etc. All of these endings have other parts in common including the fact that they are all conversations between Krishna and Arjuna (Krishnarjuna samvade). The first chapter ends with the title of Arjuna’s vishadyoga. The closest English word to vishad is despair. Depression and crisis come close too.

Krishna has not spoken a single word in the first chapter. And still the Gita calls it a dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna. It is so very interesting that only Arjuna talks and it is called a dialogue and not a monologue. How does Krishna’s presence make it a dialogue? There are two things that come to mind. First, Arjuna is in despair; some sort of crisis has happened, but there is some sort of reassurance that Krishna can make it right. Arjuna has this trust in Krishna that he will guide him to the right path. Arjuna is in a dilemma, but he believes that he will get the right directions from Krishna. This deep trust allows Arjuna to express and act fully out of the core of his being. If some one else was in his company, things might have been totally different.

Second issue has to do with how Krishna listens to what Arjuna has to say. We are not aware of a total attention and being totally with a person. When Krishna is listening to Arjuna, Krishna’s total being is present and attentive. This point has to be mulled over. Most of us do five things at a time, and we feel proud of this quality. But, then we are not able to give total attention to any one person. If you have been in the company of an authentic Guru, you might have felt this phenomenon. Even for one moment, if the presence is total, the effects are astounding. Words do not mean much in these situations. When Vivekananda goes to Ram Krishna enquiring about God, it is this total cosmic presence of Ram Krishna that sends Vivekananda in a trans. So, it appears that all the talk is coming from Arjuna, but Krishna’s total presence is affecting every word he is speaking. And that is why this chapter like every other chapter of Gita is a dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna.

What I find more interesting is the fact that vishad can be a yoga. Really, can vishad, despair, depression and crisis be yoga? Let us first analyze what yoga means. Classically yoga means union. You get different answers as to what unites with what depending on whom you talk to. So, I am going to be a little innovative here about that. You do not have to agree with what I am going to conjecture. We all know that different words are used in different times and that Sanskrit words usually have composite meanings. The Sanskrit language has words that are like rainbow. Words like Dharma, yoga, purna are some of them. Today we use the words like management, growth, centering for what they used the word yoga in the past. There are zillion of growth programs going on for stress management, relaxation and growth and what not. Yoga believes that there is no growth without centering, and management is a byproduct of a centering growth. In our previous column we have discussed how if a being moves towards the center, it also goes higher on the vertical plane. When one grows on these two planes as described, it has to reflect in what they do outside. Yoga does not talk about performance, it does not talk about quality improvement and it does not address how to reduce stress. It is not because yoga does not believe in these things. Yoga does not address these because it knows that if you address the being, and the state of being changes then the performance of the being will also change. The quality will also improve and stress will not need to be managed; there will be no stress.

Now, our question comes back. Can vishad be yoga? The more I think of it the more I feel that perhaps this is the best way to manage a crisis. If you really look at the situation at the end of chapter I, it is quite dismal. There is a crisis inside of a crisis. War is a crisis itself. The Pandavas and the Kauravas are at the beginning of a war. The formalities have been completed. The war has been declared by blowing of the concshells. And, Arjuna goes numb. He does not want to fight. He has put down his bow and is prepared to die if that comes of it. How bad can it get? And the Bhagvadgita says it is a yoga.

What makes it yoga? The view that Gita is presenting here is that every crisis has a hidden opportunity for growth. A crisis has occurred. If you have come across a crisis, you can relate to it as well. And who has not had a crisis of some sort or the other. Let us start with a simple example. We were going on a vacation to the Caribbean. The destination was St. Johns. The flight from Boston was late and we got to St. Thomas at around 7 p.m. Our luggage did not make it. After completing the formalities, we took a cab and went to the other side of the island to catch a ferry to cross to St. Johns. We ttok some snacks and went on the ferry. All this time I was trying to figure out where our hotel was on the St. Johns Island. No body seemed to know of the name. Yet here we were about to cross and find the place. The others in the family, my wife Lekha, son Amit and daughter Nivedita were busy working at the snacks. Every one was so tired. It suddenly dawned on me that we may be on the wrong island, and so we were. We were supposed to be on St. Johns in Antigua. Once I broke this news, there was a panic. What, are we on the wrong island? was the question that came from every one. But it was true. Suddenly every one had more energy and we all started working on what we can make of the situation. We ended up having a great vacation on St. Thomas. It was a minor crisis. But the noticeable point was the response, support and energy that a crisis can create.

We all know what happened recently in the Kargil was between India and Pakistan. As if India woke up. Yes a crisis does create opportunities, and here although the situation at the end of the first chapter looks dismal, the writer sees a tremendous opportunity for Arjuna. Arjuna is in a state of being as low as it can get for him. He is shaking, he can’t hold on to his bow, but his receptivity is heightened. His awareness is razor sharp. And above all, all this is happening in the presence of Krishna’s divine presence. Arjuna has the choice of giving up or prepares himself for the battle. He is in a dilemma. These are not theoretical discussions. This is real life. Things are right in his face. He knows what the rest of the world was expecting of him. He had the hero image. He could not just quit. His awareness is heightened, his readiness is still present and a fresh look is possible. Arjuna is fully ready for a Kranti (revolution) to happen.

What happens in any crisis is that the comfort zone is lost. I have a friend and I was talking to him recently. He was thirteen years old when his father died. Father was a successful lawyer and did leave behind means to take care of his family. But his absence created a crisis. My friend was saying how they had a totally different level of awareness for several years that was so much needed to deal with that crisis. The comfort zone was lost. There was no father figure for him and his brothers. Crisis is not hard to find. It happens all around us. Sometimes it is a car accident and sometimes it is death in the family. Sometimes one is fired from a job and sometimes a business goes bankrupt. We live and die through multitude of crisis situations. And if you remember this first chapter of Gita, then it is possible to see the opportunities and means for growth. There are some sadhus and tapaswis that try to create a situation of crisis to have an increased awareness. Fasting is a simple technique. When you are hungry, some parts of your body become more aware. If you lie down on a bed of thorns, your total body awareness is heightened.

Yes, vishad can be an opportunity for growth. And this can only happen if you can keep your awareness and alertness fully ready. Normally, when a crisis happens, we loose our mind and create another crisis and so on. Why me? What did I do wrong in my past life? God is angry with me. If we can get past these approaches, then anything is possible. Even sky is not the limit. If you can keep your cool and deal with the crisis as a situation and not as a problem, vishad can lead to yoga, it can become the path to wards the center. Crisis is a situation. Crisis is easy to find and it can bring kranti in ones life.

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