O Arjuna! I will now impart to you the royal secret and knowledge which having known you shall be free from the sorrows of life.– Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita Chapter 9
Those who have visited the Grand Canyon in Arizona could not have failed to notice how the majestic grandeur of the canyon presents itself suddenly, as one walks from the humdrum parking lot to that final little climb that brings you face-to-face with this one mile deep yawning chasm before your unbelieving eyes. The ‘royal secret’ that Krishna talks about in the Bhagavad Gita, an eternally profound spiritual dialogue, lies dormant within us till we climb that last hill beyond our prejudiced and muddied minds to see its grandeur and freedom evoking presence. We are here talking about something EACH ONE OF US can achieve. Maybe you can never become a Babe Ruth or Albert Einstein, but this royal secret can be yours if you desire it deeply and work towards it.
In this 3-part series, I will try to layout the systematic path taught since millennia by the great scriptures and teachers. To be successful in this endeavor we need to read and listen to everything without bias or prejudice because you do not know where the mallet that will ring the ‘Aha’ gong for you is located. It could be in a single verse of the Bhagavad Gita or Ishavasya Upanishad or a statement of a Zen teacher or a profound quote of Rumi or Hafez. So, march ahead and explore. A beautiful path awaits you.
In this media-driven world, we keep encountering profound quotes and other pithy sayings but for most people, it sticks on for some time and then disappears after the individual forwards it to twenty other people. Why do such messages not transform us and actually change our lives for the better? The great saint and teacher Swami Chinmayananda used to ask his audience, “You went through the Bhagavad Gita, but did the Bhagavad Gita go through you?” Indeed, all these teachings of our sacred scriptures are useless if after studying and listening to them for years we continue to live a life grounded in mundane pursuits, bereft of contentment. What exactly is missing then? That is why Krishna uses the term ‘royal secret.’ It’s right in front of us but we cannot see it. What we need is a twist of our inner perception like that deceiving picture that someone sends you on WhatsApp asking you to find an elephant hidden in the picture and you realize you need that little twist of your vision to notice it. But once you see it you do not lose it again.
The first secret: Your body is a walking miracle
In my yoga classes, I make people do a warm-up where you raise your arms in the air with inhalation and then bring it down the sides synchronizing the movement with the exhalation. All with eyes closed. Sometimes I would ask them, “While bringing down the arm could you sense the angle your arm was at, at every position?” The answer always would be ‘yes.’ Just think about that for a minute. Your arm is equipped with an angle measuring device without any jazzy electronic chips and directional detectors! And it is not just your arm, you know the spatial position of your WHOLE body at any time without actually making any measurements. There is even a biological term for that: proprioception. And know this that one can lose this faculty (see references below). You can have your dinner and immediately fall asleep in some contorted position, but your food still digests properly. Your glands still secrete the juices required for digestion even though gravity may have reversed on them and they may be squeezed by surrounding organs. It is as if someone, while designing you, thought of all possible ‘use-cases,’ to use a term from software development. If you don’t consider that a miracle of design, then I don’t know what more to say.
Let me try once more. I saw this in a TED talk. A large portion of our outer body is made of collagen, a fibrous protein that provides strength and flexibility to the body structure. But by some inscrutable process when collagen forms the cornea, the only transparent part in your whole body, the collagen fibers align themselves in a structure ‘arranged with a high degree of lateral order’ (as described in medical literature). If anyone is still not overawed I’ll just let Rumi say it, “Sell your cleverness and purchase bewilderment.” You are a walking miracle. Don’t just understand it, experience it through practices that the ancient scriptures describe.
The frog and the centipede
A frog saw a centipede walking in the forest, stopped him, and asked, “Mr. Centipede, how do you walk with a hundred legs? How do you know which leg to put forward and which backward? It dazzles me.” The centipede thought for a moment and replied, “You know what Mr. Frog, I really don’t know how I do it. I just walk and it happens by itself.” The frog was not completely happy with the answer but went his way nevertheless. The next day the frog saw the centipede again. This time the centipede was angry, “Mr. Frog why did you have to ask me that question? Now I keep tripping every ten seconds.” In real life, a centipede never faces this problem even if several of his legs are broken because he lives in complete resonance with his creator. It’s all in the mind. If you make the mind your servant instead of a master, your life will also flow beautifully. We’ll examine this subject of mind in the next part of this series this time next week.
Sacks, Oliver. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a hat. Touchstone, 1998
Rajan Narayanaswamy is a featured author in The Wellness Universe Guide to Complete Self-Care, 25 Tools for Stress Relief. Learn more about this book by joining our Book Club
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