adveṣṭā sarva-bhūtānāṁ maitraḥ karuṇa eva ca
nirmamo nirahaṅkāraḥ sama-duḥkha-sukhaḥ kṣamī
अद्वेष्टा सर्वभूतानां मैत्र: करुण एव च ।
निर्ममो निरहङ्कार: समदु:खसुख: क्षमी ॥ १३ ॥
The Bhagavad Gita, a sacred text of Hindu philosophy, is a profound scripture that imparts timeless wisdom on various aspects of life, including spirituality, morality, duty, and self-realization. Under the various teachings three are most dominant, the teachings of Karma Yoga (selfless service), Dhyana Yoga (meditation) and Bhakti Yoga (devotion).
The entire text is 18 chapters long and contains 700 verses and while every verse has meaning and can provide deep insight into the human experience, shloka 12.13 holds a significant message about the different forms of practice.
“He who is not hateful towards any being, who is friendly and compassionate, who has no egoism and possessiveness, and who is the same in pain and pleasure, and forgiving, that devotee of Mine is dear to Me.”
This verse is Kṛṣṇa replying to his student Arjuna when asked about the qualities of a true yogi. The response above emphasizes the importance of cultivating positive virtues and qualities in one’s character, which are essential for the path of yoga.
One of the key teachings of Bhagavad Gita is the concept of universal love and compassion. It emphasizes that one should not harbor hatred or ill-will towards any being. Instead, we should cultivate a sense of friendliness (maitrī) and compassion (karuṇā) towards all, irrespective of differences in caste, faith, nationality, or species. This teaching promotes inclusivity, tolerance, and respect for all beings, and seeing their lives as more important than our desires, aligning with the fundamental Hindu principle of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” – the world is one family.
The importance of humility and selflessness are key pillars in most spiritual traditions and make for great character traits to develop within ourselves. Both humility and selflessness teach that a true yoga practitioner should not have egoism or possessiveness, which are often barriers to spiritual growth. Instead, we should cultivate humility, and try to recognise that we are but a tiny part of a larger cosmic order and not separate from it. From selflessness we start to harness the virtue of detachment (vairāgya), especially from material possessions. We all know that the latest iphone, buying our tenth pair of shoes and hoarding a thousand rolls of toilet paper might make us feel instantly satisfied but provide no true eternal peace and happiness. Instead our time, effort and priorities can be far more long lasting with a focus on spiritual and moral values.
So how do we balance this detachment from worldly possessions on the search for peace and happiness? In this verse the Bhagavad Gita leads us to the concept of equanimity. Establishing a mind that remains equanimous in the face of pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow, success and failure. This teaching emphasizes the importance of maintaining inner stability, mental balance, and emotional resilience in the midst of life’s challenges and changes. It promotes a mature and balanced outlook towards life, enabling one to navigate through its ups and downs with grace and stability. We’ve all said the words ‘I’ve got nothing to wear’ whilst looking at a closet full of clothes, maybe even getting to the point of frustration or embarrassment when really the frustration is coming from an agitated mind and perhaps feeling ungraceful if (oh no) we wear the same outfit more than once!
The shloka also emphasizes the virtue of patients (kṣhamī- forgiveness or patience). Cultivating patience, the ability to endure and persevere in the face of difficulties and adversities is probably one of the most important aspects of yogic teachings. Patience specifically has always had been a jewel in my personal life and helped me through many uncertainties of both inner and outer conflicts. The importance of developing mental and emotional fortitude, resilience and perseverance if one is to establish oneself more in spiritual and moral ideals can not be highlighted enough. Through sitting still and watching the breath, allowing all things to be for a short while, we cultivate acceptance and resilience toward physical and mental difficulties in life.
The teachings of the Bhagavad Gita are highly relevant in today’s world. In a world that is increasingly divisive, intolerant, and egoistic, the message of universal love, compassion, loving kindness, humility, and equanimity can inspire people around us to create harmonious relationships, promote inclusivity, and work towards the common good. The teachings of detachment from material possessions, and the cultivation of spiritual values can help us develop a more balanced and purposeful life, free from excessive materialism and selfish pursuits which keep us in a never ending circle of consumption and cravings. The virtues of patience, resilience, and perseverance can inspire others around us to face life’s challenges with inner strength and determination, helping them swim through difficult times with grace and dignity, to swim through life with ease. We all are but a school of fish swimming in the river of existence. It’s up to us whether we make it conscious and meaningful and be one of hundreds, thousands or even millions that care for other beings besides ourselves. To be like a caregiver in the river of life and lookout for one another, seeing all beings as part of one family, no matter the race, shape or colour, profession or faith, whether furry or feathery, scales or skin.
– Dean Galip