Should we learn Bhagwaad Geeta in school


Eberhard Bärr, one of the most sought-after teachers of traditional Vedantic philosophy in German-speaking countries, will hold a BYO seminar on the philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita in Salzburg from August 2nd to 4th. To get you in the mood, we bring you a text by him that describes very well how the psychology of yoga can work for us people today. Equanimity and serenity are the key to self-awareness. Unintentional action and surrender pave the way there.

When faced with a problem and desperately looking for a solution to no avail, it makes sense to consider another method at some point. It's a change of perspective. You look at the situation that is burdening you from a different perspective, and lo and behold, possibilities suddenly open up that you could never have seen from the previous perspective.

The ancient wisdoms of India such as Patanjali's Yoga Sutra or the Bhagavad Gita are also referred to as darśana, which means, among other things, "view". So a different way of seeing myself and the world. Knowing this, my usual, everyday view is referred to as the egocentric view. As this term suggests, I am always the center and everything happens around me. People, objects, situations, sensations, thoughts and feelings - and I'm kind of the center of it all.

Usually I am not the conscious observer of everything that yoga actually wants to teach and experience, but I am eager and very personally occupied with everything that I perceive. This busy being, which becomes visible in the external actions, actually always happens in me and is called intention or karma. If this egocentric view is condensed, as with negative emotions, grief, worry, fear or even pride and arrogance, then this increases the intensity of the intentions and consequently also the intensity of all thought processes associated with them. If the centered view expands away from the center to a kind of more spatial view or perception, then this weakens the intensities of all mental and spiritual processes, or vṛtti in Sanskrit, as Patanjali describes in his Yoga Sutra.

Life means action and it would be unrealistic to renounce all actions in the name of yoga or spirituality, which would also have no real meaning, since the real action would continue to exist as an intention in secret. It therefore makes sense to change the aforementioned perspective, which then consequently also changes the intentions. Nowhere is this recommendation expressed more clearly than in the Indian wisdom text Bhagavad-Gita with the two models of Bhakti and Karma Yoga.

Devotionally do every work

and free from earthly desire,

whether the outcome is good or bad;

always maintain equanimity with yourself.

Bhagavad-Gita 2.48


Act without intention

In the dialogue between the disciple Arjuna and his teacher Krishna, Krishna tries to make clear to his disciple what it means to carry out an action without carrying it. What it means that I act externally, but do not claim the act for myself internally, neither in a negative nor in a positive way, i.e. neither stressed nor with pride or arrogance. I take the action practically and just do what is necessary or what the situation requires. That sounds very simple at first, and it actually is. But due to a very complicated, personal and emotional point of view, many upcoming actions in life appear to me by far not simple, but very complicated and complex. My point of view is then clouded by confusion and ambiguity.

Assuming that I exist alone and separate from everything as a center, I look for security, security, well-being and enjoyment and try to achieve a certain status in society, which is through a career, enrichment of knowledge, any kind of perfection or through accumulation of power is strived for. This view or attitude towards life creates very defined intentions, since the goals I strive for represent something very important or even existential to me. - Whereby existence is of course always right now and cannot be achieved or built up. The phrase “I have to build an existence” would sound very strange to a wise person, because I can't really build something that is already there.

This is also the crucial difference between the two main divisions of the four Vedas from India. These very old wisdom texts consist of the vast majority, the karma śāstra, the scriptures of actions, and the jñāna śāstra or the Vedanta, which means the end of the Vedas, where it is no longer about action but about knowledge. The first and largest part of the four Vedas is responsible for people who are convinced of their imperfection, feel that they are unfinished and would like to know what needs to be done in order to be completely or somehow finished. The first part of the Vedas is thus part of the more common view of many other cultures and religions, where my imperfection is, so to speak, attested to.

In Vedanta and especially in the Bhagavad-Gita, all intentional actions are questioned in the presentations of Bhakti and Karma-Yoga. Here the claim is made that I am perfect as I am. I cannot see this, let alone appreciate it, as I am involved with so many self-centered actions in the race for so many goals and ideals. According to this view, the problem does not lie in the goals not achieved, but solely in the ignorance of my true nature. And this ignorance is seen as the only cause of suffering. This kind of ignorance about myself is called avidyā.

It is actually just this ignorance that drives me into so many deliberate actions and shows up in me as rush and stress. And so Krishna starts at exactly this point in his teaching to Arjuna, who is under tremendous stress: The way in which I act. It gives him the opportunity not to claim an action for himself, but to hand it over. This giving is surrender. It is not a surrender to a guru, an image of God, or anything outside of me. It is a surrender that arises from clarity. A clarity that every self-centered, deliberate act plunges me more and more into an ocean of mental entanglements and dependencies. It is the clarity that every piece of wisdom tries to keep before my eyes.

In the teaching of Karma Yoga, a completely situational and practical type of action is recommended. To the best of my knowledge and belief, I do what my job is by learning to deal with every situation mindfully and wholeheartedly, without being distracted by an erratic mind. I act and plan practically for the future. But the future, which only exists in the form of thoughts in my head, does not occupy me and does not create its own reality, which means that I no longer have anything to do with the actual reality, whatever is in the now. This means that I learn to do a task without caring personally, as caring leads to grief.

Develop equanimity

This teaching of Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita is expressed very clearly in verse 48 in the second chapter: “Devotionally do every work, and free from earthly desire, whether the outcome is good or bad; always maintain equanimity. ”To act devotedly means to identify with an action neither inferior nor arrogant, but to carry it out practically as a task. "Earthly desires" are all the intentions with which I use the people, objects and situations in the world in order to achieve my fulfillment in life, or in other words to free myself from the feeling of being unfulfilled. But since this unfulfilled being can never be removed from the outside, Krishna would like to point out the unintentional, spontaneous and situational action, which he deepens even more deeply in his teachings. It is a type of action that can be classified in the broadest sense in the intuition category or in the analogy of a river.

In the second part of this verse, Krishna goes into the results of the actions, which sometimes come about as I strive for or have wished for, and sometimes not. And here we also find a direct connection to the very practical yoga of Patanjali, which is about relaxation and equanimity. If the results come as expected as praise, success or reward, then I maintain equanimity and do not allow myself to be overwhelmed by pride or arrogance. And if the consequences of my actions should appear as criticism, defeat or loss, I also maintain equanimity and thus clarity and do not let myself fall into feelings of inferiority and fear of failure.

We are trained and conditioned to identify emotionally and sentimentally with success or failure, what we experience all around us. - In many films and stories that we see, read or hear and are exemplified. This tears me inwardly - also in constant comparison to other people - between the arrogance and inferiority complexes. I am really sometimes the superman and saint and sometimes the useless person who sees himself on the losing side. Clarity and knowledge means to recognize that these are just identifications with constantly changing situations in life and say nothing about what I really am beyond all these situations.

In order to get in contact with this reality of myself again, an inner, alert calm is required, which I learn under the ideal conditions of yoga practice and meditation and a certain attitude and attitude in daily activities. It is the attitude of gratitude for all that I have achieved success in life without claiming it for myself. A statement or inner attitude like: "I built it all up with my own hands." Arises from the egocentric point of view, from which the claim for recognition, thanks and homage follows. In further chain this leads to injuries, jealousy or violence. If you take a closer look at success, it should become clear that I've just been lucky so far, because at any second something can happen that turns my life in a completely different direction. Gratitude is the easiest way to give in without losing value in the past.

If the opposite happens, the result of my actions is unwelcome and I experience failure, I identify myself as a failure or arrogance and pride prevail and I literally blame God and the world for the failure. Here, too, it does not need to be mentioned further what negative consequences all this will have.

How tense or tension-free my life is, especially in the interpersonal area, is determined by the attitude or inner attitude towards life or the world. I usually don't check this attitude or perspective in myself because I am intensely and constantly occupied with the outside.

The ancient wisdom writings are a wonderful means for pausing in the flow of actions and thoughts and for reflecting on myself. All of these texts do not claim more than to be a means that should be used and not worshiped. It is a means of eliminating what really stands between me and my happiness. In the egocentric perspective, I believe that there is so much between me and my happiness, and therefore I go through the world with many personal intentions in order to constantly change and manipulate everything in such a way that it finally fits for me at some point. It's a bottomless pit. It is only when I gradually notice this that knowledge of this kind becomes interesting to me.

From acting to watching

With this increasing understanding, my list of priorities will change from acting deliberately to watching attentively. Krishna expresses this in the following verse 49 in the second chapter: "Exalted above all activity, knowledge remains forever, in which knowledge seeks protection, is despicable who pursues wage seeking." Here knowledge is given more value than any noble person and noble act, which nevertheless always arises from a very personal intention. Everyone only means well from a subjective point of view. Even a violent dictator subjectively believes he is doing the right thing with his insane ideas. How many people in history were killed in the name of God, that is, in the name of good, freedom or democracy? Behind all destructive forces there are always so-called good intentions with their craziest ideologies, since the human intellect can ultimately justify every act somehow.

It is these intentions in me that are very carefully considered and examined in the wisdom writings. I can never know someone else's intentions, even if I've lived with him or her for 50 years. And getting to know my own intentions requires a lot of calm and clarity, which yoga helps me to achieve. When I become aware of these intentions and thus my self-centered view, I am really making use of the freedom that I have as a conscious being. Then I can recognize this strange game of the ego that the wisdom texts talk about. And then I no longer seek protection or security in anything that I have to build up for myself, but as the Bhagavad-Gita describes it, I find protection in knowledge. With this increasing awareness my actions become natural and depending on the situation practical and the attitude of devotion to all life arises from a simple inner clarity. This is a purely internal process and at the same time the best contribution to a more peaceful coexistence with all beings in this world.

Eberhard Bärr was trained as a yoga teacher in India at the Vivekananda Institute in Bangalore. He spent ten years with his teacher Sukumar in South India and held seminars with him there and in Europe. He has been leading spiritual journeys for many years, regularly gives seminars in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and works as a speaker in yoga teacher training. More about this on his website




Bhagavad Gita, Eberhard Bärr