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How the Unexpected Reveals the Unknown

By: for gitadaily.com on July 30, 2020
Opinion

Bhagavad-gita 1.39

Suppose someone is driving on a straight, smooth road. They might seem to be a good driver, but how good they are will become better evident when they encounter something unexpected such as sudden bumps or sharp turns. 

Similarly, when the road of our life is smooth, we might be gentle and kind with others, but suppose we encounter the unexpected: say, the news that someone we trust has betrayed us. We may naturally feel hurt, angry, even devastated. What we do thereafter will reveal the behavioral boundaries that are inviolable for us — boundaries that don’t become known in our normal conduct.

Consider how different people may respond to betrayal. Some people may walk away, but won’t speak harshly about the betrayer; some may speak harshly, but not use swear words; some may use foul language, but not use their fists; some may use fists, but not weapons; some may use weapons, but not seek to kill; some may even seek to kill. 

At the start of the Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna encountered the unexpected: the harrowing reality that he was about to fight till death his venerable elders such as his grandsire and his martial teacher. He felt overwhelmed by fear. Significantly, what he feared was not death, but wrongdoing. Indeed, while explaining in the Gita’s first chapter why he didn’t want to fight, the boundary that he deems inviolable centers on dharma (01.39). His unwillingness to transgress dharma reveals his profoundly virtuous nature. Overall, this first chapter reveals Arjuna’s qualification for receiving the knowledge of timeless wisdom that is the Gita. 

Just as the unexpected revealed Arjuna’s character, and by the Gita’s guidance, took him toward healthy choices, Gita wisdom can guide us wisely when we too encounter the unexpected. 

One-sentence summary:

See encounters with the unexpected externally as opportunities to discover the unknown internally.

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[ bhagavad-gita ] [ gita ] [ unknown ] [ wisdom ]
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