“Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer, whatever you give, whatever austerities you perform, Arjuna, do that as an offering to me.”
The Bhagavadgita (Song of God;ca.150 BCE-250CE), now widely abbreviated as the Gita (Song), is a dialogue of 700 verses, arranged in eighteen chapters, between the teacher, Krishna, and his warrior-friend, Arjuna. It occurs on the eve of a great battle, in which Krishna consents to serve as the charioteer of Arjuna. Although his cause is a righteous one, the prospect of having to fight against his relatives and friends drains all enthusiasm from Arjuna and throws him into a moral crisis. Krishna urges Arjuna to fulfil his obligations as a warrior, but instructs him in the way of properly integrating spirituality into everyday actions. The authority of the Bhagavadgita is undoubtedly connected with the fact that Arjuna discovers Krishna to be none other than God, in one of God’s human incarnations.
This text speaks powerfully to us about the relationship between spiritual life and daily life, when we keep in mind the many texts in the Bhagavadgita, preceding and following this one, that remind us of God’s equal and identical presence in all beings and the call to see the one God in all. One of my favorite occurs in the sixth chapter (6:30): “One who sees me everywhere and sees everything in me is not lost to me and I am not lost to her.”
The all-inclusive nature of this verse (“Whatever you do…..”) suggests that any dichotomy or dualism between spiritual life and daily life is false. There is, in fact, only one life and that life is most meaningfully lived when it is lived out of and for love. God brings forth creation out of the abundant fullness of God’s infinite being. Since there is no lack or incompleteness in God that may be cited as a motive for creation, it is appropriate to describe creation as an expression of love. It is an overflow of divine celebratory and abundant love that invites from us a response of love.
One offers one’s actions to God when these are the outpourings of love. Since creation, however, does not stand outside of or apart from God and since God, as Bhagavadgita 18:61 tells us, “lives in the heart of all beings,” we encounter God in every being and we express the meaning of our love in serving others. We are called here to be like God in living out of the fullness of love. We see, embrace and serve the One in the many through every daily act.
This vision of God, the being of ultimate value, existing at the heart of everything is a way of seeing the world, but also the inspiration for a way of acting in the world. It is awakening to a value and respect for all creation and for the dignity and worth of every being. It means that we do not privilege one gender over another, one ethnic group over another and that we do not classify human beings into caste groups and regard some as having greater worth than others. The vision of God in all, which transforms every act into one of worshipful offering, is the antidote to our tendency to deny the personhood, worth and dignity of others. Even as God is the single unifying thread in all creation, our awareness of this truth brings unity to our lives, overcoming any separation between the spiritual and daily life and granting meaning to everything that we do as loving offerings to God.
Participants recognise just how difficult it is to imbue one’s daily life with spiritual ideals. Is it only a ‘saint’ who can live according to spiritual guidelines? How realistic is it for an ‘ordinary’ person to maintain these ideals? Can we find guidance in our spiritual sources and practices to deal with the ethical challenges we encounter every day?