The yoga of selfless service

Sri Krishna reveals to Arjuna that the science of yoga was first taught by him to Vivasvat who taught it to Ikshavaku but for a long period, knowledge of this yoga disappeared and this ancient science is now being revealed to Arjuna.

Arjuna is confused. How could Sri Krishna have taught Vivasvat who was born thousands of years earlier?

The Lord replies by saying that he has had many past reincarnations and so has Arjuna but while he is aware of his identity as the Supreme Self in all his past incarnations, Arjuna is not. Having perfect control of his Prakriti (Nature), the Purusha (Self) incarnates time after time: “Whenever there is a diminution of dharma, O descendent of Bharata and a rise of unrighteousness, then I incarnate Myself forth. For the protection of the good, for the destruction of the evil doers, for the purpose of establishing dharma, I incarnate Myself from age to age”.

What Sri Krishna is evoking here is the notion of reincarnation. This notion was shared and is shared by many major spiritual traditions in the world. It was equally shared by the Catholic Church until the fifth century. What is the cause of birth and death? Is life merely accidental? What is our real identity? Why is one man born rich and the man poor? As Swami Rama points out, it is only the philosophy of rebirth and reincarnation that can respond to these questions satisfactorily.

“Many Westerners react defensively when they encounter the philosophy of reincarnation. They dismiss it as primitive, spooky or fanciful conception. They are not able to consider the merits or deficiencies of this view in an objective way. They are repulsed by the idea of reincarnation and do not want to hear anything about it. It is a clear sign of egotism when one refuses to examine an issue objectively and to expand the horizon of his vision. Most westerners are afraid of the unknown though they are equally dissatisfied with the known. Their insecurity leads them to further fortify their egos. It is a vicious cycle”.

“Many Western philosophers such as Plato, Kant, Schopenhauer and Hegel believed in the philosophy of reincarnation. And there are many people able to recall their pasts verbatim. The validity of reincarnation cannot be decided by debates; it is subject to self-realization. When one attains a more evolved state of consciousness, his latent memories from his long past unfold themselves before his consciousness”.

An aspirant who is able to experience the divinity inherent in him and realize the Self is released from the vicious cycle of life and death. Such an aspirant is liberated by merging in the Lord.

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