The main aim of education is all-around development, i.e. physical development, mental development, spiritual development, social development, political development, technological development, economic development, etc. Education and development are two sides of the same coin. Many ancient Indian scripts are available to deal with mental health issues for the well-being of all human beings. Bhagavad Gita is the most prominent ancient Indian script which talks about all aspects of the mental health of human beings.
The Bhagavad Gita (Song of the Lord) often referred to as simply ‘The Gita’, tells a grand story. It comprises 18 chapters (sections 25 to 42) in the Bhisma Parva of the epic ‘Mahabharata’ consists of 700 verses. It is a vessel through which Lord Krishna teaches his disciple, the Pandava prince, Arjuna how to navigate his mind. Arjuna and his brothers have been exiled from the kingdom of Hastinapur of Kurukshetra for 13 years and cut off from their rightful heritage by another faction of the family (Kauravas).
The story begins on the dusty battlefield of Kurukshetra, where Arjuna, a famed archer, is poised to fight. But he hesitates. He sees arrayed against him friends, teachers, and kin, and believes that to fight – and likely to kill – these men would be to commit grievous sin and could bring nothing good even if he were to win the kingdom back. He wonders if he should renounce and seeks Krishna’s counsel. Arjuna’s inner turmoil is used by Krishna to teach him lessons all about the mind. Duty, action, and renunciation are taught through the core paradigms of action, knowledge, and love. Krishna tells Arjuna to arise with a brave heart and push forward to destroy the army.
The lessons that follow are powerful spiritual tools for restoring Arjuna’s self-confidence. Like Arjuna, you can benefit from these timeless teachings in your quest for inner peace and balanced life. So, here are 4 mental health tips from The Bhagavad Gita, distilled from its grand narrative.
The Gita teaches us that we have a duty to follow our own paths. To sustain the health of your mind, you have to find your temperament and act in line with it (Swadharma – Ch.3).
In Krishna’s first teaching to Arjuna, he explains that the material world you perceive with your five senses is not true reality. It is an illusion, albeit a convincing one. Your ultimate essence is pure spirit, pure timeless awareness. Your individual differences in behavior hold the key to your self. To be who you are, you must embody your innate nature. Embrace your idiosyncrasies. Nuance is what makes you unique.
What you’ve learned, your values and your attitude, are malleable. These change over time, with influence, intent and a plethora of other variables. Understanding how you are biologically wired is key. To know thyself is to identify that to which you are naturally inclined. Find it, work with it. Figure out what makes your brain tick, run with it. Find your temperament, act in line with it. Age means nothing.
Do Without Expectation
Krishna tells Arjun that the definition of a wise man is one who is unconcerned with whether things are “good or bad”, but rather abandon attachments to the fruits of labor, allowing them to attain a state beyond evil. When a man is unmoved by the confusion of ideas and is united simply in the peace of action without the thoughts of results, he can attain perfect yoga. Surrender to your ‘Dharma’.
‘Dharma’ is the Hindu concept of ‘duty’. Do without expectation. How?
- Have no attachment when doing your duties
- Focus on your journey, not the goal
- Allow yourself to accept the outcome without any specific results
It goes on to teach us that you must do your work for work’s sake, without your motivation for doing so being the desired outcome. Accordingly, then, Krishna tells Arjuna that his dharma in this life is to be a warrior and rightfully fight against Kauravas for the kingdom so that he may restore good — his karma requires this grand staging of good vs. evil to right the balance. It is not his duty to see myopically, to simply see the boundaries of life and death, but rather to live beyond results and in the larger cycle of samsara, or the karmic circle.
The pursuit of something is better than nothing. Equally, the pursuit of a goal is better done with surrender than anxiety. Follow your dharma and doing without expectation maybe easier if not seamless.
Moderate Your Life
“For him who is moderate in food and diversion, whose actions are disciplined, who is moderate in sleep and waking, Yoga destroys all sorrow.”
Gita has cautioned that excess of everything is bad. Lord Krishna in shlokas 6.16 and 6.17 states that those who are in habit of eating or sleeping too much, or too little, cannot succeed in the practice of yoga. Thus, it is clear that Krishna has recommended moderate approach in every sphere of life – a balance in activities such as eating, sleeping and recreation.
With food, eat enough. With sleep, get enough. With speech, say enough. With exercise, exert enough. With meditation, practice enough. With work, perform enough. All sorrows of those who adopt such a regulated life-style are destroyed by such discipline.
Further, Bhagavad Gita has warned that self-discipline should not be confused with self-torture. Krishna has strongly condemned those who harm themselves and others around them, physically and mentally, by torturing their own bodies under the misguided notion of devotion, faith and attaining liberation etc.
Moderation is subtraction. Less is more. This is true for everything.
“Let the yogi seated in solitude and alone
Having mind and senses under control
And free from desires and attachments for possessions,
Try constantly to contemplate on the Supreme self “
Finally, Krishna teaches Arjuna the profound knowledge for tapping into spiritual wisdom of yoga: meditation. Yoga is the practice of tolerating the consequences of being yourself.
“Neither agitated by grief nor hankering after pleasure, they live free from lust and fear and anger. Established in meditation, they are truly wise. Fettered no more by selfish attachments, they are neither elated by good fortune nor depressed by bad. Such are the seers.”
The Gita tells us to dedicate time to breathing. Close your eyes and simply do nothing but focus on your breath as to control your attention. Harmonize your head and heart. Start with 10 minutes a day. It will feel weird. It will feel impossible. Keep at it. Eventually, your mind will submit. Through the practice of meditation, the voices of doubt, indecision, fear and, worry mellow down, ultimately fading away completely.
The Bhagavad Gita, arguably one of the most revered text in all the Vedic literature, is a vast storehouse of Yogic knowledge and philosophy. I implore you to find time to read it in full.
Whether you are religious or not, to have faith is to have belief. It doesn’t have to be in a higher power. It can be in yourself. So have faith in your ability to manage your mental health. Our entire experience here on Earth is dictated by how we use our minds. Invest in yours.