Self-Imposed Limitations (Black-White & Linear Thinking) (95)


Lesson 95 demonstrates that most hardships and undesirable conflict come from our own black-white and linear thinking. Two types of questions (situational/fundamental). Summary of Kurukshetra war. Significance of wave-water analogy.

3 Practical Learnings from Mahabharata:

  • 1st Learning:
    • Vision of Black/White is inadequate.
    • Behind the cheating/greedy Duryodhana, there is a struggling human being.
    • Yudhiṣṭhira also made mistakes by allowing misdeeds to be done onto him, thinking he is following Dharma.
      • Hence Good people also suffer (owning to one’s own ignorance of dharma).
  • 2nd Learning:
    • Humans expect life to be linear. But it's not.
      • EG: If you're “successful”, you’ll find it came at cost of struggles.
    • Hence for successful life, need to understand life, and your place in it.
  • 3rd Learning:
    • Even if person is dharmic and successful, is still struggling with fundamental existential question of life: “What is purpose of life?”.
      • This question has nothing to do with how skilled/dharmic you are.
      • Long as fundamental q’s remain unanswered, there is sense of incompletion.
    • QUESTION: Why does a dharmic person not ask fundamental questions?
      • It's not that their life is in harmony. Noone's life is harmonious.
      • We all have questions, but don't give time to it.
      • One has decided “What I'm doing, is already the best I'm doing. Thus relegate existence questions aside“.
      • Whole life goes into responding to situations. You don't create time for yourself.
      • Not enough pain in life (which causes pursuit of questions).
      • Superficial knowing:
        • Fate
        • Not be attached.
        • Must be desireless.
        • Just keep doing actions, and don't expect results.
        • And without looking into what you learned, you accept it as true.
      • Took time, but concluded it's impossible to get the answer to fundamental questions.
        • Hence lack of trust.
        • Need faith (śraddha: let me at least look into them a little; open mind).
        • Commonly results in atheism.
      • Life is filled with ambition (like. Duryodhana). Busy with your plans of life.
      • Some people are looking for simple, feel-good stuff. Not deep thinking/analysis.

If even dharmic people don’t understand the larger vision, then…

What Makes Larger Teaching Work?

  • You must see value in the teaching.
    • If you're only chasing for experiences, you'll find Vedanta abstract and irrelevant in life.
    • EG: Dhṛtarāṣṭra heard the entire B.Gītā by the Lord himself, Kṛṣṇa. Yet  had no impact on him. Because his mind was too ambitious for his son’s happiness.
  • For any deeper insights, beyond how to be a relatively successful person… need a teacher.
    • QUESTION: What are entry points to desire a teacher of deeper insights into existence?
      • Emotional trauma.
      • Searching for larger meaning in life.
      • Curiosity.
      • Sufficient balance between rational / emotional thinking. Neither is excess.
      • For Arjuna, it was enormity of situation. Overwhelm.
  • However, Arjuna wanted to go the other extreme, as all can relate. He wanted to abandon all duties to pursue answers. And like most us, he rationalized why he doesn’t want to do his duty.
    • We do this also. Rationalize to support our view of life, then make decisions accordingly.
      • I’m not ready right now because __.
      • I can’t because __.
      • I’ll learn about __ when ___.
      • Once I finish __, then then I’ll begin __.

Arjuna’s Reasons for Not Wanting to Fight

See video (42:28+-) for mindmap.

  • Misconception: Why Lord advised Arjuna to shed blood? Why would Lord advise violence?
    • ANSWER: It has nothing to do with violence. Arjuna is the only one capable and qualified individual to rid of corruption. Since “peace talks” have failed, the last resort was to shed blood to bring order back to society.

Arjuna’s 2 Type of Questions:

  • Arjuna addresses (1) Situational: What's facing him (2) One indivisible reality.
    • Our problem: We either focus on either 1 or 2.
    • Real spirituality: Every question is important.
  • QUESTION: If someone presents you their problem in life, do you speak of their specific problem, or the larger problem (not knowing the total reality)?
    • Krishna first addresses the big picture (Oneness), then narrows to specific situation.
      • Why? Because all situational questions is arising from the fundamental problem, “I'm small“, not knowing my nature.
        • It’s not psychological (like I’m nervous when speaking), but FACTUAL.
        • Assumption then becomes, because I’m small:
          • I need to get world to act according to what makes me happy.
          • If environment doesn’t match my interpretation, I’m unsatisfied.
        • Reality is: I'm already, right now, the entire whole, the very reality of entire universe.
          • Next question: If am the WHOLE, then why do I experience myself as one small, separate, individual entity?
    • What is fundamental problem in past, present and future?
      • There is inherent knowledge, I am the whole. But world keeps reminding me “I'm small“.
        • If the inherent knowledge was completely absent, there would be no incentive to evolve.
        • Therefore, when big picture is incomplete, small things become big.

Summary On Kurukṣetra:

  • War about to start.
  • Mindset:
    • Dhritarashtra knows this is kurukṣetra (venue of battle) is really a battle between dharma/adharma.
      • He knows his sons and himself are on adharma side.
    • Duryodhana’s mindset is of insecurity. Revealed by his first words, “These men have given up their lives for me”.
    • Arjuna’s first choice was to place himself between two armies to asses the situation.
      • He was shattered realizing what’s about to happen.
        • Was honest about it. Didn’t hide his sorrow, nor pretend.
      • Gives 4 reasons to not fight:
        • These are people I love.
        • I’ll kill soldiers on the other side, who have done nothing wrong.
        • Repercussions on society, widows/children.
        • I’ll go to hell.
      • 2 questions arose from his 4 reasons:
        • Situational: What do I do now?
        • Fundamental: Whether I win or lose, I’m still a looser. How can I be fulfilled after giving my 4 reasons!
        • Hence Arjuna tells Krishna: I’m your student. Teach me!
      • Kṛṣṇa choose to answer the fundamental question FIRST.
        • Therefore, how is Bhagavad Gītā relevant to you?
          • We too are looking for the fundamental question, which once known, then situational questions become easier to solve.
            • Reason why wise person has unshakable confidence, and always seems to have an answer when asked.

Advaita: Wave-Water Analogy:

  • Fundamental reality of “you”, is the fundamental reality of everything. Let’s see how this may be possible…
    • Suppose there is a wave with two eyes. It feels inferior/superior to other waves. It's caught in it's story.
    • Then suppose wise-wave tells student-wave:
      • “I'm not going to deny that you are a wave. But I'll show you one more permanent reality, which is water.”
        • Before wave was there, water was true.
        • While wave is there, water is true.
        • After waves goes, water is true.
        • In fact, there is no such entity called “wave”, without water. Because water remains true throughout.
    • Thus you don’t have to negate the wave. Only understand:
      • Essentially, I am the water.
      • Water is the one indivisible reality of every other wave.
      • Water is appearing as many waves.
    • Suppose wave asks: “How do I become water?”.
      • Answer: “You can’t. You already are water”.
    • What keeps us from owning up to reality of Oneness, is our story.
      • What is our story?
        • World has to behave that way I want it, for me to be happy.
        • Hence all our time goes on situations.
  • Having heard the wave-water example, don't take this knowledge as “I am not the body“.
    • For example, for wave to say “I’m not this wave”, is actually saying “I’m not the water”. Because the wave is nothing but the water.
    • We’re only showing the reality of “body”, and reality of “I”. Distinction has to be clear.

Keywords: kurukshetra, gita, shraddha, dhritarashtra, Yudhishthira, krishna

Recorded 29 Sept, 2020



  1. Hi Andre, this video is quite deep and needs to be re- listened to and pondered. Can you delete my comments at 56 mins as I was trying to bring in some humor into the conversation, Was uncalled for. I always look at things light-heartedly.

    The issue with thinking “I am small” is quite useful. If one is aware of this and one accept this (knowing vedantically that im in reality not small) then this is a good thing. in vyavaharical reality we are limited and small compared to the vast intelligent universe. its like death, Who wants to be immortal? its only that we die that we can appreciate life. Therefore I dont see anything wrong with being small, inadequate or lacking knowledge/understanding.

    I also like your wave analogy. Having knowledge about our ultimate reality doesn’t change the the world, only our perception’.

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