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Balance in personal development: The Bhagavad Gita on happiness and distress April 24, 2012

Posted by Dennis Mellersh in Personal Growth Books.
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Personal development, or self-improvement literature, is an ancient tradition. Often called Wisdom Writing, particularly when it refers to older literature, personal development writing has been applicable and beneficial throughout the ages, because essentially, human nature does not change.

The same problems and personal challenges that confront us today in the modern world of technological advancements were also matters that the ancients struggled with in their efforts to live a better and more emotionally balanced and spiritual life.

One of the tendencies of our human nature is to subconsciously immerse ourselves in a strong current emotion, such as being happy or worried and “blue” and either want the feeling to persist forever, as in the case of feeling happy, or wish the feeling to go away, as we would with feeling worried or “down.”

The reality however is that, generally, we cannot “will” a feeling or emotion to persist; unforeseen and uncontrollable good or bad circumstances can alter our perceptions and therefore our feelings. There is an old saying, “This too shall pass” and it applies to enjoyable states of emotion and to distressing states of emotion. The trick is to realize the transitory nature of the events of the world and to neither get unduly uplifted by a state of happiness or overly perturbed at a state of distress.

The ancient 700-verse Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita in Chapter 2, Verse 14 (2:14) sheds light on this (I have edited proper names from this excerpt for greater clarity) “…the non-permanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” (1)

There are a number of websites providing interpretation and translation of the Bhagavad Gita, including an article in Wikipedia.

(1) The Bhagavad Gita: Translation source: http://www.bhagavad-gita.us

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