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04-07-2017 | ORIGINAL PAPER | Uitgave 1/2018

Mindfulness 1/2018

Mindfulness as an Ethical Ideal in the Bhagavadgītā

Mindfulness > Uitgave 1/2018
Geetesh Nirban


The Bhagavadgītā (BhG) is a part of the ancient Hindu epic Mahābhārata. Being a quintessence of the Hindu religious tradition, philosophy and culture, it has exalting ethical significance for human life. As a prelude to the battle of Kurukṣetra, it is a colloquy between Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna, when Arjuna is disconsolate, distressed, confused and unwilling to wage a war due to emotional and moral dilemma. This paper suggests that Arjuna’s mental condition reflects psychological chaos on account of conflicting human emotions and Kṛṣṇa’s effort consists of arousing the spirit of mindfulness in Arjuna by encouraging him to focus on awareness of the present moment while befriending the mind instead of becoming a slave of it. Viewing BhG through the lens of mindfulness, this paper addresses and analyses the ideal of sthithaprajña (stable intellect, in BhG) and draws its parallel with the concept of sati (mindfulness in Buddhism) by elaborating how BhG emphasises controlling the mind by rising above the fetters of three guṇa-s (sattva, rajas and tamas—the qualities). Through an exposition of Niṣkāma karma (detached or disinterested action), the paper projects how the synthesis of the path of jñāna (knowledge) with karma (action/duty) and bhakti (devotion) actually paves the way for mindfulness as an important ethical value for individual and social well-being. It further draws attention to the point that BhG does not endorse reclusive or indulgent methods but lays emphasis on selfless cultivation of mindfulness as an ethical ideal.

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