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From the Gita: How Do We Solve Sadness?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

न चैतद्विद्म: कतरन्नो गरीयो
यद्वा जयेम यदि वा नो जयेयु: |
यानेव हत्वा न जिजीविषाम
स्तेऽवस्थिता: प्रमुखे धार्तराष्ट्रा: || 6||

We do not even know which result of this war is preferable for us—conquering them or being conquered by them. Even after killing them we will not desire to live. Yet they have taken the side of Dhritarasthra, and now stand before us on the battlefield.

Bhagvad Gita 2.6

पृच्छामि त्वां धर्मसम्मूढचेता: |
यच्छ्रेय: स्यान्निश्चितं ब्रूहि तन्मे
शिष्यस्तेऽहं शाधि मां त्वां प्रपन्नम् || 7||

I am confused about my duty, and am besieged with anxiety and faintheartedness. I am your disciple, and am surrendered to you. Please instruct me for certain what is best for me.

Bhagvad Gita 2.7

न हि प्रपश्यामि ममापनुद्याद्
यच्छोकमुच्छोषणमिन्द्रियाणाम् |
अवाप्य भूमावसपत्नमृद्धं
राज्यं सुराणामपि चाधिपत्यम् || 8||

I can find no means of driving away this anguish that is drying up my senses. Even if I win a prosperous and unrivalled kingdom on the earth, or gain sovereignty like the celestial gods, I will be unable to dispel this grief.

Bhagvad Gita 2.8

सञ्जय उवाच |
एवमुक्त्वा हृषीकेशं गुडाकेश: परन्तप |
न योत्स्य इति गोविन्दमुक्त्वा तूष्णीं बभूव ह || 9||

Sanjay said: Having thus spoken, Gudakesh, that chastiser of enemies, addressed Hrishikesh: “Govind, I shall not fight,” and became silent.

Bhagvad Gita 2.9

Arjuna experiences anticipatory grief and does not believe there is anything that can remove his sorrow. Even if he gains the kingdom, this will not eliminate his sadness.

Most people may think there is a solution to the problem of sadness somehow, somewhere. 

But the truth is there is no solution to the problem of sadness. 

If you believe living a life of spirituality will eliminate sadness from your life, you are mistaken. If you can’t feel sad, then you are emotionally numb inside. Sadness is not the problem—suffering is.

Sadness vs Suffering

Sadness is an emotion, and emotions are a normal part of being human. On the other hand, suffering is how you respond to that emotion. You know what it is to be sad. Often times our response to sadness is avoidance: I don’t want to feel sad, I want the sadness to go away, why did this have to happen to me? These reactions are examples of suffering. 

What many do not realize is that we can be sad without suffering. 

The point here is that there is no solution to the problem of sadness. Sadness is an inevitable factor in life.

What is Required?

Instead of trying to avoid sadness altogether, we must undergo a shift in direction. There is no worldly solution to the problem of sadness. Similarly, there are no worldly solutions to the problems of aging and death. Yet, many people continue to spend a lot time seeking solutions to those problems. 

For example, some turn to television or drinking and drugs as solutions to sadness. As long as you believe there is a solution to sadness, you will continue to seek an escape.

Arjuna has recognized that there is no worldly solution to the problem of sadness. This recognition can bring on an intellectual conversion. You can begin to look for a spiritual solution instead of a worldly solution for sadness. 

Shree Krishna is in the exact same situation as Arjuna, but he is smiling instead of suffering. He was born with knowledge and the realization of the ultimate truth. With that wisdom, you can gain a perspective in which you are perfectly comfortable in the presence of sadness. You can attain moksha.

The term moska means freedom. But freedom from what? The ultimate goal of spiritual life means to experience freedom while you are still living, not once you are dead. Moksha means freedom from suffering, not sadness. 

What the Gita Teaches Us

Sadness is an inevitable part of life. However, it is not the enemy. You can either try to avoid sadness or learn how to live with it. With spiritual practice, you can learn to be okay in the presence of sadness.