6 Lessons From Ancient Hindu Philosophy To Unlock Your Full Potential

Concepts from the Bhagavad Gita that hit harder than any modern self-help advice.

6 Lessons From Ancient Hindu Philosophy To Unlock Your Full Potential
Photo by Benjamin Child on Unsplash

Concepts from the Bhagavad Gita that hit harder than any modern self-help advice.

Mahatma Gandhi called the Bhagavad Gita as his “spiritual dictionary.”

Sanskrit for “The Song of God”, the Bhagavad Gita is a 701-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the epic Mahabharata. It’s considered to be the primary holy scripture for Hinduism, the world’s oldest religion.

At the start of the great war between the Pandavas and Kauravas, the Pandava prince Arjuna is assailed with a moral dilemma regarding the toll this war would take on both sides. He seeks advice from Lord Krishna, who then discusses the moral, ethical, philosophical, and spiritual aspects of Arjuna’s doubts. This dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna that extends far beyond just the doubts regarding battle is compiled in the Bhagavad Gita.

The Bhagavad Gita is a treatise of Hindu ideas about dharma, bhakti, and the yogic ideals of moksha or freedom from ignorance.

Inspired by my friend Shreya Badonia, I recently took to reading a few pages of the Bhagavad Gita each night before going to sleep. The effect it had on my mental state has been instantaneous. I felt more relaxed and empowered as if I was better equipped to face life’s challenges.

I still haven’t completed reading the whole book, but I’ve compiled six concepts that hit me the hardest. I hope they enlighten your mind and show you a different perspective on how you can unlock your full potential.

1. “No one who does good work will come to a bad end, either here or in the world to come.”

At a glance, it seems this quote is talking about an after-life or the possibility of reincarnation. Instead of taking it at face value, think of this in the sense of spirituality.

This quote implies a sense of continuity — a thread between the past, the present, and the future.

In essence, if you do good, you’ll get rewarded. This reward might not be in the form you desire, but it will certainly be in the form you need. It will change your life in ways you never imagined. If you haven’t received your reward yet, it simply means you’ve still got a part of your journey left.

How you can apply this

Work hard on your goals. Even if you don’t see immediate results, trust the process and keep pushing on.

If your efforts aren’t being rewarded, know that this isn’t the end of your pursuit. There are more and better things to come. All you’ve got to do is keep striving. Don’t give up hope.

2. “We are kept from our goals not by obstacles, but by a clear path to a lesser goal.”

How many times were you supposed to be working on something big, but because of how hard the task was, started easier things to distract yourself and procrastinate?

According to research from Princeton University, the human brain is wired to prioritize instant gratification over long-term goals. “Our emotional brain has a hard time imagining the future, even though our logical brain clearly sees the future consequences of our current actions,” says Laibson at Harvard University. “Our emotional brain wants to max out the credit card, order dessert, and smoke a cigarette. Our logical brain knows we should save for retirement, go for a jog and quit smoking.”

How you can apply this

When you’re working on something, you might be distracted by the need to seek instant gratification. While these pursuits might give you a lot of pleasure, they ultimately distract you from your main goal.

Don’t let that happen. Stay focussed on what you promised yourself. Don’t settle for anything less. There might be comfort in small wins, but nothing can beat the happiness of finally achieving what you set out for.

3. “Those who are motivated only by the desire for the fruits of action are miserable, for they are constantly anxious about the fruits of what they do.”

This quote ties nicely to the words of Friedrich Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

This is true no matter what pursuit you choose. If your heart is clear about why you’re doing it, nothing and no one can deter you from your path.

However, if your sole motivation is to seek results, you might find yourself getting demotivated after a few initial failures. The need to produce results with every attempt might eat you up from the inside — filling your mind with needless anxiety about things largely out of your control.

How you can apply this

Learn to enjoy the process rather than only craving the results.

Seek to create a difference in the world instead of focussing on monetary rewards, fame, or recognition. When your drive serves a higher purpose, you’re less likely to lose steam mid-way and give up.

4. “Change is the law of the universe. You can be a millionaire or a pauper in an instant.”

This concept from the Bhagavad Gita aligns with the impermanence theory of Stoicism. Marcus Aurelius was the pioneer in this field of thought, stating, “Everything’s destiny is to change, to be transformed, to perish. So that new things can be born.”

The Gita proposes the same: no matter how good or bad your current situation is; it’s bound to change. You can’t control what tomorrow will bring your way. The only thing you can control is how you feel about it.

Either wallow in self-pity or accept change as a necessary part of life: the choice is yours.

How you can apply this

Nothing in this world lasts forever. The sooner you come to terms with that, the better off you’d be. Don’t get too attached to your current state, as it might be snatched away from you in an instant.

Embrace the impermanence of things. When you accept change as an integral part of life, you’ll be better equipped to face all challenges life throws at you.

5. “It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.

Often, you might feel lost in your head, wondering over and over again about the many ways you’ve failed the people you love. In truth, the purpose of your life isn’t to make others happy. It is to live out your own destiny the best you can while making sure you leave behind a positive impact.

Today’s fast-paced world has burdened humans with the weight of expectations. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could shake off this burden and, for once, live life on your own terms? This is exactly what the Bhagavad Gita advises.

How you can apply this

You weren’t put on this earth to please others. The sooner you make peace with that, the lesser effort you’d be willing to put into pleasing the people around you.

If you feel confused or conflicted, look deep within your soul. Your heart already knows what it wants. You just have to let it speak. Journaling or meditation might be effective ways to connect with your inner self and understand what you truly want.

6. “Each person is his own friend or enemy.”

This quote relates nicely to the words of Gregory Jantz, Ph.D. As he put it: “Each of us has a set of messages that play over and over in our minds. This internal dialogue, or personal commentary, frames our reactions to life and its circumstances.”

Based on how you talk to yourself, you can be either your biggest cheerleader or the toughest obstacle on your path to success. Research has established the many benefits of positive self-talk, but it seems the ancient Hindus had figured it all out.

How you can apply this

Monitor your self-talk. If you keep telling yourself that you’re worth nothing and that you’ll fail at whatever you attempt, you’re effectively rejecting yourself before the world even has a chance to.

Fill your head with positive thoughts and affirmations. Replace your “I’ll fail”s with “What if I pass?” Unlock the magic of the universe by being kinder and more compassionate to yourself.

Final Words

Life can get overwhelming at times. But taking a moment to reflect on the wisdom of our ancestors is an effective way to find peace.

I devoted a few minutes each day to read the Bhagavad Gita, and it changed my life. These concepts taught me that no matter what we have today, it might as well disappear tomorrow.

There’s no point in obsessing over things you can’t control. The best way out is to do your karma — the tasks you’re supposed to do — and leave the rest to the universe. Believe in your potential, and even if you don’t get immediate results, keep pushing on. Based on what you tell yourself, you can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. Don’t let your self-talk convince your heart that you can’t succeed.

I create content in many different forms related to self-improvement, body-positivity, and feminism on several other platforms. Join my email list so you don’t miss out on anything new.

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