Finished December 2020. how much I would recommend this book 9/10
I have to admit that I've limited knowledge of Indian culture, eastern religion, spirituality, and history. From that perspective, this was an interesting read. I also didn't know that this was Gandhi's book of guidance. That does leave me thinking that I might have missed or interpreted parts of the book wrong.
With that said, I found the first part of the book in-lighting (My notes below) but then feeling like the book fell flat at the end.
*Added section— After re-reading my notes below numerous times, I appreciate the first half of the book tremendously.
The book was easy to read as Mr. Easwaran took the time to set up each chapter and explaining some of the meanings of old Indian words. This is a great introduction to Indian spirituality; get your copy on Amazon here.
My thoughts and notes:
A sage, seated beside the Ganges, notices a scorpion that has fallen into the water. He reaches down and rescues it, only to be stung. Some time later, he looks down and sees the scorpion thrashing about in the water again. Once more, he reaches down to rescue it, and once more, he is stung. A bystander observing all this exclaims, "Holy one, why do you keep doing that? Don't you see that the wretched creature will only sting you in return?" "Of course," the sage replied. "It is the dharma of a scorpion to sting, But it is the dharma of a human to save."
Your body feels the cold and warm, but it can't affect the mind. —When the senses contact sense objects, a person experiences cold or heat, pleasure, or pain. These experiences are feelings; they come and go. Bear them patiently. Those who are unaffected by these changes, who are the same in pleasure and pain, are truly wise and fit for immortality. Assert your strength and realize this.
—The Self cannot be pierced by weapons or burned by fire; water cannot wet it, nor can the wind dry it, The Self cannot be pierced or burned, made wet or dry, It is everlasting and infinite, standing on the motionless foundations of eternity. The Self is unmanifested, beyond all thought, beyond all change. Knowing this, you should not grieve.
—You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction. Perform work in this world, as a man established within himself - without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat. For yoga is perfect evenness of mind.
"Tell me of those who live established in wisdom, ever aware of the Self. How do they talk? How sit? How to move about?—
They live in wisdom who see themselves in all and all in them, who have renounced every selfish desire and sense craving tormenting the heart.
Neither agitated by grief nor hankering after pleasure. They live free from lust and fear and anger. Established in meditation, they are truly wise. Fettered no more by selfish attachments, they are neither elated by food fortune nor depressed by bad. Such are the seers.
Even as a tortoise draws in its limbs, the wise can draw in their senses at will. Aspirants abstain from sense pleasures, but they still crave for them. These cravings all disappear when they see the highest goal. Even of those who tread the path, the stormy senses can sweep off the mind. They live in wisdom who subdue their senses and keep their minds ever absorbed in me.
When you keep thinking about sense objects, attachment comes. Attachment breeds desire, the lust of possession that burns to anger. Anger clouds the judgment; you can no longer learn from past mistakes. Lost is the power to choose between what is wise and what is unwise, and your life is utter waste, But when you move amidst the world of sense, free from attachment and aversion alike, there comes the peace in which all sorrows end, and you live in wisdom of the Self.
The disunited mind is far from wise; how can it meditate? How be at peace? When you know no peace, how can you know joy? When you let your mind follow the call of the senses, they carry away your better judgment as storms drive a boat off its charted course on the sea.
Use all your power to free the senses from attachments and aversion alike, and live in the full wisdom of the Self. Such a sage awakes to light in the night of all creatures. That which the world calls day is the night of ignorance to the wise.
As rivers flow into the ocean but cannot make the vast ocean overflow, so flow the streams of the sense-world into the sea of peace that is the sage. But this is not so with the desirer of desires.
They are forever free who renounce all selfish desires and break away from the ego-cage of "I," "me," and "mine" to united with the Lord. This is the supreme state. Attain to this, and pass from death to immortality.
Think about how your work impacts others. Does this serve them well? If it does, you are doing work for the right reason.—Every selfless act is born from Brahman, the eternal, infinite Godhead. Brahman is present in every act of service. All life turns on this law. Those who violate it, indulging the senses for their own please and ignoring the needs of others, have wasted their life. But those who realize the Self are always satisfied. Having found the source of joy and fulfilling, they no longer seek happiness from the external world. They have nothing to gain or lose by any action; neither people nor things can affect their security.—Strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world; by devotion to selfless work, one attains the supreme goal of life. Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind. It was by such work that Janaka attained perfection; others, too, have followed this path.
For an aspirant who wants to climb the mountain of spiritual awareness, the path is selfless work; for those who have ascended to yoga, the path is stillness and peace. When you have freed yourself from attachment to the results of work and from desires for the enjoyment of sense objects, you will ascend to the unitive state.
Be fearless and pure; never waver in your determination of your dedication to the spiritual life. Give freely. Be self-controlled, sincere, truthful, loving, and fill of the desire to serve. Realize the truth of the scriptures; learn to be detached and to take you in renunciation. Do not get angry or harm any living creature, but be compassionate and gentle; show goodwill to all. Cultivate vigor, patience, will, purity; avoid malice and pride. Then, you will achieve your divine destiny.