Combating Stress through the Bhagavad Gita
Sucheta Boora1, Dr Dalbir Singh2
1Research Scholar, Haryana School of Business, Guru Jambheshwar University of Science and Technology, Hisar-125001.
2Assistant Professor, Haryana School of Business, Guru Jambheshwar University of Science and Technology, Hisar-125001.
Stress among employees is a growing concern for the organisations nowadays. A stressed employee’s work performance and productivity decreases substantially. Therefore, an organization endeavoring to achieve its goals in the competitive business environment cannot afford to have a stressed workforce. The Bhagavad Gita is unutterably invaluable sermon delivered by Lord Krishna to Arjuna midst the battle of Kurukshetra. The Hindu religious text is rife with teachings to combat stress. The Bhagavad Gita is a remedy for all perturbation and stress. Srimad Bhagavad Gita provides a pragmatic approach to individuals to deal with apprehensions and stressors, one face every day. The state of perplexity, over what to do in a difficult situation faced by Arjuna, the mighty warrior, in the battlefield of Kurukshetra is faced by us all at some point in our life. This paper aims to focus on teachings from the revered text to help an individual combat stress and provides invaluable insights that can be absorbed from the holy narrative. Srimad Bhagavad Gita provides with following teachings to combat stress - A duty discharged without any attachment to the material existence and fruits keeps stress at bay. The actions associated with unappeasable desires and attachment brings suffering accompanied by stress and hinders progress. Renunciation leads to joy and peace owing to destruction of ignorance, which causes all pain, hardships and stress. A life not controlled by desires and anger is without stress and full of bliss. A regular practice of Yoga reduces stress. An individual tempted by materialistic desires lives a stressful life and suffers throughout. The path of righteousness brings peace and bliss to life. Lord Krishna explained to Arjuna that those who have divine qualities like the purity of heart, non-violence, truthfulness, peacefulness; modesty and other Godly traits are conducive to elevation and eventually attain spiritual perfection.
In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the ensuing stress faced by the people. Stress is a frightening malady of the age. Everybody wants to steer clear of it. The World Health Organization says mental disorders are the major source of disability worldwide and is a prime contributor to the global burden of disease.
In extreme cases, stress can even result in suicide. In this swift-paced life, living has turned into a taxing and wearying unceasing race of infinite unmet demands, unfulfilled desires, and unrealized goals. Dasa (2014) cited that “The American Institute of Stress suggested that the stress factors can be divided up in the following way: 46 percent owing to Workload, 28 percent owing to people issues, 20 percent owing to juggling work/personal lives and 6 percent owing to lack of job security”. It acutely affects the quality of work performance and is inimical to general wellbeing.
Our mind stores insurmountably huge amount of data in the form of impressions, thoughts, and feelings. It controls emotional and physical well-being. It is therefore pertinent to nourish the mind to keep stress at bay.
Srimad Bhagavad Gita is an enlightening narrative within a narrative of about 700 verses (Chatterjee, 2012) composed by the greatly admired poet, Veda Vyasa.The Bhagavad Gita is the advice of Lord Krishna to confused Arjuna midst the historic battle of Kurukshetra. In the Hindu religious and spiritual poetic scripture, Krishna reprimands stressed and agitated Arjuna lovingly to establish righteous dharma through an edifying dialogue ranging from the vast Cosmos to the real soul Self (Sivananda, 2000). The most sacred of the Hindu texts, consisting of eighteen sutras, is eternally pertinent to individuals in the state of predicament and stress from a compelling and contemporary perspective (Chatterjee, 2012; Boora and Singh, 2017). The scripture leads up a rise of Arjuna from a state of absolute disappointment, misery, stress and incompetence to a state of enlightenment, clarity, limitless strength, and triumph (Bhattathiri, 2004). A mindful reading of Srimad Bhagavad Gita and practising the teachings propagated by the holy writing will lead to a healthy and stress-free life.
The phenomenon of stress can be understood as a “story of stress”. The story embarks on the identification of potential stressors, carries on to describe the consequential process of stress, and ends with after-effects of stress (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. The Stress Story (Stuart, 1991)
Stress is extensively believed to have contrary effects on an individual; not all stress is bad stress. A certain amount of acceptable stress, associated with flight or fight syndrome, increases individual’s body capacity to deal with a situation and enhances work performance (Stevenson and Harper, 2006). As seen in Figure 2, increase in stress is followed by an increase in performance till a breaking point. But, once that breaking point is crossed good stress turns into bad and deleteriously affects the work performance of an individual. However, the array of physical or psychological symptoms of stress, irrespective of nature of effects, is determined by individual’s perception (Statt, 2004).
Figure 2. The Stress and Performance Curve (Hart, 1990)
According to Raintano and Kleiner (2004), “Occupational stress is defined as an event or sequence of events, non-physical in nature, perceived by the receiver as an attack resulting in a physical, mental, and or emotional fight or flight response”.
There are several stressors at the workplace that cause stress; the most often experienced are owing to role uncertainty and organisational influences (Ferris, 1996).
Role uncertainty expresses as two forms, first, unspecified employment requirements owing to an absence of clearly specified requirements of job. Second, or added obligations and responsibilities owing to excess demands and responsibilities of job resulting into difficulty in prioritising the tasks competently.
Organisational influences also express as two forms, first, centralization of authority, an extreme dearth of locus of authority. If an individual is unable to exercise authority at the workplace, the situation can get stressful. Second, formalization of operation leaves no scope for an individual to show creativity and discretion.
Stress modifiers or moderators are personal attributes enhance or lessen the impact of a stress response (Raintano and Kleiner, 2004). They are the locus of control, personality hardiness, and preference of social support groups.
Locus of control is the extent to which an individual believes to influence the situation or event through participation (Gleitman, 1987). An individual with a strong internal locus of control has high self-esteem and feels confident in his/her abilities. On the contrary, one with strong external locus has low self-esteem, lacks skills, and is vulnerable to stress.
An individual with hardy personality has three common traits: commitment, control, and challenge. Thus, one is more susceptible to stress.
Social support groups create a cushion between the source of stress and the degree of the stress response (Raintano and Kleiner, 2004).
Combating Stress and Bhagavad Gita:
Stress management is a worrying problem of recent times. Nearly all the understanding from the modern day thinking either suppresses or deflects from the problem of stress. We do not seem to deal the problem proactively, instead, we wait for a problem to generate unavoidably and act once one is already stressed. Our lives are brimming with stress. Every morning begins with stressors and winds up with stress. It is a vicious story of stress that is unceasing.
The Bhagavad Gita is an answer to all perturbation and stress. Lord Krishna to Arjuna spoke the holy treatise in the battle of Kurukshetra, Mahabharata. In the battle of Mahabharata, both the armies were standing face to face midst the battlefield. The consequential war where thousands were ready to kill and die fighting. Pandavas and Kauravas were not ready to leave each other scot-free. Everybody knew that the ugly and horrifying war would spark gruesome bloodbath and unending devastation leaving families abandoned. Arjuna, a leader of the Pandavas, was in an exceptionally stressful state thinking of the war casualties and killing his own relatives. Much in the same manner, we all go through various stressful situations in our lives. Srimad Bhagavad Gita provides a pragmatic approach to individuals to deal with apprehensions and stressors, one faces every day.
The holy Gita consists of 18 chapters. Each chapter is called a yoga. Yoga is the science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the ultimate consciousness (Ajawani, 2017). Each chapter unfolds immense knowledge and helps in disclosing the path of attaining realization of ultimate truth.
Karma Yoga: The first six chapters are together called Karma Yoga. It is connected to the science of individual consciousness attaining communion with ultimate consciousness through actions.
Chapter 1: Visada Yoga
Chapter 2: Sankhya Yoga
Chapter 3: Karma Yoga
Chapter 4: Jnana Yoga
Chapter 5: Karna Vairagya Yoga
Chapter 6: Abhyasa Yoga
Bhakti Yoga: It consists of middle six chapters. It is the concerns with the science of individual consciousness attaining communion with ultimate consciousness through path of devotion.
Chapter 7: Paramahamsa Vijnana Yoga
Chapter 8: Aksara-Parabrahman Yoga
Chapter 9: Raja-Vidya-Guhya Yoga
Chapter 10: Vibhuti-Vistara-Yoga
Chapter 11: Visvarupa-Darsana Yoga
Chapter 12: Bhakti Yoga
Jnana Yoga: The last six chapters are together called Jnana Yoga. It is related to the science of individual consciousness attaining communion with ultimate consciousness through intellect.
Chapter 13: Ksetra-Ksetrajna Vibhaga Yoga
Chapter 14: Gunatraya-Vibhaga Yoga
Chapter 15: Purusottama Yoga
Chapter 16: Daivasura-Sampad Vibhaga Yoga
Chapter 17: Sraddhatraya-Vibhaga Yoga
Chapter 18: Moksa-Opadesa Yoga
Teachings from the Bhagavad Gita:
Chapter 1: Visada Yoga (Arjuna’s Dejection: Lamenting the repercussions of war) It contains 46 verses. This first chapter described the battlefield of Kurukshetra. The opposing armies of warring cousins stood poised for battle. Arjuna was overwhelmed by attachment looking at his kith and kin while surveying the enemy forces. Consequently, Arjuna was dumbstruck with terror, grief, and trepidation realising the trail of inadvertent repercussions that will follow. Blinded my attachment, Arjuna, mighty warrior, is caught up in a quandary. Much in the same manner, individuals come across the wearying and disturbing situation.
Chapter 2: Sankhya Yoga (Foundation of Knowledge: The Eternal reality of the Soul’s Immortality) It contains 72 verses. In this chapter, Arjuna surrendered completely to Lord Krishna and accepted Him as his Guru. Lord Krishna explained him the difference between the temporary material body and the eternal spiritual soul. This chapter is repeatedly deemed as an essence of the Bhagavad Gita and termed as “The Book of Doctrines”. Lord Krishna explained that a wise man is not distracted by the destruction of the temporary material body and is not controlled by the pleasures and pains of the material body and preached detachment. Detachment from the material body helps in discharging duties without any stress.
Chapter 3: Karma Yoga (The Yoga of Action: The discharge of one’s Prescribed Duty in Krishna Consciousness)
It contains 43 verses. In this chapter, Lord Krishna explained categorically to Arjuna that action is fundamental to life. Actions can either cling an individual to this world or liberate from it. It is wise to perform actions without selfish motives, to the delight of the Supreme, for the high desire of self-realization. The actions associated with lower unquenchable desires and attachment brings suffering accompanied by stress and hinders progress.
Chapter 4: Jnana Yoga (Transcendental Knowledge: Approaching the Ultimate Truth) It contains 42 verses. In this chapter, Lord Krishna revealed how spiritual knowledge can be gained and the path of action and wisdom is taken. The spiritual knowledge of soul is gained as the fruit of selfless devotional action. Lord Krishna stressed that every individual should do every action as a duty to the Lord. He further explained that Good and Bad are both integral parts of life; neither of them can be eliminated. Consequently, an individual can only restore the balance in the favour of good instead of being stressed by falling prey to fancies.
Chapter 5: Karna Vairagya Yoga (Action and Renunciation) It contains 29 verses. In this chapter, Lord Krishna addressed Arjuna’s doubts. He delineated the notions of action without attachment and renunciation in actions. Salvation is achieved by following these paths. Renunciation is not relinquishing action. It is acting in the spirit of renunciation. Renunciation leads to joy and peace owing to destruction of ignorance, which causes all pain, hardships and stress. A life not controlled by desires and anger is without stress and full of bliss.
Chapter 6: Abhyasa Yoga or Dhyana Yoga (The Yoga of Meditation or The Science of Self Realisation) It contains 47 verses. In this chapter, Lord Krishna explained Astanga Yoga, the explicit process of practising yoga. He thoroughly described the complications of the mind and the course of action by which an individual might attain mastery of their mind through yoga, which divulged the spiritual nature of a living entity. Lord Krishna highlighted that an individual who lacks self-confidence and self-control finds himself to be a stumbling block for any pursuit. A regular practice of Yoga helps to combat stress, mental/emotional strain, and apprehensions.
Chapter 7: Paramahamsa Vijnana Yoga (Knowledge of the ultimate truth) It contains 30 verses. In this chapter, Lord Krishna explained to Arjuna that an individual whose mind has been misguided by the charm of materialistic pleasures, have evil tendencies, and are indulged in deceit and trifling acts gets deprived from the pure bliss acquired from true devotion. The fruit borne of praying for fulfilling materialistic desires is short-lived and easily spoilt. An individual tempted by materialistic desires lives a stressful life and suffers. Stress can be dealt by reduction of attraction for ephemeral materialistic desires and rendering spiritual service to the Supreme.
Chapter 8: Aksara-Parabrahman Yoga (Attainment of Salvation or Attaining the Supreme) It contains 28 verses. In this chapter, Lord Krishna explained to Arjuna how the Supreme can be achieved by remembering the Him in devotion through out the life, and especially at the time of death. An individual’s thoughts at the time of death are impacted his thoughts through out the life. Hence, it becomes necessary to be sincerely committed to the Supreme the entire life. The spiritual journey to attain the Supreme abode starts by redirecting the thoughts from material pursuits to Spiritual aspirations.
Chapter 9: Raja-Vidya-Guhya Yoga (The king of all knowledge, The King of Secrets or Confidential Knowledge of the Ultimate Truth) It contains 34 verses. In this chapter, Lord Krishna informed Arjuna about the most confidential knowledge of Self-Realization and further explained that the knowledge of ultimate truth will end worldly miseries. The supreme can only be attained by faith in the path of righteousness. An individual who follows the path of righteousness will be liberated. The path of righteousness brings peace and bliss to life.
Chapter 10: Vibhuti-Vistara-Yoga (The Opulence of the Absolute or The Infinte Glories of the Ultimate Truth) It contains 42 verses. In this chapter, Arjuna realized the significance of keeping in mind anchored the Supreme. Lord Krishna told Arjuna that He is the core of all beings. He even asked Arjuna to rise above the universe. The service towards the Supreme helps in developing good habits in life and therefore turns out to be advantageous to self in combating stress (Verma and Singh, 2014).
Chapter 11: Visvarupa-Darsana Yoga (The vision of Universal form or the vision of Cosmic form) It contains 55 verses. In this chapter, Lord Krishna disclosed His breath-taking infinite form as the cosmic universe to Arjuna. An individual can recognize this form only by pure devotional service. The form of the Lord Krishna is magnificent and can be seen by purified mind. A purified mind can only be achieved through devotion. Lord Krishna asked Arjuna to make Him as his ultimate goal; be unattached; and be free from hatred. Such actions will life stress-free.
Chapter 12: Bhakti Yoga (The path of Devotion or Devotional Service) It contains 20 verses. In this chapter, Lord Krishna explained to Arjuna that those who focus mind in me are perfect. An individual who doesn’t have hatred towards anybody; is friendly and sympathetic to all; is detached; practise self-control and meditation; not influenced by anything and is dedicated to me by mind and intellect is close to me. Such individuals experience pure bliss and no stress.
Chapter 13: Ksetra-Ksetrajna Vibhaga Yoga (Nature, the Enjoyer, and Consciousness or The Individual and the Ultimate Consciousness) It contains 35 verses. In this chapter, Lord Krishna disclosed to Arjuna the dissimilarities between the physical body and the never dying soul. He explained that the physical is temporary and perishable whereas the soul is everlasting and unchangeable. This ultimate understanding and awareness will help an individual in combating stress in everyday life.
Chapter 14: Gunatraya-Vibhaga Yoga (The three modes of Material Nature or The three qualities of Material Nature) It contains 27 verses. In this chapter, Lord Krishna revealed to Arjuna that everything in the material existence is affected by goodness, passion, and ignorance. Goodness purifies, illuminates, and conditions one to a sense of bliss and knowledge. Passion give birth to infinite desires and longings, attaches to fruits of actions. Ignorance is accompanied by laziness, madness, and sleep. However, with constant devotional engagement an individual can achieve and remain in a transcendental position.
Chapter 15: Purusottama Yoga (Realisation of the Ultimate Truth or The Yoga of the Supreme Person) It contains 20 verses. In this chapter, Lord Krishna compared material existence to an indestructible banyan tree with its roots upward and its branches down. The tree can be cut with the weapon of detachment. An individual can then sought eternal abode.
Chapter 16: Daivasura-Sampad Vibhaga Yoga (The Divine and Demoniac Natures Defined) It contains 24 verses. In this chapter, Lord Krishna explained to Arjuna that those who have divine qualities like the purity of heart, non-violence, truthfulness, peacefulness; modesty and other Godly traits are conducive to elevation and eventually attain spiritual perfection. While individuals with demoniac qualities like anger, ignorance, harshness, self-conceit, arrogance are conducive to degradation and bonded by material existence.
Chapter 17: Sraddhatraya-Vibhaga Yoga (The three Divisions of Material Existence or The Division of Faith) It contains 28 verses. In this chapter, Lord Krishna explained that sacrifice, charity and penance done according to the scriptural regulations as a duty towards the Supreme purifies the heart and lead to Him.
Chapter 18: Moksa-Opadesa Yoga (Final Revelations of the Ultimate Truth or Conclusion –The Perfection of Renunciation) It contains 78 verses. In this chapter, Lord Krishna summarizes the whole seventeen chapters to Arjuna. Lord Krishna asked Arjuna to surrender him to Him. Consequently, all immoral actions will be obliterated and the kingdom of God will be achieved.
Stress is a menace having a widespread existence, with several dreadful consequences ensuing from its presence. Employees are the most valuable assets of an organization. The significance of the Bhagavad Gita can be understood by its perpetual potential to address problems related to modern day management. The application of teachings of the sacred text in everyday life will combat stress and make life blissful. Srimad Bhagavad Gita is fraught with precepts that address all the problems individual faces in life. It’s a religious narrative with a deep meaning and wide application in all walks of life. The Bhagavad Gita is truly the elixir of life.
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Received on 13.08.2018 Modified on 14.08.2018
Accepted on 09.01.2019 ©AandV Publications All right reserved