१८. ५९: यदहंकारमाश्रित्य न योत्स्य इति मन्यसे
मिथ्यैष व्यवसायस्ते प्रकृतिस्त्वां नियोक्ष्यति
Having depended on the false self, you think “I will not fight.”
Your determination is false, Nature will compel you.
In the last chapter of the Bhagavad Gītā, Lord Kṛṣṇa reveals a profound statement about the ego or false self. The warrior, Arjuna, having experienced a deep fear of fighting a war against his own family as the enemy, is philosophically convinced and counseled by his charioteer, Lord Kṛṣṇa to pick up his bow and fight. In the process, Kṛṣṇa explains the difference between the false self (ego, “I”) and the True Self. The ego, one’s false sense of identity (My name is Hemal, I am Indian, I am a student, etc.), is absolutely nothing compared to the infinite, eternal, unchanging and blissful Self that exists within all creatures. Kṛṣṇa counsels Arjuna to understand that it is the identification with the false self (I am Arjuna, I am a warrior, this is my family) that does not allow him to see the evil and unrighteousness that exists as the enemy. Instead, the false self, is clouding his judgement making him feel great pain and anxiety for fighting his family. It is only by understanding one’s true nature as the Self or Ātman/Brahman, that one will realize that one is an eternal and blissful soul that is simply watching the material mind and body acting on its own accordance in alignment with dharma (righteousness/duty). In this case, as a warrior, Arjuna’s duty is to fight evil. Only by identifying with the true Self, can he fulfill his duty. It is the identification with the false self that fundamentally interferes with this process of understanding.
Towards the end, Lord Kṛṣṇa says the śloka (verse) above. If Arjuna does not act based on the True Self, then the material world will make him do it anyway. In other words, if you do not realize your true identity and act, then Nature will challenge your ego until you do. For instance, out of the false identification with the ego, if Arjuna firmly decides not to fight because he is miserable about the idea of killing his family members as the enemy, he will face shame, guilt and dishonor as a warrior. Being a warrior, and choosing not to fight, he will be insulted, called names and seen as cowardly by his opponents. This will trigger the ego and cause him to defend and assert his false identity, leading him to fight anyway. He will end up killing the enemy but from a place of delusion, pain, attachment, which at their core, is false identification. Therefore, the Bhagavad Gītā is trying to tell us that by understanding our true nature, the eternal and blissful Self, we will act from a place of bliss, and alignment with duty in the world. If we refuse to do so, Nature, the material world, will compel us by provoking and challenging our sense of self leading us to act from a place of pain and delusion. Nature will break our false identities by working under the disguise of people, jobs, missed goals, loneliness, lacking, anxiety, depression, fear and so on. When this pain arrives, we will painfully question ourselves: “Who am I?” “Am I really, Hemal, a talented, intelligent, charming, adorable, creative student?” “Am I something beyond these qualities, something that is quality-less and eternal?” Instead of allowing Nature to compel us, perhaps we can seek the Self by our own will, with great effort, determination and perseverance. Nevertheless, even if Nature is breaking the false self, let it. You will be rejected by people, opportunities, romantic love, colleges, family and so on. This is supposed to happen. I can spend the rest of my life trying to prove to the world and false self that I am intelligent and charming. Every morning, I can repeat it to myself and fight desperately to maintain that belief, or I can do what Lord Kṛṣṇa says: Find the True Self. “I am none of these qualities, because my true Self transcends these qualities.” In the realm of my true identity, these qualities do not exist, and will never be a comparative marker for rejection used against me, for I am everything and everything is me. In the True Self, I am acceptance and Pure Love.
-Hemal P. Trivedī