This is an excerpt from a comparative study of James Hillman’s The Soul’s Code and the Bhagavad Gita, by James Kennard.
The symbolic heart, the anāhata chakra, holds our life’s seminal image. This is the true place of yoga in the Gita, which conjuncts above and below, will and action, being and becoming. We are thrown into life, and become conscious in the middle, a field of action: “kshetra (field), from the verbal root kshad, which means ‘attack’ ‘confront’… the place where paradoxical experiences meet (samaagama)” (Brooks, 2008, p.30). The heart space holds opposing forces, and is prone to “attack” when we cannot ourselves confront such deeply pressing conflicts. Krishna opens us to a greater meaning offered through the hearts longing, through dharma or duty, as it is the “focal point of all experience” (Brooks, 2008, p.30).
What was above is now below: the ground that fell away from our beneath feet is momentarily held by the winged wisdom of the daimon. The Self appears in form of Krishna. Something new emerges in this focal point, where the wisdom of the heart is revealed. Jung describes this psychic center of our experience:
In the anāhata you behold the purusa, a small figure that is the divine self … People lose themselves completely in there emotions and deplete themselves, and are finally burned to bits … a new thing comes up, the possibility of lifting himself above the emotional happenings and beholding them. He discovers the purusa in his heart, the thumbing “smaller than the small, greater than the great.” In the center of anāhata there is again Siva in the form of the linga, and a small flame means the first germlike appearance of the self. (Jung, 1996, p.39)
The racket of our emotions can drown out the sound of the calling. Fanned without the proper outlet, or channeled into the wrong place, it becomes uncontrolled. Our desires ruin the life we have up to this point made for ourselves. Krishna says as much:
But if you refuse the call
To a righteous war, and shrink from
What duty and honor dictate,
You will bring ruin down on your head.
These revelations take place in the midst of life, dramatically rendered through a breakdown amidst a war. This is a humbling experience, forming an essential part of our individuation process, whereby we learn to pay heed to our life’s duty, dharma, or calling. If we do not face the demons inside, they will visit us from the outside, what we call “fate.” We must enter the battlefield of our own desires, as well as the one’s chosen for us by fate. The Katha Upanishad agrees, “what is within us is without. What is without is also within.” (p. 21). Arjuna’s entry into the field is also an encounter with his “lot” in life, “that space which is your portion in the overall order of things” (Hillman, 1996, p.45). His fate suddenly dawns on him, and he becomes a basket case, “the word case itself …from the Latin, caere, to fall. Your case is simply the fate that befalls you” (Hillman, 1996, p.280). Having fallen, Arjuna is now in a position to receive instructions from Krishna. He is beginning to realize that his life isn’t entirely his own, but instead belongs to the daimon, soul, or Self.
It is not our appearance that defines our image, but rather our souls image that defines the manner in which we appear. This reversal of perspective is made through a sacrifice of the ego’s position, which is now oriented toward the Self. When we fall, something must change so that we might be able to continue on our way again. The change required here belongs to the way we are consciously involved in our actions. Krishna continues: “You have a right to your action, but never to the fruits… Action is far inferior to the yoga of insight … the wise man let’s go of all results … and is focused done action alone. Yoga is skill in actions” (2.47-50).
Arjuna picks up his bow and arrow, returning to his life’s purpose. This is his tool or device, a power in which he can realize the self-image. The bow and arrow is akin to the mind’s power of penetrating insight (Jnana), which connects the hearts longing (Iccha), with its fulfillment in action (Kriya). We must focus our intellect, aiming it through the image in the heart. In this way, we connect what is within us, to our fate outside. Gradually, and over the course of time, we come to know what we must do, and the manner in which we must do it. The word style comes from the Latin “stilus,” a device for crafting characters: “the very word character originally meant a marking instrument that cuts indelible lines and leaves traces” (Hillman, 1996, p.260). Our character leaves a mark in the world, just as we are also imprinted by our experiences in it. This world is a place to reveal our character and forge the soul’s image. The world is a vale for soul making.
In summary, The Gita teach us that life’s battles are to be devoted, as an offering:
The whole world becomes a slave
To its own activity Arjuna;
If you want to truly be free,
perform all actions as worship. (3.9)
By worship you will nourish the gods
And the gods will nourish you in turn;
By nourishing one another
You assure the well-being of all. (3.11)
We are often pulled into distractions, or senseless activity’s. The purpose is to harvest meaning from our actions in the world, and in so doing we are yoking and expanding consciousness with it. The collection of experiences we call a life is offered back into the fire of reflection, the light of consciousness. Holding steady in the difficult moments, we can craft our experiences into something meaningful, unique to our soul’s style. This is a process of fermenting the experiences to make a sweet nectar, nourishing to our spirit, the soul’s well being.
We are safe from harm when we devote life to its calling. Being true to this experience is an end in itself. The happy life (Ancient Greek: Eudaimonia), “life that is good for the daimon” (Hillman, 1996, p.260) is something nourishing for all.
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