RtO: Arjuna and Krishna

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Each week, author and poet Y.S. Fing looks at the state of baseball, the movements of the game, the ebb and flow and soul of America’s pastime in Roaming the Outfield. This week: “Arjuna and Krishna”

Most of us live our lives unsure of what the over-all purpose is going to be. We may want to get to heaven, or live to the fullest potential, but we are probably not the best judges of whether our lives have value or what that exact value is. And we find ourselves wondering, well, who is going to validate our inner-most selves? How is taking action in life better than collapsing in an abject heap? When the team we root for, which has every potential in the baseball world, is playing .500 ball in August, what is the point?

It’s even worse when those we battle are kindred spirits, peers and friends who are in competition in the shrinking American labor market. How do we go to our tasks knowing how many are marginalized in the normal course of events? How can we hope to succeed when we conquer those to whom we are kin? So a baseball player may think, if he is afraid of losing.

So Arjuna felt, in the Bhagavad Gita, as he prepared his Pandava relatives to fight his Kurava relatives. Then the Lord of All, Krishna, appeared to him and showed him that action was imperative. Krishna told, and showed, Arjuna that all men were as good as dead to him, and it didn’t matter in which battle they fell. They were all doomed to fall. Existential reality goes back a long way in history, so far back that people were honest about it…

There is a state of peace to which a yogin (a practitioner) can aspire and achieve: “Steadfastly the will/ must toil thereto, till efforts end in ease,/And thought has passed from thinking. Shaking off/All longings bred by dreams of fame and gain,/Shutting the doorways of the senses close/With watchful word; so step by step, it comes/The gift of peace assured and heart assuaged…”
Let’s start with ‘…thought has passed from thinking…’ That harkens me back to konomama. We discipline ourselves to be prepared for the vagaries of life. Physically, emotionally, we do best to prepare ourselves for a challenging life. But who actually attains that ideal? This is why professional ball players are inherently heroes. I don’t wish it upon anyone, but if you succeed, you are a hero. There are too many who fail.

Then ‘Shaking off all longings bred by dreams of fame and gain…’ Those dreams are revealed to have been misplaced. We deluded ourselves but that delusion has been manifest. This state of disillusionment is favorable to success, because it dismisses the reward and focuses on the process, the action, the doing of the long-practiced skills. And then, ‘efforts end in ease.’

But even then, our efforts don’t guarantee success. Baseball is very much like life in that “you never know what you’re going to get.” So, what if you or your baseball team do get it all together and begin a run of 10-wins in 11-games, or 20-wins in 22-games, and yet still fall short? We must make mental adjustments. We have to remember it’s about the process now, not the reward.

If we internalize this process-orientation, we can keep it for future reference. When we are overcome with the need to be validated for our work, we can step back and reassure ourselves that the work itself is the value. Whatever praise or blame comes is not relevant. When the next opportunity comes around, it can be treated in a detached, but active way.

This balance, between engagement and disengagement, is difficult to maintain. Simply being conscious of it is an achievement. But being there and staying there takes disciplined concentration. And like baseball, there’s only one way to know if you are there, and that is to get there, and see to it that the process was pleasurable and achieved with one’s best effort, without regret.

Krishna says, “…hard Man’s heart is to restrain, and wavering; Yet may it grow restrained by habit, Prince! …self-command…cometh not lightly to the ungoverned ones; But he who will be master of himself Shall win it, if he stoutly strive thereto.”



Arjuna has to be convinced to fight his brethren for power, and the God Krishna reveals the entirety of the universe to him, so that he will know that his actions are miniscule but necessary. Do them. Perform the tasks that are given you to do. Pay attention to them, do your best, without thought for the reward. These are secular, atheistic admonitions. They are for peace of mind as much as salvation, because the two are really the same. We can find enlightenment in this life.

And when a baseball team is as sensitive to loss, as the Nats were in the last game against the Giants on August 14, and the next day against the Braves, then they are close to that enlightenment. As Steve Miller says, “You’ve got to go through hell before you get to heaven.” That’s how we can be sure of the life we’re living. The bad is part of the good.


Y.S Fing loves baseball the way that his parents wish he loved Catholicism.