Our emotions are a big part of who we are, but they are not all of us. We are bigger than our present emotions, most of which relate with our external material shell, not our spiritual core.
At the Bhagavad-gita’s start, Arjuna becomes emotionally overwhelmed. Krishna responds (02.02) by reproaching him for having succumbed to weakness of the heart. If a maestro delivers a lousy performance, such a lapse is uncharacteristic and unworthy. Similar, Krishna indicates, is Arjuna’s pusillanimity, while being a celebrated archer-warrior. Krishna underscores the unwholesomeness of those emotions by pointing out their consequences: they will sentence him to ignominy in this life and inauspiciousness in the next. To help ground Arjuna’s conceptions and emotions in spiritual truth, Krishna speaks the message of the Gita. Its philosophical worldview creates a stable foundation that empowers Arjuna to think clearly and act intelligently.
That the Gita urges us to subordinate our emotions doesn’t mean that we are to entirely reject them – we need to use higher intelligence for cultivating elevating emotions instead of being carried away by degrading emotions. Emotions can and should inform our decision by contributing to our decision-making process, lest we succumb to hardheartedness. But emotions alone shouldn’t comprise that process, lest we succumb to sentimentality.
The Gita’s conclusion demonstrates how we can cultivate higher emotions: Krishna expresses his intense affection for Arjuna (18.64). Such expressions are intended to awaken reciprocal emotions in Arjuna, thus channeling the energy of emotions in the project of elevating his consciousness and inspiring him towards a wise course of action.
By meditating on Krishna’s unfailing, unflinching love for us, we too can energize our spiritual endeavors with emotional power. Still, we may not be able to trigger such elevating emotions consistently, so we need to base our decisions in the Gita’s philosophically-grounded worldview.[ emotions ] [ gita ] [ mind ]