Johann Wolfgang von Goethe , the German writer offered nine requisites for contented living, and I have tried to draw parallels with the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita (BG) and the teachings of Adi Shankaracharya (Adi).

1. Goethe: HEALTH enough to make work a pleasure

BG: The Bhagavad Gita addresses Health at three levels – at the level of the physical / body, at the level of the mind / emotional, and at the level of the intellect/reasoning. It explains the interconnectedness of each and how explains how one influences the other. The Gita then ties the health of the three together to show how a healthy diet is important to the physical body in order to maintain a calm mind and a sharp intellect and how together they are the foundation blocks to meditation and eventual self realization.

2. Goethe: WEALTH enough to support your needs

Adi: Adi Shankaracharya strongly warns everyone against the pursuit of wealth. In Bhajagovindam, he says, ‘wealth is useless, thus reflect constantly; the truth is that there is no happiness at all to be got from wealth. To the rich, there is fear even from one’s own son. This is the way of wealth everywhere.’

Henry David Thoreau says ‘You are rich by the number of things you can afford NOT to have.’

Mahatma Gandhi said ‘The world has enough to meet everyone’s need, but not everyone’s greed.’

3. Goethe: STRENGTH enough to battle with difficulties and forsake them

BG: The Bhagavad Gita stresses on Strengthening the intellect over mind, in order to produce the right action. This is one of the key themes as the sermon of Bhagavad Gita is given by Krishna to his friend Arjuna, who is a war hero, a worrier,  who is physically strong, but is emotionally drained and intellectually weak (filled with emotions). The Bhagavad Gita also enlightens all about the presence of the 4th plane of consciousness, the spirit, realization of which leads one to see the world differently, and one develops the capacity to look at things in a detached way, at which point you have the courage to go through the ups and downs of life, in a calm and steady manner.

4. Goethe: GRACE enough to confess your sins and overcome them  

5. Goethe: PATIENCE enough to toil until some good is accomplished

BG: The Bhagavad Gita appeals to all of us who are in the pursuit of happiness. The Gita says external happiness derived through sense contact is not true happiness as it only brings sorrow in the end. Real happiness is getting to the happiness within which appears to be painful to get to in the beginning but eventually leads to true happiness and joy. The emphasis is on delayed gratification (and patience is the underlying virtue),

6. Goethe: CHARITY enough to see some good in your neighbor

BG: The Gita talks of 26 qualities that ennoble the mind spiritually. Charity is one of them. Charity is beyond just giving. According to the Gita, Charity is being generous in the opinions one holds for others. Purity of heart is important while performing acts of Charity. 

Read the ‘Joy of Giving’

7. Goethe: LOVE enough to move you to be useful and helpful to others

BG: The emphasis is to see the unmanifested ONENESS beyond the manifested diversity. The True Love that we get to see between a mother and the child is because of the oneness that the mother experiences with the child. Extend this oneness beyond family to neighbors, to the community, and then to the nation, and the Love grows exponentially. Nelson Mandela, saw that Oneness for the nation.

Mother Teresa says that love begins at home and it is not how much we do, but how much LOVE we put in the action that we do.

8. Goethe: FAITH enough to make real the things of God

BG: The Bhagavad Gita teaches us that faith is more than belief and true faith is what comes after receiving some spiritual insight. Perfect faith comes with deep realization. Faith,

   as defined by Jo Goldsmith: “Belief in a thing that you do not know until you come to know what you believe in”

   as defined by Rabindranath Tagore: “Bird that feels the light and sings while the dawn is still dark”

  as defined by Adi Shankaracharya: “Capacity of the intellect to imbibe ideas, reflect, absorb, till you become it.”

9. Goethe: HOPE enough to remove all anxious fears concerning the future

BG: The Bhagavad Gita is very careful on the aspect of hope. Hope has a connotation to the future. The Gita says we spend most part of our lives thinking of the past and hoping about the future. In the process, we land up missing the present completely, which is there right in front of you to experience. Gita says the past is filled with attachments and emanating from the attachments is the fear of losing while on the other hand the future is filled with desire, and the fruits of the desire, and emanating from the desires/fruits of desire are anxiety and mental agitation. It clarifies that being human we are bound to act and all action is borne out of desire and so the key is manage the desires, working on positive desires, and not depend on the fruits of the desire.

About Goethe:

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a German writer, artist, and politician. His body of work includes epic and lyric poetry written in a variety of metres and styles; prose and verse dramas; memoirs; an autobiography; literary and aesthetic criticism; treatises on botany, anatomy, and colour; and four novels. In addition, numerous literary and scientific fragments, and over 10,000 letters written by him are extant, as are nearly 3,000 drawings(

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  1. Pingback: Jan 21st – Martin Luther King « Dew Drops

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