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There is a wonderful ancient scripture in the Hindu tradition called the Bhagavat Gita. It tells the tale of Arjuna, a prince about to lead his army into battle, and of his chariot driver Govinda, who is actually the god Krishna, sent to help Arjuna learn to fight the battle of life. Arjuna wants to attack quickly and so defeat his enemy. But Govinda drives their chariot to the very head of the battle, before it begins, so that Arjuna can really see the many people about to fight. Arjuna notices families, many of whom he knows, on opposite sides of the conflict; cousins against cousins, sons against fathers, grandfathers against sons. It brings him to tears, and he realizes that there is no way to fight this battle without causing great suffering.

Govinda then speaks,

“Do everything you have to do, but not with anger, greed, envy or ignorance. Do what you have to do with love, compassion, humility and presence.”

There are two battles for us in this life, battles we have to engage in whether we want to or not.

The inner battle is one we fight constantly and nearly always on our own, for it is within. We may want to step around it or ignore it but if we do not fight and learn to overcome or control our own worst habits, fears, anger and stupidity, then we are lost. There is no hope for our future or even the present if we do not practice self-control, if we are not willing to take on the greatest battle of all.

The outer battle, with others and the world at large, is also difficult and challenging. Too often we may find ourselves dealing with a person who seems to effortlessly push our buttons, cause us to react in anger or bitterness. This can be so frustrating and irritating and it often sneaks up on us. A day is going well, things are good when all of a sudden, a person or a situation sets us off and we lose it. Perhaps for a few moments or minutes; perhaps for the whole day.

It takes a great deal of patience to deal with society and the world’s demands. Between family, work, friends, strangers, and the wide variety of political, social and cultural issues we experience it is amazing we do not lose our cool more often.

These two battles are closely linked, for the one inside consistently leads to the outside edition. If we practice the inner battle, and so are able to develop our own self-control, then we realize greater strengths within us and the outer battle is not as difficult or overwhelming. The outer battle will always be a challenge but with practice, something we get a lot of whether we like it or not, it can become less irritating, less devastating. Because we begin to see that life is really what we make of it. That how we see ourselves and the world around us has an effect on our experience and of the value we assign it.

These last two weeks have shown us once again that life is not under our control, that people do crazy, awful things to each other because of their inner pain. They see no solution but “to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them?” Like Hamlet at the end of his play, there seems to be no answer but to strike out and make a statement that while futile, gives the individual the opportunity to reject the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”

It is important to note that birth and death are actions that add to life’s complex and constant change, yet life itself never stops, never dies, never retreats.

For life is the constant aspect of creation that lies at its very core. Some call it love, some call it energy, some call it life force, some maybe think of it as curiosity or creativity or intelligence. For some it is God, the spirit at the heart of life, the meaning that brings us all into being. For a time. Because we are here, in this form and this identity, for a fairly short period. We wake, blink our eyes, begin to see life in all its rich and startling possibilities, and then, before we know it, we are sliding down the other side toward the end.

So, this is one of the realities of our time here in creation. That it can change at any moment. Even though our energy and life force go on, alive and engaged in ways we do not know or understand. Life is eternal, the body temporal, the experience I have as me is momentary, the soul that lives, using my body and mind as a short-term rental, goes on forever and ever, without end. Nothing can stop this. No gunman, no war, no disease, no accident, no judgment, no hatred, no loss of ability, no end of this planet … for what we are, ultimately, is beyond body, mind or anything else we may identify as.

So take hope, take love, take wisdom in knowing that you and I are here now, but that at some point, sooner or later, we will not be. Our lives, as we know them will end but our energetic souls will continue on to new lives, forms and understandings that are beyond us today.

This gives me hope as I hope it does you too.

God created this world, this one we are all part of, for many reasons but the core one is that we realize our true selves, our best and godly self. The eternal piece of us that is divine. In order to achieve this, it is necessary for us to clarify the confusion we see around us and that we carry within us. We have to learn how to battle in this life, to wage war on ignorance, hatred, desire and greed, both within ourselves and in the world around us.

Join me, won’t you?

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Burke Owens is pastor at the St. Helena United Methodist Church at 1310 Adams St. in St. Helena. Sunday worship is at 10 a.m. and all are welcome. Child care is provided. Please check the church website for more information. www.sthelenaumc.org or call 707-963-2839.

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