Category Archives: OCD and the Bhagavad Gita

OCD and The Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 3

“All men are forced to act helplessly according to the impulses born of the modes of material nature; therefore no one can refrain from doing something, not even for a moment.” – BG 3.5

As long as we are in this material body, we are going to suffer from physical ailments. We are driven by the impulses that are born from the modes of nature. OCD is not our fault. It is due to chemical imbalances in the brain, due to genes perhaps, due to reasons unknown to us. But it is born of material nature. It is not the nature of our soul. It is not who we are. Know and realize that it is not your fault.

The solution? Work for Vishnu:

“Work done as a sacrifice for Visnu has to be performed, otherwise work binds one to this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunti, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain unattached and free from bondage.” BG 3.9

Work with a desire to please him and in this way be focused on him. Perhaps this will reduce the time I spend focusing on my OCD-thoughts?

“The working senses are superior to dull matter; mind is higher than the senses; intelligence is still higher than the mind; and he [the soul] is even higher than the intelligence.” BG 3.42

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OCD and The Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 2 Verses 31-40

Krishna is encouraging Arjuna to fight. Fight. Fight. I must get up and fight this obsessive thoughts. 

“Do thou fight for the sake of fighting, without considering happiness or distress, loss or gain, victory or defeat–and, by so doing, you shall never incur sin.” (BG 2.38)

We must not do anything for our own profit. Whatever we do, we must do for Krishna. Whether we work or eat or study… everything must be done as an offering to Krishna. Krishna tells Arjuna to rise above dualities and be free from anxiety, and to be established in the Self. This is what I must do. I must rise above this duality of what is clean and dirty. That is what is causing me so much anxiety. Krishna instructs Arjuna to never be attached to not doing his duty. This is what I have been doing, isn’t it? I have let my OCD stop me from fulfilling my duties. My duty now is to work and support my family but for a while, I hadn’t been able to do so. With the mercy of the Lord, I have been able to start working and I will continue to lean on Him for support to keep working so I can look after my family.

And we must continue to engage in devotional service, for that is what Krishna says will free us from karma.

“One who is not disturbed in spite of the threefold miseries, who is not elated when there is happiness, and who is free from attachment, fear and anger, is called a sage of steady mind. He who is without attachment, who does not rejoice when he obtains good, nor lament when he obtains evil, is firmly fixed in perfect knowledge.” (BG 2.56-57)

This is what our aim should be. And the way to achieve this aim is to keep our focus on Krishna, and to immerse ourselves in devotional service. Krishna says that there can be no happiness without peace, which comes after having a steady mind. The way to have a steady mind is to be absorbed in Krishna. Krishna says that the person who is not disturbed by his desires can achieve peace, not those who strive to satisfy their desires. I am of the latter. I strive to no end to satisfy my desires of keeping myself and my things clean even if they were not dirty to begin with. I must restrain and fight these desires if I want to achieve some steadiness of the mind.

Arjuna was right when he said that it is easier to tame the wind than the mind.

But Krishna is the answer.

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OCD and The Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 2 Verses 11-30

We are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Germs? Seriously? THAT is my biggest concern? It sounds silly even to me. The body is not as important as the soul. Why then do I spend so much time cleaning and protecting my body obsessively instead of nourishing my soul?

The next few verses explain the nature of the soul. The soul is permanent but the body keeps changing. The body changes with lives, with age, and with states – clean and dirty. 2.14 is a great verse about the nature of duality of this world. And it is this duality that often leaves us bewildered. Krishna says that all of this happiness and distress arise due to sense perception. Wow. Krishna said this thousands of years ago whereas modern science declared it in the recent past! But doesn’t it make sense? We perceive things to be clean, dirty, good, bad, etc. and accordingly we feel happiness or distress. The Lord says that we should tolerate them without being disturbed. Steadiness. Gopinath says that those who are steady as such are “certainly eligible for liberation.” What is important is that our souls cannot be harmed in any way, be it water, fire, weapons or even germs. Our souls are protected by Krishna.

So this is what we must understand. The body is not worth lamenting for. Our souls are far more important. This is a world of duality and we must rise above it, and not be affected by it.

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OCD and the Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 2 Verses 11-20

“The Blessed Lord said: While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead.” [2.11]

If life and death are not worth mourning over, are these anxieties and hygiene concerns worth it? Absolutely not. We are forgetting that the purpose of life is building a relationship with Krishna and understanding Him to be the Lord of Creation. The purport says, “The body is born and is destined to be vanquished today or tomorrow; therefore the body is not as important as the soul.” Cleanliness is important, but not so much that it occupies all my time! I ought to be spending more time feeding my soul with knowledge of Krishna!

Krishna goes on to explain more about the nature of the soul. Krishna says that there never was a time when we did not exist and never will there be a time when we will cease to exist. The body is continually changing. It grows, it becomes ill, our souls change bodies… But our souls are always the same. Our souls are indestructible. The body will change its state of being clean and dirty at different points in time, but our soul remains pure. Krishna says that self-realized souls are not bewildered by such bodily changes.

O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” [2.14]

Yes. This is Krishna’s golden advice to us, applicable in any situation. We live in world of duality. Hot or cold, happy or unhappy, clean or dirty. Vaishnavas must overcome this duality and tolerate them with a steady mind. Yes, yes, yes. We must remember this. All of this arises from sense perception. I remember learning about this in my Psychology class – the way we feel is due to our perception of things. What psychologists have started realizing in the recent past, Krishna spoke thousands of years ago! Timeless wisdom, don’t you think? Krishna goes on to say that those who are steady in this world of duality are certainly eligible for liberation. So there we have it – further motivation to rise above this duality!

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OCD and The Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 2 Verses 1-10

Verse 2.1 mentions that Krishna is filled with mercy and compassion upon seeing Arjuna’s state. Similarly, we can understand that Krishna is merciful towards us when He sees us in this miserable state of confusion and doubt. We need to understand from this verse that Krishna does see our suffering and He is merciful and compassionate towards us, even though we may not realize it.

The verse further addresses Krishna as Madhusudhana. The purport by Srila Prabhupada explains that this is significant because Krishna vanquished a demon named Madhu thus giving rise to this name of His. He is addressed as Madhusudhana because He destroyed a demon and now Arjuna needs Him to destroy the demon of doubt and illusion. We too need him to do the same for us. The purport further explains that compassion for our outward bodies will not save us. Isn’t this what we are doing? I know I’m doing it. I’m wasting a lot of time everyday trying to keep myself clean, and I worry constantly and germs and getting dirty. I don’t know why I’m trying so hard to be clean and why it bothers me so much. But I do know that I am catering to the needs of my external body, rather than my spiritual needs.

Then Krishna says, “My dear Arjuna.” Oh, if only I could hear Him addressing me like this, all my worries would go away! Whether we hear Him or not, the fact of the matter is that He is always talking to us and addressing us in this way. Krishna asks Arjuna how come he is thinking such things. He might as well be asking us how we can be focusing so much on such mundane issues – worrying whether my hands are clean, whether the doors are locked, that germs are bad… Obviously, these are good things to do but people with OCD do these things a lot more times than needed. The Lord has given us intelligence and wisdom. Most of us now have the opportunity to be educated and work and build careers. So where do these thoughts come from? Krishna says, “Give up such petty weakness of heart and arise, O chastiser of the enemy.” So this is what me must do. Forget why and how things have come to be as they are. Krishna has instructed us to be strong and fight.

Again, Arjuna is confused. I can relate to his confusion by my doubts which arise, saying it is better to be clean. It is good to be clean. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Maybe my hands didn’t touch anything dirty, but can I take the risk that it did? Then I am stuck. Torn between deciding whether to shower again, wash my hands again, change my clothes again… Because I know that once I start cleaning, it’s going to take a while to stop. And I will feel even dirtier than before.

Arjuna says in verse 7:

Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me clearly what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me.

This should be our prayer. This should be our state of mind. We are weak and flawed, but God isn’t. He is the only one who knows what is best for us and what is the best plan of action. So through this, Arjuna is teaching us that we should always surrender to Krishna. Humbly go before Him, as His disciples, ready to take instruction from Him and do what He says. Surrender to Krishna, the way Arjuna is showing us how. And like Krishna led Arjuna out of the battle victorious, He will lead us out of this victorious too.

Arjuna then goes on to express his grief. The degree of his grief and lamentation is immense which only adds to the fact that no matter the problem, God can clear all obstacles. Arjuna is teaching us again that only surrender to Krishna can solve all our problems. Arjuna then says that he will not fight. And Krishna smiles in response, in the middle of a battlefield. Can you imagine? Arjuna is bewildered, there is about to be the greatest war of all time, and Krishna is smiling compassionately upon Arjuna. Here we are, lost and confused, fighting our own wars, and Krishna is smiling down upon us.

The next post will cover what Krishna says to Arjuna and us as He compassionately smiles at us.

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OCD and the Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 1 Verses 21 – 46

So we stand now, with our chariot drawn by Krishna in between the two armies: ours and OCD.

Now we face Arjuna’s dilemma: we lose the will to fight. OCD and other illnesses, anxiety, depression, all of these have become so in-built in us now. They are like a part of us and we are hesitant to fight back. It’s going to be hard to fight this army. What if we lose? What if our conditions worsen? What if nothing gets better?

In the beginning of my struggle with OCD, when I had realized that I had a problem, I didn’t think I needed to fight it. I thought it was just a phase and that I would get over it in some time. So I didn’t do anything. Arjuna didn’t want to kill his family members so even he put down his weapons and thought he would do nothing.
Must we also do this? Must we remain inactive and thus let OCD win?

Explore what Krsna has to say to Arjuna and to us in the next post.

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OCD and The Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 1 Verses 1-20

As promised, here I am starting a study of the Bhagavad Gita and applying it to OCD (and other undesirable physical/mental states, if you will).

I would like to mention here that the information that will follow in this series of discussions is in no way authorized by Vaishnava scholars. It is most definitely not a literal interpretation. It is simply an attempt to take Lord Krishna’s words seriously and use the knowledge He has distributed to overcome problems in my life. Readers can similarly fill in the blanks with their own personal problems and try to approach it through the lens of the Gita. I have searched online for such an application of the Gita’s wisdom but never found any. Similarly, lots of search results have appeared on my blog, looking for advice from the Gita with regards to OCD. Thus I hope and pray this will be a learning experience for me as well as fellow sufferers who are seeking support from Krishna and the Gita. I hope this does not offend anyone in any way and beg your forgiveness if I accidentally do so in the future. In which case I would appreciate being made aware of my errors so I can correct them.

Before I begin, I would just like to say a little prayer: Dear Krishna, I want to thank you for you have mercifully given us this eternal knowledge in the form of this scripture known as the Bhagavad Gita. I am starting a new study of it, applying your teachings to overcome my poor health and OCD. Lord, please help me to understand your teachings and to apply them well. Please help me to avoid offending you or anyone else. Please let this be a great learning experience for all those who take part in it and let it strengthen our faith in you. I pray, God, that we may be able to overcome these problems with your help. Lord, fill us with divine revelations from you through this study and give us the senses to hear, see and understand you. I realize that your pure devotees do not have any requests from you, except devotional service, but I am far from being a pure devotee. I am in distress and I have come seeking your refuge. Please give me shelter at your feet, Lord, for there is no one for me but you.

Text:
I am going to be referring to Bhagavad Gita As It Is by AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada. A good website for it is: http://www.asitis.com

Bhagavad Gita Verses 1-20

Dhritarastra is asking Sanjaya about what is taking place on the battlefield who sees it through his special gift of vision. He describes the armies on the battlefield to Dhritarastra.

So here we are, ready to fight. The question is: did you choose Krishna to be on your side or did you choose His army? If you chose for Krishna to be on your side, let me tell you now, you will emerge victorious. This is Krishna’s promise to us. Let us get ready now to face the demons, with Krishna on our side to guide us and support us. As Sanjaya describes the armies are on the battlefield, ready for war. So right now, let’s step onto the battlefield, ready to take on OCD.

Our army comprises of Krishna, knowledge, light, truth, balance, sensibility, rationality, humility, patience and tolerance.

The opposing army comprises of our problems, OCD, poor health, illnesses, stress, anxiety, depression, dishonesty, and lack of will power.

The opposing army is strong. They have proven to be victorious over and over. Duryodhana believes that our side is limited in strength and prowess and that the enemy will surely emerge victorious once again like they have over many others before. Like Duryodhana wanted to rule over the Pandavas and their kingdom, our problems want to take over us. They do not want us to be free. Many people have given over their lives to illnesses and depression. Some have given up their lives because of it. Others have lost their lives to it. But we shall do neither of these. Krishna is on our side and we will emerge victorious, no matter what Duryodhana or OCD or our problems think!

The war is about to begin. We are about to take on the enemy. Everyone draws their conch shells, signifying the start of the battle. The conch shells of the opposing army are no doubt mighty, but the conch shell of Krishna is the mightiest of all! Thus when our army blows the conch shells, it shatters the heart of the enemy (BG 1.19). OCD, illness and depression don’t stand a chance against us. Already just with the blowing of the conch shells, they have weakened. Victory belongs to those who surrender to Krishna!

But like Arjuna stumbled before them, hesitating to fight them, will we? Should we? Should we also refuse to fight in the battle and simply give up? We’ll find out in the next post!

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