6.5 Elevate your self (ego) with the power of the Self (Soul). Never let your will be weakened by the self. The Self is a true friend and can help overcome the self.
The scene of the Bhagavad Gita is set in the most unlikely of places for a spiritual text: the battlefield of war.
We find ourselves several thousand years ago, two warring parties facing each other in a field, ready to charge. Arjuna, leader of one of the warring sides, experiences a moment of great doubt and uncertainty about his role and dharma in this upcoming war, and the Gita is the discussion that ensues between him and his charioteer Krishna, who is an avatar — an incarnation of God.
The battlefield of war is a metaphor for the Gita’s primary subject: the struggle that rages between our self and Self, our lower and higher nature (respectively) — between the forces of darkness and light or good and evil within every single one of us.
“God and the devil are fighting, and the battlefield is the heart of man.” Fyodor Dostoevsky
“The line separating good and evil passes not through States, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart“. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
It is within our own self that we must each fight and win this battle, and the Gita is the instruction manual on how to achieve this most epic of challenges.
We all know by our own internal experience that we are not the same person all the time. In fact, often it feels like there are two polar opposites within, plus a whole bunch of characters in between. This is because there are! The human being is composed of different aspects and each of these influences us from within.
There is the ego (ahamkara) and the lower mind (manas) pulling us downwards on the path of craving, instant gratification, comfort, judgement, and reaction. This path ultimately leads to immense suffering.
But there is also the Soul (Atman) and its emissary, the higher mind (Buddhi), that can help draw us upwards on the path of devotion, service, growth, love, and wisdom. This path leads to the ultimate goal of yoga: samadhi, or enlightenment and full awakening.
In each moment, we have the opportunity—as well as the responsibility—to decide which one of these forces will win out within us. Will we act from our higher or lower nature? From the darkness or the light? From ignorance or wisdom? From judgement or compassion?
In order to achieve our aim of following the upward path, we do not need to get rid of the ego (nor could we, even if we wanted to), for it serves a purpose, but we cannot allow it to take charge of consciousness, or it creates havoc and suffering. The ego does, however, need to be integrated and elevated so we can function well as a whole being and cease working against ourselves in contradictory ways.
This verse is suggesting that we subordinate our lower selves (ego and lower mind) to our higher selves (higher mind and Soul). Meaning, we should align with our higher nature, and we should not let the tricks, emotions, judgement, and seduction of the lower self lead us off course and away from the person we are seeking to be.
It is important to remember that all our thoughts and actions have consequences, and that over time, they add up to create our life. Every time we act on either the higher or lower aspects of our nature, we reinforce and strengthen that particular pathway and aspect.
Remain ever mindful then of which part you align with on a moment-to-moment basis, as ultimately you are choosing the upward path that leads to freedom and enlightenment, or the downward path that leads to servitude and suffering.
The choice is yours. It is your inner struggle to fight and win.