Desire, Divinity, and Detachment


For the first supplemental blog on The Bhagavad Gita, I want to address a few questions that have come up and are great topics for discussion.

Jack Hawley – The Bhagavad Gita, a Walkthrough for Westerners

The above quote summarizes major themes in The Gita, but has a lot of words that tend to stump so many of us in reading. How do we act without desire? How do we replace an action or thought of desire with that of the Divine if we are not yet connected to the Divine? How do we detach ourselves from the fruits of our labor when WE are the ones who labored?


We will start with the idea of “desire” being the impetus for all action. How do we continue to act without any desire for certain outcome? In the first place, Krishna is clear that we are always “in action” in a life lived in a body.

“Selfish desire,” a desire that leads us to a particular outcome that is just for our individual gratification, is what Krishna is urging Arjuna away from. Arjuna’s desire is to NOT go to war to save his own experience of despair and discomfort, but if he choses that, the kingdom goes to ruin and even his own reputation as a great warrior is diminished. Arjuna must act and it is Krishna’s job to lead him toward the Divine action his dharma entails. We all must choose actions that lead us toward yoga and not away from it, toward union with the Divine and not away from it. But how do we know which is which?


How do we have a Divine thought or a Divine action if we are not yet in union with the Divine? Being able to choose an action that leads toward the Divine assumes we have some knowledge of what the Divine is.

The thing to remember is that at our core we are already connected to the Divine, we just have covered it up with all the cravings and aversions of our own individual egos (Avidya). We have forgotten who we truly are and have attached ourselves to impermanence and distractions. I am sure we have all experienced moments where we react unnecessarily or engage in behaviors that we know will have negative mental or physical outcomes, yet we do them anyway out of habit. And, as Abhijata Iyengar often reminds us, “habit is a disease.” Every action deserves a moment of pause before acting to truly ask that internal voice (Divine of whatever you believe in) “do I really need to do this?” or “is this necessary?” Sometimes we will succeed at a more “Divine” choice, and sometimes we may fail, but that is what karma is made of….not just negative experiences, but positive ones as well. This is why the 8 limbs of yoga begin with the Yamas (moral precepts) and Niyamas (personal observances). They are practical starting points that guide us toward awareness and knowledge of our deeper Truth.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali II.33

The experience of equanimity after any action is key to knowing what runs contrary to or in alignment with the Yamas and Niyamas, our inner Truth, or our Divinity. Does an action, regardless of being perceived as “bad” or “good” on the surface, contribute to achieving greater inner balance or clarity, benefit not just ME, but the world I live in?


Expectation of and attachment to a particular outcome of action is the killer of equanimity. Wanting something that is out of our control, is unpredictable, transient, and literally in the future creates mental disturbance, brings worry or disappointment, and leads to further cravings or aversions (Raga and Dvesa, two major obstacles to yoga). If all we can do is ACT, then the fruits of our actions are not in our control, but discernment and awareness of those actions are.

We have to understand that the same action in any one time or space made by any individual in life will NEVER reveal the exact same result. Every action depends on the individual, the context, the culture, the environment, the situation, their karma, etc…The eight limbs of yoga help us to build discernment in action and reaction and become aware of our own habits and tendencies, to ultimately transform all action toward alignment with our dharma (duty in life) and inner Truth. Detachment is not a stoic disregard for experience, but an equanimity with any experience in and of itself, no matter what occurs (also known as santosha, or deep contentment in all things).

Arjuna’s journey shows this so clearly. Krishna (the Divinity), knows that Arjuna must fight this war to fulfill his dharma. Arjuna must trust his Divine voice (Krishna) to make the right choice that will lead him and the rest of the kingdom to victory. On the outside this seems like a violent and horrible choice, but the Divine knows it will ultimately lead to more balance in his kingdom and his Universe.

Jennie Williford CIYT

Jennie Williford (CIYT Level 3) is a transplant to LaCrosse via Montana, Illinois, and originally Texas. Throughout her life moves and 5 trips to India, Jennie has acquired a well-rounded and multi-faceted approach to Iyengar Yoga since her start in 1998. Jennie loves the experimental and explorative nature of yoga in accessing deeper knowledge of the Self on every level. The practice of yoga can be intense and introspective, however as practitioners we can be light-hearted and open-minded in our discipline. Jennie is intrigued by the philosophy of yoga and hopes to share this depth of subject while teaching the physical and mental benefits that come from the practice of posture.