The end and the beginning of beings are unknown.
We see only the intervening formations. Then what cause is there for grief?
—Bhagavad Gita 2.28; translated by Purohit Swami
Today I received a wedding invitation, and I think I can trace the series of events that led up to this moment. I am friends with this young couple, so, of course, on one level I know why they invited me to their wedding. But, in a deeper sense, can I ever really know why our paths crossed? No. The “intervening formations” of the couple and myself have existed for a time, and I have, in fact, no real understanding of how and why this happened. It is an unknown wonder, and I am just grateful to be touched by their happiness.
With a little reflection, we can see that our life as a whole is an intervening formation, as there is no doubt that we did not see its beginning and have no idea when its end will come. The individual events in our life—like my friends’ wedding—are intervening formations as well. The Sanskrit word for formation is vyakta, which, in essence, means “manifest” or “perceptible to the senses,” but also carries with it the sense of “adorned” or “beautiful.”
Even though we do not see the full picture of things, there is a certain magic in the little pieces that we do see. When we catch the sheer beauty of something that is perceptible to our senses—a flower, a loving selfless action, or a musical cadence—it stops us in our tracks and brings us right back to the present moment in wonder.
More often than not, our minds are busy with the habitual working out of the whys and wherefores of a particular sequence of events—thinking in straight lines, as though we know its beginning and end. Since we don’t, all we can do is appreciate what we can know, and, through that appreciation, let the divine majesty of life unfold.
Commentary by Isabelle Glover, Sanskrit scholar and teacher, Christian, and student of contemplative scripture.