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Commentary on the Bhagavadgita


Discourse 17: The Sixth Chapter Concludes – God's Great Promise to Us

Sanaih sanair uparamed buddhya dhriti-grihitaya, atma-samstham manah kritva na kinchid api chintayet (6.25). Here we are in the meditational technique of the sixth chapter of the Bhagavadgita. Gradually, slowly, step by step, we have to subdue the mind. We should not try to control the mind hurriedly, quickly, by force of will.

There is a story to illustrate the way in which the mind can be controlled. The mind is like a ferocious bull that will not allow us to go near it. A wild bull is so ferocious that we dare not go near it. How will we be able to control that wild bull and ride on it? Our first step is to put a fence around it. Now we have restrained its movement to some extent. We can restrain the mind in a similar manner by putting a fence around it, allowing it to go so far and no further. Even if we have desires, they should be permissible, justifiable desires, conducive and healthy. Unjustifiable and harmful desires should not be entertained. Therefore, the first step is to permit the mind to have some desires, but not allow it to go beyond a limit – like the fence that we put around the wild bull.

The next step is to bring some green grass to the bull, stretch our hand inside the fence, and call out to it. Because of the green grass, it will come near us. We have no fear of the bull because we are on the other side of the fence. It can look at us threateningly, but it cannot harm us because we are on the other side of the fence; because we are giving it green grass, it is a little subdued and its mind is concentrated on the grass. If we bring the bull green grass every day, it gets accustomed to our face and we can even touch it on the head with the fence still between us. If we go on doing this for a long time, we can even hold the bull’s horn and it will not do us any harm. It will not make noise and threaten to gore us. Then we gradually open the gate a little and thrust the green grass inside. It will look at us in a friendly manner because it is habituated to seeing our face. After some time we can go near it, and then touch it. A day will come when we are able to ride on it.

This is an illustration of how the mind is threatening us, trying to control us like a wild bull, and how it pulls our consciousness in any direction whatsoever just as a wild bull may run amok, hither and thither; but gradually we can bring the mind under control by circumscribing its activity, putting a fence around it, allowing it to move only within a certain area. Suppose we are in an ashram or a monastery, we can do whatever is permissible. We can eat, we can play, we can talk, we can go for a walk, we can have a cup of tea; all these are permissible. But drinking and gambling, a non-vegetarian diet and smoking are not allowed in these institutions and, therefore, we are automatically weaned away from them.

Circumscribing the number of desires and making them operate within a certain limit is the first step. Then we reduce the desires gradually by deciding which are unavoidable and which are avoidable. There are unavoidable desires and avoidable desires. For instance, we require one meal, and we have to have one meal or even two meals if it is necessary. There are other things which we snack on between meals  we go on eating varieties of things. These snacks are not necessary and can be avoided. Therefore, we may restrain our eating to the minimum number of items that we require.

Then we can prescribe to ourselves a discipline, as certain swamis in Haridwar have done. They take kshetra sannyas and do not go out of Haridwar. This is also a limit that we put to the mind. Otherwise, the mind says that we can go anywhere we like – to Mussoorie or San Francisco. We take a decision that we shall not go beyond Rishikesh; this is kshetra sannyas. That Swamiji who took kshetra sannyas then restrained himself still further by taking ashram sannyas, that is, he would not go out of the ashram. Swami Ganesanandaji Maharaj of Sadhana Sadan in Haridwar is a saint and a learned man. He has this discipline of not going out of Haridwar, and finally not even going out of his ashram. If we maintain such disciplines, the mind gradually attains tranquility: sanaih sanair uparamed. It may take many years for us to restrain the mind and make it come back to the point of concentration, which is the Self. Buddhya dhriti-grihitaya: With a bold determination by our reason, with discrimination, with vichara and viveka shakti, the mind has to be brought under control very, very slowly. Abrupt actions are not permitted.

Atma-samstham manah kritva na kinchidapi chintayet: Once the mind becomes settled in itself, we should not disturb it. There should no longer be any necessity to speak or to think or to do anything whatsoever because the settling of the mind in the Atman is the final goal of life, and once the mind tastes the nectarine bliss of the Atman’s contact, it will not want anything else. Yam labdhva chaparam labham manyate nadhikam tatah (6.22): Having gained this, we do not consider any other gain in the world as equal to it. Yasmin sthito na duhkhena gurunapi vichalyate: Established in this, the heaviest of sorrow cannot shake us. Let anything happen; nothing will shake us out of our balance because of our establishment in the Self.

Yet, the mind will move here and there. It goes here, it goes there. What do we do at that time? Yato yato nischarati manas chanchalam asthiram, tatas tato niyamyaitad atmany eva vasam nayet (6.26): Whatever be the direction in which the mind is moving, from that direction it should be pulled back. When a horse is restive and kicks and moves backwards and forwards, the rider controls it with the reins. If the horse goes in one direction, the rider pulls it back from that direction. If it goes in another direction, he pulls it back from that direction. When the mind is pulled back from the particular direction that it has taken, it will move in another direction.

Suppose there are ten holes in a pot which is filled with water, water will start leaking through one hole, and if we plug that hole, water will leak through another hole. Similarly, if we control the eyes, the ears will wreak havoc. If we control the eyes and ears, the nose will say something. If the nose also is controlled, the tongue will go out of control. One sense or the other will be there to trouble us. Therefore, whichever be the direction of the action of the mind, from that direction we pull should it back with the reins of self-control, because the mind is very fickle and it will never rest in any particular given point. So the habit of the yogi, the student of yoga, should be to bring the mind back to the point of concentration by intense exercise of will and reason, allowing it to rest in itself for some time. And if the mind goes in another direction, we should gradually bring it from there also, until it is habituated to being controlled and it knows that it will be pulled back from wherever it goes. Then the mind settles, one day or the other. Yato yato nischarati manas chanchalam asthiram, tatas tato niyamyaitad atmany eva vasam nayet: From whichever direction  the mind goes, bring it  back to the Self, and we should be steadied in our nature.

Prasanta-manasam hy enam yoginam sukham uttamam, upaiti santa-rajasam brahma-bhutam akalmasham (6.27): Such a person who has restrained his mind and who is established in the Self has made the mind subdued and calm. Prasanta-manas: A great bliss manifests itself from within. Santa-rajasam: One becomes free from all rajas, free from the distractions of the senses and the mind. Akalmasham: The mind becomes spotless and pure. Brahma-bhutam: One veritably expands one's dimension to the state of the Absolute. When we sink below a particular wave in the ocean, we enter into the very ocean itself. Though it may be only one wave among the many waves into which we have sunk, the sinking into the root of the wave takes us to the very foundation of all waves. That is to say, the sinking into our own Self is like sinking into a wave in the sea of consciousness so that, in that sinking in an individual fashion so-called, we enter into the Self of all beings. We become sarvabhutatma bhutatma, the veritable self of all beings.

Yunjann evam sadatmanam yogi vigata-kalmashah (6.28): The yogi, one who is an ardent student of yoga, daily practicing this meditation continuously and without remission, gets freed from all the dirt and evil of rajas and tamas. Sukhena brahma-samsparsham atyantam sukhamasnute: Easily he contacts Brahman because he has contacted Atman. The contact of the Self in us is the same as the contact of the Brahman in the cosmos. The illustration to make it clear is that sinking into the root of the wave is equivalent to sinking into the ocean of all waves.

The four verses that follow may be recited like a mantra. The Lord places a great dictum before us in these four verses that follow. These verses give the quintessence of divine mercy and divine involvement in human life. A kind of quintessential divine blessing is put into a little capsule, as it were, in these four verses; and we may recite these four verses every day as a mantra to purify the mind and to enable us to concentrate itself on God.

Sarva-bhuta-stham atmanam sarva-bhutani chatmani, ikshate yoga-yukta-atma sarvatra sama-darsanah (6.29).
Yo mam pasyati sarvatra sarvam ca mayi pasyati, tasyaham na pranasyami sa ca me na pranasyati (6.30).
Sarva-bhuta-sthitam yo mam bhajaty ekatvam asthitah, sarvatha vartamano’pi sa yogi mayi vartate
Atmaupamyena sarvatra samam pasyati yo’rjuna, sukham va yadi va duhkham sa yogi paramo matah (6.32).

Sarva-bhuta-stham atmanam means one who recognises the presence of the Universal Self in all beings. Sarva-bhutani chatmani means one who recognises the presence of all beings in the Universal Self. Firstly we behold the Universal Self in all beings, and conversely we behold all beings in the Universal Self. Ikshate yoga-yukta-atma: One who is united in yoga beholds the realities of things in this manner, as the location of all beings in God and the location of God in all beings. Sarvatra sama-darsanah: Equanimously he sees the same substance in the variety that is this world.

Everything in the world is made up of five constituents – asti, bhati, priya, nama, rupa. Asti means existence; bhati means consciousness; priya means bliss, joy; nama means name; rupa means form. Every object in this world has a name and a form. It exists, it has a self-consciousness, and it enjoys itself. The nama and the rupa, or the name and form complex of a particular object is a characteristic of its location in space and time. If the object is relieved of its involvement in the space-time complex, it will not appear as something having a name or a form. But nama-rupa prapancha, or the world of names and forms, is supposed to be relative and not absolute. Therefore, nama and rupa – name and form – cannot be attributed to God, because God is absolute. Name and form are relative to the circumstance of objects in the world in terms of space and time. But asti bhati priya – Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, known also as satchidananda – are the essences which constitute the basic ‘sat’ of all things, and are permanent.

An eternity and a temporality characterise all things in the world. The eternity in things is in the form of Existence-Consciousness-Bliss – satchidananda. The temporality or perishability of objects is in their name and form. Name and form are rejected by the yogi, and he sees the essence. As I mentioned previously, he sees the gold in all ornaments. Whatever be the shape of the ornament, he sees one substance there, which is the shining gold.

Sarva-bhuta-stham atmanam sarva-bhutani chatmani, ikshate yoga-yukta-atma sarvatra sama-darsanah. Prior to this, the Lord had said, yo mam pasyati sarvatra: “He who beholds Me everywhere”; sarvam ca mayi pasyati: “and beholds all things in Myself”. Therefore, “He who beholds Me in all things sees My presence in everything, and also sees all things located in me”. To repeat, yo mam pasyati sarvatra sarvam ca mayi pasyati, and then, tasyaham na pranasyami: “I shall not be bereaved in his case; he shall not lose me.” God will not desert us. We will never be disconnected from God. He shall be at our beck and call. He shall be our servant, as it were. All things shall be provided to us by this Great Being, provided that we are able to convince ourselves in the heart of our hearts that all things are located in the Absolute and the Absolute is located in all things. Yo mam pasyati sarvatra sarvam ca mayi pasyati, tasyaham na pranasyami: We are dear to God and God is dear to us in such an intensive manner that we are perpetually inseparable. That state of life is the attainment of great Godliness where yo mam pasyati sarvatra sarvam ca mayi pasyati, tasyaham na pranasyami.

Sarva-bhuta-sthitam yo mam bhajaty ekatvam asthitah: “One who adores Me as residing in all things, as the Atman or the Self or the essence of all things; one who worships Me in this way – locating Me everywhere, worshipping Me in all things, beholding Me in every little form and name – whoever does this is able to achieve this great united-ness with me.” Ekatvam asthitah means he who has attained to a unity of perception in the midst of the diversity of things. Whatever be the mode of that person’s life, that person is one with God. God has been very kind in giving a blank cheque to us: “Behave in any way you like, but be rooted in Me.” These days people sometimes say, “Love, and do what you like.” Love, and then do what you like. In a similar way God says, “Love me, and then do what you like.” Whatever be the mode of one’s living – as a blacksmith, a goldsmith, a farmer, an officer or an ironsmith, whatever it is; whether one is a poor or rich, tall or short; whatever be the circumstance of one’s life, the mode of one’s living and the occupation that one is practicing, it matters not. Sarvatha vartamano’pi sa yogi mayi vartate: Such a person, irrespective of his occupations, locations and circumstances, is rooted in God because of the great concentration that he has practiced on the deepest Self in him as the Self of all beings.

Atmaupamyena sarvatra samam pasyati yo’rjuna, sukham va yadi va duhkham sa yogi paramo matah (6.32): “Hey Arjuna! He who beholds all things as he beholds himself…” This is a very difficult thing – to look at all things as we look at ourselves. Things outside look ugly, but we do not look ugly to ourselves. We have a contour of pleasantness and beauty, and other things in comparison to us may look otherwise. The difficulty in practicing this doctrine of seeing everything as one would look upon oneself, arises on account of the egoism of the individual.

If we are hungry, others are also hungry. If we feel fear, others also feel fear. If we are deprived of our possessions, others can also be deprived of their possessions. We have desires, and others also have desires. We have problems, and others also have problems. Therefore, we must be in a position to sympathise with the circumstances of all people and things. Even an ant would not like to die. Even an insect would not like to be trampled by an elephant. An insect loves itself as much as an elephant loves itself. It crawls and wriggles and runs and flies if somebody tries to catch it and kill it. Every living being has a love for itself, and the largeness or the smallness of the body is immaterial here. Though the body of an elephant is larger than the body of an ant, the selfhood of the ant is not in any way smaller than the selfhood of the elephant. The ant feels hunger as intensely as an elephant feels hunger. The physical dimension of the body is not in any way a deterrent to feeling pain and pleasure, whatever be the circumstance and the species into which one is born.

Atmaupamyena sarvatra samam pasyati yah: We love all things as we love ourself. Even the trees and the stones will respond to our call; there are no non-living or dead elements in this world. The various levels of creation such as matter, vegetable, plant, animal, human, etc. are only various stages of the expression of consciousness; but no level is totally without consciousness. It is present even in stone. If that were not the case, there would be no possibility of evolution. Inasmuch as we are able to locate our Self as the deepest reality of all things, we will be able to locate the same reality even in a stone. Everything in the world will shine like the light of the sun, and sparks of flame, as it were, will be seen jetting forth from every atom in the cosmos. If we see solar light emerging from every atom and every electron, then only it becomes possible for us to consider outside things as beloved, as valuable as our own self.  

Atmaupamyena sarvatra samam pasyati yo’rjuna, sukham va yadi va duhkham sa yogi paramo matah: “Whether he is in a happy state or in an unhappy state, that great yogi is lodged in Me.” This is a great promise, a kind of manifesto, as it were, that the Lord has bequeathed to us in these four verses, which in a little compass tell us how great God is, how compassionate God can be, how near God is to us and how easy it is to contact him. All these aspects of our relationship with God are brought out in these four verses, which we should recite. They can be recited in any language.

A doubt arises in the mind. “Well, all this is very well. I practice yoga, and I am struggling to achieve perfection in this life itself. But suppose, in spite of my ardent struggle and striving, I do not attain the goal before the discarding of this body. Suppose death overtakes me before the attainment of the goal of yoga, notwithstanding the fact that I have been practicing yoga. What will happen to me? Is it going to be a waste of effort? Is it true that when death takes place, everything is destroyed? Then all the effort in the direction of God-realisation by way of yoga will also be destroyed. Years of practice will become futile. Is this going to be my fate or anybody’s fate, if per chance one dies in the middle of the practice of yoga? Wwill not the soul perish into shreds of unfulfilled aims like a cloud rented apart? What good is there in practicing yoga when death is at the elbow and it can kill me at any moment?”

To this, a great consoling reply comes from the great Lord. There is no perishing of effort. The body may be discarded, but the force that is generated by our concentration, by our practice of yoga, will come with us because in death the body perishes but the mind does not perish. What takes rebirth is the mind. The desire-filled mind discards this body because it cannot have any more experience through this body. As we discard an old shirt because it is worn out, and put on a new shirt, the mind that is to fulfill further desires in some form or the other discards the old shirt of this body and puts on a new shirt in the form of a new body. Therefore, the mind does not die in death. It is only the body that goes. Hence, because all effort in yoga is a mental effort, as it is a consciousness operation, our yoga practice will not be a futile waste, because the mind will take with it all its assets in the form of the great work that it has done in meditation. The power of meditation which is impregnated into the very structure of the mind will be carried with it even if we take another birth. So, we should not be afraid that if we die in the midst of the practice of yoga there will be a loss of effort. No such thing will take place.

Because of the power of our practice, we may be born in a highly conducive atmosphere in which there is no kind of disturbance to us. Now we have a lot of disturbance – political disturbance, social disturbance, personal disturbance, communal disturbance, and all kinds of things. We cannot easily practice yoga in this world, due to difficulties of this kind. No such difficulty will be there afterwards. All factors will be conducive to our practice. In such a noble family, in a royal family, as it were, we will be born due to the great practice that we have carried on in this present life. Or we may even become the son or daughter of a great yogi such as Vasishtha or Vyasa. Then what else would we require? Such blessedness is difficult to attain, but it is possible to attain it. Thus, there should not be any fear in the practice of yoga. Even if we die having practiced only a little, the whole effort will be carried forward as assets are carried forward in a balance sheet.