Commentary on the Bhagavadgita
by Swami Krishnananda

Discourse 12: The Fifth Chapter Continues – The Characteristics of a Perfected Person

Yogayukto viśuddhātmā vijitātmā jitendriyaḥ, sarvabhūtātmabhūtātmā kurvann api na lipyate (5.7). In this verse, the characteristics of a yogi, a perfected person, are described. A person who is united in yoga is a yogayukta. Such a person is also a viśuddhātmā: his lower self has been purified in order to reflect the higher Self in itself. He is also a vijitātmā: a person who is perfectly under control of himself; jitendriya: whose sense organs have been restrained; sarvabhūtātmabhūtātmā: whose Self has pervaded all beings, and the Self of all beings are in his own Self. These are the qualities of a sage which are mentioned in this interesting yoga.

In the beginning, the effort is to restrain the senses; and when the senses are restrained, the person becomes a jitendriya. When a person is a jitendriya on account of the restraint exercised over the senses, he becomes a vijitātmā—one who has conquered himself. The conquest of one’s own self is actually the conquest over the sense organs, because it is due to the activity of the sense organs that one’s own self moves in the direction of a not-self. We find that our interest is in outside things. The world seems to be more interesting than our own selves. This happens on account of the self moving away from itself, through the avenues of the senses, towards the direction of the world of objects. But a person who has restrained the senses does not allow the consciousness to pervade and penetrate through the senses towards the direction of things outside. Such a person has restrained himself. It is an exercise for restraining the self. It is a restraint over the sense organs; and incidentally, it is at the same time a restraint exercised on the self itself—the lower self. A jitendriya is also a vijitātmā.

Such a person is a viśuddhātmā whose self is pure sattva, free from rajas and tamas. The entire reality is reflected through the sattva guna, as a mirror can clearly reflect the face of a person. Turbid or shaky waters do not reflect anything adequately. Turbidity is tamas, and shakiness is rajas. The sun is reflected on the waters of a lake or a river. If the lake is muddy, and it is thick and turbid on account of dirt in the water, there will be no reflection of the sun in that water; but even if the dirt is not there, even if it is clean water but it is shaking violently, then also there will not be a correct and wholesome reflection of the sun. Similarly, we may be disturbed and find ourselves incapable of reflecting the higher Self in our own personality either because of the tamas that is prevailing in us or due to the rajas prevailing in us. Either we are tamasic—lethargic and dark—in our mental operations, or the mind is distracted in a hundred ways, so then also there is no reflection. Free from both these defects of the mind is a viśuddhātmā who is purely sattvic, untarnished by rajas and tamas. Such a person is united with all things at the same time; he is a yogayukta. The words used in this verse are in a descending order, whereas I have explained it in an ascending order. Yogayukta is the highest state, which is attained by the viśuddhātmā, which is attained by the vijitātmā, which state is attained by the jitendriya. Such a person becomes a wonder in this world.

Yogayukto viśuddhātmā vijitātmā jitendriyaḥ: He also becomes sarvabhūtātmabhūtātmā. He will find himself reflected in the Self of all beings in the universe, and he will find the selves of all beings reflected in his own Self. Sarvabhūtātmabhūtātmā means one who has become the Self of all beings, and also one in whom the selves of all beings find their abode. This is a grand description of the highest state of perfection achieved by union through yoga.

All processes in this universe—evolution, involution, activity of any kind—are said to be taking place on account of a peculiar propensity in the gunas of prakriti. Therefore, the Supreme Lord is not supposed to be directly responsible for either what we call creation or destruction, or for any kind of activity taking place. His participation in creation is secondary, just as the sun, the solar light, is responsible for everything—life and death in this world—and yet the sun is not directly connected. This is a very interesting verse in the Bhagavadgita: na kartṛtvaṁ na karmāṇi lokasya sṛjati prabhuḥ (5.14). The Supreme Being, the Lord, does not directly bring about the relation of cause and effect, in the same way as the sun does not directly interfere with the activities of the world. Agency in action is kartṛtva. Action is karma. Neither agency in action nor the action itself are something that is created directly by God. That is to say, the defects of the human being are not to be attributed to God. Otherwise, the Supreme Reality, being inclusive of all the individuals in the universe, the total, would be a mass of ignorance, full of distractions. The total of all mankind would be nothing but a heap of distraction and incapacity to perceive correctly.

Transcendent is God, though He is also immanent. Water pervades every fibre of a cloth that is dipped in it. When a cloth is dipped in a bucket of water, every fibre becomes wet. That is, the water pervades the whole cloth; it is immanent in the cloth. The water is almost inseparable from the cloth, because when we touch the cloth we can see the wetness and the dripping of water; yet, the water is not the cloth. There is no connection between the cloth and the water. The pervasion of God through the universe, through every little thing in the world, even the littlest atom, does not mean that God has involved Himself in the defects of life, the limitations of things, the locations of bodies, the ignorance characterising individuals. These are not part and parcel of the Supreme Being.

The transcendence that is the real nature of God frees Him from every kind of defect that is otherwise seen in the effects which He pervades and in which He is immanent. That is why it is said here that agency in action—the consciousness of one’s own individuality being responsible for work—is not created by God. It is due to the defect of the ego that one feels that one is doing some action. The action itself is a process that is engendered by the movement of the gunas of prakriti and, therefore, that also does not come from God. He is not responsible for anything whatsoever. God is responsible for everything, and yet He is responsible for nothing. It can be put either way. God’s responsibility for everything lies in the fact of His being immanent, and His freedom from any kind of involvement arises on account of His supreme transcendence.

Na kartṛtvaṁ na karmāṇi lokasya sṛjati prabhuḥ, na karmaphalasaṁyogaṁ: The fruit of action that accrues through actions performed with a motive for fruit, this also is not done by God Himself. He is not thinking of giving us something. Neither does He take anything, nor does He give us anything. An automatic action takes place on account of the very structural pattern of the universe. Whether we go to heaven or to hell or we are reborn, we cannot say that God is thinking that we should be thrown somewhere or that we should be made to take rebirth. It is nothing of the kind. The universe is an automatic system of operation, and does not require an outside interference from God. Actually, God is not an outside thing, and is not an extra-cosmic reality. Nor is God capable of being identified with the cosmos itself. The divisions, the mutations, the limitations and the spatiotemporal conditioning which are the characteristics of the world cannot be attributed to God. In a sense, we may say there is nothing in the world which can be found in God; but in another sense, everything can be found in God because the values that we see in this world arise from a transcendence which is invisible to the eyes and uncognisable to the mind.

It is like the analogy of the snake and the rope. The snake is not the rope and, therefore, we cannot say that the rope has become the snake; and yet, the snake would not be there if the rope was not there. The rope is responsible for the snake, yet the rope is not responsible for the snake. The rope has never become the snake; therefore, we cannot say that the rope is responsible for appearing as the snake. Yet without the rope, the snake would not have appeared in it. Likewise, God is not responsible for anything that is happening in the world, yet nothing can happen in the world without God’s existence. God maintains a very crucial position: God is doing everything, and yet doing nothing at all.

Na karmaphalasaṁyogaṁ svabhāvas tu pravartate: The natural tendency of existence itself is responsible for what we call action and motivation in any direction. Nādatte kasyacit pāpaṁ na caiva sukṛtaṁ vibhuḥ, ajñānenāvṛtaṁ jñānaṁ tena muhyanti jantavaḥ (5.15): God does not take our sin or our merit, because merits and sins are meaningful only in individualised existence where consciousness works through the body and sense organs; therefore, sin and merit cannot be attributed to consciousness that is not working through the sense organs and the individual apparatus of the mind. Universal Existence does not think through the mind and does not perceive through the sense organs. Hence, the characteristics which are of the mind and the senses cannot be attributed to God.

Therefore, what happens to our meritorious karmas and our sins, and so on? Is nobody punished for their sins? People are punished by their sins. The sin itself punishes us; somebody else, like a judge sitting in the court, does not punish us for our sins. A sin is a peculiar dislocated, maladjusted situation that an individual occupies in this cosmos; this maladjustment itself is the sin. The sin itself punishes us, and there is nobody else from outside to strike a rod on our heads. That is, a self-complete organism occupies a self-complete situation in itself, and its health and disease depend entirely upon the manner in which the components of the organism work. There is no third reality, no extra-physical reality coming and interfering with the wrong actions or the right actions of a person.

This is why it is said that the actions performed in the highest state of yoga cannot be called either merit or demerit. Karma suklakrishnam: Karmas are either black or white. But karmas are neither black nor white for the yogi. The blackness or the whiteness corresponds to the wrongness or the rightness of perception. What we call sin is nothing but the solidification, the condensation of wrong actions continuing for a long time; and punya, or merit, is the condensation of good actions that we have performed. To repeat once again what I said, a good action is that tendency in our consciousness which moves in the direction of larger and larger dimensions of itself, and a sin is a contraction of consciousness which moves more and more in the direction of the physical body; and the worst sin is to have consciousness lodged in the body itself, and think that one is only the body.

Nādatte kasyacit pāpaṁ na caiva sukṛtaṁ vibhuḥ, ajñānenāvṛtaṁ jñānaṁ tena muhyanti jantavaḥ: Due to a cosmic ignorance, all individuals suffer. Their suffering or their pleasures are not products emanating from God. The transcendence of God precludes all connections with the mutations of prakriti, though without Him prakriti cannot move: ajñānenāvṛtaṁ jñānaṁ tena muhyanti jantavaḥ.

Tadbuddhayas tadātmānas tanniṣṭhās tatparāyaṇāḥ, gacchantyapunarāvṛttiṁ jñānanirdhūtakalmaṣāḥ (5.17): One can attain to this state of utter perfection free from the goodness or the badness of things, or the qualities of prakriti, by intense concentration on the transcendence which is God. God is untarnished because of there being no change, no mutation, no difference, no physicality, and no externality in God. Meditation is to be conducted by the consciousness of the seeker on a universal transcendence of its own self, freed from the clutches of whatever the world may appear to be.

Tadbuddhayaḥ: They are tadbuddhayaḥ who are centred in their intellect, and through their intellect are centred in That; their understanding is rooted in That.

Tadātmānaḥ: Whose self is perfectly lodged in That. Our existence itself is Its existence, and Its existence is our existence; this state of affairs is called tadātmānaḥ. Tadātmānaḥ is the uniting of the self with the Self. That is, the individual self unites itself with the Universal Self. That state is called tadātmānaḥ. Those who are established in their understanding have also their self rooted in that Supreme Being.

Tanniṣṭhāḥ: Whose main occupation is establishment in that Supreme Being. Our daily activity, our professions, our occupations, whatever we do, is a preparation for the establishment of ourselves in That. It does not mean that our daily routine is contrary to God-realisation. The activities of people, the daily routine of anybody, should be so conducted and so refined and harmonised that it stands perfectly in order in respect of that Supreme Being, Who is perfect order. It does not mean that when we move to God, we move from wrong to right. It is a movement from the lesser right to the higher right. It is also not moving from falsehood to truth. It is a movement from the lesser truth to the higher truth.

Therefore, those people whose Atman, the Self, is pre-eminently established in the Supreme Self find that all their daily routine also is so immensely affected by this union that the otherwise distracting and dividing form of human activity becomes a manifold emanation from the Self that is at the back of all activity, in the same way as rays emanate from the sun. The rays of the sun may be said to be the activities of the sun in some way; but this activity of the sun in the form of the emanation of rays is not independent of the existence of the sun. Therefore, the light and the radiance of the sun are also to be seen in the rays. The action of the sun is identical with the existence of the sun. Similarly, our activities should be spiritual in their nature; they should be completely conditioned by the nature of consciousness. Or, every work is nothing but a movement of the Self; consciousness is moving in the form of activity. Thus, activity is not any more a bondage. It is our own Self that is moving in the direction of itself, partially inwardly, partially externally, as waves are activities of the ocean; and yet they are not activities of the ocean, as the activity itself becomes one with the ocean. Tanniṣṭhāḥ: That is establishment of oneself in that Supreme Being. Niṣṭhāḥ is establishment, rootedness.

Tatparāyaṇāḥ is always eager to attain That. Day in and day out we brood over the possibility of this supreme attainment: “When shall I get it, when shall I get it, when shall I get it?” You can go on chanting this mantra: “When shall I get it, when shall I get it, when shall I get it, when shall I get it?” This little sentence is also a recipe for bringing the mind back to the point of concentration on That. Eagerness to receive that Being into ourselves, eagerness to unite ourselves with that Being is tivra vairagya, intense detachment towards the world of objects. It is tivra samvega, or intense ardour to unite oneself with God. This is a word used in Patanjali’s sutra—tīvrasaṁvegānām āsannaḥ (Y.S. 1.21): God is near to you to the extent you are eager to attain Him. Tatparāyaṇāḥ means one who is intensely eager to reach That, and his ardour is burning like a flame.

Gacchantyapunarāvṛttiṁ: Such persons, having attained immortality, will not return to this world of mortality.

Jñānanirdhūtakalmaṣāḥ: On account of their being purified through the highest knowledge, they do not get reborn into this world of bondage and limitations. Immortality is attained.

Ihaiva tair jitaḥ sargo yeṣāṁ sāmye sthitaṁ manaḥ, nirdoṣaṁ hi samaṁ brahma tasmād brahmaṇi te sthitāḥ (5.19): One may be said to have attained God here itself, just now, provided one is free from kama and krodha, desire and anger. These are the obstacles that prevent us from a consciousness of our proximity to God, and create a wrong notion that God is away from us. Rebirth is conquered by people just now, here itself.

Ihaiva tair jitaḥ sargo yeṣāṁ sāmye sthitaṁ manaḥ: Those whose minds are perfectly harmonised inwardly as well as outwardly, and who live in a state of perfect balance within themselves as well as in relation to the outside world, are free from loves and hatreds; and, therefore, there is nothing in them which will cause rebirth. In that sense, we may say, they are selected for immortality. They shall not be born again.

Ihaiva tair jitaḥ sargo yeṣāṁ sāmye sthitaṁ manaḥ, nirdoṣaṁ hi samaṁ brahma tasmād brahmaṇi te sthitāḥ: Spotless is the Supreme Absolute; the highest purity is God Almighty. That being the case, those who are perfect in their purity of consciousness, those who are free from the distractions characterising the mind, are automatically established in Brahman. The attainment of God is not a future possibility. It is an eternal acquirement just here and now. God is not in time and not in space. Therefore, there is no distance between us and God. Therefore, there is no tomorrow for God. God’s actions are instantaneous actions, and God-realisation is also an instantaneous event. Sudden is the occurrence of this so-called event we call God-realisation: nirdoṣaṁ hi samaṁ brahma tasmād brahmaṇi te sthitāḥ.

Vidyāvinayasaṁpanne brāhmaṇe gavi hastini, śuni caiva śvapāke ca paṇḍitāḥ samadarśinaḥ (5.18): The high and low look equal to the harmonised vision of the sage. If he sees a learned person or sees a fool, it makes no difference to him. He sees the same underlying reality in both that are considered as superior and inferior by the eyes of the world. Whether it is a learned sage or an animal—a cow or an elephant or a dog—the vision of the sage sees only the underlying reality, just as a goldsmith sees only the quality and the weight of gold in an ornament. The goldsmith is not interested in the shape of the ornament; he sees only the weight and how much gold is in it, in the same way that a tiger sees only flesh in its victim and it does not note what it is that it is pouncing upon. Whether the tiger pounces upon a great saint or a little child or an animal, it sees only its diet there. Just as the ironsmith sees only iron and the goldsmith sees only gold, the great sage sees only consciousness everywhere. Sarvataḥpāṇipādaṁ tat sarvato’kṣiśiromukham (13.13), etc., as we will be told in a future chapter.

Paṇḍitāḥ samadarśinaḥ: Those who are learned in spiritual lore, who are endowed with the insight into the reality of things, see oneness everywhere.