Commentary on the Bhagavadgita
by Swami Krishnananda

Discourse 13: The Fifth Chapter Concludes – The Characteristics of the Sage Who is Established in Brahman

na prahṛṣyet priyaṁ prāpya nodvijet prāpya cāpriyam
sthirabuddhir asaṁmūḍho brahmavid brahmaṇi sthitaḥ (5.20)
bāhyasparśeṣvasaktātmā vindatyātmani yat sukham
sa brahmayogayuktātmā sukham akṣayam aśnute (5.21)
ye hi saṁsparśajā bhogā duḥkhayonaya eva te
ādyantavantaḥ kaunteya na teṣu ramate budhaḥ (5.22)
śaknotīhaiva yaḥ soḍhuṁ prāk śarīravimokṣaṇāt
kāmakrodhodbhavaṁ vegaṁ sa yuktaḥ sa sukhī naraḥ (5.23)
yo’ntaḥsukho’ntarārāmas tathāntarjyotir eva yaḥ
sa yogī brahmanirvāṇaṁ brahmabhūto’dhigacchati (5.24)
labhante brahmanirvāṇam ṛṣayaḥ kṣīṇakalmaṣāḥ
chinnadvaidhā yatātmānaḥ sarvabhūtahite ratāḥ (5.25)
kāmakrodhaviyuktānāṁ yatīnāṁ yatacetasām
abhito brahmanirvāṇaṁ vartate viditātmanām (5.26)
sparśān kṛtvā bahir bāhyāṁś cakṣuś caivāntare bhruvoḥ
prāṇāpānau samau kṛtvā nāsābhyantaracāriṇau (5.27)
yatendriyamanobuddhir munir mokṣaparāyaṇaḥ
vigatecchābhayakrodho yaḥ sadā mukta eva saḥ (5.28)
bhoktāraṁ yajñatapasāṁ sarvalokamaheśvaramsuhṛdaṁ
sarvabhūtānāṁ jñātvā māṁ śāntim ṛcchati

These are the concluding verses of the Fifth Chapter. Na prahṛṣyet priyaṁ prāpya nodvijet prāpya cāpriyam: The great sage who is established in Brahman neither rejoices on acquiring pleasant things, nor grieves when coming in contact with unpleasant things, because he sees with an equal eye the substances that are the components of pleasant things as well unpleasant things.

The atomic and molecular components of substances cause the differentiation of one substance from another. Milk can become poison if one molecule is removed. All things are just compositions of uniformly spread-out substances. Their permutations and combinations make things look different—beautiful or ugly, stout or thin, necessary or unnecessary, pleasant or unpleasant. Therefore, to the Universal vision of the basic substance of all things, there is neither joy at the perception of what is apparently pleasant, nor is there grief at the perception of what is apparently unpleasant. The pleasant and the unpleasant are actually not things; they are reactions set up by our personality in respect of certain compositions of things. Thus, things are actually neither good nor bad, neither beautiful nor ugly, neither pleasant nor unpleasant. We set up different reactions due to the peculiar setup of our psychophysical individuality, which can accommodate only certain things and cannot accommodate certain other things. Therefore, certain things look pleasant and certain things look unpleasant. But to the person who is non-individual, or super-individual—superman, atimanav—to that person who has an equanimous vision of the cosmos, things are neither pleasant nor unpleasant because he is established in the Universal Reality. Brahmaṇi sthitaḥ: Unshaken understanding is his, and establishment of the Self is in Brahman.

Bāhyasparśeṣvasaktātmā vindatyātmani yat sukham, sa brahmayogayuktātmā sukham akṣayam aśnute: When we are totally detached from connection with the objects of sense, when the senses do not see any meaning in the objects outside and, therefore, do not pull the consciousness out in the direction of objects, when consciousness does not defeat itself through perception in terms of the sense organs, the energy of the person increases, and the Self realises itself, whereas the Self loses itself in the perception and contact of external objects. In all perceptions there is an element of losing consciousness. That is why, in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, even the perception of an object without any element of love or hatred is called a wrong perception from the point of view of yoga because all perceptions, even if they are so-called right perceptions, are partial. For instance, this is a building, and it is really a right perception; we do not say it is an elephant. To say that it is a building and not an elephant is indeed a right perception, but it is not a right perception from another point of view because the limited operation of the mind of an individual characterises certain shapes as ‘a building’, while actually, internally, we will find that which is in one thing is also in another thing.

Therefore, one who is totally unattached to things outside—bāhyasparśeṣvasaktātmā—he rejoices in himself and enjoys a bliss which is Brahman itself. Bāhyasparśeṣv- asaktātmā vindatyātmani yat sukham, sa brahmayogayuktātmā: To identify the consciousness with one’s own self by freeing it from entanglement in sensory perception is equivalent to establishment in Brahman itself. The Universal Brahman is in the Atman of every individual. Space is universal; but the same universal space, when we see the space only inside the vessel, may appear to be limited to a little vessel. The space inside the vessel is called pot ether—ghatakash. The pot ether looks very small because it is limited by the walls of the pot, and the bigger space—which is mahakasa—seems to be larger than the little space inside the pot. Thus, there appears to be a difference between the universal akasha, or the universal ether, and the individual ether that is in the pot—but really there is no such difference. The space has not been divided into two parts, inside and outside the pot. The same consciousness is within us and also outside us.

Thus the within-ness of ours, the Selfhood that we enjoy, the bliss that comes out of the detachment of consciousness from objects of sense, is the same as the bliss of Brahman—the Universal Reality emanating, rising up from our so-called little self. The Universal Reality rises up into action the moment the so-called little self in us withdraws itself from contact with things and does not concern itself with anything that is external—sa brahmayogayuktātmā sukham akṣayam aśnute.

Ye hi saṁsparśajā bhogā duḥkhayonaya eva te, ādyantavantaḥ kaunteya na teṣu ramate budhaḥ: Any joy that comes through the contact of one thing with another thing cannot be regarded as real joy. There are five types of contact with external things: contact through the eye, contact through the ear, contact through the nose, contact through the skin, and contact through the tongue. The joy that we get by this kind of contact is an unreliable joy. It is a deceptive experience that we are passing through, and we wrongly come to the conclusion that we are experiencing happiness because this kind of contact appears to be pleasant in the beginning but breeds sorrow later on.

Even at the time of the enjoyment of a sense object we are under an illusion, and it is not a real joy that we are experiencing. Why do we feel happy when we come in contact with a mango or a cup of delicious kheer or any pleasant object? The reason is that when the mind is not in contact with any sense object, it is restless in itself, and it goes out in search of its own food in the form of objects. The mind that is not in contact with objects moves out in search of those objects which it finds pleasant to contact. When the mind moves in that way, the consciousness of the Atman, or the Self, also moves together with the mind—just as electricity flows through a wire. Wherever the wire is, there is also electricity. Wherever the mind is, the Atman also goes, as it were, due to the attachment between the mind and consciousness that is caused by karma; and when the contact takes place with the consciousness, the mind feels that there is no further necessity to move outside in search of an object, because the object has already come into possession. The mind ceases to move outside, and comes in contact with the Self inside. Immediately there is a joy. The joy, therefore, has come from within us. It has not come from the object, yet foolishly we think that the object is painted with bliss and we are the abodes of sorrow, which is not true. The reverse is the case. All those who run after the pleasures of sense will reap sorrow one day or the other, for anything that has a beginning will also have an end—ādyantavantaḥ. That which has a beginning will also have an end because our pleasures, which are contact born, begin with the contact itself. Therefore, they shall end when the contact ceases.

There is bereavement on account of sensory contact. Our relationship with this world is fragile. The Mahabharata tells us that just as two logs floating on the surface of the ocean may come in contact with each other due to the prevailing wind, we come in contact with each other and become relatives, friends, a community; but if the wind blows in a different direction, the logs move away from each other as if they have no connection. So when the wind of the cosmic force blows in a different direction, you will be taken to one place and I to another, as if we had not been born here at all. The great sage Vyasa has written in the Mahabharata: yathā kāśṭaṁ ca kāśṭaṁ ca sameyātāṁ mahodadhau, sametya ca vyatIyātaṁ tadvad-bhūtasamāgamaḥ. The coming in contact of beings, the friendship that we have, the community that we establish humanly, are all false in the sense that they are conditioned by the winds of cosmic powers which breed contact; and when these winds blow in a different direction, we are separated, and then we say that somebody died. “I have lost someone. My brother is dead,” we cry in bereavement. Why did we come in contact at all in order that we may cry afterwards? Hence, contact with objects has a beginning, and it also has an end. Therefore, all joys that are born of contact are poison in the end, though they look like honey in the beginning. Ᾱdyantavantaḥ kaunteya na teṣu ramate budhaḥ: Wise people do not rejoice in objects of sense.

Śaknotīhaiva yaḥ soḍhuṁ prāk śarīravimokṣaṇāt, kāma- krodhodbhavaṁ vegaṁ sa yuktaḥ sa sukhī naraḥ: Blessed is that person who is able to restrain himself from desire and anger even before the dispatch of his body. The vehemence of anger and the vehemence of desire are actually the vehemence of the mind which runs in terms of sense objects. Therefore, he who longs for blessedness, and does not want to perish in this samsara, in this worldly existence, works very hard—kāma-krodhodbhavaṁ vegaṁ. Sa yuktaḥ: Such a person is united with Reality.

We cannot be free from the desire for external things unless we are united with the Universal Being. Unless we have an element of universality in our experience, it is not possible for the mind to be free from the objects of desire. So there is no use in merely trying to dispatch objects outside, throw them away, bundle them into the Ganga, and imagine that we have no desires. We cannot be free from the longing for something unless we have realised and obtained something greater. The object will no longer torment and tantalise us when there is something greater than the object which we have realised in our own self. When we have the ocean itself within us, we do not run after a cup of water.

Therefore, it is incumbent upon every student of yoga to work hard, and not merely negatively by restraining the sense organs through fasting, not sleeping, not speaking, and physically being away from things. This method alone is not adequate because we cannot starve consciousness. Consciousness wants food; therefore, we must give it the food of universal experience, in any degree of expression. It may not be the highest universality, but it should be higher than ordinary individuality. Only then will the desires spontaneously cease. If we have a million dollars, we do not mind losing one dollar; but if we have only ten dollars, one dollar looks very good. Similarly, we would not mind losing the whole world through sense contact if the Absolute is realised in our conscious experience. Only a person who has realised his universality can be free from desire and anger.

Yo’ntaḥsukho’ntarārāmas tathāntarjyotir eva yaḥ, sa yogī brahmanirvāṇaṁ brahmabhūto’dhigacchati: Who is blessed in his own Self, who delights in his own Self, who rejoices in his own Self, who takes rest in his own Self, who finds life in his own Self—such a person has attained Brahman. Yontaḥsukh: whose satisfaction is inside, within himself; antarārāmaḥ: who is reclining and whose abode is within himself only; tathāntarjyotir eva yaḥ: whose illumination, whose light, whose guide is also inside; sa yogī brahmanirvāṇaṁ: he merges into Brahman because he has become Brahman. Brahmabhūto’dhigacchati: The Universal is nothing but Brahman, and Brahman is nothing but the Universal. Therefore, the attainment of Brahman is the same as the requirement of the largest dimension of our own consciousness, our own individuality expanding itself to cosmic levels until there is nothing external to it. Thus, Atman becomes Brahman, the individual becomes the super-individual, the veritable Universal—sa yogī brahmanirvāṇaṁ brahmabhūto’dhigacchati.

Kāmakrodhaviyuktānāṁ yatīnāṁ yatacetasām, abhito brahmanirvāṇaṁ vartate viditātmanām: The Brahman that we are seeking is just under our nose here, provided we are free from desire and anger. Yogis who are self-restrained persons, who are free from kama and krodhakāmakrodhaviyuktānāṁ yatīnāṁ yatacetasām—whose minds are united with the Self, to such people Brahman is here, and not in some distant place. It is just here and now. Abhitaḥ: Everywhere is Brahman for that person. There is no distance between himself and Brahman, and there is no futurity of attaining Brahman; it is an eternal presence that is experienced as brahmanirvāṇa: sa yogī brahmanirvāṇaṁ brahmabhūto’dhigacchati.

The entire yoga is described in two verses towards the end of the Fifth Chapter, and the Sixth Chapter is a long commentary on them. What is meant by yoga is elaborately detailed in the Sixth Chapter, but the seed of that long commentary is sown in these two verses towards the end of the Fifth Chapter: sparśān kṛtvā bahir bāhyāṁś cakṣuś caivāntare bhruvoḥ, prāṇāpānau samau kṛtvā nāsābhyantaracāriṇau; yatendriyamanobuddhir munir mokṣaparāyaṇaḥ, vigatecchābhayakrodho yaḥ sadā mukta eva saḥ.

Sparśān kṛtvā bahiḥ: Cutting asunder the contact that is external, by means of the methods described in the earlier verses. Sparśān kṛtvā bahir bāhyāṁś cakṣuś caivāntare bhruvoḥ: Not looking at things with open eyes, but closing the eyes to some extent as if we are looking at no one, or gazing at the spot between the eyebrows. In one place in the Sixth Chapter we are told that it will look as if we are gazing at the tip of the nose. Now it is said that it will look as if we are concentrating on the middle of the eyebrows, as the case may be.

Sparśān kṛtvā bahir bāhyāṁś cakṣuś caivāntare bhruvoḥ, prāṇāpānau samau kṛtvā: Equalising the breathing that is apana and prana, and not exhaling or inhaling heavily or with difficulty. When we run fast, we breathe in an unusual and abnormal way. There is gasping, a tremendous pushing of the prana outside, and also a tremendous desire to push the prana down. Too much physical exercise which will push the prana out and exhaust the body is not very conducive to yoga practice. Yoga asanas are better than ordinary physical exercise because when we run while playing sports we perspire, energy goes out, we feel tired and breathe heavily, exhausting ourselves; but in yoga asana there is a calm and quiet bending of the prana inside. Even if we do the asanas for a long time, we do not feel exhausted, we do not perspire, and our breath does not heave as it does when we run or jump. It is an internalisation process taking place in the yoga asana. The externalisation of prana takes place in ordinary games. Hence, yoga asanas are superior to the Western type of physical exercises. The pranas and apanas—the breathing that is inside as well as outside—should be equalised in such a way that they will be conducive to the concentration of the mind.

The breath and the mind are connected to each other. As each cog in the mechanism of a clock is connected with the hands which show the time, there is a connection between the mind and the prana. The prana is like the hands of the clock. It can be seen, but the mind is inside and cannot be seen. It is said that the prana can be restrained in two ways, just as there are two ways to stop a clock from working. One way is to hold the hands still; then the clock stops, but there is still the pressure of the wheels inside to make the hands move. Similarly, merely holding the breath when there are still desires in the mind is not conducive to stopping the prana. Rather, it is highly deleterious. Nobody should do pranayama and kumbhaka if there are submerged desires in the mind, because the prana can suddenly burst out, like a bomb, and cause illnesses of various kinds. If a desire-filled, emotionally torn individual starts doing pranayama, there can be a collapsing of the body rather than a strengthening of it. Thus, the prana can be controlled by restraining the mind by freeing it from desires, just as a clock can be stopped by stopping the inner mechanism; or the prana can be stopped externally by holding the breath.

Prāṇāpānau samau kṛtvā nāsābhyantaracāriṇau: In the highest stage of the equalisation of the breath, the prana and apana, which move through the two nostrils, are supposed to operate only inside the nose. They do not come out, which is contrary to what generally happens in our daily life—nāsābhyantaracāriṇau.

Yatendriyamanobuddhih. Yata means restraint, held in check; indriya means the senses, mana means mind, and buddhi means intellect. He who has restrained, held in check, the operations of the senses, the mind and the intellect in terms of external things is called a yatendriyamanobuddhih.

A muni is one who is calm, quiet, and silent in himself, and who does not announce himself or parade his knowledge or glory, being satisfied with himself, asking not for satisfaction from anybody else. Such a person is a muni who has restrained his senses, mind and intellect, and is calm and quiet in himself, devoted entirely to the liberation of the spirit—munir mokṣaparāyaṇaḥ—and is intent on the liberation of his soul. Day in and day out he prays that the soul will be liberated from his body, that he will attain brahmanirvāṇa, that moksha will be his blessedness one day or the other. Day in and day out he broods over the possibility of attaining liberation, and sees nothing else except moksha—such a person is mokṣaparāyaṇaḥ. Being entirely free from any kind of desire—vigatecchābhayakrodaḥ—neither is there iccha, nor longing, nor fear of anything. Krodha, or anger, is of course far away from him. Whoever he is—sadā mukta eva saḥ—such a person is liberated in this life.

Such a person who is liberated even while apparently living in this body for some time is called a jivanmukta. He becomes a videhamukta, or discarnately liberated when the body is shed, but he also may be liberated even while the body is there if the sattvic vrittis, sattvic karmas, take an upper hand and the rajas and tamas in him are completely subjugated. When the rajas and tamas are completely obliterated and only sattva predominates in a person, he becomes a jivanmukta—verily a god moving in this world. But when even the sattva guna is transcended—he becomes entirely free from the clutches of prakriti even through sattva—he drops the body and becomes universally present everywhere. A jivanmukta becomes a videha muktasadā mukta eva saḥ.

Bhoktāraṁ yajñatapasāṁ sarvalokamaheśvaram, suhṛdaṁ sarvabhūtānāṁ jñātvā māṁ śāntim ṛcchati. The Lord says, “Realising that ultimately I am the enjoyer and the actor, all sacrifices are directed towards Me, all activity in this world is motivated by Me. All austerities, all tapas are possible only on account of My grace because I am the Lord of the three worlds and the Lord of all the fourteen worlds. I am the friend of all people, of everyone in any realm of existence. I am the dearest friend of all people living in any realm of existence.” Nobody except God can be called a friend. Knowing this truth, one attains peace.