Stabilising the Mind in God: The Twelfth Chapter of the Bhagavadgita
by Swami Krishnananda

(Spoken on June 26, 1983)

mayy eva mana ādhatsva mayi buddhiṃ niveśaya,
nivasiṣyasi mayy eva ata ūrdhvaṃ na saṃśayaḥ
(B.G. 12.8)
atha cittaṃ samādhātuṃ na śaknoṣi mayi sthiram,
abhyāsayogena tato mām ichāptuṃ dhanaṃjaya
(B.G. 12.9)
abhyāsepy asamarthosi matkarmaparamo bhava,
madartham api karmāṇi kurvan siddhim avāpsyasi
(B.G. 12.10)
athaitad apy aśaktosi kartuṃ madyogam āśritaḥ,
sarvakarmaphalatyāgaṃ tataḥ kuru yatātmavān
(B.G. 12.11)

In these four verses of the Twelfth Chapter of the Bhagavadgita we have the well-known fourfold method of stabilising consciousness expounded in the language of tradition. Finally, when all things are said and done, the mind is not going to rest unless it is stabilised in God. There is, in the end, no other solution. That is the supreme court of appeal to the mind of redress from sorrows.

Mayy eva mana ādhatsva. In this little assurance and mandate, or ordinance, the final solution to all problems is indicated. Mayy eva mana ādhatsva: Fix your attention on God. Mayi buddhiṃ niveśaya: Let your understanding be fixed on that Ultimate Being. Nivasiṣyasi mayy eva: Then you shall abide in God. Na saṃśayaḥ: There is no doubt about this. This is, again, a great consolation for the grieved human mind. Is there a doubt that this shall be achieved? Na saṃśayaḥ: There is no doubt.

So the first instruction is the highest of all instructions. The most potent antidote to human affliction is prescribed in this first verse: Root your attention in God Almighty. Here is the solution for every kind of ill. Whatever ill you can conceive of in your mind originating either from outside or from inside, knowingly or unknowingly, root your mind in God. “Think nothing else,” is something that follows automatically. When you root your mind in God, naturally you will think nothing else.

How would you do this? It is very satisfying indeed to hear that we shall attain abundance by this practice and we shall be freed from every kind of agony, anguish and sorrow in life; indeed this is a great joy even to hear, but how are we going to achieve it? How is this practicable for us? Mayy eva mana ādhatsva. How would we concentrate on God? What is the method?

The first sloka, therefore, pitching itself on the ultimate nature of God, which is supreme absoluteness and nonrelative omnipresence, requires us to practise what the Yoga Vasishtha calls brahmabhyasa. The Yoga Vasishtha has a particular name for this practice. It is called brahmabhyasa, and sometimes it is also called atmabhyasa. This verse that comes in the Yoga Vasishtha is repeated verbatim in the Panchadasi by Sage Vidyaranya. Tat chintanaṁ tat kathanaṁ anyonyaṁ tat prabodhanam, eta deka paratvaṁ ca brahmābhyāsaṁ vidur budhāḥ (Panchadasi 7.106). What is brahmabhyasa? The practice of the presence of God is called brahmabhyasa. Tat chintanaṁ: brooding over only that – that, and nothing else. Day in and day out, as long as you are conscious and awake, think only that, and nothing else.

Tat kathanaṁ: If you meet anybody, speak only on this topic, and speak nothing else. Do not speak on any other topic except this. Anyonyaṁ tat prabodhanam: Awaken yourselves mutually on this topic by discourse and conversation. Ask someone, “Oh, how do you do it, my dear friend?” And he will ask you, “How do you do it?” So you will mutually benefit by classroom consultation, as it were. This is anyonyaṁ tat prabodhanam.

Eta deka paratvaṁ ca: You are convinced that you have no other way. This is the only way, and every other way has failed. You have tried every method of saving yourself. Every other method has left you, and no hope is there from anything in this world. The whole world is cracking under your foot and there is nothing to support you. Your only saviour is this. This is my only support, this is my sustenance, this is my friend, this is my delight, this is my very breath. This conviction is eta deka paratvaṁ. This is called brahmabhyasa. Day in and day out chat, talk, discourse, think, meditate, cry aloud: only this, only this, and nothing but this. This is a state of what is called God-intoxication, the madness of being possessed by God. Such a thing is perhaps indicated in this original admonition to us: Root your mind only in God and think nothing else.

Hard is this prescription. So Bhagavan Sri Krishna, who is the spokesman of eternity speaking to all mankind, knows your difficulty. How is this puny, finite, located mind of man to contemplate the all-pervading Absolute, though this is the only solution and there is nothing else? Is this possible for me?

Before listening to what Arjuna has to say in this regard, the good teacher that Sri Krishna was says, “If you cannot do this, I shall tell you another, easier way.” How could we think of omnipresence? We will melt away into liquid in a moment if we start thinking in this manner. We will not be there at all. We will expire like burnt camphor. Who will tolerate this predicament? We cannot imagine this possibility. “All right, leave it. If you cannot do this, I shall suggest to you another way.”

Atha cittaṃ samādhātuṃ na śaknoṣi: If you cannot practise the stabilising of your mind in the manner mentioned, what shall you do? Abhyāsayogena tato mām ichāptuṃ: Habituate yourself to a continuous practice of concentrating on something, which method is called ekatattva abhyasa in the language of the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. Tatpratiṣedhārtham ekatattva abhyāsaḥ (Y.S. 1.32): The vacillation of the mind can be subdued by ekatattva. Though practically the instruction amounts to the same thing that was said earlier, there is this little distinction. It appears that in the earlier teaching we were called upon to perform the complete and utter sacrifice of our very existence in the ultimacy of God’s universality. Well, that is all right. That is good enough. Now the second, a slightly lower step, though equally potent, is comparably easier in the sense that you are not asked to conceive of the supremacy or the universality of God at one stroke in the beginning. You choose any concept. Yathābhimata dhyānāt vā (Y.S. 1.39) says Patanjali: As you like, so you choose.

When we contemplate or even think of God in our prayers, rarely do we feel that God is omnipresence or nonrelative ultimacy. We have our own notion of God. Let each one stick to that notion only; that is quite all right. If you believe that God is ultimate, yes, no one can gainsay this great requirement. You have your own concept, notion and idea of the Creator of the universe. Adhere your mind to that notion only. We are one hundred people sitting here and we may have one hundred ideas of the Creator of the cosmos. Let each one stick to that idea only, whether or not there is concurrence of this idea. There is no harm if your idea or notion of the Ultimate varies from other notions, provided that – a very important provision is to be underlined – provided that you will not allow your mind to think of any other reality even here. You are permitted to have your own notion of God. You are not forced to enter into the ultimacy of God as He is in Himself. Let there be a freedom of choice. Choose your own notion of the ultimacy of the Creatorship of the universe. But inasmuch as you are sure that God is the Ultimate Reality and nothing else can be behind Him, you are also to convince and persuade yourself that you are not required to think anything else.

If you feel the necessity to think something else also at the same time, you are not fully convinced that God is the Ultimate Reality. He is one among the many other equally good realities, perhaps. The secondary importance that we may sometimes give to God in the midst of many other relative realities which also impinge on our mind or attract our attention is a failure.

Therefore, the teaching says: Do this practice again and again. ‘Practice’ means the habituation of the mind to a single thinking continuously for a protracted period. Sa tu dīrghakāla nairantarya satkāra āsevitaḥ dṛḍhabhūmiḥ (Y.S. 1.14) says Patanjali. The definition of practice is given by Patanjali. Abhyasa and practice mean the same thing. Dīrghakāla: A very long time is necessary. Even to digest a meal you require four hours, and for a sapling to grow into a powerful timber takes years. Likewise, the mind takes its own time to accustom itself to this thought of its own notion of the ultimacy of God. So sit every day at a particular time, as you sit for your breakfast, lunch or dinner. Select a particular time of the day, every day, every day, every day. Do not miss it even a single day. If you miss a single day in sitting for this purpose, tell your mind, “I shall also miss a meal this day.” Because of this punishment that you are threatening it with, you may not miss that sitting.

Be seated in a single posture, whatever be your comfortable posture. Sit, if possible, at the same time. If not, if you are a busy person, sit at any other time also when it is convenient, but for a uniform duration. If it is half an hour, let it be half an hour every day. If it is more, whatever the time be, stick to that duration. And tell the mind that now you are going to unite yourself, commune yourself with what is finally meaningful in this world. All meaning and all value, whatever is of any worth and significance in this world, is summed up and concentrated in this thing that you are now going to meditate upon: “Thus, my dear mind, do not hop like a grasshopper here and there because of recognition of meaning, value, or significance in things in the world. I am telling you that all these are present here. That is the focus point, the concentrated centre of all the values that you can imagine as worthwhile in this world. It is the seabed of the ocean and of all the rivers of value that you can think of in the world. Therefore, stupid mind, go not there. If you think there are values in the world, okay, granted, there are also values in the world. But they are originally present in that with which you are now trying to commune yourself. Even these values and meanings and significances in life are reflections of that original value. Stupid mind, these beauties and joys, glamours and perfections of life in the world which attract you so much are shadows cast by the original, and if the shadows can pull you to such an extent, with such force, what is the power of the original if you contact it? If the shadow is so beautiful, attractive and tasty a dish to the senses, what will be the taste of that original which casts this dark shadow of the world?”

Tell this to the mind every day. Go on harping this tune again and again: “You are going to commune yourself with that in which you will find the whole world concentrated. The whole world is concentrated there.” When you go on telling this again and again, you are doing abhyasa. This is practice. Do this every day, and think nothing else. This is called ananya chintana, brahmabhyasa. Practise the presence of God in a manner convenient to you according to your own predilection and in accordance with the choice you have made of your notion of God the Almighty.

“Even this is difficult,” says the mind. So the great teacher Sri Krishna says, abhyāsepy asamarthosi matkarmaparamo bhava, madartham api karmāṇi kurvan siddhim avāpsyasi: “If this also is not possible, take to other ways which are concerned with Me.” Interpreters of the Bhagavadgita vary in their opinion of the meaning of these words matkarma, etc. Madhusudana Saraswati, one of the greatest exponents of the Bhagavadgita, is of the opinion that here matkarma should be understood as ‘devotion to God’. The first way he considers as a prescription of jnana yoga, and the second way as the yoga of the will, identified sometimes with the raja yoga of Patanjali. The third way, says Madhusudana in his commentary, is an indication towards devotion.

According to this commentator on the Bhagavadgita, Madhusudana Saraswati, matkarma is śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ smaraṇaṁ pāda-sevanam arcanaṁ vandanaṁ dāsyaṁ sakhyam ātma-nivedanam (Bhagavata 7.5.23). Śravaṇaṁ:Hearing the glories of God. Wherever satsanga is held, go and listen to these upadesas of Mahatmas, listen to the Bhagavata Katha, and listen to the glories of God wherever they are sung, in whatever way. And kīrtanaṁ is singing names by means of musical accompaniments or even otherwise. Smaraṇaṁ is something like japa, going on reciting His mantra, His formula, His name inwardly, rotating His name in the mind again and again as remembrance of God. Pāda-sevanam arcanaṁ are some special ways of adoration of God which also have been understood in different ways. Some feel that pada-sevana is attending to the feet of God Himself. Who can touch the feet of God? People say only Mahalakshmi can serve the feet of Narayana, only Bhagavati Ma can serve the feet of Lord Siva, etc. Mankind cannot practise this method. This is one way of understanding this method of worship, pada-sevana. But others are of the opinion as all the heads in the universe are the heads of the Mahapurusha only, and all the feet are his only. Sahasrapāt (Purusha Sukta 1) says the Purusha Sukta: Service of humanity also is service of God. Serve the feet of all humanity. That means to say, the dedication of yourself for the welfare of all is also understood as equivalent to pada-sevana, though in a highly orthodox, mystical sense people think it is adoration of Narayana in Vaikuntha only. Archana is daily worship as you do in the temples. With shodasa upachara, the sixteen methods of ritualistic performance, you adore God Almighty as present here in His archa avatara, in His images, in His murtis, in His idols, as we have in the temples or places of holy worship. Vandanaṁ is offering prayer: O Lord of mercy and love…, as you pray. You may pray, “Father, Thou art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name,” and so on, or you may have your own prayers where you open up your heart before the only thing that is before you. It is a confession that you are making before the Holy Father, the Ultimate Being. “My Lord, you know what I am. If I have sinned, pardon me. I shall not commit this mistake again. Ignorant child that I am, I might have gone wrong in many a way. It is the benignancy of the Almighty that Thou art to excuse me for my faults. I promise that in future I shall try my best not to commit this mistake. Thou art all.” Thus is prayer, vandana.

Dasya is utter surrender, comparable to the attitude of Hanuman to Sri Rama, where you are a servant of God. This aspect of the servanthood of the devotee in respect of God the Almighty is emphasised very much in Vaishnava schools, especially in the School of Madhva. Also in Sri Vaishnava parlance they say, “I am only an appendage, an attribute, a quality, something that I attach to Him, and He is almighty. He is the original. He is the organism, and I am that which is appended to Him. So dasya is the feeling of utter dependence on Him, as there is no other alternative.

Sakhyam is a novel attitude of devotion which places the devotee on an equal footing with God, as exemplified in bhakti shastras in the life of Arjuna and his companionship with Sri Krishna. He is your friend and philosopher and guide. He is always with you, and He is at your beck and call because He is your friend. You can call upon Him at any moment for His succour. Just now He is there to assist you, help you, take care of you and do anything for you. That is the meaning of a friend. A friend in need is a friend indeed, and He is a friend in need; therefore, He is a friend indeed. God is a friend, and nobody else can be regarded as a real friend in this world. Every friend will leave you one day or the other for some reason. Here is a friend who will not leave you. He will be with you till your doom and till the end of your consecrated salvation.

The final way is ātma-nivedanam. That is the highest form of devotion, where realising the greatness, grandeur, magnificence, power, sweetness, compassion and mercy of God, you feel that you are no more. You have gone into utter extinction before the mighty radiance of these universal solar rays. These are the nine ways of bhakti, and Madhusudana Saraswati says that though these are not mentioned in detail in the Bhagavadgita, we have to read between the lines and understand that the indication is for devotion to God, and as these are the principal accepted ways of devotion, we may consider that this is the prescription here.

Also, we have what are called attitudes of devotion, bhavas. There is the attitude of a father. Mostly religions consider God as a Father in heaven, as a Parent Supreme. Sometimes in India we have the concept of considering God as a Mother. Or, as I mentioned, there are other ways such as sakhya and other things, which are not usually practised these days. The predominant concept is the concept of a parent – God, the Supreme Father – though other ways are also there. However, all these are mentioned in the connection with the understanding of this third way, which is prescribed when it is felt that the first two ways are too difficult. And even this third way is difficult, we may say. Athaitad apy aśaktosi kartuṃ madyogam āśritaḥ, sarvakarmaphalatyāgaṃ tataḥ kuru yatātmavān: “Foolish man, you say everything is difficult, so I give you the final, easiest way. You are doing so many things. Why are you doing all these things? Who told you to do anything? What for are you doing these things? Anyhow, you are doing it for some purpose. Let the fruit of whatever you do be dedicated to Me. Abandon craving for the fruit of your actions. Don’t ask something in return for what you do.”

This is something hard indeed for us. Even this is difficult. Who can do anything without expecting some reward? What for is anything if nothing is going to come out of it? We are business people, root and branch. We may not think in any other way. The business attitude is the expectation of something from something. Something has to follow from something; otherwise, why should we do something? This attitude is not applicable to God Almighty, as He is not a commercial magnate. He is a different thing altogether.

So while it is made out here that this is perhaps the easiest way in comparison with the other three methods already stated, one will find that this may be more difficult than the other three. This refers to what is generally known as the practice of karma yoga. People think that karma yoga is the cheapest and the easiest and the least. But if you try to practise it, you will find that it is the most difficult thing because it is ordinarily not possible for us to find an incentive for work unless something is to follow.

Now, it is not that nothing follows from your actions. Something does follow indeed. Let something follow, but let that be dedicated to God. If you consider yourself as really an instrument of action in the hands of God, this dedication of the fruit of action is not difficult. But you are sure that you are doing it, and therefore, you are expecting a result for yourself. When you do a thing, why should the result go to God? This you don’t like, that God should be the beneficiary of the actions that you sweat for. Even here you are very greedy. You do the work; therefore, you must get the benefit of it. But you are not doing the work. The whole point of karma yoga is a simple way of understanding the relationship of man to God.

Nobody does anything in this world. All activity is the movement of the fingers of God’s all-pervading hands. Everything is done by Him. Even a leaf cannot move. A sparrow cannot fall on your head, as Christ said, without the will of the Father. If anything is happening, it is because of the will of the Almighty. And if you are standing on your feet and moving your hands, it is because of the will of the Almighty. He has willed that you shall do this, and therefore, you are appearing to do it. The carriages behind the railway engine do not move of their own accord though they are moving with high-speed. They move because something else is moving them. The engine moves them. As the will of the Almighty is acting, we all seem to be very active. The activity of the universe is sympathetically felt in all parts of the universe by a reverberating process, and it is communicated to us as a central ordinance may be communicated to the lower officials and the public in general. It is sympathetically felt by every citizen though the ordinance is issued by the Central Authority. We do nothing, and the feeling that we are doing something ourselves is our undoing.

The whole universe is active in a uniform manner, as our whole body is active in a uniform way. If any part of our body – a finger, a nose or an ear – is operating, it is because of the will of the total body. Otherwise, it cannot work. Thus, if any one of you, any person, you or I, appear to be doing something, it is because of the will of the centre of the cosmos. Therefore, nobody is doing anything, and the fruits of actions need not be credited to the account of any particular individual, because the individual has done nothing. All the fruits go to that source from where the will to act has originated. This is one way of understanding sarvakarmaphalatyaga. You do action, but the fruits do not accrue to you.

But there is another way of understanding this. You are not doing the action. One way is that you are doing it but the fruits go to God. The other way is perhaps a still higher perception. You are not even doing anything. Therefore, the question of fruits does not arise.

Now, do you consider this as an easy method of meditation? It may be, or it may not be. Four ways are mentioned here in these four verses. Which of them is easy, which of them is difficult, let each one think for oneself. You will find there is no choice actually. These fourfold alternatives given to us actually do not mean a higher way or a lower way or a more difficult way or an easier way. All ways are equally compulsive in the sense that they require tremendous discipline of our consciousness in the direction of God. They are called jnana, yoga, bhakti or karma – sarvakarmaphalatyaga. There is an undercurrent of uniformity, a fundamental requirement of them all.

What is that requirement? That is the discipline of the sense organs in the way required for concentrating the mind on a single chosen ideal. Here the definition of the single chosen ideal may vary from person to person according to the level of the evolution of a person. Whatever be the gradational difference on account of the evolutionary distinction in the concept of this chosen ideal, the uniform compulsive requirement is that you have to focus yourself wholly and solely on this ideal only, even if for the time being it is only a dot on the wall chosen for concentration as pratika. A dot on the wall, a flower or a candle flame is an object of concentration, your ideal chosen for the purpose at the present moment. Such a little silly thing you have chosen for meditation; it does not matter. But the discipline is terrible. What is that discipline? You cannot think anything else.

Here is the difficulty in meditation. The point is not actually what you are thinking in your mind when you think of God. The point is how you are conducting this process, with what honesty of purpose. Is there a double-dealing in this concentration in the sense that there is one thing inside and something else outside? Or is it a whole-souled pouring of your consciousness on this thing, even if it be a candle flame?

Thus, the yoga of meditation is principally the process of a psychological discipline by which the whole attention is concentrated on something, and it should be a non-externalised total whole. It may even be a pencil, a pinhead, a flower, a candle flame, a dot on the wall, a star, or whatever it is.

These are some of the details behind these various efforts of people to concentrate their mind or practise meditation. Some thoughts around these four verses of the Twelfth Chapter of the Bhagavadgita I have placed before you for your consideration.