अनाश्रितः कर्मफलं कार्यं कर्म करोति यः ।
स संन्यासी च योगी च न निरग्निर्न चाक्रियः ॥१॥
śrī bhagavān uvāca –
anāśritaḥ karma-phalaṁ kāryan karma karoti yaḥ
sa sannyāsī ca yogī ca na niragnir na cākriyaḥ
Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa said: One who performs his prescribed duties and renounces the results of those actions is a yogī and a sannyāsī. One does not become a sannyāsī simply by rejecting the performance of sacrifice and performing no activities.
यं संन्यासमिति प्राहुर्योगं तं विद्धि पाण्डव ।
न ह्यसंन्यस्तसङ्कल्पो योगी भवति कश्चन ॥२॥
yaṁ sannyāsam iti prāhur yogaṁ taṁ viddhi pāṇḍava
na hy-asannyasta-saṅkalpo yogī bhavati kaścana
O son of Pāṇḍu, that which is known as sannyāsa is the same as yoga. One can never become a yogī without renouncing the desire to satisfy the senses.
आरुरुक्षोर्मुनेर्योगं कर्म कारणमुच्यते ।
योगारूढस्य तस्यैव शमः कारणमुच्यते ॥३॥
ārurukṣor muner yogaṁ karma kāraṇam ucyate
yogārūḍhasya tasyaiva śamaḥ kāraṇam ucyate
For one who is a beginner on the path of yoga, action is the means. For one who is already practiced in yoga, the renunciation of action is the means.
यदा हि नेन्द्रियार्थेषु न कर्मस्वनुषज्जते ।
सर्वसङ्कल्पसंन्यासी योगारूढस्तदोच्यते ॥४॥
yadā hi nendriyārtheṣu na karmasv-anuṣajjate
sarva-saṅkalpa-sannyāsī yogārūḍhas tadocyate
When one is neither attached to the sense-objects nor to the activities that lead to their enjoyment, at that time one is said to have attained yoga.
उद्धरेदात्मनात्मानं नात्मानमवसादयेत् ।
आत्मैव ह्यात्मनो बन्धुरात्मैव रिपुरात्मनः ॥५॥
uddhared ātmanātmānaṁ nātmānam avasādayet
ātmaiva hy-ātmano bandhur ātmaiva ripur ātmanaḥ
Living beings must elevate themselves by the mind – they must not degrade themselves. Certainly, the mind is the friend of the living beings as well as their worst enemy.
बन्धुरात्मात्मनस्तस्य येनात्मैवात्मना जितः ।
अनात्मनस्तु शत्रुत्वे वर्तेतात्मैव शत्रुवत् ॥६॥
bandhur ātmātmanas tasya yenātmaivātmanā jitaḥ
anātmanastu śatrutve vartetātmaiva śatruvat
For one who has subdued the mind, the mind is a friend. However, for one who has not controlled the mind, the mind is the greatest enemy.
जितात्मनः प्रशान्तस्य परमात्मा समाहितः ।
शीतोष्णसुखदुःखेषु तथा मानापमानयोः ॥७॥
jitātmanaḥ praśāntasya paramātmā samāhitaḥ
śītoṣṇa-sukha-duḥkheṣu tathā mānāpamānayoḥ
Those who have subdued the mind and are calm, attain realisation of Paramātmā (Super Consciousness). For such persons heat and cold, happiness and distress and honour and dishonour are all the same.
Many commentators on Bhagavad-gītā have mentioned that the method of meditation spoken of in the Sixth Chapter is derived from the eightfold process of yoga known as aṣṭāṅga-yoga. The famous compiler of the Yoga-sūtras, Patañjali has explained the sequential order of the aṣṭāṅga-yoga system as follows:
First, one should practice yama that consists of observances such as rising from bed before sunrise, taking bath, study of the Vedas and performing pūjā (rituals).
Niyama consists of controlling the senses by following regulative principles such as no intoxication, no illicit sex, no gambling and no eating of meat, fish or eggs.
Next one begins the practice of āsana by physically conditioning the body through systematic bodily exercises and postures aimed at toning and bringing into balance one’s entire physical organism.
Then one advances to the performance of prāṇāyāma, controlling the inward and outward breath by systematic breathing exercises performed in conjunction with various āsanas. When āsanas and prāṇāyāma are performed or taught just for the sake of health, this is sometimes called haṭha-yoga.
After prāṇāyāma follows pratyāhāra, or withdrawing the senses from the sense-objects and training the mind to become introspective and intuitively orientated. Then one is able to concentrate the mind on a single point without being disturbed. This is known as dhāraṇā, or attaining concentration.
Once having acquired the ability to concentrate the mind without distractions from external sources, one can begin actual meditation, or dhyāna. There are many forms of meditation in the yoga system, however none of them recommend concentrating on nothingness. The three principle objects of meditation in yoga are Brahman (transcendental light), Paramātmā (localised Super Consciousness) and Bhagavān (Śrī Kṛṣṇa).
Samādhi is the final stage of aṣṭāṅga-yoga wherein the yogī, at the time of quitting the material body, attains the object of his desired perfection. The yogīs who desire Brahman or Paramātmā realisation enter the brahma-jyoti after giving up their body and the yogī who desires Bhagavān realisation enters into the Supreme Abode of Kṛṣṇa known as Vaikuṇṭha or Goloka Vṛndāvana to associate with and participate in transcendental pastimes with Kṛṣṇa.
According to many masters of yoga, only Bhagavān realisation is eternal. Even after attaining Brahman or Paramātmā realisations and merging into the Supreme Brahman, a yogī will once again have to come back to the material world and begin again the cycle of birth and death. This is said to be due to the intrinsic nature of all living beings to perform activities. Although in the brahma-jyoti there is a sense of bliss that is many thousands of times greater than material happiness, still the desire to act remains. But because the Brahman realised yogī and the Paramātmā realised yogī are not qualified to perform devotional activities in the association of Kṛṣṇa, they cannot enter the spiritual planets and must therefore come down to take birth again in the material world.
ज्ञानविज्ञानतृप्तात्मा कूटस्थो विजितेन्द्रियः ।
युक्त इत्युच्यते योगी समलोष्टाश्मकाञ्चनः ॥८॥
jñāna-vijñāna-tṛptātmā kūṭastho vijitendriyaḥ
yukta ityucyate yogī sama-loṣṭāśma-kāñcanaḥ
The yogī who is self-satisfied due to his knowledge and realisation, fixed in his spiritual nature and in control of his senses, sees dirt, stones and gold equally.
साधुष्वपि च पापेषु समबुद्धिर्विशिष्यते ॥९॥
sādhuṣ-vapi ca pāpeṣu sama-buddhir viśiṣyate
Such a yogī of impartial intelligence sees an honest well-wisher, an affectionate benefactor, an enemy, neutral persons, a mediator, the envious, a relative, the pious and the impious with equal vision.
योगी युञ्जीत सततमात्मानं रहसि स्थितः ।
एकाकी यतचित्तात्मा निराशीरपरिग्रहः ॥१०॥
yogī yuñjīta satatam ātmānaṁ rahasi sthitaḥ
ekākī yata-cittātmā nirāśīr aparigrahaḥ
A yogī should live in a solitary place with his mind and body fully controlled. He should be without desire, without a sense of possessiveness and must constantly fix his mind on the ātmā, the self within.
शुचौ देशे प्रतिष्ठाप्य स्थिरमासनमात्मनः ।
नात्युच्छ्रितं नातिनीचं चैलाजिनकुशोत्तरम् ॥११॥
तत्रैकाग्रं मनः कृत्वा यतचित्तेन्द्रियक्रियः ।
उपविश्यासने युञ्ज्याद्योगमात्मविशुद्धये ॥१२॥
śucau deśe pratiṣṭhāpya sthiram āsanam ātmanaḥ
nāty-ucchritaṁ nātinīcaṁ cailājina-kuśottaram
tatraikāgraṁ manaḥ kṛtvā yata-cittendriya-kriyaḥ
upaviśyāsane yuñjyād yogam ātma-viśuddhaye
Establishing a seat in a clean environment that is not too high or too low, a yogī should cover his sitting place with kuśa grass, a deerskin and a cloth. Sitting on that seat, fixing his mind on one point and controlling all the activities of the mind and senses, he should practice yoga to purify himself.
समं कायशिरोग्रीवं धारयन्नचलं स्थिरः ।
सम्प्रेक्ष्य नासिकाग्रं स्वं दिशश्चानवलोकयन् ॥१३॥
प्रशान्तात्मा विगतभीर्ब्रह्मचारिव्रते स्थितः ।
मनः संयम्य मच्चित्तो युक्त आसीत मत्परः ॥१४॥
samaṁ kāya-śiro-grīvaṁ dhārayann acalaṁ sthiraḥ
samprekṣya nāsikāgraṁ svaṁ diśaś cānavalokayan
praśāntātmā vigata-bhīr brahmacāri-vrate sthitaḥ
manaḥ saṁyamya mac-citto yukta āsīta mat-paraḥ
Holding the body, head and neck straight, he should remain still and steady, gazing at the tip of the nose without casting his glance in other directions. Undisturbed, fearless and observing a vow of celibacy, he should sit and control his mind by thinking of Me as his highest goal.
युञ्जन्नेवं सदात्मानं योगी नियतमानसः ।
शान्तिं निर्वाणपरमां मत्संस्थामधिगच्छति ॥१५॥
yuñjann evaṁ sadātmānaṁ yogī niyata-mānasaḥ
śāntiṁ nirvāṇa-paramāṁ matsaṁsthām adhigacchati
In this way, the yogī controls his mind, withdrawing it from material desires. He then achieves supreme peace and liberation from material existence and attains My abode.
नात्यश्नतस्तु योगोऽस्ति न चैकान्तमनश्नतः ।
न चातिस्वप्नशीलस्य जाग्रतो नैव चार्जुन ॥१६॥
nātyaśnata stu yogo’sti na caikāntam anaśnataḥ
na cāti svapna-śīlasya jāgrato naiva cārjuna
One cannot practice yoga by eating too much or too little, nor sleeping too much or too little, O Arjuna.
युक्ताहारविहारस्य युक्तचेष्टस्य कर्मसु ।
युक्तस्वप्नावबोधस्य योगो भवति दुःखहा ॥१७॥
yuktāhāra-vihārasya yukta-ceṣṭasya karmasu
yukta-svapnāvabodhasya yogo bhavati duḥkha-hā
Yoga destroys the suffering of one who is moderate in eating and sleeping, who performs all activities in a regulated manner and is well balanced in sleeping and waking.
Śrī Kṛṣṇa again informs Arjuna in verse 15 that the final goal of yoga is to attain His Supreme Abode (Vaikuṇṭha or Goloka Vṛndāvana). This is indeed the ultimate goal of the yoga system.
One cannot be a yogī if one eats too much or not enough. Eating too much also means eating things like non-vegetarian foodstuff to maintain the body. This is not actually required. Nor can one be a yogī if one does not eat enough. This also means that one should not abstain from eating milk products by considering it as non-vegetarian. Milk is the most complete food possible. Milk products help to develop a strong bodily constitution and nourish our brain cells and thus our thinking capacity. Yoga is something that has been practiced in India for thousands of years and from then until now, yogīs have recommended taking milk and milk products like yogurt and cheese etc. Only in recent times have some people thought it bad to take milk products, but the masters of yoga have never recommended such abnegation.
Proper sitting posture, control of the senses and observing celibacy are also recommended in the above verses because without such practices no one can actually be a yogī. Gazing at the tip of the nose without casting one’s glance in other directions means being perfectly concentrated, as in dhāraṇā, and performing dhyāna, or meditation on Kṛṣṇa as the highest goal.
As far as possible, a yogī should try to live in a holy place to practice yoga. In India yogīs are fond of residing on the banks of the Ganges at Haridvāra, Hṛṣīkeśa, Benares, or Māyāpura, or on the banks of another sacred river like the Yamunā, Kāverī or Godāvarī. Some yogīs prefer the sanctuary of the Himālayas, others prefer residence in the cāra-dhāma (Dvārakā, Badarīnātha, Jagannātha Purī and Rāmeśvaram). In any case, the yogī must choose the proper place to practice yoga.
If one is unable to live in a holy place or on the banks of a sacred river, then one should try to live in an āśrama or yoga community. If one is unable to live in a yoga community then one should sanctify one’s home by creating a place where Kṛṣṇa can be worshipped and mantra meditation can be performed. The home should have an atmosphere conducive for contemplation, study and controlling the senses. Such a home should be peaceful and free from acts of violence, animal killing, intoxication etc.
In this modern age (Kali-yuga) animal killing, intoxication and so many other unfavourable activities are to be found everywhere. Subsequently, it is very difficult to find the appropriate place for yoga practice, especially for the practice of aṣṭāṅga-yoga, rāja-yoga, haṭha-yoga and so on. Therefore, in Kali-yuga the recommended process is bhakti-yoga and meditation is performed through the chanting of the mahā-mantra.
hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare
The chanting of the mahā-mantra is so powerful and purifying that, wherever it is chanted, it makes that place purified. Thus the bhakti-yoga process can be practiced everywhere and anywhere. Bhakti-yoga is actually the only recommended process of yoga in Kali-yuga.
The yogī must always strive for self-satisfaction, knowledge and realisation. Such a yogī will always see everything in this world with equal vision and therefore will not become attached to anything of a temporary nature. Kṛṣṇa says that the yogī sees gold and mere stones as the same. This is not to say that the yogī cannot distinguish the brilliance of gold from that of ordinary objects; this means that the yogī is not attracted to finding satisfaction in the accumulation of wealth.
It has been said that the desire for wealth is what makes the world go round. This may be true in the sense that the desire for wealth is what drives most people to act. Sadly we also see clearly where greed for wealth is taking the world today – political unrest culminating in war, death and destruction, economic instability and collapse as well as extreme instability in the environment. This results in natural disasters and the extinction of many species of life.
यदा विनियतं चित्तमात्मन्येवावतिष्ठते ।
निःस्पृहः सर्वकामेभ्यो युक्त इत्युच्यते तदा ॥१८॥
yadā viniyataṁ cittam ātmany-evāvatiṣṭhate
nispṛhaḥ sarva-kāmebhyo yukta ity-uchyate tadā
When the steady mind is fixed exclusively upon the self, then one becomes free from all material desires – such a person is said to be situated in yoga.
यथा दीपो निवातस्थो नेङ्गते सोपमा स्मृता ।
योगिनो यतचित्तस्य युञ्जतो योगमात्मनः ॥१९॥
yathā dīpo nivātastho neṅgate sopamā smṛtā
yogino yata-cittasya yuñjato yogam ātmanaḥ
Just as a flame does not flicker in a windless place, similarly the mind of a yogī never wavers in its concentration on the self.
यत्रोपरमते चित्तं निरुद्धं योगसेवया ।
यत्र चैवात्मनात्मानं पश्यन्नात्मनि तुष्यति ॥२०॥
सुखमात्यन्तिकं यत्तद् बुद्धिग्राह्यमतीन्द्रियम् ।
वेत्ति यत्र न चैवायं स्थितश्चलति तत्त्वतः ॥२१॥
यं लब्ध्वा चापरं लाभं मन्यते नाधिकं ततः ।
यस्मिन्स्थितो न दुःखेन गुरुणापि विचाल्यते ॥२२॥
तं विद्याद्दु:ख संयोगवियोगं योगसंज्ञितम् ॥२३॥
yatroparamate cittaṁ niruddhaṁ yoga-sevayā
yatra caivātmanātmānaṁ paśyann ātmani tuṣyati
sukham ātyantikaṁ yat tad buddhi-grāhyam atīndriyam
vetti yatra na caivāyaṁ sthitaś calati tattvataḥ
yaṁ labdhvā cāparaṁ lābhaṁ manyate nādhikaṁ tataḥ
yasmin sthito na duḥkhena guruṇāpi vicālyate
taṁ vidyād duḥkha-saṁyoga-viyogaṁ yoga saṁjñitam
sa niścayena yoktavyo yogo’nirviṇṇa-cetasā
When the mind is restrained and peaceful by the practice of yoga, it becomes detached from material desires. Thus one can perceive the self and attain happiness. Being situated in this plane of eternal bliss, which is beyond the scope of the mundane senses and obtained through intelligence, one never deviates from reality. Upon gaining this position, one considers that there is nothing superior to this and does not become disturbed even in the midst of the greatest calamities. You should know that this state of being, wherein all miseries are destroyed, is known as yoga.
स निश्चयेन योक्तव्यो योगोऽनिर्विण्णचेतसा ।
सङ्कल्पप्रभवान्कामांस्त्यक्त्वा सर्वानशेषतः ।
मनसैवेन्द्रियग्रामं विनियम्य समन्ततः ॥२४॥
saṅkalpa-prabhavān kāmāṁs tyaktvā sarvān aśeṣataḥ
manasaivendriya-grāmaṁ viniyamya samantataḥ
One should practice yoga with determination and an unwavering mind. In order to practice yoga, one must reject all thoughts that create material desires and withdraw the senses from the sense-objects using the mind.
शनैः शनैरुपरमेद् बुद्ध्या धृतिगृहीतया ।=
आत्मसंस्थं मनः कृत्वा न किञ्चिदपि चिन्तयेत् ॥२५॥
śanaiḥ śanair uparamed buddhyā dhṛti-gṛhītayā
ātma-saṁsthaṁ manaḥ kṛtvā na kiñcid api cintayet
Gradually, one should still the mind by means of the intelligence, focusing it on the self and nothing else.
यतो यतो निश्चरति मनश्चञ्चलमस्थिरम् ।
ततस्ततो नियम्यैतदात्मन्येव वशं नयेत् ॥२६॥
yato yato niścalati manaś cañcalam asthiram
tatas tato niyamyaitad ātmany-eva vaśaṁ nayet
The nature of the mind is flickering and unsteady. However, one should always endeavour to control the mind from its wanderings and bring it back under the control of the higher self (ātmā).
प्रशान्तमनसं ह्येनं योगिनं सुखमुत्तमम् ।
उपैति शान्तरजसं ब्रह्मभूतमकल्मषम् ॥२७॥
praśānta-manasaṁ hy-enaṁ yoginaṁ sukham uttamam
upaiti śānta-rajasaṁ brahma-bhūtam akalmaṣam
Supreme bliss comes to a yogī who subdues his passions, whose mind is calm, who is free of vice and who is always situated on the spiritual plane.
युञ्जन्नेवं सदात्मानं योगी विगतकल्मषः ।
सुखेन ब्रह्मसंस्पर्शमत्यन्तं सुखमश्नुते ॥२८॥
yuñjann evaṁ sadātmānaṁ yogī vigata-kalmaṣaḥ
sukhena brahma-saṁsparśam atyantaṁ sukham aśnute
In this way, through the constant practice of yoga, a yogī who is devoid of material contamination can attain eternal bliss through contact with the Absolute.
Control of the mind is quintessential for the practice of yoga. The problem arises due to the very nature of the mind itself. The nature of the mind is flickering and unsteady; it wants to wander here and there from one sense-object to the next. Even in sleep the wandering mind is active. But Śrī Kṛṣṇa says that the yogī must always endeavour to bring the mind under control of his higher conscious self. This is indeed the foremost challenge that a yogī faces.
In some western philosophical systems, the mind is conceived of as the self, but this does not hold true in yoga. In yoga, the mind is called ‘the sense within’. The senses of the body like sight, sound, touch, smell and taste are engaged with external objects and the mind acts as the faculty that ultimately makes sense of sensual experiences – the sense within. But in yoga the self is conceived of as a transcendental substance that exists independent of the mind and body. Therefore, according to the knowledge of yoga, the self survives the death of the body and mind. It is something completely different.
There are many external practices within the yoga system such as fasting and living in a secluded place that help to control the mind. But owing to the nature of the mind being like the wind, these external methods frequently fall short of the mark. However, in the bhakti-yoga system it is recommended to control the mind by mantra. The word mantra originates from two Sanskrit words – mana (the mind) and trāyate (to control). By engaging the mind in the process of hearing and chanting mantras – and especially the mahā-mantra, the great mantra for delivering the mind – the wandering mind becomes steady in the self.
The mahā-mantra is a direct sound representation of the Absolute Truth, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. As such, the mahā-mantra is both all-powerful and all-attractive. The power of the mahā-mantra removes the ignorance that covers the real identity of the living being and the all-attractive nature of the mahā-mantra fills the heart of the chanter with inconceivable ānanda, supreme spiritual bliss. Chanting of the mahā-mantra to control and steady the mind has been highly recommended for these reasons.
सर्वभूतस्थमात्मानं सर्वभूतानि चात्मनि ।
ईक्षते योगयुक्तात्मा सर्वत्र समदर्शनः ॥२९॥
sarva-bhūta-stham ātmānaṁ sarva-bhūtāni cātmani
īkṣate yoga-yuktātmā sarvatra sama-darśanaḥ
One who is connected to the Supreme sees all things equally and perceives the Supreme in all living beings and all beings within the Supreme.
यो मां पश्यति सर्वत्र सर्वं च मयि पश्यति ।
तस्याहं न प्रणश्यामि स च मे न प्रणश्यति ॥३०॥
yo māṁ paśyati sarvatra sarvaṁ ca mayi paśyati
tasyāhaṁ na praṇaśyāmi sa ca me na praṇaśyati
For one who sees Me in all things and sees everything within Me, I am never lost and they are never lost to Me.
सर्वभूतस्थितं यो मां भजत्येकत्वमास्थितः ।
सर्वथा वर्तमानोऽपि स योगी मयि वर्तते ॥३१॥
sarva-bhūta-sthitaṁ yo māṁ bhajaty-ekatvam āsthitaḥ
sarvathā vartamāno’pi sa yogī mayi vartate
That yogī who venerates Me, with the knowledge that I am situated in all living beings (as the Super Consciousness), abides in Me in all circumstances.
आत्मौपम्येन सर्वत्र समं पश्यति योऽर्जुन ।
सुखं वा यदि वा दुःखं स योगी परमो मतः ॥३२॥
ātmaupamyena sarvatra samaṁ paśyati yo’rjuna
sukhaṁ vā yadi vā duḥkhaṁ sa yogī paramo mataḥ
O Arjuna, one who regards the happiness and distress of all others equally, as if it were their own, is considered the best of yogīs.
योऽयं योगस्त्वया प्रोक्तः साम्येन मधुसूदन ।
एतस्याहं न पश्यामि चञ्चलत्वात्स्थितिं स्थिराम् ॥३३॥
arjuna uvāca –
yo’yaṁ yogas tvayā proktaḥ sāmyena madhusūdana
etasyāhaṁ na paśyāmi cañcalatvāt sthitiṁ sthirām
Arjuna said: O Madhusūdana, I cannot conceive of this system of yoga that You have described because by nature the mind is very unsteady.
चञ्चलं हि मनः कृष्ण प्रमाथि बलवद् दृढम् ।
तस्याहं निग्रहं मन्ये वायोरिव सुदुष्करम् ॥३४॥
cañcalaṁ hi manaḥ kṛṣṇa pramāthi balavad dṛḍham
tasyāhaṁ nigrahaṁ manye vāyor iva suduṣkaram
The mind is erratic, disturbed, very powerful and stubborn. O Kṛṣṇa, I think that to control it is as difficult as trying to control the wind.
असंशयं महाबाहो मनो दुर्निग्रहं चलम् ।
अभ्यासेन तु कौन्तेय वैराग्येण च गृह्यते ॥३५॥
śrī bhagavān uvāca –
asaṁśayaṁ mahā-bāho mano durnigrahaṁ calam
abhyāsena tu kaunteya vairāgyeṇa ca gṛhyate
Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa replied: O mighty-armed one, indeed the mind is unsteady and very difficult to control. However, it is possible to control the mind by practice and detachment, O son of Kuntī.
असंयतात्मना योगो दुष्प्राप इति मे मतिः ।
वश्यात्मना तु यतता शक्योऽवाप्तुमुपायतः ॥३६॥
asaṁyatātmanā yogo duṣprāpa iti me matiḥ
vaśyātmanā tu yatatā śakyo’vāptum upāyataḥ
My conclusion is that yoga is difficult to attain if one’s mind is uncontrolled. But one who endeavours to control the mind by the proper practice can be successful.
There are five primary subject matters explained in Bhagavad-gītā, namely ātmā (individual consciousness), prakṛti (material nature), karma (action), kāla (time) and Īśvara (the Supreme Controller). The culmination of knowledge is to understand Śrī Kṛṣṇa as the underlying principle of everything. Yet some commentators on Bhagavad-gītā have tried to explain the Gītā minus Kṛṣṇa. That is to say, they have said such things as, “Kṛṣṇa was a temporary manifestation of the Supreme Brahman,” “Kṛṣṇa has no eternal existence as a person” or that when Kṛṣṇa says things like, “One attains My abode,” Kṛṣṇa actually means that one attains something else of an impersonal nature. However, true masters of yoga and scholars of Vedic literature reject all these ideas.
Bhagavad-gītā, although surely mystical in that it delineates in great detail the Absolute Truth and how to attain that Truth, is not an allegorical or speculative treatise on the subject of perfection. Bhagavad-gītā is to be taken literally as a conversation between Śrī Kṛṣṇa and His dear friend and devotee, Arjuna. Therein lies the open secret to understanding Bhagavad-gītā. Kṛṣṇa says what He means and means what He says – therefore an abstract commentary on Bhagavad-gītā is not necessary.
That Śrī Kṛṣṇa is everywhere, in all things and within the hearts of all living beings is confirmed by the above verses. Kṛṣṇa says that He is in all living beings as the Paramātmā and all living beings are in Him as His parts and parcels. Kṛṣṇa is in all things and all things are in Kṛṣṇa. One who endeavours to see in this way becomes enlightened – indeed such a vision is enlightenment.
Arjuna, being a self-realised yogī and an eternal associate of Kṛṣṇa, does not argue with Kṛṣṇa over such conclusions. However, Arjuna does object to the rigours of yoga required to attain such perfection. Arjuna was a family man with many responsibilities, so how was he to practice yoga? Arjuna pleads his case in favour of day to day people in that the yoga system of rigorous mind control described so far by Kṛṣṇa is too difficult. It is simply impractical.
Kṛṣṇa’s assurance to Arjuna is that if one perseveres then one will certainly be successful. But understanding Arjuna’s point, Kṛṣṇa will indeed bring the attainment of the Absolute Truth into the reach of everyone as the Bhagavad-gītā discourse continues.
अयतिः श्रद्धयोपेतो योगाच्चलितमानसः ।
अप्राप्य योगसंसिद्धिं कां गतिं कृष्ण गच्छति ॥३७॥
arjuna uvāca –
ayatiḥ śraddhayopeto yogāc calita-mānasaḥ
aprāpya yoga-saṁsiddhiṁ kāṁ gatiṁ kṛṣṇa gacchati
Arjuna said: O Kṛṣṇa, what is the destination of a person who has faith but cannot control his mind by the process of yoga and does not attain perfection?
कच्चिन्नोभयविभ्रष्टश्छिन्नाभ्रमिव नश्यति ।
अप्रतिष्ठो महाबाहो विमूढो ब्रह्मणः पथि ॥३८॥
kaccin nobhaya-vibhraṣṭaś chhinnābhram iva naśyati
apratiṣṭho mahā-bāho vimūḍho brahmaṇaḥ pathi
O mighty-armed Kṛṣṇa, does such a person, being both confused on the spiritual path and having no shelter, become lost like a scattered cloud?
एतन्मे संशयं कृष्ण छेत्तुमर्हस्यशेषतः ।
त्वदन्यः संशयस्यास्य छेत्ता न ह्युपपद्यते ॥३९॥
etan me saṁśayaṁ kṛṣṇa chettum arhasy-aśeṣataḥ
tvad-anyaḥ saṁśayasyāsya chettā na hy-upapadyate
O Kṛṣṇa, only You can completely remove these doubts of mine and no one else.
पार्थ नैवेह नामुत्र विनाशस्तस्य विद्यते ।
न हि कल्याणकृत्कश्चिद् दुर्गतिं तात गच्छति ॥४०॥
śrī bhagavān uvāca –
pārtha naiveha nāmutra vināśas tasya vidyate
na hi kalyāṇa-kṛt kaścid durgatiṁ tāta gacchati
Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa replied: O Pārtha, such a person does not meet with destruction, either in this world or the next. One who performs acts of virtue never suffers misfortune.
प्राप्य पुण्यकृतां लोकानुषित्वा शाश्वतीः समाः ।
शुचीनां श्रीमतां गेहे योगभ्रष्टोऽभिजायते ॥४१॥
prāpya puṇya-kṛtāṁ lokān uṣitvā śāśvatīḥ samāḥ
śucīnāṁ śrīmatāṁ gehe yoga-bhraṣṭo’bhijāyate
One who falls from the practice of yoga attains the celestial planets of the pious and dwells there for many years. Thereafter, they take birth amongst humans in a noble and prosperous family.
अथवा योगिनामेव कुले भवति धीमताम् ।
एतद्धि दुर्लभतरं लोके जन्म यदीदृशम् ॥४२॥
athavā yoginām eva kule bhavati dhīmatām
etaddhi durlabhataraṁ loke janma yad īdṛśam
Otherwise they may be born into a learned family of yogīs. Certainly such a birth is rarely achieved in this world.
तत्र तं बुद्धिसंयोगं लभते पौर्वदेहिकम् ।
यतते च ततो भूयः संसिद्धौ कुरुनन्दन ॥४३॥
tatra taṁ buddhi-saṁyogaṁ labhate paurva-dehikam
yatate ca tato bhūyaḥ saṁsiddhau kuru-nandana
O descendant of Kuru, regaining their knowledge of yoga from previous births, they again endeavour to attain success.
पूर्वाभ्यासेन तेनैव ह्रियते ह्यवशोऽपि सः ।
जिज्ञासुरपि योगस्य शब्दब्रह्मातिवर्तते ॥४४॥
pūrvābhyāsena tenaiva hriyate hy-avaśo’pi saḥ
jijñāsur api yogasya śabda-brahmātivartate
Due to the practices of their previous life, they are automatically attracted to the yoga process. Simply by inquiring about this system of yoga, one transcends the rituals of the Vedas.
प्रयत्नाद्यतमानस्तु योगी संशुद्धकिल्बिषः ।
अनेकजन्मसंसिद्धस्ततो याति परां गतिम् ॥४५॥
prayatnād yatamānas tu yogī saṁśuddha-kilbiṣaḥ
aneka-janma-saṁsiddhas tato yāti parāṁ gatim
By sincere endeavour, the yogī is then purified of all contamination and achieves perfection after many lifetimes – he attains the Supreme Destination.
तपस्विभ्योऽधिको योगी ज्ञानिभ्योऽपि मतोऽधिकः ।
कर्मिभ्यश्चाधिको योगी तस्माद्योगी भवार्जुन ॥४६॥
tapasvibhyo’dhiko yogī jñānibhyo’pi mato’dhikaḥ
karmibhyaś cādhiko yogī tasmād yogī bhavārjuna
Such a yogī is superior to the tapasvī (one who performs severe penances), the jñānī (one who tries to achieve the Absolute by intellectual pursuits) and the karmī (one who tries to attain salvation by performing Vedic rituals). This is My conclusion, O Arjuna – therefore become a yogī!
योगिनामपि सर्वेषां मद्गतेनान्तरात्मना ।
श्रद्धावान्भजते यो मां स मे युक्ततमो मतः ॥४७॥
yoginām api sarveṣāṁ mad gatenāntarātmanā
śraddhāvān bhajate yo māṁ sa me yuktatamo mataḥ
I consider the best of all yogīs to be the bhakti-yogī who abides in Me, who meditates upon Me and who worships Me with firm faith.
Arjuna’s questions in verses 37 and 38 are very critical for our understanding. Arjuna wants to know what happens to one who practices yoga for some time, but for some reason or another, does not become completely self-realised and gives up the body at death without having attained perfection. What is the destination of such a person in the next life?
The first thing to note here is that Arjuna is aware or completely convinced that this one life is not the all-in-all. As Śrī Kṛṣṇa has said previously, we have had many lives in the past and we will have many in the future. Therefore Arjuna wants to know of his fate or that of anyone who practices yoga but does not reach perfection. What will be the fate of such a person in the next life?
Kṛṣṇa’s reply is that of the all-knowing, omniscient Supreme Being. Kṛṣṇa says that for the yogī there is never any loss. If one does not achieve perfection in this life then in the next life one will be born in favourable circumstances and begin the process anew. In the next life, one will again become attracted to the practice of yoga and continue on the path. Even if it takes many lifetimes, the yogī, with perseverance and determination, attains the supreme destination. Therefore, Kṛṣṇa tells Arjuna, in all circumstances, be a yogī.
ॐ तत्सदिति श्रीमहाभारते शतसाहस्रयां संहितायां
श्रीमद्भगवदीतासूपनिषत्सु ब्रह्मविद्यायं योगशास्त्रे श्रीकृष्णार्जुनसंवादे
ध्यानयोगो नाम षष्ठोऽध्यायः।।
oṁ tat saditi śrī-mahābhārate-śata-sāhasryāṁ saṁhitāyāṁ vaiyāsikyāṁ bhīṣma-parvāṇi
brahma-vidyāyāṁ yoga-śāstre śrī kṛṣṇārjuna-saṁvāde
dhyāna-yogo nāma ṣaṣṭho’dhyāyaḥ
OṀ TAT SAT – Thus ends Chapter Six entitled Dhyāna Yoga from the conversation between Śrī Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna in the Upaniṣad known as Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā, the yoga-śāstra of divine knowledge, from the Bhīṣma-parva of Mahābhārata, the literature revealed by Vyāsa in one hundred thousand verses.