Text of the Bhagavagd Gita (Mother's Institute of Research) - Session 22: Chapter 6—Verses 24-47; Review of Chapters 1-6 (5 May 1999)

I think we are now coming to the end of the 6th chapter, and there are three ideas which are still left out. One is the idea which started in the 5th chapter and that is: brahmanirvāṇa. The second idea is in the 6th chapter. Brahma Nirvana is chapter 5, verse 24, and also 25. The second is the perception of oneness in chapter 6, verse 29, 30 and 31. These three verses refer to the experience of oneness. And 3rd point, which you have to consider is the question that is raised by Arjuna regarding the difficulty that one encounters in controlling the mind, and what happens to the individual who even though tries his best to attain to the higher condition of Yoga falls from it; and that is the question that Arjuna asks and Sri Krishna answers with a great consolation to everyone.

Now, let us therefore first deal with this question of brahmanirvāṇa, which comes in chapter 5. Let us first read these two verses again:

yo ’ntaḥ sukho ’ntarārāmastathāntarjyotir eva yaḥ |

sa yogī brahmanirvāṇaṁ brahmabhūto ’dhigacchati ||5.24||

labhante brahmanirvāṇaṁ ṛṣayaḥ kṣīṇakalmaṣāḥ |
chinnadvaidhā yatātmānaḥ sarvabhūtahite ratāḥ ||5.25||

Now, these two verses indicate the climax of the Karma yoga. As we have seen earlier the Karma yoga of the Bhagavad Gita has this distinction that it applies the principles of Knowledge to the principles of Action. The normal proposition between knowledge and Action that is normally made out is bridged in the Bhagavad Gita. We shall come to this point again when we make a review of the entire 6 chapters of the Bhagavad Gita. But the point to be made here is that Sri Krishna speaks of the synthesis of Knowledge and Action. Karma yoga is fulfilled when one attains to the highest Knowledge and highest Knowledge reaches its climax when you can perform Karma yoga. This is the interrelationship that is established in these 6 chapters. So, unless you arrive at the highest point of Knowledge while doing Karma, your Karma yoga is not complete. And therefore, Sri Krishna speaks here of the highest condition of Knowledge, which is brahmanirvāṇa; while doing actions you should arrive at nirvāṇa.

Now, this emphasis on ‘Nirvana’ often leads people to imagine that according to Bhagavad Gita, Karma is an instrument, and Nirvana is the end. Now, this is not entirely untrue, because Sri Krishna Himself says that the highest Karma ends in Knowledge, because there is no opposition between the two. But therefore to say that after reaching Nirvana, nothing remains to be done, it has no relationship with Action…It is not as if Action is a ladder, which leads you to a certain stage, and having reached that you can throw away the ladder. You climb up the movement of Action, arrive at the highest Knowledge, because it is only in the highest Knowledge that the bondage to action is burnt away. But action itself is not burnt away: action proceeds from the highest condition of Nirvana. According to some, Nirvana is the end and after Nirvana action is impossible. That is because Nirvana is understood as a condition of extinction: extinction of what? Extinction of the ego, extinction of the individual and extinction of action, these three extinctions are normally associated with the idea of Nirvana.

In fact this idea of Nirvana is taken up by Buddhism very powerfully, and when Buddhism speaks of Nirvana, it speaks of ‘this’ Nirvana: extinction of the individual, of the ego and of action. This is how very often Buddhism itself is interpreted. But in Buddhism also we find that Buddha did not cease to act: after He attained to the Supreme Knowledge, He did not cease to act. In fact, acts of compassion are enjoined by Buddhism, both as means, and even after achieving the highest, the continuation of the acts of compassion.

Now, in the case of Bhagavad Gita also, this concept of Nirvana is to be understood in a larger context. First of all, Sri Krishna speaks of the word brahmanirvāṇa. In Buddhism there is a concept of Nirvana, but it is śūnyanirvāṇa: it is extinction in nothingness, in the ‘Nihil’, in something that is never capable of producing anything, it is a real śūnya. In the case of Sri Krishna, this is a work of Vedanta. In Vedanta the ultimate Reality is not śūnya, but the pure Existent, the pure substance. So, Brahma is the pure substance, which is self-existent, and it has a status in which everything can be extinguished, except itself. The Brahman is the one Reality, which cannot be extinguished. As Sri Krishna has declared in the 2nd chapter:

nāsato vidyate bhāvo nābhāvo vidyate sataḥ ||2.16||

“That which exists cannot become non-existent; that which is non-existent can never come into existence.” So, Brahman, which is the real existent never, gets extinguished: therefore everything else is extinguished except the Brahman. Therefore, when the word brahmanirvāṇa is given here; there is a natural tendency to say that brahmanirvāṇa is a state in which everything is extinguished except the Brahman. And therefore, a conclusion is derived: “Therefore, having reached that point no further action is possible”. Is this a real and valid interpretation? That is the question. Now, in this verse itself therefore, Sri Krishna dispels this question and He says:

labhante brahmanirvāṇaṁ ṛṣayaḥ kṣīṇakalmaṣāḥ ||5.25||

“The Rishis whose sins are all washed away, they arrive at brahmanirvāṇa”; then what happens? “chinnadvaidhā, their dualities are cut; yatātmānaḥ, the self is united in Yoga; sarvabhūtahite ratāḥ, they become completely engaged in sarvabhūtahite.” They are not extinguished, all the creatures, the welfare of all the creatures become a great motive of action of those who attain to brahmanirvāṇa. Therefore, according to Sri Krishna there is a no-doubt extinction of ego, but not the extinction of individuality, nor the extinction of action. Nirvana means the extinction of ego, egoistic consciousness in Nirvana is extinguished, but the individuality of the Bhakta, off the Karmayogi is not annulled.

This is because as we shall see later on in the 7th chapter, the individual is jiva, and Jiva is described by Sri Krishna as mamaivāṁśaḥ(15.7), “it is my own portion” and it is also described as parā prakṛtir jīvabhūta (7.5), “the individual is that which is produced by the Para Prakriti”. Neither the Para Prakriti nor the Supreme is unreal, can be extinguishable; therefore the portion of his being cannot be extinguished; therefore the Jiva is not extinguished. The individual is not extinguished. And it is that Reality which is at once Kshara and Akshara. The Akshra condition does not annul the aspect of Kshara: therefore activity also is not annulled. And that is why brahmanirvāṇa means: it is the condition in which you attain to the oneness with Brahman, in which egoism is extinguished, but then your individuality and capacity to act actually becomes much more accentuated and you become sarvabhūtahite ratāḥ: you become engaged in the welfare of all the people.

Now, just as here the emphasis is upon the Knowledge of the Brahman and yet there is no extinction of action, similarly in chapter 6 we have once again the emphasis on the highest Knowledge that is attained. As I told you chapters’ 5 and 6 are actually elucidation of the first 4 chapters. And the highest point, the culminations of these four chapters are described so that you g et an overview of all that is contained in the synthesis of Knowledge and Action.

Now, chapter 6 verses 29, 30, and 31, also describe the condition of Knowledge. Just as brahmanirvāṇa is one of the states of Knowledge that is attained at the climax of Karma yoga, similarly here also is a description of the….

Ch VI Verses 29-47

…similarly here, there is a description of the climax of Karma yoga, which ends in the Knowledge: Knowledge of Oneness. Brahman is also the Knowledge of Oneness, but now this Knowledge of Oneness is described in a greater detail, which is as follows:

sarvabhūtastham ātmānaṁ sarvabhūtani cātmani |
īkṣate yogayuktātmā sarvatra samadarśanaḥ ||6.29||

yo māṁ paśyati sarvatra sarvaṁ ca mayi paśyati |
tasyāhaṁ na praṇaśyāmi sa ca me na praṇaśyati ||6.30||

sarvabhūtasthitaṁ yo māṁ bhajaty ekatvam āsthitaḥ |
sarvathā vartamāno ’pi sa yogī mayi vartate ||6.31||

sarva-bhūta-stham ātmānaṁ sarva-bhūtani cātmani, “One who sees all in oneself and oneself in others, it is he who is, sarva yoga-yuktātmā, he is completely settled in Yoga; and, sarvatra sama-darśanaḥ, and he sees everywhere oneness; sama-darśanaḥ, equality is the perception that arise from this oneness.”

Then, this is again repeated:

“One who sees Me everywhere, and who sees everything in Me...” Now here there is a distinction: to see everything in Self, and Self in everything. There is one step farther: above the Self is the Supreme. The Self is the word, which is given in Sanskrit, to Atman or to Brahman; but Brahman is only an aspect of stillness, of oneness, but out of the oneness there is a multiplicity, which comes out, ūtikṣara, and the origin of both the stillness and of the multiplicity is Purushottama, which is described in the Bhagavad Gita by the word aham, mama, mayi, “it is referred to Me”, that is Sri Krishna Himself, to indicate that He is even superior to Atman. The supreme Lord is not only Atman, He is not only Brahman (or Atman it is the same word), He is not only the multiplicity, but one who transcends both, and He is the origin of both.

In the Gita’s understanding whenever you come across the word “Atman”, or “Brahman”, it means the “Oneself”, “Oneness”. Wherever there is a word of sarvatra, sarvabhūtani, it refers to the kṣara: the mobile reality, the dynamic reality. Brahman or Atman is the immobile. Wherever the word of Atman or Brahman is used, it is primarily referred to the state of Immobility, the state of Equality, state of Oneness. Wherever there is the sarvabhūtani, sarvatra, wherever the word sarva comes, it refers to multiplicity and dynamism and kṣara. And wherever the word aham, mama, mayi, these words come, it indicates Sri Krishna’s own personality who is superior to both Brahman and Multiplicity, both dynamism and staticity, and it transcends them both, and He is the supreme Purushottama.

So, now Sri Krishna says that not only that everybody is seen in the Self, and Self in everybody, but further, yo māṁ paśyatisarvatra, “he who sees Me everywhere”, that is the supreme Purushottama everywhere; sarvaṁ ca mayi paśyati, and “he who sees all in Me”; tasyāha na praṇaśyāmi, “that one is never destroyed”, the individuality is never destroyed. Individual in this sense is one, which is the portion of the supreme: tasyāha na praṇaśyāmi sa ca me na praṇaśyāti, “and for him I am never destroyed”. So, “My relationship with him remains eternal, he lives in Me, and I live in him”.

Now, the conclusion in the 3rd one:

sarvabhūtasthitaṁ yo māṁ bhajaty ekatvam āsthitaḥ |
sarvathā vartamāno ’pi sa yogī mayi vartate ||6.31||

This is the climax of the relationship between the individual and the Supreme: not only the individual sees the Self in all, and all in the Self, not only he sees the Lord in all, and all in the Lord, and in himself, but now, bhajaty ekatvam āsthitaḥ, “he devotes himself thoroughly”, it is not only perception, but he completely lives in state of constant dedication-devotion: sarva-bhūta-sthitaṁ yo māṁ bhajaty ekatvam āsthitaḥ, “he sees Me as one everywhere”, and “he”, bhajaty, “he remains in a state of devotion”; sarvathā vartamāno ’pi, “he moves about everywhere” and yet, sa yogī mayi vartate, and yet, “he is not exhausted in all, he returns to Me, in the supreme Lord and lives there for eternity”.

These three statements of the Bhagavad Gita, you might say are the kernel of the statement of the state of Knowledge that Bhagavad Gita prescribes. Until this goal is reached, you cannot even reach the goal of Karma yoga. The highest goal of Knowledge becomes the condition of the highest goal of Karma yoga and this is the real synthesis.

Question: The difference between the three?

The first is the description of the perception of oneself. Bhagavad Gita’s teaching is what is called in philosophical terms “monistic”. According to Monism there is only “one” Reality. Dualism is a theory according to which there are “two” ultimate Realities. Pluralism is a theory according to which ultimate Realities are “many”.

Now, Bhagavad Gita’s teaching is neither ‘dualistic’ nor ‘pluralistic’: it is ‘monistic’. Therefore, the fundamental statement of the Bhagavad Gita is that there is “one Reality”. You may speak of multiplicity, you may speak of any kind of differences, but all this is a subordinate description. The one principle overarching, pervasive description of Reality is: “it is One”. Now, perception of Oneness is according to the Bhagavad Gita the state of true Knowledge: “he who sees multiplicity does not see; he who sees Oneness sees”. “One who sees Oneness even in multiplicity is one who sees”; “one who sees multiplicity in Oneness is also one who sees” because Oneness is the fundamental perception. This ekatvam is the fundamental statement of the Bhagavad Gita. You take out this ekatvam from the Bhagavad Gita, the whole teaching collapses. Therefore, I consider these 3 statements to be so important; brahmanirvāṇa also refers to that Oneness.

Now, the 2nd statement is that beyond the oneness and multiplicity, because in the first statement you say: “all in self and self in all”. Now, this “all” and the “self” (oneness), are reconciled in a higher Reality, which is also one. And that Reality is the Purushottama. And Sri Krishna whenever He refers to Himself, whenever He says: ahaṃ sṛjāmi (4.7) in the 4th chapter, when He says, “I take birth again and again”, who is this “I”? It is the Supreme; it is the Lord Himself. So, the Lord is that which reconciles “one” and “all”, “one” and “multiplicity”, in which multiplicity is subordinate to the oneness. This is the relationship between the two. And these two are reconciled in the supreme Lord. Now, that supreme Lord is also to be perceived in “one” and “all”. So, this next statement, 6th chapter, 30th verse (6.30), refers to that perception. It is not merely a perception of the staticity in dynamism, and dynamism in the staticity. Here there is a perception of the Supreme in all, and all in the Supreme. So, that is the distinction between the two.

And the 3rd statement brings out the attitude that the individual possesses when this Knowledge, which is described in the previous 2 verses, is attained. Then what happens? bhajaty. The highest condition in which the individual falls is in a state of complete devotion. So, He says that, “Such a Yogi, he always remains in Me”. And since He Himself is both static and dynamic, he does not get destroyed, he does not get laya, because the Supreme Himself is dynamic; in the dynamic aspect He lives in the individual, mamaivāṁśaḥ. Therefore the highest condition, in which the individual lives, is at the feet of the supreme Lord, even though there is oneness; oneness in staticity and dynamism; oneness with the Lord himself. And yet, because of the relationship of dynamism, in which the individual lives, his condition is of a complete dāsānudāsa, “he is servant of servants”; bhajaty, he remains entirely at the feet of the Lord. Therefore, his Karma does not cease: as a dāsānudāsa, if the supreme Lord is in dynamism, and if he is a servant of Lord, so he is also in dynamism.

So, we have now reached a climax of the statement of the synthesis of Knowledge and Action. Having said this now Arjuna raises a question:

yo ’yaṁ yogastvayā proktaḥ sāmyena madhusūdana |
etasyāhaṁ na paśyāmi cañcalatvāt sthitiṁ sthirām ||6.33||

“O Madhusudana, O Lord that which has been spoken of by you, proktaḥ ’yaṁ yoga, this Yoga which has been spoken of by you, sāmyena, with a synthesis, the synthetic Knowledge that you have given me; etasyāhaṁ na paśyāmi cañcalatvāt sthitiṁ sthirām, what you say is attained only when the mind is still, but the mind is so restless, because of the restlessness of the mind, I don’t see how this is attainable.”

This is his question: all that you are saying is fine, wonderful, but how to attain it when the mind is so unstable?

And then he continues with this question:

cañcalaṁ hi manaḥ kṛṣṇa pramāthi balavad dṛḍham |
tasyāhaṁ nigrahaṁ manye vāyor iva suduṣkaram ||6.34||

“Just as it is difficult to control Vayu, the Wind, similarly the mind is also like the wind: cañcalaṁ hi manaḥ, this mind is so restless; pramāthi balavad dṛḍham, tasyāhaṁ nigrahaṁ manye, su-duṣkaram; to control it, is su-duṣkaram, it is extremely difficult; not only duṣkara, su-duṣkara, it is very difficult; tasyāhaṁ nigrahaṁ, the control of it, I find it to be very difficult.”

Now, in a brief formula (6.35), Sri Krishna answers that question. It is a very brief answer, but full of tones, because these two words which He uses are the answer namely abhyāsa and vairāgya. He says: “it is difficult, but by two processes you can control the mind, by abhyāsa, practise”. Even if you fall rise again, fall, rise again, do not feel guilty that you have fallen down; manaḥ cañcalaṁ iva, mind “is” restless, so, don’t worry, if you fall don’t worry, but, rise again, abhyāsena, and then “vairāgya”. Gradually you will discover that the meaning of the world is not what we think it is. Our sense of meaning in the world is egoistic, selfish, narrow, something that is concerned with immediate gain. If you rise above, cease immediate interests, and see the real meaning of it, in which you see that the whole world is for the enjoyment of the Lord, not of ‘me’. I can enjoy the world only insofar as I participate in the joy of the Lord:

īśāvāsyamidaṁ sarvaṁ yatkiñca jagatyāṁ jagat |

The Upanishads 1.1

This is the very statement of īśā vāsya, which is a translation of this statement in the Bhagavad Gita. Your real vairāgya arises from here that “All this belongs to the Lord, and the moment you see this Lord, our selfish interest all disappear”. But it does not mean therefore you cease to be active, or you cease to enjoy, no, but your enjoyment will be of a different kind, it will be full of vairāgya; vairāgya towards all that is selfish and egoistic. That is why Isha Upanishad also says: “tena tyaktena bhuñjītāḥ…”, “you enjoy but by renunciation”, by vairāgya: “…mā gṛdhaḥ kasya sviddhanam ||”, “Do not covet somebody’s wealth as if it is yours” (Isha Upn. 1) the moment that “coveting” goes away, then, you can really enjoy everything, because the world is nothing but a constant coming in. It is ‘we’ think that it is now gone, lost, finished. But the real nature of the world is that there is no vacuum anywhere. ‘We’ think it is lost, it is gone: it is a false view. The real thing is: there is fullness everywhere. And fullness is taken out of fullness: fullness remains. Fullness is added to fullness: fullness remains. Such is the natureīśāvāsyamidaṁ*”: if the supreme Lord is everywhere where is the vacuum? When you realise this, then the mind becomes full of stability:

abhyāsena tu kaunteya vairāgyeṇa ca gṛhyate ||6.35||

So, Sri Krishna affirms the doubt of Arjuna, says:

asaṁśayaṁ mahābāho mano durnigrahaṁ calam |

“You are right, O Mahabaho! O Arjuna! asaṁśayaṁ, doubtless; mano durnigrahaṁ calam, it is so restless, it is very difficult to control it; but tu, (tu means but), abhyāsena tu kaunteya vairāgyeṇa ca gṛhyate, but the mind can be made to be stabilised by practise, and by vairāgya, detachment.”

Now, comes the other doubt of Arjuna:

ayatiḥ śraddhayopeto yogāccalitamānasaḥ |
aprāpya yogasaṁsiddhiṁ kāṁ gatiṁ kṛṣṇa gacchati ||6.37||

The doubt remains that mind is so unstable, and even if you try, you will fall, and one who try with a very great faith, śraddhayopeto, “one who strives with all the śraddha”, but yogāccalitamānasaḥ, “yet he becomes ‘fallen’ from the yoga”; aprāpya yogasaṁsiddhiṁ, “he does not attain to yogasaṁsiddhi”, then kāṁ gatiṁ kṛṣṇa gacchati, “O Krishna what will be the movement? What will happen to him?” He neither remains here, nor there; he has given up the world, therefore he has no standing there; he does not reach the Lord, therefore he has no stand there. Then what happens to him?

He continues:

kaccin nobhayavibhraṣṭaḥ chinnābhram iva naśyati |
apratiṣṭho mahābāho vimūḍho brahmaṇaḥ pathi ||6.38||

etan me saṁśayaṁ kṛṣṇa chettum arhasy aśeṣataḥ |
tvadanyaḥ saṁśayasyāsya chettā na hy upapadyate ||6.39||

He says that if he is lost to both: kaccin nobhaya-vibhraṣṭaś, he is fallen from both; chinnābhram iva, like cloud which is dispersed; naśyati, he feels destroyed; apratiṣṭho mahā-bāho vimūḍho brahmaṇaḥ pathi, in the path of the knowledge to Brahman, he becomes apratiṣṭho, unstable, he does not get stabilised. “etan me saṁśayaṁ, this is my doubt, O Krishna! chettum arhasy aśeṣataḥ, please destroy this doubt of mine, aśeṣataḥ, without any remainder; tvadanyaḥ, without you nobody else, saṁśayasyāsya chettā, nobody else can find the solution to this doubt therefore, you kindly tell me the answer to this question.” What happens to one who is striving and he has fallen?

Now, Sri Krishna gives a consolation to everybody and says:

pārtha naiveha nāmutra vināśas tasya vidyate |
na hi kalyāṇakṛt kaścid durgatiṁ tāta gacchati ||6.40||

na hi kalyāṇakṛt, he is a kalyāṇakṛt; anybody who makes an effort, he is the one who does for the best, kalyāṇakṛt; na hi kalyāṇakṛt kaścid durgatiṁ gacchati: anyone who has made an effort, who is now, now who has done something that is good, na durgatiṁ tāta gacchati, of him there is no bad result, na durgatiṁ gacchati; pārtha naiveha nāmutra vināśas tasya vidyate, he is not destroyed either here nor there, naiveha nāmutra, neither here nor there; vināśas tasya vidyate, he is not destroyed either here or there, because he is kalyāṇakṛt. And one who is a kalyāṇakṛt, na durgatiṁ tāta gacchati, he never falls into a wrong path.”

Now, Sri Krishna says what happens to him:

prāpya puṇyakṛtāṁ lokān uṣitvā śāśvatīḥ samāḥ |
śucīnāṁ śrīmatāṁ gehe yogabhraṣṭo ’bhijāyate ||6.41||

“He is called yoga-bhraṣṭo: one who is fallen from Yoga. What happens to him? He remains for hundreds of years in a great happiness in another world, and afterwards śucīnāṁ śrīmatāṁ gehe ’bhijāyate, he takes a new birth in the house of śucīnāṁ, those who are pure, śrīmatāṁ, of those who are rich.”

athavā yoginām eva kule bhavati dhīmatām |

“Or, he gets birth in the house of Yogis, or of dhīmatām, of those who are wise and learned.”

etad dhi durlabhataraṁ loke janma yad īdṛśam ||6.42||

“In this way the kind of birth, which is durlabha, which is very difficult to attain, it is ‘that’ kind of birth that he attains.”

tatra taṁ buddhisaṁyogaṁ labhate paurvadehikam |
yatate ca tato bhūyaḥ saṁsiddhau kurunandana ||6.43||

“And there, he once again attains to buddhi-saṁyogaṁ, he attains to the Buddhi yoga; his intellect is sharpen; his intellect becomes straighten; his intellect becomes yoga, yukta, becomes united. And then, having done lot of yatate, having done lot of effort once again, tato bhūyaḥ saṁsiddhau, he ultimately achieves a great Siddhi.” So, this is what happens to anybody who falls from Yoga, he is not destroyed either here or there.

Question: That means through saṁskāra only or smriti also comes?

Both; saṁsāra brings smṛti also.

pūrvābhyāsena tenaiva hriyate hy avaśo ’pi saḥ |
jijñāsur api yogasya śabdabrahmātivartate ||6.44||

“By his previous yogic practices, he is carried onwards irresistibly. Even an inquisitive of Yoga transcends Sabdabrahman (the oral instruction in Brahman).”

He hears about Brahman, but he goes beyond hearing, and he really practices Yoga and attains to the Brahman.

prayatnād yatamānas tu yogī saṁśuddhakilviṣaḥ |
anekajanmasaṁsiddhas tato yāti parāṁ gatim ||6.45||

“He may have to take many births there after also, but by constant effort he arrives at sinless condition, saṁśuddha, he becomes pure; and then saṁsiddhas tato yāti parāṁ gatim, he becomes siddha, and attain to the highest movement of the soul.”

Comment: Sometimes not many births?

Maybe it depends upon the stage at which he has gone. He may not need even to take a birth like Vishvamitra, became yogabrashta in the very birth. He attains to the highest; that also is possible.

tapasvibhyo ’dhiko yogī jñānibhyo ’pi mato ’dhikaḥ |
karmibhyaś cādhiko yogī tasmād yogī bhavārjuna ||6.46||

Now, Sri Krishna concludes his teaching and says…in fact these two verses are the conclusion, grand conclusion of the whole of the 6 chapters.

tapasvibhyo ’dhiko yogī: “Yogis are greater than tapasvi(s).”

jñānibhyo ’pi mato ’dhikaḥ: “Even one who has attained to the greater knowledge, even greater than him is the Yogi” (that is Karmayogi).

karmibhyaś cādhiko yogī: “One who does only Karmas, even greater than them is the Karmayogi”; karmakāṇḍi karmibhyaś: one who does only actions but does not attain to Knowledge is inferior to the Karmayogi who attains both to knowledge and Action. Therefore, tasmād yogī bhavārjuna: “Since Yogi, (the Karmayogi) is higher than tapasvi, than Karmi, and than Jnani, therefore you become Yogi”: my proposition to you is that you attain to Knowledge, you do Tapasya, you do all actions, but you attain to that kind of a condition where Knowledge and Action, both are reconciled, and I ask you to be Yogi.

And when you do that the ‘finale’ comes in a grand way, as it were, the last tune opens out the gates for the other music that is to follow later on in the 7th , 8th , 9th , 10th , 11th , 12th chapters, where the theme is ‘the synthesis of Knowledge and Devotion’. So, Sri Krishna here says:

yoginām api sarveṣāṁ madgatenāntarātmanā |
śraddhāvān bhajate yo māṁ sa me yuktatamo mataḥ ||6.47||

“Even greater than Yogi is the Bhakta. So, even when you have become a Yogi, you arrive at Me, that is the supreme condition.” And:

śraddhāvān bhajate yo māṁ sa me yuktatamo mataḥ ||

The greatest Yogi is one who not only reconciles Knowledge and Action, but also bhajate, who arrives at a great Devotion, who reconciles Devotion with Knowledge and Action.

Review of Chapters 1-6

Now, of this last sentence the next six chapters are elucidation: how to unite Knowledge and Action with Devotion. So, this is the last sentence of the 6th chapter and fortunate today we have finished the 6th chapter.

Now, we shall review the six chapters, so that in our consciousness the basic lines of these first six chapters remain quite established.

How to remember what are the main lines of the argument of the first 6 chapters? What is the queue, so that the thread of the 6 chapters becomes very easy to lift up? The best thing is to remember the starting point of the Bhagavad Gita. The Bhagavad Gita starts with the viṣāda of Arjuna, the despondency of Arjuna, and with his questions.

We must understand his questions very well, he says: on one side is the sin of slaughter; on the other side is the duty to fight for justice: both are Dharmas. If one was Adharma and the other was Dharma, there is no problem: you select Dharma. But both are Dharmas: to avoid slaughter is a Dharma; to fight for justice is Dharma. If I fight for justice I have to make a slaughter; if I don’t slaughter, which is a sin, then avoid justice and establishment of the Right. This is the dilemma with which Arjuna starts his question. And therefore he says: what should I do when on both sides is Dharma, and following one Dharma becomes Adharma? If I follow that one, then the other becomes Adharma: then how shall I do this? What shall I do? His immediate reaction was: give up action, and enter into Jnana, and Samadhi, so that he attains to the state of non-slaughter, and he becomes free: that was his idea.

Now Sri Krishna says…and this is how He starts, and I have said earlier: the first “dong” of Sri Krishna is very important when He answers. And what is the first ‘dong’? It is to point out to Arjuna that in his argument there is a lacuna. He speaks of everything: he speaks of his brethren; he speaks of justice; he speaks of slaughter; he speaks of kulakṣaya; he speaks of all kinds of consequences of bad actions, of sins etc. But he does not speak of one most important thing and that is of “that which is eternal”. He speaks the language of the paṇḍita, but He says Pandits first speak of the Eternal, and in your statement there is no reference to the Eternal. So, the starting point of Sri Krishna’s answer is, that first you put your premises correctly: your premises are incomplete. If you bring the idea of the Eternal, which never is destroyed, then this itself will work as a kind of an ‘evaporator’: your whole fear of destruction, of killing will be evaporated when you know that there is ultimately a Reality which can never be destroyed. In other words, Sri Krishna’s answer starts by what is called a “pole-transference”.

You are at this level in which certain data alone are understood; at that level the data of the eternal Reality and its relationship with the world are not obtained. So, He says: “you be transferred on an upper level, become a real Pandit; you are speaking the language of paṇḍita, but become the real paṇḍita. And the real paṇḍita is the one who raises himself to the higher level of consciousness where greater data are available”. This upward transference from where we are to the higher is the first step in the answer of Sri Krishna. Sri Krishna does not say that, “you do action; that is my answer”. That is not His answer. “Do your duty, that is my answer”, no. First, the answer is that, “Even though ultimately I will ask you to fight and to do action, but on the basis of an ‘upward transference’. The way, in which you want to act…I do not say you act now: in this present condition of consciousness you cannot act correctly; you act, but act in what way? By upward transference of your being: raise yourself from where you are and go upward.”

In other words, the very starting point of Sri Krishna’s teaching is “Knowledge”. He does not teach first action, but He first starts Knowledge, because unless you do that, the new source of action won’t be possible. That is why Arjuna is surprised that, “I really wanted Knowledge and you are now telling me to go to Knowledge, so, I was quite right, so, why do you throw me into this ghore karmaṇi. Why do you throw me into this action?”

So, Sri Krishna says: “there are two ways”. And then, Sri Krishna explains what is Buddhi yoga. The path of Knowledge is centred on Buddhi yoga. Why is “Jnana yoga” called Jnana yoga? Jnana yoga is a Yoga, which employs Knowledge as the instrument of lifting yourself from the lower to the higher. At the lower level, you are ayuktaḥ, you are not united with the supreme Reality. If you want to be yukta, if you want to be a Yogi, then, you raise yourself up. But, by what means? In the Jnana yoga the means, which are given, are the means of Knowledge. And what is the highest instrument of Knowledge? Buddhi. Among all the instruments in us, the one instrument, which is nearest to Knowledge, is Buddhi. Therefore, since Jnana yoga employs instruments of Knowledge as the instrument to uplift yourself from lower to higher, therefore Jnana yoga is called Jnana yoga.

Why is Karma yoga called Karma yoga? Because there also, there is a question of uplifting yourself from the lower to the higher, but the means that are involved is Karma. Karma is the method; therefore Karma yoga is called Karma. You use karma in such a way that Karma itself lifts you up, upwards.

Now therefore, Sri Krishna first of all says: “There are two ways; you lift yourself by means of Knowledge, therefore apply Buddhi. Or there is another way, in which while doing works, you can be free, and there, action is to be used as a means; but mere action does not lead you to that highest condition, which I want you to go to. Therefore, my answer to you is that the second path is one, in which you apply both Buddhi and Karma. If you apply only Buddhi, your path will be pure Jnanayoga. You will be uplifted, but the kind of action that I want you to take will be arrived at, only when you combine Buddhi and Karma”.

So, right from the beginning Sri Krishna expounds the path of Action, which is a synthetic path. Therefore, in the famous verse, Sri Krishna says: “All this I have told you will be the result of Buddhi yoga, but now I shall tell you how to apply Buddhi by which even while doing actions you will become free.” So, here the emphasis falls upon application of Buddhi and Karma. And the 2nd chapter is largely devoted to the application of Karma. How do you utilise Karma? How do you use Karma, so that you are uplifted? So now the one key word that we must remember while expounding this idea is that the essence of Karma yoga lies in the fact that upward transference can be effected by Action because depending upon the spirit in which you do your action, and the kind of action that you do, contributes to the uplifting. This is the experimenting psychology of Karma yoga that you see the spirit, in which you do the action: don’t throw away the action, attend to the spirit in which you are doing the action, and then see the nature of the work that you are doing, you will find that you will feel uplifted. Take even a small example.

There are 3 kinds of actions which automatically uplift you: action of learning and teaching; action of generosity; and action of service. You serve a sick man, and your consciousness will be uplifted. In the teaching and learning process, you become quite pure in your motivation, in your movements. And in generosity when you have a good function and you have to invite a hundred people, you will see your whole consciousness, how generous it is, and how loving it is. While you are inviting hundred people, they have come to you, and you have to serve them, your consciousness will be very, very noble. The normal attitude of jealousy, envy, quarrel, all this do not find and easy road into these three activities. Nature of activities themselves is such that you are unable to lift up your spirit of action. But on the other hand, if you are able to keep a higher spirit while doing any action, then also you are uplifted.

It is often said that the moment you fall from inviting people to your house with generosity and enter into the dialogue of business, immediately the consciousness changes. Even when somebody is invited by generosity in your house and you are very kind, very fine, but start talking about business and immediately the consciousness begins to ‘mine and thine’, and ‘profit making’, and ‘how to throttle the other one in competition’, ‘how to gain more profit’, etc. But even while doing this action, if your spirit is of a high nature, then even while doing those actions, you will not fall: this is the secret of Karma yoga. if you know that the spirit of action, while doing an action is always uplifted, then even while doing action, may be even highly egoistic action normally, even while doing an action in which your egoism becomes very powerful, even that action is washed out, if your spirit is correct. Now, it is on this basis that the whole secret of Karma yoga is constructed. Just as in the case of Jnana yoga, it is the employment of Buddhi, which lifts you up from lower to the higher, similarly in the Karma yoga it is the “spirit” in which you do the action that lifts you up.

Now, how is that spirit to be tackled? Sri Krishna gives you three propositions, in the 2nd chapter:

1st is that “You should, while doing action not desire the fruits of action”: this is the first statement. You do the action, but the spirit will be changed the moment you do not try to cleave at the results of action. Your spirit will be quite different. This is the first way by which your spirit is uplifted.

The 2nd process is samatvaṁ yogam ucyate (2.48). If “You remain equal minded”, then also you do any action, but in that action you remain samatva: have equality, whether you get success or failure, honour or dishonour, happiness or misery, whatever! Remain samatva, and do the action! This is the 2nd secret given by Sri Krishna, as to how to keep the right spirit while doing action.

And what is the 3rd sentence? The 3rd sentence is:

yogaḥ karmasu kauśalam (2.50)

“Efficiency, proficiency of action is Yoga.”

You apply these 3 propositions and your whole spirit of action will change.

1) karmaṇy evādhikāras te mā phaleṣu kadācana (2.47). This is the first sentence: “You have the right to action, but not to the fruits of action”. If with this consciousness you perform an action, your spirit will be changed.

2) samatvaṁ yogam ucyate (2.48). “Develop equality of mind while doing action”, your spirit will be changed.

3) yogaḥ karmasu kauśalam (2.50). And “Do every action with thoroughness, perfection.” That also will change your state of consciousness.

These 3 propositions when you combine them together, the spirit of action will be changed. And when the spirit is changed, you will be uplifted. The whole aim is to uplift you from where you are. Where you are Sri Krishna says, “Where you are you cannot find a solution to your problem, you have to uplift yourself: upliftment can be done by Buddhi, that is one way; the other way is join Buddhi with Karma, but Karma not merely by doing Karma, but apply these 3 propositions. When these 3 propositions are applied, then the spirit of your action will be changed and you will be uplifted. Now, this is the teaching of the 2nd chapter.

In the 3rd chapter, we have a further expansion: you go farther. What is the farther point? The farther point is that you realise that you have no right even to action also. In the 2nd chapter you were told that you have a right to action but not to the fruits; but this is only the first teaching. In the 3rd chapter you are told that aham karomi, “I am doing, I am doing” is also a falsity. You have no right even to action! Not only do you give up the results of action, but now Sri Krishna says, “Give up action also”. And how do you give up action? You have no right to action therefore how do you do it? You refer action to whom…from where the action proceeds. Action does not belong to you, then, it belongs to whom? It belongs to the supreme Lord. So Sri Krishna says, “Whatever action you do, you do yajña, as a sacrifice.” This is the secret. This is the second step of Karmayoga. First is the giving of the fruits of action; the next is: now give up action itself: in what way? As a sacrifice to the Lord.

Now, here comes also a greater knowledge: knowledge of the Lord, which was up till now not referred to. In the 2nd chapter the Lord is not yet referred to, except only once. In the 3rd chapter now, the introduction of the idea of the Lord comes in. As you become riper, even the knowledge also becomes riper. In Buddhiyoga, you have only seen that which is eternal and that which is not eternal. But now, you see much more; you see the Eternal from whom action proceeds. It is a greater perception, a greater knowledge. So, just as you rise in your spirit of action, you also rise higher in knowledge. And the two are again synthesised: Knowledge and Action.

What is yajña is then explained by Sri Krishna in the 3rd chapter; and He explains that the whole world is yajña, the whole world is created by yajña. When you complete your movement of yajña, which is again explained in the 4th chapter, that yajñas are of many kinds, but the highest yajña is the yajña of knowledge: when you know the Supreme, when you come to know the Reality itself, and then you offer everything to the Lord that is the climax of Karmayoga.

Then what happens? divyam janma divyam karma; then arises the divine birth. You are really seated, you are really uplifted into the higher status; and then, you are able to act. From the higher level the action proceeds. Now, action no more proceeds from you. All actions that you had already krisna arppanam, is already given as an offering to the supreme Lord. Now, whatever action proceeds, the action proceeds only from Him. The climax of Karmayoga is to make God do, instead of you doing anything. Once you know that it is the Divine who is acting, then all your arguments, Sri Krishna says to Arjuna in fact your argumentis “if I do this, this will be the result, if I do this, that will be the result”, you are no more doing anything. Allow the supreme Lord to act, and He will work out whatever is His will. To discover the Divine’s will, to be the instrument of the Divine’s will, and to allow the Supreme to work through us, we, remaining like a flute, or we, remaining like a bow of the arrow, we, remaining as an instrument, then the divine action will proceed from you, no more your ordinary action. Your ordinary action is made of Prakriti: Sattwa, Rajas, and Tamas. But when you have given to the Lord, then divya karma will start, it will not be Sattwa, Rajas, and Tamas: it will be Sachchidananda’s action. In every action there will be purity and that which is truthfulness, and that which is fully conscious and full of delight. So, in the 4th chapter, the Karmayoga is described fully; but Karmayoga which is synthesised with the Knowledge.

5th and 6th chapters are only elucidation of lingering doubts, which remain. That of ‘what is the place of Sannyasa in all this process’, because this is the question which was very prominent at that time, in the time of Arjuna’s questioning. Sannyasa had become more and more fashionable, and people were being drawn away from action into Sannyasa, into renunciation. Therefore this question is very prominent throughout the whole book. What is Sannyasa? So, Sri Krishna says, “The real Sannyasa is not ‘coming out of action’; the real Sannyasa is the giving up of desire”. Once you give up, it is real Sannyasa, whether you do this or do that: do all actions without desire. That is the real Sannyasa.

And that is why Sri Krishna says that, “Whether…the distinction between Jnanayoga and Karmayoga itself ceases”: what is Sankhya, is Karma, is Yoga, and what is Yoga is Sankhya; only the starting point is different. In the process of Knowledge you take resort to Buddhi. In Karmayoga you take resort to Karma; but having resort to Karma, in Karmayoga you apply Buddhi. And it is only when you reach the climax of Jnana that you really reach the climax of Action. In Jnanayoga also when you reach the Knowledge of the One, then you find that ‘that One’ is himself Purushottama, and this is explained in the 6th chapter and says, ‘to see oneself in all, and all in oneself; and to see oneself in Him, or in the Reality, in mayi, in Me, and Me in everybody…ultimately arriving at a stage of complete devotion’, that is the supreme condition, in which Karma, Jnana, and Bhakti are all reconciled: this is the condition of Karmayoga. This is the elucidation in chapters 5 & 6.

So, in brief you can simply say that Karmayoga has 3 steps:

1) The first step is governed by 3 propositions: give up the fruits of action; remain equal minded; and do your action thoroughly well.

2) Second step is to give up even the sense of action by offering your action to the Supreme.

3) And third is to become the instrument of the Divine, so the Divine’s will is carried out through you.

These are the 3 steps of Karmayoga.

Now, all this still leaves out certain questions, which are still not answered. We are told of ‘Oneness’, we are told of the ‘Supreme’, we are told of surrender to ‘Him’, bhajate; but we are not told as yet, the relationship between the Oneness and the supreme Lord. Words are used, indications are given, but what is this supreme Lord? What is His real Nature? How He manifests in the world? This is yet not described in the first 6 chapters. Who am I? How have I fallen into this ditch in which I am? In general it is given but not fully. It requires to be fully elucidated. We are told there is the will of the Lord, but how does this ‘will of the Lord’ manifest in the world? This is not yet given to us. These questions are left to be considered in the next 6 chapters.

Now, tell me whether you would like to go to the next 6 chapters, or whether we can stop here, because actually this is one good terminal point. If you have patience to go through the next 6 chapters, it requires…lot of patience.

I think we shall go to the next 6 chapters.

All right then, with your consent we shall next time go the next 6 chapters, but before ending today I would like to give you, and read out to you a few paragraphs from Sri Aurobindo’s book called “The Synthesis of Yoga”, which describes in sum the whole of the Karmayoga, so that it may remain with us as the statement, which we can refer to all the time.

I am sorry I don’t have enough copies.

The question with which Sri Aurobindo starts is the culmination of Karmayoga, which I described, the condition in which the Divine Himself begins to act trough you; it is the consummation, the highest stage.

Now, Sri Aurobindo says (SACBE Vol. 20, p.94, 95, 96 & 97):

“But by what practical steps of self-discipline can we arrive at this consummation?” This is the question.

Now Sri Aurobindo gives in summary the whole of the Karmayoga.

“The elimination of all egoistic activity and of its foundation, the egoistic consciousness, is clearly the key to the consummation we desire. And since in the path of works action is the knot we have first to loosen, we must endeavour to loosen it where it is centrally tied, in desire and in ego; for otherwise we shall cut only stray strands and not the heart of our bondage. These are the two knots of our subjection to this ignorant and divided Nature, desire and ego-sense. And of these two desires has its native home in the emotions and sensations and instincts and from there affects thought and volition; ego-sense lives indeed in these movements, but it casts its deep roots also in the thinking mind and its will and it is there that it becomes fully self- conscious. These are the twin obscure powers of the obsessing world-wide Ignorance that we have to enlighten and eliminate.

In the field of action desire takes many forms, but the most powerful of all is the vital self’s craving or seeking after the fruit of our works. The fruit we covet may be a reward of internal pleasure; it may be the accomplishment of some preferred idea or some cherished will or the satisfaction of the egoistic emotions, or else the pride of success of our highest hopes and ambitions. Or it may be an external reward, a recompense entirely material, — wealth, position, honour, victory, good fortune or any other fulfilment of vital or physical desire. But all alike are lures by which egoism holds us. Always these satisfactions delude us with the sense of mastery and the idea of freedom, while really we are harnessed and guided or ridden and whipped by some gross or subtle, some noble or ignoble, figure of the blind Desire that drives the world. Therefore the first rule of action laid down by the Gita is to do the work that should be done without any desire for the fruit, niṣkāma karma.

A simple rule in appearance, and yet how difficult to carry out with anything like an absolute sincerity and liberating entireness! In the greater part of our action we use the principle very little if at all, and then even mostly as a sort of counterpoise to the normal principle of desire and to mitigate the extreme action of that tyrant impulse. At best, we are satisfied if we arrive at a modified and disciplined egoism not too shocking to our moral sense, not too brutally offensive to others. And to our partial self-discipline we give various names and forms; we habituate ourselves by practice to the sense of duty, to a firm fidelity to principle, a stoical fortitude, or a religious resignation, a quiet or an ecstatic submission to God’s will. But it is not these things that the Gita intends, useful though they are in their place; it aims at something absolute, unmitigated, uncompromising, a turn, an attitude that will change the whole poise of the soul. Not the mind’s control of vital impulse is its rule, but the strong immobility of an immortal spirit.

The test it lays down is an absolute equality of the mind and the heart to all results, to all reactions, to all happenings. If good fortune and ill fortune, if respect and insult, if reputation and obloquy, if victory and defeat, if pleasant event and sorrowful event leave us not only unshaken but untouched, free in the emotions, free in the nervous reactions, free in the mental view, not responding with the least disturbance or vibration in any spot of the nature, then we have the absolute liberation to which the Gita points us, but not otherwise. The tiniest reaction is proof that the discipline is imperfect and that some part of us accepts ignorance and bondage as its law and clings still to the old nature. Our self-conquest is only partially accomplished; it is still imperfect or unreal in some stretch or part or smallest spot of the ground of our nature. And that little pebble of imperfection may throw down the whole achievement of the Yoga!

There are certain semblances of an equal spirit which must not be mistaken for the profound and vast spiritual equality which the Gita teaches. There is an equality of disappointed resignation, an equality of pride, an equality of hardness and indifference: all these are egoistic in their nature. Inevitably they come in the course of the sadhana, but they must be rejected or transformed into the true quietude. There is too, on a higher level, the equality of the stoic, the equality of a devout resignation or a sage detachment, the equality of a soul aloof from the world and indifferent to its doings. These too are insufficient; first approaches they can be, but they are at most early soul-phases only or imperfect mental preparations for our entry into the true and absolute self-existent wide equal oneness of the spirit.

For it is certain that such a great result cannot be arrived at immediately and without any previous stages. At first we have to learn to bear the shocks of the world with the central part of our being untouched and silent, even when the surface mind, heart, life are strongly shaken; unmoved there on the bedrock of our life, we must separate the soul watching behind or immune deep within from these outer workings of our nature. Afterwards, extending this calm and steadfastness of the detached soul to its instruments, it will become slowly possible to radiate peace from the luminous centre to the darker peripheries. In this process we may take the passing help of many minor phases; a certain stoicism, a certain calm philosophy, a certain religious exaltation may help us towards some nearness to our aim, or we may call in even less strong and exalted but still useful powers of our mental nature. In the end we must either discard or transform them and arrive instead at an entire equality, a perfect self-existent peace within and even, if we can, a total unassailable, self-poised and spontaneous delight in all our members.

But how then shall we continue to act at all? For ordinarily the human being acts because he has a desire or feels a mental, vital or physical want or need; he is driven by the necessities of the body, by the lust of riches, honours or fame, or by a craving for the personal satisfactions of the mind or the heart or a craving for power or pleasure. Or he is seized and pushed about by a moral need or, at least, the need or the desire of making his ideas or his ideals or his will or his party or his country or his gods prevail in the world. If none of these desires nor any other must be the spring of our action, it would seem as if all incentive or motive power had been removed and action itself must necessarily cease. The Gita replies with its third great secret of the divine life. All action must be done in a more and more Godward and finally a God-possessed consciousness; our works must be a sacrifice to the Divine and in the end a surrender of all our being, mind, will, heart, sense, life and body to the One must make God-love and God-service our only motive. This transformation of the motive-force and very character of works is indeed its master idea; it is the foundation of its unique synthesis of works, love and knowledge. In the end not desire, but the consciously felt will of the Eternal remains as the sole driver of our action and the sole originator of its initiative.

Equality, renunciation of all desire for the fruit of our works, action done as a sacrifice to the supreme Lord of our nature and of all nature, — these are the three first Godward approaches in the Gita’s way of Karmayoga.”

So, we shall meet next time now, for the 7th chapter. All right?

I don’t know what will be suitable. I think I can make it even during this week if it is possible.