Each seeker will have his idea about yogasadhana and the progress it is meant to bring about. The ideas are often farstretched and even elusive at times. What relevance does sadhana really have to one’s mind and intelligence? Where will the sadhana finally lead one to? What is the goal like? All these points will become amply clear if this verse is studied and absorbed well.
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The 2nd chapter of Bhagavad Gita has not only the distinction of initiating the spiritual dialogue in the warfield of Kurukshetra but also of essentially concluding the discussion, in a way. Krishna first of all makes Arjuna examine his grief critically to find out how far it is authentic and unalterable. To enable him to make such a study, Krishna presents the concept of the Soul, showing how it remains unborn, undying, single and uniform all through. In the context of such a transcendental Soul – the core of man’s personality – how can the mind’s grief and vagaries be allowed to overpower man in any situation? Only a sheer lack of introspection and the unwillingness to relate experiences properly result in the delusion of man in the hands of his own mind and senses.
The mind’s constriction and delusion will not leave until the intelligence disapproves them and for that purpose it takes up a proper introspection on the Soul, no matter how emergent the pressure of the outside world is. Whether it is sitting on the throne or wielding weapons in the battlefield, the introspection must remain predominant. Only then man will find his timely inner strength and inspiration.
Krishna’s call for introspection did have its effect. Arjuna became thoughtful. When his thoughtfulness turned into enquiry, the entire scene and purpose before him changed drastically. Thus Krishna exposed the Sankhya and Karma Yoga pursuits, finding Arjuna a full spiritual enquirer posed to hear and know more about the fullness of spiritual wisdom and the efficacy of yoga pursuit.
With verse 38 Krishna concluded the Sankhya exposition, and now with verse 51 he also concludes the Karma Yoga narration. Yoga, you will find, begins through introspection and grows through deeper enquiry. But when and how does it conclude or terminate? It is a natural question that arises in the mind of any listener or reader.
Without waiting for another opportunity or delaying matters, Krishna, seeing Arjuna’s curiosity, now provides sufficient clues to know when and how the yogic pursuit takes one to its destined fruition.
Every effort, in any field, is meant to generate a certain outcome. It will be completed only when the intended outcome is gained. The effort and its outcome are thus inseparable, a point we have stressed earlier. The yogic pursuit also is a clear effort. When rightly pursued, it must lead the seeker to the destined outcome. In the case of spiritual effort, whatever it aims at or brings about is quite experiential. There is no scope for doubt or indefiniteness at all like the heavenly rewards of ritualistic pursuits. The effort of yoga, whether it is Sankhya Yoga or Karma Yoga, takes one to a state of inner clarity and fullness, so much so that he will not, Krishna says, be agitated by whatever has been heard in the form of scriptural statements or hearsay, and whatever he may hear in future. As the mind becomes rid of all its grief and agitation, the intelligence also will beam with clarity and steadiness.
Thus in the next verse Krishna explains how the yogic seeker attains his inner state of clarity, lightness and poise, and how such attainment can be identified:
तदा गन्तासि निर्वेदं श्रोतव्यस्य श्रुतस्य च ।।
Krishna’s words are a yardstick to measure the progress of one’s yoga-sadhana. This verse sets forth two propositions: One is about transcending delusion, and the other about growing indifferent about what has been heard and what may likely be heard. This indicates how clear and firm the buddhi of a yogi would be when the yogic refinement graces him in sufficient measure. There cannot be any vagueness in the matter.
Usually, a man does not have any clear or conclusive idea about what life is or what should one’s aim verily be. There is indecisiveness about practically everything around. Religious belief and adherence only make matters worse. There is so much talk about the other worldly life and the promises and rewards relating to it. Heaven, hell, the Satyaloka, Brahmaloka and many other allied spheres –– all hold their charm, fear, allurement and what not. Many matters are also arrayed which go to influence the present life and its course and outcomes. Altogether there is a mess and confusion. Krishna already pinpointed how important the decisive nature of the buddhi is when he referred to ‘vyavasayatmika buddhih’ as the only reckonable factor in the pursuit of Karmayoga. The non-resolute buddhi, he said, will remain attracted to and involved in multiple interests and pursuits, finding no finality and fulfilment in any of them.
How will the buddhi become clear and resolute? It should begin to introspect, enquire and gain viveka (discrimination) about what life is, where lies its real fulfilment and what should overall be the attempt to achieve this. The introspection itself becomes an involvement and pursuit (inner and wholesome) and it will bring about its effects too. The yogabuddhi is the net result of all this. The yogabuddhi has already been defined in the Sankhya and Karma yoga discussions. The yogabuddhi finally removes the delusion of the seeker. It makes him firmly indifferent to whatever he has heard, read or otherwise understood from various sources, and likewise whatever he may yet come to hear about in future.
The differing views of varied sources in fact serve only to create doubts and conflicts in the buddhi. All this vanishes like mist before the sun, in the light of the yogabuddhi. As the eyes see broad daylight, so the buddhi now perceives life, its nature and fulfilment clearly. Multiple interests and focuses lose their meaning and relevance. At best they serve to distract man and make his pursuit wayward. The only effort worth taking up to fulfil all the needs of life is to gain spiritual refinement through yogic discipline and pursuit. All cravings including those for knowing will come to an end, when the right yogic advancement is gained.
समाधावचला बुद्धिस्तदा योगमवाप्स्यसि ।।
When your buddhi, after being tossed repeatedly by the conflicting statements of the scriptures, finally becomes unflickering and firm, then indeed will you have attained yoga, the fruition of yoga saadhana.
Krishna’s statement is very significant. Each seeker will have his idea about yogasadhana and the progress it is meant to bring about. The ideas are often farstretched and even elusive at times. One has to become very discreet and bold in understanding the worth and essence of spiritual sadhana and how it enriches the seeker’s heart and intelligence.
The verse specifies clear guidelines to compare and correct the sadhaka’s evaluations and notions. What relevance does sadhana really have to one’s mind and intelligence? Where will the sadhana finally lead one to? What is the goal like? All these points will become amply clear if this verse is studied and absorbed well.
In the earlier verse it was told that the buddhi should get rid of delusion which alone drives it to multiple interests and involvements. When the basic delusion is shed, the buddhi will become quite indifferent to whatever it has been exposed to and whatever it is yet to come across. In other words, there will be nothing in the form of an influence to make it agitated or perplexed.
Krishna goes a step further in this verse to clarify how important it is to have a resolute intelligence in the pursuit of yoga. In fact, when the buddhi’s vacillations come to a stop and it remains unperturbed, then is yoga verily attained. This is a paramount pronouncement, and seekers must pay a lot of attention to grasp its full import.
The mind of man always survives on memory. Once an instance comes to pass, be it an external event or an internal thought or knowledge, the mind retains the experience in the form of memory. Devoid of this memory, none can live, move or interact in this world. For one to outlive his memory is neither possible nor useful. In the absence of a clear memory, a man will no more remain functional, playing any meaningful role anywhere.
Being so, what does Krishna mean by attaining indifference to whatever is heard and to be heard? Can whatever one gains in the form of knowledge and memory be so much of a hurdle in the spiritual path or yogasadhana?
Yogasadhana is meant to inculcate in the seeker more and more of viveka every day, until at last by the brilliance of this viveka he is able to realize the supreme Truth, the immortal Self that he verily is. The viveka, as it grows deeper, will have the effect of stabilizing the buddhi and mind. Such stabilization is what the scriptural study too ultimately imparts. Know enough of scriptural truths and get stabilized in your own supreme Self. Know that everything is just one in essence, and plurality is only an appearance. Prefer the Self to the entire host of variety found here as well as there. The indulgence and involvement in many is necessary only till this clarity is struck.
Mundakopanishad makes this point clear (verse 1.2.12)
तद्विज्ञानार्थं स गुरुमेवाभिगच्छेत् समित्पाणि: श्रोत्रियं ब्रह्मनिष्ठम् ।।
Sage Angiras tells Saunaka, a great householder, when he enquired of the Sage about the knowledge of the supreme Reality: “Examine all the worlds to be attained by rituals, evaluate them properly and come to the conclusion that all of them are transitory and ultimately useless. Through rituals the supreme Brahman cannot be attained. The causeless Supreme cannot be attained by the cause and effect chain. Go then to the Wise one, in all humility and earnestness, and seek instruction as to how to proceed.”
Is it not the same truth that Krishna wants to impart here too? Krishna says that the buddhi should remain unflickering and firm within. There should be no special motivation or persuasion, no external or internal attraction for it. Even the various accounts of Truth provided by the scriptures should not influence it unduly. Sastras are like the steps in the ladder. Get to the steps, one after another, and after climbing the last step, leave the ladder and get to the floor above.
After reading and absorbing the scriptures, be given to the pursuit of wisdom in yourself. Leave all forms of external help and means. Leave the scriptures also. Get to the stability of the mind and intelligence within yourself.
The last obstacle for the spiritual practitioner is the different accounts he finds about the goal of life and the sadhana leading to it. Even the scriptures give a plural description. The plurality of the accounts must not toss the mind and buddhi of the seeker. The buddhi must become self-supporting, self-settled.
Desire moves the buddhi. Doubt swings it. Even spiritual desire causes disturbance and distraction. Only when all this gets dissolved, stability can be gained. Krishna speaks of the unflickering note of the buddhi :
योगिनो यतचित्तस्य युञ्जतो योगमात्मन: ।।
Like the steady flame of a lamp placed in a windless place, is the mind of the well-restrained yoga-sadhaka. Yogasadhana aims at delivering such a settled and clear buddhi.
Kathopanishad’s pronouncement (2.2.10) on this subject is even clearer:
बुद्धिश्च न विचेष्टते तामाहु: परमां गतिम् ।।
When all the five senses, together with the mind and buddhi, remain still and stable, that indeed is the supreme Abode.
So the point is unmistakable. The seeker has to grasp it without fail. Sage Ashtavakra’s words during his instruction on Self-realization to King Janaka on how to achieve Self-realization are even more unambiguous. They appear in Ashtavakra Samhita (9.5)
दृष्ट्वा निर्वेदमापन्न: को न शाम्यति मानव: ।।
By hearing the conflicting versions of the Sages, Siddhas and Yogis, when the mind attains to a clear indifference to all of them, who indeed will not attain to ‘quietitude’ in full?
In all these, you can find how important and final is the poise and clarity the buddhi attains in the spiritual sadhana. There is no external goal to be achieved at all; purity alone is to be gained. With such purity and clarity, the vacillations of the buddhi will come to a stop. And in that cessation is the final goal realized.
The final effort of the Yogic seeker is to collect his mind and buddhi. He must succeed in this effort. It may not be easy at all. But he has to achieve it somehow. Persistent practice, coupled with keen discrimination alone will make him succeed. The last obstacles he will encounter are (i) doubts about his very pursuit and (ii) the disturbances which these doubts cause inevitably:
Is my mind flickering now or has it become still?
Where is the Soul I was looking for? What in me will realize the Soul? If the mind ceases to function, what further is left aside to gain the experience that will follow? Who or what will grasp the knowledge then?
Is not the body different from the Soul? How can I say that the Soul alone is? In deep sleep (sushupti), when the mind ceases to be, the body still is there. Even if I realize the Soul it will not be in exclusion of the body, but including it. How can then the jeevatma be totally negated?
Where lies the truth? Can the scriptures, which speak about heavens and Brahmaloka be wrong or deceptive? The same scriptures speak about the Self also. If their statements on the Self are correct, how can their statements about the higher worlds be incorrect?
What should be the right discrimination? Which statement replaces or overwhelms the others?.... etc.
Whether you think about scriptures and their conflicting notes, or think about the world and its multiple notes, it is your mind and buddhi which generate these notes finally. The immediate cause of these may be the scriptures or the world. But inwardly in both cases, the manovrttis and buddhivrttis belong to the mind and buddhi alone. The buddhi will have to leave all these swinging and rambling and get to a state of poise and depth.
Till that is attained, the yogic refinement has no meaning or finality. So, ultimately, when all other desires fall, it is doubt caused by the intelligence that survives as the last obstacle. To yearn for the Self or freedom is also a vrtti of the buddhi. Initially, the buddhi creates the ‘bondage vrtti’ then it brings in the ‘yearning-for-liberation vrtti’. Finally the ‘liberation vrtti’ results. All take place in the same strain, with the same note of spontaneity.
When thus the bondage falls finally, the freedom also loses its meaning and relevance. What shines is pure transcendence, all-fold sublimity, supreme oneness, if you call it so. It looks strange, intriguing, even paradoxical. But it is the full and naked fact –– the TRUTH.