Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Shankara | Discourse 6 verse 4-26

Who is a Yogin?

When is a man said to be a Yogārūḍha, to have attained to Yoga?

—The answer follows:

4. When a man, renouncing all thoughts, is not attached to sense-objects and actions, then he is said to have attained to Yoga.

Shankara's commentary:

When a Yogin, keeping the mind steadfast, feels no at­tachment for the objects of the senses such as sound, nor thinks that he has to do any action,

—whether nitya (obli­gatory) or naimittika (obligatory and incidental) or kāmya (done with a motive) or pratishiddha (forbidden by law),

— regarding it as of no use to him; and when he has learned to habitually renounce all thoughts which give rise to desires for objects of this world and of the next, then he is said to have become a Yogārūḍha, to be one who has attained to Yoga.

—The words "renouncing all thoughts" imply that all desires as well as all actions should be renounced. For, all desires spring from thoughts, as the smṛti says:

"Verily desire springs from thought (saṁkalpa), and of thought yajñas are born."— (Manu ii.2).

O Desire, I know where thy root lies. Thou art born of thought. I shall not think of thee, and thou shalt cease to exist as well as thy root.”— (Mahabha­rata, Śāntiparva, 177-25).

On the abandonment of all desires, the abandonment of all actions necessarily follows, as passages in the śruti like the following show:

Whatever forms the object of desire, that he wills; and whatever he wills, that he acts.—(Bri. Up. 4-4-5).

Reasoning also leads to the same conclusion. For, on surrendering all thoughts, one cannot move at all.

There­fore, by saying that the aspirant should renounce all thoughts, the Lord implies that he should abandon all de­sires and all actions as well.

When a man has attained to Yoga, then the self is raised by the self from out of the numerous evils of saṁsāra.

Therefore,

5. Let a man raise himself by himself, let him not lower himself; for, he alone is the friend of himself, he alone is the enemy of himself.

Shankara's commentary:

Let a man lift up himself who is drowned in the ocean of saṁsāra, i. e., let him so train himself as to become a Yogārūḍha, let him practise and attain to Yoga. Let him not lower himself; for, he alone is the friend of himself.

There is indeed no other friend that can lead to liberation from saṁsāra; nay, the so-called friend is only inimical to him who seeks liberation, as the former forms an object of affection, which is the cause of bondage.

Hence the emphasis ‘he alone is the friend of himself.’

And he alone is the enemy of himself. The other enemy who is outside is made an enemy -only by himself. Hence the emphasis ‘he alone is the enemy of himself.’

It has been said that ‘‘he alone is the friend of himself, he alone is the enemy of himself.” Now it may be asked, what sort of a man is the friend of himself and what sort, of a man is the enemy of himself?

—The answer follows:

6. To him who has conquered himself by him­self, his own self is the friend of himself, but, to him who has not (conquered) himself, his own self stands in the place of an enemy like the (external) foe.

Shankara's commentary:

His self is the friend of himself who is self-controlled, who has brought under control the aggregate of the body and the senses.

But in the case of a man who is not self-controlled, his own self does injury to himself, just as any external foe may do injury to him.

7. The self-controlled and serene man’s Supr­eme Self is steadfast in cold and heat, in pleasure and pain, as also in honour and disgrace.

Shankara's commentary:

When a man has subdued the aggregate of the body and the senses, when his mind (antaḥ-kāraṇa) is tranquil, when he has renounced all actions, then the Supreme Self actually becomes his own Self.

8. The Yogin whose self is satisfied with know­ledge and wisdom, who remains unshaken, who has conquered the senses, he is said to be a saint,— for whom a lump of earth, a stone and gold are equal.       .

Shankara's commentary:

When Yogin is satisfied with knowledge (jñāna) of things as taught in the scriptures, and with wisdom (vijñāna),

i.e., with the realisation (in his own experience) of the things so taught,...then he is said to be saint (yukta), he is said to have attained samādhi or steadfastness of mind.

Moreover,

9. He is esteemed, who is of the same mind to the good-hearted, friends, foes, the indifferent, the neutral, the hateful, relatives, the righteous, and the unrighteous.

Shankara's commentary:

He is esteemed: He is the best among the Yogārūḍhas, among those who have attained to Yoga. (There is also another reading which means ‘he is liberated.’)

Who is of the same mind: who thinks not of a man as to what he is or what he does.

A ‘good-hearted' man does good to another without expecting any service in return; an ‘indifferent’ man is one who is partial to neither of two contending sides; a ‘neutral' man is one who means well by both the contending sides.

The righteous are those who follow tire Śāstras, and the unrighteous are those who resort to forbidden acts.

Directions for the practice of Yoga.

Wherefore, to attain the highest results,

10. Let the Yogin try constantly to keep the mind steady, remaining in seclusion, alone, with the mind and body controlled, free from desire, and having no possessions.

Shankara's commentary:

Yogin: he who meditates. In seclusion: in a mountain-cave or the like.

The words ‘in seclusion’ and ‘alone’ evidently show that he should resort to renunciation (sannyāsa). Not only should he renounce the world when he practises Yoga, but he should also abandon all possessions.

Now, in the sequel, the Lord proceeds to prescribe for him who practises Yoga particular modes of sitting, eating, recreation and the like as aids to Yoga,

as also to define the characteristic marks of the man who has attained Yoga, and to describe the effects of Yoga and other particulars in connection with it.

First of all, He prescribes a particular mode of sitting as follows:

11. Having in a cleanly spot established a firm seat, neither too high nor too low, with cloth, skin, and Kuśa grass thereon;

Shankara's commentary:

Cleanly: either naturally so, or made so by artificial improvements. Cloth, etc., should be spread on the seat in the reverse order of their enumeration here.

What should be done after establishing the seat?

12. Making the mind one-pointed, with the actions of the mind and the senses controlled, let him, seated there on the seat, practise Yoga for the purification of the self.

Shankara's commentary:

He should withdraw the mind from all sense-objects before concentrating it. The self: the antaḥ-kāraṇa, the inner sense, the mind.

The external seat has been described.

Now, what should be the posture of the body?

—Listen:

13. Holding erect and still the body, head, and neck, firm, gazing on the tip of his nose, with­out looking around;

Shankara's commentary:

An erect body may be in motion; hence the qualification ‘still.’ He is to gaze as it were on the tip of his nose.

- Here we have to understand the words ‘as it were’; for, the Lord means to prescribe, not the very act of gazing on the tip of his nose’, but the fixing of the eye-sight within (by with­drawing it from external objects); and this, of course, depends on the steadiness of mind,

if, on the other hand, the very act of ‘gazing on the tip of his nose’ were meant here, then the mind would be fixed only there, not on the Self.

As a matter of fact, the Yogin is to concentrate his mind on the Self, as will be taught in vi. 25,            ‘Making the mind to dwell in the Self.’ Therefore the words ‘as it were’ being understood, ‘gazing ’means here ‘the fixing of the eye-sight within.’

Moreover,

14. Serene-minded, fearless, firm in the vow of godly life, having restrained the mind, thinking on Me, and balanced, let him sit, looking up to Me as the Supreme.

Shankara's commentary:

The vow of a godly life (Brahmachari-vrata) consists in doing service to the Guru, in eating of the food obtained by begging, etc. He should strictly observe the vows of godly life.

He should also restrain the mind, i.e., repress its modifications. He should ever think of Me, the Parameśvara, the Supreme Lord. He should also regard Me as the Supreme.

A lover may always think of a woman, but he never regards her as supreme. He regards either his sovere­ign, or Mahādeva (the Great God), as the case may be, as the Supreme.

The Yogin, on the other hand, ever thinks of Me, and also regards Me as the Supreme Being.

Now the fruit of Yoga is described as follows:

15. Thus always keeping the mind balanced, the Yogin, with the mind controlled, attains to the Peace abiding in Me, which culminates in Nirvāna (moksha.)

Shankara's commentary:

Thus: in the manner prescribed above.

Here follow regulations as regards a Yogin’s food, etc.:

16. Yoga is not possible for him who eats too much, nor for him who does not eat at all, nor for him who is addicted to too much sleep, nor for him who is (ever) wakeful, O Arjuna.

Shankara's commentary:

Eats too much: eats more food than what is suited to him. The śruti says:

Whatever food is suited to oneself that protects; it injures not. A greater quantity injures and a smaller quantity protects not.”— (Śatapatha-Brāhmaṇa).

The Yogin should therefore eat neither more nor less than what is suitable for him. Or it may mean this:   

Yoga is not possible for him who eats more than the quantity pres­cribed for a Yogin in the Yogaśāstra.

The quantity of food is thus prescribed:

‘‘Half (the stomach) for food and condiments, the third (quarter) for water, and the fourth should be reserved for free motion of air.”

How then can Yoga be achieved?

—The answer follows:

17. To him whose food and recreation are moderate, whose exertion in actions is moderate, whose sleep and waking are moderate, to him accrues Yoga which is destructive of pain.

Shankara's commentary:

To him who resorts to food and recreation (such as walking) within prescribed limits, and who sleeps and who wakes up at the prescribed hours, to him accrues Yoga which is destructive of the misery of saṁsāra.

Consummation

When does he become a saint (Yukta)?

—The answer follows:

18. When the well-restrained thought is established in the Self only, without longing for any of the objects of desire, then he is said to be a Saint.

Shankara's commentary:

Well-restrained: which attained to one-pointedness or con­centration.

In the Self only: having abandoned all thoughts of external objects, the thinking principle (chitta) remains steadily in the Self. Objects of desire: seen or unseen.

The simile of such a Yogin’s steadfast mind is described below:

19. ‘As a lamp in a sheltered spot does not flicker,’—this has been thought as the simile of a Yogin of subdued thought, practising Yoga in the Self.

Shankara's commentary:

This simile has been thought out by those versed in Yoga, by those who know the ways of the thinking principle.

Having thus, by virtue of the practice of Yoga, become one-pointed (fit for concentration), like a lamp sheltered from the wind,

20. When thought is quiescent, restrained by the practice of Yoga; when, seeing the Self by the self, he is satisfied in his own Self;

Shankara's commentary:

When the mind is restrained from all quarters by practice of Yoga, the Yogin sees the Self—the Supreme Intelligence (chaitanya) and the All-resplendent Light

—by self (the antaḥ-kāraṇa, the inner sense), by the mind which has been purified by samādhi, and attains satisfaction in the Self.

And:

21. When he knows that Infinite Joy which, transcending the senses, can be grasped by reason; when, steady (in the Self), he moves never from the Reality;

Shankara's commentary:

He: the wise man. That joy can be grasped by reason (buddhi), independently of the senses. It lies beyond the ken of the senses; it is not produced by sense-objects.

And:

22. When, having obtained it, he thinks no other acquisition superior to it; when, therein esta­blished, he is not moved even by a great pain;

Shankara's commentary:

It: the gain of the Self. Therein: in the real Self. Pain: such as may be caused by a sword-cut, etc.

This Yoga,—this peculiar state of the Self which has been described in so many of its attributes in the verses begin­ning with vi.20:

23. This severance from union with pain, be it known, is called union (Yoga). That Yoga must be practised with determination and with unde­pressed heart.

Shankara's commentary:

Severance from union with pain is called Yoga (which means union) by a sort of irony.

Having thus concluded speaking of the effect of Yoga, the Lord again refers to the necessity of it, with a view to show that determination and non-depression (self-reliance) are necessary means to Yoga.

That Yoga: the Yoga which can produce the results described above.

Further directions concerning the practice of Yoga.

Moreover,

24. Abandoning without reserve all fancy-born desires, well-restraining all the senses from all quarters by the mind;

Shankara's commentary:

By the mind: endued with discrimination.

25. Little by little let him withdraw, by reason (buddhi) held in firmness; keeping the mind established in the Self, let him not think of any­thing.

Shankara's commentary:

He should make the mind constantly abide in the Self, bearing in mind that the Self is all and that nothing else exists. This is the highest form of Yoga.

Now, as to the Yogin who thus strives to make the mind abide in the Self,

26. By whatever cause the wavering and unsteady mind wanders away, from that let him restrain it and bring it back direct under the control of the Self.

Shankara's commentary:

Sound and other objects are the causes which make the mind wander away. It is a natural weakness of the mind to be thus led away by sense-objects.

By convincing one­self of the illusoriness of sense-objects through an investiga­tion into their real nature, and by cultivating indifference to worldly objects, the mind can be restrained from sense-objects and brought back to the Self wherein to abide firmly.

In virtue of this practice of Yoga, the Yogin’s mind attains peace in the Self.