Recap: In previous articles we took a look at Shri Krishna’s pledge to explain yoga with the words ‘Buddhiryoge tvimãm shrunu’ – ‘O Parth, I will now explain the knowledge of yoga. Listen carefully’ (Gitã 2.39). This yoga is conviction in the form of Paramãtmã. This yoga of conviction in the form of Paramãtmã is dharma. Thus, this is a special meaning of the word ‘dharma’. Moreover, the glory of this special dharma is stated in ‘Svalpamapyasya dharmasya trãyate mahato bhayãt.’ – ‘O Arjuna, even the slightest practice of this dharma protects one from great fears’ (Gitã 2.40).
Means to Attaining Yoga
Now we will examine the teachings regarding the means to attaining that yoga.
Shri Krishna Bhagwan says to Arjuna, ‘श्रुतिविप्रतिपन्ना ते यदा स्थास्यति निश्र्चला। समाघावचला बुद्धिस्तदा योगमवाप्स्यसि॥’ – ‘Shrutivipratipannã te yadã sthãsyati nishchalã, samãdhãvachalã buddhistadã yogamavãpsyasi.’ – ‘You will attain yoga when your intellect, which has become unstable due to hearing a variety of words, becomes stable in samãdhi’ (Gitã 2.53).
This is a matter of stabilizing and clarifying one’s intellect. Be it worldly or spiritual matters, a balanced mind is necessary. Intellectual stability means stability of one’s thoughts; stability in one’s decisions and convictions; stability in one’s desires and ambitions. This is sthitpragnatã – steady-mindedness. Steady-mindedness is a test of mental health. Having a little intelligence is alright, but to be mentally disturbed is tormenting, detrimental, terrifying and destructive. The true picture of a man is painted by his thoughts, decisions, convictions and ambitions. One who has wavering thoughts has an unstable life. If one’s decisions, convictions and ambitions are continually fluctuating, then one’s whole life becomes disoriented.
An unsteady mind lacks adherence to principles. Such an unsteady-minded person usually does not trust others, is full of doubts and has a habit of changing his decisions without reason. He is continuously preoccupied by frenzied ambitions. He is over emotional. He is unpredictably pleased or angered. He is subject to intense and hasty over-reactions. He is unable to think of the situation as a whole. He is gullible. It does not take him long to be misguided by anyone. He reads any old book and confuses his own thoughts. It does not take him long to turn back on his word. Many of these characteristics are seen in our own minds when we become subject to an unsteady mind.
Such mental restlessness is often the cause of negative emotions such as dislike, lack of enthusiasm and boredom. Mental disturbances such as worry, anxiety, rage, fear, delusions, addiction, vices and insomnia are also caused by such mental instability.
Arjuna was now a victim of such instability. His thoughts became confused, and so did his life. The instablility of his decisions and convictions had shaken him. Shri Krishna Bhagwan could see this clearly. It was essential that his thoughts be steadied, thus he explained the necessity of a clear mind in the shloka mentioned.
A Mind Stable in Samãdhi
With the words ‘samãdhãvachalã buddhistadã yogamavãpsyasi’ Shri Krishna has stressed on keeping one’s mind firm in samãdhi. Samãdhi is the pinnacle of yogic endeavours. Samãdhi is when one’s indriyas (senses) and antahkaran become engulfed in Paramãtmã. Therefore, samãdhi is conviction in the form of Paramãtmã. Only one who has attained unwavering conviction in Paramãtmã has accomplished true samãdhi; only such a person is a true yogi. Thus, Shri Krishna Bhagwan explains that it is impossible to attain such samãdhi without mental stability.
Firm conviction (nischay) in the form of Paramãtmã represents stability in understanding. In calm and clean water the full moon is reflected clearly and brightly, but, when a big rock is thrown into the same water, waves of turmoil are created. Thereafter, the moon and its brightness cannot be seen clearly. A similar thing occasionally happens to our understandings, especially spiritual ones. The reason behind this turmoil varies.
Paramãtmã is innocent, divine, compassionate, the destroyer of our miseries, full of bliss and the giver of happiness; there is no sin, mãyã or selfishness, etc. in him – these are established spiritual understandings. We continually attain such understandings from our shastras and the Satpurush. Nevertheless, when we fall upon hard times, our understanding is put to its true test. Sometimes we may not make enough money, or may even lose what we have earned. We may occasionally be swamped by family problems, or come across social or business obstacles. We may even fall victim to illnesses or some other health problems. We may even be bombarded with insults. At such times, waves of doubts arise in our hearts. Our conviction in Paramãtmã begins to waver – why does Paramãtmã do such things? Why did he not find anyone else other than me? Why does he act in such ways? Many such doubts cause turmoil in our hearts, our thoughts become confused and our understandings are thrown into disorder. This is often referred to as having lost one’s mind. At such times, we do not know what to believe. This is what is called mental instability. Such mental instability causes doubts in one’s conviction in the form of Paramãtmã. One’s peace of mind is lost. If this happens, one cannot master yoga and become a yogi.
Other than this, one’s thoughts are also obscured by desires for sensual pleasures, hence causing mental disturbance. As a result one becomes distanced from yogic endeavours, cannot focus one’s mind to meditate on Paramãtmã and does not like devotion. Furthermore, there is a feeling of no worth to one’s day to day activities.
Sometimes, on seeing the human attributes displayed by Paramãtmã, doubts develop in one’s understanding of his form. For example, on hearing the description of Shri Krishna playing rãs with the gopis, King Parikshit became confused. A surge of doubts overtook him, and he questioned, “Why did Bhagwan, the upholder of dharma, act in this way?” Thus, he began to doubt his convictions and his mind wavered. In this situation, how could yogsamãdhi be attained.
To forget Paramãtmã’s powers is also a kind of mental restlessness. Paramãtmã is the all-doer – this is an eternal principle of the shastras. Nevertheless, man forgets that Paramãtmã is the all-doer, and instead believes himself to be the doer. At such times, he has to face many mental challenges. Something similar happened here to Arjuna. When he roused himself to fight, he forgot the importance of the commands and wishes of Paramãtmã. He forgot the principle that Paramãtmã is the all-doer, and was blinded by the false arrogance that he himself was the doer. As a result his ego destroyed him and he became ignorant of dharma and his duty. He became disoriented.
What an irony! Although he had the direct yoga – company – of manifest Bhagwan in his own chariot, Arjuna was still unable to become a yogi. This is the powerful effect of mental restlessness. That is why Shri Krishna insists on keeping a stable mind.