Chapter Six, Srimad Bhagavad Gita

BEST FRIEND OR WORST ENEMY
Srimad Bhagavad Gita, 6.5-6:

उद्धरेदात्मनात्मानं नात्मानमवसादयेत् ।
आत्मैव ह्यात्मनो बन्धुरात्मैव रिपुरात्मनः ॥५॥

uddhared ātmanātmānaṁ nātmānam avasādayet
ātmaiva hy ātmano bandhur ātmaiva ripur ātmanaḥ [5]

ātmānam–The living being; uddharet–must be delivered from the bondage of the material world; ātmanā–by the (detached) mind; ātmānam–and the living being; na avasādayet–must not be made to fall down into the bondage of the material world; (ātmanā)–by the mind (enchanted by sense objects); hi–since; ātmā eva–this very mind; bandhuḥ–is the friend; ātmānaḥ–of the living being; ātmā eva–and this very mind; ripuḥ–is the enemy; ātmānaḥ–of the living being.

“One must elevate themself by the mind, not degrade themself by the mind; for the mind is sometimes the friend of the living being, and in another situation that very mind is their enemy.”

बन्धुरात्मात्मनस्तस्य येनैवात्मात्मना जितः ।
अनात्मनस्तु शत्रुत्वे वर्त्तेतात्मैव शत्रुवत् ॥६॥

bandhur ātmātmanas tasya yenaivātmātmanā jitaḥ
anātmanas tu śatrutve vartetātmaiva śatruvat [6]

yena ātmanā–For one by whom; ātmā–the mind; jitaḥ–has been subjugated; tasya ātmānaḥ–that person’s; ātmā eva–very mind; bandhuḥ–is a friend; tu–but; anātmanaḥ–for a person of uncontrolled mind; ātmā eva–that very mind; varteta–is engaged; śatrutve–in disservice; śatruvat–like an enemy.

“For one who has conquered the mind, their mind is their friend. For one unable to control the mind, their mind works against them like an enemy.”

These are two very famous verses of Srimad Bhagavad Gita. In *Loving Search for the Lost Servant* Srila Sridhar Maharaj expresses, “Bhakti does not depend on the environment or on the dealings of others. It is ahaituky apratihata. Nothing can obscure that flow except our own ego. I am my own greatest enemy.”

As we know from the following chapters of Bhagavad Gita, the mental plane is a part of the material energy (7.4):

bhūmir āpo ’nalo vāyuḥ khaṁ mano buddhir eva cha
ahaṅkāra itīyaṁ me bhinnā prakṛtir aṣṭadhā

“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence, and ego are the eight divisions of My illusory potency in this world.”

and the material covering which encases us (15.7):

mamaivāṁśo jīva-loke jīva-bhūtaḥ sanātanaḥ
manaḥ ṣaṣṭhānīndriyāṇi prakṛti-sthāni karṣati

“The soul is a particle (potency) of Mine. Although it is eternal, for worldly existence it adopts the five mundane senses and the mind, which is the sixth.”

We can think of the mind as well as the other layers which cover us at present as instruments which we must learn how to use in the interest of our higher selves. This requires some discipline and this is what our life of sadhana is about. It is a curious thing: although the mind is material, if we use it properly it can help us attain a spiritual result. In Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu Srila Rupa Goswami gives a very helpful definition of sadhana in this regard: “That which is engaged in by the senses, with the object of divine love.” (1.2.2)

The mind specifically deals with the functions of acceptance and rejection, like and dislike. It is tied closely to the senses and is the seat or depository of all sense experience. We can understand why social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook are so addictive because they are designed in a way that appeals to the immediate nature of the mind’s workings. So we must train our mind in the same way that we may train a puppy dog: “this is good, this is bad. This is a ‘like’, this is a ‘dislike’.” We must train our mind to like things which are supportive of our spiritual life and dislike things which are not. I think we have all experienced ourselves to be slaves of habit at one time or another. I’m sure there are things we all do simply out of habit, not even necessarily because we enjoy it. This is really the function of the mind. The mind is a slave of habit. So we have to train our mind to become attached to habits which are actually helpful for us. The beginning, the transition period, will be difficult, but after a short period it will become effortless.

So let’s all go through our grocery basket of habits and mental tendencies and edit out the ones that aren’t really serving us and add in a few to challenge us to be something more. Examples of things to edit out: turn off notifications for social media apps and just check them once or twice a day. Mindlessly scrolling internet pages (in the US they just passed a bill to try to regulate this addictive behaviour!). Checking your phone as soon as you wake up. Cut down on any substance you may take which you feel clouds your consciousness in some way—perhaps too much caffeine, sugar, or even chili. Going to bed too late—set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself to start getting ready for bed. Getting sucked into really mindless conversations. Examples of things to add: waking up earlier. Try to dive into something spiritual as soon as you wake up—read or hear or chant something. Set a scheduled time every day when you will do spiritual practice. When the mind is restless and wants to do something meaningless be rebellious and do something meaningful instead.

Some element of restraint, discipline and self-control is very helpful of course, but the most helpful thing for our spiritual progress is if we can positively engage the functions of the mind in practical service activity, whenever we have the opportunity. If we have the opportunity to do responsible service for the Lord and the Vaisnavas which will wholly engage our mind, senses, and intellect, that is the best process for overcoming the mind.

There is a beautiful verse by Sri Yamunacharya which Srila Sridhar Maharaj includes in Sri Sri Prapanna-jivanamritam:

bhavantam evānucharan nirantaraḥ
praśānta-niḥśeṣa-mano-rathāntaraḥ
kadāham aikāntika-nitya-kiṅkaraḥ
praharṣayiṣyāmi sanātha-jīvitam

“When will I bloom in a life of servitude as Your eternal devotee, my heart pacified due to all other desires being consumed by engagement in Your uninterrupted service?”
Here what is rendered as ‘heart’ actually more directly translated is ‘the chariot of the mind’ (manoratha). We find this phrase used several times in Srimad Bhagavatam, Chaitanya-charitamrta, and perhaps also in the Vedic texts. It’s a very appropriate analogy: the mind is like a vehicle which simply wants to move; left to its own devices it will be controlled by the senses and run this way or that way, and so we must use our intelligence to direct the chariot in our own real interest. In the highest stage, as described in this verse, all our material desires and mental impulses will be naturally overcome through the expression of desire in connection with the Lord’s service, the natural state of the soul.

Finally: we must pray to Guru and Gauranga for their mercy at all times! Ultimately it is only by their grace that we will be able to overcome all these unnecessary, unwanted intruders within our own selves.

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THE MIDDLE PATH

Srimad Bhagavad-Gita, 6.16–17:

नात्यश्नतस्तु योगोऽस्ति न चैकान्तमनश्नतः ।
न चातिस्वप्नशीलस्य जाग्रतो नैव चार्ज्जुन ॥१६॥

nāty-aśnatas tu yogo ’sti na chaikāntam anaśnataḥ
na chāti-svapna-śīlasya jāgrato naiva chārjuna [16]

(he) arjuna–O Arjuna; yogaḥ–yoga, samādhi; na asti–is not; ati-aśnataḥ tu–for the overeater; na cha–nor; ekāntam anaśnataḥ–for the undereater; na cha–nor; ati-svapna-śīlasya–for one who oversleeps; na cha–nor; eva jāgratah–for one who remains awake excessively. [16]

“O Arjuna, yoga cannot be practised by one who overeats, undereats, oversleeps, or undersleeps.

युक्ताहारविहारस्य युक्तचेष्टस्य कर्म्मसु ।
युक्तस्वप्नावबोधस्य योगो भवति दुःखहा ॥१७॥

yuktāhāra-vihārasya yukta-cheṣṭasya karmasu
yukta-svapnāvabodhasya yogo bhavati duḥkha-hā [17]

yukta-āhāra-vihārasya–For the person whose eating and recreation are regulated; yukta-cheṣṭasya-karmasu–whose effort in works is regulated; yukta-svapna-avabodhasya–and whose sleeping and waking hours are in proper measure; yogaḥ–yoga; bhavati–is; duḥka-hā–a dispeller of suffering.

“For a person who eats, relaxes, and works in a regulated way, and who keeps regular hours in proper measure, his practice of yoga dispels all his suffering.”

The practitioners of bhakti do not hanker after nor reject material facility. The policy is to see everything in relation to Krishna’s interest and take just what is needed for Krishna’s service or to maintain our own selves. It can be a fine line: too much or too little can be harmful, and it will also vary person to person, so we all as individuals, with sincerity, have to understand what is the middle path for ourselves.

Here is an excerpt from Srila Sridhar Maharaj on this point:

“We are to follow the middle path, just as in the case of vairagya, renunciation, we follow yukta-vairagya. Too much renunciation will waste our energy, and too much indulgence is also a waste of energy, therefore we are advised to follow the middle path, and that is called yukta-vairagya. (naty-asnatas tu yogo ‘sti).

The middle path has been recommended: too much of anything is to be left aside. If one attempts to live without sleep or without food, that is bad; and too much food, or too much sleep is also bad. We are advised to accept the middle path, and that will be more progressive and fruitful. So to ‘make the most of a bad bargain’ should be the policy.”(SOTGOD, v 3, p 73)

We can see our bodies as machines which exist to facilitate our spiritual practice. In the same way we might keep a car running well with oil, fuel, tire-changes, etc, for the sole purpose of using it to drive ourselves and others pace to place, so we must care for the needs of our body in just the right measure so as to facilitate spiritual practices with the purpose of awakening the soul within. The point is not to get lost in the pleasures of the body, mind and senses which are simply encasements over the soul, but to use those encasements to help serve the soul’s interest.

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NO GREATER GAIN

Srimad Bhagavad-Gita, 6.22:

यं लब्ध्वा चापरं लाभं मन्यते नाधिकं ततः ।
यस्मिन्स्थितो न दुःखेन गुरुणापि विचाल्यते ॥

yaṁ labdhvā chāparaṁ lābhaṁ manyate nādhikaṁ tataḥ
yasmin sthito na duḥkhena guruṇāpi vichālyate

[yam labdhvā– gaining which; na manyate–one does not consider; aparam lābham–any other attainment; adhikam–greater; tataḥ–than that; cha–and; yasmin sthitaḥ {san}–being situated within which; na vichālyate–one is not disturbed; guruṇā duḥkhena api–even by intense suffering]

“Upon gaining this one thinks there is no greater gain. Being situated in such a position, one is never shaken, even in the midst of the greatest difficulty.”

So we are continuing with chapter six of Srimad Bhagavad-gita.

On one level this verse, appearing within the section on astanga-yoga, is describing the fulfilment experienced by the yogi having a glimpse of Paramatma, the Supersoul. However, in a general sense it can also be taken as a description of contact with any aspect of the Lord, including Sri Krishna for those in the line of pure devotion.

So it gives us very helpful perspective! Although we may not have attained such a state we are reminded that such a possibility exists; in a theoretical way we can see our relative circumstances with properly adjusted vision, within the greater whole as being extremely insignificant. Whatever trouble we may be facing exists only on the temporary plane; and it only appears significant to us because our identification with our body, mind, and false ego.

I think most of us here have had, on some level, personal experience of how a drastic shift in perspective can take place as a result of immersion in a higher plane of thought. We are troubled by this, troubled by that, and then we participate in some kirtan, or some spiritual discussion, and everything begins to feel a million miles away. So this reaffirms within us that such a thing is possible.

We published a few years ago a talk of Srila Sridhar Maharaj where he briefly discusses this verse; please read it when you get the chance:

http://www.gaudiyadarshan.com/posts/no-greater-gain/

And this verse which our Param Gurudev includes in Sri Sri Prapanna-jivanamrtam also comes to mind:

samasrita ye pada-pallava-plavam
mahat-padam punya-yaso murareh
bhavambudhir vatsa-padam param padam
padam padam yad vipadam na tesam
(SB: 10.14.58)

“This ocean of material existence is as insignificant as the water in a cow’s hoofprint to those persons who have taken full refuge in the supreme shelter—the boat of the lotus feet of Lord Sri Krishna, whose glories are universally sung as purity’s own self. Their destination is the Lord’s supreme abode, never this mundane abode of calamities.”

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PERCEIVING THE LORD’S PRESENCE EVERYWHERE
Srimad Bhagavad-Gita, 6.30:
yo māṁ paśyati sarvatra, sarvaṁ cha mayi paśyati
tasyāhaṁ na praṇaśyāmi, sa cha me na praṇaśyati
[yaḥ–For one who; paśyati–sees; mām–Me; sarvatra–everywhere, in all elements; cha–and; paśyati–sees; sarvam–everything; mayi–in Me; aham–I; na–am never; praṇaśyāmi–unseen, lost; tasya–to them; saḥ cha–and they; na–are never; praṇaśyati– unseen, lost; me–to Me–they never fail to be conscious of Me.]
“For one who sees Me in everything and everything in Me, I am never lost to them, and they are never lost to Me.”
A beautiful and hopeful verse which we hear our Gurus quote sometimes. Actually the Lord’s presence, which is synonymous with his grace, is always to be traced everywhere, in all circumstances; it is simply a question of whether we have the eyes to see that or not. At present we are mostly in a theoretical way trying to navigate the environment with the GPS type vision offered by sadhu and sastra; sometimes we manage to hold on tight to adherence to the spiritual principles they teach us, and other times we utterly fail and succumb to the pull of the interpretation of the environment offered by our mind, body, and senses.
Simply to remember the Lord and the Lord’s own is to be in their company and receive their divine grace. To think of them is to be with them and under the care of their merciful guardianship. It is a matter of our own consciousness.
Fortunately sadhu and sastra give us so many advices that guide us towards the vision of perceiving the Lord’s presence in our lives amidst whatever circumstances we find ourselves. One of the most well known and significant for us, which our Param Gurudev speaks of time and time again:
tat te ’nukampāṁ susamīkṣamāṇo
bhuñjāna evātma-kṛtaṁ vipākam
hṛd-vāg-vapurbhir vidadhan namas te
jīveta yo mukti-pade sa dāya-bhāk
(Srimad Bhāgavatam 10:14:8)
“One who, in the hope of achieving Your grace, goes on enduring the inauspicious fruit of his own karma, and passes his days practising devotion unto You in every thought, word, and deed—such a person is heir to the land of freedom: he attains to the plane of positive immortality.”
The key here is recognition of our own responsibility for whatever is before us, and on a higher level, seeing the Lord’s corrective and affectionate mercy behind that.
A deeper expression of what’s being said in this verse of Bhagavad-gita is in Srimad Bhagavatam in Lord Narayan’s statements to Durvasa Muni (9.4.68):
sādhavo hṛdayaṁ mahyaṁ sādhūnāṁ hṛdayaṁ tv aham
mad-anyat te na jānanti nāhaṁ tebhyo manāg api
“Sādhus are My heart, and I alone am their heart. They do not know anyone other than Me, and I do not know anyone other than them.”
With the awakenment of love for the Lord, one will naturally see his presence everywhere. As expressed in Brahma-samhita, premāñjana-chchhurita-bhakti-vilochanena….
Our real aspiration at present is to have a substantial place in our Gurudev’s heart. If we can attain that one day, in this lifetime or many hereafter, we will have everything.

 

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THE MAD & FICKLE MIND

Srimad Bhagavad Gita: 6.34–35

chañchalaṁ hi manaḥ kṛṣṇa pramāthi balavad dṛḍham
tasyāhaṁ nigrahaṁ manye vāyor iva suduṣkaram [34]

(he) kṛṣṇa–O Kṛṣṇa; hi–for; manaḥ–the mind; chañchalam–is naturally fickle; pramāthi–turbulent—disturbing the intelligence, body, and senses; balavat–powerful—uncontrollable by even the intelligence; dṛḍham–and obstinate. (ataḥ)–Therefore; aham–I; manye–consider; nigraham–the control; tasya–of the mind; suduṣkaram–more difficult; vayoḥ iva–than (controlling) the wind.

“O Kṛṣṇa, the mind is fickle, turbulent, obstinate and very powerful. I consider controlling it to be more difficult than controlling the wind.”

śrī-bhagavān uvācha

asaṁśayaṁ mahā-bāho mano durnigrahaṁ chalam
abhyāsena tu kaunteya vairāgyeṇa cha gṛhyate [35]

śrī-bhagavān uvācha–The Supreme Lord said: (he) mahā-bāho–O heroic Arjuna; asaṁśayam–undoubtedly; manaḥ–the mind; chalam–is fickle; durnigraham–and extremely difficult to control; tu–but; (he) kaunteya–O son of Kuntī; gṛhyate–it is controlled; abhyāsena–by, under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master, practice (of meditation on the Supreme Lord); cha–and; vairāgyena–by detachment.

The Supreme Lord said: “O heroic Arjuna, undoubtedly the mind is fickle and extremely difficult to control. However, O son of Kuntī, it is possible by practice and detachment.”

After Krishna’s instructions on astanga-yoga here in chapter six, in the course of which Krishna describes how the yogi will be able to bring their mind under control, Arjuna brings up a very good point which we can all relate to: the mind is very, very difficult to control!

In Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur’s commentary on this verse he mentions an analogy given in Bhagavatam (7.15.41): “The senses are like the horses; the mind, the master of the senses, is like the reins; the objects of the senses are the destinations; intelligence is the chariot driver”. This is the ideal set-up, where the intelligence is guiding the other functions; however in some (or many!), “Just as a strong disease does not recognize the medicine which is supposed to cure it, the strong mind by its very nature ignores the discriminating intellect”.

Visvanath Chakravarti elaborates on Krishna’s response in verse 35 as follows:

“Accepting what Arjuna has said, Kṛṣṇa gives a conclusion. What you have said is certainly true. But though a disease may be very serious, by taking the right medicine according to the doctor’s prescription repeatedly, after a long time the disease gets cured. Similarly, though the mind is difficult to control, it is possible to control it by repeated practice according to the direction of the guru, by constant application of the process of meditation on the Supreme Lord (abhyāsena) and by dissociation from the objects of enjoyment (vairagyena).

It is of course significant that Visvanath highlights the importance of sadhu-sanga in this process, which is also mentioned in the word-for-word of our Math edition. It’s also significant that ‘practice’ (abhyasena) is qualified as meaning “meditation on the Lord”, which in a general sense we can understand and apply as devotional engagement in Krishna consciousness.

In response to a question on how to control the ego, Srila Gurudev once cited this answer of Krishna’s:

“We will try to control the ego through realisation. Krishna said, try to realise your situation and as much as possible not to be influenced by that situation. Through realisation try to proceed, and then the ego will go down.

abhyāsena tu kaunteya vairāgyeṇa cha gṛhyate

“This is in Srimad Bhagavad-gita. It is necessary to try to practise through realisation. Realisation means, “This is good or bad? I need to chastise this boy, but before I must think, if I chastise, will this boy do a revolt? Chastisement is necessary for him, but I shall try to manage that in another way.” And my ego is also like that. “I have this, this, this, but if I apply that it will not be fruitful, and so I shall try to keep it. How much capacity do I have, how much do I know—we will realise in this way.” [Italy, 2000]