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naasti buddhir ayuktasya na chaayuktasya bhaavanaa
na chaabhaavayatah shaantir ashaantasya kutah sukham // 2.66 //
tasmaad yasya mahaabaaho nigriheetaani sarvashah
indriyaaneendriya-arthebhyas tasya prajnaa pratishthitaa // 2.68 //
The man who has no mastery over himself has no intelligence and it is not possible for him to meditate. To the unmeditative, there is no peace. How can there be happiness to the man without peace? For that reason, Arjuna, such a man’s wisdom is steady whose senses are restrained from their objects.
Krishna is the greatest rebel in the world of spirituality.
What the common man in his days understood, or even today understands, as sannyasa is not sannyasa for him. He rejects that sannyasa and says sannyasa is not born through a ritual, giving up one’s responsibilities and possessions is not sannyasa, to be a sannyasi you do not have to retire to a mountain top or a forest, to a monastery or a cave. Krishna says you can be a sannyasi where you are, in the middle of a crowded market and a busy office, doing what you are doing now, with a change in your attitude and understanding. According to him a sannyasi does not have to sit with closed eyes and meditate all the time, what you are doing at the moment itself can become your meditation, your karma can become your meditation, a path he calls karma yoga.
You do not have to constantly sing bhajans and keertans to become a devotee, says he. If you have all your senses restrained, if you are even-minded in all conditions, if you are constantly engaged in the good of all beings, then you are a devotee. He who has no ill-will towards any being, who is friendly towards all and has compassion for all, who has no ego or my-ness, who remains the same in happiness and sorrow, who is forgiving by nature – he too is a devotee. He too is a devotee who is undisturbed by the world and who does not disturb the world, who is not carried away by joys, anger, envy, anxiety or fear. And so also the one who has no dependence on anything or anyone, the one who is clean and pure, who does not worry about anything, who excels in whatever he does, who does not make any new beginnings but accepts whatever happens to him and does what he needs to do, such a person too is a devotee.
Coming to yoga, the popular image of a yogi is of one who eats hardly anything but fasts most of the time, who does rigorous practices that torture the body like standing on one leg or not sleeping at all. Krishna says that yoga is not for those who eat too much or too little, who sleep too much or too little; a yogi has to be balanced [yukta] in his food and entertainments, balanced in sleep and in remaining awake, work neither too hard nor too little. A true yogi, he says, is one who sees action in inaction and inaction in action, who remains a non-actor even while performing actions.
In the shlokas we are discussing now, he talks of a person who has no mastery over his body and has no control over his senses and mind and says such a man has no buddhi and bhavana and hence cannot remain in the meditative state, has no peace of mind or happiness.
The most common translation for buddhi is intelligence, which is the ability to see the real as different from the unreal, right as different from wrong, truth as different from lies. So what Krishna means is unless you are a yukta you confuse the real with appearances, truth with lies and right with wrong. When you are not a yukta, you take appearances for reality. it is easy to confuse you, to mislead you and the decisions you take when you are confused and misled are likely to be wrong.
When you go through life without intelligence, you chase after illusions, you chase the momentary rather than the lasting and you end up disillusioned with life, disappointed and sad. You set wrong goals for yourself, if you are the decision maker for your family or the community, you take wrong decisions for them, if you are the decision maker for an organization, you take wrong decisions for the organization. Like those led by the blind, those who follow you are led to tragedy.
Indian wisdom says we are all ultimately seeking one thing: happiness and that is not something we can find out there however much we search for it because it is our nature. Indian wisdom also says that since it is our nature, the way to get in touch with it is to become still, just as the way to make muddy water clean is to leave it alone and let all mud settle at the bottom. The more you stir muddy water, the muddier it will become. Similarly, the more efforts we make to find happiness, the less we will find happiness. If you want happiness, sit down and make your mind still because without stillness of mind, there is no happiness.
Bhavana is one of the many terms used for meditation. With bhavana your mind becomes still and with stillness of mind you realize what you have been searching is actually your own true nature, you are happiness, ananda. Anando’ham anando’ham, as the rishis say in their moments of self-realization – I am ananda, I am ananda.
However, lack of mastery over our emotions prevents us from meditating. With powerful emotions taking hold of us, we become like boats caught in powerful storms in the middle of a sea.
One such emotion that can highjack our life is lust. The Mahabharata speaks of several powerful people who become victims of lust. Emperor Yayati’s name is almost synonymous with lust. As we saw in an earlier essay, his father Nahusha falls from heaven because of his lust for Indrani. Both Emperor Vichitravirya and Emperor Pandu pay with their lives for uncontrollable lust. Kichaka, the commander-in-chief of the army of Virata where the Pandavas lived their year of life incognito, is unable to control his lust for Draupadi and loses his life at the hands of Bhima who kills him in the cover of the night. Jayadratha, husband of the only sister of the Kauravas, lusts for Draupadi and abducts her and is shamed by the Panbdavas by shaving off half his hair. Emperor Shantanu becomes a victim to lust when he smells the fragrance emanating from the body of young Satyavati and later sees her.
Mahabharata also tells us the well-known story of Amba who becomes a victim of another powerful emotion – anger. Bhishma carries her away along with her two sisters from their swayamvara hall after openly challenging the entire assembly of kings and at that time Amba does not object to it. It is only later when she learns that she and her sisters were meant to marry Bhishma’s half-brother Vichitravirya that she objects to it. She tells Bhishma that she and King Salva are in love and they have chosen each other for themselves. Bhishma sends her to Salva who refuses to have anything to do with her telling that she has been carried away by Bhishma and now it will be a shame for him to have her as his wife. She comes back to Bhishma and requests him to marry her, which he refuses because he is bound by his vow not to marry ever.
By now she is furious with Bhishma. In her anger, she approaches Bhishma’s guru Parashurama for help and he too asks Bhishma to marry Amba. When Bhishma refuses on account of his vow, the guru and the disciple fight for twenty-one days over the issue. Parashurama fails to defeat Bhishma and they eventually end the battle.
By now Amba’s anger has been transformed into desire for vengeance and motivated by that desire, she does tapas for years to please Lord Shiva who appears before her and tells her she would be able to kill Bhishma only in another lifetime. Amba lights a huge pyre and entering it ends her life, still carrying the anger and desire for vengeance with her. It is only in her rebirth as Shikhandi that she becomes the cause of Bhishma’s death. Her anger costs her two lifetimes.
La llorona’s is a story popular throughout the southwestern United States and Mexico in different versions. In one of those versions, la llorona is a beautiful young peasant woman who marries a rich man. They live a happy life and have two children when the man loses interest in his wife and starts an affair with another woman. One day while the peasant woman is walking with her two children on a river bank she sees her husband travelling by a carriage with the other woman. In a fit of anger she picks up her children and throws them into the river, drowning both of them.
India calls kama, krodha, lobha, moha, mada and matsarya the enemies of man: lust, anger, greed, delusion, pride and jealousy, each one of which can enslave us and destroy us. Mastering these and other emotions is part of becoming a yukta, a self-master.
Apart from these, one of the areas many people suffer from is self-acceptance, which prevents them from becoming their own masters and victims of inferiority complex and the sense of inadequacy. Self-acceptance is having regard for yourself, or in other words, a lack of cynicism about yourself. Just as it is important for an individual to maintain a healthy view of the world around him, he must learn to perceive himself in positive ways.
One of the requirements of meditation is the ability to trust – the ability to trust yourself as well as the ability to let go of yourself during meditation. For meditation to be effective, you should have ability to float with meditation – without that you become like a boat in a river that is unable to flow with the current because it is tied to a tree on the bank. To be able to trust yourself, you should have a positive self image which is possible only when you accept yourself.
Highly self-critical individuals are more anxious, more insecure, and more cynical and depressed than self-accepting individuals. If acceptance is highest spirituality, acceptance of what life brings to you, then self acceptance is its foundation. Self-accepting individuals are emotionally healthy and that emotional health brings steadiness to your life and strength to your spiritual sadhanas.
To become a yukta, you have to be emotionally stable, a master of your senses, and also physically fit. Krishna rejects all such sadhanas that make your body weak. Contrary to the common belief, to practice yoga, you need not starve your body, you need not deny yourself sleep or rest. What you need is a fit body – made fit by the right kind of living.
Just as eating the right kind of food at the right time and in right quantities that we talked about in the previous essay, physical exercise too has many important contributions to make you fit and ready for yoga. You can add up to six years to your life expectancy by becoming physically active: by avoiding sedentary work, by choosing work that requires regular physical activity, by exercising regularly.
Besides, lack of physical activity gives birth to all kinds of diseases in our body. During the stress response somewhere around 1500 biochemical reactions occur in the body. To facilitate the fight or flight response, many hormones are released and nutrients are metabolised. However, since physical fight or flight is not necessary in most cases of stress in modern times, the unspent by-products of the stress response continue to circulate in the body creating many illnesses in the body. Regular exercise removes these residues and allows the body to return to homeostasis faster, reduce the physical impact of stress and make you more healthy and fit.
Certain forms of exercises are superior to others from a yoga standpoint. For instance, among aerobic exercise, walking, jogging, and cycling that involve repetitive movements have the capacity to produce a sense of inner serenity. The repetitive nature of these exercises also often take people to what is known as the flow state, the theta state in which we are deeply relaxed and efficiency and excellence flow through us effortlessly. At deeper levels, these are healing experiences and we become more wholesome.
From the standpoint of spirituality and even ordinary health, non-competitive exercises are superior to competitive ones. Competitive exercises frequently feed the ego and in that sense are harmful. Throughout the exercise, you should be able to enjoy what you are doing and in the later stages it should give you a sense of euphoria and lightness. While challenging yourself mildly by coming out of your comfort zone is good, this should never be overdone. Aggressiveness is something to be avoided during exercise.
Also, too much exercise is counterproductive. Experts say that the ideal time to stop the exercise is some ten minutes after you start perspiring. The perspiring produces metabolic changes in your body and continuing the exercise for ten minutes after the beginning of perspiration is just what we need.
To conclude this essay, answering Arjuna’s questions about a sthitaprajna, Krishna says that unless you are a yukta, you have neither intelligence nor are you capable of meditation; without meditativeness, there is no peace in your mind, no inner stillness and without peace and inner stillness, there is no happiness. For this reason, one of the ways of describing a sthitaprajna is as a man who has mastered his senses and hence is happy with himself.
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