Having revalued aspects of discipline and religious life as
actually found in India and brought them into accord with a
revised notion of Yoga, a new phase of the discussion is

In the first section, the same topics of renunciation,
action and Yoga are also treated. The discussion passes on
to the subject of the Self, and how aspects of the Self can
enter into conflict or be harmonized with each other. Then
follow detailed indications regarding yogic postures,
breathing, etc., with a general description of the yogi. This
section culminates in a new definition of Yoga. The
necessity for practice for gradual progress in Yoga is
emphasized, but it is also declared that mere affiliation to
the Absolute is a saving power in itself. Thus sin and grace
are, as it were, balanced or cancelled out in such an
affiliated person.

To give nominal unity to all these topics has evidently
been difficult and this is clear from the different titles
by which this Chapter has been known in various editions.
It has been called Adhyatma Yoga (Dealing with the Self
Unitively), Atmasamyama Yoga (Self-Subdual treated
Unitively) and, more usually, Dhyana Yoga (Unitive
Contemplation). While good enough as referring to one or
other of the sections and subjects, the unity of the chapter
lies deeper than the topics themselves.

Instead of suffering being a basic concept for discussion
there is here a note of hope and the possibility of escape
from suffering suggested through a somewhat revised theory
of reincarnation.

The picture of the yogi in meditation, even in somewhat
conventional detail, is outlined; and the way of the yogi
extolled as better than others, and best when the yogi has the
Absolute as his own counterpart. What is recommended is a
wholesale global and personal bi-polar affiliation to the


Sribhagavan uvacha
anasritah karmaphalam
karyam karma karoti yah
sa samnyasi cha yogi cha
na niragnir na cha 'kriyah

Krishna said:
Without depending on the results of action, he who
does necessary action, he is a renouncer (samnyasi)
and also a contemplative (yogi), not he who has
(merely) given up sacrificial fire, or who (merely)
abstains from ritualist (or other) action.


Heterodox tendencies opposed to Vedic ritualism gave rise
to a type of religious men who were known as samnyasins
(renouncers). Their first act of protest was to shave their
heads and remove the tuft of hair so essential in the
context of ritualistic Vedism for the attainment of svarga
(heaven). They also refused to offer burnt sacrifices to the
gods, and so such a person is called here niragnih (one of no

In the course of the religious history of India this negative
attitude has been subjected to various revaluations. Such
type as the digambara (having the directions of space for
clothing, the stark naked gymnosophists of ancient Greece),
the svetambara (white clad) and the pitambara (yellow-
clad) have various other subdivisions depending upon Jaina,
Buddhist, Vaishnava and Shaivite influences too numerous
to catalogue. The Gita here revises and fuses together the
ritualist and the renouncer in terms of Yoga or dialectical

At the very outset here mere negation is discredited. Out
of the positive attitudes remaining when negative ones are
discarded, there are two major alternatives before the
spiritual aspirant: that of the non-ritualist who still has
hopes or aspirations of a positive order; and that of the yogi
who is not opposed to ritual but treats it as merely incidental
to his own necessary life. He does not consider ritual as a
means for ends lying outside the scheme of spirituality.
Here the yogi has at least as noble and idealistic aspirations
as the renouncer in the revised sense. The ends on which his
mind is fixed approximate to the Highest Good of Plato. The
yogi is more of a realist, making allowances for an
organically-conceived process of spiritual development.


Disaffiliation from values which are not in keeping with
the highest Good is common to both the renouncer and the
yogi when the revision suggested in the Gita is effected.
The samnyasin becomes more realistic and the yogi more
idealistic than what they were ordinarily supposed to be.
What is attempted in the Gita here is a double-edged
revaluation. A person who is both a samnyasin and a yogi,
avoiding negative attitudes, is here portrayed. Thus both
terms here refer to the same new person.

The word anasrita (independent of) as applied to the result
or end of action, is familiar to us already in ii, 47 and 48.
Not being particularly interested in actual benefits to himself
of any activity is an attitude tending towards freedom. Such an
undercurrent of activity as remains only belongs to Nature.
The expression karyam karma (necessary work) marks the
other limit of action opposite to the merely contingent.
It is not the label which makes any actual difference
between individuals calling themselves samnyasin or yogi.
The man who calls himself an anti-ritualist might be
submitting unconsciously to ritualism in institutional forms.
A man who is labelled a ritualist might not be hedonistically

Going beyond mere labels, the Gita recommends a more
organic way in which the two types tend to coalesce, thus
abolishing merely mechanistic types or patterns of holy men
whose recognition would divide society into narrow groups.
and possibly discredit the whole subject of contemplation.


yam samnyasam iti prahur
yogam tam viddhi pandava
na hy asamnyastasamkal
po yogi bhavati kaschana

That which people call renunciation (samnyasa),
know that to be Yoga, 0 Pandava (Arjuna); one who
has not given up his wilful desires for particularized
ends never indeed becomes a yogi.


The distinction that might still remain between a samnyasin
and a yogi is further discussed from the converse point of
view with the object of minimising the differences
between them in the same manner as Samkhya and Yoga are
equated in v, 4 and 5.


The first line says they ought to be the same, and the
second line says that without some form of relinquishment
there is no true yogi.

Samkalpa (Will involving personal intentions for
particular desired effects) must be shunned both by the
samnyasin and the yogi. The usual yogi tends to retain too
many desires as natural or necessary and the usual
samnyasin tends to live in a vacuum without any of the
natural outlets for his energies. The via media between the
two is again upheld in this verse. In the last verse the
samnyasin was equated to the yogi and in this verse the yogi
is equated to the samnyasin.

As the yogi relinquishes wilful attachment to particularized
ends, to that extent he is therefore also a samnyasin or


arurukshor muneryogam
karma karanam uchyate
yogarudhasya tasyai 'va
samah karanam uchyate

The Yoga of a man of self control who is still an
aspirant for it, is said to have action as its motive-
principle (karana); for the same person, when he
has ascended to the unitive state (Yoga),
tranquillity is said to be its motive-principle.


The spiritual life is often mechanistically imagined to be
of a uniformly steady progress. Such a view leaves out of
account the organic, reciprocal and ambivalent factors
which make up the human personality. Instinct and
intelligence, emotion and reason, action and renunciation,
like Samkhya and Yoga, are reciprocal aspects of the
alternating process called spiritual progress.

At a certain phase the pressures of necessity are strong, at
another time they become weak. Then contingent factors
supersede. The child, for example, has need for activity for
self-expression and for the development of its personality.
Games are natural for youth, while old age is immersed in
pensive moods rather than overt activities.

These tendencies which alternate and change over may be
said to operate in the biological or at best in a psycho-
physical field, referred to as the libido or psyche.
Personality and the soul are terms applying to deeper seats
of consciousness, where


the ambivalence is less evident, though in principle still
there. Verses 3 and 4 imply this theory, Verse 3 referring to
more outward factors and Verse 4 to more internal ones.
The present verse deals with the yogi aspirant who, like a
cyclist going uphill, has to keep pedalling. The same yogi,
when he has passed the highest point of the ascending road
of Yoga, changes over to quieter ways.

The expression tasya eva (of even the same person) is
important because it makes unmistakable reference to the
ambivalence. Opposing tendencies are found in the same
person. They are not to be looked upon as if belonging to
distinct persons as, for example when some might say that a
kshattriya (warrior) is born for action only. Arjuna himself
would at one moment be a yogi aspirant giving importance
to action, and again, when the ascending phase of Yoga has
been crossed, the same Arjuna could give up all activity and
remain quiet.

The theory of the Gita thus cuts across the much spoken of
adhikara bheda (difference of caste rights). This should not
be taken to mean that action and inaction can be practiced
together in any mechanistic sense. That would imply a
contradiction so justly rejected by Sankara in many places
as jnana-karma-samuchchhaya (the mixing of wisdom and
action). The necessary action of the early stages is a
springboard only for perfect detachment from sense objects,
and for the action possible to the yogarudha (one who has
ascended in Yoga) to be described in the next verse. The
term karma karana (having action as origin or motive-
principle) as applied to the yogi who is still an aspirant,
suggests this relation only. The word uchyate (is said to be)
as applied to the two phases, indicates that the theory of
ambivalence is not a cardinal part of the Gita teaching
proper, but that responsibility for it is put on the experts
who had such notions at the time of the Gita.


yada hi ne 'ndriyartheshu
na karmasv anushajjate sarva
samkalpa samnyasi
yogarudhas lado 'chyate

When, however, neither in the objects of the senses
nor in actions one finds attachment, such a man
who has renounced wilful desires for particularized
ends is said to be one who has ascended to Yoga.


Two conditions of detachment are referred to here as required
for one to be called yogarudha (one ascended in Yoga). Sense
objects should not attract him and activities should not
interest him. The individual will is made innocuous or
neutralized. To that extent sankalpa (wilful desire for
particularized ends) may be said to have been renounced.
It is in this revised sense that the notion of renunciation is
accepted by the Gita and put on a par with the status of a
yogarudha (one ascended in Yoga). Ascent in Yoga is not so
much something culminating in a supreme effort as might be
suggested in other books, but in the Gita which is a Yoga
sastra (a scientific textbook on unitive discipline), it consists
rather in neutralizing opposing tendencies, where no effort at
all is involved, even in its last stages. Intentions, actions and
the attractions of sense objects have merely to be discarded
for a man to attain the highest in Yoga as understood here.


uddhared atmana 'tmanam
na 'tmanam avasadayet
atmai 'va hy atmano bandhur
atmai 'va ripur atmanah

By the Self the Self must be upheld; the Self should
not be let down; the Self indeed is (its own) dear
relative; the Self indeed is the enemy of the Self.


As he is understood in this chapter, the perfect yogi is
described in this verse and those that follow up to Verse 9.
We say this chapter, because, although the whole or global
personality is here the basis of discussion, there still
persists a certain dualistic treatment of certain factors
of the personality as we have shown in Verse 3.

The Self is spoken of as having two symmetrical counterparts,
one as important as the other. In an earlier chapter,
however, the asymmetry between the two counterparts was
more pronounced, as implied in the examples given in iii,38.
However, the Self referred to in this verse is almost an
interchangeable term with the other Self mentioned side by
side with it. One can be interposed for the other to give as
good a meaning in terms of the global personality which
throughout forms the subject-matter of the whole chapter.


bandhur atma 'tmanas tasya
yena 'tmai 'va 'tmana jitah
anatmanas tu satrutve
varteta 'tmai 'va satruvat

The Self is dear to one (possessed) of Self, by
whom even the Self by the Self has been won; for
one not (possessed) of Self, the Self would be in
conflict with the very Self, as if an enemy.


The statement in Verse 5 is elaborated. There are alternative
situations presented here together. The first is unitive,
the second dual because of non-contemplation. The second
case is one of self-conflict called here satrutva (enmity).
Equal status of the two selves is evident from the
expressions anatmanah (he of non-Self) and satruvat (as if
an enemy). The implication is that in the latter the real or
unitive Self by its conflict with its supposed counterpart
becomes virtually an enemy, and in the former expression
that the unconquered or non-unified Self has no reality
worth mentioning at all.


jitatmanah prasantasya
paramatma samahitah
sitoshna sukha duhkheshu
tatha manapamanayoh

To one of conquered Self who rests in peace the
Supreme (paramatma) is in a state of neutral
balance in heat-cold, happiness-suffering, honour-


The duality between Self and non-Self is abolished here
in the name of paramatma (the Absolute Self). Jitatmanah
(for one of conquered Self) there is no question of conflict
arising. He is therefore at peace, through a balance of
counterparts. This is to be inferred from the three examples
given, which cover simple reflex actions affecting the Self
and those touching subtler personal values such as fame and

The different interpretations and discussions which have
raged around the word paramatma (the Absolute Self)
between the Theists, Dualists and Advaitins have arisen
because they have all tried to interpret the text in
accordance with mechanistic reasoning. That the Absolute
is by its very nature a unity attained by cancelling
counterparts, and that this


conviction depends more upon intuition than upon reason, is
what has been forgotten by most commentators.


jnana vijnana triptatma
kutastho vijitendriyah
yukta ity uchyateyogi
sama loshta'sma kanchanah

One whose Self is satisfied by wisdom (synthetic) and
knowledge (analytic), established in unchanging immobility
who has gained full control over sense- attachments,
that yogi is said to be unified, one to whom a lump of
earth, a stone and gold are the same.


The ultimate term in perfection in Yoga is clarified in this
verse under three degrees, taking forms of matter for
analogy. A clod of earth, a stone and gold have different
uses or values, the one of least utility being the lump of
earth, and the one whose value goes beyond that of mere
matter being the gold. In between is the rock representing
solidity as a value.

Corresponding to these three values are the three aspects
of yogic spirituality mentioned in the first line. There is
first the man who has gathered his thoughts into a certain
compact unity as in a clod of earth, the unity, still
intellectual, being of the first degree. Such a man of unitive
thought brings together jnana and vijnana (synthetic and
analytic, or pure and practical wisdom, or wisdom itself and

The second degree is referred to by the term kutastha
rock-established). It is sometimes interpreted to mean "being
seated on a high place", suggesting superiority. But the more
cogent philosophical meaning suggests immobility,
uniformity, being unchangeable and universally the same.
Unity here is a more accomplished, fact than the merely
intellectual academic notion of the earlier epithet.
When the third stage is reached there is a change in the
personality analogous to the changing of base metal into
noble gold.

The expression sama (equal) however abolishes even
these differences of degree suggested in the examples and,
taken together with the word triptatma (one of Self-
satisfaction) shows that the perfect yogi remains
unconcerned even with regard to values which the world
might attach to him. He is


sufficient unto himself and does not compare himself with

The reference to jnana (wisdom) as the first requirement
of Yoga is the special contribution of the Gita, whose method
consists of equating wisdom with action.


suhrin mitrar yudasina-
madhyastha dveshya bandhushu
sadhushv api cha papeshu
samabuddhir visishyate

As between dear well-wishers, friends, enemies,
those indifferent, those in between, haters,
relations, and also as between good people and
sinners, he who can maintain an equal attitude,


The yogi is not a socialized individual. Society is divided
into high and low classes or groups based on relativistic
considerations. Family affiliations involve the distinction
between relations and strangers etc. Affiliation to a country
involves compatriots, foreigners and neutrals. Moral and
religious affiliations involve the righteous and the
unrighteous. The yogi, being an absolutist, has nothing to
do with any of these.

This verse is reminiscent of v,18, but here instead of
varieties of holiness we have grades of society. The sense of
equality is therefore pushed one step further into real
relations of everyday life.


yogi yunjita satatam
atmanam rahasi sthitah
ekaki yatachittatma
nirasir aparigrahah

The yogi should constantly gather his own Self
unitively, established in a place where he can be
by himself, alone, with relational mind and Self under
control, without expectations and without possessive


Verses 10 to 15 revert back to the subject of Verse 3 where
it was stated that action was the means for an aspiring yogi.
Action here may be said to include certain recognized practices,
more or less covering Yoga as understood in such works


as Patanjali's "Yoga Sutras". But here it is restated without,
however, omitting detailed directions about posture and place
etc., such as have always been traditionally associated with
the practice of Yoga. In so far as they are harmless they have
been retained here, to help the orthodox mind from disaffiliation
through any abrupt disruption. Hence also the detailed reference
to deerskin and grass in Verse 11 becomes natural and

In the first place the practice of Yoga has to be of unbroken
continuity as suggested by the word satatam (always).
Broken or interrupted practice fails to accumulate the
necessary momentum. The word rahasi (in secret) is to
liberate the individual from social or other class
conditionings. It does not necessarily mean an unpopulated
place, though such a place ordinarily would of course be
preferable. The word ekaki (alone) stresses the same
requirement, because Yoga is not the same as organized
religion or congregational worship. It is rather a flight of the
alone to the Alone. A true Christian also is asked to pray by
himself (see Matthew vi, 6).

The phrase yatachittatma (he of controlled rational will and
self) should be understood in the sense that the Self has been
brought into unity as mentioned in Verse 5, and that chitta
(the relational will or mind) which is always establishing a
relation with external objects or desires, has been curbed, as
discussed in v, 26 and elsewhere.

The term nirasih (without expectation) just means that the
yogi does not wait for any favourable event to happen to
him in the future. Aparigrahah (non-possessive) releases
the yogi from the tension of thinking of getting something,
which is a natural disposition commonly found in man.
When the mind is thus released from horizontal affiliations,
the ascent in Yoga becomes facilitated.


suchau dese pratishthapya
sthiram asanam atmanah
na 'tyuchchritam ni 'tinicham
chaila jina kusotttaram

tatrai 'kagram manah kritva
yata chittendriya kriyah
upavisya'sane yunjyad
Yogam atma visuddhaye


Having established firmly in a clean place a seat
for himself, one neither too high nor too low, and
covered respectively with cloth, skin and grass

there having made the mind one-pointed and with
relational mind and sense-functions subdued,
(duly) taking his place on his seat, let him
unitively engage in Yoga for transparent Self-


The reference to cleanliness in the expression suchau
dese (in a clean place) occurs again in Verse 41,
where it is said that a man of good actions will be born in a
clean house. Popular spirituality, we know, bristles with
taboos, obligations and bans. But the Gita does not refer to
such at all, its theory being conceived on an open rational
basis. Hence this reference to a clean place as against any
auspicious or ceremoniously holy place.

The word sthiram (firm) can apply both to the stability of
the seat as well as to independent, possession of the seat,
ensuring its undisturbed availability for some length of time.
The word atmanah (his own) points, to the same meaning,
and not to possession as property.

The medium height to be recommended is to be understood as
conforming merely to the requirement in Yoga of avoiding
extremes in all matters, Yoga itself being understood to
be a sort of middle ground.

The indications about cloth, deerskin and grass, have no
basis elsewhere in Yoga practice. These items might refer to
the three distinct growths of spirituality in vogue in India
which the Gita in its revaluation evidently attempts to
reconcile and bring together, as implied in words such as
yajna-dana-tapas (sacrifice, gift, austerity) which are three
distinct religious expressions. The black antelope is
associated with the prehistoric Siva who is pictured in
mythology as chasing antelopes (see Kalidasa's "Sakuntala",
opening scene). Ascetics always carry a skin. The reference
to cloth is to the raiment of a samnyasin (renouncer) or
bhikku (Buddhist monk) or svetambara (white-clad Jaina
holy man). The intention is to fuse together different
symbols of spirituality into one fresh and forceful current
in which all can unite in a more catholic spirit.
Detailed injunctions of this kind cater to the insistent
demands for them on the part of the general body of aspirants


in the spiritual world, who are unlikely to be satisfied if
they are told that it is meditation only that matters. Most
religious people like to be told something definite to practise
with fidelity; otherwise they feel lost.

However, the items mentioned are harmless and perhaps
necessary for retaining animal electricity while a person is
in meditation. Sitting on a rock, for instance would be
harmful for the body, hence these indications may be
considered even rational.

The term ekagram (one-pointed) does not necessarily
mean concentration on any specific object such as a crystal
as is sometimes suggested by occultists. The meaning will
become justified when read alongside Verse 25, where it is
more specifically stated that one should think of nothing at
all, a certain blankness or freedom from focussed thought
being what is implied. The one-pointedness therefore refers
to the unitive character of the state of mind of the yogi and
is quite different from concentration on any object or idea.
The same unitive attitude is referred to in ii, 41.

The state of the yogi who is introverted in the social way
indicated here and the atmavisuddhi (transparent Self-
consciousness) of the Self - which should not be mistaken
for chittasuddhi (purification of the relational mind) to be
attained by action - should be understood in the light of the
conquest of the Self in Verses 5 and 6. Any taint of ego or
conflict in the Self is the dross here which is to be got rid
of by the practice of unitive thinking. The result of such
meditation is along the lines indicated in v, 24.


samam kayasirogrivam
dharayann achalam sthirah
samprekshya nasikagram
svam disas cha 'navalokayan

prasantatma vigatabhir
brahmacharivrate sthitah
manah samyamya machchitto,
yukta asita matparah

With body, head and neck held evenly and in
immobile poise, looking at one's nose-tip and not
perceiving the (actual) directions (of space)


with the Self tranquilized, with fear gone,
established in the vow of a brahmachari (aspirant
walking in the way of the Absolute), having mind
subdued, related to Me through contemplative
thought, he may sit, united, having Me for his
supreme goal.


An even posture is recommended. When the vertebral column
is straight the other bones of the skeletal frame are
supported with a symmetry and poise. Aches and pains in
the body due to distorted postures tend to be minimized. The
requirements of the very elaborate asanas (postures) forming
the greater portion of hatha yoga (literally "forced" or
"violent" Yoga, consisting of arduous physical practices)
which are so often exaggerated, are all comprised and
summed up in the directions contained in this verse.
The term sthirah (firm) here applies to the posture which
should be properly poised and immobile. A degree of natural
relaxation rather than tension is suggested here.
The gaze at the tip of the nose has nothing to do with
actual looking at any direction. It guarantees a certain
subjectivity and also alertness which are the distinguishing
features of the well known mudra (psycho-physical gesture
or sign) known as khechari (lit. "void-moving"), the third
condition associated with this attitude, of turning the tip of
the tongue to touch the soft palate behind the uvula being
omitted here.

The vow of a brahmacharin (one oriented to the Absolute,
who walks in the way of the Absolute) is a much-talked
of subject in Indian spirituality. Severe requirements
of sex- repression and celibacy are often associated with the
vow, but the exaggeration and prominence given to mere
continence is to be traced to the general taboo on sex in
most religious sentiment. When we consider, however, that
Vedic religion includes kama (desire) as one of the four
purusharthas (principal ends of human life), the sex taboo
should not be taken too drastically or unnaturally.
In monastic religions such as Christianity and Buddhism
the taboo on sex tends to be very severe. The four ashramas
(stages of spiritual life) are organically conceived, and
brahmacharya (life of the dedicated student who moves in
the way of the Absolute), or more commonly student-hood,
which is the first stage, leads to grihasthya (stage of the
householder) where sex is normal.


True brahmacharya (moving in the path of the Absolute)
is a vow applying to the whole of life, and passes through
the different ashramas (stages of spiritual life) as a constant
attitude of mind, effecting the transition from one stage to
another as normally as possible. The vow as understood
here should therefore be taken to mean a way of life into
which sex is not an obtrusive factor. The wilful repression
of sex as a taboo is not what is here implied.

Verse 17, we should note, makes allowances for harmless
pleasures or recreation, and is neither severe nor austere.
Likewise in vii, 11, kama (desire) itself is identified with
the Absolute when it does not offend righteousness, and in
x, 28, kandarpah (the god of love, Eros) is included as a
manifestation of the Absolute. In this present specific case,
where a vow is mentioned, it would be legitimate however,
to think of brahmacharya (moving in the way of the Absolute)
as a strict discipline involving continence. One should beware
however, of the tendency to make this spiritual stage a sort
of bogey or fetish to frighten innocent persons or adolescents
which pretenders to spirituality often do with a view to their
exploitation. Such distortions and exaggerated notions of this
vow are likely to do more harm than good.

Definitions of brahmacharya, as found in Yajnavalkya,
which ban all sex in thought, word and action are quite in
place in a dharma sastra (code of social laws) whose norms
are public and therefore rigidly conceived. But a certain
latitude is evident when we read that, according to the
Mahabharata, a person having sexual intercourse with his
wife is still a brahmachari (see Radhakrishnan's "Bhagavad Git"a,
pp. 197-8).

The vow here has to be fitted into a general contemplative

The expressions machchitto (related to Me through contemplative
thought) and matparah (having Me for Supreme) are favourite forms
in the Gita, side by side with expressions like manmana (having
Me for your mind) in xviii, 64. All are intended to establish an
intimate identity between the subject and the object, the yogi
and the Absolute, through bipolarity.


yunjann evam sada 'tmanam
yogi niyata manasah
santim nirvana paramam
matsamstham adhigachchhati

Thus unitively joining ever the Self, the yogi whose mind is
subdued enters into that peace which abides in Me, which has
as its ultimate phase total effacement (nirvana).


Practical hints having been enumerated in the previous
verses, the goal of Yoga is now stated to be the same as the
supreme nirvana (total effacement) spoken of in more
rationalist schools, and on the other hand that the goal is
not different from the union of the Self with the Absolute.
Further, the peace of the Absolute is here said to abide in
Krishna as personally representing the Absolute This
personal reference, often mistaken for theism, is a doctrine
of the Gita which is valid even philosophically in
impersonal non-theistic terms. The man-god or the god-
man are interchangeable terms, and when a bipolar relation
is established with the Absolute, personal attributes have no
longer any validity. In fact Krishna himself objects to his
own personalization in vii, 24 and ix, 11.

Even in Chapter xi where his form is revealed to Arjuna, the
description is far from conforming to any theistic
personality. Here, there is no devotee reaching to a god, but
a yogi entering into the peace of the Absolute.


na 'tyasnates tu yogo 'sti
na chai 'kantam anasnatah
na cha 'tisvapnasilasya
jagrato nai 'va cha 'rjuna

To be sure, there is no Yoga for a glutton nor for
one who fasts nor even, 0 Arjuna, is it either for
one who over-sleeps or wakes.


Extremes of eating, fasting, sleeping and waking are to be
avoided. Yoga outside the Gita is often understood to be a
rigorous discipline, involving much self-immolation or
harsh austerities. This verse and the next are meant to allay
all doubts in this matter. It is the middle path which is



yuktahara viharasya
yukta cheshtasya karmasu
yukta svapnavabodhasya.
yogo bhavati duhkhaha

To one of proper food (habits) and recreation, who
engages in activities in proper moderation, who sleeps
and wakes in a well-regulated way, Yoga takes its course


Here there are no Stoic or Epicurean extremes. We should
understand the word yukta (united) as meaning what is
proper and natural without exercising any voluntary
acceptance or rejection. This applies to food, recreation and
other natural activities, as also to sleeping and waking.
Extremes being thus avoided, spiritual life becomes easy and
free from that pain which is so often endured when one-sided
theories prevail.

The word vihara (amusement or recreation) does not mean
outright merrymaking, but allows for natural outlets,
including perhaps country excursions. The dukha (pain) does
not refer to the religious doctrine of suffering as in
Buddhism, but to the pain implied in religious disciplines
when understood one-sidedly.


yada viniyatam chittam
atmany eva 'vatishthate
nihsprihah sarva kamebhyo
yukta ity uchyate tada

When the subdued relational mind stays in the Self
itself, desireless of all desires, then (it) is said to be

The state of a yogi does not refer to anything outside the
Self of the yogi. Even the Absolute, if it is considered
extraneous, is irrelevant to the Yoga understood in this and the
next verse.

The chitta (relational mind) stays within the limits of the
Self. All desirable objects are outside its scope. When such
a condition exists, we can call that the state of a yogi.


yatha dipo nivitastho
ne 'ngate so 'pama smrita
yogino yatachittasya
yunjato Yogam atmanah

As a lamp set in a windless place does not flicker,
such a simile is thought of in regard to a yogi who
has brought under restraint his (relational) mind,
(ever) uniting thus in the union of the Self.


The simile here is not just one among many others. The
idea of Yoga is here pushed to its purest and furthermost
meaning, where duality is completely effaced. The word
Yoga itself implies a duality, but the comparison
consciously employed and so referred to here as a simile,
is meant finally to abolish any duality between object and
subject of union as may be implied in the word Yoga. The
unflickering flame just keeps burning on steadily. A flame
that flickers has on one hand the flame itself and on the
other hand the wind which, makes its flicker, as something
extraneous. In a windless place, however, where the
extraneous factors causing the flickering are absent, the
flame just burns on. The establishment of unity is a similar
state. It requires only the removal of what is extraneous to
the situation. Perfect Yoga is unitiveness in the Self, of the
Self and by the Self. The subtle distinction brought out by
this example has more than casual interest.


yatro 'paramate chittam
niruddham Yogasevaya
yatra chai 'va 'tmana'tmanam
pasyann atmani tushyati

(That state) where the (relational) mind attains
tranquillity, restrained through continued cultivation
of a yogic attitude, and where also the Self by the
Self in the Self enjoys happiness;


Verses 20 to 23, inclusive, form one sentence. It is an
attempt to give definitive indications regarding the
characteristics of Yoga resulting from the discussions in the
previous chapters. The sublime eloquence of these verses
add a poetic quality which has its own grandeur.
The culminating Verse 23 contains the finalized statement
in the form of a consciously formulated definition. Together
these verses constitute a challenge even to modern scientific


men who might sneer at subjects like Yoga as being vague
or based on mere sentiment.

Verse 20 marks the first stage of progress in Yoga. There
is change of interest when restraint is applied to the
outgoing tendencies. According to Patanjali's definition,
Yoga consists mainly in this restraint, and the Yoga seva
(literally "service", continued cultivation of a yogic
attitude) consequently constitutes the major part of the
discipline. The element of joy or satisfaction suggested by
the phrase tushyati (enjoys happiness) indicates something
more than attaining a neutral state. The Self finding joy in
the Self by the Self is an elaboration of what has been said
in the previous verse. A state of self-sufficiency is what is
suggested. The mind that is constantly irritated never quiets
down, self-satisfied.


sukham atyantikam yat tad
buddhigrahyam atindriyam
vetti yatra na chai 'va 'yam
sthitas chalati tattvatah

- that which cognizes the ultimate limit of
happiness which can be grasped by reason and
goes beyond the senses, and wherein also
established, there is no more swerving from the
true principle;


A further stage is marked here, one of positive happiness.
Yoga is stated without the undue transcendental exaggeration
which is so common. Even "going beyond the senses" is
counteracted at once by the phrase buddhigrahyam
(what can be grasped by reason). Contemplation in the Gita
is sober and free from ideas of exalted trance or over-
depressed or morose agony.

The expression tattvatah (from the true principle) points to
the same philosophical way of looking at Yoga. Well-
founded philosophical vision, when it has a steadying
effect, has in it the element of Yoga, or conversely, Yoga is a
steadying factor in philosophy. Whereas in Verse 20 the joy
consisted in just freedom from agitation, here more
intellectual values are implied.


yam labdhva cha 'param labham
manyate na 'dhikam tatah
yasmin sthito na duhkhena
guruna 'pi vichalyate



- and which, having obtained, there is no other gain
thought of which could be greater (in value), in
which when established there is no swerving even
by heavy suffering;


Yoga is now described as a high value capable of
establishing an absorbing interest which can hold its own
against all other interests possible to man. The character of
this supreme value is brought out negatively by reference to
suffering. A man established in Yoga would not be affected
even by suffering that might be called serious such as
illness, bereavement, loss, etc.


tam vidyad duhkhasamYoga-
viYogam Yogasamjnitam
sa nischayena yoktavyo
yogo 'nirvinnachetasa

- that should be known by the name of Yoga - disaffiliation
from the context of suffering. Such a Yoga should be
adhered to with determination, free from spiritual regret.


Yoga is defined here in its most general terms. It consists
simply of disaffiliation from the context of suffering
through a certain inward detachment where, as we have
seen, the senses, mind, relational thought and finally, the
Self itself, instead of moving peripherally towards objects or
activities, become gathered together and centralized.
Suffering is transcended in a double sense; it is not
merely negative in character. Release from suffering
implies the first negation, which by itself results in a
certain positive joy, thus, implying the principle of double
negation understood in western theology.

The reference to being free from spiritual regret shows
that Yoga is always to be understood as having two sides,
one positive and the other negative, this reference to the
negative aspect being essential, for without it the idea of
Yoga would not be complete.


samkalpa prabhavan kamams
tyaktva sarvan aseshatah
manasai 've 'ndriyagramam
viniyamya samantatah

Abandoning completely all desires originating in the
will for particularized ends, curbing the collection of
sense-functionings on every side -


The subtler aspects of yogic discipline are detailed up to
Verse 29. When the ascent in Yoga is gradually accomplished,
a symmetrical balance between counterparts of the same Self
becomes established. But before such a culmination is
reached, there are subtle adjustments to be effected by the
aspirant. These are referred to here.

These indications follow on what was given in Verse 29. To get
rid thoroughly of all desires that are willed for particularized
ends is the first step. The curbing of the senses is to be done
as the tortoise withdraws its head, tail and legs evenly into
its shell, as stated in xi, 58. The expression gramam
(collection) applies to the clusters of afferent and
efferent sense-functions covered generally by the organs of
perception and action as understood in Vedanta, and not
merely to physiological organs.

The phrase samantatah (on every side) includes top and
bottom as well as the points of the compass, and should be
understood as a special state of introversion belonging to
yogic discipline.


sanaih-sanair uparamed
buddhya dhritirihitaya
atmasamstham manah kritva
na kimchid api chintayet

- slowly, slowly, activities should be brought to a
standstill by reason steadily applied, establishing
the mind reflexively in the Self, without thinking of
anything whatever.


The withdrawal is to be effected cautiously and gently by
applying a steady pressure in a direction dictated by reason.
The mind being a part of general consciousness, when it
becomes reflexively lodged in the Self, it loses its distinction
as a functional unit, with the result that the consciousness
becomes free from ideation. This is the last of the indications
to be followed before the perfectly poised Yoga of the
Self in the Self becomes established as stated in the verses


yato-yato nischarati
manas chanchalam asthiram
tatas-tato niyamyai 'tad
atmany eva vasam nayet

Whatever causes the changeful, unsteady mind to
go out (again and again), from each such,
restraining (it again and again) it should ever be
led to the side of the Self.


There is no reference to specific psychological entities
here, but to the mind generally. The mind in this way
represents one pole of general consciousness, before it is
equated with the Self, as in Verse 29. The mind being
associative, it passes constantly from one set of associations
to another, depending upon the interest of the man at each
moment, and it is therefore qualified here by the epithets
chanchalam (changeful, fickle) and asthiram (unsteady,

The expression nischarati (goes out) means the mind tends
to dissipate itself among external objects of interest.
Whenever such a tendency asserts itself, it has to be checked
or counteracted by an inverse effort till the whole mind has
all its specifically outgoing functions gathered in. The mind
thus globalized is ready to be considered part of the Self-
consciousness itself. The practice of Yoga consists of this
merging of the mind through withdrawal in the Self.
Note the difference between this kind of withdrawal of
mental factors into the more subjectively seated Self and the
arresting of grosser or peripheral outgoing tendencies in v, 8
and 9.


prasanta manasam hy enam
yoginam sukham uttamam
upaiti santarajasam
brahmabhutam akalmasham

Such a yogi, verily, of calmed mind, of pacified
passion, who has become the Absolute, and free
from all dross, comes to supreme happiness.


Following on the extreme happiness of the yogi of Verse
21, further reference is found here and in Verse 28 to this
happiness. This time, the nature of the yogi having been


defined, it is possible for the author to bring out the supreme
or absolutist nature of the joy experienced, which is of no
mean order limited to the domain of psychology.
When outgoing tendencies are re-absorbed, a calmness
prevails. All such tendencies constituting the rajasik
(passionate) nature here referred to have been more
analytically referred to already as tendencies to action and
attachment to objects. Here they are treated under one
generic term rajas (passion). It must be understood to
include all strong or passionate urges to action or attachment
to things and desires. When this passionate tendency is
conquered the main task of Yoga is accomplished, as has
once been hinted in iii, 37, and all dross, such as sin, etc.,
which envelop wisdom, as stated in iii, 38, is then transcended,
as stated in v, 10.

The expression brahmabhuta (one who has become the Absolute)
suggests a merging of identity of the personality
of the yogi with the Absolute. The sukham uttamam
(supreme joy) here is a joy in the Absolute. It is more than an
ordinary kind of joy, but of a contemplative order.


yunjann evam sada'tmanam
yogi vigatakalmashah
sukhena brahmasamsparsam
atyantam sukham asnute

Ever uniting thus the Self, that yogi, rid of dross,
having contact with the Absolute, enjoys easily
happiness that is ultimate.


With slight variation and further accentuation of certain
ideas, this verse repeats almost the same theme as Verse 27.
We note that the atmanam (the Self) is stated to be in
contact with, instead of being merged in, the Absolute. We
view here the same verity from the psychological end
instead of the cosmological, but the result of the mere
contact of the Self is something superlative, as suggested by
the word atyantam (ultimate). The joy could not be better.
In other words it has attained an absolutist character. This
transition from cosmology to psychology is accomplished
in a graded fashion with a delicacy of its own.


sarvabhutastham atmanam
sarvabhutani cha 'tmani
ikshate Yogayuktatma
sarvatra samadarsanah

One whose Self is united by Yoga sees the Self as
abiding in all beings and all beings as abiding in
the Self, everywhere seeing the same.


The Self is again given primacy and everything turns
around the Self, as it were. This verse conforms to the
Upanishadic dictum where the Self is equated with all
beings (Isa Upanishad 6).

A person established in Yoga sees the same reality inside
and outside. Cosmology and psychology make no
difference to him. Both are equated in the Absolute. Even
other beings, such as an animal or a holy man, fail to have
any specific individuality in the unitive light of wisdom
which prevails. Subjectivity and objectivity cancel each
other out. The unitive outlook of Yoga applies to every
aspect of duality: (1) as existing within the subject
(2) as existing within the object, and (3) as existing
between subject and object.


yo mam pasyati sarvatra
sarvam cha mayi pasyati
tasya 'ham na pranasyami
sa cha me na pranasyati

He who sees Me everywhere, and sees everything in Me,
to him I am not lost and he is not lost to Me.


Yoga having been stated in terms of norms of pure consciousness,
preceded by its theoretical definition, the subject
now passes over here and in the next two verses to understanding
Yoga as applicable to an actual person living in a real and
natural environment.

Such a man is said to live "according to the will of God"
to use a conventional theological expression, or he may
represent in his way of life a type of spirituality, or he may
live as one among other beings while carrying within himself a
certain equality in terms of Self-consciousness.

When both outward and inward factors are thus established
in an equality proper to themselves, then the yogi can be said
to be Perfected. Such is the trend of these three verses.


The personal reference of Krishna to himself as
representing the Absolute seems to water down the content
of Yoga so well stated in terms of Self-consciousness, but it
is inevitable here. The Gita is intended to be more than
subjective solipsism. The discussion has to meet actualities,
even the harsh crude actualities of a battlefield. For literary
reasons, if for no others, this personified Absolute is
consistent and necessary.


 sarvabhutasthitam yo
mam bhajaty ekatvam asthitah
sarvatha vartamano 'pi
sayogi mayi vartate

That yogi who honours Me as abiding in all beings,
established in unity, remaining as he may, in every
(possible) way, he abides in Me.


The expression sarvatha vartamanah api (remaining as he
may in every possible way) is meant to indicate that this
teaching does not demand from the yogi any particular
pattern of behaviour known to the spiritual world. He is free
to conduct himself, behave or appear as he likes. The one
determinative here is that he remains affiliated to the

Ekatvam isthitah (established in unity) lifts the subject of
Yoga from a form of discipline to the level of philosophical
and unitive understanding, though not merely intellectual,
because of the qualifying expression sarvabhutasthitam (as
abiding in all beings). The philosopher must have established
a living unity with all beings.


atmaupamyena sarvatra
samam pasyati yo 'rjuna
sukham va yadi va duhkham
sa yogi paramo matah

By establishing an analogy with the Self, he who
sees equality everywhere, 0 Arjuna, whether (in)
pleasant or painful (situations), he is considered a
perfect yogi.


The notion of equality between men as extended beyond
human life to all beings is the basis of ahimsa (non-injury)
and is derived from the unity of the Self as understood in


Verse 29. All are brothers in the Self and unitive
understanding can include the whole of existence. There is
also a unitive equality which refers to oneself, which is a
balanced neutrality between happiness and sorrow.
In the yogi we have to understand two sets of adjustments;
first his unitive adjustment with all beings, and
secondly those with the great variety of situations
alternating between happiness and sorrow. The former is
"horizontal" and the latter "vertical". Where both refer to
the same yogi, he can be described as parama (highest).


Arjuna uvacha
yo 'yam Yogas tvaya proktah
samyena madhusudana
etasad 'ham na pasyami
chanchalatvat sthitim sthiram

Arjuna said:
That Yoga you have outlined as consisting of sameness,
0 Madhusudana (Krishna), I do not see for
this any stable foundation, owing to changefulness.


The literary device of a samvada (dialogue) is resorted to,
again in order to broach a new aspect of the subject of Yoga.
Yoga has been described as also having, in its earlier stages,
the character of a discipline depending upon the practice of
withdrawal, restraint, etc. Details regarding seat and posture
might lead one to think that Yoga also, like Vedic ritualism,
comprises injunctions and obligations of a binding nature.
Arjuna suggests here and in the next verse, quite pertinently,
that the mind is restless and hard to control. It is therefore
likely, as he points out, in Verses 37 and 38, that a
man who has continued on the path of Yoga might fail and
be worse off. In his answer, Krishna makes it clear that the
way of Yoga must be looked upon as open where
backward-sliding is no danger. The difference is the same
as that implied in ii, 40.

Here, in Verse 33, the expression samyena (as consisting
of sameness) is important because it exactly indicates that
central distinguishing character of Yoga as it has been
taught in the Gita. The same feature of Yoga was once stated
in 11, 48. Although other definitions of Yoga are given, this


of sameness, and of balancing, cancelling out or equating
counterparts, may be said to be the Gita's special contribution
to the subject.

But this character of sameness, as understood by Arjuna, is
incompatible with the shifting nature of consciousness, at
least at the level of the mind. Associations based on
momentary interests, as it has been said in xi, 67, carry away
the understanding, leaving no permanent basis upon which
this sameness can be established.


chanchalam hi manah krishna
pramathi balavad dridham
tasya 'ham nigraham
manye vayor iva sudushkaram

The mind is changeful indeed, O Krishna; it is
agitated, forceful and imperative (in character);
like the wind, I consider its control difficult.


Arjuna is evidently thinking of peripheral aspects of
consciousness where control is difficult, as implied in
the analogy of the ship in the gale in ii, 67.
The expression vayor iva (like the wind) is very apt,
inasmuch as the wind has nothing centralized about it. Yoga
being a form of restraint of outgoing tendencies, it consists
of centralization. Arjuna's question is therefore most
pertinent since it concerns this peripheral difficulty.
The three qualifications applied to the mind indicate how
strong this centrifugal tendency can be. Once caught in it,
there is a certain helplessness.


Sribhagavan uvacha
asamsayam mahabaho
mano durnigraham chalam
abhyasena tu kaunteya
vairagyena cha grihyate

Krishna said:
Doubtless, 0 Mighty-Armed (Arjuna), the mind is
difficult to control and changeful. By practice
indeed, 0 Son of Kunti (Arjuna), and by dispassion
(it) is held (together).


Krishna has no other alternative than to agree with Arjuna and as a remedy appeals to practice and dispassionateness. We can easily understand the need for vairagya (dispassion) for bringing the mind under control, but the abhyasa (practice) here is more problematic. Arjuna has already indicated that sameness characterizes all the features of practice, whether in earlier or later phases of Yoga. There is a great deal of difference between this and the discipline of Patanjali. Leaving aside those references to postures etc., indicated in Verse I0, there are only
indications in Verses 25 and 26 of this chapter which could be said to come under the meaning of practice. The usual notion that practice in Yoga implies breathing and other hard exercises is altogether discountenanced in the Gita. Hence the abhyasa (practice) meant here is the bringing together of two aspects of the Self into unity, and when vairagya (dispassion) has already been accomplished, the results of Yoga accrue easily, as mentioned in Verse 28.
Grihyate (is held together) indicates that Yoga is a gathering or holding together of tendencies which, left to nature, disperse themselves.


asamyatatmana yogo
dushprapa iti me matih
vasyatmana tu yatata
sakyo 'vaptum upayatah

By a Self uncontrolled, Yoga is hard to attain;
such is my opinion; but by a Self which is its own
support, endeavouring, it is possible to reach
through the means (indicated).


The nature of the practice or endeavour in Yoga is further
elaborated in more general terms here, following on the
lines of Verses 5 and 6. Self-control is not a moral
discipline, stoically applied to himself by a man in any
social sense. It is unitive understanding which effects Self-
control. Neither is discipline here of the nature of any
severe austerity. It is more of the nature of philosophical
understanding; and Yoga is also associated with joy at every
stage of its progress.

In spite of all this, however, it involves the avoidance of
conflict between aspects of the Self. A man who has such a
conflict is called asamyatatma (one whose Self is not
controlled), and the opposite case of being without conflict
is called


vasyatma (one whose Self is on his own side). Verse 6 of
this chapter gives the distinction between these two very

The phrase yatati (by endeavouring) implies an effort, the
nature of which should be understood as a contemplative
ascent rather than any outward practice. The phrase upayata
(through means) must refer to the means already suggested
in Verses 25 and 26. Carefully examined, these means do
not conform to any rigid practices as understood in schools
of Yoga, such as Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, etc.


Arjuna uvacha
ayatih sraddhayo 'peto
Yogach chalitamanasa
aprapya Yogasamsiddhim
kam gatim krishna gachchhati

kachchin no 'bhayavibhrashtas
chhinnabhram iva nasyati
apratishtho mahabaho
vimadho brahmanah pathi

Arjuna said:
(For) he whose mind, unsubdued (but) endowed with faith,
has deviated from Yoga, not reaching to yogic attainments,
what path does he take, 0 Krishna?

Is he not fallen from both like a riven cloud
destroyed without a mainstay, 0 Mighty-Armed
(Krishna), confounded regarding the path of the


Arjuna's question recalls to us that he is a purva pakshin
(anterior critic) and that this is a samvada (dialogue) on
wisdom. We must remember the points mentioned in the
comment on the last verse, in trying to understand the
diagnosis of a person described here as yogach chalitamanasah
(one whose mind has deviated from Yoga) and as
yogabhrashtah (one exiled to Yoga) of Verse 41 (to follow).
The nature of the calamity should be clear if we are to
understand properly the hope and the remedy to be stated
later. Further indications of the case are found in the
expressions ubhayavibhrashtah (one fallen from both) and
the most


graphic analogy of the riven cloud. The two factors implied
by the word "both" are not explicitly stated. Sankara
suggests they refer to jnana (knowledge) and karma
(ritualist work), but the meaning of "both" should be
inferred from the various and ambivalent references to the
Self in the previous chapters. Whatever the two factors may
be, when they are brought together unitively, they are
conducive to Yoga, and when they are in conflict Yoga is

The expressions ayatih (unsubdued) and sraddhayo'petah
(endowed with faith) in Verse 37, seem to face opposite
ways. We have to gather that the person in question is of
good intentions but has merely temporarily deflected from
the path of Yoga. The very fact of deflection implies that
he cannot reach the legitimate end. According to the usual
Vedic or even religious belief, a sinner or a fallen man loses
paradise. The merit gained in religions is still relativist
and its benefits are within the relative world. In the Gita,
however, the nature of emancipation follows other lines.


etan me samsayam krishna
chhettum arhasy aseshatah
tvadanyah samsayasya
'sya chhetta na hy upapadyate

My doubt, 0 Krishna, you should dispel completely. Other
than you there is none to be found to dispel this doubt.


First of all, Arjuna here does not want a tentative, but a
final answer; secondly he says nobody but Krishna can give
such an answer. By these remarks he indicates that he is not
himself a relativist, but one prepared to go the whole way to
the utmost possible limits of absolutism. The whole verse is
intended to underline the absolutist quality of the answer to
be given.


Sribhagavan uvacha
partha nai've'ha na'mutra
vinasas tasya vidyate
na hi kalyanakrit kaschid
durgatim tata gachchhati



Krishna said:
0 Partha (Arjuna), neither here nor hereafter is there
destruction for him, for none of good. deeds, 0 Son,
ever goes to perdition.


The answer is of a sweeping nature. Life here and hereafter
have been touched upon and an eternal life affirmed,
especially for a man described here as kalyanakrit (one who
does good). This, it must be admitted, is vague and general.
As meant here, a man who does good must be one
motivated by superior human values tending towards the
highest good.

Such values can include some that belong to everyday life

Such an answer, with the implied guarantee, has only one
justification or saving feature, as indicated in Verse 37,
in the expression sraddhayo 'peto (endowed with faith). This
faith must necessarily refer either directly or indirectly
to the Absolute.

There is an extreme intimacy and tenderness in the confident
way in which this truth is stated. The verity herein
does not call for proof, being based on a priori
considerations. Hence the intimate rapport between guru and
sishya, reflected in the opening expression Partha (Arjuna)
and the terminating tata (son).

The term durgatih (perdition) arises out of the eschatological
allusion to gatih (way, course, destiny) of Arjuna's question
in Verse 37.


Prapya punyakritam lokan
ushitva sasvatih samah
suchinam srimatam gehe
Yogabhrashto 'bhijayate

Having attained to the worlds of the righteous and
having dwelt there for eternal years, he who
deviated from the path of Yoga is reborn in a house
of the pure and well-to-do.


To some extent this verse anticipates the contents of ix, 20
and 21, but there it is a relativist picture which is presented
regarding the destiny of the soul. Here, the expression
sasvatih samah (everlasting years) is intriguing. It is almost
equal to "eternal life" and if such an individual has gone to


life, strictly speaking, no question of rebirth should arise.
But we should remember that Arjuna wants an answer in
keeping with his own notions of spirituality.

The karma yogi is implied and the highest world that
karma yoga (unitive action) can ever bring is the
punyakritam lokah (worlds of the righteous) referred to here.
In keeping with the ritualist context no higher destiny could
be referred to, and this manner of saying marks the highest
possible absolutism. Arjuna himself insists on a finalized
answer and therefore the answer is given in this form to suit

The expression srimatam gehe (in the house of the well-to-do)
strikes the reader as a rather mundane reference, but
this is to be set off against the "worlds of the righteous".
With Vedic ritualists the usual practice is to refer to
happiness in heaven alone. There is no reference to
happiness here and, what is more, there is as we see here,
equal reference to a decent life on earth. The righteous man
is better here as well as hereafter, not in terms of pleasure,
but in what concerns his spiritual life more directly, such as
cleanliness and the possibility of leisure in a well-to-do
family. Vestiges of relativism still remain in this rather
simplified picture, even here, but the answer makes an effort
to meet the question as squarely as possible, for, strictly
speaking, Vedanta has no eschatology.


athava yoginam eva
kule bhavati dhimatam
etad dhi durlabhataram
loke janma yad idrisam

Else he is born in a family of wise yogis only. A birth
like this is very rare to obtain in this world.


A superior alternative is suggested to the rather simple
but eschatological picture of rebirth implied in the last
verse. Here the reference to other worlds is avoided, and the
whole advantage for the yogi is reduced to terms of here
and now. To be born among a group of wise yogis is
definitely an advantage on the path of wisdom, because
environment does count. The word kula (family) does not
necessarily mean a natural family. It can mean the family of
a guru or guru-kula (teacher-family). It was usual in
Upanishadic times for a guru to live


with his own family, receiving other students of wisdom
therein. Such a coincidence or luck is pointed out to be
durlabhataram (very rare) and therefore more valuable than
the case already described. Though rare to others who are
not yogis, the suggestion is that it is within the reach of
the yogi who has failed.


tatra tam buddhisamyogam
labhate paurvadehikam
yatate cha tato bhuyah
samsiddhau kurunandana

There he obtains that union with reason, pertaining
to a previous body, (and) strives thence again for
perfection, 0 Prize of the Kurus (Arjuna).


There was a point at which the yogi deviated from his
path. Before such a point of time, he enjoyed what is
described here as buddhisamyogam (union with reason).
When the fallen yogi is reborn, especially among wise
yogis, there is a kind of healing process which takes place,
comparable to regeneration in some plants and animals.
Those natural and legitimate tendencies enforced by habits
in earlier life or lives, tend to exert their own pressure,
helping the fallen yogi to catch up with what was once
temporarily lost. He is thus set going normally once again
on the path of progress leading to samsiddhi (final

The word yatete (he strives) shows that a certain effort
is still necessary for the yogi in this case.


purvabhyasena tenai 'va
hriyate hy avaso 'pi sah
jijnasur api Yogasya
sabdabrahma 'tivartate

By the former practice itself he is drawn on though
disabled, as one merely desiring to know of Yoga,
he transcends the Absolute of sound (sabdabrahma).


Here a hopeful picture of progress in the spiritual path is
indicated. The person we have to imagine here is listless or
inert, as indicated by the expression avasah (one disabled
and intransigent).


However, despite this condition of spirit, the previous
tendencies have the subtle power of drawing him towards a
very high order of emancipation. The word hriyate (is
drawn) does not say which way, or between what, the
attraction is. This has given rise to some misunderstandings
and has suggested alternative readings, some preferring
kriyate (is made), but this does not make the sense any
clearer. We must explain the attraction as tending towards
an absolute value, because it is clear from the context that he
is being saved and not lost; in fact the emancipation reached
by him is even better than that which the most learned of
Vedic Brahmins could expect, as made clear by the last line
of this verse.

The sabdabrahma (sound Absolute) as agreed by all commentators,
except Ramanuja (who equates it with prakriti, nature),
is that lower aspect of the Absolute covered by or
implicit in the Vedas taken as a whole There is an Absolute
beyond word and sound which is the Absolute proper. To
reach this, crossing over the former, all that is here
demanded from the fallen yogi is to be a jijnasuh (one
desiring to know) in the context of Yoga. In other words,
it is wisdom that matters.


prayatnad yatamanas
yogi samsuddha kilbisha
anekajanma samsiddhas
tato yati param gatim

But the yogi who strives with perseverance,
purified from evils, and perfected by many births,
then reaches the supreme path.


This verse can refer to another yogi contrasted with the
one mentioned in the last verse, or it could even refer to
the same yogi in respect of aspects of spiritual life which
go beyond Yoga into final emancipation.

The reference to evil and the general teleological
approach justifies the treatment of the same subject in
another way. But even making due allowance for all these
considerations, there is to be noted a distinct contrast
between the quick emancipation mentioned in verse 44 and
the plodding progress towards emancipation here. The
contrast perhaps refers to the two types of emancipation
known in Vedanta, krama-mukti (gradual liberation) and
sadyah mukti (immediate


liberation), and therefore justifies this verse. We have
to infer two distinct kinds of yogic contemplation - one
ascending and one descending, as implied in vi 3. The
present verse refers to that kind in which an effort is

The reference to "many births" further emphasizes the
slow progress towards perfection, but it is to be noted that
it is not mere perfection in Yoga, but to para gatih (the
highest path).


tapasvibhyo 'dhiko yogi
jinanibhyo 'pi mato 'dhikah
karmibhyas cha 'dhikoyogi
tasmad yogi bhava 'rjuna

The yogi is greater than men of austerity, and he is
thought to be greater than men of wisdom, and
greater than men of works; therefore become a
yogi, 0 Arjuna.


This penultimate verse is meant to extol the yogi. Mere
tapas (austerity), as it is known in the field of Indian
spirituality, is a severe form of joyless self-discipline.
The jnani is a wiser man who might at best belong to the
Samkhya (rationalist) or Nyaya (logical) philosophical
schools, whose life is based on reasoning which generally
ends up with sophistications and academic discussions, by
themselves dry as dust. Likewise, the ritualist tends to
become ego-centred and harshly exclusive. Yoga generally
understood is both a way of thinking and a way of life. The
yogi is a dialectician who harmonizes old in terms of new
and vice-versa, and is capable of giving fresh life to
arguments that otherwise would be dead or stale. The breeze
of a fresh life enlivens the ways of a yogi. How the yogic
touch makes for such a difference has been indicated in the
preceding chapters.

Each of the types of spirituality referred to here, when
they are taken according to a yogic method or theory of
knowledge, become, as it were, transmuted. This verse
states the superiority of such a yogic way in both practical
and theoretical matters.

The expression mato'dhikah (thought to be greater) is
applied only to men of wisdom, either because of some
deference to the wise men on the part of the author, or
because wisdom is really great when it is the proper kind.
The wisdom proper to the yogi, it is suggested here, is
higher than wisdom ordinarily understood.


yoginam api sarvesham
madgatena 'ntaratmana
sraddhavan bhajate yo
mam sa me yuktatamo matah

Of all yogis, he who with inner Self is merged in
Me, full of faith, devoted to Me, is considered by
Me the most unitive (yuktatamah).


Yoga, although it implies the dialectical method, is best
when the highest values are envisaged in the method. When
personal values are left out, the superiority of even the
yogic method becomes to that extent compromised or
watered down. So even in the domain of Yoga, where
different grades are possible, this verse refers to one who
has established whole-hearted and complete bipolarity with
the Absolute represented here by Krishna. That Absolute
could be both personal and impersonal, but the personification
should not be taken as theistic or in a childishly
anthropomorphic sense, because it is the literary device
which makes this personal pronoun "Me" necessary.
Three qualifications of a yogi are underlined here: his inner
self must have merged or identified itself with the Absolute;
he must be full of faith; and he must be a bhakta (a devotee)
not in a sentimentally circumscribed sense as usually
understood, but in the larger sense, as we have pointed out
under Verse 15.

It should also be noted that hitherto the comparative
degree was used with reference to the superiority of the
yogi, not only in Verse 46 but in Verse 42. Here the
superlative is purposely reserved to stress the case of a yogi
who conforms to the Yoga of the Gita, which is a revalued
statement of all extant spirituality of the time.

In summing up therefore, we find that this chapter does
not deal with Yoga as a subject, as many have supposed, but
with the person of the yogi himself; and the yogi too is
considered, not as one whose life is full of harsh austerities
and suffering, but as one who is joyous, hopeful and free from
conflicts. The possibility of a yogi being affiliated to the
wisdom of the Absolute is indicated in this closing verse.
With this chapter, all preliminary discussions regarding
the teaching of the Gita, its method, how it is to be treated
as a Yoga, and how the yogi as a person is to approach wisdom,


have been covered, thus preparing the ground for a real
theoretical discussion of wisdom itself, in the next Chapter.

ity srimad bhagavadgitasapanishatsu brahmavidyayam
Yogasiatre srikrishnarjunasamvade
dhyanayogo nama shashtho dhyayah

Thus ends in the Upanishads of the Songs of God,
in the Science of the Wisdom of the Absolute, in
the Dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna, the
Sixth Chapter, entitled Unitive Contemplation.