In the previous verses, Sri Krishna continues to elaborate on how Karma Yoga is to be practiced to purify the mind and to develop discriminatory and sharp intellect. This practice prepares one for meditation to establish oneself in Self-Knowledge.
When we speak about the spiritual path, it starts with practicing Karma yoga. This practice purifies the mind (citta śudhi) and sharpens the intellect to discriminate between real and unreal (viveka) to grasp the Knowledge of Self (jñāna prāpti). This prepares one to meditate and be liberated (mokśa) by being established in Self-Knowledge.
When there is equanimity in mind while doing actions, it implies that we have been practicing Karma Yoga correctly. Similarly, when we develop dispassion by realizing the futile pursuit of happiness in worldly objects after thorough reflection, we know that the mind is purified. This purified mind enables the intellect to understand the nature of the Self without any doubts and hence removes ignorance.
The next verse speaks about how this intellectual understanding (parokśa jñāna) becomes the experience where one is firmly established in the Knowledge of Self (aparokśa jñāna).
Chapter 2, Verse 53
श्रुतिविप्रतिपन्ना ते यदा स्थास्यति निश्चला ।
समाधावचला बुद्धिस्तदा योगमवाप्स्यसि ॥५३॥
śrutivipratipannā te yadā sthāsyati niścalā,
samādhāvacalā buddhistadā yogamavāpsyasi. (53)
When your intellect ceases to be confused or restless by what you have heard and remains steady and immovable, you will then attain the state of perfect Yoga (Self-Realization).
As a result of studying (śravana) and reflecting (manana), the mind becomes steadfast in understanding that the Self is not this limited individuality (BMI – body, mind, and intellect) without any doubts. But the experience of it is still not there subconsciously because of all the previous experiences (heard, seen, felt, etc.). To be established in that Knowledge, the mind has to thoroughly soak (nididhyāsana) in the Knowledge that Self is Brahman. When that has happened, the mind becomes completely still, absorbed in Self-Knowledge. Then one has attained the state of perfect yoga.
With this verse, Sri Krishna has completed all he wanted to express. In the Vedantic tradition, dialogue between the spiritual teacher (guru) and student (śiśya) is highly encouraged to clear all intellectual doubts. Arjuna is curious to know more about the person or perfection, who is established in Self-Knowledge, and he asks his questions in the next verse.
Chapter 2, Verse 54
स्थितप्रज्ञस्य का भाषा समाधिस्थस्य केशव ।
स्थितधीः किं प्रभाषेत किमासीत व्रजेत किम् ॥५४॥
sthitaprajñasya kā bhāṣā samādhisthasya keśava,
sthitadhīḥ kiṁ prabhāṣeta kimāsīta vrajeta kim. (54)
O Keshava (Krishna), What is the description of the person who has steady wisdom and who is absorbed in the state of higher (super or divine) consciousness? How does he speak, how does he sit, how does he walk?
Arjuna has heard from Sri Krishna the elaborate explanation of how one attains the state of perfect Yoga through practicing Karma Yoga. Now, he wants to know the description of the man who is absorbed/established in Self-Knowledge so that he can learn how to be by observing that person. In this verse, Arjuna asks four questions that look very simple at first look, but there is a lot of depth in each of the questions.
- What is the nature of the man who is absorbed in the state of higher consciousness (samādhi-sthasya), the one with steady wisdom (sthitaprajña)? What are his characteristics?
- When he is out of samādhi, how does he speak? One’s speech reveals how he thinks. With this question, Arjuna is also asking how this person expresses himself in the outer world while going through ups and downs, joys and sorrows of life.
- How does a person of perfection sit? Sit here means how he can disengage from the world without getting distracted by worldly objects.
- How does he walk? Walk here means how he engages with the world without getting trapped by the enchantments of the world.
The following eighteen verses (2.55 – 2.72) are a very significant portion of the Bhagavad Geeta which depict this incredible picture of the nature of the man of perfection with a sublime theme.
Chapter 2, Verse 55
प्रजहाति यदा कामान्सर्वान्पार्थ मनोगतान् ।
आत्मन्येवात्मना तुष्टः स्थितप्रज्ञस्तदोच्यते ॥५५॥
prajahāti yadā kāmānsarvānpārtha manogatān,
ātmanyevātmanā tuṣṭaḥ sthitaprajñastadocyate. (55)
O Partha, when one completely casts off all the selfish desires and cravings of the senses and is fully satisfied in the realization of the Self, such a person is said to be one with steady wisdom.
When every thought of the mind (all desires and cravings) is seized, and when the mind is completely still, the person of wisdom just is – in the Self, as the Self, mindless but fully awake. This is not the state of deep sleep where the mind and body are absent, nor is it the state of dream where the body is absent. In samādhi, there is complete awareness where one goes beyond everything and nothing (which are the concepts of the mind and intellect). All the thoughts are dissolved like the salt in the ocean, and the person of steady wisdom is completely satisfied and fulfilled being absorbed in Self.
It is to be understood that the thoughts of this person are not seized by suppression, they are sublimated because the paltry world objects are no match to a greater treasure of happiness and infinite bliss that he has discovered, just like adults don’t have any attraction towards the toys they played with as children.