Reflections Along The Way

Bhagavad Geeta: Chapter 2, Verses 56-63

In verse 54 of Chapter 2, Arjuna asked Sri Krishna important questions regarding the nature of a person of steady wisdom abiding in Knowledge and how this person reacts in the realm of joys and sorrows, how he disengages from the world and how he reengages with it. A seeker needs to understand the answers to compare and contrast, to know where he stands, and to get tips on spiritual practices.

Sri Krishna answers these questions from verse 55 onwards, where he starts by explaining how the person of perfection is when absorbed in Self (samādhi). In the following verses, Sri Krishna answers the questions regarding how he remains undisturbed while engaging with the world and how he disengages from the world.

Chapter 2, Verse 56

दुःखेष्वनुद्विग्नमनाः सुखेषु विगतस्पृहः ।
वीतरागभयक्रोधः स्थितधीर्मुनिरुच्यते ॥५६॥
duḥkheṣvanudvignamanāḥ sukheṣu vigataspṛhaḥ,
vītarāgabhayakrodhaḥ sthitadhīrmunirucyate. (56)

He whose mind remains undisturbed amidst sorrow, who does not crave pleasure, who is free from attachment, fear, and anger, is called a sage of steady wisdom.

The person of steady wisdom goes through joys and sorrows casually because he is not attached to it and hence doesn’t hold on to it. Joy/sorrow are the two sides of the same coin. If one is attached to joy, he is bound to suffer. Usually, we go up and down oscillating between these two always disturbed. For a person of steady wisdom, suffering and pleasure are the same. He is not disturbed by sorrows and he has no attachment to joy.

The man of steady wisdom is not caught in the web of rāga (attachment), bhaya (fear), and krodhaḥ (anger). These three are interconnected. Once we are attached to someone or something, we are always worried about the security of the person or thing. And with that comes the fear of losing it. And when we lose it, we are overcome with wrath. The saintly people leave all these three. The source of bhaya and krodhaḥ is rāga. The other two (fear and anger) disappear automatically when one is unattached. Such a sage who goes beyond the feeling of attachment is indeed a person of steady wisdom.

Chapter 2, Verse 57

यः सर्वत्रानभिस्नेहस्तत्तत्प्राप्य शुभाशुभम् ।
नाभिनन्दति न द्वेष्टि तस्य प्रज्ञा प्रतिष्ठिता ॥५७॥
yaḥ sarvatrānabhisnehastattatprāpya śubhāśubham,
nābhinandati na dveṣṭi tasya prajñā pratiṣṭhitā. (57)

One who remains unattached under all conditions, and neither rejoices nor hates, his wisdom is fixed.

A man of perfect wisdom remains unattached in conducive and unconducive conditions without rejoicing or hating them and is equanimous at all times and places. A man of perfection is living in a different plane of consciousness altogether, he is in the state of oneness and is not tossed around by the changing circumstances of the world.

Chapter 2, Verse 58

यदा संहरते चायं कूर्मोऽङ्गानीव सर्वशः ।
इन्द्रियाणीन्द्रियार्थेभ्यस्तस्य प्रज्ञा प्रतिष्ठिता ॥५८॥
yadā saṁharate cāyaṁ kūrmo’ṅgānīva sarvaśaḥ,
indriyāṇīndriyārthebhyastasya prajñā pratiṣṭhitā. (58)

When one is able to withdraw the senses from the sense-objects, just as a tortoise withdraws its limbs into its shell, his wisdom becomes steady.

A person of steady wisdom is described as one who is fully satisfied in the Self; one who lives in equanimity in both joy and sorrow; and one who is unattached to rejoicing and has no hatred for suffering. 

After the previous verses, a question may arise in the student as to how a man can withdraw from conducive and non-conducive experiences. Sri Krishna, being the great master is answering that question in this verse.

The moment a tortoise feels that there is a possibility of the slightest danger, it quickly and effortlessly withdraws all its limbs and doesn’t bring them out until there is no sign of trouble. This is done very instinctively and intuitively with utter ease by the tortoise. Just like that, the man of perfection when he sees the enchanting sense objects, he pulls into his shell of wisdom and higher experience instinctively and intuitively with ease. Such a person is well established in a higher state of consciousness.

Chapter 2, Verse 59

विषया विनिवर्तन्ते निराहारस्य देहिनः ।
रसवर्जं रसोऽप्यस्य परं दृष्ट्वा निवर्तते ॥५९॥
viṣayā vinivartante nirāhārasya dehinaḥ,
rasavarjaṁ raso’pyasya paraṁ dṛṣṭvā nivartate. (59)

Seekers may restrain the senses from their objects of enjoyment, but the taste for the sense objects remains. However, even this taste ceases for a person upon seeing the Supreme.

As spiritual aspirants, we try to withdraw our senses, but rasa (taste) for sense objects is there in the mind. The wish of wanting joy from the sense-objects is very much intact. But for a man of wisdom who has experienced the bliss and fullness in Self-realization, the taste of joy from sense-objects is also not there. He understands that outside objects cannot be the source of happiness, so there is a complete cessation of taste for the sense-objects.

This verse is a warning to a spiritual seeker to beware while doing sādhanā, to not get tempted by the urges of these unmanifested tendencies. It’s only with Self-realization, the subtle unconscious impulses (vāsanās) will end.

Chapter 2, Verse 60

यततो ह्यपि कौन्तेय पुरुषस्य विपश्चितः ।
इन्द्रियाणि प्रमाथीनि हरन्ति प्रसभं मनः ॥६०॥
yatato hyapi kaunteya puruṣasya vipaścitaḥ,
indriyāṇi pramāthīni haranti prasabhaṁ manaḥ. (60)

The senses are so strong and turbulent, O son of Kunti, that they can forcibly carry the mind of a wise person who may be practicing to control them.

Even after practicing self-restraint of the senses, these are turbulent by nature forcibly taking the mind towards them. Even if the person is well-versed in scriptural knowledge putting effort and is sincerely practicing spirituality, these senses take the mind away. That is why in all the scriptural texts, one common practice prescribed is to control the senses. He whose senses are under control is a man of perfection. 

Chapter 2, Verse 61

तानि सर्वाणि संयम्य युक्त आसीत मत्परः ।
वशे हि यस्येन्द्रियाणि तस्य प्रज्ञा प्रतिष्ठिता ॥६१॥
tāni sarvāṇi saṁyamya yukta āsīta matparaḥ,
vaśe hi yasyendriyāṇi tasya prajñā pratiṣṭhitā. (61)

Their wisdom is steady, who subdue their senses and keep their minds ever absorbed in Me.

As indicated in the previous verse, the senses can forcibly take the mind away. It is impossible to practice self-control without holding on to the higher (Lord) to let go of the lower impulses. In this way, when one masters the senses by focusing the attention on the Lord, one is well-established in wisdom.

Chapter 2, Verses 62 and 63

ध्यायतो विषयान्पुंसः सङ्गस्तेषूपजायते ।
सङ्गात्सञ्जायते कामः कामात्क्रोधोऽभिजायते ॥६२॥
dhyāyato viṣayānpuṁsaḥ saṅgasteṣūpajāyate,
saṅgātsañjāyate kāmaḥ kāmātkrodho‘bhijāyate. (62)

While thinking about the objects, one develops an attachment to them. Attachment leads to desire, and from desire arises anger.

क्रोधाद्भवति सम्मोहः सम्मोहात्स्मृतिविभ्रमः ।
स्मृतिभ्रंशाद् बुद्धिनाशो बुद्धिनाशात्प्रणश्यति ॥६३॥
krodhādbhavati sammohaḥ sammohātsmṛtivibhramaḥ,
smṛtibhraṁśād buddhināśo buddhināśātpraṇaśyati. (63)

Anger leads to delusion, which results in loss of memory. When memory is lost, the intellect gets destroyed; and when the intellect is destroyed, one is ruined.

After listening to the above verses, a doubt may arise as to why we need to point the mind to something higher, not the sense-objects.

These verses clearly describe the ladder of fall when we point the mind to sense-objects.

  1. A harmless thought about an object arises in the mind
  2. The mind starts seeking pleasure in the object and gets attached to it
  3. The attachment to the object leads to the desire to acquire it
  4. When the desire is unfulfilled, anger arises
  5. With anger comes delusion
  6. With delusion, the ability to access the knowledge in memory is unavailable
  7. Without memory, the clarity of the intellect vanishes, and one is not able to discriminate wisely
  8. And this leads to complete ruin and destruction

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