Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Ramanuja | Discourse 6 verse 1-15

Chapter 6
Dhyāna  Yogaḥ
Communion through Meditation

śrībhagavān uvāca
anāśritaḥkarma-phalaṃkāryaṃkarma karoti yaḥ|
sa saṃnyāsīca yogīca na nir-agnir-na cākriyaḥ|| 1 ||

The Blessed Lord said:

1. One who performs obligatory works without expecting their fruits — is a Sannyāsin and Yogi, and not one who does not maintain sacred fires and performs no (prescribed) actions.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Karma yoga or the performance of prescribed Vedic activities and all its separate constituents has so far been expounded by Lord Krishna as well as jñāna yoga or the cultivation of Vedic knowledge.

Now the method for practicing yoga or the science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the ultimate consciousness while being in renunciation will be explained by means of meditation to achieve ātma tattva or realisation of the soul.

This verse is a brief reassertion of what has already been previously stated that karma yoga unaided has the capability of bestowing ātma tattva

and that within the performance of ātma tattva is the special quality of renunciation and that karma yoga in its mature stage also has for its goal meditation which precedes ātma tattva.

Whosoever performs karma yoga without hankering for rewards or desiring results, performing all activities as a matter of duty with no other conception except that it is a humble service rendered to the Supreme Lord Krishna who in every way is the best well-wisher and dearest friend,

whether one is a sannyāsi or celibate brāhmin in the renounced order or a performer of jñāna yoga or karma yoga,

such a person may be considered a renunciate following the path to ātma tattva.

It’s not that a sannyāsi is one that simply abstains from activities such as agnihotra or offering ghee or clarified butter and food grains into the fire. Nor is one renounced merely because they do not perform activities enjoined in the Vedic scriptures.

One is renounced who engages in prescribed Vedic activities at the same time abandoning desire for rewards while fulfilling the requirements of action and renunciation.

The next verse describes how within karma yoga there is found renunciation as well.

yaṃsaṃnyāsam-iti prāhur-yogaṃtaṃviddhi pāṇḍava |
na hy-asaṃnyasta saṅkalpo yogībhavati kaścana || 2 ||

2. That which is called Sannyāsa (Renunciation) O Arjuna, know to be Yoga (Karma Yoga). For no one becomes a true Karma Yogin without relinquishing the delusive identification of the body with the Self.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna is declaring that what is known as sannyāsa or renunciation and what is known as yoga or the science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the ultimate consciousness –

are all leading to ātma tattva or realisation of the soul and are only different forms of karma yoga or prescribed Vedic activities.

No one can perform yoga who is infatuated by delusion.

The words asaṃnyasta saṅkalpo means without renouncing the desire for rewards. Without renunciation is not possible to be free from delusion for the error is there of mistaking the physical body as the ātma or soul.

One who by the power of self-introspection gleans knowledge by meditation of the ātma within the etheric heart of their physical body is freed from this delusion.

No one who has failed to shake off the binding fetters of hankering for rewards and desire for sense pleasures is under the sway of delusion is never regarded as performing karma yoga nor considered a real renunciate.

ārurukṣor-muner-yogaṃkarma kāraṇam ucyate |
yogārūḍhasya tasyaiva śamaḥkāraṇam ucyate || 3 ||

3. For the sage who seeks to ascend to the heights of Yoga, action is said to be the means; but when one has reached the summit of Yoga, quiescence is said to be the means.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Karma yoga or prescribed Vedic activities are the the means for ascending in spiritual knowledge and achieving renunciation in a quest for ātma tattva or realisation of the soul, explained by Lord Krishna.

But once a person has actually achieved renunciation and is securely situated then the cessation of activities is the rule and meditation, introspection and reflection becomes the means for attaining ātma tattva.

Exactly when one is considered to be well established and securely situated in dhyāna yoga or the science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the ultimate consciousness by meditation is described next.

yadāhi nendriyārtheṣu na karmasv-anuṣajjate |
sarva saṅkalpa saṃnyāsīyogārūḍhas-tad-ocyate || 4 ||

4. When one loses all attachment for the sense-objects and to works, then one indeed has abandoned all desires and is considered to have reached the heights of Yoga.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna uses the compound word yogārūḍhas which is an adept in dhyāna yoga or the science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the ultimate consciousness by meditation.

Such a person from experiencing the sublime bliss of the ātma or soul within has ceased to be infatuated by sensual objects and is no longer deluded by the impulses of the senses in relation to such sense objects.

The words na anuṣajjate meaning not enamoured denotes that one is no longer under the influence of such delusions. One is yogārūḍhas who has abandoned all illusions and false conceptions.

Thus for the aspirant of mokṣa or liberation from material existence who still is under the sway of infatuation and delusion there is no alternative but to perform karma yoga or prescribed Vedic activities as the means to relinquish oneself from dross of bodily association and carnal desires.

This being accomplished one has qualified himself for dhyāna yoga and can begin to perfect their meditation.

Hence as warning, before this point it is recommended to exclusively perform karma yoga until completely free from the infatuation of desires and sense objects.

uddhared-ātman-ātmānaṃnātmānam avasādayet |
ātmaiva hy-ātmano bandhur-ātmaiva ripur-ātmanaḥ|| 5 ||

5. One should raise one’s Self by one’s own mind and not allow one’s Self to sink; for the mind alone is the friend of the Self, and the mind alone is the adversary of the Self.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The word ātmāna refers to the mind.

The mind must detach itself from the infatuation of sense objects by association from those wise in Vedic knowledge who possess spiritual knowledge. In this way the mind will be elevated and gravitate towards spiritual objectives.

But if the mind is pointed in the reverse direction subject to worldly pursuits and deluded by sense objects then the mind will become agitated and harassed.

Lord Krishna is confirming the truth that the mind has the potential to give the most benefit as the greatest friend to the ātma or eternal soul

and also that the mind has the potential to be the most destructive as the greatest enemy to the ātma or eternal soul depending upon how the mind is influenced.

bandhur-ātmā’tmanas tasya yenātmaivātmanājitaḥ|
anātmanastu śatrutve vartetātmaiva śatruvat || 6 ||

6. The mind is the friend of one who has conquered the mind. But for one whose mind is uncontrolled, the mind, like an adversary, remains hostile.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The mind is only a friend to those who are able to restrain it from flowing externally outwards after sense objects; but if one is unable to subdue the mind that it will harass and aggravate one to satisfy the senses and is the worst enemy.

Lord Krishna is conveying that an ungoverned and uncontrolled mind being attached to sense gratification interposes obstructions and deviations in the way which deviates and hinders one from attainment of ātma tattva or realisation of the soul.

Sage Parāśara the father of Vedavyāsa has stated that the mind itself is the sole cause of bondage in the material existence as well as the sole cause of mokṣa or liberation from the material existence.

A mind infatuated with desire for sense objects constitutes a state of bondage and a mind free from the delusion of desire for sense objects constitutes the way to mokṣa.

The preliminary competency to be acquired before one commences meditation will be given in the next verse.

jitātmanaḥpraśāntasya paramātmāsamāhitaḥ|
śītoṣṇa sukha-duḥkheṣu tathāmānāpamānayoḥ|| 7 ||

7.  Of the self-controlled and serene, the Over-Self is perfectly balanced in heat and cold, in pleasure and pain, and in honour and dishonour,

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

When the mind is well governed and under control, when it is incapable of being affected by the dualities such as heat and cold, joy and grief, praise and ridicule, when in equanimity it has become completely tranquil and equipoised; at that time the exalted ātma or eternal soul can be realised within.

The word samāhitaḥ means situated in samādhi or deep meditation and denotes that ātma or soul has been realised in its true transcendental essence.

Lord Krishna uses the word paramātmā meaning in this instance parama or exalted and ātma or soul and refers to the individual soul and not the Supreme Soul as normally assumed.

Designating the individual soul in this way is to show special deference to one who is endowed with the aforementioned quality of being situated deep in meditation enough to perceive and realise the eternal and transcendental sublime ātma.

jñāna vijñāna tṛptātmākūṭastho jitendriyaḥ|
yukta ity-ucyate yogīsama-loṣṭāśma kāñcanaḥ|| 8 ||

8. The Yogi  who is content with the knowledge of the Self and also of knowledge of the difference (between the Self and the physical body), who is established in the Self, whose senses are subdued and to whom earth, stone and gold seem all alike is said to be well-adjusted.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The word jñāna means knowledge relative to the ātma or soul. The word vijñāna is transcendental knowledge based on realisation of the ātma. The word tṛptātmā means one who is exclusively satisfied with these two forms of knowledge.

The word kūṭastho refers to one who is perpetually consistent and unwavering amidst the variable and ever changing phenomena of material existence.

One who is absorbed in the eternal nature of the ātma is kūṭastho and hence vijitendrah or one who has all the senses completely subjugated.

Such a person realising the ātma and perceiving its distinct superiority to matter is never again infatuated with the delusion of material pleasures and sense gratification.

Thus all material objects whether they are gold or a clod of earth are of equal value and material activities cease to give any pleasure seeking importance.

Such a person is known as yuktah meaning one in communion with the ultimate consciousness and is a fit candidate to commence perfection of meditation which leads to realisation of the Supreme Being. This is the purport of the Supreme Lord Krishna.

suhṛn mitrāry-udāsīna madhyastha dveṣya bandhuṣu |
sādhuṣv-api ca pāpeṣu sama-buddhir viśiṣyate || 9 ||

9. One who regards with equality, well-wishers, friends, foes, the indifferent, neutrals, the hateful, relatives, and even the righteous and the unrighteous —excels.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The word suhru refers to one who taking no umbrage in differences of age wishes one well.

The word mitra denotes a friend of equal age who wishes one well.

Āry is one who wishes one ill.

udāsīna is a stranger who has no cause to be a friend or a foe.

madhyastha is neutral one who from birth was never a friend or a foe.

Dveṣya is one who was born as an enemy and bears ill will from birth.

bandhuṣu is a relative who bears good will from birth.

sādhuṣu are the saintly and virtuous who follow the path of righteousness.

pāpeṣu are the vile and wicked who follow the path of iniquity.

A yuktah as referred to by Lord Krishna in the previous verse is one who has completely abandoned material pursuits and has ceased from all relationships with the world.

Such a person has nothing to gain therefore nothing to lose and views all with equal vision in equanimity.

yogīyuñjīta satatam ātmānaṃrahasi sthitaḥ|
ekākīyatacittātmānirāśīr aparigrahaḥ|| 10 ||

10. The Yogi should constantly apply the mind to Yoga, remaining alone in a solitary place, controlling discursive thinking, free from desire and the sense of possession,

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna is stating that a yogi or one who is perfecting the science of the individual consciousness attaining the ultimate consciousness in this case is by meditation.

Satatam means constant, fixed in a daily routine. yuñjīta ātmānaṃ means attentively concentrating on the soul. Rahasi means in a solitary location away from people.

ekākī means alone by oneself. The compound word yata cittātmā means checking the capricious stream of thoughts that cascade in the mind.

nirāśīr means to be weaned from every impetus except the impetus for ātma tattva or realisation of the soul. aparigrahaḥ means being devoid of every single possession and conception of possession except the ātma or soul.

śucau deśe pratiṣṭhāpya sthitam-āsanam ātmanaḥ|
nāty-ucchritaṃnāti-nīcaṃcailājina kuśottaram || 11 ||

11. In a clean place, having established for oneself a firm seat which is neither too high nor too low, and covering it with cloth, deer-skin and kusha grass one over the other,

tatraikāgraṃmanaḥkṛtvāyata-cittendriya kriyaḥ|
upaviśyāsane yuñjyād-yogam-ātma viśuddhaye || 12 ||

12. there, sitting on the seat,  focusing  the mind in concentration, with the thoughts and the senses restrained, one should practice Yoga for the purification of the self.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna begins with the words śucau deśe means pure or sanctified place. Purity is to be found in nature due to its being unoccupied and unfrequented by unclean and contaminated persons.

The word sthitam means firm infers the āsana or seat should not be overly soft neither should it be so high that one may fall from it nor too low as in a hole.

One should by all means have a mat of Kuśa grass which is sacred in Vishnu tattva and then should be covered by a deerskin which deters poisonous pests like snakes and scorpions from approaching one while in concentrated meditation.

On top should be placed a wool or cotton cloth.

Such a seat should be aesthetic to look at and inviting.

Sitting upon such a seat one should withdraw the senses and freeing the mind from all external distractions to focus the mind exclusively upon the ātma or soul within until upon its realisation one is freed from samsāra or the endless cycle of birth and death.

saṃprekṣya nāsikāgraṃsvaṃdiśaś-cānavalokayan || 13 ||

13. Holding the trunk, head and neck erect, motionless and steady, focusing [the attention] at the tip of the nose , and without looking around;

praśāntātmāvigata-bhīr-brahmacāri vrate sthitaḥ|
manaḥsaṃyamya mac-citto yukta āsīta mat-paraḥ|| 14 ||

14. Serene and fearless, firm in the vow of celibacy, holding the mind in check and fixing the thoughts on Me, one should sit in meditation, holding Me to be Supreme.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The word saman means straight this denotes that the back, neck and body should be erect and balanced in a straight posture. By sitting with legs crossed in the lotus position or half lotus position assists in keeping this straight position.

The word sthiraḥ means firm this denotes that the seat while being comfortable should not be overly soft.

The eyes should not be allowed to flit hither and thither in different directions on objects near or far but should fix their focus either on the tip of the nose or on the space between the eyebrows.

That was the discipline for the body, now Lord Krishna gives the discipline for the mind:

The mind being tranquil connotes contentment along with freedom from all fears.

The compound word brahmacāri vrate means total celibacy and is an indispensable component insuring the containment and preservation of the vital energy of the physical body which is so essential for development.

Keeping the mind attentive and fixed internally one should meditate on the Supreme Lord.  

śāntiṃnirvāṇa paramāṃmat-saṃsthām adhigacchati || 15 ||

15. Applying the mind constantly in this way, the Yogi, with a controlled mind, attains the peace which is the summit of beatitude and which abides in Me forever.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Attaining communion with the Supreme Lord means linking one's consciousness in constant concentration on Him, who is the most sacred reality and the highest divinity for which the mind can concentrate upon.

Discipline of mind means being fixed and equipoised by dint of the purification one's mind receives from association with devotees of the Supreme Lord and their contact with Him.

Such a person assumes that peace and understanding which has nirvana-paramam or the supreme bliss of mokṣa or liberation for its result. This mokṣa is only resulting from contact with the Supreme Being.

Thus after declaring how one who would want to commence meditation should meditate upon the Supreme Being, this holy of holiest subject is further explained by Lord Krishna with supplement directions in order to aid one in concentration, purification and meditation.