There are two paths of Yoga, as the Bhagavad Gita says again and again

The Bhagavad Gita declares the truth of the supreme Self, which manifests the universe as a magical show, and enters it as limited selves. It further declares Yoga. By Yoga, a limited self can thin out and then dissolve the magical limitations. There follows realization of its original identity with the supreme Self. There are …

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Shri Shankara’s commentary on the Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gītā (Song of the Lord) is an ancient Indian mystical poem, declaring that the world-process is a divine trick-of-illusion, into which the Lord himself has entered as the inner light of consciousness seemingly held fast in each individual self. He has set himself the problem of struggling free into his universal nature. The …

Read moreShri Shankara’s commentary on the Bhagavad Gita

Life becomes like walking over open countryside towards a clear objective

When the three elements of karma-yoga have been practised for a long time, or a shorter time with more intensity, things become simpler. Independence of the opposites, acting in evenness of mind, and samādhi-meditations on aspects of the Lord, produce an inner peace and energy. Life becomes like walking over open countryside towards a clear …

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Verses on independence of the opposites come in nearly every chapter of the Bhagavad Gita

Verses on independence of the opposites come in nearly every chapter. The instruction is first about physical effects: II.14 It is the contacts with material things that cause heat and cold, pleasure and pain; They come and go, impermanent as they are. Do you endure them bravely. Śaṅkara points out that some, such as heat …

Read moreVerses on independence of the opposites come in nearly every chapter of the Bhagavad Gita

Traditionally, the verses of the Bhagavad Gita are held to be divinely inspired

The Gītā is a poem, which sets out the practice for realization of the Supreme Self. That Self is all-pervading, one, unchanging, imperishable, and beyond the grasp of thought. Though it is ever-present, man clings to personal identity, namely restrictions which he thinks are his self. Clinging to limited personality obstructs awareness of the universal …

Read moreTraditionally, the verses of the Bhagavad Gita are held to be divinely inspired

Shankara’s presentation of the paths in theBhagavad Gita

Yoga means a method, and in the Gītā several times the Lord teaches two methods: the method of Action (karma-yoga), and the method of Knowledge (jñāna-yoga). Note that Knowledge too is a method, which is often called Renunciation, because that is its chief characteristic. In a few places, the Lord says that the Action path …

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Madhusudana Sarasvati’s introduction to the Bhagavad Gita

Madhusudana Sarasvati is one of the greatest lights of the school of non-duality, famous not only for his skill as a philosopher but also as a devotee. He lived in the sixteenth century, under the emperor Akbar, but almost nothing is known about his personal life; he scarcely refers to himself in all his works. …

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Many famous people received a shock from this great cry

In the great battle of Kurukshetra, which lasted several days, the key figure on the Pandava side was the general Arjuna. He was invulnerable to ordinary weapons, but one of the opposing warriors named Kama possessed a celestial arrow which could not be checked by any force whatever. Kama knew that Arjuna must be killed, …

Read moreMany famous people received a shock from this great cry

The body reflects the mind, as the mind reflects levels deeper than itself

It has been an axiom for thousands of years in the Eastern traditions that the body reflects the mind, as the mind reflects levels deeper than itself. Rodin’s ‘Thinker’ is here side by side with the 8th Century clay figure of a Chinese Lohan or Buddhist saint. Both of them have been thinking, but what …

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Shankara established his standpoint by commenting on sacred texts such as Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita

Śankara established his standpoint by commenting on sacred texts such as Upaniṣad-s and the Gītā. The latter is the Upaniṣad-s put into verse for aspirants heavily involved in worldly concerns. He insists that he is presenting nothing new. He wrote a short commentary on the Chapter of the Self in one of the law-books, and …

Read moreShankara established his standpoint by commenting on sacred texts such as Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita

The three main pillars of Yogic conduct are worship, gift and austerity, each practised without clutching after results of some kind

The main part of this chapter, and a good bit of the next (XVIII.18–45) are centred on the effects of the guṇa-s. What the Gītā calls man’s ‘selfnature (sva-bhāva) consists of tendencies he is born with, as an effect of the saṃskāra dynamic latent impressions laid down in previous births. A selection of some of …

Read moreThe three main pillars of Yogic conduct are worship, gift and austerity, each practised without clutching after results of some kind

The future is partly determined and partly undetermined

The chapter begins with Arjuna’s confident belief that his delusion has been dispelled. He has by now heard the supreme mystery of adhyātma, in the Lord’s declarations of his own glories. Arjuna has forgotten that in Chapter VIII  the adhāyatma was explained as the self-nature (sva-bhâva) in every man, not only the Lord outside. Again, he …

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The mystical tradition and the intellectual tradition

The Bhagavad Gita (Song of the Lord) is an ancient Indian mystical poem, declaring that the world-process is a divine trick-of-illusion, into which the Lord himself has entered as the inner light of consciousness seemingly held fast in each individual self. He has set himself the problem of struggling free into his universal nature. The …

Read moreThe mystical tradition and the intellectual tradition

Fatalists twist the doctrine of karma to excuse themselves from making efforts

My teacher, Hari Prasad Shastri, brought out particularly strongly that we must not be fatalists.   Some holy text can be used to support fatalism, to make people members of apathetics anonymous. “Whatever will be, will be”, they echo the rich gentry and aristocrats in the last act of the Viennese Opera Die Fledermause. These are …

Read moreFatalists twist the doctrine of karma to excuse themselves from making efforts

By concentration and discipline the mind can remember that its main source is the the cosmic mind of God

The cosmic mind helps the individual mind when the individual mind can establish a channel with the cosmic mind. The cosmic mind is like a glacier and individual minds are like the small streams that flow from the glacier. If by concentration and discipline the mind can remember that its main source is the glacier …

Read moreBy concentration and discipline the mind can remember that its main source is the the cosmic mind of God

Contemplation means voluntary concentration of the mental energy on the shining element in our spirit

The word Yogi is used in many senses: two are prominent: one is to be equiminded, to be satisfied through knowledge; and the other is to be wholly and solely devoted to the contemplation of the spiritual truth. There are certain things, which we can obtain by physical exertion, but other things we obtain by …

Read moreContemplation means voluntary concentration of the mental energy on the shining element in our spirit

Reflected Sun in Shankara’s Bhagavad Gita commentary and in a Leonardo Da Vinci Drawing

The verse references are to the commentary on chapter XIII of the Bhagavad  Gita unless otherwise stated Sankara several times compares the Jiva or individual life to the reflection of the sun in water. He gives the example of water pots where there seem to be many suns. The individual soul is given life by …

Read moreReflected Sun in Shankara’s Bhagavad Gita commentary and in a Leonardo Da Vinci Drawing

A normal man can never get satisfaction unless he attains spiritual conviction

A normal man, when his character and intelligence are rightly and naturally developed, can never get satisfaction unless he attains spiritual conviction. Take as an example, the control of our actions. When small children stand naked, we tell them: ” If you stand naked like that, the Thunderman will come down and steal away your …

Read moreA normal man can never get satisfaction unless he attains spiritual conviction

An old lady who every day used to take her little grandson to pray at a Buddhist altar

There is a story about an old lady who every day used to take her little grandson to pray at a Buddhist altar. One day the boy noticed the candlesticks on the altar, which were in the form of a crane and a tortoise. He opened his eyes very wide and asked: ” Granny, why …

Read moreAn old lady who every day used to take her little grandson to pray at a Buddhist altar

The Bhagavad Gita sets out the effects of the gunas on human personality and action.

The Gītā sets out the effects of the guṇas on human personality and action. The sattvic agent is detached, non-egoistic, firm and vigorous, but unaffected in success or failure. The rajasic agent is passionate, greedy, cruel, impure, and elated or depressed according to how things turn out. Dominated by tamas, he is unreliable, crude in …

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Christ’s appearances were not hallucinations, but forms assumed by the Lord for his devotees

The evening of the third day after Friday, the day of the crucifixion, and it is the day when Christ made the first of a number of appearances to his disciples. They were not expecting anything of the sort-in fact when Mary Magdalene and others first reported what they had seen, the closest disciples did …

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The Bhagavad Gita is a book of practical mystical instruction.

The Gītā is a book of practical mystical instruction. Though there are descriptions of the world-scheme, it is not an argued metaphysical treatise. The text is in beautiful but simple Sanskrit verse, easy to memorize, and arousing devotion, energy, intuition, and finally peace in the memorizer. To know exactly what the Gītā text says, read …

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The doctrine of the three guṇa-s or basic elements of the cosmos is presented in the Bhagavad Gita.

The doctrine of the three guṇa-s or basic elements of the cosmos is presented in the Gītā. It is not a central Upanisadic doctrine. The Gītā prescribes a knowledge of them as an aid to practice in daily life. The treatment is mainly in Chapters XIV and  XVII, with a group of verses in  Chapter XVIII. …

Read moreThe doctrine of the three guṇa-s or basic elements of the cosmos is presented in the Bhagavad Gita.

Sages see Brahman everywhere and always are not upset by the changes of the world

Arjuna reinforces his refusal, or rather inability, to fight by gilding it with moral sentiments. He presents himself as seeing things from a higher standpoint; from that elevation, he condemns what he had till now wanted to do, but suddenly finds he does not want to do. He had been enthusiastic about the righteousness of …

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The setting of the Bhagavad Gita with Krishna, a warrior chief who is an incarnation of God

Queen Kuntī has been given the boon of a night visit in successive years by six gods of her choice. By them she has six sons who are thus half-brothers. Five of them are adopted by her husband King Pāṇḍu, and thus called Pāṇḍavas. The eldest, Yudhiṣṭhira, is to inherit the kingdom. The next two …

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I had expected to receive personal instruction suited to my own temperament

A girl began inner training under a Zen abbess for whom she had conceived a great reverence. After a period of probation, she was told by a senior disciple that she would now be given instructions on how to meditate. “I have never done meditation at all”, she said anxiously. “These practices will be ones …

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Meditation verses from the Yoga Sutras with commentary by Shri Shanakara Archarya

(1) If you are cut off (say in solitary confinement) and the need is great, devote several hours a day to the basic practice of disentangling Seer from Seen (e.g. 11.35), When this is established and comes of its own accord sometimes, practise giving up thoughts (1.18) in meditation. The yoga then takes over (1.50) …

Read moreMeditation verses from the Yoga Sutras with commentary by Shri Shanakara Archarya

His own nature is no-nature, such has transcended vain words.

A VERSE FROM  HAKUIN’S `SONG OF MEDITATION WITH A COMMENTARY BY A MODERN ZEN MASTER, AMAKUKI SESSAN (Translated from the Japanese by T. L. ) How much more he who turns within And confirms directly his own nature, That his own nature is no-nature, Such has transcended vain words. These four phrases make clear the confirmatory …

Read moreHis own nature is no-nature, such has transcended vain words.

The method of teaching down is used extensively in the Bhagavad Gītā

The usual way of teaching a subject is to build up information to higher and higher levels, each resting on the lower ones, which cannot be dispensed with. It could be called Teaching Up. But there is another method, Teaching Down, for cases where the final knowledge is already there but not recognized. The method …

Read moreThe method of teaching down is used extensively in the Bhagavad Gītā

The Bhagavad Gita states that actions must be performed in evenness of mind

‘Act, but do not re-act’, Dr. Shastri used to tell his pupils. He taught that action should be calm, well-directed to a right objective, and efficient. But it was not to be accompanied by reactions. Sometimes, in the very midst of an action, we find ourselves reacting to the situation: How am I doing?  Is …

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Yoga is a process aiming at a clear-cut realisation of reality

Yoga is a process aiming at a clear-cut realisation of reality through the instruments of precision above the mind. The technique is to bring the mind under control by discipline and restraint, then to make an intellectual analysis as far as the intellect will go, then to go beyond the intellect by what is called …

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Yoga makes its own experiments. It investigates consciousness directly

The steps in yoga, says Patajali’s Yoga Sütra, are: Faith, Energy, Memory, Samādhi meditation, Prajñā-knowledge, That rules me out’, replies the sceptic; ‘one cannot believe to order. I don’t accept these things in the first place.’ ‘You are not asked to believe’, replies yoga, ‘it is suggested only that you experiment.’ Yoga makes its own …

Read moreYoga makes its own experiments. It investigates consciousness directly

To change the roots of the mind, namely the latent dynamic sanskara-impressions, needs sustained effort

Spiritual training at the outset can look unrealistic. It says: ‘Do this!’ or ‘Don’t do that!’, but a bare command can defeat its own purpose. It is like the King in Alice in Wonderland, who angrily tells the trembling witness: ‘Give your evidence. And don’t be nervous. I’ll have you executed if you’re nervous!’ There …

Read moreTo change the roots of the mind, namely the latent dynamic sanskara-impressions, needs sustained effort

Hearing the truth, reflecting continuously on the truth, and profound meditation and Samadhi

Discipline and Liberation is generally understood, the yogic discipline consists of two elements first, complete detachment from the desire for limited egoistic experience in this or another body ; and second, desire for and meditation on the consciousness of immortality and bliss which follows the realization of the true Self in the form ” I …

Read moreHearing the truth, reflecting continuously on the truth, and profound meditation and Samadhi

Students in yoga sometimes get the idea that there is some such neat way of solving all their difficulties

We come across such things in life. Suppose for instance that there is a long list of Chinese and Japanese delegates, experts, reporters and so on to a big international conference. There are thousands of the names, and it is desired to put the Chinese all together in some hotels, and the Japanese in others. …

Read moreStudents in yoga sometimes get the idea that there is some such neat way of solving all their difficulties

The doctrine of the Upanishads was revived and re-interpreted by the great philosopher-yogi Shankara

After the triumphs of Buddhism in India, the ancient doctrine of the Upanishads was revived and re-interpreted by the great philosopher-yogi Shankara; he achieved a religious, intellectual and mystical re-conquest of India from a degenerate Buddhism, whose former spirit had already gone East and North, where it was to create its own wonders. Shankara’s presentation …

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A single cough from a fully realized man alters the whole being of a real aspirant

The Gita on “I do nothing” “I do nothing at all”- thus should the Truth-knower think` concentrated This is the first line of a Gita verse. Lethargic people quote it energetically (it may be the only energetic thing they do)` though few of them know where it comes in the Gita. And they do not …

Read moreA single cough from a fully realized man alters the whole being of a real aspirant

Supreme Self is ever free, and has nothing to do with ideas of binding or freeing

When karma-yoga practice – endurance of the opposites, samādhi practice, and performance of actions in evenness of mind – has purified the basis of the yogin’s being, Knowledge arises. Sometimes it is said that the Lord gives the Knowledge; sometimes that the Lord in the heart lights the flame of Knowledge, sometimes that Knowledge comes …

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Proficiency in yoga requires moral discipline, mental discipline, and meditation on OM.

Another point brought out by Dr Shastri, not stressed in the Gita itself, though is there, was: creativity.   Yoga must make us creative.   He used to give examples from the history of science and literature of extraordinary inspirations and told us to look out for them.   One  such, which happened after he died was a …

Read moreProficiency in yoga requires moral discipline, mental discipline, and meditation on OM.

In yoga practice there are small confirmations almost from the very beginning.

Yogic action begins with following the traditional instructions on life, but it cannot remain a question of obedience, sometimes cheerful and sometimes reluctant. There might be no time to think, ‘What ought I to do?’ If yoga has been practised faithfully, habits of right action are set up which cover most cases. But the time …

Read moreIn yoga practice there are small confirmations almost from the very beginning.

Even Self-knowledge and realization can be clouded by desire and anger

The third chapter of the Bhagavad Gita has more on the two paths, and particularly action, including self-interested righteous action which is not yogic at all. Near the beginning there is a description of the principles of performing largely ritual sacrifices as worship of the gods, in the justified expectation that they will make a …

Read moreEven Self-knowledge and realization can be clouded by desire and anger

Experimental religion is the method of Self-realization presented in the Bhagavad Gītā

Experimental religion is the method of Self-realization presented in the ancient sacred text called Bhagavad Gītā. Here faith is not blind. Its conclusions, provisional at first, are to be confirmed fractionally in the early experiments; on that basis, faith stretches out to further experiments, in the reasonable expectation that these too can bring confirmations. The …

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The created universe has been taught as a projection from a divine intelligence

Overseer and approver, supporter, experiencer, Great Lord, Highest self – so is he called, That dweller in the city of this body. Bhagavad Gita, XIII.22 This verse contains two riddles, one individual and one cosmic. The individual riddle is posed by the final words: ‘dweller in the city of this body’; the cosmic riddle is …

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The Gītā text mainly recommends actions based on traditional virtues

In karma-yoga defined by Śaṅkara in II.39 commentary, there are three elements: (1) calm endurance of opposites, (2) yogic action, (3) samādhi practice. The first of these can be roughly summed up as Independence, and was looked at in a previous chapter. This chapter is concerned with the yogic action, from which karma-yoga takes its …

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Shankara points out that reality cannot be defined in words which are based on illusion

The Gītā has presented the supreme Self as unthinkable, but directly experienced. It has been hinted at as the end of all grief, fear, and delusion, and positively as the bliss of Brahman. When the word Brahman, absolute Reality, first comes in the Gītā, Śaṅkara defines it by three Upanisadic texts, one of which is: …

Read moreShankara points out that reality cannot be defined in words which are based on illusion

In the bhagavad Gita the secrets are made available to all.

Bhagavad-Gita means literally ‘Sung by the Lord’. What are sung are extracts from the Upanisad-s, early Indian mystical texts, here put into 700 verses of simple Sanskrit. The Upanisad-s had not been taught openly: in the Gita the secrets are made available to all. It has been called the Bible of India, but corresponds rather …

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There are two courses of training in the Gita: Karma yoga and Jnana yoga

A Gita Verse on Karma Yoga: Renouncing all action in Me, with self-awareness, free from hope, free from selfishness, devoid of fever, Fight!   (III.30) There are two courses of training in the Gita: Karma yoga or the yoga of action, and Jnana yoga or the yoga of knowledge. The first is for one who is …

Read moreThere are two courses of training in the Gita: Karma yoga and Jnana yoga

In chapters IX and X of the Bhagavad Gita, there is a flood of pictures for meditation and devotion

In chapters IX and X of the Bhagavad Gita, there is a flood of pictures for meditation and devotion. The aspects of the Lord are not restricted in time or place. There are some Indian references, but they are incidental; the main presentation is in terms of the whole world. This is not worship in …

Read moreIn chapters IX and X of the Bhagavad Gita, there is a flood of pictures for meditation and devotion

Krishna says that he has had many births, and so has Arjuna also

Chapter IV of the Bhagavad Gita begins with a statement by Kṙṣṇa that the ancient yoga has now been taught. Elaborating on a single word – purā, of old – in III.3, he gives briefly its history. He taught it to the first king, and it was handed down through king-sages (not through priests, an …

Read moreKrishna says that he has had many births, and so has Arjuna also

The Bhagavad Gītā several times refers to the four classes: Brahmin, warrior, businessman, and server

IV: 13 The four-class system was created by Me In accordance with distinctions of guṇa-s and results-of- actions (karma). XVIII.41–4 The actions of Brahmins, of warriors, of businessmen, and of those who do service, Are distinguished according to the guṇa-s that come up out of their inborn nature. Calm, self-control, austerity (tapas), purity, patience and …

Read moreThe Bhagavad Gītā several times refers to the four classes: Brahmin, warrior, businessman, and server

The first time that Karma Yoga is mentioned in the Gita is not till II.39

The first time that Karma Yoga is mentioned in the Gita is not till II.39, which says: ‘You have heard the wisdom concerning Sankhya: now hear about the method of Karma or action yoga. The wisdom concerning Sankhya here in the Gita meant the wisdom of the Supreme Self, attributeless and unchanging action of the …

Read moreThe first time that Karma Yoga is mentioned in the Gita is not till II.39

A man used to complain to his Teacher that he couldn’t meditate

A man used to complain to his Teacher that he couldn’t meditate. “I can’t hold my thought on it for long-I start thinking what we will be having for breakfast, or some argument we’ve had in the family, or whether I shall be transferred at work.” One day the Teacher suddenly blazed up and shouted, …

Read moreA man used to complain to his Teacher that he couldn’t meditate

Knowledge can be of different degrees, and the lowest is false knowledge

This article is based on certain key verses from Chapter IX of the Bhagavad Gita, which is called the Royal Secret. Knowledge (jnana) and realization (vijnana) of the secret lead one beyond all limitations. The teaching begins: ” By Me this whole world is pervaded` by My form unmanifest.” This is the secret which is …

Read moreKnowledge can be of different degrees, and the lowest is false knowledge

Interpreting yogic experiences as merely psychological experiences

The accusation is often made by missionaries that ‘you Westerners bring your Christian morality even when you are not believing Christians any more, you bring your Christian morality with you and then when you study yoga, or Buddhism, or something like that, you assume that there is Christian morality.  Then there is the yoga doctrine, …

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