Yoga is described in a number of verses in chapter II.43. Set in yoga, do your actions, unattached, the same in success or failure. That sameness is called yoga. So yoga is to be able to be the same in success and failure. Not simply to say, Oh, well, of course I’m indifferent to the results, and then be disappointed or elated or defiant about those results. The next definition of yoga is in II.50. The Buddhi of yoga leaves behind good and bad deeds, so practise yoga. Then he says, yoga is skill in action. Nothing about devotion. Skill in action.
Then in II. 53, the third definition is ‘When your buddhi, your higher mind, stands unmoving, motionless, in samadhi, you will have yoga. So there have been three definitions of yoga there. One is sameness in success and failure; and in regard to the opposites, which is a phase of the same thing, because to be the same in success and failure, means to be independent of the opposites. Sameness, skill in action, not to be inactive, or careless in action, and thirdly, to practise samadhi till the mind stands motionless.
Well, these are the definitions of yoga and they don’t refer to devotion to the Lord, the actions are to be done with sameness with regard to success and failure; they are to be done skilfully and energetically; and samadhi is to be practised until the mind stands still. Now we can think that this is not, surely, this is not the message of the Gita.
And if we look through, if we look on, we’ll begin to find in chapter IV there are one or two, only one or two references to devotion to the Lord. In chapter V, VI, again only one or two. With chapter VII it begins. There are long declarations of the glory of the Lord. Chapter VIII, and in IX and X there is a flood of devotion. XI, and in chapter XII. So we can see that at the beginning the Gita speaks of the yoga of action as consisting of these three elements. They are sameness in success and failure, perfect self-control, skill in action and practice of the samadhi. And one of the indications is that until these things have been attained, we shall not be able to have devotion to the Lord. And the chapter VII, and IX and X say, you must be able to focus your mind on the Lord one-pointedly. Now people think that the Gita is highly devotional and Shankara is abstract, but as a matter of fact, it’s the reverse, and Shankara when he comments on these verses, which don’t speak of devotion at all, he puts in the devotional aspect.
For instance, where in 48, when it says ‘Set in yoga, do your actions, giving up attachment, the same in success or failure, that being the same is called yoga.’ Shankara now adds ‘Do your works merely for the sake of the Lord’.
He has put this in, this devotional phrase, which is not in the original. Being equiminded, not even feeling, may God be pleased, but acting simply for the sake of God.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
Part 1: Half-Gods and Gods
Part 2: Worshipping lesser gods
Part 3: Remove illusions by study
Part 4: Yoga is described