Chapter VI: Self-control

No more hesitation! No more fear! No more confusion! The first verse of the sixth chapter tells Arjuna that a Sannyasi and a Yogi are one. “He who does his duty with no expectation of the fruit of action is at once a Sannyasi (Sankhya-yogi) and a Yogi (Karma-yogi).” Abstention and selfless dynamism are one.

Needless to say, it is renunciation that unites Sannyasa and Yoga. This renunciation is the renunciation of desire and the renunciation of expectation. Action, right action, must be done. Action is no bondage. Action is aspiration. Action is realisation. The Gita demands our freedom from the stark bondage of action and not from action. The evil bondage that is our foe is within us and not without us. So also is our divine friend, freedom. It seems that we are at the mercy of our mind. Milton in his Paradise Lost speaks of the mind: “It (mind) can make a Hell of Heaven or Heaven of Hell.” But a true devotee can easily transcend this deplorable fate. His aspiration and rejection make him one with God’s Will. He soulfully sings:

If I ascend to heaven, Thou art there;
There too, Thou, if I make my bed in hell.

In this chapter Sri Krishna has used the words Yoga and Yogi at least 30 times. Here he tells Arjuna for whom the Yoga is meant. “Arjuna, this Yoga is neither for an epicure, nor for him who does not eat at all, neither for him who sleeps overmuch, nor for him who is endlessly awake.”

Self-indulgence and self-mortification are equally undeserving. To a self-indulgent person, the Goal will always remain a far cry. He who follows the philosophy of Charvaka lives in the world of indulgence which is nothing other than frustration. And this frustration is the song of destruction. The philosopher Charvaka declares:

“The pain of hell lies in the troubles that arise from foes, weapons and diseases, while liberation (moksha) is death which is the cessation of life-breath.”

On the contrary, liberation is the life-breath of the human soul. And this life-breath was before the birth of creation, is now in creation and is also beyond creation.

We have dealt with self-indulgence. Now let us focus our attention on self-mortification. The Buddha tried self-mortification. And what happened? He came to realise the true truth that self-mortification could never give him what he wanted — Illumination. So he gladly adopted the middle path, the golden mean. He accepted neither starvation nor indulgence. With this peerless wisdom the Buddha won his Goal.

Arjuna’s sterling sincerity speaks not only for him but also for us. Yoga is equanimity. How can the restless mind of a human being be controlled? Unsteady is the mind. Unruly like the wind is the mind. Krishna identifies himself with poor Arjuna’s state of development. Krishna’s very consolation is another name for illumination.

“O Arjuna, the mind is unsteady, indeed! To curb the mind is not easy. But the mind can be controlled by constant practice and renunciation.”

What is to be practised? Meditation. What is to be renounced? Ignorance.

Krishna’s firm conviction, “Yoga can be attained through practice,” transforms our golden dream into the all-fulfilling Reality.

Practice is patience. There is no short cut. “Patience is the virtue of an ass,” so do we hear from the wiseacres. The impatient horse in us or the hungry tiger in us will instantly jump to this grandiose discovery. But the revealing peace in the aspirant and the fulfilling power in the aspirant will clearly and convincingly make him feel that patience is the light of Truth. The light of Truth is indeed the Goal.

A great Indian spiritual figure, on being asked by her disciples as to how many years of strenuous practice had brought her full Realisation, burst into roaring laughter.

“Practice! My children, what you call practice is nothing other than your personal effort. Now, when I was like you at your stage, unrealised, I thought and felt that my personal effort was ninety-nine per cent and God’s Grace was one per cent, no more than that. But my utter stupidity died the moment self-realisation took birth in me. I then, to my amazement, saw, felt and realised that the Grace of my merciful Lord was ninety-nine per cent and my feeble personal effort was one per cent. Here my story does not come to an end, my children. Finally I realised that that one per cent of mine also was my Supreme Father’s unconditional and soulful concern for me. My children, you feel that God-realisation is a struggling race. It is not true. God-realisation is always a descending Grace.”

What we truly need is patience. When impatience assails us we can, however, sing with the poet:

“Thou, so far, we grope to grasp Thee — ”

But when our consciousness is surcharged with patience, we can sing in the same breath with the same poet:

“Thou, so near, we cannot clasp Thee — ”

It is not unusual for us to see that sometimes even an earnest seeker fails in the spiritual path. In spite of the fact that he had faith and devotion in ample measure, he fails to complete his journey. This question haunts Arjuna’s heart. He says to Krishna: “Though endowed with faith, a man who has failed to subdue his passion and whose mind is wandering away from Yoga (at the time of passing away) and who fails to attain to perfection, that is, God-realisation, what fate does he meet with? Does he not meet with destruction like a rent cloud? He is deprived of both God-realisation and world-pleasure. His fate has deluded him in the path of Yoga. He has nowhere to go. He has nothing to stand upon.”

Alas, the inner world does not accept him, the outer world rejects him and condemns him. He is lost, totally lost. If he is successful, both the worlds will embrace him and adore him. If he fails, he becomes an object of ruthless ridicule.

Before Sri Krishna illumines Arjuna’s mind, let us bring Einstein into the picture. The immortal scientist declares:

"If my theory of relativity is proven successful, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare that I am a citizen of the world. Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German and Germany will declare that I am a Jew."

To come back to the Teacher and the student. The Teacher illumines his student’s mind with the rays of consolation, hope, inspiration and aspiration.

“O Arjuna, no fall is there for him either in this world or in the world beyond. For the fatal evil destiny is not for him who does good and who strives for self-realisation.”

The Teacher also says that he who falls from the path of Yoga in this life enters into a blessed and hallowed house in his next life to continue his spiritual journey.

Each human incarnation is but a brief span and it can never determine the end of the soul’s eternal journey. None can achieve perfection in one life. Everyone must needs go through hundreds or thousands of incarnations until he attains Spiritual Perfection.

A devotee always remains in the breath of his sweet Lord. For him there is no true fall, no destruction, no death. How he has apparently failed, or why he has failed, can be only his surface story. His real story is to be found in his ever-cheerful persistence, in his ultimate victory over ignorance, in his absolute oneness with the Supreme. Let us recall the significant utterance made by Jesus:

"Martha, I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?"

Martha said to Jesus: “Yes, Lord, I do believe.”

Similarly, with Arjuna, we can in all sincerity and devotion say to the Lord Krishna: “O Krishna, the eternal Pilot of our life-boat, we believe in you. We can go one step ahead. Krishna, you are our eternal journey. You are our Transcendental Goal.”