Sādhana-catuṣṭaya - The Four Prerequisites

This article is part 7 of 98 in the series Jīvana-dharma-yoga

It is indicated above that the buddhi is a power that works with the manas. The buddhi is under the influence of the manas. Therefore, to purify the buddhi, it is imperative to purify the manas. Buddhi is an implement that enables reflection.  Manas experiences the product of the buddhi. In Vedānta, jñāna (wisdom) is the same as anubhava (experience). Knowledge of Brahman is the experience of Brahman. Mind is the arena of experience. Unless the mind is ready, there can be no true experience of reality. Hence a purified mind is inevitable for the study of the Gītā-śāstra. The method of purification of the mind is termed sādhana-catuṣṭaya (the fourfold attainment) comprising the following –

1. Nityānitya-viveka (Discernment between the real and the unreal)

What things of the world exist at all times? What are those that live for a short duration? The mind must repeatedly reflect upon and practise discrimination between the great and the trivial, the fixed and the unsteady, and the eternal and the transient.

2. Ihāmutrārtha-phala-bhoga-virāga (Renouncing the desire for enjoyment in this world and beyond)

Gradually renouncing the desire for bodily pleasures in this world or in other heavenly abodes; being unruffled by sense pleasures.

3. Śamādi-ṣaṭka-sampatti (The sixfold wealth of quietude &c.)

a. Śama is the absence of other thoughts while in control of inner senses; keeping the mind established in itself.

b. Dama is the control of external senses.

c. Uparati is the withdrawal of the mind from external happenings and being established in itself.

d. Titikṣhā is forbearance; to be equanimous while being unruffled by the duals of profit and loss, joy and sorrow, love and hate, or hot and cold.

e. Śraddhā is implicit faith in the words of the śāstras and the learned.

f. Samādhāna is establishing the mind in its object while not allowing it to wander.

4. Mumukṣutva (The intense desire to be liberated)

Curiosity about mokṣa. Mokṣa is the experience of Bliss devoid of any trace of sorrow, beyond duality, that is a result of release from bondage.

To summarise, the student of the Gītā, having seen the limitations of earthly wealth and pleasures and controlling Desire, Anger, and Envy, realises the existence of the ātman beyond bodily existence and considers that Supreme Essence to be the best amidst all transactional reality. This is the foremost prerequisite for the student of the Gītā.

A Couple of Precautions

It is important to understand how the essence of an important work should be comprehended. A couple of precautions are pertinent here –

1. To temporarily let go of one’s skepticism in the narrative (“…willing suspension of disbelief for the moment…” – Coleridge)

2. To focus on the purport of the work in its narrative.

1. Willing suspension of disbelief.

To suspend questions about characters and events that arise during a story for resolution at a later time. “Did Rāvaṇa of the Rāmāyaṇa really have ten heads? Was he able to assume a form at will? How did Mārīca become a golden deer?” – such are the items of doubt. “Was the potency of the mantras the reason for the birth of the Pāṇḍavas? Was the number of damsels that Śrīkṛṣṇa brought from Narakāsura’s town exactly sixteen thousand? Were they all of the same age or were there old women among them?” – Such questions are irrelevant from the perspective of the story’s essence. These incredible incidents are essential for the poet-world’s reality. These are the bricks of the poetic monument. We need to believe in the solidity of these bricks if we want the tale. We need to be able to believe in the story and nod our heads with a, “Hmm,” much like children who do so. Instead if we were to ask questions at every stage of the story, the poetic edifice falls apart and we derive no use from it. This is a rule relevant only to the story aspect of a work.

2. Focus on the purport of the work amidst the flow of words.

By purport we refer to that meaning which resonates with the intent of the work or the sentence. For example, if during a meal a person is asked to bring saindhava, one should infer it to be ‘rock salt’ rather than ‘a horse.’ Meaning stems from context. In the sentence, ‘Come over to my house while visiting the temple,’ the phrase ‘come over’ does not mean ‘arrive on top of,’ but ‘to casually visit.’ In śāstra, this is referred to as  lakṣaṇā-vṛtti (using the secondary sense of meaning when the primary word meaning is not apt). It should be remembered that the intent of the speaker is more important than the word.


If intent is more important, should not only those words appropriate to the intent be chosen? Why the superfluity? This raises a question on the innate capability of a language or the lack of it. That is an area to ponder. Can language exactly convey the intent of the mind and intellect? In several works is seen the inability of language to precisely express the author’s intent. To make up for that, we must resort to several figures of speech such as upamāna-upameya (simile), utprekṣā (hyperbole), and punarukti (repetition). Our daily language is filled with such figures of speech as well. “I polished off ten dosas,” “I gave a couple to the mischief monger,” “That baby is like a flower,” etc. are examples for that. Words are not enough to convey our emotional states or our experiences. We say that “He was fuming with rage” or “Everything has cooled down.” We exclaim, “It was like seeing God,” or “It was like drinking amṛta,” or “I remembered Kāmadhenu!” Thus, even common folk cannot converse without figures of speech even for a moment. Seeing that normal words do not completely convey delight or pain in those sentences, uncommon or special words or comparisons are employed. Those comparisons fill in the gap left by words. That indeed is ‘alaṃ’ (enough) ‘kāra’ (make) –alaṅkāra = making it enough; filling any gaps or shortcomings. Alaṅkāra is used to fill in those gaps created by normal word usage. It is a kind of lakṣaṇā-vṛtti. The same consideration is used in all art forms. What does a young lady do when she does ‘alaṅkāra’ (make up) to herself? She does two things. The first is to amplify or accentuate the beauty of her own bodily features. A small dark dot on her beautiful golden cheeks brings out the attraction in the cheeks. A single white jasmine flower on her dark tresses renders the entire hairdo gorgeous. How? The seer is able to appreciate beauty of the same thing faster and with more vividity. This is a kind of alaṅkāra or decoration. The other kind of alaṅkaraṇa is to make any deficiency or ugliness invisible. Applying face powder to a faded face, filling gaps between teeth with gold, using wax to smoothen out any pockmarks – are all examples for this. Even here, alaṅkaraṇa or decoration is used to resolve any gaps in beauty and project the product as real. This is indeed artificial. When something artificial is used for good i.e., when its effect is pleasurable, we call it alaṅkāra.

More words are thus used in a language for either clarifying the meaning or amplifying it. The sentiment conveyed by the statement ‘Rāma is good’ is also conveyed by ‘Rāma is exemplary’ but the sentiment is amplified in the latter.

To be continued…

The present series is a modern English translation of DVG’s Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award-winning work, Bhagavad-gītā-tātparya or Jīvana-dharma-yoga. The translators wish to express their thanks to Śatāvadhāni R Ganesh for his valuable feedback and to Hari Ravikumar for his astute edits.



Devanahalli Venkataramanayya Gundappa (1887-1975) was a great visionary and polymath. He was a journalist, poet, art connoisseur, philosopher, political analyst, institution builder, social commentator, social worker, and activist.



Engineer. Lapsed blogger. Abiding interest in Sanskrit, religion, and philosophy. A wannabe jack-of-all.


Mother of two. Engineer. Worshiper of Indian music, poetry, and art.

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