Appendix 5. Vyavasāya (Sustained effort) vyavasāyātmikā buddhirekeha kurunandana || (2.41) Here vyavasāya refers to sustained effort or continuous industry focused on a single goal. That is penance (tapas). A person needs to be of a single-pointed mind to satisfy any immense objective. If, on the other hand, his mind were to vacillate from one side to another every moment, none of his efforts would go very far. 80 or 90 percent of us need to...
Appendix 2. What do we do with our sense organs? The havoc created by the sense organs repeatedly comes up for discussion. There is no life without sense organs; but no peace of mind with them. How do we deal with them? indriyāṇi pramāthīni haranti prasabhaṃ manaḥ । (BG 2.60)  The sense organs disturb the mind, scatter it and take it away. Therefore the sense organs have to be restrained. What does this mean? Should the organs be prevented...
The principle of the Self decides everything The teaching of the Gītā begins from the second chapter in which Bhagavān classifies the entire Universe into the body and the embodied, and explains that while the body is subject to modification and destruction, the embodied Self consciousness is immutable, eternal, of one form and without any divisions.  The Self is eternal, omnipresent, immutable, without beginning and end. What is the reason...
The Characteristics of a Knower The teaching must have affected Arjuna a wee bit. He asks, “You mentioned about the state of being in samādhi and talked about a sthitaprajña (one of steady wisdom). What are his characteristics? How does he speak?” Bhagavān enumerates the marks of a knower which forms the education of a seeker. The nineteen ślokas from the 54th to 72nd were apparently Mahatma Gandhi’s favourites. These ślokas are useful for...
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There are several tiers of instruction in the Bhagavad-gītā from the level of "patraṃ puṣpaṃ phalaṃ toyam" (offering a leaf, flower, fruit or water) to the level of nistraiguṇya (being beyond the three qualities). Not all of us can follow these teachings at all times. It is like a library wherein we select what we need. Though there are hundreds of lessons, it is up to us to choose what fits us. One’s itch cannot be relieved by another person....
Every jīva’s characteristics and circumstances differ from one another. Therefore every one’s dharma is different. Thus everyone has his or her own svadharma. For a kṣatriya, fighting a war for dharma becomes dharma. Therefore, it was Arjuna’s duty. Not Vyāsa’s. Accepting five husbands became dharma for Draupadī; not for any other woman. It became dharma for Ambikā and Ambālikā to seek offspring from their own brother-in-law; not for other women...
Dharma is a word not used just by the vaidikas but also employed reverently by the Buddhists and Jains. The vaidikas have employed this term in different śāstras and as part of different terminologies. Śrī Śaṅkara gives the following meaning: jagataḥ sthiti-kāraṇam। prāṇināṃ sākṣād-abhyudaya-niḥśreyasa hetuḥ yaḥ sa dharmaḥ... Śāṅkara-gītā-bhāṣya upodghāta The system and set of acts that bestows (i) Welfare upon beings in the world now and (...
The Self Cannot be Destroyed Arjuna, there are two substances in this world – the body and the embodied. The body is a thing that is known directly to everyone. It comprises not only physical organs but also inner organs such as the mind and intellect and also the remnants of karma and vāsanas (latent impressions) that have been accumulated over several lives. These are the characteristics of a jīva. All subtle ingredients other than the Self...
It may be apt to recall the maxim of the English philosopher John Stuart Mill. It is not enough if one person forms an opinion or follows a certain set of actions because of faith in the words of others’ words. One should yearn to understand the exact reasons why a certain thing is good through one’s own analysis. Then the thing becomes truly beneficial. A belief that arises from blind faith may not be as fruitful. The same words are stated by...
The Beginning of the Instruction The second chapter of the Gītā has four main aspects. The remainder of the first chapter’s topic, i.e. Arjuna’s words of abandoning battle. Propounding the eternal nature of the Self (ātmā) The necessity of performing one’s own dharma The nature of the knower of reality Let us look at this one by one. Arjuna’s Wish to Give Up The story of Arjuna’s depression continues in the first nine verses. When Arjuna...