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Success in Yoga

Part 51 of the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening

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Success is one of the gods of the modern world–but only material success. Krishna, however, is interested in success of spirit, and we should be, too. So:

The Holy Lord said: With mind absorbed in me, practicing yoga, taking refuge in me, hear how without doubt you shall know me completely (7:1).

Perhaps one of the reasons Vyasa chose a battlefield as the setting for the immortal dialogue of the Gita is the necessity for cutting straight to the facts without delays. Once the battlefield is entered, diplomacy is left behind–if it had not failed there would be no battle. Only the facts–the immediate facts–now matter. It is no surprise, then, that in all spiritual traditions we find military references and symbols to some degree. This verse certainly embodies the factuality and urgency of battle–traits that we require in our own personal battle for higher consciousness. Here then are the factors necessary for our success.

With mind absorbed in me, practicing yoga. It is only to be expected that an inquirer will not commit to such an intense involvement with yoga until first some experience of its value has been gained. But it is absolutely essential that once the aspirant comes to see the value of yoga he must consider the necessity of making yoga practice the core of his life–everything else must become secondary. Further, anything found to conflict with the practice of yoga must be eliminated from the yogi’s inner and outer life. Without this complete dedication success in yoga is impossible.

I am not saying that everything in a person’s life is to be displaced by yoga, that yoga is supposed to crowd out everything so that nothing else remains, but only that yoga must be central to the yogi’s life and be given first priority. This is because every element in our life must be looked at from a yogic perspective and ordered accordingly. Since most people’s lives are conglomerates of addictions rather than principles or rational choices, this can be a very difficult matter indeed. To reach the sweet we must first go through the bitter. It would not be honest to tell you otherwise.

When Mahendranath Gupta asked Sri Ramakrishna: “How ought we to live in the world?” Sri Ramakrishna told him: “Do all your duties, but keep your mind on God. Live with all–with wife and children, father and mother–and serve them. Treat them as if they were very dear to you, but know in your heart of hearts that they do not belong to you.

“A maidservant in the house of a rich man performs all the household duties, but her thoughts are fixed on her own home in her native village. She brings up her Master’s children as if they were her own. She even speaks of them as ‘my Rama’ or ‘my Hari.’ But in her own mind she knows very well that they do not belong to her at all.

“The tortoise moves about in the water. But can you guess where her thoughts are? There on the bank, where her eggs are lying. Do all your duties in the world, but keep your mind on God.

“If you enter the world without first cultivating love for God, you will be entangled more and more. You will be overwhelmed with its danger, its grief, its sorrows. And the more you think of worldly things, the more you will be attached to them.

“First rub your hands with oil and then break open the jack-fruit; otherwise they will be smeared with its sticky milk. First secure the oil of divine love, and then set your hands to the duties of the world.

“But one must go into solitude to attain this divine love. To get butter from milk you must let it set into curd in a secluded spot; if it is too much disturbed, milk won’t turn into curd. Next, you must put aside all other duties, sit in a quiet spot, and churn the curd. Only then do you get butter.

“Further, by meditating on God in solitude the mind acquires knowledge, dispassion, and devotion. But the very same mind goes downward if it dwells in the world. In the world there is only one thought: ‘woman and gold.’

“The world is water and the mind milk. If you pour milk into water they become one; you cannot find the pure milk any more. But turn the milk into curd and churn it into butter. Then, when that butter is placed in water, it will float. So, practice spiritual discipline in solitude and obtain the butter of knowledge and love. Even if you keep that butter in the water of the world the two will not mix. The butter will float.

“Together with this, you must practice discrimination. ‘Woman and gold’ is impermanent. God is the only Eternal Substance. What does a man get with money? Food, clothes, and a dwelling-place–nothing more. You cannot realize God with its help. Therefore money can never be the goal of life. That is the process of discrimination. Do you understand?”

There should be no “hidden charges” in yoga. Right from the first we should know what will be required of us if we intend to persevere. And we must decide to meet the requirements. Otherwise it is all a waste of time for everyone. The mind must be totally dedicated to God as the Supreme Goal and the Supreme Means. This is because real yoga is nothing less than communion with God right from the start, however faint or tenuous it may be. For “the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18).

Taking refuge in me. That is, we must make God the only answer to our internal problems, and not resort to mental and emotional gimmicks, such as purely intellectual “jnana” and whimsical “bhakti,” that will only hide the troubles. Even though we should sensibly do our best in a practical manner in relation to our external difficulties, even there God should have priority so our external tangles will not turn into mental turmoils.

If we will observe these two principles, Krishna assures us: “without doubt you shall know me completely.” Then he continues:

To you I shall explain in full this knowledge, along with realization, which, being known, nothing further remains to be known in this world (7:2).

Then we will be ready to get out of what a friend of mine used to call “this dumb kindergarten of earth” and move up to a higher level of evolution.

The few

The benefits of yoga are so marvelous, yet:

Of thousands of human beings scarcely anyone at all strives for perfection, and of those adept in that striving, scarcely anyone knows me in truth (7:3).

“Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Luke 13:23, 24). Why so few? Because few will devote their whole mind to God, practice yoga, and take refuge in God alone, making God the Sole Reality in their life. Such persons are rare, but we must at some time or other in the round of rebirths become one of them. So why not now, rather than later?

Read the next article in the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening: The Net and Its Weaver

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Introduction to The Bhagavad Gita for Awakening

Preface to The Bhagavad Gita for Awakening

Bhagavad Gita for Awakening links:

  1. The Battlefield of the Mind
  2. On the Field of Dharma
  3. Taking Stock
  4. The Smile of Krishna
  5. Birth and Death–The Great Illusions
  6. Experiencing the Unreal
  7. The Unreal and the Real
  8. The Body and the Spirit
  9. Know the Atman!
  10. Practical Self-Knowledge
  11. Perspective on Birth and Death
  12. The Wonder of the Atman
  13. The Indestructible Self
  14. “Happy the Warrior”
  15. Buddhi Yoga
  16. Religiosity Versus Religion
  17. Perspective on Scriptures
  18. How Not To Act
  19. How To Act
  20. Right Perspective
  21. Wisdom About the Wise
  22. Wisdom About Both the Foolish and the Wise
  23. The Way of Peace
  24. Calming the Storm
  25. First Steps in Karma Yoga
  26. From the Beginning to the End
  27. The Real “Doers”
  28. Our Spiritual Marching Orders
  29. Freedom From Karma
  30. “Nature”
  31. Swadharma
  32. In the Grip of the Monster
  33. Devotee and Friend
  34. The Eternal Being
  35. The Path
  36. Caste and Karma
  37. Action–Divine and Human
  38. The Mystery of Action and Inaction
  39. The Wise in Action
  40. Sacrificial Offerings
  41. The Worship of Brahman
  42. Action–Renounced and Performed
  43. Freedom (Moksha)
  44. The Brahman-Knower
  45. The Goal of Karma Yoga
  46. Getting There
  47. The Yogi’s Retreat
  48. The Yogi’s Inner and Outer Life
  49. Union With Brahman
  50. The Yogi’s Future
  51. Success in Yoga
  52. The Net and Its Weaver
  53. Those Who Seek God
  54. Those Who Worship God and the Gods
  55. The Veil in the Mind
  56. The Big Picture
  57. The Sure Way To Realize God
  58. Day, Night, and the Two Paths
  59. The Supreme Knowledge
  60. Universal Being
  61. Maya–Its Dupes and Its Knowers
  62. Worshipping the One
  63. Going To God
  64. Wisdom and Knowing
  65. Going To The Source
  66. From Hearing To Seeing
  67. The Wisdom of Devotion
  68. Right Conduct
  69. The Field and Its Knower
  70. Interaction of Purusha and Prakriti
  71. Seeing the One Within the All
  72. The Three Gunas
  73. The Cosmic Tree
  74. Freedom
  75. The All-pervading Reality
  76. The Divine and the Demonic
  77. Faith and the Three Gunas
  78. Food and the Three Gunas
  79. Religion and the Three Gunas
  80. Tapasya and the Three Gunas
  81. Charity and the Three Gunas
  82. Sannyasa and Tyaga
  83. Deeper Insights On Action
  84. Knowledge, Action, Doer, and the Three Gunas
  85. The Three Gunas: Intellect and Firmness
  86. The Three Kinds of Happiness
  87. Freedom
  88. The Great Devotee
  89. The Final Words
  90. Glossary

Visit our e-library page for Free Downloads of this and other ebooks in various formats.

Read the Maharshi Gita, an arrangement of verses of the Bhagavad Gita made by Sri Ramana Maharshi that gives an overview of the essential message of the Gita.

Read The Bhagavad Gita (arranged in verses for singing) by Swami Nirmalananda Giri (Abbot George Burke).

Read about the meanings of unfamiliar terms in A Brief Sanskrit Glossary

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