However, with attraction and aversion eliminated, even though moving amongst objects of sense, by self-restraint, the self-controlled attains tranquility (2:64).
The words translated “attraction” and “aversion” are raga and dwesha. Raga is both emotional (instinctual) and intellectual desire. It may range from simple liking or preference to intense desire and attraction. Dwesha is the opposite. It is aversion/avoidance in relation to an object, implying dislike. This, too, can be emotional (instinctual) or intellectual, ranging from simple non-preference to intense repulsion, antipathy and even hatred.
We must keep in mind that anything can grow and change. Therefore simple liking can develop into intense craving, and mild dislike can turn into intense aversion or hatred. And since opposites are intrinsically linked to one another and can even turn into one another, the philosophical and yogic texts frequently speak of raga-dwesha, the continual cycling back and forth between desire/aversion and like/dislike. Obviously, this makes for a confused and fragmented life and mind, something from which any sensible person would wish to extricate himself.
There are a multitude of supposed cures for what ails us. The vast majority do not work because they are not really aimed at what truly ails us. The rest usually do not work because they are based on a miscomprehension of the nature of the problem, or because they are simply nonsensical and time-wasters. This is true of most religion and of a great deal that is called yoga.
If we look at this verse we discover that Krishna is speaking of a very real inner state in which the individual is utterly free–and incapable–of raga and dwesha, and not just a psychological alteration coming from insight into or analysis of the defects of addicting objects. In fact, just the opposite will happen, for “thinking about sense-objects will attach you to sense-objects,” as we considered previously. This is a law, and we will be wise to keep it in mind. There is no use in trying to talk ourselves out of delusion. We must dispel delusion–not by concentrating on delusion or resisting it, but by attaining jnana: spiritual knowledge coming from our own direct experience. This will dissolve delusion automatically.
Therefore, when we are no longer subject to attraction and aversion for objects, we can move among them without being influenced or moved in any way. But we must be very sure that we truly are no longer susceptible to them, and not just going through a temporary period in which we find ourselves indifferent to them. Such periods are sure to end in re-emergence of passions that in the meantime have grown even stronger within us. Many ascetics have been deluded in this way, so we must be careful.
I have left the most important for last. The Sanskrit has atmavyashyair vidheyatma: “having controlled himself by Self-restraint.” That is, he has controlled his lower self by moving his consciousness into the higher Self. Until he does so, the lower self drags the higher Self along from birth to birth. But when the higher Self comes into control of the lower self the situation is different indeed.
Atmic consciousness alone is the antidote to all our ills. When the sadhaka no longer acts according to intellectual or instinctual motives, but rather is living out in the objective world the inner life of his Self, then and only then is true peace gained by him. Acting out of intellectual belief, faith, devotion, or even spiritual aspiration, can certainly elevate us, but ultimate peace cannot be found until, centered in the Self, we live our life as a manifestation of Spirit. It was the Self speaking through Jesus that gave the invitation: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). When the buddhi rests in the Atman, peace is inevitable. That is what a Master really is: one who lives ever in his Self. Everything else needful follows as a matter of course. And how can this come about? Krishna tells us clearly in the next verse.
In tranquility the cessation of all sorrows is produced for him. Truly, for the tranquil-minded the buddhi immediately becomes steady (2:65).
Note that the cessation of sorrows is not bestowed on the buddhi yogi, nor does he acquire it. Rather, it is produced, it evolves, it grows like an embryo. First is conception, then growth and then birth. It is a process that goes in stages. It does not come like a lightning strike, but slowly and in an orderly manner, for it is a natural consequence of the yogi’s unfoldment through sadhana of his essential nature. It is evolution, not revolution. This is why the idea of instant enlightenment, of instant liberation, springs from ignorance of the way things are. For the state of liberation through Self-realization is a revelation of the way things have always been. This is the real non-dual teaching of the Gita. The steadiness of the buddhi comes immediately upon the birth, but the birth takes time. That is what buddhi yoga is all about–coming to birth, truly being born again, really becoming a twice-born (dwija).
For the undisciplined there is no wisdom, no meditation. For him who does not meditate there is no peace or happiness (2:66).
Prabhavananda: “The uncontrolled mind does not guess that the Atman is present: how can it meditate? Without meditation, where is peace? Without peace, where is happiness?”
It is a fact: the man who is undisciplined simply has no buddhi–has no intelligence or reason. And since the buddhi is so close to the Atman, without its being clear and operative there is no possibility of awareness of the Atman’s existence. Just as there are many levels of intelligence, there are many levels of stupidity. Those who neither believe in nor perceive the reality of the Self are stupid in the higher levels of their being. And you cannot argue or reason with stupidity. Either you are spiritually aware or you are not. It comes from deep within, and no external factor can produce or affect it in any way. Argumentation and debate are positively meaningless in this area. We should realize this and avoid them.
So Krishna is telling us very forthrightly that the undisciplined and uncontrolled mind is no mind at all, spiritually speaking. This is especially significant at the present time when “go with the flow” and “do what you will” are the slogans of the unthinking (i.e. the undisciplined and the uncontrolled). How many times do we have to hear about how terrible censorship is, when in actuality civilized and lawful behavior is nothing but censorship. Nor is this censorship merely a private matter. Otherwise there could be no kind of society or culture at all. So the enemies of civilization and culture screech nonstop about the evils of censorship and control. They express the philosophy of the guilty and the anarchic: the subhuman. They truly do wish to live as animals and not as humans. For discipline, control, and–yes–even self-censorship of behavior are signs of intelligence, of genuine humanity. It is also called conscience. A collection of humans form a society and develop a culture based on the same principles. Of course, wisdom must be the guide, but in a society of true human beings that is always present.
What is the paramount purpose of spiritual awareness? Krishna assures us that: “For him who does not meditate there is no peace or happiness.” By implication this statement tells us that a person who develops spiritual consciousness will naturally turn to meditation.
This was certainly true in my case. At the age of twenty I did not even have a concept of meditation except just pondering some subject. That is manana–fiddling with the mind. Of dhyanam (true meditation) I had no idea whatsoever. All I knew about yoga was what I gleaned from seeing Clifton Webb standing on his head in the 1948 movie Sitting Pretty and saying: “When I do my yogi [sic] I am just out of this world.” Also I had seen drawings in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not of three yogis–one lying on a bed of nails, one with his arm “frozen” upright, and one who had gone blind from staring at the sun. Meditation did not come into any of these encounters. But one day like the proverbial “bolt from the blue” things changed. Here is how I have told about it in an autobiographical sketch:
“A door swung open within my conscious mind within a true ‘split second in eternity’ and revealed like a vast panorama the full knowledge regarding human birth and evolution–especially its necessary consequence: reincarnation.
“I also perceived the inevitable passage of the human being into higher dimensions of existence for the purpose of evolution far beyond the human status. The soul would continue to incarnate in countless forms of ever-increasing perfection until the final Great Passage could be made. Then it would return back into the Infinite from which it had originally come forth into the great drama of Life. This did not unwind before me or arise within my mind in a continual stream. Rather, it was fully impressed into my consciousness at one lightning flash of insight.
“I walked over to the sofa and sat down without missing a step. There I sat and took several hours to assimilate all I had seen in that moment of illumination. If I had begun to write what I at last knew, I could have written an entire book without stopping.
“The longer I sat, the greater grew the wonder and the delight. This was not theological theory from an external force–this was direct knowledge from within. My soul knew it, and now my poor brain was trying to grasp it all so no precious fragment would be lost. What I had forgotten upon coming into this incarnation was once again mine. Delivered from the hell of ignorance regarding the fundamental nature of myself and my life, I feasted on the paradisiacal fruit of eternal remembrance.
“At the same time awareness of the need to cultivate my innate inner wisdom also arose within me. My revelation had demonstrated incontrovertibly to me that real knowledge came from within, that ideas gathered from outside sources needed to be tested in the laboratory of interior life. External concepts, I realized, should only be the stimuli to evoke the spirit’s eternal wisdom. Therefore I resolved to devote at least one hour a day in meditation.”
The necessity for meditation and the resolve to do so were the immediate effects of my spiritual insight, of the illumination of my buddhi. I certainly did not have Self-realization, but I knew the way to it. And none of this was based on anything other than my awakening to the truth of the Self and its evolution toward freedom in perfection.
Krishna has presented us with a very simple principle: Meditation is the response of the awakening spirit.
Peace and happiness
“For him who does not meditate there is no peace or happiness.” Peace and happiness are sought by all except the profoundly evil or the profoundly insane. The pursuit of happiness was a motivating factor in our American Declaration of Independence, and understood as a divine impulse manifesting within the individual.
Meditation brings peace and happiness, but meditation is not just one of many ways to peace and happiness. Krishna reveals to us that it is the only way.
Shanti is peace, calmness, tranquility, and contentment. Sukham is happiness and joy. They are the attributes of the Self, which is why Saint Paul wrote: “The fruit of the Spirit is…joy [and] peace” (Galatians 5:22). And: “The kingdom of God is…peace and joy” (Romans 14:17).
Read the next article in the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening: Calming the Storm