Srimad Bhagavad-gita Study Group
- Chapter 6 -
The Path of Meditation
One who is attached neither to action or its fruits is a Sannyasin and a Yogi in the real sense. Real asceticism is neither enjoying or renouncing the objects of the senses but rather it is essentially employing them in the service of the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna with perfect dispassion. Yogis are of two kinds., the aspirant who aims to perform all action for spiritual purification and, the master of yoga who is perfect in yoga practice and is always situated in transcendence and is tranquil in all respects. The aspirant achieves perfection by the practice of Niskama-karma. One can never be a yogi if he desires enjoyment as the fruit of his action. Remaining attached to worldliness all so called yoga practice is a sham. One must elevate himself by his mind and not degrade himself. The mind is the greatest friend of those who are self-controlled but the same mind is the greatest enemy of those who cannot master it. The yogi is always satisfied within and sees all mundane opposites with equal vision. He is moderate in all things, concentrates his consciousness on the Supreme Visnu and is fixed in realisation of the self and the Paramatma in all beings consequently attains eternal bliss in Samadhi. By means of regulating the mind through meditation and withdrawing the senses from their objects, the yogi becomes still and free of desire and being situated in the self is freed from the delusion of Maya. When the knowledge of his eternal relationship with Lord Krishna fully awakens in him he lives an eternal life of loving service to Him in the ever-blissful abode of Vraja.
Arjuna express doubt that due to the fickle nature of the mind, one could ever attain to such equilibrium in yoga as described by the Lord and goes on to say that it is easier to control the wind than to control the mind. The Lord admits this is true but says that though determined practice and appropriate detachment (yukta-vairagya) it is possible. Even if one is unsuccessful in yoga he will not be lost but will be born in the family of yoga practitioners after enjoying the heavenly planes and again his practice will continue from where he left off and he will attain perfection. The Lord says a yogi is always superior to those engaged in austerity (tapasvis), to those striving for knowledge (jnanis) and those absorbed in action (karmis). And of all yogis, the bhakti-yogi who is absorbed in loving devotion, his heart overflowing with Love for Sri Krishna is the best of all.
Useful Acronym to remember the chapter contents:
At the end of Chapter Five, Krishna briefly mentioned the system of
astanga-yoga – the strict, regulated, focused regime of an ascetic yogi. In
the present day, millions of people worldwide practice elements of this
path, primarily as hatha-yoga and pranayama, which offers benefits for
physical and emotional wellbeing. In this chapter, the path of astanga-yoga
is explained in its entirety. Essentially, Krishna’s establishes
that the “eight stage path” is fraught with difficulties. Therefore in an age
surcharged with temptation and distraction, the easiest (and topmost)
path of self-realisation and spiritual perfection is bhakti-yoga.
E Enemy or Friend?
S Success and failure
E – Enemy or Friend? (Verses 1-9) – During our sojourn in this temporary world we are perpetually accompanied by the “voice within”. Yes, we have all experienced it, the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other, each giving their own advice to the confused person in between. The mind is that voice within; essentially a storehouse of memories and experiences that offers options to the individual. An uncontrolled mind will agitate, misguide and entangle the soul within this world, forcing us to succumb to our lower nature of lust, anger and greed. The controlled mind, on the other hand, acts as a friend on our spiritual journey, helping us make progressive and healthy choices which bring us closer to God. When one controls and befriends the mind, one experiences tranquillity, peace and freedom from the duality
of happiness and distress.
A – Astanga-yoga (Verses 10-36) - One way to control the mind is through the process of astanga-yoga (which includes dhyana-yoga, the practice of meditation). Krishna explains the ancient path as it was practised in bygone ages. Living in seclusion, practising celibacy, and under strict regulations of eating and sleeping, the yogi would sit in a perfectly erect position, focusing his consciousness on the Supreme Soul within. Despite mental and bodily distractions, the yogi would meditate in this way for many years, maintaining stillness and complete silence. Hearing about this strict discipline, Arjuna admits his amazement – “This practice seems impractical and unendurable!” he exclaims, “to discipline the mind is more difficult than controlling the wind!” Krishna reasserts that disciplining the mind is essential and that it is possible through appropriate practice and detachment.
S – Success and failure (Verses 37-45) - Hearing about the difficult astanga-yoga process raises a new concern for Arjuna. What happens if one faithfully takes to this yogic process, but later falls away without perfecting his spiritual consciousness? The unsuccessful spiritualist is seemingly left in “no-man’s land” having failed to attain spiritual satisfaction and simultaneously squandered his opportunities for worldly pleasure. Krishna appeases all such fears by explaining that whoever takes up a genuine spiritual process is eternally benefited even if they don’t perfect it. If we don’t complete it in one lifetime, we carry on in the next life from the same point, and the individual thus evolves towards spiritual perfection.
Y – Yogi (Verses 46-47) - After summarising the arduous process of dhyana (meditation) and astanga-yoga, the chapter concludes with a ray of hope. Krishna reaffirms that the perfection and goal of all yoga systems is to help the individual become fully conscious of God at all times. While all yoga systems are certainly beneficial, the easiest, most efficient and essential path is known as bhakti-yoga (the yoga of devotion). In this age, the primary practice of bhakti-yoga is mantra meditation - chanting the names of God (Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare / Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare). Through this process, any person from any background can attain spiritual perfection and experience all the benefits described in this chapter and elsewhere.
Questions on Chapter 6
Chapter 6 slokas to learn:
pārtha naiveha nāmutra vināśas tasya vidyate
na hi kalyāṇa-kṛt kaśchid durgatiṁ tāta gachchhati 
śrī-bhagavān uvācha–The Supreme Lord said: (he) pārtha–O son of Kuntī; na vidyate–there is no; tasya vināśaḥ–loss for him, he is not denied the happiness of the heavenly plane; iha eva–in this world; na (vidyate)–and there is no; (tasya vināśaḥ)–loss for him, he is not denied the chance of the fortune to see the Supersoul; amutra–in the next life, i.e. in the supramundane plane; hi–since; (he) tata–O dear one; kaśchit–any; kalyāṇa-kṛt–person engaged in virtuous actions; na gachchhati durgatim–does not suffer an ill fate. 
40 The Supreme Lord said: O Arjuna, son of Kuntī, there is no loss for the unsuccessful yoga practitioner as he is not denied the happiness of the heavenly plane in this world, nor is he denied the chance of the fortune to see the Supersoul in the transcendental realm. This is so, O dear one, because a person who performs virtuous actions never suffers an ill fate.
yoginām api sarveṣāṁ mad-gatenāntar-ātmanā
śraddhāvān bhajate yo māṁ sa me yuktatamo mataḥ 
sarveṣām yoginām api–Of all types of yogīs on the paths of karma, jñān, tapasyā, aṣṭāṅga-yoga, bhakti, etc.; yaḥ–one who; śraddhāvān–with firm faith in the holy scriptures which corroborate the superexcellence of devotion for Me; antaḥ-ātmanā–and with heart; mat-gatena–fully dedicated to Me; bhajate mām–renders service to Me by engaging in the devotional practices based on hearing and chanting My glories; saḥ–such a devotee; yuktatamaḥ–is foremost. (iti)–This is; me–My; mataḥ–opinion. 
47 The best of all yogīs is the devotee who has full faith in the authoritative pure devotional scriptures, and who adores Me with all his heart, hearing and singing My divine glories, rendering all services unto Me. This is My opinion.