Gyan Yoga in Bhagavat Gita
Most, including the recalcitrant, agreed that Hinduism possesses the world’s largest volume of religious literature. Among this large volume, the Bhagavat Gita is considered the supreme composition that changed Hinduism from a sacrifice-based religion to a devotion-based religion. This change in the foundations of Hinduism was the main elixir which kept making it stronger throughout the last two millennia during which the religion faced repeated challenges.
The period of Upanishads was concerned with affirmations in the concept of Atma and Parmatma (Brahma). This knowledge had spread among the philosophers and theologists. The concept of Karma (good deeds and bad deeds earned during the lifetime) also acquired recognition during that era. The concept of repeated re-births and repeated re-deaths was highly disturbing. The concept of the transmigration of souls as per Karma was also disturbing. As a result, people were drifting towards asceticism (Sanyas) during the latter half of the Upanishadic period, particularly in the seventh and sixth centuries BCE.
This tendency was confirmed by Gautam Budha and Mahavir who were Royal Kshatriya princes raised in luxuries. They were married and both of them had offspring but both of them became ascetics (sanyasi). Search for knowledge was their main objective.
In this environment, we come to Bhagavat Gita which is a compendium of spiritual knowledge available in one of the finest verses in the world. The composition imparts knowledge about Karma yoga, Bhakti yoga and Gyan yoga.
The Gyan yoga is a very extensive section in Bhagavat Gita. It covers many aspects of spiritual concerns like the nature of Atma, the relationship between Atma and Parmatma, the concept of salvation and ways of attaining salvation, the concept of divine and demonic qualities the effects of triguniya maya, dhyan yoga and control of mind and many other related aspects. It is difficult to cover all of them in one article. It is better to take them one by one.
Nature of Atma in Bhagavat Gita:
The concept of Atma had a detailed discussion in Brihadaranyak, Chhandogya Katha and Shvestavatar Upanishads.
The nature of Atma / Parmatma can be understood through a small extract from Brihadaranyak Upanishad (Chapter II – 4 – 12).
“Put this salt in water, and come to me in the morning”.
“The son did as he was told. The father said: ‘Fetch the salt.’ The son looked for it, but could not find it, because it had dissolved.
“Taste the water from the top’, said the father. ‘How does it taste?’
Of salt, the son replied.
“Taste from the middle. How does it taste?’
Of salt, the son replied.
“Taste from the bottom. How does it taste?’
Of salt, the son replied.
“Then the father said: You don’t perceive that the one Reality (sat) exists in your body, my son, but it is truly there. Everything which is has its being in that subtle essence. That is Reality! That is the Soul! And you are that, Svetaketu!”
The concept of soul in Bhagavat Gita is more or less the same but it is not reflective of the doctrine of Advaita of Shankaracharya. Sri Krishna says that the souls of the individuals engaged in good Karmas will attain salvation and will mingle with Parmatma but the souls of those who will remain in perpetual bondage will remain engaged in fruitive action and lust. Such Atmas will have to undergo repeated births and deaths. The nature of Atma described in the Bhagavat Gita and the manifestation of the Parmatma into Atma (human) as well as non-human have been covered beautifully in the following verses.
Bhagavat Gita: Chapter 2
न जायते म्रियते वा कदाचि नायं भूत्वा भविता वा न भूय: |
अजो नित्य: शाश्वतोऽयं पुराणो न हन्यते हन्यमाने शरीरे || 20||
na jāyate mriyate vā kadāchin nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ
ajo nityaḥ śhāśhvato ’yaṁ purāṇo na hanyate hanyamāne śharīre
The soul is neither born, nor does it ever die; nor having once existed, does it ever cease to be. The soul is without birth, eternal, immortal, and ageless. It is not destroyed when the body is destroyed.
वेदाविनाशिनं नित्यं य एनमजमव्ययम् |
कथं स पुरुष: पार्थ कं घातयति हन्ति कम् || 21||
vedāvināśhinaṁ nityaṁ ya enam ajam avyayam
kathaṁ sa puruṣhaḥ pārtha kaṁ ghātayati hanti kam
O Parth, how can one who knows the soul to be imperishable, eternal, unborn, and immutable kill anyone or cause anyone to kill?
वासांसि जीर्णानि यथा विहाय नवानि गृह्णाति नरोऽपराणि |
तथा शरीराणि विहाय जीर्णा न्यन्यानि संयाति नवानि देही || 22||
vāsānsi jīrṇāni yathā vihāya navāni gṛihṇāti naro ’parāṇi
tathā śharīrāṇi vihāya jīrṇānya nyāni sanyāti navāni dehī
As a person sheds worn-out garments and wears new ones, likewise, at the time of death, the soul casts off its worn-out body and enters a new one.
नैनं छिन्दन्ति शस्त्राणि नैनं दहति पावक: |
न चैनं क्लेदयन्त्यापो न शोषयति मारुत: || 23||
nainaṁ chhindanti śhastrāṇi nainaṁ dahati pāvakaḥ
na chainaṁ kledayantyāpo na śhoṣhayati mārutaḥ
Weapons cannot shred the soul, nor can fire burn it. Water cannot wet it, nor can the wind dry it.
अच्छेद्योऽयमदाह्योऽयमक्लेद्योऽशोष्य एव च |
नित्य: सर्वगत: स्थाणुरचलोऽयं सनातन: || 24||
achchhedyo ’yam adāhyo ’yam akledyo ’śhoṣhya eva cha
nityaḥ sarva-gataḥ sthāṇur achalo ’yaṁ sanātanaḥ
The soul is unbreakable and incombustible; it can neither be dampened nor dried. It is everlasting, in all places, unalterable, immutable, and primordial.
तस्मादेवं विदित्वैनं नानुशोचितुमर्हसि || 25||
avyakto ’yam achintyo ’yam avikāryo ’yam uchyate
tasmādevaṁ viditvainaṁ nānuśhochitum arhasi
The soul is spoken of as invisible, inconceivable, and unchangeable. Knowing this, you should not grieve for the body.
जातस्य हि ध्रुवो मृत्युर्ध्रुवं जन्म मृतस्य च |
तस्मादपरिहार्येऽर्थे न त्वं शोचितुमर्हसि || 27||
jātasya hi dhruvo mṛityur dhruvaṁ janma mṛitasya cha
tasmād aparihārye ’rthe na tvaṁ śhochitum arhasi
Death is certain for one who has been born, and rebirth is inevitable for one who has died. Therefore, you should not lament over the inevitable.
Manifestation of Parmatma into Atma:
Bhagavat Gita: Chapter 4
यदा यदा हि धर्मस्य ग्लानिर्भवति भारत |
अभ्युत्थानमधर्मस्य तदात्मानं सृजाम्यहम् || 7||
yadā yadā hi dharmasya glānir bhavati bhārata
abhyutthānam adharmasya tadātmānaṁ sṛijāmyaham
Whenever there is a decline in righteousness and an increase in unrighteousness, O Arjun, at that time I manifest Myself on earth.
परित्राणाय साधूनां विनाशाय च दुष्कृताम् |
धर्मसंस्थापनार्थाय सम्भवामि युगे युगे || 8||
paritrāṇāya sādhūnāṁ vināśhāya cha duṣhkṛitām
dharma-sansthāpanārthāya sambhavāmi yuge yuge
To protect the righteous, to annihilate the wicked, and to reestablish the principles of dharma I appear on this earth, age after age.
जन्म कर्म च मे दिव्यमेवं यो वेत्ति तत्त्वत: |
त्यक्त्वा देहं पुनर्जन्म नैति मामेति सोऽर्जुन || 9||
janma karma cha me divyam evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ
tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti mām eti so ’rjuna
Those who understand the divine nature of My birth and activities, O Arjun, upon leaving the body, do not have to take birth again, but come to My eternal abode.
वीतरागभयक्रोधा मन्मया मामुपाश्रिता: |
बहवो ज्ञानतपसा पूता मद्भावमागता: || 10||
vīta-rāga-bhaya-krodhā man-mayā mām upāśhritāḥ
bahavo jñāna-tapasā pūtā mad-bhāvam āgatāḥ
Being free from attachment, fear, and anger, becoming fully absorbed in Me, and taking refuge in Me, many persons in the past became purified by knowledge of Me, and thus attained My divine love.
ये यथा मां प्रपद्यन्ते तांस्तथैव भजाम्यहम् |
मम वर्त्मानुवर्तन्ते मनुष्या: पार्थ सर्वश: || 11||
ye yathā māṁ prapadyante tāns tathaiva bhajāmyaham
mama vartmānuvartante manuṣhyāḥ pārtha sarvaśhaḥ
In whatever way people surrender unto Me, I reciprocate accordingly. Everyone follows My path, knowingly or unknowingly, O son of Pritha.
Consequences of Lust:
Lust is the biggest obstacle in the way of salvation of the soul. It is one of the main asuri qualities emanating from Tamogun and Rajoguna which creates delusion. The following verses explain it explicitly as follows.
Bhagavat Gita: Chapter 2,
ध्यायतो विषयान्पुंस: सङ्गस्तेषूपजायते |
सङ्गात्सञ्जायते काम: कामात्क्रोधोऽभिजायते || 62||
dhyāyato viṣhayān puṁsaḥ saṅgas teṣhūpajāyate
saṅgāt sañjāyate kāmaḥ kāmāt krodho ’bhijāyate
While contemplating the objects of the senses, one develops an attachment to them. Attachment leads to desire, and from desire arises anger.
क्रोधाद्भवति सम्मोह: सम्मोहात्स्मृतिविभ्रम: |
स्मृतिभ्रंशाद् बुद्धिनाशो बुद्धिनाशात्प्रणश्यति || 63||
krodhād bhavati sammohaḥ sammohāt smṛiti-vibhramaḥ
smṛiti-bhranśhād buddhi-nāśho buddhi-nāśhāt praṇaśhyati
Anger leads to clouding of judgment, which results in bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, the intellect gets destroyed; and when the intellect is destroyed, one is ruined.
इन्द्रियाणां हि चरतां यन्मनोऽनुविधीयते |
तदस्य हरति प्रज्ञां वायुर्नावमिवाम्भसि || 67||
indriyāṇāṁ hi charatāṁ yan mano ’nuvidhīyate
tadasya harati prajñāṁ vāyur nāvam ivāmbhasi
Just as a strong wind sweeps a boat off its chartered course on the water, even one of the senses on which the mind focuses can lead the intellect astray.
तस्माद्यस्य महाबाहो निगृहीतानि सर्वश: |
इन्द्रियाणीन्द्रियार्थेभ्यस्तस्य प्रज्ञा प्रतिष्ठिता || 68||
tasmād yasya mahā-bāho nigṛihītāni sarvaśhaḥ
indriyāṇīndriyārthebhyas tasya prajñā pratiṣhṭhitā
Therefore, one who has restrained the senses from their objects, O mighty-armed Arjun, is firmly established in transcendental knowledge.
Bhagavat Gita: Chapter 3
काम एष क्रोध एष रजोगुणसमुद्भव: ||
महाशनो महापाप्मा विद्ध्येनमिह वैरिणम् || 37||
śhrī bhagavān uvācha
kāma eṣha krodha eṣha rajo-guṇa-samudbhavaḥ
mahāśhano mahā-pāpmā viddhyenam iha vairiṇam
The Supreme Lord said: It is lust alone, which is born of contact with the mode of passion, and later transformed into anger. Know this as the sinful, all-devouring enemy in the world.
धूमेनाव्रियते वह्निर्यथादर्शो मलेन च |
यथोल्बेनावृतो गर्भस्तथा तेनेदमावृतम् || 38||
dhūmenāvriyate vahnir yathādarśho malena cha
yatholbenāvṛito garbhas tathā tenedam āvṛitam
Just as a fire is covered by smoke, a mirror is masked by dust, and an embryo is concealed by the womb, similarly one’s knowledge gets shrouded by desire.
आवृतं ज्ञानमेतेन ज्ञानिनो नित्यवैरिणा |
कामरूपेण कौन्तेय दुष्पूरेणानलेन च || 39||
āvṛitaṁ jñānam etena jñānino nitya-vairiṇā
kāma-rūpeṇa kaunteya duṣhpūreṇānalena cha
The knowledge of even the most discerning gets covered by this perpetual enemy in the form of insatiable desire, which is never satisfied and burns like fire, O son of Kunti.
इन्द्रियाणि मनो बुद्धिरस्याधिष्ठानमुच्यते |
एतैर्विमोहयत्येष ज्ञानमावृत्य देहिनम् || 40||
indriyāṇi mano buddhir asyādhiṣhṭhānam uchyate
etair vimohayatyeṣha jñānam āvṛitya dehinam
The senses, mind, and intellect are said to be breeding grounds of desire. Through them, it clouds one’s knowledge and deludes the embodied soul.
तस्मात्त्वमिन्द्रियाण्यादौ नियम्य भरतर्षभ |
पाप्मानं प्रजहि ह्येनं ज्ञानविज्ञाननाशनम् || 41||
tasmāt tvam indriyāṇyādau niyamya bharatarṣhabha
pāpmānaṁ prajahi hyenaṁ jñāna-vijñāna-nāśhanam
Therefore, O best of the Bharatas, in the very beginning bring the senses under control and slay this enemy called desire, which is the embodiment of sin and destroys knowledge and realization.
इन्द्रियाणि पराण्याहुरिन्द्रियेभ्य: परं मन: |
मनसस्तु परा बुद्धिर्यो बुद्धे: परतस्तु स: || 42||
indriyāṇi parāṇyāhur indriyebhyaḥ paraṁ manaḥ
manasas tu parā buddhir yo buddheḥ paratas tu saḥ
The senses are superior to the gross body and superior to the senses is the mind. Beyond the mind is the intellect, and even beyond the intellect is the soul.
एवं बुद्धे: परं बुद्ध्वा संस्तभ्यात्मानमात्मना |
जहि शत्रुं महाबाहो कामरूपं दुरासदम् || 43||
evaṁ buddheḥ paraṁ buddhvā sanstabhyātmānam ātmanā
jahi śhatruṁ mahā-bāho kāma-rūpaṁ durāsadam
Thus, knowing the soul to be superior to the material intellect, O mighty-armed Arjun, subdue the lower self (senses, mind, and intellect) by the higher self (strength of the soul), and kill this formidable enemy called lust.
I am a Vedic astrologer by profession. I have done Jyotish Acharya from Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan. I am devoted to my Sadguru Shri Sai Nath of Shirdi. I am also interested in spirituality. I love to guide people.