Musings on the Bhagavad Gita 9: The Yoga of Self-Control

Spirituality is often mistakenly associated with forest, churches, monasteries, monks, and rags.

It becomes a great challenge, therefore, for someone living in the so-called world of matter to give up the comforts of home and household to pursue spiritual life. This is why those who are in robes and rags are held in high esteem, even worshipped.

Arjuna is ready to accept the challenge.

He is ready to leave the battlefield and become a wandering monk. His logic is at work, “If I loose the war, I am a pauper. I am a soldier of no honor. Why, I may not even live to suffer my loss. I could get killed. Why take the risk? If I leave the battleground to become a monk, I may even be praised for being an advocate of non-violence.”

No, no, no, even Gandhi – the Mahatma, the Great Soul, and the greatest advocate of non-violence in modern times – wouldn’t have agreed with Arjuna. He said that if you embrace non-violence out of fear, then you are a coward. Non-violence is a weapon used by the most powerful, the most strong, not by the weak and the cowards.

The Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad Gita opens with Krishna’s argument, “Arjuna, do not mistake spirituality with shaven head or overgrown beard. Various rituals, even meditation-techniques are not spirituality. They are merely tools to realize the spirit within. The way to spiritual realization is through:


“All those tools help you master the art of self-control. You can be in the world, you can be in this battleground, and yet, with a restrained ‘self’, you can be spiritual all the same. You need not go anywhere to practice spirituality.

“Desires attach you to the world of matter, and such attachment is an illusion. Self-Control is the art of mastery over desires. Governed by desires, you will always be subject to momentary pleasures and pains. Fight for the cause – the noble cause to uphold Justice, Truth, and Righteousness.  Do not fight for the fulfillment of any desire. Thus, you shall have mastery over your self.

“Know, Arjuna, that ‘self’ is its own greatest friend as well as the most terrible enemy. Let loose, your desires can take you for a ride, you can never catch up with them. Thus your life becomes miserable.

“Be true to yourself Arjuna, isn’t it your desire to defeat the enemy that makes you fearful? You keep forgetting the noble cause that you are fighting for.”

Next, Krishna describes the nature of the true spiritual beings, and the most important trait is that of:


“The truly spiritual are not affected by gain or loss. They are the same in pain and pleasure. To them, both heat and cold are passing phenomena. Their sole focus is upon their life-path, upon the noble cause of living, which is living rightly, upholding truth and justice, loving, sharing, and caring.”

I was once talking to a pilot of commercial plane, and he confided in me: “In spite of all security measures, there are times when I am left with my flying skill, reflexes, and above all intuition alone. There have been times when the machine failed me. It’s scary, but when I think of the lives of more than 300 passengers at stake, I can overcome my fear in an instant.”

Those who walk the path of truth and righteousness are often challenged by the forces of untruth and unrighteousness.

How do they maintain their peace, equilibrium, and above all sanity? By focusing upon the cause. It is the noble cause of upholding the truth and righteousness that is, naturally, not digestible to the unrighteous.

The forces of untruth and unrighteousness are always fearful of the truth and righteousness.

God forgive them, yes, but that does not mean that the righteous should submit to their atrocities. They should defend righteousness with all their might.

As the unrighteous, by their very nature, will always challenge the righteous, so too the righteous will always defend the righteousness.

Krishna Continues…

“One who is the master of his desires – his self – attains to the state of equilibrium. He is at peace with himself, and therefore at peace with the world. He sees all as the reflections of the Divine that is one and the same. He sees not himself apart or separate from others.”

This needs some deep reflection.

Misunderstood, this philosophy can raise many questions in support of Arjuna’s despondency, doubts, and depression: “If it is the same Divine reflecting in all, then why should I fight my own cousins? Why are you pushing me into this undesirable war, Krishna?”

This misunderstanding is caused by the misidentification of our “true self” within that is the reflection of the One Divine Self, with our mind and body.

It is like misidentifying a virus in your body with your being. The unlawful viruses attacking the cherished values of justice, equality, and togetherness must be dealt with. You cannot allow them to kill you.

Krishna is about to introduce his understanding of active meditation, this sixth chapter continues next week…

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