One-pointed mind and Mantra

The following is an excerpt of the commentary on the Bhagavad Gita by Radhikaji from her forthcoming book to be published in 2017. Chapter 1 Verses 11-30 are covered in this article.

Verse 11: Resolution of conflicts and an one-pointed mind

Bhishma is the custodian of the Kingdom, the Kingdom does not belong to him, yet he takes care of it. This is an attitude we need to cultivate.  Bhishma, however has a conflict,  he knows that he is on the wrong side of this battlefield. He too has tried very often to convince Duryodhana, that he should accept the Pandavas and resolve the lifetime of conflicts.

All of us have a part that struggles with our own unhealthy negative traits, we try to let go of them, we try to strengthen the positive qualities but there is a deep rooted resistance. Bhishma has a conflict because he has sworn to serve the Kingdom but now he knows he's on the wrong side of the battlefield. When you are at work sometimes that you do certain things that your conscience does not agree with. We live in this world and we need to make compromises with our values. For example a car salesperson may lie about the performance of the car or a lawyer may try to acquire information by illegal means. When you have a job, you have a duty to serve your employers but sometimes you have to do things which your conscience does not agree to. This is what happened to Bhishma. He had sworn to serve the throne of Hastinapura, and in this case the throne was occupied by the blind King Dhritarashtra, the father of the evil Kauravas. If we have deep conflicts, our conscience Buddhi pricks us then we become weak. A strong person is one who has the courage to resolve his own internal conflicts in the battle of dharma or righteousness. 

Duryodhana, who is aware that he is not absolutely right, is getting nervous, he is full of fears and feel the need to protect the commander-in-chief, Bhishma, because Bhishma has become weak.

Verses 12-18 Mantra the essence of the self

These verses describe the setting of the battlefield. Krishna, Arjuna, and Bhima are described. Krishna is called Hrishikesha, Lord of the Senses. Arjuna is called Dhananjaya, the Winner of Wealth. Bhima is called Vikrodara, Doer of Fierce Deeds. Throughout Indian scriptures and texts there is a tradition to call the same person by different names. These names describe different qualities, these names highlight these special qualities in them and they tell us much more about them than any long description would tell us. 

Krishna was master of the senses. Most of us has seen this picture of Krishna on a chariot, he is guiding the horses. The horses are a symbol of our indriyas, our senses and the reigns are Manas. Thus Krishna is symbolic of Buddhi, the Lord of Senses. When the senses are well trained all perfectly coordinated, they are subservient to the Buddhi, that means they follow the instructions of Buddhi.  Normally, the senses are dragging us everywhere. If you go out somewhere, you see a cafe, and your senses crave for sweets and ice cream. Suddenly you find yourself having an ice-cream even if you really did not want one. If you smell fragrances, your mind is attracted to the garden of flowers. If you hear music, you feel elated. Our senses are always pulling us in different directions. In the symbol of chariot and horses, the well trained and obedient horses are in the hands of Krishna. This is how the indriyas or the senses should be. The senses and manas should be subservient to buddhi. 

All the warriors have conches. When the warriors blow on these conches they produce a terrifying sound. This gives us an idea into the power of sound and mantras.  Sound has a very deep impact on us, it goes very deep. so we see that sound has a great power it can strike you very hard. The sound of thunder is very powerful and it churns up something up. Music inspires us, some music gives us energy, some music makes us feel sad. Hymns bhajans, religious music, makes us feel devotional. Sound goes much deeper than words. Words account only for 10% of the language we use. 90% of what we say is expressed through body language and we communicate this at the level of the unconscious mind. Words do not reach us at the unconscious level, sound does. Sound goes to the very core of the being and that is the basis of mantra vidya.

Verse 19: Avidya and Ahamkara

When you know you are wrong and your Ahamkara is challenged then it seems the heart is tore asunder. 

We have developed  habit patterns through our upbringing. These habit patterns have been partly encouraged by our family environment. Social attitudes and norms strengthen these thinking and behavioral habit patterns over years in our education system and in society in general. Meditation is a process of unlearning all the thinking and behavioral habit patterns. In effect we are “attacking” our own false identities. Naturally this is met with great resistance and only a very determined and courageous meditator will continue meditation. 

Verse 20: The monkey mind

Why does Arjuna have Hanuman as the emblem on his flag? Hanuman is the monkey god, he is an ardent devotee of Rama and Sita and his heroic tales are narrated in the Ramayana. The heroes of the Mahabharata are Arjuna and Krishna. The heroes of the Ramayana are Rama and his devotee Hanuman. Hanuman is absolutely humble, always serves Ram, who is the symbol of the centre of consciousness. Hanuman, his servant, is an ideal student. 

An ideal student is one who is humble. The student who is not humble, the students who thinks he already knows everything, can neither learn nor make any progress. The ideal student is one, who approaches with humility. Just like  Bhishma, Hanuman is also a celibate. He is known throughout India as the ideal brahmachari, celibate, and therefore he has withdrawn his energy from all worldly matters and devotes himself purely to the self transformation. This is a symbol. This does not mean that we all have to become celibates  or take sanyasa. You need to organize your life so that you have time and can channelize your energies in to spiritual practice. Hanuman has tremendous energy because he can channelize his energies into spiritual growth.

Verses 21-25: Vairagya or Witnessing

Those who do not understand the symbolism of the Bhagavad Gita mock the text, they take it literally. Such people ask: How is it possible for Arjuna to go into the centre of the battlefield when the two armies fully equipped are ready to start a battle? How can they have this dialogue when the two armies are waiting. The Bhagavad Gita is great spiritual literature and in literature one takes a creative license. This is an allegory; it is not to be taken literally. Here  it means you're going into the centre, looking at both sides, you are trying to get an overview, trying to get the big picture and understand both sides of the matter. Arjuna wants to look at the negative, unhealthy traits as well as the positive, healthy ones, so they go to the centre of the battlefield. 

Verses 26-28 False identities and Ahamkara

Arjuna sees his family and some of his old friends. He is still attached to them, he is identifying with them. We identify with our thoughts, negative or positive. If I have negative thoughts, I feel guilty and I condemn myself this makes me weak. If I have positive thoughts, I am  very proud of this  or I want to have more  of something, I get greedy then  and  this also makes me weak.  When we identify with our thoughts, negative or positive, we strengthen our samskaras or the impressions in the mind. This makes us weak. Arjuna is still standing  in the middle of the battlefield. He has taken the stance of Vairagya. In meditation this means that both negative and positive  thoughts start appearing and you become more conscious of yourself. 


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Verses 29-30: Turmoil and meditation

In the process of meditation you start dealing with the self identities, which is nothing other than ahamkara. You  begin to see  the negative qualities in yourself. You are unable to deal with these and there's a great deal of self condemnation and turmoil. We know that when we are under great deal of stress your body is affected. You are not likely to face a saber-toothed tiger like our ancient ancestors did. But the tiger may take the form of an authoritative employer, a strict teacher or an violent family member.  Your limbs are frozen, your muscles are tense  and you are unable to think properly, your head is spinning and you can't even stand up, you feel so weak,  this is a situation where Arjuna is right now. 

While there are many scientific definitions of stress, from a yogic perspective stress is simply a situation where there is in conflict. Such as differences of opinion with your boss or lack of agreement within a family. You may have value-based stress, such as a person with a strong ethical upbringing may not be able to work in a marketing company where you are expected to promote products with lies. The long term results of such conflicts or stress is disease.