Role of Buddhi in Yoga Meditation

The following is an excerpt of the commentary on the Bhagavad Gita by Radhikaji from her forthcoming book to be published in 2017. Chapter 2 Verses 47-54 are covered in this article.

Verse 47: Skillfulness in action

This verse is one of the most important verses in the Bhagavad-Gita. It is this verse, that gives us the idea, that we should perform all action without attachment. This is known as karmaphala tyaga. Karma means action. Phala means fruit. Tyaga means renunciation.This is renunciation of the fruit of action. It is this verse that has often been misunderstood. You think, “I should be attached neither to actions nor to the fruit of actions.” Yet when you not get the fruit of that action you find yourself disappointed. Was that really action without expectation of fruit? No! 

When you do not get the fruit of certain action and as a result thereof you experience anger or sadness, that clearly means that the expectation was hidden. How can we perform action without expectation of fruit? For most people trying to perform action without expectation of fruit proves to be a burden. Our duty becomes a burden and we become miserable. 

Ancient Greeks spoke of "Knowledge for the sake of knowledge". They spend years developing theories for example in geometry for no particular reason. They observed shapes and developed branches of mathematics that had no major application at that time. They did it because  they enjoyed observing the universe around them. They did it out of love for “knowledge for the sake of knowledge”. What is  the purpose of a beautiful flower? It blooms and then it's gone. So when we do things without expecting rewards, we flower, we blossom. This is what it means to live like a lotus.

While this verse is a call to renounce the reward of action, it also cautions against giving up action itself. Do not fall in to the trap of dull passivity!

Verse 48: Samatvam or equanimity

If we would be able to renounce the fruit of the karma, that is, experience joy in the action irrespective of reward, how would our attitude be? This attitude or bhava is known as samatvam or equanimity, non-attachment.  

Samatvam or equanimity does not come from an intellectual approach. It is an insight and it is enjoying the action really for the sake of that action. Some of us enjoy gardening. It is a hobby and you do not have a purpose for gardening, you simply enjoy it. Most of us have hobbies, some enjoy music or painting, dance, reading a book. Why do you do these things? For the joy of it. 

If we carry over this joyous attitude or bhava into every aspect of our life, then we become prosperous. That is why Krishna calls Arjuna in this verse conquer of wealth Dhananjaya. Wealth does not mean only financial wealth, gold or land. We also need wealth of talent, family, health, intelligence. Wealth means abundance and prosperity. Abundance comes when you’re not attached to the rewards of action.

Verse 49-51: Buddhi and practice

In these verses, Sri Krishna is emphasizing on Buddhi. A sharp Buddhi is able to make good judgements. When your Buddhi is really alert and aware, you will not fall into this state of attachment and aversion. Attachment (raga) as well as aversion (dvesa) are two sides of the same coin, either you get attached to certain actions or you feel averse to certain actions. Take a normal household duty. Some people enjoy cooking, they turn this household chore into an art, while others feel burdened by it. This aversion, then becomes the cause of suffering. Learn to enjoy cooking, but do not get attached to it. If you put yourself under pressure to churn out amazing dishes every day, you will be creating stress. Without the pressure of performance you enjoy the cooking. Similarly you can enjoy all your duties in this spirit.  

This is a skill we need to cultivate. We spend years decades l prepared for our professional life. In these areas we are ready to go through a step-by-step process yet when it comes to our spiritual development we get very impatient and we keep condemning ourselves. We need to cultivate the patience as well to do this for a long time. What is long time? In the Yoga Sutras it says: unbroken practice, without interruption for a long period of time. Long-time is until you have attained. It is a different amount of time for each individual. Some have evolved and go faster, some need longer. There are many factors involved. According to the Yoga Sutras the method and the quality of the student is important. If you have a poor method, but a high quality of student you can still attain something, but if you have a speedy method but a very poor quality of student, you may not attain as much. While there are many factors influencing progress, we need to know that this is a skill that requires patience and a certain amount to time to go through the process. 

Verses 52-53: The light of Buddhi

Due to a lack of a good translation in English and other languages, the word Buddhi has been translated as intellect, inner wisdom, conscience or inner voice, all different words and all meaning the same thing: Buddhi. However none of these words convey the wonderful quality of Buddhi. The word Buddhi comes from the same root as Buddha, the enlightened one. Buddhi comes from the same root and it implies light, it means being awake or conscious, It also means expansion. Buddhi implies that part in you, which provides you with the light, which creates an expansion of consciousness, helps you cross this darkness of ignorance. Buddhi as an experience has a leading quality.

Verse 54: How to find a teacher 

How does one find a good teacher is a question asked by all sincere students. 

How does he sit, how does he walk? These are exactly the kind of questions that an immature student asks. Such students are attracted to people with fancy titles, they are attracted to large organizations assuming that if everybody follows him, he must be good. This is not the sharpness of Buddhi.  A teacher with a large following does not necessarily mean, he is a good teacher, it can also mean that he has a very good marketing manager.

How else shall one find a good teacher? Has he got nice orange costume, is he old, does he have a beard? Based on such superficial external concepts, young seekers fall into traps and ignore the real teachers. Traditionally it is said, "Because there is gold, there is imitation gold." If you want imitation, you get imitation and if you want real gold, then you will have to have patience and strengthen your longing. Be where you are and practice what you know. Prepare yourself, when you are ready the teacher will appear. It does not have to be a famous teacher, with a huge following and with fancy titles, nice costume and nice long beard. It can be a very simple unassuming person. The teacher may be very young because age is no bar. The teacher could be a woman, gender too is no bar. There is no real way that one can identify a wise person by looking at a person. We cannot judge from the external appearances or actions. If the mind is clouded, how shall we be able to see and judge the actions of others. The finest of all tantric texts the Tripura Rahasya says, "Only a thief recognizes a thief. So also only a jnani recognizes a jnani."

Practice what you know. If you don’t know anything and you do not have a teacher then just practice prayer, four times a day. Express that longing in your own words. If your longing is sincere, you will be lifted.