Managing desire or kama 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 3 Verse 36 - Chapter 4 Verse 8 are covered in this article.

Verses 36-40: Understanding Desire or kama

Desire is is not the enemy as in something really negative. It is enemy in the sense of that which opposes knowledge. The worldly activities  distract from true knowledge.  Desire is a smokescreen. The senses, mind and buddhi cannot see through the smoke screen. This confuses the body bearing one. Who bears the body? It is the Self, the Atman, who is the body bearer. The senses, the mind and even buddhi is a part of this duality, the smokescreen. 

If even Buddhi is part of the smokescreen, how is it possible for us to get out of the maze of duality? In spite of the fact that Buddhi is a part of duality, we need to sharpen Buddhi.  In the Yoga Vashishta, it explains that just as a thorn is used to remove a thorn, so also you need to use the mind to overcome the mind. We need to have a sharp Buddhi to go beyond the smokescreen created of worldly activities created by desire.

Verse 41: Begin by training the senses

Spiritual mastery begins with the senses. It is the shortest and simplest path to take to mastery over the self. One does not begin with the Ahamkara. What would happen if you begin with Ahamkara? Beginning with an impure Ahamkara means you are setting yourself up for failure because the impure Ahamkara is very tricky and powerful. If you have just learned how to drive a car and you try to drive a Ferrari, a very powerful sports car, what would happen?  You are not skilled and experienced enough to drive such  a powerful car. You will probably destroy the car and may be even harm yourself. So begin with that which is the easiest and the simplest: learn to observe the senses, convince them, train them and coordinate them.

The senses themselves have deep habit patterns. The outward moving tendency has been created not only in this lifetime but over many lifetimes. We have desires and we are here to manifest these desires. To reverse this is by no means an easy task. Therefore guidance and a sharp buddhi is required.

Verses 42-43: From gross to subtle, the path leading within

Sri Krishna now outlines the entire path: you start with the senses,  beyond the senses is the mind, after to the mind is buddhi and beyond buddhi is the Self or Atman. The inward moving path goes from gross to subtle. This is exactly the reverse of what is generally happening. Generally we are always going outwards, and now we need to reverse it and go from the senses, to mind to buddhi and to One beyond. 

This is the path we need take to destroy the elusive enemy of desire. Desire is just another word for samskaras. This is the systematic path inward. If you do not follow this systematic inward moving path you will not reach the subtle-most higher Self since there is no other path you can take. If you do not take this path you will be lost in the world of worldly objects. This outward moving path is known as pravritti marga. The inward moving path is known as the nivritti marga.

Chapter Four

Verses 1-3: Yoga Lineage and Qualification

The Brahmins or priests were custodians of knowledge, but over a period of time, they have become custodians of mere scriptural knowledge. They have access to the scriptures but they do not necessarily have the direct knowledge of that which was taught in these scriptures, Self Realization or attainment of higher states of consciousness and so over time the yoga parampara or yoga lineage shifted from a father-son lineage to a teacher-student lineage. The brahminical lineage is based on birth and is even today male dominated. The yoga lineage is based on qualification and is is not restricted to the firstborn son. All that matters is qualification. It is accessible to all qualified students irrespective of their birth, education, social status, gender or race.

Verses 4-6: Eternal knowledge

How is it possible for Sri Krishna to have taught teachers like Vivasvat he proceeded him? Krishna does not identify with the mortal body.Sri Krishna identifies with the unborn, the immutable Self, this is the Cosmic Self or Universal Self. Therefore Sri Krishna has knowledge of different lives and realms, that other mortals do not. When such a being incarnates, he has mastery over Prakruti or all his external reality. Mastery over the external reality means he remembers, is aware constantly and is therefore not driven by destiny or fate. This will remain a mystery until one attains this level of Self awareness.

Verses 7-8: A divine assurance

With the rise of materialistic values, there's a concern that spiritual values and the ancient lineages of meditation will disappear, that Adharma will rise and unrighteousness become stronger. This has happened before if we would study the history of yoga. During the times of the Vedas, the traditions disintegrated into mere ritualism, out of those ashes of ritualism came the fine profound wisdom of the Upanishads. Over centuries the sublime teachings of the Upanishads were neglected as the various traditions degenerated in to philosophizing and debating. As a response to the increasing ritualism on one hand and the intellectual and scholarly study on the other, the fine teachings of Advaita were revived by Adi Shankara. When invading forces from the West took over parts of northern India and eventually all of India, Sanatana dharma went underground. During these long and dark ages, much of the great teachings, scriptures and knowledge was lost or buried for many centuries and have only recently been revived just in the last few decades. Many lineages and traditions have been revived once again yet the danger has not passed; we find that yoga itself has been commercialized.

Thus the cycle of degeneration and revival has been seen throughout history and it is clear that these cycles will continue. This knowledge about the mysteries of life and death is like a fire. The flames of the fire may go out, but the amber continues to burn. We just need to blow on it a little bit and it will turn into a raging fire once again. These verses give us the assurance that these fine values and sublime truths will never die out, they are immortal and eternal.


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