In 3 steps to Moksha

The following is an excerpt of the commentary on the Bhagavad Gita by Radhikaji from her forthcoming book to be published in 2017. This article summarizes verses 1-13 from Chapter 6 of the Bhagavad Gita.

Verses 1-2: What is sannyasa? Who is a yogi?

A sannyasi or renunciate and a yogi are basically one and the same. Renouncing ritual fires does not make one into a yogi or sannyasi.  Even one who sits around actionless, claiming to be a sannyasi does not become a sannyasi. It is the internal condition that is an important prerequisite and the internal condition is one who has renounced the desire itself. Renunciation of desire or sannyas is the same as yoga.

In the West and in modern India as well, gymnastic exercises of all kinds are called yoga and we have forgotten the true meaning of Yoga. Yoga is union of the Individual Self with the Universal Self. A sannyasi or a yogi is not somebody who merely renounces the objects (tyaga), but also renunciates the desire for those objects, that is, vairagya.

Verses 3-4: What is Dhyana?

To desire to attain the state of union or Yoga means that you have already attained some glimpses of the Highest. 

Karma yoga can be practiced by all. You learn to do your actions in a skillful manner so that these actions do not become an obstacle. A sadhaka can organize his life so that the world does not become an obstacle and all actions and thoughts are well coordinated and harmonious.  Once you have attained some spontaneous glimpses Dhyana or systematic superconscious meditation becomes your support. With systematic superconscious meditation or dhyana the practitioner can fathom the depths of the mind and attain the state of union or Yoga.  Therefore meditation may not be the path for everybody to start with. Without the insights and mystical glimpses, systematic meditation may become a monotonous repetition of techniques lacking in the vital essence. Systematic superconscious meditation or Dhyana is suitable for an evolved soul or jivatman that is not satisfied with mere glimpses of a higher reality but wants to be established in Yoga. Such an evolved soul or jivatman loses interest in the worldly objects. Having had glimpses of a higher reality already by leading a skillful and selfless life, he no longer finds pleasure from these worldly objects nor does he feel the need to perform all sorts of actions that worldly people perform. These verses explain this, that meditation is a privilege for those who do not have much interest in worldly objects and worldly desires. They have started to question the way the society is set up and they want to unveil the mysteries of life and death.

Verses 5-6: Make the mind your Friend

The essence of these verses is that the mind should be a friend and not a foe. The mind is a useful instrument just like the body. It is very common to read books and hear the modern day yoga teachers referring to the mind as a mad monkey. Indeed, an untrained mind is an enemy, but should we constantly condemn the mind? It is the only instrument we have, so it does not seem useful to condemn it.  Instead train the mind and make the mind your friend. 

Learn to develop a positive relationship with the mind. The first step in systematic meditation is called Internal Dialogue or Atma Vichara. With the help of this practice you learn to develop a relationship with the mind. Most of us are strangers to ourselves. When you meet a stranger you introduce yourself and you get to know each other, then you are no longer strangers to each other.  Eventually you become friends but this does not happen in one meeting. It is a gradual process that takes place over a period of time. Similarly in meditation you learn to develop this relationship with your mind over a period of time. Just like in real life relationships, which develop over a long period of time you also need to invest into this relationship with the mind.

Verses 7-9: Everything is Consciousness

The essence of these verses is that one who has attained the supreme Self witnesses all as Pure Consciousness. Whether stone or a nugget of gold he sees only Pure Consciousness. Whether friend or foe, he does not distinguish between the two, because he is established in Pure Consciousness. A Self-realized being witness all as Pure Consciousness.  This is not an instruction on how you should behave. This is a description of how a Witness sees the world. This is the state you should aspire to attain.  While verses 7-9 are not instructions, the following verses 10-13 are indeed instructions on what to practice Dhyana and attain the state of a Witness. 

Verses 10-13: In 3 steps to Moksha

The Bhagavad Gita describes a meditation seat made out of cloth, deer skin and kusha grass. Wandering yogis having to sit on the hard, uneven and cold ground would be uncomfortable therefore they needed a seat that was well insulated with cloth, deer skin and kusha grass one on top of the other. This detailed description indicates the importance of having a good seat for dhyana. Important is the principle of having layers. The first layer of cloth is to protect the seat from the dirt on the floor of the jungle. The animal skin provided insulation against the cold floor that would otherwise upset the energy balance in the body. The third layer of kusha grass provided comfort and stability from the hard and uneven ground.

You can sit in meditation in the comfort of your home on a seat that is well insulated, such as a woolen blanket. Cover the woolen blanket with a silk shawl instead of kusha grass so that the woolen blanket does not itch the skin. 

You may also use animal skins such as sheepskin or synthetic materials instead of a woolen blanket. In the early stages of meditation it is not so important to use animal skin. In advanced stages of meditation the practitioner may become sensitive to very slight changes in the energy and may prefer to use an animal skin seat instead of a woolen blanket. 

Verse 13 says, "Samam kayashirahgrivam" that is holding your body or trunk, head and neck straight. "Kaya" is the body, "shirah" is the head, grivam is the neck. The instruction is to sit with head, neck and trunk aligned and remain unmoving, observing the space between the nostrils. 

The space between the nostrils is known as "nasikagram" in Sanskrit. Literally it means, "tip, beginning, front of nose".  This is unclear and there are many interpretations of this term. Generally,  nasikagram is that point between the nostrils at the bridge of the nose. It does not mean observing this point with the eyes so that you look cock eyed. If you try to hold your eyes in that position they will start paining and you cannot meditate. It means one observes this point between the nostrils with the eye of the mind, that is simply pay attention and not let the mind drift in various directions. This practice is also known as Sandhya, the wedding of the sun and the moon. 

In these verses 3 basic steps are given: 

  1. Make friends with your mind,
  2. Sit with neck and trunk aligned
  3. and observe the flow of the breath between the nostrils