The Bhagavad Gita, the divine song of Bhagwan Krishna, is one of the most sacred texts of “Sanatan Dharma”, more commonly known as Hinduism. The Bhagavad Gita consisting of 700 shlokas in eighteen chapters, is embedded in Bhishma Parva of Mahabharata, the epic authored by Sage Ved Vyas. The epic was probably written around 500 BCE, and since it makes no reference to Buddhism, most scholars consider it to have been composed before the advent of Buddha. The votaries of Advaita Vedanta, Bhagavata theism, Samkhya dualism and Yogic meditation have all found in it ideas and passages in support of their predilections. Along with the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita (to which we shall refer later), the Brahma Sutra makes up the triad of the three foundational texts amongst a plethora of literature of Hinduism. From great saints like Shankaracharya, Abhinavgupta, Sant Jnaneshwar etc to modern scholars such as Lokmanya Tilak, Aurobindo etc there have been several commentaries attempted on Gita.
Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. It was rediscovered by Gotama Buddha more than 2500 years ago and was taught by him as a universal remedy for universal ills. This non-sectarian technique aims for the total eradication of mental impurities and the resultant highest happiness of full liberation. Since the time of Buddha, Vipassana has been handed down, to the present day, by an unbroken chain of teachers. With time, the technique disappeared from India. The credit for bringing the technique back to India, reviving and spreading the process throughout the world goes to the Late Shri S. N. Goenka, who taught the technique in the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin, his teacher in Myanmar.
The most common teaching method employed by centers run by S. N. Goenka is a 10-day Vipassana course. The students must follow “noble silence” for the major part of the course along with specific other Dos and Don’ts. The foundation of the practice is sīla — moral conduct. Sīla provides a basis for the development of samādhi — concentration of mind; and purification of the mind is achieved through paññā — the wisdom of insight. All who attend a Vipassana course must conscientiously undertake the following five precepts for the duration of the course:
- to abstain from killing any being;
- to abstain from stealing;
- to abstain from all sexual activity;
- to abstain from telling lies;
- to abstain from all intoxicants.
The technique taught during the 10-day Vipassana course includes the initial practice of “Aanapan” to increase concentration aimed at making the mind sensitive enough to pick pleasant and unpleasant sensations in the body. Aanapan means observing the natural flow of incoming and outgoing breath. From the fourth day, the actual “Vipassana” starts which means observing the sensations in the whole body from head to toe in sequence to and fro continuously. The idea is to cultivate equanimity (Samata) by avoiding any kind of aversion to unpleasant sensations or avoiding craving in case the sensations felt are pleasant. Both during Anapana and Vipassana one has to act as an attentive neutral observer (Drashta) without getting involved as an experiencer and thereby generating craving or aversion. This practice gradually leads to non generation of new Karma and dissolving of past Karmas, thereby, resulting in cessation of the suffering (Dukkha).
To summarise, the practice of Vipassana can be explained through four basic principles:
- Liberation only through personal experience and not be borrowed knowledge
- Restraining the mind
- Law of impermanence
- Cultivating equanimity
With the above background, an attempt has been made to identify various Shlokas in Bhagwad Gita which reflect the principles of Vipassana meditation.
1. Liberation only through personal experience and not be borrowed knowledge
Realisation can be achieved only through personal experience and not by any borrowed experience.For your own liberation you have to strive hard personally at your level through meditation. The knowledge one gathers through reading scriptures is experience of others and can not bring realisation for you.
यावानर्थ उदपाने सर्वतः संप्लुतोदके।
तावान्सर्वेषु वेदेषु ब्राह्मणस्य विजानतः।।2.46।।
What use a thirsty person has for a water reservoir when all sides of it are flooded – that much alone is the use of all the Vedas for a Brahmana who knows.
2. Restraining the mind
The mind is difficult to control. Thus, firstly through the practice of Aanapan, the mind is calmed. Aanapan means observing and concentrating on the natural flow of incoming and outgoing breath. In case the mind deviates from the breath, the practitioner is required to bring the concentration back to breathing, without getting irritated. This ultimately leads to an increased capacity to concentrate and calmness of mind and cessation of pleasant or unpleasant thoughts.
In the Gita, Krishna affirms that the mind is very nimble, difficult to control, and thus a hindrance to spiritual progress. However, with proper practice and detachment control over the mind is achievable.
चञ्चलं हि मनः कृष्ण प्रमाथि बलवद्दृढम्।
तस्याहं निग्रहं मन्ये वायोरिव सुदुष्करम्।।6.34।।
(Arjuna asks)The mind verily is restless, turbulent, strong and unyielding, O Krishna: I deem it as difficult to control it as to control the wind.
असंशयं महाबाहो मनो दुर्निग्रहं चलम् ।
अभ्यासेन तु कौन्तेय वैराग्येण च गृह्यते ।।6.35
(Bhagwan Krishna says). O sun of Kunti (arjuna) Undoubtedly the mind is difficult to control and is restless. But, it is brought under control through practice and detachment.
असंयतात्मना योगो दुष्प्राप इति मे मतिः।
वश्यात्मना तु यतता शक्योऽवाप्तुमुपायतः।।6.36।।
In my opinion Yoga is hard to attain by a person of unrestrained mind. However, it can be attained through the right means by him, who strives for it and has a subdued mind.
यतो यतो निश्चरति मनश्चञ्चलमस्थिरम्।
ततस्ततो नियम्यैतदात्मन्येव वशं नयेत्।।6.26।।
(The yogi) should bring (this mind) under the subjugation of the Self Itself, by restraining it from all those causes whatever due to which the restless, unsteady mind wanders away.
बन्धुरात्माऽऽत्मनस्तस्य येनात्मैवात्मना जितः।
अनात्मनस्तु शत्रुत्वे वर्तेतात्मैव शत्रुवत्।।6.6।।
The mind is the friend of him by whom the mind has been controlled. But for him whose mind is not controlled, the mind, like an enemy, remains hostile.
जितात्मनः प्रशान्तस्य परमात्मा समाहितः।
शीतोष्णसुखदुःखेषु तथा मानापमानयोः।।6.7।।
Of him whose mind is controlled and who is serene, the great self is well secured in heat and cold, in pleasure and pain, and in honor and dishonor.
यदा विनियतं चित्तमात्मन्येवावतिष्ठते।
निःस्पृहः सर्वकामेभ्यो युक्त इत्युच्यते तदा।।6.18।।
When the mind, completely controlled, is centered in the Self, and free from all earthly desires, then is the man truly spiritual.
यथा दीपो निवातस्थो नेङ्गते सोपमा स्मृता।
योगिनो यतचित्तस्य युञ्जतो योगमात्मनः।।6.19।।
The wise man who has conquered his mind and is absorbed in the Self is as a lamp which does not flicker, since it stands sheltered from every wind.
The practice of Aanapaan is also recognized by Krishna as a tool to control the mind.
अपाने जुह्वति प्राण प्राणेऽपानं तथाऽपरे।
प्राणापानगती रुद्ध्वा प्राणायामपरायणाः।।4.29।।
There are some who practise control of the Vital Energy and govern the subtle forces of Prana and Apana, thereby sacrificing their Prana unto Apana, or their Apana unto Prana.
3. Law of Impermanence (Anitta)
The desirable and undesirable sensations arising in the body are all ephemeral. Sensations arise due to combination of physical body and sensory perceptions owing to their respective nature, which ultimately is “to arise and fade away”.
मात्रास्पर्शास्तु कौन्तेय शीतोष्णसुखदुःखदाः।
The contact of senses with their objects, O Arjuna, gives rise to feelings of cold and heat, pleasure and pain. They come and go, never lasting long. Endure them, O Arjuna.
ये हि संस्पर्शजा भोगा दुःखयोनय एव ते।
आद्यन्तवन्तः कौन्तेय न तेषु रमते बुधः।।5.22।।
For those pleasures that are born of contact are wombs or pain. They have a beginning and an end, O Arjuna. The wise do not rejoice in them.
उदासीनवदासीनो गुणैर्यो न विचाल्यते।
गुणा वर्तन्त इत्येव योऽवतिष्ठति नेङ्गते।।14.23।।
He who, sitting like one indifferent, is not distracted by the three alities(Gunas); he who, thinking that the alities(Gunas) alone act, remains firm and surely does not move;
4. Equanimity: No Craving No Aversion (Samata)
The ultimate aim of Vipassana is to develop everlasting equanimity (Samata) by avoiding any kind of aversion to unpleasant sensations or avoiding craving in case the sensations felt are pleasant. One has to act as an attentive neutral observer (Drashta) without getting involved as an experiencer and thereby generating craving or aversion. Gita prescribes various means of “Yoga” i.e. union with God. Also, equanimity has also been called “Yoga” in Gita. A large number of verses are dedicated to the concept of “Stitha-prajnasya”, which means one with steady intellect or one who is established in Samata and is thus equanimous.
यं हि न व्यथयन्त्येते पुरुषं पुरुषर्षभ।
समदुःखसुखं धीरं सोऽमृतत्वाय कल्पते।।2.15।।
For, he whom these do not affect, O chief of men, and to whom pain and pleasure are the same – that steadfast man alone is worthy of immortality.
सुखदुःखे समे कृत्वा लाभालाभौ जयाजयौ।
ततो युद्धाय युज्यस्व नैवं पापमवाप्स्यसि।।2.38।।
Holding pleasure and pain, gain and loss, victory and defeat as alike, gird yourself up for the battle. Thus, you shall not incur any sin.
योगस्थः कुरु कर्माणि सङ्गं त्यक्त्वा धनञ्जय।
सिद्ध्यसिद्ध्योः समो भूत्वा समत्वं योग उच्यते।।2.48।।
By being established in Yoga, O Dhananjaya (Arjuna), undertake actions, casting off attachment and remaining equipoised in success and failure. Equanimity is called Yoga.
बुद्धियुक्तो जहातीह उभे सुकृतदुष्कृते।
तस्माद्योगाय युज्यस्व योगः कर्मसु कौशलम्।।2.50।।
A man with evenness of mind discards here and now good and evil. Therefore endeavor for Yoga. Yoga is skill in action.
कर्मजं बुद्धियुक्ता हि फलं त्यक्त्वा मनीषिणः।
जन्मबन्धविनिर्मुक्ताः पदं गच्छन्त्यनामयम्।।2.51।।
The wise who possess evenness of mind, relinquishing the fruits born of action, are freed from the bondage of birth, and go to the region beyond all ills.
दुःखेष्वनुद्विग्नमनाः सुखेषु विगतस्पृहः।
He whose mind is not shaken by adversity, who does not hanker after pleasures, and is free from attachment, fear and anger, is called a sage of steady wisdom.
यः सर्वत्रानभिस्नेहस्तत्तत्प्राप्य शुभाशुभम्।
नाभिनन्दति न द्वेष्टि तस्य प्रज्ञा प्रतिष्ठिता।।2.57।।
The wisdom of that person remains established who has no attachment for anything anywhere, who neither welcomes nor rejects anything, whatever good or bad when he comes across it.
The idea behind cultivating equanimity is explained as under:
ध्यायतो विषयान्पुंसः सङ्गस्तेषूपजायते।
सङ्गात् संजायते कामः कामात्क्रोधोऽभिजायते।।2.62।।
क्रोधाद्भवति संमोहः संमोहात्स्मृतिविभ्रमः।
स्मृतिभ्रंशाद् बुद्धिनाशो बुद्धिनाशात्प्रणश्यति।।2.63।।
When a man dwells on the objects of sense, he creates an attraction for them; attraction develops into desire, and desire breeds anger.From anger there comes delusion; from delusion, the loss of memory; from the loss of memory, the destruction of discrimination; and with the destruction of discrimination, he is lost.
इन्द्रियस्येन्द्रियस्यार्थे रागद्वेषौ व्यवस्थितौ।
तयोर्न वशमागच्छेत्तौ ह्यस्य परिपन्थिनौ।।3.34।।
The love and hate which are aroused by the objects of sense arise from Nature; do not yield to them. They only obstruct the path.
ज्ञानाग्निः सर्वकर्माणि भस्मसात्कुरुते तथा।।4.37।।
Just as burning fire turns fuel to ashes, O Arjuna, so does the fire of knowledge turn all Karma to ashes.
ज्ञेयः स नित्यसंन्यासी यो न द्वेष्टि न काङ्क्षति।
निर्द्वन्द्वो हि महाबाहो सुखं बन्धात्प्रमुच्यते।।5.3।।
He is a true ascetic who never desires or dislikes, who is uninfluenced by the opposites and is easily freed from bondage.
बाह्यस्पर्शेष्वसक्तात्मा विन्दत्यात्मनि यत्सुखम्।
स ब्रह्मयोगयुक्तात्मा सुखमक्षयमश्नुते।।5.21।।
He finds happiness in his own Self, and enjoys eternal bliss, whose heart does not yearn for the contacts of earth and whose Self is one with the Everlasting.
शक्नोतीहैव यः सोढुं प्राक्शरीरविमोक्षणात्।
कामक्रोधोद्भवं वेगं स युक्तः स सुखी नरः।।5.23।।
He who, before he leaves his body, learns to surmount the promptings of desire and anger is a saint and is happy.
इच्छाद्वेषसमुत्थेन द्वन्द्वमोहेन भारत।
सर्वभूतानि संमोहं सर्गे यान्ति परन्तप।।7.27।।
By the delusion of the pairs of opposites springing from desire and hate, O Arjuna, all beings are deluded as soon as they are born.
अद्वेष्टा सर्वभूतानां मैत्रः करुण एव च।
निर्ममो निरहङ्कारः समदुःखसुखः क्षमी।।12.13।।
सन्तुष्टः सततं योगी यतात्मा दृढनिश्चयः।
मय्यर्पितमनोबुद्धिर्यो मद्भक्तः स मे प्रियः।।12.14।।
He who hates no creature, who is friendly and compassionate to all, who is free from attachment and egoism, balanced in pleasure and pain, and forgiving.Ever content, steady in meditation, self-controlled, possessed of firm conviction, with the mind and intellect dedicated to Me, he, My devotee, is dear to Me.
नान्यं गुणेभ्यः कर्तारं यदा द्रष्टानुपश्यति।
गुणेभ्यश्च परं वेत्ति मद्भावं सोऽधिगच्छति।।14.19।।
When the seer beholds no agent of action other than the Gunas, and knows what transcends the Gunas, he attains to My state.
प्रकाशं च प्रवृत्तिं च मोहमेव च पाण्डव।
न द्वेष्टि सम्प्रवृत्तानि न निवृत्तानि काङ्क्षति।।14.22।।
उदासीनवदासीनो गुणैर्यो न विचाल्यते।
गुणा वर्तन्त इत्येव योऽवतिष्ठति नेङ्गते।।14.23।।
समदुःखसुखः स्वस्थः समलोष्टाश्मकाञ्चनः।
सर्वारम्भपरित्यागी गुणातीतः स उच्यते।।14.25।।
Lord Shri Krishna replied: O Prince! He who shuns not the Quality which is present, and longs not for that which is absent; He who maintains an attitude of indifference, who is not disturbed by the Qualities (Gunas), who realises that it is only they who act, and remains calm;Who accepts pain and pleasure as it comes, is centred in his Self, to whom a piece of clay or stone or gold are the same, who neither likes nor dislikes, who is steadfast, indifferent alike to praise or censure; Who looks equally upon honour and dishonour, loves friends and foes alike, abandons all initiative, such is he who transcends the Qualities.