Essence and Substance of Yoga ► 06 Yoga In Bhagavad Gita

Posted: 18.12.2011

Yoga In Bhagavad Gita

Bhagavad Gita being primarily an exhortation from Krishna to Arjuna not to run away from the battle which had already been announced by blowing of conches from both sides. All the relevant aphorism (Sutras) are there in the Chapter Two of Gita. The rest are superfluous subsequent additions. It may be that Gita as it is might not have come from mouth of Krishna but coined by Veda Vyasa himself as part of his monumental treatise “Mahabharat”. However, it contains valuable instructions and guidelines for people to enable and empower them to lead happy, peaceful and pious life, although there are some contradictions at some places. For example at one place the Vedas and their ideology as such have been denounced while eulogised and recommended at other places. Likewise the different forms of Yoga have been mentioned as superior to each other. At one place one form is considered superior to other while at other place later is described as superior to former, making instructions some what ambiguous to a gullible layman. This also strengthens the apprehension that different stanzas might have been rendered by different authors according to their beliefs.


Forms of Yoga in Bhagavad Gita

Initially there is mention of only two forms Jñana Yoga and Karma Yoga but subsequently Bhakti Yoga (Devotional Yoga), Abhyasa Yoga (Practice Yoga) and Dhyan Yoga (Meditational Yoga) have been mentioned.

So far it was about Jñana Yoga (Knowledge Yoga) and now it will be about Karma Yoga | | 2/39 | |


Jñana Yoga (Knowledge Yoga):

This is to convince about irrelevance of death phobia and guilt feeling with which Arjuna was afflicted and was reluctant to kill his own kin and shirked his legitimate duty and responsibility. Death is immaterial because the soul is eternal, never dies and is not harmed by any weapon or fire etc.

Soul neither gets killed by any nor it kills another | | 2/19 | |

This, however, gives a wrong message that killing is not violence as no one can kill or act killed. This may absolve terrorists also.

Soul is neither born nor dies at any time. It neither comes into existence anew nor gets killed on killing of the body. It is without beginning and end, birth or death and is eternal | | 2/20 | |

Those who have conquered anger, fear and attachment and devoted to me (God) have attained salvation by their knowledge | | 4/10 | |

This stanza simultaneously mentions both Jñana and Bhakti Yoga

Knowledge is better than practice of Yoga (Abhyasa Yoga), devotion to God is better than knowledge and sacrificing fruits of Karma (action) is better than devotion. This appraisal has been contradicted at other places while describing other forms of Yoga | | 12/12 | |

Many realise God by devotion, others by Jñana Yoga and some by Karma Yoga | | 13/24 | |

Here all the three forms have been treated equally.


Karma Yoga (Action Yoga):

Arjun, you should do your duty without considering success or failure. Karma yoga is equanimity and detachment in action | | 2/48 | |

A person with equanimity is unmindful of good or bad acts. Such equanimity is art and skill of Yoga”. It is strange that good and bad acts have been placed at par | | 2/50 | |

One should undertake activities as ordained in scriptures. It is better to be in action than not doing anything. Even body can not be maintained without activity | | 3/7 | |

Prescribed activity should not be abandoned because of attachment | | 18/7 | |

To abandon activity for fear that all activity is painful, is wrong | | 18/8 | |

Arjun! Even faulty activity should not be abandoned | | 18/48 | |

Karma Yoga i.e. engaging in activity is far better than denouncing it | | 5/2 | |

But in following stanzas of Gita activity (Karma) is denounced and is thus a contradiction.

Those engrossed in soul need not undertake any activity | | 3/17 | |

One who relinquishes all sorts of good or bad activity and is my devotee is liked by me (Krishna, the God incarnate) | |12/17 | |

In this stanza Bhakti Yoga is eulogized vis-à-vis Karma Yoga. It also advocates inaction.

Whenever evil increase and good decrease, to restore righteousness, I (Krishna) incarnate | | 4/7 | |

This implies that it is God who will incarnate to solve problems and human beings need not do anything and wait and tolerate evil till then. For example environment pollution is creating problems but it will be God-incarnate who will come and solve this problem though created by mankind and can be solved by it. This stanza indirectly advocates inaction. But this is refuted and contradicted in the following stanza:

God is neither engaged in the various activities of men nor the fruits of actions. This is all by the very nature of things | | 5/14 | |

The following stanza is also contradictory as it dissuades than encourages action:

One has right to undertake activity but not to its fruit i.e. success or failure | | 2/47 | |

The fact is that no one undertakes any activity without fixing an objective to attain its fruit or success. A student studies with desire to pass, doctor treats to cure, engineer builds to complete the structure, the space probes are aimed for desired success. If incentive of fruit or success is not there, the person will not do any work whole heartedly with concentration and devotion.

In Gita there is strange contradiction about Vedas which are regarded as the most sacred scriptures. At one place it abhors and denounces and at other it eulogies Vedas while prescribing action under Karma yoga:

Those who believe in words of Vedas advocating desire for fruits of actions whether heaven or other pleasures are indecisive about actions leading to realisation of God | | 2/42, 43 | |

Vedas are from God and all Karma, the aggregate actions are known from Vedas Omnipresent God is eulogized by Yagnas prescribed in Vedas | | 3/15 | |

Such vacillations, variations and contradictions indicate that these stanzas are composed by different persons some advocating action and some dissuading from it.


Bhakti Yoga (Devotional Yoga):

Out of various forms of yoga, Bhakti yoga has been eulogised most.

Of all yogis one who is devoted to me uninterruptedly with innermost dedication is recognized by me as best”, says Krishna | | 6/47 | |

Such a devotee yogi is best out of the Karma Yogis and Jñana Yogis | | 6/46 | |

Devotion yoga (Bhakti Yoga) is total dedication to God.

Devotion that is unwavering | | 2/53 |

Who totally identify with me and depend on me, attain me | | 4/10 | |

Such devotees (Bhakti Yogis) always recite my name, sing paeans in my praise, bow before me and worship me | | 9/14 | |

I bestow the ultimate union with me to who always meditate on me without any desire for its fruits | | 9/22 | |

There are many more stanzas regarding the importance of Bhakti yoga so much so that even a most evil person, indulged in bad conduct and sins, if engages in my (Gods) devotion, he (my devotee) will be acceptable by God and attain him (God).

My devotee even if evil, bad character, sinful whether women, vaishya, shudra, chandala will eventually attain salvation | | 9/30-32 | |


Abhyasa Yoga (Practice Yoga):

Abhyasa Yoga has been defined as repeating, practising again and again the activities like listening, singing, meditating, studying scriptures pertaining to praise of God. Practising is applicable to all forms of yoga. However in Gita it has been mentioned as a form of yoga.

Krishna advises Arjun: If you are unable to concentrate in mediation, then you should engage in Abhyasa Yoga. He further said that if Abhyasa Yoga is also not possible, then do your activities dedicating all your actions to me | | 12/9-10 | |


Dhyan Yoga (Meditation Yoga):

This yoga is overlapping with Bhakti Yoga as later also involves meditation. But there is mention of Dhyan Yoga as a separate form.

Controlling all senses, should concentrate on me by meditation yoga | | 2/61 | |

By engaging in god’s meditation yoga with full concentration yogi will attain everlasting happiness | | 5/21 | |

Different people establish communion with god by different forms of yoga, some by Dhyan Yoga, others by Jñana Yoga and many by Karma yoga | | 13/24 | |

Barring a few contradictions and ambiguities, Gita, though a concise and brief treatise, covers almost all aspects of life, ennobling and enlightening instructions with its unique subtlety elaborate and comprehensive. There is Astanga yoga also with all the prescribed eight steps in Gita.


1. Yama:

Nonviolence, truth are essential attributes of a yogi | | 16/2 | |

Indulgence in sex envelops one’s knowledge and is inimical. Here celibacy is advised which is an important yama | | 3/39 | |

2. Niyama:

There should be equanimity in pleasant and unpleasant things i.e. contentment which is an essential Niyama | | 2/57 | |

One should be careful and regular in all activities. Food, sleep etc. should all be optimum and not in excess | | 6/17 | |

One should not have attachment in wealth, son, wife, house etc. i.e. should be contented | | 13/9 | |

One should have internal and external purity | | 16/3 | |

Internal purity constitute forgiveness, perseverance which clear bad emotions. External purity is clean body and clear unpolluted environment.

Maintaining internal and external purity and cleanliness is necessary | | 18/42 | |

3. Asana (Postures):

While practising yoga one should stabilise posture sitting on the clean place which should neither be too high nor too low | | 6/11 | |

The posture should be such that the body, head and neck are in line, fixed and stable. Eyes should be fixed on front of nose | | 6/13 | |

4. Pranayam (Breathing):

Yogi regulates, controls, extends inhalation, exhalation and retention of breathing | | 4/29 | |

Breathing through nostrils should be equally regulated.” Here natural optimum breathing is prescribed and not its extension or stoppage | | 5/27 | |

5. Pratyahar:

Pratyahar is control or abstention from the objects and pleasures of five senses of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing. Gita exhorts indulgence in sensual pleasures.

When senses are withdrawn from their objects/pleasures then there is equanimity of mind | | 2/58 | |

One who has conquered the lust of sensual pleasure attains equanimity | | 2/61 | |

6.  Dharana:

It is concentration of mind on a particular object.

7.  Dhyan:

Dhyan is extension of Dharana i.e. continuation of concentration for desired period of time and is termed contemplation.

8.  Samadhi:

It is complete absorption or identification with the object of meditation.

Above three steps Dharana, Dhyan and Samadhi are gradual extension, absorption and identification by enhancing the time and quality of concentration. This is also the central theme of Gita.

Those who concentrate, contemplate and merge in meditation of God, destroy sins and attain salvation | | 5/17 | |

Having abandoned the attachment to external objects one who meditates on soul gets pious bliss and transcending meditation to Brahman (God) and attains eternal happiness | | 5/21 | |
The Yogi who controls his mind and engages in meditation on me (God) gets salvation and extreme peace | | 6/15 | |

During the period of abstention from worldly pleasures and intense meditation of God, the person is Yogi | | 6/18 | |

Practising meditation of God without wavering mind one attains the ultimate union with God | | 8/8 | |

One who has conquered ego and attachment and is engrossed in meditation of God, gets rid of cycles of pleasures and pain and attain salvation | | 15/5 | |

In spite of some contradictions incongruities and repetitions, Gita is an unique scripture on yoga and its sermons if imbibed and practised would enhance the quality of this life and facilitate further journey to salvation. However, advocacy of war is not relevant in present times when nations are equipped with nuclear arsenal, capable to destroy the planet earth many times. It is also important to note that all the five forms of yoga are to be practised simultaneously and not separately. Jñana Yoga is a necessary component in all other forms of yoga because one must have requisite knowledge to practise any form of yoga. Karma yoga is inherent in all forms of yoga as one is required to undertake activity for practising any other form. Even in Jñana Yoga activity of listening sermons or reading of scriptures is necessary. In Bhakti Yoga one must concentrate, recollect and follow the teachings of the deity. Nothing will be achieved by just reciting or singing praise of the deity who will not come to do any work of the devotee. All deities Rama, Krishna and others were action oriented. Ideal bhakti is to imbibe their teachings which they amply demonstrated by their own actions to set an example. Likewise Abhyasa Yoga is a necessary component in all other forms because it is only by repeated practice that it can be learnt and mastered. Dhyan Yoga is most important component in all forms of yoga because whatever is done should be done with full concentration and attention i.e. Dhyan.

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