What is the description of one whose wisdom stands firm? One who is steadfast in deep meditation, Keshava? How should one steady of thought speak? How should he sit? How should he move? — Bhagavad Gita, chapter two, verse 54
When I was first trying to wrap my wits around the Bhavagad Gita and came across this verse I thought, What strange questions to be asking after such profound teachings! How does he speak? sit? move? Surely there would be a more profound query or two? But that was a long time ago. Now that I have been teaching for a while, I have heard these very questions from students for myself, and recognize these latter day questions in this verse.
“The description of one whose wisdom stands firm … steadfast in deep meditation”
A closer look at the Sanskrit reveals that ‘deep meditation’ and samadhi are synonymous, so a more concise translation is, “someone of steadfast wisdom absorbed in samadhi”.
“How should one steady of thought speak?”
Since thought precedes speech, how could one whose thoughts have stopped, speak? If in this state the mind is inactive, how is speech even possible?
“How should he sit? How should he move?”
What would be his disposition, his character, temperament and personality? How would he behave and conduct himself? What would he be like if you were to met him on the street?
“How should he move?”
How would one ‘move, wander, proceed, live, pass the time’ under the conditions we have thus far uncovered? What would his life be like? Could he go to work nine-to-five? Would he make money and have a house, or live in a cave, or would he be a beggar on the street, a monk, or something else entirely? And now that he has reached this exalted stated, is there more? Where does he go from here? What happens next?
“Keshava” — A name of Krishna referring to him as the ‘killer of (the demon) Keshi’.
The word means ‘long haired’ or ‘handsome haired’, so this demon looks good, but the root of the word means ‘pain, trouble, torment, and suffering’. So Keshi is deceptive—what looks good is trouble in disguise.
Keshi is the senses reaching out to sense objects to keep the mind actively engaged, thus preventing samadhi yoga and clouding one’s awareness.
The name of Keshi’s destroyer, Krishna, means ‘black’ or ‘dark’. Krishna is an avatar of Vishunu, the sustainer of life. The Sustainer in the form of darkness kills this demon who messes with your mind to keep you away from Truth. But how can this be? We thought all the good stuff would be Light!
This state is called pratyahara, the ‘withdrawal of the senses’, the precursor of meditation, dhyana. At its onset one experiences this blissful relief as complete darkness (there is no-thing there). This is a case of darkness dispelling the light of illusion, the illusion of a world that relies on reflected light to be seen, and even then is perceptible only indirectly. But with the experience of pratyahara we discover that all that glitters is not gold, and we are now set to experience true meditation.
Meditation that is not reached by means of pratyahara is not true meditation.
Arjuna’s response to the wisdom Krishna has imparted to him thus far is to ask questions, and he is about to get an answer. He is eager to know how all this is going to look, how he can recognize this state to know when he has attained it.
In the next verse we will get the answer to Arjuna’s question, and in the verses that follow, the subject is sustained for the purpose of describing how one reaches this state either in terms of what it will take to get there, or how it will come about, depending upon your orientation.
What is ‘dark’ that sustains and maintains your life?
Prana, the Life Force, the Sustainer — you can’t see it.
Jaya Bhagavan! (Victory to God!),
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