55 You are your own best friend.

The Blessed Lord spoke:
Abandoning all desires of the mind, contented in the self by the self, one’s wisdom stands firm. — Bhagavad Gita, chapter two, verse 55 

Literaly, ‘all desires, longings, cravings, gone away’. 

Your “wisdom stands firm” only when you are contented within yourself, by yourself. To accomplish this, you must be free of mentally based desires. (Ouch!)

In the mystical texts of the East, the most crucial information in its final form is usually given first. This is Krishna’s first statement in response to Arjuna’s questions of the previous verse, so we must take special note of it.

Earlier we read that it is the desires of the mind that are responsible for keeping the mind active, and that only when the mind is inactive does it become possible to enter into deep meditation. 

“Abandoning all desires of the mind”

Abandoning — You leave them, they don’t leave you.

Mentally based desires have their source in the contact of the senses with sense objects—you see it, you like it, you want it.

Our dependence on our senses to navigate this world makes abandoning desires almost impossible. Furthermore, once perceived objects enter the mind they are recorded in the mind, and when the mind has retained them for more than a couple of weeks, they remain. When these bits of stored information are associated with strong feelings, these feelings can resurface under similar circumstances, triggered by the recorded memory, whether you are aware of this happening or not. The like or dislike of the way this feels generates either positive or negative desires—you want it, or you want to avoid it. 

Everything that gets into the mind gets there through the senses, but…

There is one exception to this: There is a state in which one perceives without any means due to the senses being withdrawn. In this state, called pratyahara, desires are effectively abandoned, ‘gone away’. Experiences had under these circumstances are also recorded in the mind, but the nature of what is perceived (Truth) and how it is perceived (directly, not through the senses), does not cause disturbances of the mind-stuff (chitta*).

The beginning stage of pratyahara is a result of advanced pranayama (restraint of prana, life energy). There are various techniques for pranayama and pratyahara, but in surrender sadhana, all of this happens spontaneously, and takes one into the early stages of sabija samadhi very quickly.

Chitta - the surface of consciousness upon which the mind is constructed.

“Contented in the self by the self, one’s wisdom stands firm”

The mind is a part of nature. You are not nature. Nature is outside yourself. When you are finally satisfied within yourself, you are self-sufficient, and because you are content with this internal state, all the desires of the mind, being different from this state, naturally cease to exert themselves. 

With the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind-stuff, one attains yoga samadhi, and one is indeed one’s own best friend, safe from mentally based desires wreaking havoc with the mind-stuff. How one reaches this state is elaborated in the next few verses:

56  He whose mind is free from the passions of desire, fear and anger is easy of mind in happiness or misfortune; steady-minded, he is said to be a sage.

57  He who is non-desirous in all things, encountering this or that, whether pleasant or unpleasant, delightful or repugnant, his wisdom stands firm.

58  And when the senses become withdrawn from the objects of the senses, as a tortoise’s limbs are drawn into its shell, his wisdom stands firm.

Having read these verses through to get a feel for how this firm-standing wisdom can be achieved and maintained, if you want to go for it, try reading them from the bottom up. In the next installments we will take these verses up in more detail.

Jaya Bhagavan! (Victory to God!),
Durga Ma
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