Self-control is just as necessary in Yoga as it is in daily life. In the path of the Will, one uses their willpower to succeed in their practice. In the path of Surrender, one abandons control in meditation by surrendering to God/Truth. But what happens if you fall from Yoga?
Continuing from the last verses in which Arjuna (you) asked Lord Krishna (God/Guru) some questions…
If one has faith but is not controlled and falls away from Yoga without achieving success, where does one go?
Here we find yet one more Sanskrit word for ‘control’ within the word ‘uncontrolled’. The meaning of ‘uncontrolled’ here is that he is ‘not an ascetic’. Other definitions of this word consider that it is synonymous with ‘not making necessary efforts’ because one is ‘unrestrained, uncontrolled, undisciplined’ and therefore unable to achieve success—even if he has faith in these teachings of Lord Krishna.
In other words, he is not a true seeker if he is not making an effort. He cannot otherwise achieve restraint of the senses, and therefore the mind and life energy, and we need this to happen or we cannot get past the throat chakra and enter into a true meditative state. So we must be self-disciplined enough to at least maintain a regular practice and not fall from Yoga.
Ultimately, restraint, or control, has nothing to do with you at all, but with the senses, mind and prana (Life Energy). What we are seeking is their restraint—when the senses withdraw, the mind becomes still and prana concentrates in one place. This is called pratyahara. It will happen automatically in Surrender Meditation—the senses will spontaneously withdraw from their objects and ultimately separate from their faculties, and you will find yourself in the deepest possible state of real meditation.
When the senses are busy, the mind is busy. When the mind is busy, the life energy is busy. When the senses, the mind and the life energy are not busy (restrained), all are still and at peace (and so are you), and Real Meditation begins.
You have taken a road that is not generally practiced by others, with the promise of true and lasting happiness. But what if you have faith in the truth of these teachings but your self-discipline is a little shaky? And what if you find yourself skipping your meditation, or not finding the time for it? What if you ultimately give up on it altogether? What happens if you fall from yoga? This is Arjuna’s question.
A resolution to the possibility of failure is found in the verb root of the word for ‘controlled, or restrained’. It means ‘to be loyal to’ and ‘to give one’s self up to’—to commit yourself to surrender yourself to God.
Sounds rather pleasant, doesn’t it? This has indeed been my own experience (do you imagine I would have practiced yoga sadhana for forty years otherwise?). When something is pleasant, we like it. When we like something we are inclined to seek and find more of it, and self-discipline, self-control, is no longer an issue.
If he does fall from Yoga and has no solid ground, does he not come to nothing, like a thunder cloud torn asunder, and deprived of both ?
Arjuna wants to know what will happen to him if he is unsuccessful in ascending to yoga, but falls from Yoga, and expresses some of his fears about failure. He worries that if he continues but fails, he will not fit in anywhere—he won’t be able to return to the normal life he had before, and he won’t have achieved God-realization, either.
Arjuna’s previous orientation was to use his willpower to succeed at any undertaking, but Lord Krishna has suggested he surrender to Him, and now Arjuna’s orientation is forever changed.
This conversation between God (Krishna, the guru) and You (Arjuna, the disciple) is on a battle field for a reason: It is a really Big Deal. It all sounds rather scary, but your certainty of its importance has caused you to make this huge investment.
You are the only one who can completely eradicate my doubts, Krishna. Other than You, no remover of this doubt of mine exists.
What does one do in this situation if one has no guru? Not only is this a big investment, but it is likely to change you to the point that you find yourself on the outside of your usual social circles, and out of the groove for hitting the fast-lane to make a living. On top of that, you have only one place to go if you need help: guru.
Arjuna trusts Krishna and accepts that what He has been teaching him is True, but he also knows from what he has been taught (as have you and I), that he is his own means of success and can’t point the finger at anyone or anything else if he doesn’t make it. So now he is calling on his guru-disciple relationship with Krishna to put his mind at rest, and is no doubt hoping for some reassurance.
In the next verses, Lord Krishna alleviates Arjuna’s discomfort—and ours—with the hoped for reassurance.
Namaste (I bow to the Divine One that You really are),