VI:40-43 The Wonders of Failure

Ultimate failure is not possible, for it is necessary for achieving success.

In answer to Arjuna’s questions, Lord Krishna speaks…

The Blessed Lord spoke:
Dear One, no one of virtuous action is ever overcome by misfortune, nor is there ever found to be the destruction of this yogi, here or in the next world.

“Here or in the next world”

  • Here: here on earth, now, in this lifetime.
  • The next world: another existence—heaven, another planet, plane, dimension or another lifetime.

Lord Krishna is answering Arjuna’s questions of the previous verses concerning what happens to someone who falls from Yoga, and what will become of him. Using a reassuring endearment, He tells Arjuna that because of the virtuous action of yoga practice, he will not come to harm.

Lord Krishna is glorifying this Yoga to Arjuna with the term, “virtuous action”, which is explained in previous verses (15 and 27). The Sanskrit word for ‘virtuous’ also means ‘fortunate, noble, excellent, beneficial, auspicious, right’.

41 – 42
One who has fallen away from Yoga always reaches the worlds of the virtuous and illustrious, and abides with them for many years, and is born again in the house of prosperous and venerable people, or in a house of wise yogis, a birth which, in this world, is very rare.

This verse seems to indicate that, in spite of the multitudes of people claiming to be yogis, or the equivalent, there must really be very few on earth at any given time. This would suggest that common knowledge of Yoga, religious beliefs and alternative spirituality, is incorrect.

“Born again in the house of prosperous and venerable people, or wise yogis”
Here the issue of yogis having and raising children may arise in our minds. People who have children are considered ‘householders’. It is difficult enough for a yogi to find the right conditions for Yoga practice, but it is nearly impossible for a householder.

This leads us to consider that this is only a rule-of-thumb, and that because there is such a rarity of genuine yogis, there must be an occasional exception. Or we may come to understand ways in which such a hard line between these two modes of life is softened and penetrable, giving our yogi a better chance of winning a house of yogis in his next incarnation.

“Such a birth in this world is very rare”
It is a current trend to assume that one chooses one’s own parents. I find this to be presumptuous, especially when considering that this yogi, who has come so far, is not even assured of getting the best conditions in his next life. Looked at in a certain way, this belief can be gotten away with so some degree, for it is the choices that one makes that determine future lives. But this still does not signify that one can pick and choose parents.

There he awakens to the knowledge derived from his former life as a yogi, and once more strives toward success, Arjuna.

“He awakens to the knowledge derived from his former life”
In his new life, this fallen yogi recognizes the knowledge and experience derived from his former life, is automatically attracted to Yoga again, and takes up where he left off. 


What stood out to me in this verse was the term buddhi samyoga. The usual translations simply state that the yogi regains the knowledge derived from previous births, with buddhi as knowledge, and samyoga as being reunited with that knowledge.

The word yoga means ‘union’. There are two kinds of union: one is to merge, like water and milk, and the other is coming together, like marriage or an alliance. The meaning of samyoga, “direct material contact”, is the latter of the two.

The basis of buddhi is duality, opposites (this and that, self and other, etc.). It means, ‘to observe, discriminate, perceive, know, understand.’ So it should come as no surprise that buddhi is also the name of one of the four parts of the mind, the part that differentiates one thing from another among the myriad paris of opposites of which it is composed. 

Where the mind is concerned, buddhi becomes samyoga by means of the second kind of union (‘coming together’), suggesting that the opposites that make up the mind take on a state of sameness while retaining their individuality—hot is still hot and cold is still cold, but as far as the mind is concerned there is no difference—they are not merged but are married, and have equal value while performing different functions.

If we look at hatha yoga with this in mind, the union of prana and apana is seen both as united but retaining individuality … and merged as one. Merged as one, they function in an accelerated evolutionary capacity (kundalini). But if they were always fully merged, their special functions would be cancelled and the body could not survive.

This reminds us of the story of Rama (prana) and Sita (apana) in the Ramayana. Rama and Sita are united in marriage, but they are still who they are as individuals—they retain their individuality as prana and apana and continue to perform their individual functions, and merged as one, kundalini activates and tries to ascend.

Married, this royal couple go to the North, and Raja Yoga (‘Royal Union’) begins. So yoga, ‘union’, is understood differently in different stages of sadhanaIngmar Bergman’s production of Mozart’s opera, The Magic Flute, also illustrates this.

Namaste (I bow to the Divine One that You really are),
Durga Ma

III:20 Going for God

Improve yourself and serve the world through progress—every step you take pulls every one of us with you. 

Lord Krishna continues giving Arjuna good reasons for going forward with Karma Yoga as represented by the battle of Kurukshetra-Dharmakshetra, by telling him the beneficial outcome for all, of persisting.


Having adamantly persevered, perfection was attained by King Janaka, thus holding together and protecting the world. You should do likewise.

Lord Krishna now resorts to historical reference to add authority to what he has taught Arjuna in the previous verses. He calls Arjuna’s attention to King Janaka, the ruler of a kingdom who succeeded in reaching perfection. He was known as “Videha Janaka”—Videha, not identified with the body, Janaka, progenitor (father).

“He tilled the soil with his own hands, and he was also the greatest of the knowers of Truth of his time…Strictly speaking it is almost impossible to work like that for the good of the world from the householder’s position. In the whole of Hindu scriptures there is the single instance of King Janaka in this respect. But you nowadays want to pose as Janakas in every home by begetting children year after year…” — Swami Vivakananda

Why is Lord Krishna bringing up King Janaka? Perhaps to point out to Arjuna, the previously mentioned requirements as having been accomplished by someone known to him and with whom he has a few things in common, such as notoriety, caste, expertise, and the similar responsibilities of protecting the people.

Though having to carry out the rulership of an entire kingdom, King Janaka was not identified with his body or desirous of worldly things. This is no small matter—“In the whole of Hindu scriptures there is the single instance of King Janaka in this respect”—and is why this Yoga was not generally practiced by those bound by the responsibilities of a householder.

The origin of this Yoga is the Indus Valley and the mountain foothills many thousands of years ago. It has been practiced, tried and tested over millennia by accomplished sages who have attained the perfection it promises. Who are we, the newbies of the western world, to think that we are exceptions to this?

Practitioners of this form of Karma Yoga who have reached perfection, have gotten there by divesting themselves of the worldly life and dedicating themselves solely to their spiritual practices. If you are thinking, or hoping, that you are an exception, I would caution you to contemplate the above.

Also, consider King Janaka: (1) an aristocrat with the responsibilities of a ruler, (2) with the duty to protect the people, (3) completely enlightened as to what and who he was, and (4) completely unattached to the things of this world. Look inside yourself and ask, “Do I fit this description? What would these circumstances demand of me, and could I carry them out and still succeed in this practice?”

King Janaka’s singular position in the annals of history as a householder achieving perfection, gives us some idea of the challenges one could expect to encounter (it’s difficult enough for a renunciate!), and why I say…

“Get your ducks in a row now,
in case you decide to take it all the way later.” 

Coming this mid-week:  Going for God, Conclusion

Namaste (I bow to the Divine One that You really are),
Durga Ma

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