IV:1-3 The Ancient Imperishable Teachings of Yoga

At the end of the last chapter, The Yoga of Action, we discovered that everything Lord Krishna taught Arjuna had been around for a long time and had become lost, but we have listened in and now have these teachings for ourselves. 

This chapter begins where the last chapter left off, with Lord Krishna explaining the circumstances surrounding the subject of Karma Yoga, the Yoga of Action.


The Blessed Lord spoke:
I anciently taught this imperishable Yoga to Vivasvat, who then communicated it to Manu, and he later to Ikshvaku.

I anciently taught this imperishable Yoga”  Krishna recalls the universal and eternal nature of the teachings of Yoga (union) that He has just given to Arjuna.

To achieve yoga, one practices yoga. This takes place in stages. First, there is union of two opposing forces in the body that awakens Kundalini. When this evolutionary force is sufficiently advanced, there is union with the Absolute. The first union is sun-moon union (hatha yoga), or Karma Yoga (‘action union’). The second form of union is royal union (raja yoga), or Knowledge Yoga (‘wisdom union’).

Then why was Knowledge Yoga taught in chapter two before Action Yoga in chapter three?

In Eastern writings, the highest teaching comes first, so Knowledge Yoga was taught first because it is the highest union, union with the Absolute. However, it is Karma Yoga that gets you to Raja Yoga, and it is not successfully bypassed. It is one thing to speak of Raja Yoga as ‘knowledge yoga’ and tuck yourself in with books and contemplations, and quite another to actually achieve it. One cannot place Karma Yoga on a back burner, for it is vital for reaching Raja Yoga and consumes nearly all of one’s practice (sadhana) for many years.

Raja Yoga (‘royal union’)
Knowledge Yoga, Jnana Yoga

Hatha Yoga (‘sun-moon union’)
Action Yoga, Karma Yoga

“Vivasvāt, Manu and Ikṣvāku”

Here we have the first recipients of these teachings from Lord Krishna at the beginning of our present time period, which goes back many thousands of years. Lord Krishna taught it to Vivasvat, who taught it to his son, Satyavrata, the Manu of that time, and he to his son and king, Ikshvaku.

Vivasvat, or Vivasvan (‘the Brilliant One’), is Surya (‘the sun’). Aside from our usual interpretation of the sun as the Life Energy in the body, prana, let us also consider the possibility that every divine individual (i.e., the Real You) is or has an actual sun around which worlds revolve, and that this individual in our own galaxy was known as Vivasvan, or Surya.

Manu stems from the root man, meaning ‘to think’, the same as the root for manas, ‘mind’, and is connected to the English word ‘man’ (humanity). As an entity, Manu is ‘the thinking one’ and considered to be the progenitor of humanity. He is also another version of Noah, with remarkably similar stories about him. The name of the Manu of our time period is Satyavrata, meaning ‘living in Truth’.

A Manu is the progenitor of humanity during the time-period of a manvantara (manu-antara). The duration of a manvantara is the duration of the Manu’s life span:  

Each Manvantara is created and ruled by a specific Manu, who in turn is created by Brahma, the Creator himself*. Manu creates the world, and all its species during that period of time, each Manvantara lasts the lifetime of a Manu, upon whose death, Brahma creates another Manu to continue the cycle of Creation.


* Brahma, the Creator himself - Originally Hiranyagarbha in the Golden Age, also called the Golden Egg or Cosmic Egg. Creation was later attributed to the masculine, Prajapati, and then Brahma, as the ages made their way downward through ages of increasing strife and the decline of higher consciousness.

Ikṣvāku is the name of the king of the solar dynasty in the earliest times in India. The word ikṣvāku is interesting. It derives from the word for ‘sugarcane’ and vak, or vach, meaning ‘to speak’. I can’t help but giggle at the idea of this wisdom-knowing-king being a sweet-talker, and sincerely hope that I do not offend. But there it is. Perhaps it is the knowledge that has been passed down to him that is sweet to hear.

Thus received by succession, the royal seers knew this yoga, but after a long time here on this earth, it was lost, Scorcher of the Foe.

“Royal seers”  In earlier, more enlightened times, a royal was a sage, and a keeper and practitioner of this knowledge which has continued to be passed down to successors, creating lineages of knowers. As time passed, however, this knowledge became lost for the reasons given in the previous verses. But Arjuna, the ‘Scorcher of the Foe’, now carries the torch, having been given it by God in the form of Lord Krishna.

Today, I have taught you this ancient Yoga because you are My devotee and friend. This mystery is definitely the most important of all.

Lord Krishna points out the value of this ancient, secret yoga-knowledge He has given to Arjuna, and why he has had the good fortune to receive it: because Arjuna is His devotee and his friend. This tells us that if we want this knowledge, and want to understand it, we must be the same—His devotee and friend—lest it remain to us an unrevealed secret.

It is true that we have been given these teachings by overhearing the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna. To understand them however, we must practice them with persistence until understanding reveals itself. This practice is called Karma Yoga, the Yoga of Action, and is known to us as Sahaja Yoga, Surrender Meditation or Shaktipat Kundalini Yoga (SKY).

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

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III:1-3 Arjuna’s Angst

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter Three
“The Yoga of Action”
Verses 1 to 3

Arjuna is rattled at this apparent contradiction of Krishna’s and addresses him as Agitator of Men, and in the same breath tries to mend his own agitation with a compliment calling him Handsome Haired One! Clever boy. But his question is a good one, for in chapter two, verses 38 and 39, Krishna extolls buddhi*, which we have mostly read as ‘knowledge’ or ‘wisdom’, yet He urges Arjuna to act. Arjuna is still confused about all this, so with his next breath he says to Krishna, Just tell me what to do!

Arjuna spoke:
If you consider knowledge to be superior to action, O Agitator of Men, why do you urge me to terrible action, O Handsome Haired One?

With speech that seems equivocal you confuse my mind. This one thing tell me for certain: By which shall I attain the highest good. 

Buddhi is the ability to form and retain concepts, ideas, etc. It translates as knowledge, wisdom, intellect, reason, discernment, discrimination, judgement, mind, opinion, perception, thought, belief, and so on, depending upon its usage in the text.

The Blessed Lord spoke:
In this world there are two paths taught previously by me, Blameless One: the Knowledge Yoga of the followers of Sankhya*, and the Karma Yoga of the Yogis.

* Sankhya means 'taking into account all that can be known'. Sankhya is one of the divisions of Hindu philosophy. The followers of Sankhya are said to be knowledge-oriented.

“Blameless One” Oh, good. Krishna has exonerated Arjuna’s angst, so we too, can relax.

Krishna previously addressed Knowledge Yoga and Action Yoga in chapter two, but by attempting to discover which is better, it appears that Arjuna has not understood that both are valid paths to the same end. It is not a question of one being better than the other, but that Arjuna’s personal orientation is best suited to Action Yoga.

“The Knowledge Yoga of the followers of Sankhya”

The word for knowledge, jñāna ( ज्ञान ), refers to ‘knowing’, not just knowing by learning from an external source, but the knowing that is gained through meditation. In meditation, one comes to ‘know’ without the aid of the senses and the mind, and though one might not be able to prove the veracity of what gets ‘known’ to anyone else, it is proved to the meditator with certainty. This kind of knowledge is very different from the knowledge gained through conventional sources. It is in this sense that followers of Sankhya refer to Knowledge Yoga, knowledge (jnana) gained through union (yoga).

“The Action Yoga of the Yogis”

The word for action is karma ( कर्म ). Karma and yoga are practically synonymous terms, for one cannot have yoga (union) without action—the action of uniting one thing with another. Where the follower of Knowledge Yoga has knowledge as his focus, a yogi’s focus is on the action that delivers it.

Beyond this enlightenment, the yogi also seeks liberation from rebirth, which can only be attained when both the credits and debts of previous actions are settled. To this end, the yogi seeks the realization of non-doership and considers all actions as not his own.

Three Paths

It is generally taught that there are three paths—Knowledge, Action and Devotion. These three are said to reflect the different natures of people and their personal orientations: mentally-oriented, action-oriented, and feeling-oriented. So why are only Knowledge and Action mentioned in this verse?

Devotion, or bhakti, is necessary for Knowledge Yoga and Action Yoga to be effective, so it is automatically included in both. Some take the path of Devotion solely, believing that it alone is sufficient. It is conceivable that Devotion is enough, for when practiced comprehensively it will inevitably lead one to knowledge and action as well, as these two are inevitable for the serious seeker.

Knowledge Yoga – Jnana Yoga
Karma Yoga – Action Yoga
Bhakti Yoga – Devotional Yoga

Self-reference: To which are you most inclined? Throughout your day, whenever you think of it, see if you can determine which motivates your own actions the most. Are you mostly knowledge oriented, action oriented, of feeling oriented? Which one appeals to you, inspires you, and motivates you the most? Which is strongest for you?

Ultimately, whatever one’s personal orientation, after a time, sadhana (spiritual practices) will lead to all three, and one will be no stronger or weaker than the other.

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

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Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2, Vs 39

Taking into account everything that can be known and what to do with it. 

What I have imparted to you is the wisdom of Sankhya. Now hear the wisdom of Yoga, by which you can free yourself from the bondage of karma. 

“Sankhya”, one of the major philosophical schools of India, is a reference to the teachings of previous verses in this chapter. The word sankhya means ‘taking into account’. Sankhya philosophy takes into account everything that can be known. It is considered to be a dualistic philosophy in that it deals with opposites in the manner we have been discussing.

“Yoga”, ‘the act of uniting’, takes us beyond what Sankhya has taught us, to putting this knowledge into action. The act of uniting (yoga) requires more than one, otherwise what would be uniting with what? Yoga is a natural partner to Sankhya.

“the bondage of karma” refers to the entrapment produced by the union of ignorance with action. Believing that ‘I do’, the principle of cause and effect is put into play, and the ‘I’ automatically becomes trapped by responsibility for the action, be it good or bad.

“karma” means ‘action’. The root of the word karmakri, meaning ‘to do’, is the basis of the ignorance of the Truth of Self as the eternal non-doer.

Alternate Translations:

• Now that you have this knowledge, taking it together with the understanding of action, you can avoid the bondage of action (karma).

• This wisdom has been presented to you from the standpoint of Jnana Yoga (Knowledge Yoga). Now hear it presented as Karma Yoga (Action Yoga) by which you will be able to throw off the shackles of karma.

• I have explained to you the spiritual knowledge regarding the nature of the soul. Now listen to the science of action, which can completely release you from the bondage of cause and effect.

Previously, we discussed pairs of opposites and bringing them into union. Knowledge, what you think or know, and action, things that happen and things you do, are also opposites. In this verse we are presented with the idea of bringing knowledge and action together as a unit: Sankhya (wisdom-knowledge) and Yoga (the act of union) are one.


The science of Yoga is the science of action. The word yoga means ‘union’ and consequently also means ‘action’, for one thing uniting with another is an action.

It is one thing to equalize a pair of opposites, but it is quite another thing to bring them together as a single unit. The process of uniting the solar and lunar energies in the body is hatha yoga (sun-moon union). When this is accomplished, this unit takes on the function of furthering one’s evolution and is called kundalini.

Yes, evolution is going on all the time, but it is taking us thousands of lifetimes to complete. Through the natural practice of Yoga, we stand a chance of reaching raja yoga and getting closer to the freedom and eternal (rather than temporal) happiness that we know awaits us.

Hatha Yoga begins after enough sadhana (practice) has been successfully accomplished to get us there, and will take up nearly all of our sadhana from that point on. Then, sun-moon union having been accomplished and the process advanced sufficiently, we move into raja yoga, ‘royal union’, uniting with God, Truth, the Absolute (whatever your word is for That).

This process doesn’t have to be thought of as religious or spiritual. It is what it is: evolution. We tend to think of all this as spiritual because we need a name for it that expresses an experience that we do not know how to talk about. And because we can’t put it in a test tube and prove it. We have no words for it in English. Some try to avoid the word God with its implication of some deity somewhere in the cosmos directing our lives, and try using words like Divine, or Truth. But whatever you like to call It, think of it as Absolute, for it is absolute. Even the relative is absolute.

Everything is Absolutely Relative

Jaya Bhagavan! (Victory to God!)
Durga Ma

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