The Yogi and the Devotee – Bhagavad Gita, Ch 12, Vs 2-4


The Bhagavad Gita appears in the story of the Mahabharata. It is a conversation between Lord Krishna and his devotee and childhood friend, Arjuna. Listening in, we receive the teachings of Lord Krishna as he relates them to Arjuna.

The subject of this chapter is Devotion.

This post addresses the answer to Arjuna’s question on who has the best knowledge of Yoga, withdrawal of the senses (pratyahara), and equanimity (samadhi).

Arjuna spoke:  Of those who are constantly engaged in worshipping You, and those who worship the Imperishable Absolute, which has the best knowledge of Yoga?

The Devotee

The Blessed Lord spoke:
Those who are always absorbed in Me as their highest objective, always engaging in worshipping Me with the highest degree of faith, I consider to be the My best devotees who are naturally attached to Me.  

  • Worshipping – ‘surrendering, loving, serving’

Alternate translation:
For those highest initiated, the mind easily becomes absorbed in Me and produces supreme faith, so they are naturally the most devoted to Me. 

In this verse, Lord Krishna is describing someone who worships Personal God as Himself. It seems then, that the answer to Arjuna’s question must be “those who are always engaged in worshipping Me” have the best knowledge. But Lord Krishna hasn’t really addressed this, only that they are the most devoted to Him as Personal God.

This verse is describing someone who has advanced significantly in their yoga practice. By referring to the “highest initiated” He indicates those who know the science of yoga and meditation, and understand the nature of its unfolding over time. But as to who has the best knowledge of yoga, He has yet to say.  

The Yogi

3 – 4
But those who worship the Imperishable Absolute, which by its very nature is inexplicable—eternally unchanging, intangible, invisible and everywhere—with all the senses subdued, the mind indifferent everywhere, delighting in affection for all beings and esteeming them as equal, they also attain Me.

Now we have our answer: both. Whether you worship Personal God or Impersonal God you can attain God, though the path of the invisible Absolute is more demanding..

“The senses subdued”

The subduction, control or restraint of the senses is called pratyahara, that magical state of meditation in which the sense faculties, or powers, withdraw from the physical senses. The ability (power) to hear, see, feel, etc., is separated from their objects (sound, sight, touch, etc.). In this state, the sense organs (ears, eyes, skin, etc.) naturally have no connection to sense objects. Once one has reached this point, samadhi (equanimity) is not far away.

This can be taken two ways: The yogi either tries to control the senses, or the senses automatically come under control. The first is the path of the will, in which one uses the will to achieve the desired results. The second is the path of surrender to God, in which one does nothing and leaves everything to God.

  • Pratyahara, the spontaneous withdrawal of the sense faculties from their corresponding sense organs, allowing for direct perception (without any means, i.e., the sense organs). The gateway to samadhi.
  • Samadhi is a state in which the mind is the same throughout, and either not moving at all, or moving uniformly.

“The mind indifferent everywhere”

This phrase describes the effects of pratyahara as the condition that produces and is present in samadhi.

The Sanskrit for ‘mind’ in this verse, is buddhi. Buddhi is the part of the mind that is intelligent, rational, and makes judgements. 

  • Buddhi: intellect, reason, the discriminative faculty of the mind. 

Outside of Meditation

Pratyahara, the withdrawal of the senses, can also take place in everyday life. For one who practices meditation by surrendering to Absolute God, this will happen naturally. The senses will become disinterested and withdraw from their objects gradually over time. In the beginning, this may show up after the fact with the discovery that something that once attracted you has lost its power. Or you may have simply forgotten it and only realized this change later.

An example of my own experience of this, was finding a bottle of wine in the back of the refrigerator that had been there for weeks. I had been used to having a glass of wine when I came home from work in the evening, but had forgotten all about it. Then, one day when I was cleaning the refrigerator, there it was, an untouched bottle of wine. This heralded profound experiences in my meditation, the result of this phase of pratyahara in daily life.

The senses are otherwise always active, with the attention constantly flowing outward to perceive things, and bringing them back to the mind for storage. For this reason, those who practice willful yoga must work very hard to try to get the senses to stop bringing things into the mind, keeping it busy and aborting yoga. Some avoid people, places and things that keep the mind active. For instance, if a man becomes agitated in the presence of women, he will avoid women. But in surrender sadhana, pratyahara happens spontaneously and powerfully in meditation, and opens the door to samadhi naturally.

Of the devotee who experiences God as Personal, and the yogi who experiences God as Impersonal, both know Yoga and reach God. The only real difference is how.

Regarding Samadhi

Do you think that samadhi, or meditation for that matter, requires that you sit a certain way? If you do, these masters would not agree with you. Kripalu is dancing. Anandamayi Ma has risen in ecstasy. Shri Ramakrishna is in blissful bhava-samadhi with a devotee supporting him to avoid another fall. These saints are beyond caring what we think.

One usually thinks of samadhi as the final frontier of Yoga, but it is really a part of the process of purifying and clearing the mind, though in advanced stages, it is certainly very fulfilling. 

  • Samādhi समाधि sama (the same) + adhi (as above)

Also, the idea that samadhi only occurs when the mind is not moving is incorrect. The mind may be moving or not. As to the nature of its movements, the next common error would be that such movement would have to be sattvic (smooth-flowing and peaceful). But this is also incorrect. It is the uniformity that is the key (samadhi means ‘sameness’). The state of mental activity will depend on the nature of the purification. In the highest samadhi (nirbija) one surpasses this process.

Namaste (I bow to the divine one you really are),
Durga Ma

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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

Swami Kripalu Recognizes His Guru

The village people took the holy statue from the farmer’s field, placed it in a chariot and brought into the town. They established it in a very small temple, and people came from all around. But again, as an effect of time, after two or three years the village became quiet again.

People did feel that this was a most unusual statue, but they did not know what to do about it. It was as if this pilgrimage place had lost its power again. Where there was such a divine image, there was complete darkness, as if God were waiting for someone.

One day I was invited to that town to give a discourse. I never used to go anywhere for a whole day. I don’t know why, but I said yes to that lecture. Upon arriving there, I was told that this was another Kashi [the highest spiritual center]. The flow of the Sanatana Dharama was emanating from there. I was surprised to find out this was another Kashi, but the most surprising thing was that my birth place was only ten miles from there. Here was a tirtha so cose to my birthplace and I didn’t know anything about it. So I told them that I would go with them for darshan.

With me were four of five leaders of the village. They told me the history as they pointed to all the historical places. The leaders were very intelligent, and what was worth showing they showed me last! Finally they took me to the temple where the statue that had been discovered was established. I entered the temple and looked at the image of the great sage and was so surprised—in front of a linga was the statue of my own guru! I was familiar with every part of his form.

Looking back, when I was first at this feet, I was only nineteen years old. He had lots of love for me and I loved him very much. Whenever I was disappointed in some way he used to hug me and convey enormous love for me. But all that time, his body was the body of an old swami. At that time, I could not imagine that someone’s soul could enter another body.

Later in my life, I was in the area of the Himalaya Mountains in Rishikesha. There are many yogis who live there. I was a new swami dressed in a swami dress. One day I went to a faraway place on top of a hill to cut a special branch from a tree. As I started cutting the branch, I saw an individual walking down the hill. He had only a cloth around his waist. I didn’t pay any attention to him because there are many saints in that land. As I was cutting the branch, I heard a voice whisper from behind saying, “swami”. It was the voice of my guru whom I had first met when I was nineteen.

I was confused because only my guru used to address me by the name of Swami. But when I turned around, I saw that this was not that old swami body. This body that I saw near Rishikesha was just like the body of the statue: the Divine Body of my guru. There is such power in that body that it can take any form or even enter into a dead body [the swami whose body Lakulisha has used had just died].

This inidividual who was saying “swami” looked only eighteen years old.  It was winter time but he was only wearing a cloth from the waist, the rest of his body was bare. My body was covered with lots of woolen clothes. When I looked at him, he smiled, his eyes twinkling. I knew then that this was indeed my gurudeva. I forgot to bow down and ran over to him and hugged him. He stroked his hand over my head and my body. I just kept on weeping. Then I remembered that I had forgotten to bow down at his feet. “Gurudeva, please excuse me”, I said, and bowed down at his feet.    

Once I had asked him, “Gurudev, how does the Divine Body look?”, and he told me that sometime I would see it. Now I asked, “Gurudev, it this the Divine Body?” He said, “Yes, this is the Divine Body.” I asked him how many years old it was. He answered, “My son, you will have to find out for yourself.” Then I asked, “How will I be able to find it out?” I had not even imagined that I would be so fortunate to ever see a Divine Body.

Giver of Grace
Stories of the Lineage

Jaya Bhagavan (victory to God),
Durga Ma

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