Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 4, sloka 27, part 1

Newsletter on Bhagavadgita by Dr. P.V. Nath
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Sloka 27

SARVANEENDRIYA KARMANI PRANAKARMANI CHAPARE’
ATMA SAMYOGAGNOU JUHYATI JNANA DEEPITE’

Others again sacrifice all the functions of the senses and the fuctions of breath (vital energy) in the fire of yoga of self-control, illumined by knowledge.

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The aim of the seeker is Self-realisation.
What is the barrier to this objective?
What is the tool required to achieve this objective?

“The mind” is the answer for both these questions. The mind is considered to be the band master in all the bodily actions. On one side it is bombarded with the information about the material world through the sense organs and has a channel to communicate with the same through the organs of action. On the other side it has the “Intellect” that assists in the process of Self-realisation.

Yoga of self-control: (Atma samyama yoga)

The “self” referred to in this section is the “self” with the small “s”. It refers to the “Ego.” The seeker is asked to learn the art of controlling the ego/ahamkara.

The fire of yoga of self-control:

The fire as we have discussed before refers to the “Knowledge.” Knowledge of one’s true identity as the “Atman” will help to overcome the ego. This is the means to control the mind which has to learn the art of discrimination between “Atman and Un-atman.” The ego has to be offered as an oblation in the sacrificial fire to attain spiritual knowledge. Sri Shankaracharya says in “Atma Bodha”: “Nitya Anitya Viveka Vicharana” (analytical discrimination of what is eternal and what is temporary.)

Some experts use the example of a charcoal to understand this Sloka. The charcoal when put in the fire becomes ember and shines brightly. When the fire is extinguished it becomes charcoal again.

When the mind illumined by the knowledge understands its identity with the “Atman” it is like the ember. When it is covered with ahamkara and forgets its true identity it is like the extinguished charcoal.

The first step towards this is by sense-control and self-control which we discussed in the last Sloka.

Illumined by knowledge:

This chapter is “Jnana Yoga” and gives detailed description about “Jnana” for the beginner. (Chapter 13, Kshetra Kshetrajna Yoga is the chapter on Jnana for the advanced seekers.) This Jnana should keep the fire of knowledge alive and dispel the darkness called “ignorance of the Self.”

The mind which is covered with ignorance due to the inherent past samskaras (vasanas) is the barrier to “Self-realisation”. To conquer such a mind needs various spiritual disciplines and we have two such disciplines given in this Sloka.

Restraining the senses.
Controlling the breath.

The force of the impulses brought in by the senses and ill regulated health agitate the mind endlessly. The seeker has to learn the two types of control:
Control of the senses  –  Indriya nigraha
Control of breath  –  Pranayama.

One cannot live in this world closing all the senses. But with the fine art of discrimination using the “Jnana” one should control what is coming in from the senses. This is “Indriya nigraha.” This is what is meant by the first quarter of the Sloka which says:

Sacrifice all the functions of the senses (in the fire of yoga of self-control.)

Self-control is “Atma-Samyama” the subject matter for the next chapter to come. This needs control of sense organs and organs of action. Breathe control is “Pranayama.”

***   will be continued***

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