Ch 2 VERSE 64

रागद्वेषविमुक्तैस्तु विषयानिन्द्रियैश्चरन्

आत्मवश्यैर्विधेयात्मा प्रसादमधिगच्छति ॥६४॥

rāga-dveṣa-vimuktais tu

viṣayān indriyaiś caran

ātma-vaśyair vidheyātmā

prasādam adhigacchati

—attachment; dveṣa—detachment; vimuktaiḥ—by one who has been free from such things; tu—but; viṣayān—sense objects; indriyaiḥ—by the senses; caran—acting; ātma-vaśyaiḥ—one who has control over; vidheyātmā—one who follows regulated freedom; prasādam—the mercy of the Lord; adhigacchati—attains.

One who can control his senses by practicing the regulated principles of freedom can obtain the complete mercy of the Lord and thus become free from all attachment and aversion.

rāga-dveṣa-vimuktais tu

viṣayān indriyaiś caran

ātma-vaśyair vidheyātmā

prasādam adhigacchati


“One who can control his senses by practicing the regulated principles of freedom can obtain the complete mercy of the Lord and thus become free from all attachment and aversion.”

When we consider this particular verse in connection with the two previous verses that we’ve studied, we can appreciate the connection between the way in which the senses want to lead us, and then how this brings a person to the—by following that path, how this brings a person to the position of a loss of intelligence, and the perpetuation of bondage, of being tied to the material world through a repeated cycle of birth and death, all due to the effect of karma and the fruits of karma.

In a commentary that was written by Sridhara Swami—Sridhara Swami was a very renowned transcendentalist. The exact time of his being here on this earth is not completely clear but it appears to be around about the 13th century, so around 1200 something. He was a great transcendentalist who wrote extensive commentaries on the Bhagavad-gita, on the Srimad Bhagavatam, or the Bhagavata Purana, that were held in in the highest esteem and regard by so many great spiritual teachers from different lineages through the course of time. So his position as a commentator was considered quite huge. He appeared in what is known as the Rudra sampradaya, or lineage, also known as the Vishnu Swami sampradaya. It’s just different names for the same lineage.

So, he refers in his commentary to a state of what’s called “steady wisdom”. That’s how it’s been translated here. The Sanskrit is sthita-prajnah. This can be understood in a number of ways, such as steady wisdom. It can be also understood to be one who is completely transcendentally situated. This term which he is referencing actually arose in the second chapter, 55th verse (which is not part of one of the ones that we’re studying, but I’m raising it here) where Arjuna in questioning Krishna— I’ll read the verse for you:

“Arjuna said: ‘O Krishna, what are the symptoms of one whose consciousness is thus merged in transcendence? How does he speak and what is his language? How does he sit, and how does he walk?’”

We should understand that he’s not asking is he with a wide step, or a—in phrasing things this way he wants to know about the nature of one who is transcendentally situated. And in—part of Krishna’s answer to Arjuna lies in this verse and a couple of others, but we’ll just read this verse again with that understanding, that context.

“One who can control his senses by practicing the regulated principles of freedom can obtain the complete mercy of the Lord and thus become free from all attachment and aversion.”

So we will look at the synonyms, but before doing that I would just read this commentary from Sridhara Swami. He states:

“Since it is impossible to control the senses, who by their very nature tend to be drawn towards sense objects, it would be extremely difficult to overcome this defect; so where is the possibility of attaining steady wisdom? Apprehending such doubts, Lord Krishna states in this verse and the next where He clarifies, that one who is free from both attachment and aversion, although amidst sense objects, attains the mercy of the Supreme Lord.”

So, we’re going to have to unpack this little bit by a little bit, but there’s a lot to actually cover here.

I want to first deal with the word freedom. And when we look at the synonyms, we don’t see any direct translation of a Sanskrit word that says freedom, but the freedom that’s been mentioned is implied in the Sanskrit word vidheyatma, or one who follows regulated freedom. So the understanding of freedom, from the position of the actual transcendentalists, is completely different than the way materialists understand freedom. Most people in this world think of freedom in terms of the freedom to act however you choose, to be able to make a decision, and to do what you want unimpeded. But from the Vedic perspective that was not considered freedom at all.

If we consider and understand that I am an eternal spiritual being, that this body and the mind which I’m currently inhabiting is not for my benefit, it’s actually for my undoing because the tendency of the senses of the body and the mind is to work counter to the actual interests of the atma. It is through the activity of the senses and the mind, an uncontrolled mind, that one remains materially entangled. And this is quite a big subject, and we’ll probably deal with it a little bit more in some of the succeeding verses, but I just wanted to make mention of this reality, this freedom, this idea of freedom.

The perspective of the great transcendentalists, or yogis, was that the materialist is actually enslaved by the senses, and the mind—enslaved, meaning that we often end up acting counter to our true interest, and sometimes feeling impelled to act as if against our own will. (And we’ll deal with that one probably in the next verse that we study.) But not only are we enslaved in that sense, that we kind of can’t escape the demands, the constant demands of the mind and its desires, and of the senses, demanding to be satisfied in so many ways, but, when we act, even if we are unimpeded, and we act however we want and enjoy some pleasurable sensation or experience, we become irrefutably bound to experience the fruit of that action, the consequence. So everything that you do, there will be a result. There will be a consequence. That is unavoidable. You cannot escape this.

And so simply being so-called free, meaning that you’re in a society where either you don’t care what anybody says, or they encourage you to do whatever you want, and you have the money to do things, doesn’t mean that you’re free. You will be bound by the result of all of your actions, the choices that you make.

So there was an understanding that there is some need to exercise control of both the senses and the mind—but that seems like an impossible task! This word vidheyatma—this word vidhe actually has quite a few meanings, like, that which is to be performed, or that which is to be practiced or done. It also has a meaning of subduing or to overcome.

And so in relation to this verse, it talks about—although the term is not—I’ll just draw your attention to the synonyms where it talks of attachment, which is raga, and dvesa, or detachment. The detachment spoken of here references the opposite of attachment, attachment, and aversion. So—from the point of view of the spiritualists, attachment to things and aversion to things are opposite sides of exactly the same coin. Just because you have—you are adverse to some particular thing, it doesn’t mean that you are free from its influence. Your aversion is a form of influence that’s being exerted upon you. And as we mentioned it—the big struggle, and the question, is, “So how do I learn to live in this world, not to be enslaved by my mind and my senses, to be in control of my life and directing it towards my ultimate spiritual benefit, which is self-realization and God-realization?”

When you just look at the synonyms you’ll see these different words, vimuktaih, mukta refers to being free or liberated. Here it means to be free from the influence of such things, and there’s direct reference to the visayan, or the sense objects, the indriya, or the senses themselves, and this stressing of the need to be able to exercise control over these things, through what has been termed “the regulated principles of freedom”, and that if one does this, then you have this word prasadam. Prasadam is a very wonderful word. It generally means mercy, or grace, or graciousness, or it means through the kindness, or through or by the favour, and it is speaking directly here of Bhagavan, or the Supreme Lord.

If one is able to adopt in their life these regulated principles of freedom, then it is said that one will gain the mercy of the Lord. So what is the significance of this?

In spiritual life, there are fundamentally only two paths, or types of paths, to approach the goal of spiritual realization. One is called the aroha-pantha which means the ascending path, or ascending process, and the other one is the avaroha-pantha, or the descending path, or the descending process, and they speak to two completely different approaches to the spiritual journey.

In the ascending process, I seek, by my own righteousness, by my goodness, by my self-control, the power of my mind, the great determination that I have to rise to a position of spiritual realization. And it’s been likened to trying to climb a mountain where you have undergone all the training, you’ve got all the equipment, you’ve got your team together, you’ve got your conditioning; and then you get out there and set up your base camp, and you’re going to do what they describe as an assault on the mountain—which is pretty much what it says. It is an assault, where you’re going to fight to climb to the top.

You can do that with something which is impersonal, but if the mountain was not an impersonal mountain, if we are speaking about the greatest of transcendental personalities, God, or Bhagavan, Isvara, then we understand that there is a need to seek permission. You see the big difference between the Nepali people that assist those who climb Mount Everest—before setting out they offer oblations into a fire, they say prayers, they ask that they be allowed, that they be granted passage and kept safe in this journey to the top of the mountain and back; whereas you have all the other people that have flown in from around the world who are just going to be totally reliant on their conditioning, their strength, their grit, to fight their way to the top.

And so in spiritual life, this is also a reality. In order for anyone to become successful in any actual spiritual realization one is entirely dependent upon this mercy, this prasadam, the mercy of the Lord. This fact was spoken about also by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutra, where he describes the actual mature fruit of yogic practice is samadhi, this being immersed in transcendence, I think is the best way to understand what is samadhi. And he speaks at length about mechanical processes where one has to diligently apply themselves in very powerful processes, and in such a determined way to try and come to this condition of samadhi. And then he says that there are actually different levels of samadhi, and even though someone can attain the level of what is called samprajnata samadhi that one can come to this position of the highest samadhi, but it is extremely difficult to attain asamprajnata samadhi, and in speaking about it he suddenly throws out this very short verse:

Īśvara pranidhānād-vā

 which means that the attainment—or I’ll read the translation:

“asamprajnata samadhi is also [or certainly] attained by devotion (or complete surrender) to Isvara”

and this is kind of like quite an extraordinary sort of turn from everything that had come before it and all the descriptions that Patanjali was giving in the process of yoga. The great commentator Vyasa, who is understood to be the original commentator on this Yoga Sutra, Vyasa has stated

“Through a special kind of devotion…”

and he uses the term bhakti-visesa,

“Through a special kind of devotion called isvara pranidhana, on the part of the devotee, Isvara inclines towards him and favors him with grace for fulfillment of his wish.”

And the wish, of course, was to attain the platform of samadhi.

Krishnamacharya, who is considered the father of modern yoga, he was the teacher of Pattabhi Jois and Iyenger, and a few others. He was a real yogi, and he was also a Sanskrit scholar. He mentions that, in his translation of this Yoga Sutra, this isvara pranidhanad-va, this “va” generally means in Sanskrit “also,” which means that samadhi, this highest form of samadhi, can also be attained by surrender to Isvara. But he says, it is less commonly used in another way: this term va, which means, to stress a point, like, “certainly.” And he said that the proper understanding of this verse was that, actually it is only through complete surrender to Isvara that one can come to this highest spiritual platform.

And so this indicates very clearly the need for us to gain the mercy of the Lord, just in relation to even overcoming these enormous obstacles of the mind and the demands of the senses.

To control the senses means to make intelligent decisions about what we allow our senses to come into contact with. And what we will learn from the Bhagavad-gita and other literature on the subject of the path of devotion, of bhakti, that the most successful way to regulate and to control the senses is by seeking to constantly engage them in the service of the Lord, where one lives, acts, thinks, speaks, always in the service of the Lord. And in doing that, even though one may be in the embodied state, one can come to the transcendental platform.

So in that regard, I would like to read three verses, continuous verses, from the Bhagavat Purana. These verses were written down over 5000 years ago, but they referenced something that occurred in much more ancient times, and it was to do with a famous king. His name was Ambarisa. Ambarisa Maharaj was not only a great king, but a great transcendentalist, and there are so many stories about him.

One particularly famous one, where a powerful mystic, a great brahmana mystic, made the mistake of assuming that even though Ambarisa was a king and engaged in worldly affairs, therefore he was a worldly person; and taking some offense where there was no offense intended, this sage cursed the king. And as a result of it, he himself became subject to very grave danger, and he finally came to learn that the only way to escape this most horrific outcome where he was surely to die because of his grave offense, that he should approach the king and bow before him and beg forgiveness.

And he was so reluctant to do it because he thought, “It’s impossible that I can be forgiven for what I did.” But the reason that he thought that was because that was his nature. He was not very inclined to forgive transgressions, and so he projected that onto someone else. And when he approached the king to seek his forgiveness the king not only forgave him but showed him the deepest of respect. And the sage was stunned. “How can he be so—after what I’ve done, I’ve threatened his life, exposed him to monumental danger—how can he be so forgiving and kind?” And he got to see that a person may be occupying what is a very worldly position as a king, an administrator of a country, and yet still be the greatest of transcendentalists. And it requires unique spiritual vision to be able to see that.

In speaking about Maharaja Ambarisa, the great sage Sukadeva Goswami, he mentioned about how Ambarisa lived, and how he engaged his senses constantly in nine different types of devotional activity. So I’ll read the verse:

“Maharaja Ambarisa always engaged his mind in meditating upon the lotus feet of Krishna, his words in describing the glories of the Lord, his hands in cleansing the Lord’s temple, and his ears in hearing the words spoken by Krishna or about Krishna. He engaged his eyes in seeing the deity of Krishna, Krishna’s temples and Krishna’s holy places, like Mathura and Vrindaban. He engaged his sense of touch in touching the bodies of the Lord’s devotees [meaning that he offered them service]. He engaged his sense of smell in smelling the fragrance of tulasi offered to the Lord, and he engaged his tongue in tasting the Lord’s prasada”

—meaning the food stuff that is offered to the Lord, and when it is offered to Him takes on a transcendental or spiritual quality, and when one takes this, which is referred to also as prasad, or mercy, it has a transcendentally purifying effect.

So we can see in these descriptions how he is engaging the, what’s referred to as the knowledge acquiring senses, in devotional activity. And then continuing:

“He engaged his legs in walking to the holy places and the temples of the Lord, his head in bowing down before the Lord, and all his desires in serving the Lord, twenty-four hours a day. Indeed, Maharaja Ambarisa never desired anything for his own sense gratification. He engaged all his senses in devotional service, in various engagements related to the Lord. This is the way to increase attachment for the Lord and be completely free from all material desires.”

So as we pointed out in the beginning, the senses and the mind need engagement. If one is simply trying to engage in some of the more impersonal yoga processes, where they battle and struggle to restrain the mind and the senses constantly, that becomes a losing battle. In the path of bhakti, the sadhana, sadhana bhakti is very much focusing on learning how to dovetail one’s mind, one’s senses, in the constant service of the Lord in everything that one does, to dovetail and connect it. And in this way the senses and mind become completely subdued. Then one becomes immersed in great spiritual happiness in their association with the Lord through His transcendental loving service.

Thank you very much.