The Gita, Chapter 6: Self Control

May 22, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Commentary and Chapter 6, Self Control

In Chapter 6 of the Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjun that a person uplifts himself or lowers himself through himself and that he is his own best friend and his own worst enemy. He is his own friend if his spirit rules his own body and his own enemy if his body rules his spirit. To appreciate what this means requires an understanding of the Sanskrit word Atman. This word has no English equivalent. It is frequently translated as Self or as spirit or soul. Actually, Atman means the part of our consciousness that is a spark of the divine spirit or of God. Hence the term Self with a capital letter. The point made is that since the divine spirit resides within us, we can, through our actions, either befriend it and elevate ourselves or rebuff it and pull ourselves down

Hinduism considers that our spirit or soul or Self is a consciousness separate from our mind or our body. Our mental and physical activities affect the quality of that consciousness. It is interesting to note that though Western thought distinguishes the mind from the body, in Hindu thought the mind is considered a part of the body.

The nature of the body and the spirit is discussed in a later chapter of the Gita, but understanding the difference between Hindu and Western perspective bears upon the guidance Lord Krishna gives here.

The Lord goes on in Chapter 6 to say that the person who is ruled by her spirit is ruled by God. Such a person has self control, achieved through moderation, and through meditation. Moderation entails measured eating, sleeping, working, and resting. It is a way of life. Meditation is a practice that is part of yoga. To meditate a person should find a quiet spot, sit up straight, look at the tip of his nose and think peacefully only of God.

Yoga is a discipline that involves physical and mental exercises but also a balanced attitude and balanced behavior. While the practice of yoga leads to equilibrium, persons who behave in a balanced manner are more apt to practice yoga. Interestingly, tablets found in ancient India dating several millennia B.C. depict individuals seated cross-legged in yogic stances. From these, we gather that yoga in some form pre-dates the arrival of the Aryans and the Vedic culture they brought with them to the Indian subcontinent.

A yogi is a person who has mastered yoga. A yogi is calm, composed, and happy under all circumstances. She is untouched by anger or desire. She is unaffected by discomfort, criticism, or fear and equally unmoved by luxury, praise, or success.  Lord Krishna tells Arjun that yogis realize God is everywhere and they never lose God and that God never loses them.

Listening to this, Arjun notes that the mind is strong, jumpy, and as hard to control as the wind. He also wonders what happens to those who love God but cannot manage to control their minds. God replies that through practice, little by little, we can learn to control the mind. He adds that even the attempt to do so leads to good things and that no effort is lost. Though it may take years in heaven and multiple lifetimes, people who seek God will be pulled to Him.

Lord Krishna concludes Chapter 6 urging Arjun to exercise self control and to become a yogi.

Please enjoy Chapter 6 below:

Chapter 6: Self Control


Bhagvan said: Doing things for no reward, doing them for God’s sake is like climbing a ladder to God.

You should lift yourself to God by your own work. You should not lower yourself. You are your own friend and your own enemy.

You are your own friend if your spirit rules your body. You are your own enemy if your body rules your spirit.  Your spirit is part of God.

Because of this, the person whose spirit rules her completely is ruled by God. This person has self control. She is calm, no matter what happens. She is calm if she is comfortable or uncomfortable. She is calm if she is praised or criticized. The person who has self control never changes.

A piece of stone and gold are the same to her.

A wise person like this is called a Yogi.

The Yogi likes friends as much as enemies; he likes his family as well as strangers.

A Yogi who is alone should find a clean place on the grass and spread a cloth to sit upon. Here he should sit and control his mind. He should sit up straight and look steadily at the tip of his nose, not moving at all. In this position, a Yogi must think only of God until he finds everlasting happiness. Thinking peacefully of God is called meditation.

Oh Arjun, a Yogi cannot eat too much or too little. She cannot sleep too much or too little. She must measure everything: eating, sleeping, working, and relaxing. Everything she does should be just right and even.

A Yogi is never afraid.

The Yogi whose mind is concentrating on God does not shake. He is steady like a candle in a room where there is no wind. The Yogi’s mind does not move away from the truth.

To become a Yogi you have to practice being calm. You have to practice not fidgeting and concentrating on God.

And the Yogi who is perfectly calm is pure and free of sin. He is one with God and perfectly happy.

He understands that everything in the world is One. He sees everything in Me, God and God in everything.

The Yogi who realizes God is everywhere never loses Me and I never lose him.

Arjun said: But it is hard to control the mind. The mind is strong and jumpy and as hard to control as the wind.

Bhagvan answered: I know it is hard to control the mind. But you can control your mind little by little if you practice steadily.

Arjun asked again: What happens to people who love God but have not learned to control their mind even though they tried?

And Bhagvan answered: Nothing bad happens to such people if they have tried. Only good can happen to people who have really tried to reach God. They will go to heaven and after spending countless years there, they will be born again in a good family. Then they will try again to reach God. They will start where they stopped in their earlier life. They will not have to being all over because their spirit will remember what they learned before. They will feel pulled to God.

But the Yogi who controls his mind is perfect. He is forever happy.

For this reason, Oh Arjun, be a Yogi. Learn self control and love Me with all your heart.


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