“One should hold one’s body, neck and head erect in a straight line and stare steadily at the tip of the nose. Thus with an unagitated, subdued mind, devoid of fear, completely free from sex life, one should meditate upon Me within the heart and make Me the ultimate goal of life.” (Bhagavad-gita, 6.13-14)
धारयन्न् अचलं स्थिरः
सम्प्रेक्ष्य नासिकाग्रं स्वं
मनः संयम्य मच्-चित्तो
युक्त आसीत मत्-परः
dhārayann acalaṁ sthiraḥ
samprekṣya nāsikāgraṁ svaṁ
manaḥ saṁyamya mac-citto
yukta āsīta mat-paraḥ
“First off, let me appreciate the specific title of the translation and commentary. Bhagavad-gita As It Is. A subtle jab at the previous publications. Almost like throwing it in their face, saying that their versions were not authentic.
“I guess His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada can do this because of the support of parampara. He is confident because of the people coming before him. Not only his own guru, but those previously in the line. If you work your way back through the disciplic succession, you eventually reach the origin of everything, Shri Krishna.
“There is this sort of elephant in the room that we must address, though. These other versions of Bhagavad-gita tend to focus on yoga. They try their best to take Krishna out of the equation. Some of them say that Krishna is merely an abstract. You are supposed to worship the Krishna within, don’t you see? You are supposed to find your own Arjuna moment.
“I can’t say that any of their claims make sense to me, but the yoga thing is a little difficult to brush off. There are specific verses which describe that mystic practice. Krishna goes into detail on how to achieve perfection. This is rare considering the otherwise brief nature to the teachings, which are considered something like an introduction to the spiritual life of Vedic culture.
“What would you say to the people who object? They don’t like the use of ‘Krishna consciousness’ as a translation for everything. They say that yoga is yoga. There is no reason to explain it away. What is wrong if someone takes the advice of Krishna and finds a remote area for focusing the eyes on the tip of the nose, for instance?”
Though He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna still showed proper etiquette. He was playing the role of guru, after all. He was presenting every option for Arjuna to consider. In fact, nothing was forced on the disciple. There was no mention of some list of naughty and nice, wherein the naughty would be automatically condemned to hell.
इति ते ज्ञानम् आख्यातं
गुह्याद् गुह्यतरं मया
यथेच्छसि तथा कुरु
iti te jñānam ākhyātaṁ
guhyād guhyataraṁ mayā
yathecchasi tathā kuru
“Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.63)
Arjuna was in fact considering retreating to the forest. This was on the other side of quitting. Instead of proceeding forward with the war, which he and his brothers had a great chance of winning, the hesitant warrior thought of ways to leave.
He could go to the forest and meditate. He could follow yoga, which is a tradition as old as time itself. Arjuna would be a respected yogi instead of a fighter responsible for killing millions. He would have no blood on his hands. Who could be against this idea?
In the process, Krishna explained yoga. He described the necessary conditions. He explained the beginning, middle, and end. We start with so many desires. These rush in, like rivers flowing into an ocean. It is seemingly impossible to control where the mind goes.
Yoga is a way to control the senses, and through advancement in that practice a person can achieve the perfection of living. From Vedic literature, we learn of so many elevated souls who were able to voluntarily leave this world, at the time of their choosing, through mystic yoga.
As the teacher is honest, He presents every option. That yoga Arjuna was contemplating could also be accomplished by fighting on the battlefield. The key was to renounce interest in the fruits of work. Work with detachment.
कर्मण्य् एवाधिकारस् ते
मा फलेषु कदाचन
मा कर्म-फल-हेतुर् भूर्
मा ते सङ्गो ऽस्त्व् अकर्मणि
karmaṇy evādhikāras te
mā phaleṣu kadācana
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr
mā te saṅgo ‘stv akarmaṇi
“You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.47)
Better still, work with attachment. Seek out the interests of the Supreme Lord. This is the best way to live. It is the concluding recommendation. Krishna advises to give up every other kind of religious system or attention to righteousness. Simply surrender to Krishna and be not afraid.
माम् एकं शरणं व्रज
अहं त्वां सर्व-पापेभ्यो
मोक्षयिष्यामि मा शुचः
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.66)
If someone wants to argue that the message of Bhagavad-gita is to follow mystic yoga, how can they explain the conclusion? Why is not Arjuna depicted in an asana-pose? Moreover, other avenues of legitimate spiritual life involve giving up. For instance, sannyasa is the highest ashrama for the cultured human being.
Why is Arjuna not walking around with a long beard and a saffron robe? He is not a member of the brahmana community, either. How was he able to succeed in the mission of life? How was he qualified to have Krishna as his guide, his charioteer, his friend, and his close relation?
भक्त्या माम् अभिजानाति
यावान् यश् चास्मि तत्त्वतः
ततो मां तत्त्वतो ज्ञात्वा
bhaktyā mām abhijānāti
yāvān yaś cāsmi tattvataḥ
tato māṁ tattvato jñātvā
“One can understand the Supreme Personality as He is only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of the Supreme Lord by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.55)
Though through options talking,
Not away from battlefield walking.
Where as sannyasi to see?
Or yogi living under tree.
In endeavor fully blessed,
Control of Kurus to contest.
But with results appearing the same,
Since direction from Krishna came.