The Bhagavad Gita | Study Guide


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The Bhagavad Gita | Chapter 6 : The Yoga of Meditation | Summary



According to Krishna, right action, or karma yoga, is also renunciation because it requires the person to renounce their "own selfish will." The self—consisting of the mind, senses, and body—can aid the soul of a person who has already mastered those things. That same self is also what keeps a person from realizing their true inner Self. People may let themselves be governed by their mind, body, and senses instead of controlling them.

To practice yoga, one must master the practice of meditation. This practice includes sitting in a clean place covered by a cloth, concentrating on a "single object," keeping the posture straight, and being moderate in sleeping and eating. Meditation brings calm and peace to the mind, which then dissolves to reveal the Self. This practice of yoga through meditation leads to the freeing of the Self from suffering or sorrow. Arjuna inquires how the mind can be quieted, for it is "as hard to master as the wind." Krishna responds it is difficult but can be achieved with self-restraint and discipline. When Arjuna worries what becomes of people with faith but no self-discipline, Krishna reassures him that this type of person is not lost. Any goodness done will only perpetuate more goodness, and a person with no self-discipline may find peace and "attain the ultimate goal" in a future life.


Krishna becomes very specific in this chapter, explaining exactly how to practice meditation and describing its necessary components. His outline of the correct way to practice meditation is recognizable in many contemporary meditation practices. The straight posture, focus on one object, regulated breathing, and even the prescribed sitting in a clean place on some type of cloth (or mat) are familiar elements of many meditation traditions. Krishna emphasizes moderation in eating, sleeping, and waking, noting that if one eats or sleeps too much or too little, it can hinder the body in meditation.

In this chapter, use of the lower-case self in conjunction with the upper-case Self may cause confusion about Krishna's message. When the text refers to the self, it is usually referring to the elements of the earthly self, such as the mind, the body, and the senses. Self with a capital S refers to the soul, or the part of a being that is housed in the body but is never changing and continuously reborn. As aforementioned, this is referred to as the atman.

The way the text uses the terms Self and God almost interchangeably may also be difficult to interpret. In fact, there are numerous interpretations of the Bhagavad Gita's message, depending on schools of thought. Two distinctive schools are touched upon in this text: the nondualist school and the bhakti school. The nondualist school proposes that the "Self" and "God" are ultimately the same, not two separate entities—thus "nondual." The bhakti, or devotion-based tradition, emphasizes a personal relationship with a deity. Both ideas are important to the Gita. Teaching Arjuna how to reach liberation through the path of yoga, realizing the Self and thus God, Krishna says, "He who is rooted in oneness / realizes that I am / in every being." Krishna also has a personal relationship with Arjuna and teaches him that doing right action and practicing yoga are also types of worship and devotion. He instructs Arjuna to "love [him] with perfect faith / bring your whole self to [him]." These two concepts may have distinct schools built around them in the Hindu tradition, but Krishna unites them within the Bhagavad Gita.

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