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THE SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI > Vol. III - The Basic Works > DISCOURSES ON THE GITA > Chapter VI
The Lord said: 'The man who does his duty without any selfish desire for fruit may be called a sannyasi as well as a yogi. But he who abstains from action altogether is only an idler. The root of the matter is that one should not allow his mind to flit from one object of desire to another and from that to a third. He who would practise yoga, i.e., evenness of temper (samatvam), cannot but perform action. The man who has achieved such evenness of temper will be serene, because his mere thoughts are charged with the strength of action. A yogi is one who is not attached to the objects of sense or to action and whose mind has ceased to roam restlessly.
'A man can be saved or lost by himself alone.
Therefore he becomes his own friend or his own enemy, as the case may be. To one who has subdued his mind his soul is a friend; while the soul is an enemy for him who has failed to achieve self-control. The test for self- control is that heat and cold, pleasure and pain, honour and dishonour do not disturb one's inner serenity. He is a yogi who is a man of knowledge as well as experience, who is unwavering and master of his senses and to whom gold, stone and earth seem all alike. He regards with an equal eye friend and foe, sinner and saint. With a view to attaining this state a man should stabilize his mind, divest it of all sensual desires, and meditate in solitude on the Supreme Soul. It is not enough to practise yogic asanas (postures), etc. In order to achieve evenness of temper, one must scrupulously keep the major observances (vratas) such as brahmacharya (chastity) and the like. A man who thus takes his place on a firm seat, keeps the observances and concentrates his mind on God enters into perfect peace.
'This equanimity is not for one who overeats or merely fasts, nor for one who is too much addicted to sleep or to vigils. Its seeker has to keep a sense of proportion in all his actions such as eating and drinking, sleeping and keeping awake. To overeat one day and fast the next day, to oversleep for a day and keep a vigil the next, to work hard for a day and pass the next in idleness is no characteristic of a yogi. The yogi is stable- minded at all times, and is without effort free from all desires. He is like an unflickering lamp burning in a windless place. He is not tossed to and fro by dramatic events on the world-stage or by his own brain waves. Such mental poise can be acquired by slow but steady effort. The mind is fickle and restless, but it should be gradually stabilized, for one can have peace of mind only when he is firm of understanding. In order thus to stabilize the mind, he should constantly fix it on the soul. He will then see all beings in himself and himself in all beings, for he will see Me in all beings and all beings in Me. He who is absorbed in Me, and sees Me everywhere ceases to be himself, so that he is at all times attuned to Me irrespective of what he is doing, and is incapable of sin.'
Yoga thus described seemed to Arjuna to be a tall order, and he exclaimed, 'How is one to achieve such equanimity? The human mind is restless like a monkey, and as difficult to control as the wind. How is it to be curbed?'
The Lord replied, 'You are right. But if a man earnestly sets about conquering attachment and aversion, yoga will not be difficult for him to practise. But it should be clear to you that it is not for one who cannot control his mind.'
Then Arjuna posed another question, 'Supposing a man has faith, but is lax in his effort and is thus unsuccessful in perfecting himself, what happens to him? Is he destroyed like a broken cloud in the sky?'
The Lord said, 'Such a man of faith is never lost, for no one who takes the right path ever comes to an evil end. After death he lives for a time in some celestial world according to his merit and is then reborn on the earth into a holy family. But such a birth is difficult to obtain. He then regains the mental impressions developed in his former lives, and struggling harder for perfection, reaches the supreme goal. Thus making an assiduous effort some attain equanimity soon, while others do so after a number of lives in accordance with the measure of their faith and endeavour. This evenness of temper is superior to asceticism, to knowledge and to sacred rites, for these latter are after all only means to the end of equanimity. Do you therefore become even- minded and a yogi. And even among yogis hold him to be the best who dedicates his all to Me and worships Me alone in full faith.'
Pranayama (control of breath) and asanas (yogic postures) are referred to appreciatively in this chapter, but we should remember that at the same time the Lord has stressed the need for brahmacharya, i.e., keeping the observances calculated to take us nearer and nearer to God. It should be clearly understood that the mere practice of asanas and the like can never take us to the goal of even-mindedness. Asanas and pranayama may be of some slight help in steadying the mind and making it single-purposed, provided that they are practised to that end. Otherwise they are no better than other methods of physical training. They are very useful indeed as physical exercise and I believe that this type of exercise is good for the soul, and may be performed from a bodily standpoint.. But I have observed that these practices do only harm when indulged in for the acquisition of supernormal powers (siddhi) and the performance of miracles. This chapter should be studied as a summary of the teaching in the preceding three chapters. It cheers us up in our spiritual struggle. We should never be down-hearted and give up the endeavour to reach evenness of temper.