Who is the Top Yogi? What are his qualifications? Gita has a surprising twist for an answer. First, a yogi is the one who practices yoga. What is yoga? Why is yoga necessary?
To understand yoga let us get back to the purpose of Gita. The sole purpose of Gita was to set a broken man (Arjun) upright so that he could get back to action with full vigor. At the end of the sermon of Gita the broken man said that his depression was cured, and that he was ready to take up the challenges of life wholeheartedly.
The central theme of Gita is how to live gracefully in spite of life’s daunting challenges. Distractions come in the form of hope and despair, profit and loss, love and hate, infatuation and resentment, attachment and aversion. These distractions have a way of raising the spirits at one moment and robbing them the next, leaving the person confused, torn, dispirited and finally depressed.
Gita recognizes the powerful effect of depression in life. Gita assures us that there is a way to elegant living where one leads an active life, faces daily pressures, and yet keeps spirits high and leads a stress free life. Most of Gita’s teaching is in unfolding secret of work that allows a striver to remain stress free while undertaking daunting tasks.
Secret of work as elaborated in the Gita revolves around non-attachment. There is plenty of scope for misunderstanding non-attachment. Non attachment is not meant to make one run away from life and lead an inactive existence. On the other hand, experience has shown, if we are non-attached to our jobs we would not waste our energy in defending criticisms, and put our full attention on the job at hand.
That is not all. Over the generations people made the mistake of equating non attachment to loveless aloofness. Common people felt that by practicing non attachment they would do disservice to their own family. After all, how could parents remain unconcerned about the welfare of their children? Thus the common people left matters of non-attachment to the sanyasis (monks). Sanyasis, on the other hand, believed that non-attachment meant remaining unconcerned to the society. Thus for generations monks ignored human sufferings. Societal problems arising out of crime, discrimination, prejudice, depression or personal tragedies meant little to majority of monks. Many monks, practitioners of non-attachment and students of Gita themselves, felt that their duties lie in meditation, prayers and preaching only.
Non attachment does not mean disinterested. Gita asks us to get engaged with the world headlong. If you are a householder, keep yourself engaged in the world. If you are a monk, you too keep yourself engaged with the world. The keyword is unattached, not aloofness. Now we see the difficulty. When a devotee is asked to be non-attached his first reaction would be to disengage. If I am to be unattached to my children I am to sever my connections with them. If I am to be unattached to money I should stop earning money. If I am to be unattached to the society I should leave the society in favor of solitude, perhaps to a deserted hilltop. But Gita observed that when a person shuts his outer senses his mind hovers around the objects of senses (Gita Chapter 3, Verse 6). People may think that he has become a saint by turning away from common lures, but his desires may still remain intact, though temporarily subdued. Experience has shown that when the conditions change all pent up desires rush out in torrents. So, forcing the mind not to see, not to touch or not to hear the objects of desire will not help us toward non-attachment.
Having said so, it must be said that Gita does more than just set a broken person upright for the moment and put him back on business. Gita sets its sight on the permanent solution, so that the broken person would be cured for life. This happens with spiritual enlightenment. But the path toward spiritual attainment is through non-attachment.
Non attachment is achieved through yoga. In Gita the Lord defined yoga in unique ways. First He said that equanimity of mind (Samat-vam yoga uchchate- Gita2.48) is yoga. Mind is to be prepared so as not to be disturbed by ups and downs of life. Two verses down, He said that yoga is the art of work. A person well versed in yoga wastes no energy unnecessarily, always produces superior output, yet works apparently effortlessly. This could be compared to the case of a world class Olympic swimmer who swims seemingly effortlessly ahead of others without splashing water. When thinking is clear, methodology of work is worked out skillfully; no one has to waste time in second guessing or arguing. The Lord called this unperturbed nature of mind as yoga. This is a new definition. Conventional thinking defines a yogi in terms of certain narrow activities and outward appearances of a practitioner. Gita, on the other hand, defined yogi in terms of attitude. An athlete could be a yogi, so can a busy executive, so can a person meditating all alone in a mountain cave. Gita transforms our world view.
The Lord continues elaborating on yogis in Chapter 6 of Gita. He talks about yogis who keep on working without any selfish motive. He talks about withdrawing sensory urges. This is not the end. In Chapter 6 the Lord stresses on practicing meditation by living in solitude (Gita 6.10). How to practice meditation to be a yogi? Establish a seat in a clean spot, not too high not too low, subdue the action of mind, keep the body erect, gaze at the tip of the nose only. A yogi does not eat too much nor too little, does not sleep too much nor too little. The mind of the yogi has to be as undisturbed as an unflickered lamp (Gita Chapter 6, verse 10-19). These are difficult endeavor for an aspiring yogi. But let us face it; people expect such stern instructions from a guru, definitely from the Lord who demands the best from the devotees.
Finally Gita is ready to define the top yogi. The Lord lets out the secret (Gita Chapter 6, Verse 32). His answer was elegantly simple. He said, that person is the top yogi who treats everyone as himself (herself). To emphasize the point He continued, the top yogi would treat other people’s happiness as his (or her) own happiness and other people’s unhappiness as his (or her) own unhappiness. Then only he (or she) is the top yogi. Let us pause a moment to ponder this statement. When does a person become supremely happy with the happiness of others? When does a person grievously mourn for others? He (she) does it only when he (she) can unselfishly love others without any expectation of return. The Lord is talking about unmitigated love. This kind of love is seen from parents for their own children, at least when they are very young.
The import of this teaching is breath taking. Remember, in Gita the teacher is extraordinary, and His teachings are transformative. So, when He finally defined the top yogi He defined him with qualities no one saw coming. There was no talk about seating style, breathing discipline or eating/ sleeping habits. The person does not have to fit the accepted norms at all. What becomes important for the top yogi is where his (or her) heart lies. Does he become totally engaged with the happiness and unhappiness of a complete stranger? Does he delightedly call everyone in the neighborhood without a trace of envy to announce the good fortune of his neighbor? Does he pour his heart out when he learns from a stranger that he lost a child? If so, according to Gita, he is the top yogi. He reached the acme of spiritual realization.
The disciplines for sitting postures, eating restrictions, breathing schedules appears to be meant for ordinary earthlings who have to strive hard to gain access to the knowledge of Atma (Self). Our mind is so entrenched in the physical world that we believe we have to perform certain disciplined action to gain something. We find it difficult to accept that knowledge of atma is not a gain, but a realization of our own true nature. The Lord knows our limitations, and so He prescribes certain actions that, if done earnestly, could lead us to realization. But for those who dare to become super-yogis, the Lord skips His prescription of disciplined action. Those yogis do not have to do anything physical. Let them pour their ever flowing heart out. That is all. Non-attachment in the final analysis is unmitigated and spontaneous ever engaging love for all.
Jai Gita. What teaching! Throw away the rule books. No need to recite flowery slokas (verses). No preaching on morality. Open your heart, and catch the tune of immortality from every footstep, from every voice. Then you are a yogi. Nay, you are on top of all yogis. This is Gita. The greatest teaching ever delivered.
NOTE: The author used masculine gender to mean both genders for easier flow of language.
Source: WHN Media Network