Contemplation and Meditation


The 5th and 6th Chapters in The Bhagavad Gita finish out Part One of Jack Hawley’s “A Walkthrough for Westerners”. Part One, in his description, is “Knowing the True Self Within, and Selfless Action,” so by now, there is an expectation that we are understanding the duality of our experience – our ego self that is tied to impermanence and selfish desires and the Divine Atman that is our True Self to merge into and unite with through acts of yoga.

In chapter 5, like Chapters 3 and 4, Krishna continues to delineate different paths, but also reminds us that every path focused on the Divine leads to the Divine. A strict path of action (karma yoga) is definitely what most of us are on. However, there are also jnana yogis who come to the Divine through contemplation and study and sanyasa yogis who renounce worldly desires completely. Krishna of course gives warning that “Theorizing and make-believe have no place in one’s spiritual career” (5.6-7), bringing emphasis back to the idea that action is always present and we must be discerning in every action and thought to move toward yoga.

Jack Hawley – The Bhagavad Gita Chapter 5.2

It is great that The Bhagavad Gita repeats itself a lot. It is in the repetition that I sometimes miss the more poetic nature of some of the other translations I have, but I am hoping that the repetition in prose will also begin to clarify so many of the major themes that folks have questions about. Chapter 5 once again reminds us that the Divine is in all things in the world, but is unaffected by the world. “The Divine is absolute perfection, poise, and bliss. Worldly acts have no place in this blessed purity.” (5.15) And, goes a bit farther in describing God’s place (or lack there of) in the cycle of karmic acts.

Jack Hawley – Chapter 5.14-15

A question came in about the idea of “fate” and how it seems in The Gita that Arjuna is “fated” to fight this war. However, Arjuna has yet to make up his mind and can actually make whatever decision he wants in the end. The Divine voice in Krishna is trying to draw Arjuna closer in to clarifying his dharmic duty, but that doesn’t mean he will go along with it. At any moment we all always have a choice to listen to our Divine voice or to go another direction. Chapter 6 clarifies this dilemma in 6.5-6:

Jack Hawley – BG 6.5-6

Chapter 6 also goes into ways to begin to tame the mind and the senses away from selfish desires towards selfless thoughts and actions. The chapter title refers to one of the eight limbs of yoga, Dhyana, translated as meditation. Jack Hawley does mention the fact that there are many paths of meditation that might be employed, but the results should be the same. The result of any meditation and contemplation, drawing the mind and senses away from the external toward our Divine True Self, is the experience and understanding of oneness. The yogi that experiences this oneness is no longer disturbed by duality and sees all things as equal. Knowing their True Self, the yogi sees that every being is also Divine at its core despite any outer coverings.

  • “That yogi considers a clod of mud, a stone, or a gold nugget with the same equal-mindedness.” (6.8)
  • “The yogi who looks with the same eye upon saints or sinners, relatives or strangers, friends or foes, well-wishers or even those wishing harm is indeed supreme.” (6.9)
  • “Those who see Me in everything and everything in Me, know the staggering truth that the Self in the individual is the Self in all.” (6.30)

The rest of chapter 6 is devoted to quelling Arjuna’s thoughts about how difficult this “taming of the mind and senses” is. I think we all might agree at times with Arjuna’s exclamation that “It’s Impossible, Krishna!” (6.33) One of my favorite teachings of The Gita comes after that:

Chapter 6, paragraphs 35-36 bring us back to some very concrete concepts to keep in mind as we proceed in this work. Abhyasa (regular practice) and Vairagya (detachment from the fruits) are the “twin pillars of yoga” as stated in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (I.12-I.16). Vichara is the relentless inquiry into our True Self at every stage that leads to more discriminative action and wisdom (viveka). But all of the above needs a strong foundation in faith (sraddha) to continue to support and fuel our determination on the path.

What is your faith? Why do you do your work? Do you lead with your heart or with your head? How do we know the difference?

Jennie Williford CIYT

Jennie Williford (CIYT Level 3) is a transplant to LaCrosse via Montana, Illinois, and originally Texas. Throughout her life moves and 5 trips to India, Jennie has acquired a well-rounded and multi-faceted approach to Iyengar Yoga since her start in 1998. Jennie loves the experimental and explorative nature of yoga in accessing deeper knowledge of the Self on every level. The practice of yoga can be intense and introspective, however as practitioners we can be light-hearted and open-minded in our discipline. Jennie is intrigued by the philosophy of yoga and hopes to share this depth of subject while teaching the physical and mental benefits that come from the practice of posture.