60. The Seven Qualities of a True Sanyasi and Yogi


by Jayaram V

Notes: I have translated the Bhagavadgita twice. The first one was a loose translation. The second one was a word to word translation with a detailed commentary. The commentary is however different from what you will find here. In this section I will share with you my thoughts about the knowledge, philosophy and wisdom of the Bhagavadgita as I understand it from my perspective. Jayaram V

Summary: This essay lists the seven most important qualities of a Sanyasi and Yogi according to the Bhagavadgita

In the sixth chapter of the Bhagavadgita, Lord Krishna describes the qualities of a Sanyasi and Yogi, while speaking about Atma Samyama Yoga (The Yoga of self-absorption which has some similarities with Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga. He begins with the assertion that Sanyasa (renunciation) and Yoga are inseparable, saying, “Na hi asanyastasankalpa yogi bhavati,” which means that without renouncing desires or intentions, none can become a yogi or practice the yoga of liberation.

Nowadays, some people in the east and west assume the title of a yogi, because they practice yoga. As a social norm, one may accept it, since by definition, a yogi is one who practice any yoga, be it Patanjali Yoga or Jnana Yoga or Raja Yoga. However, according to the Bhagavad-Gita a true yogi is the one who renounces desires (sankalpa). The practice of yoga is incomplete without renunciation. A yogi has to be a renunciant (sanyasi) to achieve liberation. In the remaining chapter, Lord Krishna goes on to describe the other important qualities of a Sanyasi which are listed below.

1. Even mindedness (samatvam). According to the scripture, until one attains the state of Yoga, effort or action is the means. Once it is achieved, even mindedness or oneness or equanimity becomes the means. A true Yogi or Sanyasi is the same (samah) everywhere. Since he is free from desires, attachments, preferences and expectations, he remains unattached to anything and anyone.

2. Friend of Self (atma bandhu). A true sanyasi has no inner conflicts. His behavior is a true reflection of his inner purity and tranquility. Since he does not engage in any self-destructive and inimical actions that lead to his spiritual downfall and since he does not act like an enemy of himself, he can best be described as a friend of himself, who uplifts himself by himself and his righteousness.

3. Self-conqueror (jitatmana). By conquering his mind and body, the sanyasi remains peaceful and tranquil, with his mind absorbed in the contemplation of God. Further, with complete control over his mind and body, and free from desires, attachments and attraction and aversion, he remains undisturbed and serene amidst the pars of opposites such as heat and cold, pain and pleasure, honor and dishonor.

4. Contended soul (triptatma). Free from desires and attachments, the sanyasi is contended with whatever he has and in whatever situation he finds himself. He does not struggle or strive to improve his condition or change the divine will. Treating alike gold and a lump of clay, endowed with knowledge and wisdom, and firmly stable and in control of his mind and senses (vijita indriya), he accepts everything as the will of God and goes with the flow, doing his duties and living his life as a sacrifice.

5. Balanced and restrained (yukta). The scripture clearly states that for a yogi or sanyasi balance is very important. Yoga is not for the one who eats or sleeps excessively, or for the one who does not sleep or eat at all. For the person who controls his eating and enjoyment and balances his waking and sleeping times by controlling his mind, Yoga becomes a destroyer of sorrow (dukkha hanta). In other words, moderation and the middle-path are important in spiritual practice.

6. Self-absorbed (citta yukta). Overcoming desires and cravings, and with his mind and senses withdrawn and restrained by the practice of yoga, he remains undisturbed and absorbed in the Self. In that state he sees himself abiding in the Self and satisfied in himself, and experiences infinite bliss (atyanta sukham). This is in contrast to the ordinary people whose minds remain disturbed and preoccupied with worldly matters and materiality. The remember God only in distress of when they desire something for which divine help is required.

7. Detached from suffering (dukkha viyogam). Since the Self is the highest of all attainment, and having attained it, he does not find sorrow or suffering vexing or troublesome. He remains indifferent to it, since he is detached from it. According to the Bhagavadgita, detachment from union with suffering is the true state of yoga (dukkha samyoga viyogam). A person who attains it remains self-absorbed and undisturbed, even if his mind and body may undergo pain. This definition of yoga is apt because yoga refers to the auspicious state of freedom which is from suffering, and true liberation is liberation from suffering only.

Atma Samyama Yoga is the answer to the instability of the mind

Mental stability is vital to achieve success in the practice of yoga, since it facilitates the absorption of the mind in the contemplation of God or Self. Absorption in the Self (atma samyama) will not happen unless the mind is calm and under firm control. However, it is not easy. By nature, the mind is fickle, turbulent, strong and obstinate (cancalam his manah... pramati balavad dradham). Controlling it is as difficult as controlling the wind.

Therefore, Atma Samyama Yoga is not suitable for people whose minds are restless and unstable. However, it is not impossible to practice. One can control the outgoing mind and senses with persistent practice (abhyasa) and detachment (vairagya), and turn then inward. Further, there is no loss in this yoga. Those who succeed will attain liberation, but those who fail, will go to the world of ancestors. Upon returning from there, they take birth in a good family of yogis and continue their practice to achieve liberation.

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