States of self-realization defined in the Gita

This post is a collection of some interesting terms from the Bhagavad Gita that denote various states of self-realization, along with explanatory text from the works of Sri Aurobindo.  The terms covered in this post are Vyavasaya-yukta Buddhi, Atmarati, Brahmi-sthithi, Nimitta-Matra, Brahma-Nirvana, Samahita, Samyatendriyah, Samsiddhi, Samam Brahma, Udasinavat, Krsna-vit, Brahma-bhuya and Madbhava.

Vyavasaya-yukta buddhi (Mind acting with determination and persistence)

This term occurs in Chapter 2, Verse 44 of the Bhagavad Gita.

Normally the mind runs with the senses.   Vyavasaya-yukta Buddhi refers to the condition when the mind works with one-pointed concentration(i.e. Ekagra as discussed here) This state is the first condition for success in meditation.  Sri Aurobindo explains this term in the Essays on the Gita

There are two possibilities of the action of the intelligent will. It may take its downward and outward orientation towards a discursive action of the perceptions and the will in the triple play of Prakriti, or it may take its upward and inward orientation towards a settled peace and equality in the calm and immutable purity of the conscious silent soul no longer subject to the distractions of Nature.

In the former alternative the subjective being is at the mercy of the objects of sense, it lives in the outward contact of things. That life is the life of desire. For the senses excited by their objects create a restless or often violent disturbance, a strong or even headlong outward movement towards the seizure of these objects and their enjoyment, and they carry away the sense-mind, “as the winds carry away a ship upon the sea”; the mind subjected to the emotions, passions, longings, impulsions awakened by this outward movement of the senses carries away similarly the intelligent will, which loses therefore its power of calm discrimination and mastery.  Subjection of the soul to the confused play of the three gunas of Prakriti in their eternal entangled twining and wrestling, ignorance, a false, sensuous, objective life of the soul, enslavement to grief and wrath and attachment and passion, are the results of the downward trend of the Buddhi, – the troubled life of the ordinary, unenlightened, undisciplined man.

The inner subjective self-delight independent of objects is our true aim and the high and wide poise of our peace and liberation.  Therefore, it is the upward and inward orientation of the intelligent will that we must resolutely choose with a settled concentration and perseverance, vyavasāya; we must fix it firmly in the calm self-knowledge of the Purusha. The first movement must be obviously to get rid of desire which is the whole root of the evil and suffering; and in order to get rid of desire, we must put an end to the cause of desire, the rushing out of the senses to seize and enjoy their objects. We must draw them back when they are inclined thus to rush out, draw them away from their objects, – as the tortoise draws in his limbs into the shell, so these into their source, quiescent in the mind, the mind quiescent in intelligence, the intelligence quiescent in the soul and its self-knowledge, observing the action of Nature but not object to it not desiring any thing  that the objective life can give.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita: The Yoga of the Intelligent Will

Atmarati (One who delights in the Self)

This term occurs in Chapter 3, Verse 17 of the Bhagavad Gita.  It is an intermediate state which comes when the Yogin, after some effort, begins to live in a state of peace which is unaffected by the turbulence of the world.

There grows on us, in other words, an inner separate calm which watches the commotion of the lower members without taking part in it or giving it any sanction. At first the higher reason and will may be often clouded, invaded, the mind carried away by the incitation of the lower members, but eventually this calm becomes inexpugnable, permanent, not to be shaken by the most violent touches, na duhkhena guruņāpi vicālyate. This inner soul of calm regards the trouble of the outer mind with a detached superiority or a passing uninvolved indulgence such as might be given to the trivial joys and griefs of a child, it does not regard them as its own or as reposing on any permanent reality. And, finally, the outer mind too accepts by degrees this calm and indifferent serenity; it ceases to be attracted by the things that attracted it or troubled by the griefs and pains to which it had the habit of attaching an unreal importance. Thus the third power comes, an all-pervading power of wide tranquillity and peace, a bliss of release from the siege of our imposed fantastic self-torturing nature, the deep undisturbed exceeding happiness of the touch of the eternal and infinite replacing by its permanence the strife and turmoil of impermanent things, brahmasamsparśam atyantam sukham aśnute The soul is fixed in the delight of the self, atmaratih, in the single and infinite Ananda of the spirit and hunts no more after outward touches and their griefs and pleasures. It observes the world only as the spectator of a play or action in which it is no longer compelled to participate.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga – II: The Way of Equality

This state lays the foundation for the deeper pursuit of the true Self as conveyed in the following aphorism of Sri Aurobindo.

The love of solitude is a sign of the disposition towards knowledge; but knowledge itself is only achieved when we have a settled perception of solitude in the crowd, in the battle and in the mart.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays Divine and Human: Jnana

Brahmi-stithi (Firm standing in the Divine/Brahman)

This term occurs in Chapter 2, Verse 72 of the Gita.

The status he reaches is the Brahmic condition; he gets to firm standing in the Brahman, brahmı sthiti. It is a reversal of the whole view, experience, knowledge, values, seeings of earthbound creatures. This life of the dualities which is to them their day, their waking, their consciousness, their bright condition of activity and knowledge, is to him a night, a troubled sleep and darkness of the soul; that higher being which is to them a night, a sleep in which all knowledge and will cease, is to the self-mastering sage his waking, his luminous day of true being, knowledge and power.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita: The Yoga of the Intelligent Will

The reversal of day and night referred in the above paragraph has already been described in this post – Inversion of day and night

Nimitta-matra (Instrument of the Divine)

This term occurs in Chapter 11, Verse 33 and Chapter 4, Verse 14.  It refers to the state where the spiritual aspirant becomes a channel for the Divine.

Therefore, the final attitude is that enjoined on Arjuna in a later chapter, “All has been already done by Me in my divine will and foresight; become only the occasion, O Arjuna,” nimitta-matram bhava savyasacin. This attitude must lead finally to an absolute union of the personal with the Divine Will and, with the growth of knowledge, bring about a faultless response of the instrument to the divine Power and Knowledge.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita: Equality and Knowledge

When we are freed by knowledge, the Lord, no longer hidden in our hearts, but manifest as our supreme self, takes up our works and uses us as faultless instruments, nimitta-matram, for the helping of the world. Such is the intimate union between knowledge and equality; knowledge here in the buddhi reflected as equality in the temperament; above, on a higher plane of consciousness, knowledge as the light of the Being, equality as the stuff of the Nature.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita: Equality and Knowledge

Brahma-Nirvana (Cessation in the Divine/Brahman)

This term occurs in the Gita in Chapter 2, Verse 72 as well as in Chapter 5, Verses 24 thru 26.  Sri Aurobindo points out the Gita’s definition of Brahma-Nirvana is different from the traditional Nirvana.  Brahma-Nirvana means not negation but the loss of partial personality into a perfect being and the cessation of the ego into Brahman.

The Gita after speaking of the perfect equality of the Brahman-knower who has risen into the Brahman-consciousness, brahmavid brahman sthitah, develops in nine verses that follow its idea of Brahmayoga and of Nirvana in the Brahman. “When the soul is no longer attached to the touches of outward things,” it begins, “then one finds the happiness that exists in the Self; such a one enjoys an imperishable happiness, because his self is in Yoga, yukta, by Yoga with the Brahman.” The non-attachment is essential, it says, in order to be free from the attacks of desire and wrath and passion, a freedom without which true happiness is not possible. That happiness and that equality are to be gained entirely by man in the body: he is not to suffer any least remnant of the subjection to the troubled lower nature to remain in the idea that the perfect release will come by a putting off of the body; a perfect spiritual freedom is to be won here upon earth and possessed and enjoyed in the human life, prak sarira-vimoksanat. It then continues, “He who has the inner happiness and the inner ease and repose and the inner light, that Yogin becomes the Brahman and reaches self-extinction in the Brahman, brahma-nirvanam.”  Here, very clearly, Nirvana means the extinction of the ego in the higher spiritual, inner Self, that which is for ever timeless, spaceless, not bound by the chain of cause and effect and the changes of the world-mutation, self-blissful, self-illumined and for ever at peace.  The Yogin ceases to be the ego, the little person limited by the mind and the body; he becomes the Brahman; he is unified in consciousness with the immutable divinity of the eternal Self which is immanent in his natural being.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita: Nirvana and Works in the World

There is an aphorism of Sri Aurobindo which describes this state concisely.

If when thou art doing great actions and moving giant results, thou canst perceive that thou art doing nothing, then know that God has removed His seal from thy eyelids.

Sri Aurobindo, The Hour of God: Jnana

Samahita (approached completely, concentrated in Samadhi)

This term occuring in Chapter 6, Verse 7 is described by Sri Aurobindo as follows

…he does them without desire and attachment, without the egoistic personal will and the mental seeking which is the parent of desire. He has conquered his lower self, reached the perfect calm in which his highest self is manifest to him, that highest self always concentrated in its own being, samahita, in Samadhi, not only in the trance of the inward-drawn consciousness, but always, in the waking state of the mind as well, in exposure to the causes of desire and of the disturbance of calm, to grief and pleasure, heat and cold, honour and disgrace, all the dualities, sitosna-sukhaduhkhesu tatha manapamanayoh.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita: Nirvana and Works in the World

Samyatendriyah (controlled senses)

This term, occuring in Chapter 4, Verse 39 of the Gita, refers to the self-control over the senses.

To get this other knowledge, self-existent, intuitive, self-experiencing, self-revealing, we must have conquered and controlled our mind and senses, samyatendriyah , so that we are no longer subject to their delusions, but rather the mind and senses become its pure mirror; we must have fixed our whole conscious being on the truth of that supreme reality in which all exists, tatparah, so that it may display in us its luminous self-existence.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita: Equality and Knowledge

Samsiddhi (perfection)

This term occurs in Chapter 6, Verse 43 and Chapter 18, Verse 45.

The works of sacrifice are thus vindicated as a means of liberation and absolute spiritual perfection, samsiddhi. So Janaka and other great Karmayogins of the mighty ancient Yoga attained to perfection, by equal and desireless works done as a sacrifice, without the least egoistic aim or attachment karmanaiva hi samsiddhim asthita janakadayah.  So too and with the same desirelessness, after liberation and perfection, works can and have to be continued by us in a large divine spirit, with the calm high nature of a spiritual royalty.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita: The Principle of Divine Works

Samam brahma (Equality in Brahman)

This term occurs in Chapter 5, Verse 19 and indicates the state of equanimity (see  Vital immobility)

By a long whole-hearted endeavour, by directing our whole conscious being to that, by making that our whole aim, by turning it into the whole object of our discerning mind and so seeing it not only in ourselves but everywhere, we become one thought and self with that, tad-buddhayas tad-atmanah, we are washed clean of all the darkness and suffering of the lower man by the waters of knowledge, jnana-nirdhuta-kalmasah.  The result is, says the Gita, a perfect equality to all things and all persons; and then only can we repose our works completely in the Brahman. For the Brahman is equal, samam brahma, and it is only when we have this perfect equality, samye sthitam manah, “seeing with an equal eye the learned and cultured Brahmin, the cow, the elephant, the dog, the outcaste” and knowing all as one Brahman, that we can, living in that oneness, see like the Brahman our works proceeding from the nature freely without any fear of attachment, sin or bondage.

The equal Brahman is faultless, nirdosam hi samam brahma, beyond the confusion of good and evil, and living in the Brahman we too rise beyond good and evil; we act in that purity, stainlessly, with an equal and single purpose of fulfilling the welfare of all existences, ksina-kalmasah. sarvabhuta-hite ratah.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita: Equality and Knowledge

Udasinavat (Indifferent to the play of Nature)

This term is from Chapter 14, Verse 22-25 and indicates one who is unperturbed by the tribulations of Life  and the play of the three modes of Nature (Sattwa=illumination, Rajas=kinetism, Tamas=inertia).

The Gita admits the philosophic motive of indifference as a preliminary movement; but the indifference to which it finally arrives, if indeed that inadequate word can be at all applied, has nothing in it of the philosophic aloofness. It is indeed a position as of one seated above, udasınavat, but as the Divine is seated above, having no need at all in the world, yet he does works always and is present everywhere supporting, helping, guiding the labour of creatures.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita: Equality and Knowledge

Krtsna-vit (one who has knowledge of totality)

This term occurs in Chapter 3, Verse 29.

…Everything in the Gita is even so interwoven and must be understood in its relation to the whole. The Gita itself makes a distinction between those who have not the knowledge of the whole, akrtsnavidah, and are misled by the partial truths of existence, and the Yogin who has the synthetic knowledge of the totality, krtsna-vit. To see all existence steadily and see it whole and not be misled by its conflicting truths, is the first necessity for the calm and complete wisdom to which the Yogin is called upon to rise

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita: The Determinism of Nature

Brahma-bhuta (become Divine/Brahman)

This term occurs in Chapter 5, Verse 24, Chapter 6, Verse 27, Chapter 14, Verse 26 and Chapter 18, Verses 51-53.  Sri Aurobindo says the state of Brahma-Bhuta is a stepping stone to the state of Madbhava.

Then evidently the straight and simplest way to get out of the close bondage of the active nature and back to spiritual freedom is to cast away entirely all that belongs to the dynamics of the ignorance and to convert the soul into a pure spiritual existence. That is what is called becoming Brahman, brahma-bhuya. It is to put off the lower mental, vital, physical existence and to put on the pure spiritual being.

In fact this becoming Brahman, this assumption into the self of eternal silence, brahma-bhuya, is not all our objective, but only the necessary immense base for a still greater and more marvellous divine becoming, madbhava. And to get to that greatest spiritual perfection we have indeed to be immobile in the self, silent in all our members,

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita: Towards the Supreme Secret

Madbhava (Nature of the Divine)

This term occurs in Chapter 4, Verse 10, Chapter 8, Verse 5, Chapter 10, Verse 6 and Chapter 14, Verse 19

To exalt oneself out of the lower imperfect Prakriti, traigunyamayi maya, into unity with the divine being, consciousness and nature, madbhavam agatah, is the object of the Yoga. But when this object is fulfilled, when the man is in the Brahmic status and sees no longer with the false egoistic vision himself and the world, but sees all beings in the Self, in God, and the Self in all beings, God in all beings, what shall be the action, – since action there still is, – which results from that seeing, and what shall be the cosmic or individual motive of all his works? ….What example then shall he give? What rule or standard shall he uphold?…. In order to indicate more perfectly his meaning, the divine Teacher, the Avatar gives his own example, his own standard to Arjuna. “I abide in the path of action,” he seems to say, “the path that all men follow; thou too must abide in action. In the way I act, in that way thou too must act. I am above the necessity of works, for I have nothing to gain by them; I am the Divine who possess all things and all beings in the world and I am myself beyond the world as well as in it and I do not depend upon anything or anyone in all the three worlds for any object; yet I act….

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita: The Principle of Divine Works

15 thoughts on “States of self-realization defined in the Gita

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  6. arya

    In the gita, Lord Krishna says devotees who worship other gods go to them, whereas devotees who worship him (krishna) come to him. Does SA provide an explanation for this? Does this mean devotees who worship lord ganesh, for instance, go to ganesh loka, or krishna devotees to krishna loka (although both are on the overmind plane)?

    1. Sandeep Post author

      Krishna is an Avatar and not a God like Ganesha.

      A God is a power which is local to a certain plane of consciousness and can only give you powers which are manifest in that plane or world. The manifestation of a God into your consciousness might give you a special power of the intellect, financial prosperity or good physical health, etc.

      On the other hand, an Avatar is one of the “few great beings whose psychic has in a sense colonized vast stretches of consciousness, and who protect the world with their silent light.” (from Satprem’s Adventures of Consciousness). Such beings have transcended all planes and can grant you Self-Realization.

      Human birth is special because we have seven Chakras which allow us to be open to all planes of consciousness.

      1. arpanrox

        “Now, worshipping Ishwara and Him alone is Bhakti ; the worship of anything else, Deva or Pitri, or any other being cannot be Bhakti. The various kinds of worship of the various Devas are all to be included in ritualistic Karma which gives to the worshipper only a particular result in the form of some celestial enjoyment, but can neither give rise to Bhakti nor lead to Mukti.[…]…..When, therefore, any gods or other beings are worshipped in and for themselves, such worship is only a ritualistic Karma and as a Vidya (science) it gives us only the fruit belonging to that particular Vidya; but when the Devas or any other beings are looked upon as Brahman and worshipped, the result obtained is the same as by the worshipping of Ishwara. This explains how, in many cases, both in the Shrutis and the Smritis, a god, or a sage, or some other extraordinary being is taken up and lifted, as it were, out of its own nature and idealised into Brahman, and is then worshipped. Says the Advaitin, “Is not everything Brahman when the name and the form have been removed from it ?” ”
        -Bhakti Yog(book by Swami Vivekanand)

        Here Swamiji mentions how it is our attitude towards a form determine the result. Eg Gabesh and Surya are one of the 5 forms.(Panchdev) in which Divinity is envisaged. Saurs take Surya as the Supreme God and Smartas taje Ganesh as Supreme Gods, others being: Vaishnavas, Shaivas and Shaktas.

        Also, Sri Aurobindo has stated that right attitude towards a human guru is liberating too, nevermind his defects. If we worship the divine element in the Guru, it is the divinity that answers.

  7. Pete

    I get a little confused sometimes in that Bhakti is worship and yet ultimately it is our own inner and truest self that we worship as another. It seems contradictory, If we are trying to cultivate an attitude of mind where we see the oneness in all creation and our self in others, then doesn’t worship reinforce duality? And yet being concentrated in this plan it is quite natural to worship and request grace from the Lord as a being other than ourselves. It is as if we play the dualism and worship long enough to merge our consciousness with The Supreme being.

    1. Sandeep Post author

      “Worship” is probably the wrong English word to use for “Bhakti’, because it might imply awe of something other than one self, hence creating the connotation of duality that you feel.

      Bhakti is the desire to unite the individual Self with the Universal Self which pervades the Universe.

      Dualism will exist temporally until the merger occurs. The mind and the heart must both see the Oneness in order to erase the duality.

  8. Pete

    The only way I make sense of it is like” you are Sandeep and I am Pete. Two very different people. For practical purposes we must acknowledge that difference even though we are expression of the same supreme being. So also with the divine. We are so entrenched in the dualism, for practical purposes, we benefit from acknowledging the reality of the dualism even though it is only half of the reality. Oneness in diversity, diversity within oneness. As part of the diversity we yearn for the Oneness (Bhakti?).

    1. Sandeep Post author

      Best to quote Sri Aurobindo here !

      These fragments are from the “Synthesis of Yoga”, Part 3 – Yoga of Divine Love.

      Will, knowledge and love are the three divine powers in human nature and the life of man, and they point to the three paths by which the human soul rises to the Divine. The integrality of them, the union of man with God in all the three, must therefore, as we have seen, be the foundation of an integral Yoga.


      The way of Bhakti is supposed often to be necessarily inferior because it proceeds by worship which belongs to that stage of spiritual experience where there is a difference, an insufficient unity between the human soul and the Divine, because its very principle is love and love means always two, the lover and the beloved, a dualism therefore, while oneness is the highest spiritual experience, arid because it seeks after the personal God while the Impersonal is the highest and the eternal truth, if not even the sole Reality. But worship is only the first step on the path of devotion. Where external worship changes into the inner adoration, real Bhakti begins; that deepens into the intensity of divine love; that love leads to the joy of closeness in our relations with the Divine; the joy of closeness passes into the bliss of union.


      One question rises immediately in a synthetic Yoga which must not only comprise but unify knowledge and devotion, the difficult and troubling question of the divine Personality. All the trend of modern thought has been towards the belittling of personality; it has seen behind the complex facts of existence only a great impersonal force, an obscure becoming, and that too works itself out through impersonal forces and impersonal laws, while personality presents itself only as a subsequent, subordinate, partial, transient phenomenon upon the face of this impersonal movement. Granting even to this Force a consciousness, that seems to be impersonal, indeterminate, void in essence of all but abstract qualities or energies; for everything else is only a result, a minor phenomenon. Ancient Indian thought starting from quite the other end of the scale arrived on most of its lines at the same generalisation. It conceived of an impersonal existence as the original and eternal truth; personality is only an illusion or at best a phenomenon of the mind.


      We have said, however, that personality and impersonality, as our minds understand them, are only aspects of the Divine and both are contained in his being; they are one thing which we see from two opposite sides and into which we enter by two gates.


      All this may seem at first sight to be an original anthropomorphism terminating in an intellectual notion of the Deity which is very much at variance with the actualities of the world as we see it. It is not surprising that the philosophical and sceptical mind should have found little difficulty in destroying it all intellectually, whether in the direction of the denial of a personal God and the assertion of an impersonal Force or Becoming or in that of an impersonal Being or an ineffable denial of existence with all the rest as only symbols of Maya or phenomenal truths of the Time-consciousness. But these are only the personifications of monotheism. Polytheistic religions, less exalted perhaps, but wider and more sensitive in their response to cosmic life, have felt that all in the cosmos has a divine origin; therefore they conceived of the existence of many divine personalities with a vague sense of an indefinable Divine behind, whose relations with the personal gods were not very clearly conceived. And in their more exoteric forms these gods were crudely anthropomorphic; but where the inner sense of spiritual things became clearer, the various godheads assumed the appearance of personalities of the one Divine, — that is the declared point of view of the ancient Veda. This Divine might be a supreme Being who manifests himself in various divine personalities or an impersonal existence which meets the human mind in these forms; or both views might be held simultaneously without any intellectual attempt to reconcile them, since both were felt to be true to spiritual experience.

      The complete section is here

  9. john

    l was watching a youtube vid the other night about these exact same points.
    lt was about Sri Ramakrishna and Totapuri [the yogi who only believed in the ‘impersonal aspect’].
    Sri Ramakrishna told him it’s like a snake – the snake can be still or it can wriggle, bit it’s still a snake [much like SA’s analogy of the coin].

    1. Sandeep Post author

      Wow, you went through that whole movie clip in Hindi & Bengali and even attentively read the English subtitles !


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