Gita 06.46 explained

Link to purport by A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada

Transcript of Bhakti-Shastri class on this verse by Chaitanya

46-47: The topmost yogi fixes his mind on Krishna

Bg 6.46

tapasvibhyo ’dhiko yogī
jñānibhyo ’pi mato ’dhikaḥ
karmibhyaś cādhiko yogī
tasmād yogī bhavārjuna

Word for word: 

tapasvibhyaḥ — than the ascetics; adhikaḥ — greater; yogī — the yogī; jñānibhyaḥ — than the wise; api — also; mataḥ — considered; adhikaḥ — greater; karmibhyaḥ — than the fruitive workers; ca — also; adhikaḥ — greater; yogī — the yogī; tasmāt — therefore; yogī — a transcendentalist; bhava — just become; arjuna — O Arjuna.


A yogī is greater than the ascetic, greater than the empiricist and greater than the fruitive worker. Therefore, O Arjuna, in all circumstances, be a yogī.


So tapasvi is a person who performs austerities, so better than the person who performs austerities is the person who does Yoga adhiko yogī, better than the person who is Gyani, jñānibhyo ’pi mato ’dhikaḥ, greater than the person who is Gyani is the person who is Yogi and greater than the person who is Karmi is yogi, karmibhyaś cādhiko yogī, and therefore Arjun you should be a Yogi, tasmād yogī bhavārjuna.


So in this chapter Sri Krishna seems to be offering a very strong endorsement of Yoga. Naturally the chapter is Yoga so naturally Sri Krishna will talk about yoga, at the same time He is talking about a Yoga which leads to a particular perfection, so here the word Yoga primarily means connection with the absolute truth so having a connection with the absolute truth through yoga whichever yoga one might follow, having a connection is more important then just doing the austerities, then just cultivating knowledge or just doing work, the point here is connection with the absolute truth is preferable to any other thing which you may consider spiritual, so the point is connection, yoga means connection.


In the purport Srila Prabhupada emphasises this point very clearly:

When we speak of yoga we refer to linking our consciousness with the Supreme Absolute Truth.

This is possible by various processes, here Srila Prabhupada is talking about what are the problems with other processes:

Asceticism without self-knowledge is imperfect. [Which means one is doing austerity but one is not connecting one’s inner reality, one is not connecting supreme reality which is Krishna. Self-knowledge refers just not the knowledge of Atma but it also refers atma as part of Supreme so mere asceticism is not of much use it may be useful in improving one’s health but from transcendental perspective it is not of much use, King Kulasekhara Maharaj says in Mukunda Mala Stotram without remembrance of Sri Krishna fasting is simply an exercise of fat removal it is Medas Ched Phalani, Medas is fat, Ched to get rid of , so it is not going to lead to any spiritual advancement in itself, there are people who fast of health benefits, in fact just like we have Japa retreat, Yoga retreat, there are Doctors who does fast retreat, this is derivative of nature therapy, the idea is body have healing capacity itself and if we just allow the body it will heal the damaging stimuli there as long as eating new food body energy is getting diverted to digesting food but if a person fasts in a Doctor’s supervision then the body’s energy is no longer caught in digesting new food but the body energy is available for healing itself and cleaning itself, repairing itself basically, the point is, it may be popular with some people and it may work also on physical level there are incidences where people have deceases which are incurable by normal means which are cured by fasting for substantial amount of time, so people may fast for health reasons and that has got nothing to do with spiritual realisations similarly people may fast just to negate the drives of the body just to prove that yes I can control myself, of course the most popular reason for fasting is to reduce weight, our society is society where obese people, people who are fat are people who are untouchable, unseen-able, people who are fat they are looked in way which is quite mortifying and actually people are caught in catch 22 situation on one side we have so many advertisement which are glamorising, propositioning and tempting eat this eat that and most of the food are tempting and fat inducing like fast food, so people may fast to get rid of fat which is not at all spiritual so Srila Prabhupada says Asceticism without self-knowledge is imperfect yes the capacity to do Asceticism is useful on the spiritual path Srila Prabhupada recommended us to do tapasya on Ekadasi and on Holy days, fasting as a tool for health can also be adopted by devotees just as a yoga is used as a tool for health by devotees but the imp point is devotees are not caught in that alone and they do it for spiritual purposes, so we understand that fasting or yoga is not our primary goal, it is Krishna Consciousness and we wanted to make spiritual advancement and return to Krishna and along the way whatever is required to keep our body healthy we may do that]

Then Srila Prabhupada makes next point, Empiric knowledge without surrender to the Supreme Lord is also imperfect. [Empiric knowledge is for jñānibhy, generally Gyana leads to the conception that I am god, Aham Brahmsi, the conception of Brahma may be different among different people but quite often conception is that it is I who is the absolute truth so then that is definitely not correct that is imperfect, so Srila Prabhupada is mildly critical of this, not saying it is useless, it is waste of time it is imperfect, he has used stronger critic in the next so…]

…And fruitive work without Kṛṣṇa consciousness is a waste of time. [Shrama He Eva Kevalam as the Bhagvatam says, Shrama is labor kevalam means only Shrama, generally we do labor for some fruits but if there is only labor and no fruit then it is useless so Srila Prabhupada translates Shrama Eva He Kevalam as waste of time, fruitive activities] Therefore, the most highly praised form of yoga performance mentioned here is bhakti-yoga, and this is still more clearly explained in the next verse.

so now after describing this, giving this as path of yoga there are different yogis some may be impersonalist some personalist, so different yogis may have different conceptions so is Krishna given a blanket endorsement for yoga in general, No, He recommends yoga but what he is implying by yoga , to understand that we have to look at next verse.

There are many yoga teacher who wanted to endorse that Bhagvad Gita recommends yoga they only quote 6.46 they don’t quote 6.47. 6.46 says Yoga is the best path, why? Krishna says better than tapswi is yogi better than Jnani is Yogi, better that Karmi is yogi, so Yoga is best path so all should follow yoga., actually Sri Krishna says what kind of Yogi one should be then if you refer to next verse Sri Krishan is referring to Bhakti Yogi.

So this is an example of quoting out of context, Sri Krishna is definitely referring to Yoga but if look at what he is recommending in the context then we come to know that he is not recommending yoga as sadhana yoga in astanga process but He is using yoga as a method of connection and the connection should be with personal absolute truth which will be clear in next verse. In 6.47 this verse is often quoted by Srila Prabhupada and specially whenever Srila Prabhupada was asked question about yoga then Srila Prabhupada will quote this verse to underline the point that yoga should culminate in Bhakti in Bhagvan.

End of transcription.

Author: Vallabhi

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  1. Thank you so much for your in-depth realisation and analysis. It as really helped me with the understanding. With your permission I have used some of your notes in my Bhagavad Gita presentations.
    Just a comment:
    It is noticeable that Lord Krishna as to accommodate the Janani, Karmi, tapasvi ect and in doing so helping us to preach accordingly . He does not jump straight to Bhakti, but preparing Arjuna for a deeper realisation of Yoga

    Post a Reply
    • Thank you, Prabhu, for your kind appreciation and thoughtful comment. Yes; through the Gita, Krishna doesn’t just teach spiritual knowledge; he also teaches how to teach spiritual knowledge

      Post a Reply

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