Sthita Prajna

In the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita Arjuna asks Krishna, what is the definition of one whose mind is steady and one-pointed? How does he sit, walk, what does he do? Then Krishna tells him, just as a tortoise withdraws his limbs inside the shell and nothing hurts him, one who possesses sthita prajna (stabilized consciousness) withdraws all his senses and the thoughts don’t hurt him. He does get worries and anxiety, but he is not affected by them.

Krishna says, “Arjuna, allow yourself to be anxious, because you are a householder, you are moving in the world, but don’t get influenced by the anxiety. Perform your duty, but don’t get influenced by it.” If you need to fight, then fight; if you need to get a job, then get a job; if you have to look after your children, then do so; if you have to farm, then farm. Do everything, but do not get influenced by your actions.

Every action produces three kinds of results. One is positive, just as you wanted it. The second is negative, not as you wanted it. The third is mixed, a little bit of what you wanted and a little bit of what you did not want. You wanted a son and you got a son, but he turned out to be a wastrel. That is a mixed result. The Bhagavad Gita says (18:12):

Anishtamishtam mishram cha trividham karmanah phalam.

There are threefold fruits of action – good, bad and mixed.

Sri Krishna says to Arjuna, there is nothing wrong in performing action, living a householder’s life or having an inclination towards worldly life, marriage, children or any karma at all. What is wrong is your attitude towards its results; it is your relationship with the results that hurt you. If there is no food in the house, you will be distressed, but a sadhu will say, “That is a good thing. Today we will spend our time doing bhajan and remembering God.” The situation is the same, but the effect on the mind is different. Even avatars, whether Rama or Krishna, have to go through pain, but a jnani endures it with wisdom, while the ignorant suffer with ajnana, ignorance. Whoever is born of the womb of a mother in this world goes through pain. The ignorant suffer; the wise do not go through suffering. That is the difference between pain and suffering. The experience of pain is called suffering. So do not be a sufferer.

When there is suffering one experiences complexes. The chemicals in the body also produce complexes in the mind. We feel guilty, inferior or superior, there is fear, we think someone is out to harm us, we feel unloved, we experience the desire for self-adornment. All these feelings are complexes, which blunt the mind.

So what is the way out of complexes? Complexes are within everyone, and they go in their own time. As the age advances, they reduce in number. Complexes change according to age. One’s character, thoughts and problems change. There are also many people who remain so busy that they do not get the opportunity to become aware of their complexes. It is like a deaf person who cannot hear a band playing right behind him. When the whole mind is engaged in something, one is not aware of anything else.

There is a small example of this. Once, Newton visited a friend’s house. He went and sat in their living room, but the friend wasn’t there. He sat there through the whole night. When the friend, who had been called to a funeral, returned in the morning and saw Newton, he said, “You are still here!” Newton said, “Yes, I was waiting for you.” He said, “But I left a note on the table that I have to go. When did you come?” Newton said, “I have just come.” He sat the whole night in the living room but he felt as if he had just arrived. Why? Because he was a scientist. He must have been solving some mathematical problem in his head. His whole mind must have been engrossed in it.

In the same way some people get engrossed in music, their work or dhyana. Such busyness is a kind of medicine, it is a lifesaving drug. When one is not busy, one’s mind will wander here and there. It will not remain still at one place. To fix this mind at one place, it needs to be tied to a pole the way an animal is tied to a pole. The biggest pole in this life is work. When one gets married, has children, the pole becomes even sturdier. You cannot afford to wander any more. So to keep the mind busy, one needs work. And how should this work be performed? The Bhagavad Gita (2:50) says, Karmasu kaushalam – “In the best possible manner.”