Yog – It’s Philosophical Basis and It’s Discussion in The Bhagwat Geeta

Today, the word Yoga is used to refer to the system of physical positions and disciplined breathing that, as the recent Washington Post article writes, “is said to relieve pain and lower blood pressure, boost mental (and spiritual) awareness and reduce stress“. This is the system that was compiled by the Sage Paatanjali from the Yog-Sutra found in earlier texts on Eternal Dharma.

The Bhagwat Geeta preceded Sage Paatanjali by many centuries. The word Yog is a central concept of the Bhagwat Geeta. The last Verse of the Bhagwat Geeta refers to Shree Krishna as Yog-Ishwar or the highest authority on Yog. But there is no mention in the Geeta of any physical implementation of Yog.

So what Yog does the Bhagwat Geeta refer to? This question is best answered by looking at the philosophical origins of Yog. The best philosophical description we found is from the article Bin-Ladenism in Religion & The Washington Post Article on Christians & Yoga . We include couple of excerpts from this article below:

  • European thinking does not demarcate the notions of mind and self. It often uses the same term “mind” for “self”. It considers “reason” or “conscious intelligence” as an attribute of the mind. From the Greeks to Descartes, Europeans placed the three functions of cognition, affection (pleasure-pain, like-dislike) and conation (desires, purposes) on par as functions of the mind.
  • Sindhu thinking differentiates between Mind and Buddhi or understanding, reason, conscious intelligence. It places the affection and conation functions within the scope of the mind and cognition within the scope of Buddhi. The concept of Buddhi is the origin of the title Buddha, given to the founder of Buddhism.

In other words, the concept of Yog arises from the distinction of Buddhi and Mind. The objective of Yog is use Buddhi to regulate the state of Mind and mental experiences. This enables us to understand the profound thought contained in the Karma Yog Section in Chapter II of the Bhagwat Geeta.

It is the mind that desires. It is the mind that wants the fruits of action. It is the mind that feels thrilled with success and it is the mind that feels saddened by lack of success. It is the mind that wanders in multiple directions.

The practice of Yog is to regulate, control these mental processes through application of Buddhi or conscious intelligence, reason. One who establishes this primacy of Buddhi over mental processes and emotions begins to achieve Yog. It is the control of Buddhi over mental processes that can eliminate distractions and enable total concentration on the task at hand.

It is by such control of mind by Buddhi, does one shed the attachment to results or success-failure. This is the instruction of Shree Krishna to Arjun in Verse 48 “योगस्थ  कुरु कर्माणि” – Perform your Action as a Yogi (or by entering the Yog state).  

Attainment of this Buddhi is the goal of one who wants to practice Karma-Yog. As Shree Krishna tells Arjun in Verse 53 “…..When your Buddhi (बुद्धि) becomes absolutely Stable (निश्चला), totally focused (समाधौ अचला), Then You Will Attain Yog (तदा योगम अवाप्स्यसि).

This is not just theoretical, philosophical or religious stuff from the past. It has real life use today in various walks of modern life. Take Investing for example:

  • Many people invest with a goal. How many people say to themselves or to their advisors “I would be happy if I could get a 10% return”?  In other words, they approach the Action of investing with a result in mind or what the Geeta calls कर्म फल हेतुः (making the Result the objective of Action). The Geeta admonishes us against doing so in the famous Verse 47 of Chapter II.  
  • The financial markets are large, complex and alive organisms. The markets don’t care what an investors wants, the returns they need on their own investment. The markets don’t care about any retirement goals of investors, any needs of the investor’s family or any other personal goal or desire.
  • Focus on such personal goals often leads to wrong investment decisions. Focus on the mind’s preferences leads investors to worry about whether they are traders or investors. Such ideas, such desires, such notions are pure creatures of the Mind. All they do is distract the investor’s Buddhi from the best course of action.
  • The alternative or a Buddhi based way is to analyze markets and come to a decision about the best trade to make at that point in time. The trade is based on the best choice made by Buddhi and has no connection to what the Mind of the Investor desires, no connection with any personal goals like retirement, college funds of children etc.
  • A Buddhi based investor does not ask where the trade will lead or how long should the trade be held? A Buddhi based investor is focused on tradecraft or Action of Investing. A Buddhi-based investor closes out the trade in the same unemotional discipline of tradecraft. A Buddhi-based investor does not exult in profit and does not cry over losses.  
  • This is why David Tepper said last week “WE’RE PRETTY UNEMOTIONAL WHEN WE INVEST. SO, IT IS WHAT IT IS”. This is a man who invests with his Buddhi and not his mind. May be that is why he has been so incredibly successful as a hedge fund manager.

We confess that following the Yog-based approach, regulating the mind or mental feelings with Buddhi is hard, very hard. But it works and it gives a calm serenity to performance. At least that is our experience. We hope it becomes yours as well.

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