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What is the concept of 'Yogabhrashta' in Gita? || Acharya Prashant, on Bhagavad Gita
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
14 min
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श्रीभगवानुवाच

पार्थ नैवेह नामुत्र विनाशस्तस्य विद्यते ।।

न हि कल्याणकृत्कश्चिद्दुर्गतिं तात गच्छति ।। 40 ।।

śhrī bhagavān uvācha

pārtha naiveha nāmutra vināśhas tasya vidyate

na hi kalyāṇa-kṛit kaśhchid durgatiṁ tāta gachchhati

The Blessed Lord said, ‘O Partha, there is certainly no ruin for him here or hereafter. For, no one engaged in good meets with a deplorable end, My son!’

~ Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 6, Verse 40

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प्राप्य पुण्यकृतां लोकानुषित्वा शाश्वती: समा: ।

शुचीनां श्रीमतां गेहे योगभ्रष्टोऽभिजायते ।। 41 ।।

prāpya puṇya-kṛitāṁ lokān uṣhitvā śhāśhvatīḥ samāḥ

śhuchīnāṁ śhrīmatāṁ gehe yoga-bhraṣhṭo ’bhijāyate

Attaining the worlds of the righteous, and residing there for eternal years, the man fallen from Yoga is born in the house of the pious and prosperous.

~Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 6, Verse 41

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अथवा योगिनामेव कुले भवति धीमताम् ।

एतद्धि दुर्लभतरं लोके जन्म यदीदृशम् ।। 42 ।।

atha vā yoginām eva kule bhavati dhīmatām

etad dhi durlabhataraṁ loke janma yad īdṛiśham

Or he is born in the family of wise Yogins. Such a birth as of this kind is surely more difficult to get in the world.

~Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 6, Verse 42

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तत्र तं बुद्धिसंयोगं लभते पौर्वदेहिकम् ।

यतते च ततो भूय: संसिद्धौ कुरुनन्दन ।। 43 ।।

tatra taṁ buddhi-sanyogaṁ labhate paurva-dehikam

yatate cha tato bhūyaḥ sansiddhau kuru-nandana

There he becomes endowed with wisdom acquired in the previous body and he strives more than before for perfection, O scion of the Kuru dynasty.

~Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 6, Verse 43

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पूर्वाभ्यासेन तेनैव ह्रियते ह्यवशोऽपि स: ।

जिज्ञासुरपि योगस्य शब्दब्रह्मातिवर्तते ।। 44 ।।

pūrvābhyāsena tenaiva hriyate hyavaśho ’pi saḥ

jijñāsur api yogasya śhabda-brahmātivartate

For by that very past practice, he is carried forward even in-spite of himself. Even a seeker of Yoga transcends the result of performance of Vedic rituals!

~Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 6, Verse 44

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Question: What is concept of Yogbhrashta in Gita? What happens to those who deviate from his spiritual path?

Acharya Prashant (AP): The questioner has quoted five verses, five consecutive verses. Shloka 40-44 of Chapter 6 of Shrimad Bhagavad Gita.

"The blessed lord said, O Partha, there is certainly no ruin for him here or here-after, for no one engaged in good meets with a deplorable end, my son."

"Attaining the worlds of the righteous and residing there for eternal years, the man fallen from yoga is born in the house of the pious and the prosperous."

"Or he is born in the family of wise yogis. Such a birth as is of this kind is surely more difficult to get in the world."

"There he becomes endowed with wisdom acquired in the previous body and he strives more than before for perfection, O scion of the Kuru dynasty."

"For by that very past practice, he’s carried forward even in-spite of himself. Even of seeker of yoga transcends the result of the performance of Vedic rituals."

In this sequence, the two verses prior to the first verse here too should have been quoted.

अर्जुन उवाच

अयति: श्रद्धयोपेतो योगाच्चलितमानस: ।

अप्राप्य योगसंसिद्धिं कां गतिं कृष्ण गच्छति ।। 37 ।।

arjuna uvācha

ayatiḥ śhraddhayopeto yogāch chalita-mānasaḥ

aprāpya yoga-sansiddhiṁ kāṅ gatiṁ kṛiṣhṇa gachchhati

Though possessed of Śraddhā but unable to control himself, with the mind wandering away from Yoga, what end does one, failing to gain perfection in Yoga, meet, O Krishna?

~Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 6, Verse 37

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कच्चिन्नोभयविभ्रष्टश्छिन्नाभ्रमिव नश्यति ।

अप्रतिष्ठो महाबाहो विमूढो ब्रह्मण: पथि ।। 38 ।।

kachchin nobhaya-vibhraṣhṭaśh chhinnābhram iva naśhyati

apratiṣhṭho mahā-bāho vimūḍho brahmaṇaḥ pathi

Does he not fallen from both, perish, without support, like a rent cloud, O mighty-armed deluded in the path of Brahman?

~ Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 6, Verse 38

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I’ll give you the complete context. Arjuna is asking, “Please tell me, O Krishna, what happens to those who have devotion towards the Truth but are not unflappable?” In Arjuna’s words, they have Śraddhā, but no Saṃyama. So, they are devoted, but their devotion is not stable; their devotion keeps fluctuating. Sometimes they are devoted, and sometimes they are not devoted. And Shri Krishna is saying, “You know, you require a lot of Abhyaasa, practice.” And 'practice' means investment of time; a continuous period in which you are regularly, without fail offering your devotion to your improvement. That is practice.

Now, Arjuna is asking from his own point of view. He’s saying, “All these things told by Shri Krishna look fabulous—but what if one wavers in between?” He’s thinking of himself you know. He’s saying, “What if there is devotion, but devotion comes and goes and there are intermittent periods of distraction?” So, Shri Krishna says, “Such a fellow is called ‘Yogabrashtha’.”

Arjuna would probably be buckling up to hear from Krishna that a 'Yogabrashtha' is bound to be barbecued in hell. But Krishna says, “No, even a Yogabrashtha is far better than the normal mortal. It’s just that the Yogabrashtha guy will take a far longer route to come to Me.”

Krishna says, “The Faith that he has posed in Me will not go waste. The Devotion that he offered to Me will bear its fruit.” But it seems that the concerned person himself is not very interested in tasting the fruit immediately, so the fruit will remain in abeyance. You do not want the fruit right now, so your investment will mature later on, as per your wishes.

So, he will take a long winding route. What kind of long winding route? He says, “This fellow will be reborn, but will be reborn at a conducive place. He will be reborn in a family of pious people, who are spiritually inclined, and he will be some kind of a prodigious kid because all that he has learned in his previous birth will sort of stay with him. So, therefore, he will be able to understand the scriptures without much effort. And then, now in the current birth, if he has a little more sense and makes better decisions compared to his previous births, then he will attain Liberation, because he has already put in a lot of effort; that is there and stored. He can capitalize on it whenever he wants to.”

The Blessed One said, “O Partha, there is certainly no ruin for him.”

Who is this ‘him’? He has been referred to in the previous verses. ‘Him’ is the fellow who has Śraddhā, but not Saṃyama; who has devotion, but not stillness, firmness. He’s not unflinching, he’s not deeply rooted; sometimes he’s in, sometimes he’s out. That kind of a fellow.

So, Krishna is saying, “Arjuna, there is certainly no ruin for this person here or hereafter, for no one engaged in good meets with a deplorable end.”

“Attaining the worlds of the righteous and residing there for eternal years, the man fallen from yoga (Yogabrashtha) is born in the house of the pious and the prosperous. Or he is born in the family of wise yogis. Such a birth as is of this kind is surely more difficult to get. There (in that house) he becomes endowed with that wisdom acquired in the previous body and he strives more than before for perfection, O Arjuna.”

“For by that past practice, he’s carried forward even in-spite of himself. Even of seeker of yoga transcends the result of the performance of Vedic rituals.”

So, that’s the thing.

Questioner (Q): Shri Krishna explains to Arjuna that nothing bad can happen to the one who moves towards the Supreme Self even if he deflects from the righteous path. While doing so, he speaks of reincarnations and the carrying forward of virtues from one birth to another. Please help me understand what is really meant by that.

AP: Time. Time! Nothing else.

And it’s not that Shri Krishna is saying that nothing bad can happen to him. What worse, than to delay the inevitable? You are delaying your destiny. Is that not bad? Obviously, that is not bad if you compare it with those who are not even looking at their destiny. Compared to them it is wonderful, but if you look at it from the point of view of attainment versus potential, then it is a bad situation. You had the possibility to attain something utterly quickly, and you have brought time in between; you have unnecessarily postponed it. Very bad. Right?

Then the question arises: Why does Krishna say that “Anybody who invests faith in Me does never meet a deplorable end and is never ruined”?

You must understand the person Krishna is speaking to. Arjuna is already nervous. Do you understand the question? All this comes towards the fag end of Chapter 6. Krishna has already told Arjuna that there is no way but to engage in selfless action. It is very difficult for Arjuna to understand, let alone follow.

So, Arjuna is saying, “I’m kind of getting you, but I clearly see that I will not be able to stand firm in what you are saying”—because his understanding is not complete. When your understanding is not complete, how can you be unflappable? You will keep vacillating. Right?

So, the reply has been customized to not to discourage Arjuna. Arjuna is asking, “Sir, your words are beautiful, but please tell me what happens to those who follow your words only partially?” That’s the question in effect, right? Practically that’s what Arjuna is asking. And suppose if Krishna says, “Arjuna, they will burn in the fires of hell, those who follow Me only partially!” then Arjuna knows very well now what lies in store for him. He was anyway so nervous! And the moment Krishna tells him that “If you follow Me only partially, then you will burn in hell, or a sad end and total ruin awaits you,” then Arjuna will be thoroughly discouraged. Correct?

So, Krishna advises him according to his situation. He says, “You know, don’t worry! Even if you follow Me only partially, yet there are great benefits!” What Krishna is saying here, “Dude, follow Me at least partially!” He’s not encouraging him to follow only partially. Krishna is saying, “Follow Me at least partially,” because Krishna can practically see that Arjuna will not be able to follow him totally and absolutely.

So, in a very practical way, Shri Krishna is going for the next best option. He’s saying, “You cannot follow Me absolutely—follow Me at least partially!” So to encourage Arjuna, he’s saying, “You know, Arjuna, even if you follow Me only partially, yet great things will happen to you! Maybe in this birth you won’t be liberated, but in the next birth you will be born in a pious and prosperous family! Or maybe you’ll be born in a family of Yogis. And you will be born with supreme talents because you will remember all that you have read and known in your previous birth! So, you will quickly attain liberation in one of your coming births.”

Now Arjuna is feeling alright. “Fine. So, that means if I listen to Krishna, at least some gain will be there. That much is guaranteed.” That kind of thing.

Now, Krishna would not have said the same thing to a more earnest seeker. Had a more earnest seeker asked the same question, Shri Krishna would have said, “Why are you unnecessarily delaying the inevitable? Why are you waiting for 200 years to get liberated? When liberation is possible right now, then why are you saying that you will have Śraddhā but not Saṃyama?”

If you say that you have Śraddhā, then honesty demands that you have Saṃyama also. Saṃyama means—remaining stable in your Śraddhā. Saṃyama means being honest about your Śraddhā—that is Devotion.

What kind of devotion is it that cannot absorb you completely? Lack of Saṃyama means—you are not fully absorbed; you are half in and half out.

So, the Yogabrashtha person is better off than the one who has no love, no feeling for yoga, obviously. But that does not mean that the Yogabrashtha route is a good route at all; it’s just that even if you are Yogabrashtha, you do get some benefits.

Now we come to the concern regarding rebirth.

The questioner seems to be asking what is this thing about being born in a better family in the next birth and carrying the… That has to be understood merely as the introduction of time. Being born again at a better place merely means that your worldly conditions will anyway be better off, if you have some spiritual inclination right now. If your spiritual investment was total, then you would’ve been liberated from the world. Please understand.

Had your Śraddhā been absolute, that would have resulted in absolute Liberation from the world. But your devotion, your Śraddhā, is not absolute; it is partial, so it will not give you liberation from the world, but still it will give you better situations in the world.

Total Devotion in the Truth will liberate you from the world. Partial devotion in the Truth will lead to an improvement in your situation in the world.

That is what Shri Krishna is referring to as being reborn in a better family. It merely means your situation in the world will improve—and that obviously will.

If you are wise, then even your worldly situation is going to improve. And when your worldly situation will improve, that will incentivize you all the more to dive deeper into Wisdom, because you do have some devotion.

You do have some wisdom, even if partial. So when you start seeing the result of that devotion coming to you, then you feel energized, incentivized to be devoted even more. And when you are devoted even more, you come to a point when there is complete Liberation from the world.

That’s the practical essence of Shri Krishna’s words on the Yogabrashtha.

Q: If Krishna’s saying that “At least follow me partially,” it is under the assumption that it may start with the partial, and then convert into the total.

But in the beginning we were talking about it being a choice; man is born with the choice of whether he wants to go all the way or not. Isn’t this then a very big gamble that you are pushing somebody for the partial, when it cannot be said, "Go for the total"? This half-fed knowledge—wouldn’t it be more harmful?

AP: That’s the best case possible, because that’s how this person is choosing for himself.

Nothing better if this fellow could have chosen absolute Liberation, but he’s very unwilling to go for perfection; he’s in some kind of a trial mode. And then Shri Krishna is saying, “Fine. If that is your decision, at least try out the stuff. Obviously had your devotion, your investment been deeper, had you made bigger commitments, then you could have received greater benefits. But I cannot force you to commit yourself in a deeper way; I can only encourage you.”

So, this is his way of encouraging Arjuna.

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