Bhagavad Gita 2.15
yam hi na vyathayanty ete
so ‘mrtatvaya kalpate
Translation from Stephen Mitchell (2000)
“Only the man who is unmoved by any sensations, the wise man indifferent to pleasure, to pain, is fit for becoming deathless.”
Translation from Swami Tapasyananda, Bhagavad Gita: The Scripture of Mankind (2000) :
“O leader of men! That enlightened one who is unperturbed alike in pleasure and pain, whom these do not distress – he is indeed worthy of immortality.”
Translation from http://asitis.com/2/15.html:
“O best among men [Arjuna], the person who is not disturbed by happiness and distress and is steady in both is certainly eligible for liberation.”
To me, this Shloka 2.15 of the Bhagavad Gita is about cultivating neutrality. It is about staying in midline. So that when something really “bad” happens to us, we don’t suffer as much from it, and when something “good” comes our away we don’t get overly indulgent either. This way, we can be present every moment of our lives and eventually, with enough practice and repetition, we can be unperturbed (or less perturbed) by whatever it is that the Universe throws our way.
For example, I remember when Sharath gave me Pasasana. I was elated and so proud of myself. The ego grew a bit thinking, “wow, I’m an intermediate practitioner on my first trip to Mysore”. I was so happy. This was the “sukham” in shloka 2.15 or happiness, pleasure. A couple of weeks went by, and I started craving Krounchasana. I wanted the next pose so bad. I fixated on it. I would get flustered and angry anticipating the end of my practice because I was not getting it. This caused suffering, which in shloka 2.15 is the “duhkha” or distress, pain.
I had to examine my motivations for practicing, for traveling to Mysore, my relationship with my teachers, my doubts about the system, my doubts about my own character and capabilities. Still, no matter how angry I got or how much I kept examining, Krounchasana was not coming. I kept getting more and more frustrated.
Eventually I decided to use a mantra while practicing. So in the state of every asana, I remembered the qualities of neutrality, nonattachment, and contentment. I tried to cultivate those qualities during my practice while holding the posture. And when thoughts of impatience or anger or doubts came up, I remember the important thing, the lesson in this yogic path, was to remain neutral. After some time of practicing like that, Sharath gave me Krounchasana. I remember I left that day feeling happy, but not overindulgent. I didn’t mention it to my friends or made a big deal out of it. I just remember thinking, “I can’t be so sad when I don’t get the pose and so happy when I get it. I’ve got to be neutral and mean it”.
This can apply to anything. It’s a good one to remember when something makes us really angry, or too annoyed, or overly excited. Or when facing a difficult dichotomy or extremes, often times the answer is somewhere in the middle. Often times, the answer is in midline, neutrality.
A few months later, my teacher taught me this shloka, and I have been chanting it frequently since then. Cultivate neutrality. It is hard, and I often times fail, but it is worth continuing to practice it.
-Juan Carlos Galán