Bhagawatam 156: Maharishi Kapila begins to teach Ashtānga Yoga

Third Canto Chapter Twenty eight

In this chapter Kapila Maharishi teaches Ashtānga yoga (eight fold path of Yoga) to mother Devahuti.

Kapila Maharishi said, “O daughter of Manu! O Mother! I am now going to teach you the path of Yoga. The mind experiences happiness due to accomplishment in this Yoga. It will be focused purely upon God.

Sva-dharmācaraṇaṁ śaktyā vidharmāc ca nivartanam

Daivāl labdhena santoṣa ātmavic-caraṇārcanam


O Mother! By listening to this attentively, people can obtain liberation while living (jeevanmukti). They will understand the essence of spirituality. Hence be attentive.

To the best of one’s ability righteousness (dharma) should be followed. It is imperative to distance from unrighteous activities, while abiding by righteousness. Continuing those meritorious activities which grant good human birth, he should be content with whatever he earns.

This is very difficult to practice, but yet one should strive for it. It implies that whatever the person earns through his hard efforts, he should be happy and content with it.

He should revere and worship the feet of Self-realized beings. Simultaneously he should distance from those activities which increase inclination towards material comforts. He should have true dedication and desire towards śravana (listening) and other spiritual activities. At all times he should eat only pure food that too in limited quantities. He should practice to spend time alone in solitude”.

Here lies the catch. Often we eat impure food. It is imperative to eat pure satvik food in limited quantities. Only pure satvik diet can give rise to a pure mind!

Eating stale, heavy, tamasic food only increases traits of inertia and ignorance (tamo guna). Such food propels lust and other desires. It instigates anger. The person loses control over himself. Driven by extreme desires he now eyes wealth that legally belongs to others. He devices ways in which he can acquire ownership over them. He will suffer with extreme jealousy and greed. All these are the outcomes of eating tamasic food.

The more you eat satvik pure diet, the more you become pure and clean. Here the emphasis is on both purity and limited quantity of food intake. These are the words of Maharishi Kapila, who is none other than Lord Mahavishnu.

Ahiṁsā satyam asteyaṁ yāvad-artha-parigrahaḥ

Brahmacaryaṁ tapa śaucaṁ svādhyāyaḥ puruārcanam


He should not inflict injury on any living being i.e. he should practice Ahimsa. He should practice truthfulness. He should not steal others’ wealth”.

People in general cannot resist from eyeing property belonging to others. They find this discipline very difficult.

“He should possess only as many comforts and materials as are needed for basic living”.

Coming across people who abide by this discipline is very very rare. I have just seen two or three such people in so many years. There is one gentleman in Andhra, who lives in a big house but that house is sparsely furnished. I was very happy to see this. In his house were two tiny shelves, one to keep his belongings and another for those of his wife. In his kitchen were about 20 small containers to store required grains, two vessels for cooking, 4 tumblers and 2 dinner plates. They cooked on small charcoal stove. There was one small suitcase in which other household items were stored. This was the furniture in his home! He maintained two bank accounts each of which had about Rs. 15000/-. One was for their expenses and another for their children.

When I questioned him about his lifestyle he began to explain his life’s principles. I felt he was explaining Bhāgawatam. He said that it is essential to possess only as much materials as are needed for survival. He also said that one should eat only as much as needed. He emphasized on the need for contentment and solitude. I was deeply impressed with the disciplines that this person was abiding by. After all, he was a householder, but yet he had such appreciable values. Later on he even trained his children in these principles of detachment and eventually they gave away even that home in charity.

Similarly once in Kashmir I came across a person who abided by these similar disciplines. He was a high official but his lifestyle was simple. In his house there was not even a chair. Guests were offered mats to sit on the floor. It’s amazing that even in Kali Yuga, there are such people!

Govindāya Namah.

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