Qualities of Enlightenment?

Chapter II, Verse 54

Sri Nerode’s Translation:


Arjuna said:

What is the mark of a wise man who is stable in his mind and steadfast in his contemplation? What marks the nature of speech, postures, and habits of those who are thus stable-minded?

Helpful Translation:

The devotee Arjuna wants an example of the “self-realized”, one who is both anchored in the Divine and present in human life. Naively, the devotee believes that one anchored in Samadhi bliss would be bound to speak, sit, walk and act in a particular manner.


For the remainder of Chapter 2, from verse 55 through verse 72, Krishna describes the stages of enlightenment. He describes the fluctuations that each and every person who becomes enlightened may experience while the final waves of desire and attachment are stilled.

The path to enlightenment is fraught with dead-end distractions and numerous hurdles of apathy and inaction. During the trials one faces, looking to one who has succeeded as an example is helpful. Arjuna asks Krishna to share the qualities of one who is actually a helpful example and not just an imposter.

“We’re the greatest that ever was, and we are humble.”

How often I run across this incongruous concept where one who embraces self-promotion also claims humility. While there is some portion of both qualities in everyone, to include them in the same statement neutralizes the meaning. It’s the same as saying “I have a positive attitude, but I am absolutely certain that my life currently sucks.”

The pursuit of expanded awareness with the goal of achieving a never ending state of wonder and joy is a concentration-demanding business once undertaken. The one who walks a path, looks to landmarks and often to a guide to be steady on his chosen path. The path of enlightenment follows worldly laws until one is able to transmute the rules in a higher state of awareness.

Arjuna asks Krishna how to determine which guides and gurus are enlightened helpers and not ones who lead others down dead-end intellectual avenues or self-serving hurdles that discourage the sincere person.

How can the limited describe that which is beyond limitations? Krishna offers qualities that are likely displayed by those who have surpassed the opposites of pleasure and pain and who live in the moment without awareness of the either the future (expectations of actions) or the past (sensual feedback).

Easter Eggs:

Easter Eggs (hidden references to deeper meanings) in the original version of this this verse include:

Arjuna – Using this moniker reminds the reader that the verse comes from the perspective of a Kshatriya caste member who is confronting the battle required for enlightenment.

KeshavaOne whose hair is “handsome” or well-ordered while contemplating the senses.

Krishna as slayer of demon Keshi or of “evil”. In particular in this verse, Keshava indicates Krishna is the slayer of the ego. Keshava is another nickname for Vishnu, whose primary qualities are to preserve and protect creation. The use of Keshava in the Bhagavad Gita indicates full awareness of the senses at hand with neither a call to engage nor to destroy that sense. Keshava is the perspective of wisdom regarding the senses. While Hrishikesha indicates the need for a defensive battle, Keshava indicates a time for contemplation. This is separate and different from the next entry “Keshinisudana” though some may group the two together.

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Ancient History

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