Like A Duck

Chapter II, Verse 64

Sri Nerode’s Translation:



But “self-disciplined” man who functions his life in the midst of sense-objects, neither loving them nor hating them (applying them to serve the purpose of his free soul). Such a man comes to Peace and Tranquility.

Helpful Translation:

Immersed in Truth, the wise man wears his consciousness like a suit of armor that makes him impervious to the senses. When in the world, the wise man remains inwardly calm in all circumstances.


Every analogy that comes to mind, portrays this phrase in a negative light. For example, the wise man is like:

  • ♥ An emergency worker wearing a haz mat suit for protection from a toxic spill (suggests the wise man is limited in awareness by a confining uniform);
  • ♥ A motorcyclist protected by his helmet (again confining);
  • ♥ The President surrounded by Secret Service (detached from surroundings).

A traditional Hindu analogy is that the enlightened person is like the lotus flower (a water lily) that rises from the muck of delusion and blossoms. But this is not a good analogy for this verse for a couple of reasons. First, the lily transmutes the muck, incorporating its essence for its own purpose. Second, the desirable portion of the lotus is separate from the muck and above the water.

Perhaps the best analogy is the duck. The enlightened person is like a duck that swims and dives and lives in the lake but the water rolls off its back.

The point is that if an enlightened being has a role to play in the world, that person is completely immersed in and a part of the role. Despite this closeness to the senses and their related traps of intoxication, sensuality and material wealth, the enlightened being is not affected.

Rather than giving a harsh standard of supreme self-discipline (as commonly claimed), this verse offers the aspirant reassurance. Once one achieves the highest state of consciousness, that awareness is permanent. Playing a human role will not cause the enlightened man to fall from that state of consciousness.

Each human has incarnated in order to play the human game. The vast majority are reactionary and essentially slaves to the game. The enlightened one embraces the game to the fullest extent possible. It’s the difference between living in the prison cell with alternating periods of joy and misery (ignorance) and embracing the beauty of the world and its experiences without limitation (enlightenment).

Easter Eggs:

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

Atmavasyais – self-control. Personally, I find it interesting how delusion degrades translations, interpretations and meanings. May the original version as recorded by sage Vyasa become known again. This Sanskrit phrase is almost unanimously translated as self-restraint or self-discipline. However, it actually means “enveloped in” and “protected by” awareness of the Self. Self-control sounds difficult and harsh, while awareness is expansive and dispels ignorance.

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Ancient History

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