Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 6, Verse 17

युक्ताहारविहारस्य युक्तचेष्टस्य कर्मसु |
युक्तस्वप्नावबोधस्य योगो भवति दु:खहा || 17||

yuktāhāra-vihārasya yukta-cheṣhṭasya karmasu
yukta-svapnāvabodhasya yogo bhavati duḥkha-hā

yuktamoderate; āhāraeating; vihārasyarecreation; yukta cheṣhṭasya karmasubalanced in work; yuktaregulated; svapna-avabodhasyasleep and wakefulness; yogaḥYog; bhavatibecomes; duḥkha-hāthe slayer of sorrows

Translation

BG 6.17: But those who are temperate in eating and recreation, balanced in work, and regulated in sleep, can mitigate all sorrows by practicing Yog.

Commentary

Yog is the union of the soul with God. The opposite of Yog is bhog, which means engagement in sensual pleasures. Indulgence in bhog violates the natural laws of the body, and results in rog (disease). As stated in the previous verse, if the body becomes diseased, it impedes the practice of Yog. Thus in this verse, Shree Krishna states that by being temperate in bodily activities and practicing Yog, we can become free from the sorrows of the body and mind.

The same instruction was repeated two-and-a-half millennium after Shree Krishna by Gautam Buddha, when he recommended the golden middle path between severe asceticism and sensual indulgence. There is a beautiful story regarding this. It is said that before gaining enlightenment, Gautam Buddha once gave up eating and drinking, and sat in meditation. However, after a few days of practicing in this manner, the lack of nourishment made him weak and dizzy, and he found it impossible to steady his mind in meditation. At that time, some village women happened to be passing by. They were carrying water pots on their heads that they had filled from the river nearby, and were singing a song. The words of the song were: “Tighten the strings of the tānpurā (a stringed Indian musical instrument, resembling a guitar). But do not tighten them so much that the strings break.” Their words entered the ears of Gautam Buddha, and he exclaimed, “These illiterate village women are singing such words of wisdom. They contain a message for us humans. We too should tighten our bodies (practice austerities), but not to the extent that the body is destroyed.”

Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790), a founding father of the United States, is highly regarded as a self-made man. In an effort to grow his character, starting at the age of 20, he maintained a diary in which he tracked his performance related to the 13 activities he wanted to grow in. The first activity was “Temperance: Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.”