uddharedaatmanaatmaanam naatmaanamavasaadayet |
aatmaiva hyaatmano bandhuraatmaiva ripuraatmanaha || 6 ||

Uplift yourself by yourself, do not deprecate yourself. For only you are your friend, and only you are your enemy.

uddharet : uplift
aatmanaa : by yourself
aatmaanam : yourself
na : do not let
aatmaanam : yourself
avasaadayet : deprecate
aatmaa : you
eva : only
hi : for
aatmanaha : your
bandhuhu : friend
aatmaa : you
eva : only
ripuhu : enemy
aatmanaha : your

Shri Krishna gives us a powerful message in this shloka. He says that in order to progress in the spiritual path, in fact, any undertaking, we have to lift ourselves by our own efforts. We are our own friend if we do so, and if we don’t, we become our own enemy. In other words, our success and failure is entirely in our hands. No other person can help or hurt us.

In previous chapters we encountered the hierarchy of our personality. At the lowest level exist the body and the sense organs. They have the tendency to go out into the world and seek the objects they desire. The eyes desire pleasant images, the tongue desires pleasant tastes and so on. This is our “lower self”. Higher than the body and the senses lies the mind. It is the seat of our thoughts and desires. Higher than the mind is the intellect that can make rational decisions. The eternal essence, our higher self, is at the very highest level.

Now, the sense organs are very powerful. Usually, for most of us, the senses forcefully drag the mind out into the world in order to encounter one sense pleasure after another. This is what Shri Krishna calls “deprecation” in the shloka. It means the tendency of the mind to go lower. But in the intellect that has cultivated discrimination through study of right knowledge, the mind encounters a struggle. It has to choose between being dragged forcefully into the senses, or uplifting itself towards the intellect, and then ultimately towards the eternal essence.

So Shri Krishna asks us to to forcibly uplift our mind by the intellect. How do we do this? Whenever we have the urge to indulge in a sense pleasure, we give focus to our intellect. The intellect will then guide us in the right direction. We have to do this repeatedly and train the mind to go in the right direction.

However, we have to train our mind in the right manner. If we treat it forcefully it will rebel. The mind has got its own tricks, so we should control it by becoming friends with it. All of our saadhanaas, our efforts, should be done intelligently, slowly and steadily. Only then does the journey become easy.

Furthermore, we also have to ensure that we do not fall any further, even if we are not able to raise the level of our mind. When climbing a mountain, mountaineers hammer nails into the rock and secure themselves with rope. This protects the mountaineers against falling down in case they slip. Similarly, when we look back at this stage a few years from now, we should see spiritual progress, not further degradation in our life.

Now, this is a tough task. Who will help us? Shri Krishna says that you yourself are your friend, you only can help yourself. When we are hungry, it does not help us if someone else eats our food. Similarly, our upliftment is in our own hands. If we can prevent ourselves from falling prey to the lower self, our higher self becomes our best friend. For instance, if we are reading the Gita and the mind gets distracted, we should bring our higher self into the picture. But if our minds continually succumb to the lower self, it becomes our worst enemy.

Therefore, Shri Krishna urges us to gently but firmly bring our mind into control, and orient it towards the intellect and our higher self.