banduraatmaatmanastasya yenatmaivaatmanaa jitaha |
anaatmanastu shatrutve vartetaatmaiva shatruvat || 6 ||

For one who has conquered oneself by oneself, only his own self is his friend. But for one who has not conquered oneself, it is only his own self that behaves in animosity, like an enemy.

banduhu : is a friend
aatmaa : oneself
aatmanaa : by oneself
tasya : for him
yena : who has
aatmaa : oneself
eva : only
aatmanaa : oneself
jitaha : conquered
anaatmanaha : for one who has not conquered oneself
tu : but
shatrutve : in a spirit of animosity
varteta : behaves
aatmaa : his own self
eva : only
shatruvat : like an enemy

As further elaboration on the previous shloka, Shri Krishna explains exactly what he means by the statement “we are our own friend and we are our own enemy”. He says that for the person that has used his intellect to conquer the mind and senses, he becomes his own friend. But for one who is unable to conquer the mind and senses, he becomes his own enemy. Note the repeated use of the word “aatmaa” or self in this shloka and the prior shloka to mean different things.

Now, what exactly is a “shatru” or enemy? It is someone who constantly creates trouble for us – a trouble maker. The mind, if not under our control, can be the world’s most creative and impactful trouble maker. We tend to think it is our boss, our mother-in-law, our neighbour and so on to be our enemy, the troublemaker. But nothing beats that mind when it comes to creating problems for us.

Consider an example. Let’s say the doctor has told us that sweets are bad for us. Now, imagine that we are at a social gathering and someone offers us a sweet. The intellect instantly knows what is the right thing to do. But the mind is different from the intellect. If the mind is not under control, it will say “go ahead, there is no harm in taking one piece of the sweet”.

At this point, we fall prey to the lower self and eat the sweet. The mind now says, “this is a very tasty sweet. I think I will have this again tomorrow, first thing in the morning”. Again we succumb to the lower self on the next day and eat the sweet again. Now, having eaten the sweet twice, the mind says “why did I eat this sweet twice? The doctor had said that it is bad for me. I hope this does not impact my health. I absolutely hate myself”.

Here is someone who caused us trouble three times – before, during and after eating the sweet. But it was not someone from the outside. It was something within – our own mind. This is why Shri Krishna calls the uncontrolled mind to be the worst enemy possible in regards to our growth. The sweet is a small example of how the uncontrolled mind creates trouble for us day in and day out. Through conditioning by the sense organs, it repeatedly reinforces our likes and dislikes without regard to what is rational.

So the message is clear: progress towards meditation is not possible unless we use karmayoga to bring our mind under control and eliminate as many desires as possible.

In the shlokas so far, Shri Krishna gave an introduction to the topic of meditation. In the rest of this chapter, he will cover all aspects of meditation including: what is meditation, what is the process, what do we have to do internally and externally, what are the obstacles and how do we remove them, and how does such an individual that is established in meditation live in this world, which is the topic he takes up next.

The world for us comprises three aspects: situations that we encounter, objects that we use, and people that we interact with. In the next three shlokas, Shri Krishna takes up each aspect and paints a picture of the meditator’s attitude towards each of these aspects.