Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2, Verse 24 reads:
Sthitaprajañsya kā bhāsā
Of him who is steady of insight, what description?
Of him who is steadfast in deep meditation, Handsome Haired One (Krishna)
Sthitadhīḥ kĩṃ prabhāṣeta
He who is steady in thought, how he should speak
Kim āsīta vrajeta kim
How would he sit, he should move how?
How does one describe him who is steady of wisdom,
Who is steady in deep meditation, Krishna?
How does he who is steady in wisdom speak?
How does he sit? How does he move.
This concept of Sthita-prajña is so profound and beautiful it gives me goosebumps. Separating the words out, sthita means a steadiness or stillness and prajña can be viewed as consciousness. Put together the meaning is a stable type consciousness.
Captured in this one sloka is perhaps the entire end state and function of the yoga system. In the Yoga Sutras Patañjali writes in 1.2, yogaḥ cittavṛtti nirodhaḥ. Union, consciousness, fluctuations of mind, restraint. The parallels between sutra 1.2 and sloka 2.54 are significant.
However, in the BG, Arjuna is asking questions of Krishna on how to attain these states of being. These questions come on the heels of teachings given to Arjuna and implied in the questions contained in 2.54. It’s implied that Arjuna has grasped the wisdom handed down by Krishna or he wouldn’t possess the wisdom in the first place to ask such penetrating questions.
In the first two questions Arjuna is asking, at least in yogic terms very practical questions. What does a person “look” like in steadiness? In a state of Sthita-prajña? And what does a yogi “look” like when absorbed in a state of samadhi? Two sides of a coin. How does one’s consciousness behave when seated in a state of samadhi versus one’s consciousness remaining active in the world? This is what is meant by using the Sanskrit word Sthitadhīḥ. “Man of steady thought” in comparison to “of him who is steadfast in deep meditation” or samādhisthasya. In this I believe meditation and samadhi are synonymous. Arjuna is asking how does one know when they attain the highest of spiritual states, the inward journey vis-a-vis a state of Sthita-prajña outward looking.
Krishna provides a solid answer in 2.55.
When he leaves behind all desires
Emerging from the mind, Arjuna
And is contented in the Self by the Self
Then he is said to be one whose
Wisdom is steady (sthitaprajñastadocyate)
In this, Krishna is emphasizing two crucial points in understanding the state of sthita prajña. The first is the major affair of all humans and that is to not only get a handle on the thorny issue of desire, but to renounce it all and take refuge within yourself. When citta (mind) is disconnected from desire, fluctuations cease. Krishna continues on in the next several verses in conversation about the many states of desire and their antidote of wisdom resting in Sthita-prajña.
This is just a tiny dose of the wisdom contained within the Bhagavad Gita. Time to practice.