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"Self-Elevation and Self-Mastery: Friend and Foe Within"

उद्धरेदात्मनात्मानं नात्मानमवसादयेत्।

आत्मैव ह्यात्मनो बन्धुरात्मैव रिपुरात्मनः॥ Chapter 6, Verse 5 of the Bhagavad Gita

Word-to-Word Meaning:

  • उद्धरेत् (uddharet): Let one lift up

  • आत्मना (ātmanā): by oneself

  • आत्मानम् (ātmānam): oneself

  • न (na): not

  • आत्मानम् (ātmānam): oneself

  • अवसादयेत् (avasādayet): degrade

  • आत्मा (ātmā): the self

  • एव (eva): indeed

  • हि (hi): certainly

  • आत्मनः (ātmanaḥ): of oneself

  • बन्धुः (bandhuḥ): friend

  • आत्मा (ātmā): the self

  • एव (eva): indeed

  • रिपुः (ripuḥ): enemy

  • आत्मनः (ātmanaḥ): of oneself

English Meaning:

"One should uplift oneself by oneself; let not oneself degrade. The self alone is the friend of oneself, and the self alone is the enemy of oneself."

Kannada Meaning:

"ಒಬ್ಬನು ತನ್ನನ್ನು ತಾನೇ ಉನ್ನತೀಕರಿಸಿಕೊಳ್ಳಬೇಕು; ತನ್ನನ್ನು ತಾನು ಕೀಳಿಸಿಕೊಳ್ಳಬಾರದು. ಸ್ವಯಂ ಒಬ್ಬನೇ ತನಗೆ ಸ್ನೇಹಿತ, ಮತ್ತು ಸ್ವಯಂ ಮಾತ್ರ ತನಗೆ ಶತ್ರು."

Hindi Meaning:

"व्यक्ति को स्वयं ही अपना उत्थान करना चाहिए; स्वयं को अपमानित नहीं करना चाहिए। स्वयं ही स्वयं का मित्र है, और स्वयं ही स्वयं का शत्रु है।"


Interpretation of the Shloka

The shloka emphasizes the importance of self-mastery and self-awareness in personal development and spiritual growth. It suggests that one's greatest ally and adversary lie within oneself. Let's explore its meaning in detail:

Self-Upliftment and Self-Degradation

The first part of the shloka, "One should uplift oneself by oneself; let not oneself degrade," emphasizes the individual's responsibility to actively pursue personal growth and improvement. It underscores the idea that personal progress and elevation require inner determination and effort.

Self-degradation refers to actions or behaviors that diminish one's moral, spiritual, or intellectual stature. This could include giving in to negative emotions, engaging in unethical conduct, or neglecting personal development.

Self as Friend and Enemy

The second part of the shloka, "For the self alone is the friend of oneself, and the self alone is the enemy of oneself," delves into the dual nature of the self. It metaphorically portrays the self as both a friend and an enemy.

  • Self as Friend: The term "friend" here signifies companionship, support, and encouragement. It implies that the self has the potential to uplift, motivate, and guide oneself towards positive growth and fulfillment.

  • Self as Enemy: Conversely, the self can act as an enemy through self-doubt, negative self-talk, destructive habits, or harmful behaviors. This aspect highlights the internal struggles and conflicts that individuals face in their journey towards self-improvement.

Philosophical Insights

Advaita Vedanta Perspective

From the perspective of Advaita Vedanta, the shloka aligns with the concept of "Atman," the true self or soul, which is inherently divine and eternal. The process of self-upliftment involves realizing the unity of individual consciousness (Jivatman) with the universal consciousness (Paramatman). Thus, overcoming egoic tendencies and realizing one's true nature is essential for spiritual growth.

Karma Yoga and Ethical Action

The shloka resonates with the principles of Karma Yoga, where individuals perform actions selflessly, without attachment to outcomes. By focusing on righteous action and ethical conduct, individuals can uplift themselves morally and spiritually.

Practical Applications

Personal Development and Growth

  • Self-Awareness: Recognizing one's strengths, weaknesses, and motivations is crucial for personal growth and self-improvement.

  • Self-Discipline: Cultivating discipline and willpower helps in overcoming obstacles and achieving goals.

  • Self-Compassion: Practicing kindness and self-acceptance fosters resilience and emotional well-being.

Interpersonal Relationships

  • Empathy and Understanding: Viewing oneself as a friend fosters empathy and understanding towards others' struggles and challenges.

  • Conflict Resolution: Resolving internal conflicts enhances decision-making and promotes healthier relationships with others.


In conclusion, the shloka from the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 6, Verse 5, offers profound insights into human psychology, spirituality, and the pursuit of personal excellence. By uplifting oneself through self-awareness, self-discipline, and ethical conduct, individuals can transcend internal conflicts and achieve inner harmony and self-realization.

It encourages individuals to take ownership of their thoughts, actions, and emotions, thereby empowering themselves to overcome challenges and attain higher states of consciousness. Recognizing the dual nature of the self as both a friend and an enemy underscores the importance of cultivating virtues and overcoming vices in the journey towards self-actualization.

By integrating these teachings into daily life, individuals can cultivate resilience, integrity, and compassion, contributing positively to their own well-being and to the well-being of others and society as a whole.


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