ātmaiva hy ātmano bandhur
ātmaiva ripur ātmanaḥ
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 6.5
One must deliver himself with the help of his mind, and not degrade himself. The mind is the friend of the conditioned soul, and his enemy as well.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
The word atma denotes body, mind and soul—depending upon different circumstances. In the yoga system, the mind and the conditioned soul are especially important. Since the mind is the central point of yoga practice, atma refers here to the mind. The purpose of the yoga system is to control the mind and to draw it away from attachment to sense objects. It is stressed herein that the mind must be so trained that it can deliver the conditioned soul from the mire of nescience. In material existence one is subjected to the influence of the mind and the senses. In fact, the pure soul is entangled in the material world because the mind is involved with the false ego, which desires to lord it over material nature. Therefore, the mind should be trained so that it will not be attracted by the glitter of material nature, and in this way the conditioned soul may be saved. One should not degrade oneself by attraction to sense objects. The more one is attracted by sense objects, the more one becomes entangled in material existence. The best way to disentangle oneself is to always engage the mind in Krishna consciousness. The word hi is used for emphasizing this point, i.e., that one must do this. It is also said:
mana eva manushyanam
muktyai nirvisayam manah
“For man, mind is the cause of bondage and mind is the cause of liberation. Mind absorbed in sense objects is the cause of bondage, and mind detached from the sense objects is the cause of liberation.” (Amrita-bindu Upanishad 2) Therefore, the mind which is always engaged in Krishna consciousness is the cause of supreme liberation.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
Since the soul has fallen into the well of samsara by attachment to objects of the senses, with effort one should deliver that soul. One should deliver the soul (atmanam) by the mind, which is devoid of attachment to objects of the senses (atmana). One should not let the soul fall into the well of samsara by the mind, which is attached to objects of the senses. Therefore, the mind (atma) is both the friend and enemy of the soul.
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
6.4 When this Yogin, because of his natural disposition to the experience of the self, loses attachment, i.e., gets detached from sense-objects, i.e., things other than the self, and actions associated with them — then he has abandoned all desires and is said to have climbed the heights of Yoga. Therefore, for one wishing to climb to Yoga, but is still disposed to the experience of the sense-objects, Karma Yoga consisting of the practice of detachment to these objects, becomes the cause for success in Yoga. Therefore one who wishes to climb to Yoga must perform Karma Yoga consisting in the practice of detachment from sense-objects. Sri Krsna further elucidates the same:
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
The question may be raised regarding what type of person is the mind a friend and to what type of person is the mind an enemy. Lord Krishna answers that the living being who by spiritual intelligence and diligent effort has conquered and brought under control the aggregate of the physical body, the senses and the mind; to this being only can the mind be considered a friend as a person following an uncontrolled mind is adverse to their own best interests and is harmful hence their mind is like an enemy.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
To whom is the mind a dear friend has been mentioned by Lord Krishna in this verse. Here the word atma should be understood as being the mind and the word atmana as being the living entity. So the meaning is that the atmana or living entity achieves success by the strength of the atma or mind. In the Brahmavaivartaka Purana states: That the condition of the mind is the sole reason for human beings to be liberated from the material existence or contrarily incarcerated in the material existence. The mind should elevate a human being and not be a source of delusion and distress for the mind has the propensity to be the best friend or the worst enemy of this there is no doubt. When with diligence and determination the mind is well governed it is like a best friend and then there are no other enemies. Therefore one should amiably govern their mind by Vedic knowledge and with devotion to the Supreme Lord. The word atmana refers to one whose mind is fixed and unconquerable. But even so if the mind is not directed towards devotion to the Supreme Lord it is not likely to be helpful in the same way as having a servant who does no work is like not having a servant at all and soon the mind will become antagonistic to restraint and then an enemy.
Now begins the summation.
The individual consciousness elevates itself by the mercy of the ultimate consciousness. Lord Krishna is perpetually the best friend and well-wisher of the righteous and spiritual beings but a perpetual enemy to the perpetrators of evil and unrighteousness. This means that to one who is devoted to the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of His authorised incarnations the mind acts as a dear friend by His grace; but for all others the mind is like an enemy. In the end of the verse it is indicated that the Supreme Being aides within such a person.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
Now a question may asked as to whom is the mind a friend and for whom is the mind an enemy? Lord Krishna clarifies that the mind is the friend to that person who having complete control over the physical body, the senses and the mind has conquered their lower nature. The mind is the enemy to the person who is unable to control the physical body, the senses and the mind due to not having conquered their lower nature. As is stated by the sage Parasara: Man’s mentality is verily the root cause of either their liberation or their bondage. The mind obsessed with sensual pleasures is bondage whereas the mind devoid of the desire to enjoy sensual pleasures leads to moksa or liberation from material existence.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
6.5 By the self (Atman), i.e., by the mind, which is unattached to sense-objects, one should raise the self. One should not allow the self to sink by a mind which is of the contrary kind. ‘For the self alone,’ i.e., the mind alone is the friend of the self; and it alone is the foe of the self. [The figure of speech here is of Samsara as the ocean in which the individual self is like an object with liability to sink. What causes its sinking is the lingering attachments of the mind to some objects, though in the discipline of Jnana Yoga one may keep aloof from such objects. A mind with such attachments is the foe and without them, the friend.]
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
6.5-6 Uddharet etc. Bandhuh etc. In this [path] there is no other means excepting the self i.e. nothing but one’s mind. Indeed the subdued mind is a friend and it lifts up [the Self] from the highly dreadful cycle of birth and death. But the unsubdued one does the act of enmity as it throws [the Self] down in the horrible hell. The characteristic mark of the subdued-minded man is this :
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
atmaiva hy atmano bandhur
atmaiva ripur atmanah
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
uddharet — one must deliver; ātmanā — by the mind; ātmānam — the conditioned soul; na — never; ātmānam — the conditioned soul; avasādayet — put into degradation; ātmā — mind; eva — certainly; hi — indeed; ātmanaḥ — of the conditioned soul; bandhuḥ — friend; ātmā — mind; eva — certainly; ripuḥ — enemy; ātmanaḥ — of the conditioned soul.