Gita Essence 3 – The transformational power of love – World-knowledge as the vehicle for love
Time- 108 minutes
Transcribed by- Nayanasundari Devi Dasi
Today we will discuss the third part of our discussion on the essence of the Bhagavad-gita as manifested through the transformational power of love.
In the first part we talked about how self-knowledge is the basis of love. In the Second part we discussed how God knowledge as the fuel for love. Today we will talk about ‘Knowledge of the world as the means for love’. We are practicing bhakti. Bhakti is not just the emotion of the heart, it is an emotion which needs to be expressed through actions. Since we live in this world, it needs to be expressed through actions of this world.
Chapter 11 of Bhagavad-gita talks about how God pervades this world. It first talks about the universal form and how this whole universe is present in the Lord.
In 12th chapter Arjuna asks “O Krishna, if you consider the all-pervasive aspect of the Lord, which is manifested in the universal form. The universal form is manifested at the material level; we can see heads, and hands and legs. But there is spiritual all pervasive manifestation also – the Brahman. So which is better? Is it the spiritual all pervasive manifestation or is it the impersonal manifestation?”
Krsna’s answer is very clear. He says, both paths are good, both will lead to elevation. But the path of impersonal elevation is laborious. It is difficult.
kleso dhikataras tesam
avyakta hi gatir duhkham
“For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied.”
For those, who are attached to the impersonal, progress is very difficult because the soul by nature is active. Activity can be physical, or verbal or mental but we are by nature, active. And the impersonal understanding holds that all the activity is illusion. Because everything except Brahman is illusion, so in order to go from illusion to enlightenment, we have to give up all activity and that is very difficult to do.
But Krishna on the other hand says, if you work for me, then I will deliver you.
In Bhagavad-gita 12.6 and 12.7
ye tu sarvani karmani
mayi sannyasya mat-parah
mam dhyayanta upasate
tesam aham samuddharta
bhavami na cirat partha
“For one who worships Me, giving up all his activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, who has fixed his mind upon Me, O son of Prtha, for him I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death.”
We all do different kinds of work. Work is important to do. Here Krishna says – Offer the work to me. Absorb your mind in me. And if you do like that, then I will deliver you swiftly from the cycle of birth and death. So Krishna is telling here that, I will intervene and personally help. Krishna talks about His personal intervention earlier also, in BG 9.22, yoga-ksemam vahamy aham. I will protect what you have, provide what you lack.
It is not just a vague choice that intellectually some people like the impersonal aspect, some people like the personal aspect. When we accept the personal aspect, we also understand that Krishna is a person who loves, He will intervene, He will offer grace and He will elevate us. Krishna is essentially recommending the path of action, do your work, and do not just be inactive. In the impersonal path, the only thing to speak is that there is nothing to speak. The only thing to do is that there is nothing to do. The only thing to think is that there is nothing to think. So it’s a very difficult path. But in bhakti, we do work and we use it for the service of Krishna. So Krishna completes this section by – mayy avesita-cetasam, with consciousness fixed on me. The 7th chapter that actually began this section of Bhagavad-gita that starts with mayi asakata manah and now this BG 12.7 ends with BG 12.7 mayy avesita-cetasam – same points – consciousness absorbed, mind absorbed. So Krishna has completed a full cycle.
And then He says bhakti can be practiced at multiple levels. Firstly, when we have to serve Krishna, how do we serve Krishna in this world, using our resources? The best is – just fix your mind on me, in BG 12.8, he uses the highest level.
mayy eva mana adhatsva
mayi buddhim nivesaya
nivasisyasi mayy eva
ata urdhvam na samsayah
“Just fix your mind upon Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and engage all your intelligence in Me. Thus you will live in Me always, without a doubt.”
If your mind and intelligence is fixed in me, then you already live in me. Whatever work we are doing in this world, if our mind and intelligence is fixed in Krishna, then we are already in Krishna. It’s not that we will attain Krishna in future, we have already attained Him. We are living in Krishna. But how do we do that? What if we are not at that level? Ok, then you do Sadhana Bhakti.
atha cittam samadhatum
na saknosi mayi sthiram
mam icchaptum dhananjaya
“My dear Arjuna, O winner of wealth, if you cannot fix your mind upon Me without deviation, then follow the regulated principles of bhakti-yoga In this way you will develop a desire to attain to Me.”
He says, if you can’t fix the mind on me, then just do abhyaas yoga, try to fix your mind on me, as a practice, as a discipline. Sadhana Bhakti means voluntary force. There is no external force. But it is voluntary force. It is not a mandatory force that you have to do it. It’s not like a dictator of government says, just do it. It is we with our free will, choose to do it. But sometimes, we have to force us. If the mind goes off, we bring it back. By this, Krishna says, your mind will become attached to me. Gradually your mind will become attached to me by such practice. Somebody might say, I was just hearing about Krishna, chanting His name, I can’t do it so much. If you can’t do that, come one more level below. He says, BG 12.10
abhyase ‘py asamartho ‘si
mad-artham api karmani
kurvan siddhim avapsyasi
“If you cannot practice the regulations of bhakti-yoga, then just try to work for Me, because by working for Me you will come to the perfect stage.”
He says, if you can’t fix your mind on me, if you can’t steadily practice the sadhana bhakti, then just work for me. If you can’t chant my name constantly, then do some service in the temple, work for me, do something practical.
And then He says, mat-karma-paramo bhava
– Always think of me
– Strive to think of me
– Work for me
And then Krishna says, BG12:11
athaitad apy asakto ‘si
kartum mad-yogam asritah
tatah kuru yatatmavan
“If, however, you are unable to work in this consciousness, then try to act giving up all results of your work and try to be self-situated.”
And then he says, if you can’t even work for me, sacrifice the fruits of your work for some good cause. Prabhupada writes here in the purport, if we donate to charity, for some cause, by which at least we develop a culture of selflessness. So if we can’t give for Krishna, then at least we give it for some other cause which helps us develop some level of selflessness. Growth of bhakti is essentially a growth in selflessness. Initially, ‘I want to do everything for myself’ and pure devotion means ‘I do it for Krishna’. In between, we try to grow.
Now Krishna is very accommodating here, He is talking about how we can come to Him. We all have to function in this world, just like Arjuna. In fact although Bhagavad-gita stresses on bhakti, and this chapter is titled ‘bhakti yoga’, but actually Krishna here stresses bhakti which is not affected by mundane emotionality. Arjuna has been overpowered by his material emotions which in first chapter lead to symptoms like: – his limbs were trembling, his Gandiva was slipping from his hand, he is shedding tears, and his hair were standing on end. So the Bhagavad-gita’s thrust, at this point, is to help him stabilize himself. So if there are worldly emotions, which distract our focus from Krishna, then in Bhagavad-gita there is unemotional, rational and intellectual analysis, which helps us understand that this mundane emotionality is not good. It inspires us to fix our mind in Krishna. Fixing our mind is better than mundane emotionality which is distracting us. Gradually through that rational, intellectual and logical thinking we move forward and then as our mind becomes fixed in Krishna, we become attached to Krishna, then spiritual emotions will awaken. So at this stage, from BG 12.13-12.20, Krishna gives Arjuna an analysis of the qualities that endear a devotee to Him. What makes a devotee dear to Him? Krishna says, BG 12.13-14
santustah satatam yogi
A devotee is one who is satisfied, one who is equipoised in honor and dishonor, in happiness and distress.
Now being equipoised here does not mean we have to be heartless or emotionless. It rather means that our emotions need to be available for something which is most worthwhile being invested in. Let us consider an example – One person ‘A’ is going on a journey and at the end of the journey he is going to meet a person ‘B’, who is going to give ‘A’ one million dollars. But on the way, somebody steals five dollars from A’s pocket. If ‘A’ starts fighting with him, ‘A’ will end up wasting his time there, he will never reach the destination where he was to get one million dollars. Or let us take another example where ‘A’ is on the way and on the other side of the street, he sees 5 dollars fallen. ‘A’ goes to catch it and the wind blows it away. ‘A’ starts chasing it and keeps chasing it. And again he doesn’t get the one million dollars.
So material losses and material gains, are like five dollar losses and five dollar gains. But our connection with Krishna, our absorption in Krishna, our love for Krishna is like that one million dollar. So Krishna is not saying that one should not be emotional, but one has to decide where do we need to invest his emotions, so as to get the maximum returns? It might sound simple that it is just five 5 dollars, I just have to bend and take it, that’s nice, I would like to have it. No it is not like that. Although it appears to be simple, ‘Just bend down and take it’. But if we try to take it, we will find that it is going to take us away from the path. Krishna says, one needs to be detached from worldly ups & downs. Because when we get emotionally consumed by worldly ups & downs, then our consciousness is not available for Krishna. Then in times of joy we think, ‘Wow this is so nice, now I am happy, now I am successful, now I am famous’, and we get caught up in that. We are not thinking about Krishna. In times of despair we think, ‘Oh things are going so wrong, life is so rotten, I am useless, I am a failure’. Again we are not thinking about Krishna. So that is why Krishna says, ‘Be equipoised’. And this way Krishna says how to act in this world with the mood of service to Him. The world is the medium by which we are going to serve the lord. We can’t suddenly start thinking about Krishna, start living in Krishna. We have to function in this world. So while doing so, we become unemotional about worldly ups & downs.
And to help this understanding, Krishna in the chapter 13, talks about the three modes of material nature. The modes have been mentioned repeatedly earlier. Now what exactly are these modes? The modes or gunas are subtle forces that shape the interaction between consciousness and matter. Different people, when they see the same object, may perceive it differently. The same object can yield different emotions in different persons.
For example if there is a young, good looking women. When a young man looks at her, it may kindle the mode of passion, sexual desire in him. But the same young woman, when looked at by her husband, moments after the couple had a quarrel, may arise anger in her husband. So in one man it is triggering rajo guna – mode of passion and there is an urge for immediate action. In another man, it is triggering anger – mode of ignorance, which causes destruction, the urge to destroy things. The same woman may be mother of a child. The child may be worrying where my mother is, he is fearful. As soon as he sees the mother, he becomes calm. So in the child the same sight is triggering sattva guna – the mode of goodness. So we see how the same object can have different effects on different people. This is dependent on the mode that we are in. The modes shape the interaction between the consciousness and matter. When we see a material object, what emotion is induced within us? That determines the mode we are in. So in the 12 chapter, Krishna mentioned, “Don’t be carried away by material emotions”. That same thing, Krishna analyses deeper and says, “Actually the material emotions are not really your emotions. They are emotions induced in you by certain external influences”. And just like sometimes, we may do something and after a while we wonder, why did I do that? What made me feel like doing it? So Krishna says it’s the modes which are acting. All of us have our moods. Most of the people are not aware of the concept of modes, but everybody is aware of moods. We all go through different moods. Some people nowadays have dramatic mood swings. One day they are so sweet and gentle, the embodiment of courtesy. And the next day they are so angry and unpleasant, embodiment of nastiness. What has happened is just the mood has changed. Krishna says these moods will come, this is simply because of the modes.
In BG 14.22 Krishna says what we should do:-
prakasam ca pravrttim ca
moham eva ca pandava
na dvesti sampravrttani
na nivrttani kanksati
Prakash refers to illumination, mode of goodness, Pravrti is the urge for action, referring to the mode of passion and Moha is the mode of ignorance. So Krishna says, all these three modes, they will come, by their own inforce or nature. Sometimes we will feel peaceful, sometimes we feel I want to do something in my life. Sometimes, we feel, what is the need to do anything in life?
It is said that few people make things happen, few people watch things happen and few people wonder what happened. So this is goodness, passion and ignorance. Krishna tells that if such modes show their faces in our lives, just be detached. If these emotions are coming, they will go. Don’t identify with these emotions. Don’t get carried away by them. So actually to become ‘Krishna conscious’, we need to become ‘consciousness conscious’. We need to analyze what is our consciousness right now? Rather than just ‘feeling our feelings’, we need to become ‘observer of our feelings’. If we are angry, rather than acting angrily, we need to just observe ourselves,
‘I am feeling the emotion of anger manifesting, why is this happening’?
Because this person did like this.
Why has that action made me so angry?
Because they promised to do this, but they didn’t do this.
So what is really the problem? They didn’t keep the promise?
No but this this didn’t work out.
What is the consequence of that?
Yes actually I can fix it, isn’t it? There is nothing to get so worked up about …
So we see that there is no point getting angry on something which can be fixed. If we just observe our emotions, instead of identifying with our emotions, then we can process them. Usually we think of emotions only in two terms,
1) Expressing them or
2) Repressing them.
If I am angry, I express that anger on someone. And that person feels shocked. And then he gets angry and this just makes things worse. Or sometimes we repress our emotions, thinking I shouldn’t speak this, but then anger when repressed, becomes hate. But when we understand the concept of the modes, it opens a third option for us – beyond expressing and repressing emotions, to
3) Processing emotions.
Processing means analyzing. So when we get an emotion, we analyze it. It is not that we are not meant to feel emotions, or we are meant to deny emotions, but when the emotions come, we respond appropriately. If you are angry with someone, we need to understand that anger signifies that something is important to us. Then when we analyze, we understand what is it which is at stake? How can that be taken care of? When we process it that way we can respond appropriately. So while functioning in this world, Krishna says, that we need to distance ourselves from our emotions. How the best can we do it? Krishna says, by practicing Bhakti.
mam ca yo ‘vyabhicarena
sa gunan samatityaitan
“One who engages in full devotional service, who does not fall down in any circumstance, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman.”
If we practice bhakti diligently and unflinchingly, we find that the effect of the modes will go down. So for example, when we are studying scriptures, when we are chanting, that time also our modes may influence us. I may not feel like studying scriptures. I may not feel like chanting, I may not feel like going for any program but at that time, we apply little force, to push ourselves to do it. Let’s understand this with an example. If I have to lift a heavy bag weighing 20-30kg, it is difficult. But if I have a lever, and I apply some force on that lever, the bag lifting becomes much easier. Now to lift the lever also, I require some force, but the amount of force required to pull the lever, is far less than the force required to lift the weight directly without the lever. Similarly our bhakti activities are like the lever. We find our moods wandering here and there, sometimes we get too angry or too greedy or too depressed. To battle those emotions at that time is very difficult. Battling the emotions even while practicing bhakti is very difficult but with bhakti practice if we do it, then that is like pressing the lever. And our whole consciousness will rise up.
Many of us have experienced that may be earlier we were very short tempered, and after we start practicing bhakti, then our capacity to handle difficult situations goes up. Before that if some difficulty came up, we might just emotionally crumble. Now also we may get disturbed but we don’t collapse. We are able to cope with it. So what is happening? When we try to practice bhakti diligently as much as possible, we develop a connection with Krishna. And that connection with Krishna helps us to resist the distraction that is caused by the modes. It is like if there is a boat in an ocean, the waves will cause it to move here and there. But if the boat is anchored, then it will not move that much. So just like that, the connection with Krishna decreases the distraction because of the modes. A boat anchored doesn’t move so much. Connecting with Krishna may also be obstructed by our emotions. But if we can fight against those emotions there, then fighting these emotions at other places will be much easier. So all this we talked about “modes of material nature” is 14th chapter.
Before that comes chapter 13, which is the most analytical chapter where Krishna gives the definitions – prakrti, purusa, kshetra, kshetragya, gyan, gneya, etc. It’s a complicated analysis from the Upanishads. The Upanishads are specially meant for intellectual people. If we tell intellectual people that Radha Krishna are God, they will say that this is some kind of anthropomorphism where you are taking human images and calling them God. But if we tell them that Krishna represents the ‘Primordial cosmological principle’ that exists beyond all conceptions of stay pace and dying, and that which pervades all of existence that existed before existence, beyond existence and is the original existence. Then they will understand it. So there are some people who just need complicated presentations. So Upanishads cater to such kind of people. And Krishna in the 13th chapter, is also catering to those kind of people.
Chapter 13 is filled with complicated things. He seems to be saying one thing at one place and another thing at another place. He says, I am inside everything and then he says, I am outside everything.
bahir antas ca bhutanam
acaram caram eva ca
suksmatvat tad avijneyam
dura-stham cantike ca tat
“The Supreme Truth exists both internally and externally, in the moving and nonmoving. He is beyond the power of the material senses to see or to know. Although far, far away, He is also near to all.”
I am outside everything, I am inside everything. I am close, I am far away. I am tiny, I am huge. He talks about all these contradictory things. Actually they are not contradictory. They are paradoxical. Contradiction means they are two opposite statements. Paradox means there are two statements that seem opposite, but at a deeper level they are correct. For example a teacher may say, the least corrected papers are the most correct. That means, of the teacher has to make least corrections to the paper. That means the student has already written the correct paper. This sounds contradictory but it is actually a correct statement. So paradox means you have to go deeper to understand what is being said. Standard example is given in Vedic Epistemology.
Statement A: “Devadutta is a person. Devadutta fasts throughout the day”.
Statement B: “Devadutta’s weight is increasing.”
Now how do the two statements go together? This seems contradictory. So there is a third statement which will reconcile it.
Statement C: “Devadutta eats secretly at night”.
So similarly when Krishna says, He is inside everything and He is outside everything, this may seem contradictory and this doesn’t make sense. But what does it mean? How can we understand it? Actually what it means is Krishna has multiple manifestations. As the manifestation of Kshirodakshayi Vishnu He is inside everything. As Mahavishnu, He is outside everything. So there are ways in which it can be understood. Some people may dismiss it as contradictory. But it is paradoxical.
The 13th chapter talks about how the soul misidentifies with the body and the world because of the desire to enjoy. BG13.22
purusah prakrti-stho hi
bhunkte prakrti-jan gunan
karanam guna-sango ‘sya
“The living entity in material nature thus follows the ways of life, enjoying the three modes of nature. This is due to his association with that material nature. Thus he meets with good and evil amongst various species.”
Krishna says that the soul gets caught in prakrti because of the desire to enjoy. Just like a child whose mother is working nearby in the kitchen and he happened to press the remote of the TV and started watching a horror movie. He gets horrified, starts trembling and crying. Actually, the child is safe. But as long as the child’s consciousness is caught in that horror movie, he feels fearful. Similarly the soul is always safe. Soul is transcendental. But soul’s consciousness in caught in matter. Why? Because of the desire to enjoy. How does this desire come? Because the modes are born from prakrti. Modes induce the soul to identify with material objects, the desire to enjoy material objects, and therefore the soul becomes bound. 13th chapter sets the basis for the 14th chapter where Krishna talks about the modes in detail.
In the 15th chapter Krishna talks about Himself – Purushottam Yoga. He says that this world is like an upside down tree which means that there is a real tree on the bank of a river. So the spiritual tree is a reality, material tree is a reflection of the real tree. Krishna says that He exists at the summit of the spiritual world. We can all approach Him, attain Him, by the practice of bhakti. So Krishna explains as to while functioning in this material world how does the soul live, how the soul acts, how does the soul get entangled and bound; all this we need to understand through Gyan Chakshu – the eyes of knowledge.
utkramantam sthitam vapi
bhunjanam va gunanvitam
“The foolish cannot understand how a living entity can quit his body, nor can they understand what sort of body he enjoys under the spell of the modes of nature. But one whose eyes are trained in knowledge can see all this.”
What is meant by the ‘eyes of knowledge’? Actually in any field we just don’t see with our eyes, we see with the knowledge that we have. Suppose we talk about the stock market. And some person, who has no knowledge about stock markets and economics, just walks into the stock market. He sees a big screen on which a line suddenly goes down. Everybody seems so worried, and this person, because of his lack of knowledge, doesn’t understand what happened. He feels that just one line went down, why are people so disturbed? Those who know this, will be wondering how much money did I lose? They are shocked. So just by seeing that line, one doesn’t see anything. We don’t see with our eyes, we see with our knowledge. It helps us to make sense of what we see.
The word ‘see’ has 2 meanings,
1) it can refer to vision,
2) And it can refer to comprehension.
Sometimes one person may explain something to other person and the other person says, “I see”. Here ‘I see’ means ‘I understand’. Perception can happen. The stock broker or investors are also seeing the graph go down, and this layman person also sees the graph goes down. Both are having the same perception. But it is the education that transforms perception into comprehension. And that education is what the Bhagavad-gita provides us. So to see the soul, to see the God in action in this world, we need education. With the ‘eyes of knowledge’ we can see, otherwise we cannot see.
Krishna explains after that how He pervades all of the material nature, how He sustains all of the nature. And then the chapter concludes with what is called as the “tri-sloki Gita” – BG 15.16, 15.17, 15.18. There Krishna declares His supremacy. This is the strongest refutation of the Impersonalism in Bhagavad-gita. Because the impersonalism holds that there are two kinds of souls – conditioned souls and liberated souls. And the liberated souls basically become the Brahman, the absolute truth. But Krishna refutes that. In BG 15.16, Krishna says,
dvav imau purusau loke
ksaras caksara eva ca
ksarah sarvani bhutani
kuta-stho ‘ksara ucyate
“There are two classes of beings, the fallible and the infallible. In the material world every entity is fallible, and in the spiritual world every entity is called infallible.”
There are 2 kinds of souls. Some souls are bound and some souls are liberated. Then he says,
uttamah purusas tv anyah
yo loka-trayam avisya
bibharty avyaya isvarah
“Besides these two, there is the greatest living personality, the Lord Himself, who has entered into these worlds and is maintaining them.”
The Supreme person is the third. The impersonalists say, ‘I was an atheist till I discovered I was God’. Their idea is that when we realize that we are part of God, we become one with God. But Krishna says even if you become liberated, you don’t become God. God is a third person. And that person is maintaining all the three worlds. Krishna stresses that further in BG 15.18
yasmat ksaram atito ‘ham
aksarad api cottamah
ato ‘smi loke vede ca
“Because I am transcendental, beyond both the fallible and the infallible, and because I am the greatest, I am celebrated both in the world and in the Vedas as that Supreme Person.”
Krishna says, ‘I am beyond the fallible and infallible both, I am beyond the conditioned and beyond the liberated. Therefore I am celebrated as the Purushottam – the supreme person’. This is very categorically expressing the transcendence of Krishna’s personality. It is not that the impersonal is higher than personal, but rather personal is beyond the impersonal.
In the 16th chapter Krishna is talking about this material world, how to analyze the material world, in a way by which we can stay situated spiritually. So in the 16th chapter He focusses on the divine nature and the demoniac nature. First three verses talk about the divine nature. And in the remaining chapter He talks about the demoniac nature. He has talked about Godly qualities many times earlier, in the 12th chapter, 13th chapter, etc. So He says, “I have spoken about this earlier, so I will speak the other in detail”. He wants to discuss about the demoniac nature so that we can understand that and become distanced from it, and we don’t act in this way. He wants us to act in a way which will bring out the godly side. All of us, have both a good side and a bad side within us. And we are born with that. Some of us may have the good side more, some may have bad side more. Depending on our choices, we will bring out either the good side or the bad side. Krishna talks about the patterns of behavior, of those who have brought out their bad side. And He says, “If you behave this way, it results in tremendous suffering”. It is not that the suffering will come in the future when one suffers the karmic consequences, but the suffering will come even now.
cintam aparimeyam ca
etavad iti niscitah
“They believe that to gratify the senses unto the end of life is the prime necessity of human civilization. Thus there is no end to their anxiety. Being bound by hundreds and thousands of desires, by lust and anger, they secure money by illegal means for sense gratification.”
People who think that material enjoyment is the goal of life, they naturally suffer from great anxiety. Anxiety – till what point? Krishna says, “Their anxiety is immeasurable and it goes on till the moment of death”. Why is that so? Because if we think that the material enjoyment is the goal of life, then the objects that provide us material enjoyment are outside of us. And we have very limited control over those objects. Therefore when we think that my life’s success and life’s pleasure depends solely on objects outside me and I don’t have much control over them, then that naturally causes anxiety. Like if I get an object, the anxiety remains – how long is it going to stay with me, what if it is taken away from me? So this causes anxiety.
When we perceive worldly pleasures, there are only three alternatives:-
1) We perceive something and we don’t get it. That simply causes frustration.
2) We perceive it, we get it but it turns out to be an anti-climax.
3) We perceive it, we get it, and it gives some pleasure. But it is taken away from us.
Now we all live in this world and it is not that we are meant to starve ourselves of all worldly things. Bhagavad-gita stresses the fact that we should not let the pursuit of worldly things become the primary purpose of your life. While functioning in this world, we need worldly things. And naturally we will seek to get them. But we should not seek them disproportionately. The Bhagavad-gita is not against ambition. Arjuna naturally worked hard, that’s how he became a champion archer. But at the same time, he did not give up his spirituality for the sake of his archery. He managed to balance both.
Let’s understand this with the example of cancer cells in one’s body. Now both cancer cells and normal cells will grow with time. But the difference between their growths is that the normal cells grow in a proportionate way and their growth facilitates the growth of the overall body. Whereas the cancer cells grow in a disproportionate way and their growth damages and destroys the rest of the body. As a part of the normal growth in life, we may like to grow financially, socially, emotionally, spiritually, etc. but if one particular ambition, one particular desire, it just consumes our consciousness completely, then that attachment, which can become an addiction, becomes like a cancer cell. Its growth destroys everything else in our life.
That’s what happens when people become addicted to something. For example if someone becomes an alcoholic, it destroys his prestige in the society, he behaves crazily, he loses his money, he spends so much money on it, he sometimes spoils his relationships, he can’t keep his word to others, he spoils his health and ultimately he may lose everything due to that one addiction. So the problem arises when our material life or our material desires are not placed within a spiritual context, within a spiritual purpose of life. If our material desires are within a spiritual context and purpose, we won’t pursue them disproportionately. We will know how to and how much to pursue our material desires. It is not that all our material desires have to be given up but we have to make sure that they harmonize with our spiritual life. Once that is done, they cannot strictly be called material desires because they are all contributing to our spiritual growth.
Devatas also seek worldly pleasures, asuras also seek sense gratification. But the difference is devatas are devoted to the Lord and within the devotional/dharmic context, they seek whatever they want. Asuras do not do like that.
Krishna concludes the 16th chapter by saying, “Live according to the shastras”. So how do we live in this world? Use scripture as our guideline,
yah sastra-vidhim utsrjya
na sa siddhim avapnoti
na sukham na param gatim
“But he who discards scriptural injunctions and acts according to his own whims attains neither perfection, nor happiness, nor the supreme destination.”
Those who do not follow the shastras, they are doomed. Therefore Krishna says, act according to shastras.
tasmac chastram pramanam te
karma kartum iharhasi
“One should understand what is duty and what is not duty; by the regulations of the scriptures. Knowing such rules and regulations, one should act so that he may gradually be elevated.”
Krishna stresses here, ‘Live according to shastras’. Now all of us have to take decisions in life. Let’s try to understand what does shastra mean? Arjuna had to fight using his archery knowledge, Bhagavad-gita does not provide that knowledge. There is no dhanur vidya given in Bhagavad-gita itself. What does that mean? There are specific activities that we have to do in life, and for that we may go to specific sources of knowledge. But what is the ultimate purpose of our life? This is what we learn from Shastra. Shastras tell us what are the values for life. There is material knowledge which can come from various sources. In Vedic time also there was Ayurveda, Dhanurvidya, Jyotish Shastra, etc; these are not necessarily transcendental, they are all material, they deal with the material world. But all this was guided within the shastric world view. This is a whole different subject, we won’t go much into its details here. We shouldn’t position scripture as a competitor to science. Science tells us how to function in this world, eg. How to make a car, how to drive a car, how to use a computer. Scripture tells us why to drive a car, why to use a computer, why to live a life itself? So the practicalities of living in this world, we may learn from various sources. Arjuna did not come to Krishna to learn the art of Archery. He came to ask Krishna what I am going to do in my life. So scriptures teach us life’s ultimate purpose and how to make choices, it helps us to live according to that ultimate purpose. It gives us the framework for making decisions in life, and the specific aspects about executing those decisions, we can learn from various sources.
Material sources of knowledge cannot answer questions to three things:-
1) Origin – where did I come from?
2) Value – what is right, what is wrong? What should I do? What should I not do?
3) Purpose – where am I ultimately meant to go?
This is what shastra primarily tells us. And we take this knowledge from shastras, and then act accordingly. For the ungodly people, for the materialistic people, for the demoniac people, they don’t refer to shastras. They simply act according to the whims of their mind and senses. And thus they get misled.
Krishna has talked about two categories of people:-
1. Godly people – those who have faith and follow shastras.
2. Demoniac people – those who do not have faith and do not follow shastras.
Now in the 17th chapter, Krishna talks about the intermediate category. In Bhagavad-gita 17.1 Arjuna asks Krishna, “What about this intermediate category of people who do not follow shastras, but they have some kind of faith?”
ye sastra-vidhim utsrjya
tesam nistha tu ka krsna
sattvam aho rajas tamah
“Arjuna said, O Krsna, what is the situation of one who does not follow the principles of scripture but worships according to his own imagination? Is he in goodness, in passion or in ignorance?”
So Arjuna is asking here, “What about the people who have some kind of faith, but that faith is not necessarily in the conclusion of the shastras. And based on that faith, they act. So what is their destination?”
It is intellectually easy to classify things as black or white, right or wrong, good or bad. But the real world has many shades of gray within it. So this categorization is not easy. People have various characteristics in them. One of the most graphic example of shades of gray is Hitler. He was the man who was responsible for the killing of 10 million people. 5 million Jews and 5 million other people. But he never killed animals for eating. He was a vegetarian. So do we take this as a virtue? Being vegetarian is a virtue but in his case it is so insignificant compared to the amount of harm he brought to so many people. So in real world, we cannot simplistically place our moral categories.
So when Krishna explains the godly and demoniac people based on their abidance with the shastras, Arjuna asked about people whose characteristics are in between these two categories. How to classify them? Then Krishna talks in the 17th chapter about the 3 modes of material nature, with respect to specific things, like how people eat, what kind of austerities they do, what kind of sacrifices they perform, what kind of charity they give? By this we can understand where they are? Sometimes there may be atheists, who may be in the mode of goodness. Sometimes there may be religionists who are in the mode of ignorance. Now one may wonder how an atheist can be in the mode of goodness. Isn’t atheism itself a sign of ignorance? Yes, as far their intellectual understanding is concerned, they are in the mode of ignorance. But sometimes where practical living is concerned, there may be atheists also who may live regulated and simple life, who are very conscious of the environment and who will be courteous towards others. People may chose atheism because of various reasons. Sometimes few people because of their past karma, or this life’s upbringing may be in the mode of goodness but they might meet some very self-righteous religionists or hypocritical people who pretend to be religious, their experiences with religion may have been very unpleasant and nasty. Because of this they chose atheism. So in terms of lifestyle, their lifestyle may be relatively in goodness, but actually in terms of intellectual orientation they may be atheist. We can’t just simplistically label them as demoniac. So there are my subtleties which come. Sometimes, some religious people may make a big show of their devotion to their God, but they may actually be in the mode of ignorance. There are terrorists who in the name of God, kill innocent people. They are simply in the mode of ignorance, and they are acting in ungodly ways, and their God is actually not the God of revelation. Their God is the God of their imagination. They may say that I am following scripture, worshipping this God, but actually their God is simply a God in their imagination, that God hates people whom they hate. Their God is simply a projection of their ego. Their religion is simply a cover up for their destructiveness. They may profess to be religious but they are totally in the mode of ignorance. Some religions say, our way is the only way, if you are not following us, you are going to the hell. Some fanatic people say, not only are you going to go to hell, we will help you get their faster. So if there is indiscriminative destructiveness, then that is ‘tamasic’.
Krishna’s answer to Arjuna’s question basically introduces us to the ‘shades of gray’. So real life is messy. We cannot have simple black and white categorization. There are many shades of gray. And Bhagavad-gita talks about these various shades of grey. We are not meant to label people simply by their externals. Sometimes we classify people based on their religion, country or community. That is mundane vision, not philosophical vision. Philosophical vision means accepting that in any section of people, there will be few people who are in the mode of goodness, few in the mode of passion and few will be in the mode of ignorance. And in a particular situation, some particular mode may be more prominent. But that doesn’t mean everybody is like that. So we need to see with philosophical vision.
Of course we have to act appropriately. If some people are threatening or are violent then appropriate security measures are required. Bhagavad-gita does not talk about blanket generalizations because the modes are mixed with each other and different people are in different modes. The 17th chapter subtly reflects the complexity of real life. So Bhagavad-gita is a very realistic book. It is not simply an idealistic book which is just propagating some idea which is not practical in real life.
The 18th chapter is the most beautiful chapter in terms of its conclusion. It summarizes and deepens the earlier discussion. Arjuna repeats his question, he wants to clarify deeply, “O Krishna, should I renounce action or perform action?”
Krishna replies, “Renunciation can also be in three modes. There is a difference between frustration and renunciation. Somebody may be fasting, because he has taken some religious vow, for example if it is the day of Ekadashi and he wants to fast for purification. Somebody else may be fasting because his stomach is upset. The two fasting are not at the same level. In the second fasting there is a desire to eat, and he would very much eat, if he could. The abstinence because of frustration is very different from abstinence because of renunciation. One time a young man came to the temple, he occasionally would visit the temple. He enquired, “I am thinking of becoming a Brahmachari, I will decide by the month end. What is the process of becoming a Brahmachari”? We asked, “Why do you want to become Brahmachari?” What is going to happen by the month end? He said, “I have proposed to my girlfriend, if she says ‘No’, I am going to become a Brahmachari”. Frustration is and should not be the qualification of renunciation.
Krishna says sometimes when we are frustrated with material life, we renounce it and we take to spiritual life. Turning to spirituality is fine but if we renounce material life because of frustration, that is simply done out of fear. “There is so much trouble in material life, so I give it up”. But then the fact is that even in spiritual life there will be trouble, because we practice spiritual life also in material world. So when there is trouble in spiritual life, where will we go?
We want to go towards Krishna, not because ‘this world is so dreadful’. That may be a starting point. We want to go towards Krishna because ‘Krishna is so wonderful’, not just because this world is so dreadful. The world may seem dreadful right now but after sometime, the world may seem wonderful. Because the nature of this world/Maya is, Maya will never make us hopelessly frustrated. She will always make us hopefully frustrated. Which means, if something doesn’t work out for us, Maya gives us hope that, ‘Don’t worry, something else will work out’. This way frustration will never be a sustainable motivation for the practice of bhakti. If we want to steadily practice bhakti we actually need to cultivate attraction for Krishna and dedication for serving Krishna. That is the mood of Bhagavad-gita. Krishna says to Arjuna, ‘In a dedicated way, you cultivate a service attitude. As a Kshatriya, you do your Kshatriya duty but do it with detachment’. Krishna talks about the varna and asrama in the 18th chapter, and He gives a progression from Karma Yoga, through Gyan Yoga to Bhakti Yoga. With Karma yoga, one renounces the world. After one has renounced the world and has come to the summit of renunciation, then one comes to Bhakti.
na socati na kanksati
samah sarvesu bhutesu
mad-bhaktim labhate param
“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.”
Krishna says, “The most impersonalist thing is that if I have come to the Brahman platform, then I have attained perfection. But Krishna refutes this by saying that after the Brahman platform, one comes to Bhakti, Para Bhakti – pure devotion. This is Bhagavad-gita 18.54, 18.55.
So 18th chapter is like a recap of the full Bhagavad-gita. So in the first 6 chapters Krishna talks about the progression from karma yoga (from action) through renunciation, to devotion. First five chapters mention “action”, and 6th chapter “ashtanga yoga” mentions about renunciation. 6th chapter’s last verse mentions about devotion. Krishna talks about the same hierarchy from 18.1 to 18.55. He talks about action till 18.48. Then 18.49-18.53, He is talking about renunciation and 18.54-18.55, He is talking about devotion. So the same thing is explained – action, renunciation and devotion. Then Krishna says actually one doesn’t necessarily has to go through this ‘action, renunciation to devotion’. From wherever one is, one can start practicing devotion – Bhakti yoga. That same thing, Krishna starts from 18.56, he says,
sarva-karmany api sada
sasvatam padam avyayam
“Though engaged in all kinds of activities, My devotee, under My protection, reaches the eternal and imperishable abode by My grace.”
Krishna is saying here, ‘whatever work you are doing, just do that work in the mood of devotion, take shelter of me’. So Krishna doesn’t recommend this path of action, renunciation and devotion or Karma Yoga, Gyan Yoga & Bhakti Yoga. Krishna says just practice Bhakti yoga, from wherever you are. You take shelter of Me, you will attain Me. We are all controlled by material nature. But if we surrender to the controller of material nature, then we will be saved from entanglement. We can function in material world, but we won’t be entangled. Then in BG18.62
tam eva saranam gaccha
tat-prasadat param santim
sthanam prapsyasi sasvatam
“O scion of Bharata, surrender unto Him utterly. By His grace you will attain transcendental peace and the supreme and eternal abode.”
Surrender unto that Supreme Lord. Then in 18.63, Krishna concludes His message,
iti te jnanam akhyatam
guhyad guhyataram maya
yathecchasi tatha kuru
“Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.”
Here Krishna is revealed as a God who respects human intelligence and human independence. He says, ‘Now you decide what you want to do. You have your independence, but use you intelligence. Deliberate and decide’.
The Bhagavad-gita is not so much a book of commandments, it is a book of choices. The Dos and Don’ts are mentioned. If you do this, these will be the consequences, now you decide what you want to do. Now Arjuna starts thinking, earlier Krishna spoke this and then later this, so he is into deep thought. “What am I supposed to do?” So at that time, Krishna’s heart overflows with compassion, and He says, “Arjuna, you don’t have to be so confused. I will tell you what to do. I will make it crystal clear”. BG18.64
srnu me paramam vacah
isto ‘si me drdham iti
tato vaksyami te hitam
“Because you are My very dear friend, I am speaking to you the most confidential part of knowledge. Hear this from Me, for it is for your benefit.”
He says, “Now I am giving you the most confidential knowledge. Because you are very dear to me. I am determined to love you, no matter whatever happens. You may reject me, forget me, but I am determined to love you. Out of my concern for you, I will tell you the most confidential knowledge.” And then He tells two verses. The glories of these two verses are explained very well by Chakravarthy Pada. He mentions that imagine there is a treasure chest which contains many jewels within, but somebody may be too lazy to open that treasure chest and see what kind of jewels are inside. So just to attract people, two jewels are kept on top of the encasement. So people will be amazed by the beauty of these jewels on the top and then they will be curious to know what will be inside the chest. So those two jewels are the two slokas put as conclusion on the top:-
man-mana bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yaji mam namaskuru
mam evaisyasi satyam te
pratijane priyo ‘si me
“Always think of Me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend.”
Now Krishna has said the same thing earlier in BG 9.34
man-mana bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yaji mam namaskuru
mam evaisyasi yuktvaivam
“Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, offer obeisances and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.”
But there the stress is different. In BG 9.34 Krishna says, if you do this, devote yourself to me and you will come to me. There the thrust is on what ‘we’ have to do. But in BG 18.65, the thrust is Krishna is saying what ‘I’ will do. If you do this, you will come to me, this is ‘my’ promise to you. I proclaim this. Krishna is assuring, if you follow this, I will do this for you. And then Arjuna says, “I have so many duties, which duty should I follow?” Then Krishna says, BG 18.65
mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo
moksayisyami ma sucah
“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.”
Now, earlier in the 7th chapter, Krishna said in the 27-28 verse, “Actually you have to become free from sinful activities, then you can practice bhakti yoga properly”.
yesam tv anta-gatam papam
bhajante mam drdha-vratah
“Persons who have acted piously in previous lives and in this life, whose sinful actions are completely eradicated and who are freed from the duality of delusion, engage themselves in My service with determination.”
Those who are free from all sins, they can practice Bhakti. But in 18th chapter Krishna is saying, even if you are sinful, if you come to me, I will free you from all the sins. This can be explained by this example. Sometimes, when a child is growing up, the mother wants to give potty training to the child. So she instructs him, ‘when you have to respond to nature’s call, go there and do it’. But sometime the child doesn’t understand and he spoils his clothes. Mother might say, ‘if you spoil your clothes, don’t come to me. First learn to be clean’. So Krishna is in that mood initially, ‘first become sinful then you practice Bhakti’.
But if the child has made a mess, and then he comes and says, ‘mom I don’t know what to do’. Then mom, out of her love and compassion, will say, ‘just come here, I will clean up’. So Krishna in bg18.66 is like that. ‘Even if you have made a mess, come to me. I will clean you, I will free you from all sinful reactions’.
So this is Krishna’s compassion flowing out of His heart, and then in BG18.68-Bg18.71, He extends our hope. He says, ‘for those who share this knowledge, they become most dear to me. They will get pure devotional service, they will come to me’. Now somebody might say, ‘I can’t share this knowledge, I am not good at that’. So Krishna says, ‘if you can’t share it, at least study it. If you study it, it is like you are worshipping me with your intelligence’. BG 18.70
adhyesyate ca ya imam
dharmyam samvadam avayoh
istah syam iti me matih
“And I declare that he who studies this sacred conversation worships Me by his intelligence.”
Sometimes people like to offer pooja, aarti, fan, etc to the Lord, its good. Krishna is saying, there is a way we can do pooja with our intelligence and that is by studying scripture. Let’s say that a person A has fallen in the well and another person B throws a rope down, and asks him to catch the rope and come out. But A may say, ‘I can’t hold the rope, it causes too much pain to my hands’. B may say, ‘just tie this rope around your waist, I will pull you out’. So same way, first Krishna says, ‘you preach my message and you will come to me’. But one may say, ‘I can’t’. Then Krishna says, ‘ok at least you study’. This is same as B saying, ‘You tie the rope around’. ‘A’ might say, ‘if I tie the rope that will cause too much pain around my waist’. So B might send a bucket down with the rope and say, ‘you just sit in the bucket, I will pull you out’. Like that if somebody says, ‘I can’t study also’, so then Krishna says, ‘at least hear. Just hear. Just by hearing you will attain perfection’. Krishna’s mercy is going lower and lower. He is making Himself more and more accessible. And then in BG 18.72, Krishna asks,
kaccid etac chrutam partha
pranastas te dhananjaya
“O conqueror of wealth, Arjuna, have you heard this attentively with your mind? And are your illusions and ignorance now dispelled?”
Krishna is asking Arjuna here with great concern. ‘If you have not understood, I will repeat, whichever part you have not understood. I am ready to repeat the whole Bhagavad-gita’. Krishna is so concerned. And then in BG 18.73
nasto mohah smrtir labdha
sthito ‘smi gata-sandehah
karisye vacanam tava
“Arjuna said, My dear Krsna, O infallible one, my illusion is now gone. I have regained my memory by Your mercy, and I am now firm and free from doubt and am prepared to act according to Your instructions.”
So Arjuna says, ‘I will do your will, O Krishna’. Arjuna surrenders. Arjuna’s surrender is also very significant. He is not just saying, ‘I will fight’. Arjuna is not thinking himself now as a Kshatriya who has to fight. He is thinking of himself as a devotee who is doing the will of the lord. And at that particular situation, the will of the Lord happens to be ‘to fight’. The Bhagavad-gita concludes with Arjuna’s surrender. But his surrender is not like Draupadi raising her hands in helplessness. His surrender is of picking up his bow and arrow in readiness to fight. That’s what the concluding image of the Bhagavad-gita.
yatra yogesvarah krsno
yatra partho dhanur-dharah
tatra srir vijayo bhutir
dhruva nitir matir mama
“Wherever there is Krsna, the master of all mystics, and wherever there is Arjuna, the supreme archer, there will also certainly be opulence, victory, extraordinary power, and morality. That is my opinion.”
Arjuna had put aside his bow in discouragement earlier. But by the end of the Bhagavad-gita, he has picked up his bow. He has raised his bow in readiness to fight. And because of his willingness to fight, his victory is eventually guaranteed. This is the ‘transformational power of love’ as demonstrated in the Bhagavad-gita. What is it that transforms Arjuna? It is Krishna’s love. Similarly while being in this world, facing so many things, both internally and externally, when we understand that no matter what, beyond it all is the reality of Krishna’s love for us, then understanding the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita, we go through them guaranteed determinately, like how Arjuna went through. Whatever situation we are in, we can be transformed by realizing Krishna’s love for us and by becoming determined to offer our love, redirect our love, from this world, to Krishna.
So Arjuna’s love was initially spread over, I love Bhishma also, I love Drona also, how can I fight against them. True, but our first love should be for Krishna. When we put Krishna first, everything else will fall in place. So when Arjuna is saying “karisye vacanam tava”, he is putting Krishna first and that’s when his determination gets restored. Similarly while living in this world we face difficulties and we are sometimes confused about what to do next in life. At that time if we put Krishna first and surrender, ‘Krishna whatever happens, I am your servant, please guide me how I can serve you’. So when we chant ‘Hare Krishna’, we are requesting Krishna to kindly engage us in His service. If we just get caught up in, should I do this or that, then that will confuse us. But if we move back and say, ‘Krishna I am your servant, please guide me how I can serve you best’. Returning to our fundamental identity will calm us down and that will gradually give us the clarity by which we can make right choices.
So Prabhupada was once asked, “What is the best prayer we can offer to Krishna? What can we pray to Krishna?” Prabhupada said, “Pray to Krishna, please give me the strength to serve you.” So when we pray like this, whatever be the form of service we need to do, we will be guided to move forward in our lives. Just as Arjuna picked up his bow, ready to fight, we will also pick up our bow, pick up our determination and be ready to do whatever it takes to serve Krishna.
To summarize, I spoke today from chapters 12-18. We discussed how Bhagavad-gita takes things to the summit and states clearly that the personal aspect of worshipping is better than the impersonal, because the personal lord will intervene and lift us out of this world. While practicing Bhakti, it tells us to become relatively unemotional with respect to material emotions. Instead of chasing after the five dollar gain or lamenting about five dollar loss, focus on the million dollar gain that lies ahead. So if material emotions of gain and loss, pleasure and pain, consume us, then we won’t be emotionally available for connecting with Krishna. For emotionally connecting with Krishna we need to understand how most of the emotions that we experience are superficial as they are induced by the modes. To deal with the modes, we have to first become conscious of our consciousness. Just like a lever, when we apply force at the right place, we can lift huge weights, so similarly controlling our moods is difficult, our emotions go here and there. But if in the practice of Bhakti, we use our will power and control our emotions and connect with Krishna, that connection will give us the stability, it will become like the anchor, so that the stormy waves of the modes will not shake us too much.
Bhagavad-gita in the 13th chapter, presents the various concepts in a very intellectual way especially meant for the Gyanis. The idea is that the soul is transcendental but just as a child watching a horror movie becomes horrified, like that we become horrified when we become filled with various emotions as we get caught up by desires to enjoy worldly pleasures. Scripture doesn’t contain contradictions, it contains paradoxes, and when we go to deeper point, we can reconcile whatever seems contradictory.
In the 15th chapter Krishna talks about Gyan Chakshu. We need to see how the soul is acting in this world, with the eyes of knowledge, just like a stock market crash, the line doesn’t mean anything to a layman, and it is education that transforms the vision into comprehension.
And then in 15.16 to 15.18, which is called as the Trishloki Gita, Krishna very categorically establishes the transcendence of the Personality of Godhead, Krishna, who is beyond both the conditioned and the liberated.
16th chapter talks about the divine and the demoniac natures. We all need to make choices that bring out the higher side within us and not the lower side. If you are materialistic, then in the future you will get reactions but even in the present, we will get the reactions for our anxiety, because we are seeking pleasure in the thing which is not in our control. It’s not that we have to give up worldly pleasures but we shouldn’t let worldly pleasures consume our consciousness. They become like cancer cells which destroy our body. To regulate our worldly desires, we need to take guidance from scripture. Scripture doesn’t tell us specifics about how to fly a plane, it may tell but that’s not the purpose of scripture. Scripture tells us the origin, value and purpose of our life – how to make decisions, why to live, why to do what we need to do? How to execute those decisions that we may learn from other sources. Even while telling us about moral categories of right and wrong, the 17th chapter introduces us to subtleties which reflect the complexity of real life – that there are three modes and based on those three modes, we need to understand that different people are situated at different levels or we simplistically label people as demoniac or otherwise.
18th chapter, Krishna summarizes the whole of Bhagavad-gita. He mentions that this frustration from material life is not renunciation. He again recaps the succession ‘from action, through renunciation to devotion’ and then says, ‘Devotion can be practiced directly’. He (1:16:35) induced the initiate to Krishna to choose using his intelligence and he guides Arjuna to choose by revealing His heart, by bearing his heart in 18.65-18.66. He says, ‘I will protect you, just surrender to me’. Later He offers Arjuna the descending rope of mercy. He says, ‘you share this message, if you can’t share, just study. If you can’t study, just hear’. And then by seeing Krishna’s loving, outpouring of His heart, Arjuna’s heart melts and his confusion disappears. His morale gets restored. He doesn’t just say, ‘I will fight’, he says, ‘I will do your will, O Krishna’. And that is the conclusion of Bhagavad-gita. When we surrender to Krishna, just as Arjuna’s morale is restored and he picks up his Gandiva, in his readiness to fight, similarly whatever we may be facing in life, we become ready for fighting those things when we are guided and boosted by the confidence that Krishna loves us and that Krishna is with us. So when we are deluded by the world’s perceptions, just like Arjuna, we need to hear from the scripture. Illusion comes with the eyes, illumination comes from the ears. The more we hear, the more we will become confident, to serve Krishna diligently. And when we serve Krishna diligently, then Krishna will help us face whatever problems life may have. Arjuna was feeling initially that this problem is very big but Bhagavad-gita reveals our problems to be small by revealing the greatness of Krishna. So with our material eyes, we feel that our problem is so big, how can I deal with it? But with Krishna’s vision we see that Krishna is so big. When we understand Krishna’s greatness, His sweetness, then we can transcend whatever problems we face. ‘Don’t tell God how big your problems are, tell your problems how big God is’. How can we tell that? By hearing the Bhagavad-gita. So when we are conscious of Krishna’s greatness, Krishna’s sweetness, then we will always be confident to do whatever it takes to persevere in His service.
Questions & Answers:
Question 1: While practicing Bhakti, how can we differentiate between the emotions that come from the modes and the emotions that come from our spiritual practice?
Where the emotions come from is not as important as where the emotions take us. We don’t have to become too much analytical. Say for example in a class, somebody makes a joke, I don’t have to analyze it too much like – ‘Am I laughing for my pleasure or Krishna’s pleasure?’ So as long as it is within the context of Krishna Bhakti, that’s perfectly fine. We can trace, if we need to, as to where is this emotion coming from. But the focus should be where this emotion is taking us.
So if I come to take darshan of Krishna, I feel so good in my heart, I feel so sweet, so blissful. Well now is this Sahajiyaik? Is it like sentimentality or is it authentic spirituality? That is determined by what do I do after that? Do I tell the world, ‘you know I was so ecstatic, now I have become a pure devotee’? Instead, if we focus on, ‘Krishna is so kind, Bhakti is so sweet. Let me dedicate myself to serving Krishna’. Then that emotion has energized us, stimulated us to follow more diligently the process that will take us to Krishna. So in terms of fruits it is favorable.
So if Krishna comes in our dream, now is it that we are imagining something or Krishna has really come in our dream? The important thing is not whether Krishna comes in our dream or not, the important thing is, after we wake up, what do we do? If I tell the whole world, ‘Krishna came in my dream, that means I am a pure devotee, offer obeisance to me’, that is simply increasing my ego. But if I think, ‘Krishna is so kind, He came in my dream. I should be more devoted to Krishna’, this inspired me to follow the process more diligently, then we should see that as favorable to Bhakti and we should accept those emotions. But if an emotion makes us think that now that I have become so advanced, that I don’t need to follow the process. Neophyte devotees need to chant ‘Hare Krsna’. Since now Krishna is coming in my dreams, I have transcended all this. This is unfavorable.
Question 2: We should practice Bhakti because Krishna is so wonderful not because the world is so dreadful. But one of the category of people who come to Krishna is that they are distressed and they need relief?
Krishna does say that the distressed come to Him. But He doesn’t say that the distressed stay with Him. Now for them to stay with Him it may take millions of births. At the initial level, they start doing some bhajan. But their practice is only initial, they are not surrendering. For surrender it may take many lifetimes. So suffering is, for most of us, an initial impetus. It starts our spiritual journey. But the initial impetus will not fuel our spiritual journey for long. For the starting point, frustration is fine. So like I gave the example, somebody says I was frustrated in the relationship so I want to become a Brahmachari. No, if you are frustrated in the relationship, start developing a relationship with Krishna. Not that you have to renounce the world. And then start practicing Bhakti, start living the life of a devotee and afterwards if you get sufficient attraction, show sufficient dedication, then you may consider full time practice of Bhakti as a Brahmachari. But the important thing is that for whatever reason people come to Krishna, we welcome them. But for sustainable practice of Bhakti, one needs to have more of a positive motivation than a negative motivation.
So from the platform of practicing Bhakti because I am distressed, to the platform of practicing Bhakti because I love Krishna, I want to serve Krishna; that is a long journey. Because ultimately we know when we love someone, we are not simply concerned about being free from distress. Love means that we are often ready to take distress, for the sake of our beloved. When a mother has a child, at times mother loses peaceful night’s sleep, loses peace, loses routine but then there is love over there. So like that if we come to Krishna simply for freedom from distress then our connection with Krishna will be there. When the distress goes away we will end the connection. But even if the connection with Krishna stays we will not become very deeply committed because we will always be looking, even in Krishna Bhakti I don’t want any distress, I don’t want any trouble, but one aspect of love is we are ready to sacrifice, we are ready to take up trouble for the Lord’s sake. Prabhupada wanted a distress free life, could have stayed in Vrindavan chanting Hare Krsna, he came to America and took a lot of trouble. So distress can be a good initial motive but not a sustainable motive. Sustainable motive is that Krishna is so wonderful, I want to love Krishna. Even if I don’t feel Krishna is wonderful at least intellectually I understand that Krishna is wonderful and I want to connect with Krishna. That will sustain us in Bhakti.
Question3: Among these 4 categories of people who come to Krishna, so only one category will stay?
No it is not necessary that only one will stay. It is from that category, the others all come towards the category of “gyanvaan” – those in knowledge. So there are distressed, inquisitive and wealth seekers. To the extent they come to the level of becoming knowledgeable, to that extent they will become fixed in their Bhakti. We see many people come to the temple.
If you ask them ‘do you come regularly to the temple?’
‘Yes I come regularly’.
‘Once a year on Janmashtami’.
That is their idea of regularity. But if somehow they associate with devotees, they hear the philosophy then they start practicing the Bhakti much more diligently.
So there is the cultural practice of Bhakti (it is what we always do, it is part of our culture) and then there is the spiritual practice of Bhakti (I want to do it because I want to develop a spiritual relationship with Krishna). What takes us from the cultural practice of Bhakti to the spiritual practice of Bhakti is the intellectual understanding of Bhakti. The philosophical understanding is very important. That was Srila Prabhupada’s special contribution. He said, ‘temples should not be just cultural centers, they should be educational centers’. To the extent we can offer this intellectual understanding, to that extent people will become more and more steady in their commitment. So people may come initially because they are distressed, or they are wealth seekers, or they want to check the ‘Hare krsnas’. But if they hear the philosophy, they will become steady. So the association of devotees and understanding the philosophy in their association is what will make people steady. They will move towards the category of “Gyanvaan” – the knowledgeable. And that’s how they will practice Bhakti steadily.
Question4: Krishna was there to instruct Arjuna directly, but we don’t have that. How do we know what is it that will please Krishna?
Krishna and Krishna’s heart is revealed to us through the devotees or through those who are dear to Him. From them we come to know Krishna’s desires.
Sloka from SB 10 canto
Vani gunanu kathanae shravanau kathayam
Hasthou cha karma sumanas thava paada yonaha
Smrithyam sirasthava ivaasa jagat pranamae
Drishti satam darshanaestu Bhavath thanunnam
The last line says, ‘Seeing your devotees O Lord, is like seeing you’. When we are in parampara, Krishna manifests His will through the parampara. The will manifests down from Krishna to the parampara. Our service goes up through the parampara. Krishna’s mercy comes down through the parampara. First comes His will, then comes our service and reciprocation and then comes the mercy down. We are living in a community of devotees. We have our spiritual master, spiritual guides and we want to serve in a way that pleases devotees. So if devotees are pleased, “yasya prasada bhagavat prasado”, Krishna is pleased. In our situation, we may or may not, have the direct guidance of the spiritual master on a day to day basis. Ultimately Krishna doesn’t want to keep us in indecision or confusion. Krishna wants to guide us. But Krishna also wants to see if we want guidance. There are certain situations where in we know what we should do and what we should not do. If in those situations we do the right thing, then by that we are proving Krishna that we want to be guided by you, we want to serve you. So when we take guidance when it is available, when the things are clear about what we should do, then Krishna will see to it that He will guide us when the guidance is not available to us.
dadāmi buddhi-yogaḿ taḿ
yena mām upayānti te
“I will give you the intelligence by which you can come to me.”
Now in practice, usually, even our spiritual master or guides may not give us direct spiritual instructions. Bhakti is ultimately a cooperative process which means the soul serves Krishna through the spiritual master but the soul also has one’s own nature. Spiritually each soul is an individual. So from our side we need to be surrendered, and ready to do whatever we are told. At the same time the spiritual authorities, whoever they are, they should also be observing to find out how we can serve happily. That means it is a cooperation between an individual and the authority. Sometime in dire need when a project is in a stage of major expansion or stage of beginning, at that time devotees may be told to do whatever is required for that project and that is important to do. So that is the surrender of the devotees to do whatever they are told to do. But over a period of time, if devotees have to sustain themselves in the practice of Bhakti, then it is best that they may be engaged according to their nature, according to what they are inspired to do. The common goal for both the individual and the guide is to discover what service can this devotee do in the best possible way? We have to know that our spiritual growth is ultimately our responsibility. It is not Krishna’s responsibility. It is not our spiritual master’s responsibility. The spiritual master is there to guide us, He will show us the way, give the mercy. So that means, we have to take stalk of ourselves and while doing various services we observe ourselves, and identify what is it that I am good at? What is it that I can do well, what is it that I am comfortable doing?
BG 4.13 ‘guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśaḥ’.Here guna – we can say it refers to internal comfort, something that I feel comfortable doing. Karma – we can say it refers to external competence, something that I am good at doing it. So what is it that I am comfortable doing, and what is it that I am competent in doing? And when we find it, gradually we gravitate towards that service. We should not suddenly give up a service and take up new ones. If we do it abruptly, we fall for the tricks of the mind. If we ask the mind, what is my nature, what is the service according to my nature? The mind will say, the service that you are doing is not your nature. The mind will basically use that as an excuse for laziness.
Actually even to understand our own nature, we need to have some level of sattva guna or the mode of goodness. And that’s why initially we just do whatever we are told to do. By that we become purified. By purification we come to the mode of goodness. When we come to the mode of goodness we can observe that within the realm of services for Krishna, this is my individuality. This is what I like, what my interests are, what my ambitions are. We find out what is the intersection point between the two. And we situate ourselves in that. Then if there is something which we feel inspired to do, we will ourselves do it enthusiastically. No one will have to follow us up to check if we have done it. And Prabhupada also encouraged this.
This incident is mentioned in the 7th volume of the Lilamrita. London at that time was European headquarters for our movement. Devotees from France, Germany, and Netherlands had all come there. And they were all reporting about their preaching activities in their respective places. And this devotee Ishan prabhu asked Prabhupada, ‘Everyone has something to do for you, please give me some service’. Prabhupada looked at him and said, “What do you want to do for Krishna?” He said, ‘Prabhupada, whatever you tell, I will do’. Prabhupada again asked, “What do you want to do for Krishna?” He thought may be Prabhupada is testing me. His understanding was that if you want to do something for Krishna that will be sense gratification. Prabhupada said, ‘our philosophy is to find out what you want to do, and do it for Krishna’. This devotee had never thought like this. He said, ‘I will think about it’. And after a couple of days, he said, ‘Prabhupada I think that the mrindangas that you get from India they often break, so I am thinking I can make them here itself with some local material. I will make it with a material which won’t break so easily’. So Prabhupada said, ‘your godbrothers are very passionate. They will break the mridangas. So make the mrindangas so strong that even if they throw the mridanga it will not break’. So Prabhupada basically affirmed what he said. Then that became his service.
So the idea is, on one side we surrender, whatever the spiritual master says, we do that. That is one aspect of Bhakti. The other aspect of Bhakti is that Prabhupada wanted us to be independently thoughtful, we have to find out in what way we can contribute to Krishna. So over a period of time, the individual and the guide, both of them cooperatively come to an understanding of how this devotee can serve sustainably. And then when that devotee finds a sustainable service then he will be inspired to continue even if there are difficulties. Because that’s their inspiration, that is what they want to offer to Krishna. So how do we know that we are pleasing Krishna? We do what we are told to do. Along with that we keep exploring. Because it is not that Krishna’s pleasure necessitates our displeasure. It is not that Krishna wants us to be miserable and that proves our love for Him.
Krishna wants us to be happy. But a part of our relationship is sometimes we have to do what we don’t like to do also. So we focus on how we can develop sustainable relationship with Krishna. And if we sustainably practice Bhakti, we can understand that Krishna is pleased with us. Because if Krishna is not pleased, we would not be able to sustain. Our lower desires will come up, they will interfere. They will drag us away. And if we bring out our talents, use them in His service, then that pleases Him all the more. It is said that “What we are is God’s gift to us, what we become is our gift to God”. So we find out what is Krishna’s gift to us, our talents and use them in His service.
Question5: How to chant the holy name purely?
There are 2 different things regarding the Holy Name.
1. Chanting the holy name itself properly and
2. Seeing chanting as a part of our relationship with Krishna.
Tamal Krishna Maharaj once went to Prabhupada. At that time he was managing for the Juhu temple in India. They had lot of difficulty getting permissions and building temple there. And he told Prabhupada, ‘Prabhupada, all this building business, it is causing me so much anxiety that it is disturbing my chanting.” Prabhupada said, “It is disturbing my chanting also”. He was so shocked he didn’t know what to say. Prabhupada said, “Your anxiety for serving Krishna will take you to Krishna”. That means we want to chant wholeheartedly, attentively, purely, because that is how we are calling out to the lord, but at the same time, we also have a relationship with Krishna. And that relationship with Krishna means that we take up anxiety for Him, we take up responsibility and every responsibility to some extent, brings anxiety with it. So if we are taking up responsibility for Krishna’s sake, and sometimes the anxiety caused by that responsibility is what is distracting us from our chanting, we shouldn’t think that is defect in our Bhakti. See actually that means we are connecting with Krishna deeply. So chanting if we think as an isolated activity, how can I pronounce the word clearly? How can I hear the sound vibration attentively? If we see that only in those terms, then we are getting a very fragmented understanding of chanting. Yes those things have to be done properly. But we need to see that chanting is a part of the process of developing our relationship with Krishna. And to the extent we are serving Krishna, connecting with Him in a relationship, to that extent our chanting will become better.
With respect to pure chanting, it is a symbiotic process. That means we endeavor to chant purely. At the same time we also try to serve diligently. The more we serve diligently, our chanting will become pure. The more our chanting becomes pure, the more we will be able to serve diligently. So rather than taking one out of the other, just see it as part of a life of devotion to Krishna. And specifically during our chanting, we try to minimize or avoid impure thoughts. So how do we do that? It is very difficult to focus on the holy name consistently. Mind will wander here and there. So what we can do, there is a point of concentration and there is a circle of concentration. Circle of concentration means that if I can’t fix the mind on the holy name then rather than letting it wander all over the universe, I let it focus on something related to the holy name. so maybe we can have a picture of the deities, we can have the “Hare Krsna” mantra written down, we can have the picture of our spiritual master, may be picture of our initiation, we can have Tulasi devi, we can have some impetuses, some things that remind us of Krishna. That way even if mind wanders away from the sound of the holy name, it will go to something connected with Krishna. And from there it will come back to Krishna.
Our consciousness is like a sine wave, sometimes we feel very good, sometimes very bad. So what we are trying to do is we can’t just make our consciousness suddenly a flat. We can try to decrease the amplitude of the sine wave. The mind is going to wander, but let it wander less. We give it some devotional avenue for wandering. And through that we get it back quickly. It is very helpful if we meditate and nourish our intelligence. Jiva Goswami says that pure devotees stay on the spiritual platform because of their ‘preeti’ – their love, attraction for Krishna. But as sadhakas, they stay on the spiritual platform because of their ‘buddhi’, their intelligence. So if we regularly read about the importance of chanting, importance of developing our relationship with Krishna, importance of remembering Krishna, we nourish our intelligence. Then that nourished intelligence will be better able to focus the mind on the holy name. When the mind wanders, if our intelligence is also weak, then we let the mind wander. But if our intelligence is strong, we will get the mind back. It’s like the chariot body analogy. If the charioteer is weak, the horses will go here and there. If the charioteer is strong, the horses will pull back. So like that even if our mind wanders, if we are regularly hearing the philosophy, not just philosophy in general but about Bhakti directly, connecting with Krishna, remembering Krishna, that will give us the impetus to drag our mind back from wherever it wanders.
And purity is not again like a 0 or 1 state. It’s a progression. Every day that we our chanting, we are becoming pure. The sun of Krishna’s love is rising in our heart. It’s like in the morning we may wake up and if we are waking up very early, it is dark. And then suddenly we realize its day time. Actually the sun has been rising continuously but our realization that the sun has risen happens at one moment. So like that the process of Bhakti is evolutionary. Every day that we are practicing, our consciousness is evolving, the process of Bhakti is evolutionary, and the result is revolutionary. Suddenly we realize the sun has risen, this desire was tormenting me for so long, and it is gone now. We have become pure. So like that purity will arise in our heart eventually. We just focus on practicing the process diligently.
Transcription of summary
I spoke today about… from the chapters 12 to 18. I spoke about… first, how the Bhagavat Gita takes things to the summit. Clearly it says, ‘Worshipping the personal aspect is better than worshipping the impersonal because the personal Lord will intervene and lift us out of the world’, and it offers us a… while practicing bhakti it tells us to become relatively unemotional with respect to material emotions.
Instead of chasing after $5 gain or lamenting over $5 looses, focus on the million dollar gain that is ahead. So, if material emotions of gain and loss, pleasure and pain consumes us, then we won’t be emotionally available for connecting with Krishna, and for emotionally connecting with Krishna we need to understand how most of the emotions that we experience are superficial… they are induced by the modes. So, to deal with the modes we have to become conscious of our consciousness…. Just like a lever, when we apply the weight, if we apply the weight in the right place we can lift huge weights. So, like that the controlling our moods is difficult. Our emotions go here and there, but if in the practice of bhakti, if we use our will-power and control our emotion and connect with Krishna, that connection will give us the stability. It will become like the anchor so that the stormy waves of the modes will not shake us too much.
The Bhagavat Gita… in the 13th chapter…presents in a very intellectual way the various concepts for the jnanis. The idea is that the soul is transcendental, but just as a child watching a horror movie becomes horrified, like that we become horrified when we become filled with all kinds of emotions, when we get caught by the desire to enjoy the worldly pleasures.
The scripture doesn’t contain contradictions, it contains paradoxes, and when we go to the deeper point we will reconcile whatever seems contradictory.
In the 15th Chapter, Krishna talks about Jnana Cakshu. How the soul is acting in this world, we need to see with the eyes of knowledge; it’s like the stock market crash…..02.20 (inaudible)……. it is education that transforms vision into comprehension, and Krishna… in the 15. 20 of the trishloki Gita… which very categorically establishes the transcendence of the personality of Godhead. Beyond the conditioned and beyond the liberated is Krishna.
The 16th Chapter talks about the divine and demoniac natures. We all need to make choices that bring out the higher side within us, not the lower side. Now if you are materialistic, then in the future you will get reactions, but even in the present we will get the reaction of anxiety because we are seeking pleasure in the thing which is not in our control. It is not that we have to give up worldly pleasures, but we shouldn’t let worldly pleasures consume our consciousness. They become like cancer cells and they destroy the whole body, and to regulate our worldly desires we need to take guidance from the scripture.
The scripture doesn’t tell us specifics about how to apply a plane or how to… that’s not… It may tell, but that is not the purpose of the scripture. The scripture tells us origin, value..(inaudible). How to make decisions, why to live, why to do what we need to do, that’s what the scripture tells us. How to execute those decisions, that we may learn from other sources, and even while telling us about moral categories… ‘This is right, this is wrong.’ … the 17th chapter introduces us to subtleties which reflect the complexities of real life. That there are three modes and based on those three modes we need to understand who is situated where. One may simplistically label people as demoniac or something like that.
In the 18th Chapter, Krishna summarizes the full Gita. ‘Frustration is not renunciation.’, and then He again recaps the succession from action through renunciation to devotion and then He says, ‘Devotion can be practiced directly.’, and He induces to initiate Krishna to chose using his intelligence, and then He guides Arjuna to chose by revealing His heart, by baring his heart in 65 and 66…. ‘I will protect you, just surrender to Me.’, and then he offers Krishna like a descending rope of mercy …04.29 (inaudible)… more easy… ‘you share this message, if you can’t share then study, if you can’t study then just hear.’, and then by seeing Krishna’s loving outpouring of his heart Arjuna’s heart melts, his confusion disappears, and his moral becomes restored. He doesn’t just say, ‘I will fight.’… but he says, ‘I will do it at you will.’, and that is the conclusion of the Gita.
When we surrender to Krishna, just as Arjuna’s moral was restored… he picked up his gandiva and showed readiness to fight. Similarly, whatever we may be feeling or whatever we may be facing, we become ready for fighting those things, when we are guided… boosted by the confidence that Krishna loves and Krishna is with us.
So, when the worlds perceptions they delude us, just like they deluded Arjuna we need to hear from scriptures. Illusion comes through the eyes, illumination comes through the ears. The more we hear, the more we will become confident to serve Krishna diligently, and when we serve Krishna diligently, then Krishna will help us face whatever problems life may bring us. Arjuna is feeling that the problem is very big, but the Bhagavat Gita reveals our problems to be small by revealing the greatness of Krishna.
So, when with our eyes… we feel that the problems are so big, how can I delete them? With Krishna …5.58 (inaudible)… we see Krishna is so big. So, Krishna’s greatness, Krishna’s sweetness… if we can understand it, then we can transcend whatever problems we are facing.
So, don’t tell God how big your problems are, tell your problems how big God is; and that…how can we tell it? By hearing the Gita. So, when we are conscious of Krishna’s greatness, Krishna’s sweetness, then we will always be confident to do whatever it takes to persevere in this service.
Thank you very much. Hare Krishna.
(Transcription by Sadananda Krishnaprema Prabhu)