|| भगवद्गीतासारः ||
(M. R. Dwarakanath)
Introduction: The present chapter is titled: Rajavidya - Rajaguhya Yoga. Rajavidya is the crown jewel of knowledge, equally secretive wisdom. The secret nature of this lore is due to it not being bookish; rather experiential and devotional. Experience and devotion are seriously personal; it cannot be demonstrated. This is also Paravidya as it deals with the subject of the transcendent and immanent. Even as the chapter opens, one senses this chapter is a continuation of the message started in chapter-7. In the very final verse of chapter 7, Krishna introduced some technical terms and raised the point of remembering Him at the time of death. This led Arjuna to ask for an elucidation, requiring a digression from the subject of Jnana and Vijnana. As if to remind the seeker of the continuity of thought, Krishna begins the present chapter by assuring Arjuna that he will reveal the most secret of knowledge along with Jnana and Vijnana (subject of chapter-7) which will ensure liberation from all sin. Krishna thus signals the message to follow as being decisive and all important. This is a harbinger of the promise yet to come at the very end in Chapter-18, verses: 63-66 where again Krishna, after having imparted the profoundest of profound knowledge, assures Arjuna relief from all sins. Chapter-8 thus appears as a sidebar to the continuing instruction in Jnana and Vijnana which leads to release. Here Krishna is praised as the Supreme Being, the creator of the world who is both transcendent and immanent to it. It introduces the concept of supreme devotion or Bhakti.
Secret Knowledge: Krishna says this supreme knowledge which codifies the supreme secret is most sacred; the injunction directly grasped, follows Dharma, easy to practice and is of lasting value. What is directly grasped and easy to practice is Bhakti or devotion, as stated in verse 14. However those without faith in this path, not reaching Krishna, will revert to Samsara or transmigration. The importance of faith mentioned in 4-40 is reiterated here. The return to Samsara is not a rejection, rather getting further opportunities for uniting with the lord. The opportunity to realize God is ever present; one only has to strive for it! The universe is pervaded by the lord in a subtle form and all creation rests in the lord but not the other way around. Even the idea of beings resting in the lord is also immediately negated. These statements seem paradoxical as on the one hand the lord pervades everything, yet he dwells not in the creatures. The creatures rest in him but not so. This is the wonder of lord’s mystery! This very idea was expressed in 7-12 where Krishna concisely said: न त्वहं तेषु ते मयि – I am not in them nor are they in Me. This is pure transcendence. The Ishavasya expresses the idea somewhat differently as: तदन्तरस्य सर्वस्य तदु सर्वस्य बाह्यतः – It is inside all as well as outside all. This expresses both Brahman’s transcendence and immanence in clear language. Brahman may be likened to a field that both penetrates as well as extends beyond an object in the field. Brahman’s immanence is unobservable because of its subtle form and being totally detached from the pervaded, like water droplets on a lotus leaf. The immanence is not spatial; he is not confined to a specific locus. He supports all and needs no support for himself. The lord is like the infinite space in which Vayu or air moves about freely everywhere without let or hindrance; so too do the creatures abide in the lord. The lord transcends creation. He stands above it. At the time of involution, all creation is absorbed back into (his) nature as non-manifest and released again as manifestation at the beginning of the next cycle of creation. The release of multitudes occurs again and again in accordance with the law of Karma. However, these actions do not bind the lord as he is indifferent to the outcome. Action is binding only when the intention is for self gratification. Prakrti under the supervision of the lord, creates both sentient and insentient matter; the cause of the cycles of the universe or Samsara. The foolish ones, not realizing Krishna’s supreme nature as the creator, think only of his human form and are deluded. Thus deluded, they are in the grip of demonic nature of coveting; their desires, actions, knowledge do not bear fruit.
Unity in Diversity: Krishna elaborates that he is the sacrifice, the worship, offering to the manes, the herbs and vegetation, the sacred chant, the clarified butter used in sacrifice, the sacrificial fire, the oblation, the father of the universe, also the mother, supporter and grandfather, all that is fit to be known, the sacred, the syllable OM, the three Vedas – Rg, Yajus and Sama, the trail blazer, the Lord, the witness, the abode, the ultimate refuge, the dear friend, the creator, sustainer and destroyer, the treasure, the seed, the immutable, the giver of warmth, releaser as well as the arrester of showers, the immortal nectar and death itself, existence and non existence. Krishna could have gone on to list even more items. However it is sufficient to capture a cross section of all creation – objects, symbols, relationships and actions. The mention of opposites implies totality. Krishna unifies the diversity in his self. The entire world is Brahman. This passage strongly brings out monistic thought with Krishna being the ground of all that is in creation. One sees this concept dramatically in the display of his universal form in chapter XI. Everything is God! It is also interpreted theistically – describing Krishna’s Vibhuti or power / splendor as the controller of all. The Vibhutis inspire a sense of awe, so essential for devout worship.
Bhakti – Devotion: Devotion takes many forms. However, Bhakti requires acceptance of a personal god or gods; an Istadevata(s). It also requires a loyal one-to-one relationship between the Istadevata and the votary. When Bhakti is channeled towards a single Istadevata, it is monotheism. By contrast, the relationship with the Vedic gods was not one of Bhakti; it was a transactional ritual with the votary offering sacrifices in return for boons. Different gods for different boons! There is no loyalty. Yet again, in the Upanishads, primacy is given to a transcendent Brahman, an abstract concept responsible for creation. There the adoration is out of a sense of wonder! The creator Brahman of the Upanishads is the creator Krishna of Gita – a personal loving god.
Krishna has previously advocated a stoic sense of duty, then he has disavowed extreme ascetic renunciation, then again he emphasized right knowledge and understanding, now he glorifies the emotional attachment to god. This emotional thread carries into the next several chapters. The Vibhutis of the lord may stir the votary to sing his praises constantly as the embodiment of such powers. One may strive to reach him with firm conviction of his nature. Some may prostrate with devotion and meditate on the lord. Others may worship following the path of kindling knowledge of the lord in others. Yet others may meditate on the lord as being one with him or as being different from him or meditate on his cosmic form. The Vibhutis are part of his cosmic form. This is Jnana!
Those who worship the lord with specific desires as enjoined in the Vedas and partake of Soma juice as the remnant of sacrifice, shed their sins and attain the realm of Indra and enjoy heavenly pleasures. Having enjoyed the pleasures of heaven, they return to the world of mortals after exhausting the merits accrued. Merit, earned by action, is the legal tender for enjoying heavenly delights! When Vedic rituals are undertaken to enjoy sense pleasures, it perpetuates a cycle of earning merit here, spending it in heaven and returning to earth. One has an opportunity to break out of this cycle by refocusing on life’s supreme goal – Moksha. Self-centered motives lead to rebirth. However, for those who constantly meditate on Krishna without a second thought and are ever yoked to him, he assumes responsibility for their welfare. Even those who worship other deities (as grantors of specific boons) with faith, they too ultimately worship Krishna albeit with mistaken protocols. Though the Vedic pantheon recognizes many gods with well-defined portfolios and boons to grant, Krishna himself truly commands all such powers. Those who worship without knowing His real nature will be reborn. Worship alone is inadequate; knowledge too is necessary. Krishna is the lord of sacrifices and the recipient of all oblations. By not recognizing His true nature, they slip back to the world of mortals. Those who worship gods like Indra reach the gods, those who worship the manes reach the manes, and those who worship the spirits, reach the spirits. But, only those who worship Krishna reach him. The rewards are commensurate with the deeds! Having reached Krishna, there is no return to the world of mortality.
Devotional worship: Krishna asks very little from his devotees. He accepts heartily what is offered to him without selflessness, but with love and devotion; be it a blade of grass, a flower, a fruit or a sip of water. The idea is not to make a niggardly offering but an offering that is commensurate with the ability of the votary to offer. The wretched need not despair and the well endowed should not hold on to their wealth and give meager things. To make clear this idea, Krishna says offer me what you do, what you eat, what you sacrifice, what you give as charity and what you do as penance – offer those to me. One should not lay claim to benefits of one’s actions. This is Nishkāma Karma. This is the point of offering all actions at the feet of the lord with the thought ‘Idam na mama’ or ‘Krishnarpanamastu.’ With this act of renunciation, one is not affected by the fruits of one’s actions – be they good or bad. This is Karma Sannyasa, relinquishing the fruits of action. It liberates from the binding effects of action. There is no Karmic reaction when the actions are offered as worship to the lord. Bhakti with right knowledge and attitude is the ticket for release.
The Impartial Lord: Krishna indicates that he is the same with all creatures. There is no one more dear to him or hated more by him. Those who worship him with love, live in him and he lives in them. Even the most sinful has to be reckoned as good when such a one worships with unalloyed devotion. Soon he falls into the path of Dharma and attains lasting peace. His devotees never face danger. Everyone who takes refuge in Krishna, be they of low birth, women, the merchant class or the servant class, they all reach the supreme goal. That being so, what is to be said of Brahmins, the warrior class, the persons of merit or his devotees? He implores Arjuna to propitiate him having reached this world of impermanent happiness. He asks Arjuna to constantly meditate on him, be his devotee, worship him and prostrate to him. In turn, Krishna assures Arjuna that he will reach him by yoking himself to Krishna.
It may appear that the lord is saying that he has no malice or partiality towards anyone but he expects to be loved and worshipped in order to receive his grace. Does the lord fancy sycophancy? The point is not so much about adoration of the lord as much as not being narcissistic. To turn to the lord is to turn away from one’s selfish needs and wants. It is also a means to remembering the lord in one’s final moments.
Summary: This chapter continues the thread of Jnana and Vijnana started in chapter-7. The knowledge imparted is about the transcendence and immanence of Brahman. The special knowledge (Vishesa Jnana or Vijnana) is the mutual compatibility of immanence and transcendence. Jnana is the knowledge of Krishna and his Vibhutis. Everything being the lord or the lord as being in everything is communicated by identifying Krishna with various nouns, adjectives and verbs. One is warned against thinking of Krishna as a mere human being with human foibles and limitations. Finally, the efficacy of devotion as a means to remembering the lord and final release is taught. This is Bhakti Yoga. Bhakti with Jnana leads to Moksha.