Musings on the Bhagavad Gita 18: The Yoga of Loving Devotion

The 12th Dialogue of Bhagavad Gita starts with a question posed by Arjuna: “Some adore You as possessed of form and attributes, others adore You as the Supreme Reality, the Indestructible Unmanifest One, tell me O Krishna, of these two types of adorers who are the best knowers of yoga?”

            This dialogue is perhaps the most misunderstood one. By interpreting bhakti as religious worship or ritual, we lose the essence of what Krishna has been trying to say.

            But, first thing first, the word used for “the knower of yoga” is yoga-vittamah – one who not only understands yoga, but also practices it. And, yoga is not a set of exercises or postures to be practiced for a certain period of time on weekly or daily basis. Yoga is a unifying outlook towards life that must be lived from moment to moment, each moment and 24/7. 

Simply Put, Arjuna’s Question is: “In order to live yoga, to obtain a unifying outlook towards life, what is best for me, O Krishna, to adore the Supreme Being with innumerable forms, or One who is beyond all forms? How do I raise my consciousness? Which tool should I use?”

            Worship, rituals, and ceremonies are but just tools to remind us of the Divine Presence. This is important, so we do not detract from our path, the path of dharma or righteousness.

            It is only when we understand the question, that Krishna’s  answer will make sense to us, “I consider them to be the best Yogis, practitioners of yoga, who endowed with supreme faith, and ever united through meditation with Me, worship Me with their mind centred on Me.”

            In other words, the most important thing is not to lose the sight of the divinity, the divine spark within each one of us.

Krishna is not in Favor of withdrawal from the affairs of the world. He is not the lord of renegades. He advocates an active social life, with the mind centred on the divinity within, for which we can choose a tool that is more suitable to us, to our temperament.

            He adds, “Having fully controlled all their senses, those who are even-minded towards all, and devoted to the welfare of all beings, constantly adore as their very self the unthinkable, omnipresent, indestructible, indefinable, eternal, immovable, unmanifest and changeless One, they too come to Me.” They too attain the same height of consciousness…

            However, such an endeavour can be very strenuous for those who are still body-conscious. It is easier for them to focus on the One with a form. Krishna’s form or the form of any other deity, any avatar, any buddha, any messiah, any prophet, or even that of a spiritual guide, a mentor, can make our sadhana, our spiritual practice easier. The choice is ours.

Krishna’s Way is All-Inclusive Way, He is not fanatic about any particular way. We should rightly pity them who become fanatic and justify their fanaticism in the name of Krishna, believing that such was the message of Krishna.

            Listen to what He says, “Having fixed your mind and intellect on Me, perform your rightful duties, serve the cause of dharma, righteousness. If that does not come naturally to you, then train your mind through meditation.

            “Or, simply perform your duties without any selfish motive, without an eye on the fruits of such actions. Such detached engagement with the world and its affairs is true renunciation.

            “Know, O Arjuna, that knowledge is better than practice without discernment, meditation on the Supreme One is superior to knowledge, and renunciation of the fruit of actions is even superior to meditation; for, peace immediately follows from such renunciation, such detached engagement.”

This is Pure Spirituality. There are no rigid dogmas and doctrines which have crept into our religions and belief systems. This is religion in its purest form: Hold on to dharma, righteousness. Perform your rightful duties and leave the result to God, to Existence, to the Supreme One.

            Next, Krishna lists out the qualities of a devoted soul, a person who is so engaged in the performance of his rightful duties with his mind ever fixed upon the divine – one who works without any selfish motive. One who works for the welfare of all beings…

            “He who is free from malice towards all beings, friendly and compassionate, and free from the feelings of I and mine, balanced in joy and sorrow, forgiving by nature, ever-contented and mentally united with Me, nay, who has subdued his mind, senses and body, has a firm resolve, and has surrendered his mind and reason to Me, that devotee of Mine is dear to Me.”

            As long as there is this sense of I and mine, we can not be free from likes and dislikes, favoritisms, etcetera. We can not love all beings equally.

“He Who is Not a Source of Annoyance to his fellow-creatures, and who in his turn does not feel vexed with his fellow-creatures, and who is free from delight and envy, perturbation and fear, is dear to Me.”

            It is not about loving fellow human beings alone, but fellow-creatures, fellow living beings. A devoted soul is in love with all existence.

            “He who wants nothing, who is both internally and externally pure, is wise and impartial and has risen above all distractions, and who renounces the sense of doership in all undertakings – such a devotee of Mine is dear to Me.

            “He who neither rejoices nor hates, nor grieves, nor desires, and who renounces both good and evil actions and is full of devotion, is dear to Me.”

            Renouncing both good and evil actions does not mean sitting idle and doing nothing. It simply means to act rightly, for good and evil are perceptions. Killing is not good, it is evil, but for a soldier defending his country, it is right.

            Similarly, loving our children is good, it is commendable, it is our duty as parents.  But, pampering them to the extent of making them dependent on you for life is certainly not good. It is not commendable, it is not a right thing to do. 

Krishna Continues, “He who deals equally with friend and foe, and is the same in honour and ignominy, who is alike in heat and cold, pleasure and pain and other contrary experiences, and is free from attachment, he who takes praise and reproach alike, and is given to contemplation and is contented with any means of subsistence available, entertaining no sense of ownership and attachment in respect of his dwelling place and is full of devotion to Me, that person is dear to Me.”

            This is about going beyond all dualities, for dualism is the root cause of all conflicts. Once we have transcended this, harmony is established.

            Harmony is not about uniformity. Dualities will remain, but we are no longer affected by them. Our focus is shifted from the apparent realities to the underlying unity of all things.

Lastly, before Closing this 12th Dialogue: “Those devotees, however, who partake in a disinterested way of this nectar of pious wisdom set forth above, endowed with faith and solely devoted to Me, they are extremely dear to Me.”

            How do we partake in a disinterested way?Once again, this is about motive. This is about our intention. This is about putting to rest our calculating mind. Have we ever done anything good without so much as expecting a word of thanks?

            Have we ever served someone without an air of superiority, without a feeling of being helpful? Have we done anything as an offering to the Lord? If not, then this is the time to try it out. “Love one another, as I have loved you…” more than 3000 years after Krishna, Master Jesus would once again remind us of the same teaching, same message. And, here ends the 12th Dialogue of the Bhagavad Gita, the Song Divine…

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