Bhakti means Devotion. Arjuna has understood the importance of
Karma. His first question of why to undertake a new Karma in hand, when
every Karma finally ends into a bondage and binds the Atma to this world,
was answered by Krishna. Arjuna now knew that he cannot remain without
doing Karma even for a fraction of a second. He knew what is Karma,
Vikarma and Akarma. He also learnt about worshipping God in His
manifested form. Now he has a question. He asks in the first verse of
types of devotion
"Which people are
superior and perfect, those who worship Your manifested form and are
engaged in true devotion to You by keeping the mind centred on You, or
those who meditate upon Your unmanifested imperishable form called
or devotion to manifested form
Devotion known as
Bhakti is of two types. One is called "Saguna" and the other
is called "Nirguna". "Saguna" means "with gunas"
i.e. the idol or image of God. When God takes an Avatar as a human being,
He behaves as if He is also ruled by His Prakruti with its Sattwa, Raja
and Tama Gunas or qualities. People find it easier to place His statue (idol)
in their homes and consider it to be real God. They worship the statue,
each according to one's belief. Hindus set aside sometime in the morning
for worshipping. They take bath and then sit in front of the idol, bathe
it, dress it, apply holy paste called "Gandha" on His forehead,
put garlands around its neck or flowers at its feet. Then they read some
hymns, chant mantras, offer some food or milk. This offering is called
"Naivedya". Finally they say "Aarati" which is a
prayer usually singing His praise. They also light oil or ghee lamps and
so on. There are many variations. Bhaktas (Devotees) who worship
demigods, follow the rules pertaining to the worship of that particular
deity. e.g. Lord Ganesh is pleased with red flowers, and "Durva".
A Durva is a three or five bladed simple grass. Twenty-one such tiny
Durvas are collected and offered to Ganesh. Hanuman is pleased with oil
and "Shendur", which is a holy powder. Like this, there are
many demigods and many different forms and practices of worship. They
are all written down in several books and their origin dates back to
thousands of years. Devotees also celebrate festive days in the name of
these deities. Of the incarnations of God, two are well known. They are
Krishna in the previous yuga and Rama in the preceding yuga. While great
epic Mahabharata and sacred books like "Bhagawata", "Harivijaya",
"Harivarada" tell us about Krishna-Avatar, the epic Ramayana
gives detailed account of Rama. Devotees of these two manifested forms
of God observe their worship accordingly. This is called "Sguna-bhakti"
or devotional worship of manifested form of God.
or devotion to unmanifested Brahma
As against this, there
are people who either do not believe in God being a human being, or
think that saguna-bhakti is of inferior nature because God is actually
without any form. These devotees worship in their own ways. Some offer
prayers and read chapters from the holy book in which they have faith.
Others sit in meditation concentrating the mind on the unknown God.
There are also quite a number of ways in which this meditational worship
is done. This is called "Nirguna-bhakti" or devotion to the
unmanifested original nature of God.
Both the paths lead to
the same goal. We have also learnt that in idol worship, whether one
worships a demigod or an incarnation, one ultimately is aiming to reach
the same goal. Of course there are many devotees in both types, who are
not aiming for Moksha (liberation from bondage). They just want good
life with no troubles. They want to please God so that He could send
them help in times of need; and at the end of this life they aspire to
go to Him. Many of these people do not believe in rebirth. They believe
in Heaven and Hell. They pray God so that, after death they can go to
Him in Heaven. Many people, many thoughts, many ways.
Arjuna has understood
the theory of Karma. He believes in rebirth. He believes in Karmic
bondage. He has now learnt a lot from Krishna on devotion also. Krishna
has told him that "those who surrender to Him totally and worship
Him with mind totally centred on Him, go to His house." He now
wants to know, for those seeking liberation, which type of worship is
better and superior, the "saguna" one (i.e. of idol and form)
or the "nirguna" one (i.e. contemplation on unknown).
In the next 19 verses
nos. 2 to 20 Krishna has answered this question in detail. This chapter
has only 20 verses.
Those have their minds
constantly fixed on God and thus they worship Him all the time with
faith, are endowed with higher ability. They are the best ones. Those
who are engaged in the practice of controlling senses, fixing their mind
on the Absolute Brahma and are equally disposed to one and all, achieve
Him. Contemplating on the imperishable "Brahma" (unmanifested
God) which is all pervading, stable in this world and ever present, they
also reach Him.
So both the types of
worshippers "saguna" and "nirguna" ones reach Him.
But of them the second type, the ones who do not resort to "saguna",
or form worship have to undergo a lot of trouble. Their advancement is
troublesome. Progress on this path is very difficult.
The question now
appears is why? Why is it difficult to reach God by contemplating on His
"nirguna" status? To reach Him one has to conquer one's senses
and stop them from running after sense objects, control the mind and
direct it towards Him. Is it not better, to sit at one secluded place
and meditate upon "Akshara" or AUM which is His first sound
manifestation? One can sit and chant this Mantra for hours. There are
various other Mantras also. A Mantra is from one to several syllables.
It is usually meant to sing praise of unmanifested God. When one
concentrates one's mind and chants a mantra loudly or in one's mind,
slowly the mind turns inside towards Atma. By constant practice one can
bring one's mind under control. So why spend time in offering worship to
an idol because such worship does not help to control one's mind?
answer - Why "Nirguna" devotion is difficult
The reason is our human
form. The driving force in our life is the mind. We are constantly
attacked by the three gunas, mainly the Raja and Tama so that the Sattwa
guna, which is absolutely essential to be on a very high level, is
always pressed down. This is Kaliyuga wherein Raja and Tama are
dominant. We cannot keep our senses away from their objects, as we have
to live with others. For the purpose of meditation and contemplation on
His absolute form, both the Raja and Tama gunas must be at the lowest
possible level, completely dominated by Sattwa. This is not easy.
Everything that we take in the mind through eyes, ears, tongue (food and
drinks) nose and touch is loaded with Raja, followed by Tama. One of
them is normally always at peak level. Contemplating on His unmanifested
form is extremely difficult, almost impossible. Chanting of Mantras does
not help. Mind slips away. Practice of not only years but of many lives
does not subdue the mind. Vasana remains. We have seen the classic
example of the great sage Viswamitra who succumbed for suppressed Vasana
in fraction of a second. There are examples of Yogis and Dnyanis who
have fallen down from high places.
In the nirguna type
devotion to God, we are trying to control the mind by mind itself.
Therefore it is extremely difficult. In saguna type devotion, we have a
strong foundation of faith. Mind believes in existence of God and sees
it in form. Automatically hands get folded. When you go to a House of
God, your mind is held in awe. It refuses to be drawn into sensual
pleasures. Even senses hesitate to go to their favourite objects. If you
go to a Mandir and see an idol of God, you do not entertain any immoral
thought. Some superior and charged atmosphere holds a firm grip on your
mind. It is drawn in towards that superior power which is God. When you
develop the habit of idol worship in your own home, your mind
automatically gets subdued for that period. The more you worship the
more you tame the mind.
restraint then does not become so difficult. It becomes easy to look to
the form mentally with your eyes closed and meditate. You can worship
the idol in your mind. This is called "Manas-pooja" or
"Worship by the mind". That is the reason Krishna says in
verse no. 5 "It is troublesome for anybody to contemplate on
unmanifested Brahma. It is extremely difficult for a human being to
understand and know the One who is formless and unmanifested."
It was difficult in the
previous yugas where the life span was spread over thousands of years.
How much more difficult would it be in Kaliyuga where this span is
generally less than hundred? And in this yuga, Karma is the presiding
deity. Karma must be performed. Living must be earned. So many hurdles
are there which make saguna devotion easier and better way to reach the
goal. Those people who surrender all their Karmas to God, fix the mind
on Him, worship Him with undiluted one pointed devotion, are delivered
by Him from bondage and liberated from the cycle of birth and death.
thinking of God
Krishna tells Arjuna in
the next verse no. 8 "Therefore keep your mind centred on Me, keep
your intellect in Me. When you do so, you will undoubtedly come and live
with Me after death."
Surrendering Karma does
not mean giving up accepted responsibilities and spending time in
worshipping Him all the time. Renunciation is never that of Karma. Its
fruit has to be renounced in mind. Krishna has explained this in earlier
chapters. If that was not so, He would have advised Arjuna to stay away
from war, go to some far away secluded place, sit there and worship. He
actually scolded Arjuna for his thinking of "not fighting" and
repeatedly told him to get up and do his Karma. This fact must never be
lost sight of. People are likely to believe that devotion to manifested
form of God lies in being constantly singing, worshipping, living in a
secluded Ashram and working in Mandirs and temples. It is not so.
Worship is always in the mind. Do your work but train your mind to
remember Him always. To facilitate this, spare time from your busy
routine, maybe a few minutes of the day to be with Him in your mind.
Worshipping His form does help you. The efforts do not cause strain but
they sow the seed of love which germinates and grows faster as your mind
is centred on Him more and
Karma to God and thinking of Him
Now let us see how in
this Kaliyuga we can put into practice this teaching i.e. Surrender all
your Karmas to God and keep your mind fixed on Him all the time.
In life we do so many
jobs. We wish to have a job are profession of our own which we like. But
it doesn't always happen. You may be good in accountancy and would like
to work in a company dealing with finances. But you may get a job in a
law office. You may not be interested in an employment. You may like to
start some business of your own. Yet you be compelled to take up a job
because you need to earn money. In Kaliyuga we have to do some work and
get paid for it, or engage ourselves in some business and make some
profit. We need many things and to get them we have to earn money. So
naturally, when you do not succeed in getting a job you like, you have
to work somewhere else. You accept to work, maybe reluctantly. You apply
for a job. You are selected and your duties, working hours and salary is
fixed. You accept the conditions and take up the employment. You have
started performing a Karma which is going to be a part of your life.
While doing that main job you will do many other Karmas, because you
meet many people, exchange words, think a lot etc.
To surrender your Karma
means to consider that the job you have accepted to do, which is your
major Karma because you do it every day for many years, is given to you
by God. Think that it is His Karma. Your superior, who gives you
instructions, also works for God. He is doing his Karma. How he does it
is not your concern. But because you are doing God's work you must not
fail Him. You have to do it sincerely, honestly and without feeling bad
about it. If something is not right, you can talk to your superior but
you must not work carelessly or neglect your duties.
Supposing you have a
job in a private company. You have been working there for almost two
years but you are the junior most employee. There are two office boys in
your company. They do lower jobs like making coffee and tea, cleaning
desks, running errands, collecting and despatching mail. They are also
asked by the other office staff to go out and buy cigarettes or lunch
and breakfast from a nearby restaurant. When they are not busy, in this
way, they just sit on a stool, waiting to take orders from the staff.
Now it so happens that all of a sudden, on one fine Monday morning, both
the boys do not report to work. One is sick and the other has gone to
his native village because he received an urgent telegram informing that
his mother was very seriously ill. Both of them may not be coming to
work for one week.
The office manager is
not able to find anybody to work temporarily, though he tries hard. He
calls you and asks you to hand over your daily functions to one of your
colleagues and work as an office boy for one week. You don't like it.
But you can see that somebody has to receive, open and distribute mail,
run errands, clean tables. Everybody else is very busy. All are senior
to you by at least four to five years in service. Now what will you do?
This is your test. Will you refuse, or will you stay away from job, or
resign or do it grudgingly? If you take any of such actions, you are not
doing the Karma for God. In this situation say to yourself, 'My manager
is doing his Karma. All other staff will give me cooperation. It is a
need of the hour to get these menial jobs done. God wants me to do them.
I am doing His Karma. All
my actions I surrender unto Him. He is my Master'. If you think in this
way and accept those duties joyfully you are doing God's Karma for God.
You consider yourself only an instrument performing whatever Karma you
are called upon to do any time, whether you like it or not.
You are cleaning your
house. Think that you are cleaning it for God who lives in your house.
The house must be spotlessly clean because it is His house and He lives
there. While vacuum cleaning your carpet or sweeping the floor with a
boom, keep thinking, O' I hope He is happy with my job. I must see there
is no dirt anywhere because if He walks barefeet
His feet may become dirty. When you cook, even it is for you and
your family, think that it is for Him, and, therefore, it must be cooked
When you go to
supermarket for your weekly or daily shopping, remember that whatever
you buy is for Him and hence you must get good things at reasonable
cost. When you feel like throwing your money in buying things which you
do not really need, ask yourself "will God like this? It is His
money I am squandering". Then do what is right, and not what you
like to do.
When you carry on all your work, in the house, outside the house,
anywhere, in this manner, you work for Him. Your mind gets conditioned
and begins to think that you are His instrument, carrying out your Karma
ordained by Him. You do your Karma for Him, thinking about Him. In this
way the mind gets centred on Him and you do your job.
This is what is meant
by surrendering your Karma to God and keep thinking of Him. This is the
best way to worship Him with devotion. Because when you develop this
practice, you begin to have attachment to God. Love for God crops up.
God likes to be with you because you have Him in your thoughts all the
But this does not mean
that you have a licence to do anything you want. You cannot say that you
are stealing or squandering your money in gambling but you do God's
work. No, it is not right. Remember the very first rule. Ask yourself a
question "Is this right what I am doing at this point of
time?" Be honest with you and answer. If your feet turn towards a
whore's house, ask yourself
"Is this right?" Think of your family, children, your status
in society. Think how much distress you may be causing your own loved
ones. Is this right? Certainly not. Your mind may say "let us do
it". Use you intellect. If you want to stop doing wrong things, yet
your mind refuses to obey, then ask help from God. If you have developed
a habit of surrendering your Karma to Him and if you do think of Him
when you do it, He will be very close to you to help.
in thinking of God
However, it may not be
easy for everybody to think of God and perform Karma. Generally, we can
live without God when everything is going well. It is only when some
difficulty arises or trouble starts that we think of Him. This is human
weakness to sense pleasures. When all senses are pleased you are happy.
So long as what you see, hear, smell, touch and taste satisfies you,
everything is good. Suddenly your little girl falls ill. She is
bedridden with high fever. She whimpers. Your eyes are not pleased, ears
are not pleased. Senses of sight and hearing are unhappy. Your mind is
restless. Then you turn to God for help. But when everything is going
great, why bother about God? In such a situation it is
very difficult to think of Him when you do your Karma.
A young boy in mid
twenties has met a young girl. He likes her. She likes him. They meet
often. Friendship grows and love bud is about to grow. The boy does many
Karmas. But his mind thinks of her. He remembers her all the time. While
doing his regular Karma, which does not need his full concentration
because he is habituated to do it, his mind wanders of to the
conversation he had with her the previous day. He remembers every word
she said, every gesture she made, and her smile. He feels happy. While
he is doing his Karma, whatever it may be, he has her in his mind. If
you tell him to think of God, he will simply laugh. He respects God but
has no interest in Him. Forget the boy. What would you do if everything
is going great for you and you do not need God's help. Will you think
about and remember God in doing all your Karmas. Very unlikely.
So for such people,
Krishna says in verse no. 9, "If you cannot keep your mind fixed on
Me, then at least desire to have Me near you and spend some of your time
to be with Me. It may be difficult but try it hard."
Let us see why we do
not remember Him in doing our routine Karma; and why is it that other
thoughts occupy the mind. e.g. The young boy thinking about his
girlfriend. The reason is that he likes her more than anybody else. You
will always remember that object which you like the most. When you go
out for two days, leaving your pet dog at home under the care of your
neighbours, or in a doghouse, don't you think about him from time to
time? You have your jewellery worth many thousands of rupees or dollars
locked up in your steel cupboard in your house; and you go on a holiday
for two weeks. You wanted to keep the jewellery in a safe deposit box in
your bank before leaving. However, you forgot. Now you are more than a
thousand kilometres away from home with your husband and children. You
all are enjoying your well planned holiday. Yet you will be thinking
about the jewellery. "Hope it is safe; nobody tries to break
in", such thoughts will erupt up in your mind. Why? Because you are
attached to your jewellery. You are attached to your dog. But you are
not attached to God. How is it possible then to think of God in doing
is the key
So what do you do? Give
up? Nonsense. God says, "Try to remember Me. Practise hard."
How do you do it? Make a determined effort and set aside some time of
the day to read His stories, go to the House of God - Mandir, Mosque,
Church, Synagouge, Agyari, Gurudwara etc., at least once a week for half
an hour and pray. Go to some holy pilgrimage place, once in a year for
several days and enjoy your holiday in holy surroundings, spending a
little more time in praying, worshipping etc. In this way, you will
begin to have place for Him in your heart. If your mind does not want to
do any such thing, educate it. Try again and again. In course of time,
if not in this life, maybe in next or the next after, you will have
liking for God. You will then start thinking of Him. Do not forget, ours
is a very long journey in this world. This human life is just one halt.
There will be many more.
This second best choice
is for those who find it difficult to surrender their Karma to God and
at the same time think of Him while doing it. Even, this second choice
may also be difficult for some. If you think it so too, to spare some
time to get yourself to be near Him in mind, then you have another
choice, the third in line.
Krishna says in verse
no. 10 "If you cannot even spare some time to be with me, then at
least do some work for me. Even then it is possible for you to attain
Now let us see what
would this mean for us in Kaliyuga. In the first two alternatives we
have been told the importance of thinking about and remembering Him at
least for some time. But that may also be not possible for some people.
Those who are workaholic and do their work for themselves, their
families and friends may think, it is waste of time to think of God.
"Why bother about God? Why not think of work, life in general, its
enjoyments and so on? That may be useful. What are we going to achieve
by thinking about God?" This could be their line of thinking.
Others may have their minds completely occupied by materialistic
thoughts. They may not like to bring in God in mind. For such people, it
is advisable to do some work for Him.
to do God's work
Keep one thing clear in
mind that you owe you life to God. Your parents gave you birth but not
your Karma. You brought with you some of your past Karma as per God's
Laws. So you are indebted to Him to some extent. At least have gratitude
towards Him and do some work for Him. You need not think of Him, need
not remember Him but you can certainly do something for God. What can
you do? Now let us see. If you have lot of money, then you may give some
for construction of a Mandir, Mosque, Church etc. Give donation to His
charities. If you want your name or the name of someone you love to be
made known, do it by all means. Let the people know that you have given
the donation. That is fine. If you do not have money to give, then give
some of your time, may be two hours a week or in a month to work for a
charity or religious work. In this way you will be showing Him your
gratitude. God will plant the seed of His love in your heart. It may
germinate in next life. And if it does so in this life and grows fast,
you may go up one stage and start setting aside some time daily to be
associated with Him in your mind. Who knows, you may advance rapidly to
stage one and start thinking of Him in every Karma and begin
surrendering it to Him. You are on your way to Moksha, but what if one
is unable to do this also?
you do not accept God, do your karma right
Then He says in verse
no. 11 "If you cannot even do this, then exercise self restraint,
control your mind and engage yourself in doing all your Karmas in a
There may be some
people who just cannot accept God in their daily life. They cannot think
of Him. They do not want to spend any time, not even a few hours in a
year for God's work. Nothing wrong in that. Each one of us is born with
our past Karma and a huge bundle of good and bad Vasana. Your Vasana for
materialistic enjoyment may be so strong that you just do not believe in
God. If that is so, then, at least, do your Karma, whatever you are
engaged in, in the right way. Go on working. Forget about the results.
Do what you have to do and in order to have peace of mind, stop thinking
about the work done. There are so many other jobs, many more desires to
be put into action. Concentrate on one of them. Get it out of your mind
by putting it in action. Then forget about it. Do your best and leave
the rest. Do not think about God. Why worry Him? But instead, learn to
have no attachment to your Karma, just because you want peace and more
strength to do other jobs.
alternatives of worship
So we have four
alternatives. The goal to be reached is God's House, to be free from
bondage. There are many paths to reach that goal. All paths come in from
different directions but meet at one point. From that point onwards
there is but one single road. That point is Love for God. Hence the four
Surrender your Karma (all you do) to Him and think of Him in
While doing your Karma, if you cannot think of Him, hold a strong
desire for Him and try again and again to be with Him.
Forget Him, but do some work for Him as an act of gratitude.
Do not bother about Him at all, but do your work with a detached
attitude and concentrate on the
performing of Karma.
It should be noted here
that, Arjuna refused to do his right Karma (fight in the war), because
he was afraid of the result, which would keep him in bondage whether he
wins or loses. And he did not want to be responsible for death of his
own relations. At that time, there was no point in telling him to
worship God and think about Him. Arjuna was on the brink of a horrible
crisis. He was ready to die. He lost his courage and strength. He became
a ridiculous weakling. So Krishna told Him the fourth way -(d) above-
"to fight with detachment".
Arjuna was advised last alterative?
Then when it came to
finding out which is the best way to get out of Karmic bondage, God
said, the only way is to Love Him and Him alone. Unless one has this
undiluted ever-present love in one's heart for God, one cannot be
liberated. The question then arose as to how to love God and we get
three ways viz., (a), (b), (c) above. Hence the fourth way, that of
renouncing Karma result is not the lowest in priority. It is superior to
all because Karma is what this world is. Karma is what we do all the
time. Doing it in detached way is the best way but it is not easy. Also
people have faith in God. This faith can work wonders. Hence depending
upon your mental state and involvement with God, you have been given
three choices a, b, c, mentioned above.
Because, knowing Him is
superior to the practice of getting to know Him. Superior to knowing Him
is to keep your mind fixed always on Him. But superior to even that, is
renouncing the fruit (result) of all your Karma.
From what we have
learnt so far, it becomes evident that the two paths, Karmayoga and
Bhaktiyoga (Devotion) are not different. Nobody can escape Karma.
Devotion is also Karma. Karmayoga is doing your Karma with devotion, to
it without attachment. When you become a Yogi and devote attention to
God, you are in Bhaktiyoga and on your way to be a Dnyani. When you are
a Dnyani, you are already a Yogi armed with devotion to God. All that
now remains is His Grace to descend upon you so that you start realizing
that the God, whom you love so ardently, is none other but you yourself.
This is the final goal. This is His residence from where, once you reach
it, there is no coming back in the universe.
dear to God
In verses nos. 13 to
19, Krishna describes the characteristics of a devotee of whom He is
fond. He says,
"He who does not hate anybody, who is a friend to all
beings, who has kindly disposition to all, who is devoid of any sense of
ownership of anything, who has no ego, who treats both happiness and
distress equally, who is tolerance personified, always contented and
self-controlled with mind and intellect surrendered to Me - such a
devotee of Mine is very dear to Me."
God's Prakruti treats
all equally because it is engaged in carrying out certain
responsibilities. It sees that all humans, irrespective of status and
type are treated according to their Karma. God does not participate in
action. He Yet is moved by our love and devotion. He will not come near
you if you hate anybody. His Prakruti will handle you according the
Karma you perform in that hatred mood. On many occasions we pray God,
not His Prakruti, to show us His Grace, to have mercy or if we need
anything. How will he listen to our prayers if Prakruti is blocking the
way? She will be out of the way between you and God if she knows that He
likes you. So, to be dear to Him, you have to be a friend of all i.e.
have no enmity, no envy, no jealousy of any kind in your mind. Do not be
touched and get offended by insulting or abusing words. Give up sense of
pride and of ownership. That does not mean, give away what you own. When
you have spent time, labour and money to get anything, it is yours to
keep. But if it is stolen, or lost, take whatever action you have to. So
that you may get it back. But do not nurse grief in your mind. You have
lost nothing when God is in your heart and when He likes you. Do not get
upset by anything and have compassion to others. Try and maintain your
balance of mind. If you have any one of these quality's, be sure God
likes you. If you can have all, He likes you very much. He says further,
"He, who does not agitate anybody and is himself not
disturbed by any body's behaviour, who is equipoised in happiness,
distress, fear and anxiety, is also dear to Me. He who has no
expectation from desires, who is pure, industrious, disinterested in
material benefits and devoid of sorrow and unattached to his Karma is
dear to Me. He who neither rejoices nor grieves, neither laments nor
desires and who has renounced in mind both auspicious and inauspicious
happenings - such a devotee is dear to Me. He who treats friend and foe
equally; sees no difference between honour and dishonour, heat and cold,
happiness and sorrow, and is
free from all attachments; who sees no difference between praise and
defamation or rebuke, always silent and contented with whatever he gets,
has no attachment to his place of residence, has a steady intellect and
who is a devotee is dear to Me."
So to be in good books
of God, do not perform any Karma to annoy or cause pain to anybody, a
friend or a foe. Of course, you should not have any enemy. While doing
your right Karma, accept gracefully whatever is the result. Do not be
lazy. Keep yourself doing some work except, of course, when you need to
take rest. Develop tolerance to a great degree and stop condemning,
criticising. Instead, try and have compassion in heart. Finally in the
last verse no. 20 of this chapter Krishna says,
"But those who
follow their Dharma with implicit faith in what I have said, and are
devoted to their Karma and to Me are the most dear to Me."