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 this chapter.

Two 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 Brahma?"

Saguna 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.

Nirguna 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.

Arjuna's question

            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?

Krishna's 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.

            Practising self 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.

Para 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."

Saguna worship helps

            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 more.

Surrendering 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 nicely.

            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 time.

            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.

Difficulty 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.

Hold strong desires

            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 your Karma?

Determination 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.

Do God's work

            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 Moksha."

            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.

How 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?

If 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 detached way."

            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.

Four 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 paths are

(a)    Surrender your Karma (all you do) to Him and think of Him in every action

(b)    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.

(c)    Forget Him, but do some work for Him as an act of gratitude.

(d)    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".

Why 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.

Devotees dear to God

            In verses nos. 13 to 19, Krishna describes the characteristics of a devotee of whom He is fond. He says,

1.         "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,

2.         "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."


            Krishna has elaborated on Karma, Dharma and Devotion, in all the preceding chapters. He expects us to carry out our accepted responsibilities in the correct manner as He has said, 'perform your right Karma faultlessly and see Him in everybody', meaning be good to others. Even if we can discard some of our vices including habit of criticising others and such small matters, we will be on a path to His residence. So start giving up what is bad in some corner of your mind, replace it with something good in the light of what you have learnt so far and be ready to receive His Grace. Rejoice in His joy forever and ever.

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