Discussion on the first 7 verse of Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12: Devotional service.
In Bhagavad Gita there are 700 verses and 18 chapters. In all these verses Srila Prabupad teaches us the importance of devotional services. But in the 12 th Chapter Srila Prabupada especially explains in detail how devotional service should be done to please Krishna, what are the benefits of doing devotional service to Krishna, what is surrender, how to achieve faith in the Lord, the best method of doing devotional service and then how one can attain Mukti or liberation
The 12th chapter of Bhagavad Gita starts with Arjuna asking Krishna a question which is considered to be more perfect, those who are always properly engaged in Your devotional service or those who worship the impersonal Brahman, the unmanifested
arjuna uvācaevaṁ satata-yuktā yebhaktās tvāṁ paryupāsateye cāpy akṣaram avyaktaṁteṣāṁ ke yoga-vittamāḥ
So Kṛṣṇa is explaining about the personal, the impersonal and the universal and has described all kinds of devotees and yogis. Generally, the transcendentalists which means one who have already transcended all materialistic desires can be divided into two classes. The impersonalist, and the other is the personalist. The impersonalist believe that god does not have a form, he is not a person, has no quality, no form and no activities. They cannot accept God as a person but they engage themselves not directly in the service of Krishna but in meditation on the impersonal Brahman, but the personalist devotee engages himself with all energy in the service of the Supreme Lord. In pure devotional service one comes to the realization that God is great and that the individual soul is subordinate to Him. His duty is to render service to the Lord – and if he does not, then he will render service to māyā.
A devotee does not need to practice Aṣṭāṅga-yoga in order to transfer his soul to the spiritual planets. The responsibility is taken by the Supreme Lord Himself. Traditionally it is like we think that a yogi goes to a secluded places and practices all the aspect of Ashtanga yoga like Yama, Niyama – there are things to do or not to do, then comes the Asana- proper posture, withdrawing one’s senses. Krishna describes in the 6th chapter of Bhagavad Gita how a yogi concentrates his mind with half closed eyes on the tip of his nose and meditates on the Lord. And pranayama how he controls his breathing and brings his senses inwards. Actually, our senses are always going outwards. Pratyahara as opposed to Atyahara means to bring the senses within. Then comes Dharana where he holds his concentration on the Supreme Lord it is like Dhyana, then the finally it culminates in to Samadhi. But this process is not recommended by Krishna.
Kṛṣṇa clearly says that he who concentrates upon His personal form and who worships Him with faith and devotion is to be considered most perfect in yoga. For one in such Kṛṣṇa consciousness there are no material activities, because everything is done for Kṛṣṇa. A pure devotee is constantly engaged. Sometimes he chants, sometimes he hears or reads books about Kṛṣṇa, or sometimes he cooks prasādam or goes to the marketplace to purchase something for Kṛṣṇa, or sometimes he washes the temple or the dishes – whatever he does, he does not let a single moment pass without devoting his activities to Kṛṣṇa. Such action is in full Samadhiin fact higher samadhi. Actually, Arjuna in fact was in samadhi. He was in the battle field of Kurukshetra meditating on the service of the lord. Arjuna is clarifying his own position because he is attached to the personal form of Kṛṣṇa. He is not attached to the impersonal Brahman. He wants to know whether his position is secure. Like how when we do something we need to know if it is right or wrong from someone like that way Arjuna is asking Krishna whether his understanding is correct or not. So, it is here we need the guidance of our Gurus, Sadhu and Shastra. Arjuna accepted Krishna his friend as his Guru. Generally, when people are so puffed up with false ego, they think what they are doing is right, they won’t make any mistake and don’t need anyone to guide them.
In the 9th Chapter of Bhagavad Gita, verse 34 Krishna says
man-manā bhava mad-bhaktomad-yājī māṁ namaskurumām evaiṣyasi yuktvaivamātmānaṁ mat-parāyaṇaḥ
Translation: Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, become My devotee, offer obeisance to Me and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.
In this verse Krishna talks continuously about “Me”. So here Srila Prabupada says there is lots of interpretations when Krishna says me, people don’t actually believe that it is Krishna who is speaking but think that it is the impersonal Brahman who is speaking through Krishna. There are many interpretations to Bhagavad Gita, so the 12 th chapter of Bhagavat Gita clarify these points.
Srimad Bhagavatam says absolute truth is realized in three phases Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan. Those who are impersonalist called the absolute truth as Brahman. Since God is complete, he has both personnel aspect and impersonal aspect. Krishna says whatever way you approach me I reciprocate to you in the same way. Here Arjuna is questioning which position is better than the two those who engage themselves in meditation on the impersonal Brahman or the devotee who engages himself with all energy in the service of the Supreme Lord. So, Srila Prabhupada gives an example to understand Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan aspect. Three villagers who have never seen a train in their life want to know how a train will look like set out outside of the village where the railway lane was made. They were eagerly waiting finally night arrives. Finally, they see the train coming from the distance slowly. One villager gets impatient. He sees the light of the train. He feels, tired, sleepy, and wants to go home fast, he just saw one part of the train the head light. The second villager said he will wait for some more time and sees the light and bogies of the train; he realizes the train has a shape and then he went home. But the last villager had more patience than the other two. He waits till the train halt at the station. Finally, the train halts, he sees light, bogies in the train, how they are connected to each other, understands the train has a shape, and the train carries passengers too. All the villages got an idea of the train. But who gets the complete picture of the train? It is the person who saw the train closely. Similarly, when we see Krishna from a distance, we see the effulgence or Brahma Jyoti coming from Krishna’s body and we can think that light is Krishna, but we go little closer we see the light is coming from a person and that he has a form that is the Paramatma realization. And even if we go little closer, we see the form is moving and the form has activities. So, Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan are the three realizations of the absolute truth. But the Bhagavan realization where we see the Lord as a form and his activities is the most complete. So, the Jnanis realize the impersonal aspect. The yogis realize the Paramatma form since they are doing meditation and in samadhi stage they see the Lord in their heart, and the Bhaktas realize the Bhagavan aspect of the absolute truth. So, the Bhagavan aspect is the complete understanding of the absolute truth.
The impersonal manifestation, either in this material world or in the spiritual world of the Supreme Lord, is a problem for meditation. Actually, one cannot perfectly conceive of the impersonal feature of the Absolute Truth. Therefore, Arjuna says it is a waste of time focusing on the Impersonal aspect but better to be attached to the personal form of Kṛṣṇa is best because he could thus understand all other forms at the same time and there was no disturbance to his love for Kṛṣṇa.
Srila Prabupada says that if you need to get benefit from Bhagavad Gita at least theoretically accept Krishna as God otherwise it will just like any other philosophical move. So why are some not able to accept God as a person. First thing is out of envy of Krishna. They want to believe that they are God but not Krishna and they think that if we accept God as form then God is limited like them, like how we can be in one place at a time God can be like that and not all pervading. But they don’t think that God can expand his form like how Krishna does in Dwarka Lila where he expands as husbands of all the Queens. Also, in Brahma- Samhita it is written in text 35
aṇḍāntara-stha-paramāṇu-cayāntara-stham-govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
Krishna can expand as paramanu meaning he can expand in to every atom. Like Ksirodakasayi Vishnu he has expand in to everybody’s heart. Although he is in Golokha Vrindavan he is also there with us in our heart. So, he can be simultaneously present in different places at the same time. So that is the trouble for some people for accepting God as a form. And other thing is there is a fear of relationship. In this material world relationship will become sour, so we think what if our relationship with god will work out or not, there is a fear here. So, they think it is better to consider God without any form so that way there is nothing he can say to us, no any qualities nor any activities.
Another example to make the impersonalist understand that God has a form is one-time Radha Govind Maharaj was in airport. He was travelling to India from Kenya, via transit Kuwait. So, he landed in Kuwait, which is a Muslim country. Due to some delay he had to wait there for 4 to 5 hrs. to get the connecting flight to India, so he decided to Chant. One Muslim official was watching, he came to speak to him. He said to Maharaj I heard Hindus worship stone as God. So, Maharaj said no we worship God in stone. His answer surprised the official. Then Maharaj said to him actually in your scriptures in Quran, Allah has a bluish face and he is playing flute, and has many devotees with him. The official was very curious so Maharaj said not many have seen him only person who are pure have seen him. Then that man said it is amazing just then the time for Namaz came so this person opened the mat on the ground and started to offer his Namaz. Then after Namaz he came back so Maharaj asked him are you sure your prayers are heard by Allah. The official said yes, so Maharaj said that means your Allah can hear. So, he said yes of course Allah can hear like all of us. So, Maharaj said that means Allah has ears to hear and if Allah has heard your prayers can he speak to you and see you if you are in trouble. So, the official said yes to all the questions. So, Maharaja said to him that means Allah has hears, he can hear, see you in trouble and speak to you that means Allah has a form. That man was shocked because in their scriptures they don’t have any information about Allah. This man was pretty impressed. When Maharaj flight was about to board Maharaj asked him, what is the time. So that man said you don’t have a watch, and went to a shop and brought a nice watch for Maharaj as a gift.
We should understand that If God is impersonal and has no activities then what are we going to talk about. There are so many pastimes of Krishna which we relish. Actually, Krishna is one but he has expanded in to many forms because he wants to have a loving relationship and he wants to enjoy. Like how a married man want to have children and expand his family to have a loving relationship same way Krishna also want to do the same and he expands to many Jivas, we are all his energy. He wants to have a big family and when a jivas or impersonalist wants to merge in him he still fulfills its desire even though he does not appreciate this kind of request. In Brahma Jyoti there are three aspects of absolute truth. Satchitananda. Sat means in Brahma Jyothi you will realize the Sat aspect means the eternal. Sat and Chit are realized in Paramatma aspect and Bhagavan is Satchitananda.
So, Arjuna ask Krishna what happens to people who worship you in unmanifested form. It is explained in Text 3-4 ,6-7 of 12th chapter.
Those who do not directly worship the Supreme Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, but who attempt to achieve the same goal by an indirect process, which is always troublesome and difficult because the individual soul is embodied from time immemorial and it is difficult for them to understand that he is not the body but spirit soul. They are attracted to Avyakta, denies god and his activity and there is no engagement for the senses. It is the denial of the senses. Our senses need engagement and there is no reciprocation from Krishna, and impersonalist depends on their own path, but still after following the indirect path ultimately achieve the same goal, Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
So, in impersonal relation you will realize the Sat aspect. It is like how you are in a high secure house. Not anybody is allowed in to your house, there are guards guarding but there is no person in the house that you can have a loving relationship, though it is peaceful and no danger, but the nature of the soul is pleasure seeing .So when It goes to Brahma Jyothi it does not feel satisfied because there is no relationship with the Supreme. After several austerities we reach this position but it is not eternal. Joy comes from relationship. In Brahman there is no variety. It is like having a Sunday feast with different items. Variety is the mother of all enjoyment. In the same way Jiva want to enjoy variety. The real liberation is not going to Brahma Jyothi but be situated in our constitutional position that is be the servant of Krishna then we are liberated. Even in material world we are liberated if we consider ourselves as the servant of Krishna.
But, in Bhakti Yoga, devotees accept the Deity of Kṛṣṇa as worship able because there is some bodily conception fixed in the mind, which can thus be applied. In Bhakti part even though we have control over our senses there is engagement for the senses. Like in the 9th chapter, text 2 Krishna says
pavitram idam uttamam
su-sukham kartum avyayam
Krishna says the path of Bhakti is Susukam and it can be joyfully perfomed. Devotional service consists of Hearing, chanting, remembering, serving, worshiping, praying, obeying, maintaining friendship and surrendering everything. By the practice of these nine elements of devotional service one is elevated to spiritual consciousness or Kṛṣṇa consciousness, so one can simply hear the chanting of the glories of the Lord or can attend lectures on transcendental knowledge given by authorized Acharya’s. Simply by sitting, one can learn; then one can eat the remnants of the food offered to God, the Prasadam. In every state devotional service is joyful and gives higher results. One can execute devotional service even in the most poverty-stricken condition. The Lord says in 9th chapter 26 verse
patram puspam phalam toyam
yo me bhaktya prayacchati
tad aham bhakty-upahrtam
He is ready to accept from the devotee any kind of offering, even a leaf, a flower, fruit, or a little water, which are all available in every part of the world, can be offered by any person, regardless of social position, and will be accepted if offered with love
Acharya’s say that Srila Sukadeva Gosvami learned Srimad Bhagavatam when he was in the womb of his mother. He was already Brahman realized and was having spiritual consciousness’. Such liberated souls are disinterested in the affairs of this material world because they are self-satisfied by the great achievements of devotional service. As explained before, Śukadeva Gosvāmī never accepted any formal spiritual master, nor did he undergo any formal reformatory performances. His father, Vyāsadeva, was his natural spiritual master because Śukadeva Gosvāmī heard Srimad Bhagavatam from him. After this, he became completely self-satisfied. The formal processes are necessary for those who are expected to reach the stage of complete liberation, but Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī was already in that status by the grace of his father. As a young boy he was expected to be properly dressed, but he went about naked and was uninterested in social customs. He was neglected by the general populace, and inquisitive boys and women surrounded him as if he were a madman. So Vyasadeva to bring his son back said to his disciples in the forest to describe beauty of Krishna and Mercy. So, the disciples chanted this verse.
Barha peedam natavara vapu: karnayo: karnikaram,
bibrath vasa: kanaka kapisam vaijayanthim cha malam”
This verse describes the Lord’s enchanting Beauty, with the peacock feather on His head, blue Karnikara flowers on His Ears, His brilliant Yellow Silk garment as shining as the Gold, the Vyjayanti garland decorating His body, the Lord as the greatest Dancing body that He is, entered the Vrindavanam to enjoy the company of His Gopi’s. As He entered Vrindavan, His Footprints beautified the whole Vraja Bhoomi. And then flowed the Divine Music from His Lips which filled the holes of His Flute with the Nectar. And the Cowherd friends sang His glories in the best of their voices. When Krishna plays his flute, everything will become stand still. It enchants everyone in the universe. He lifted the Govardhan hill 7 days 7 nights that time also he was playing the flute with the other hand. One Gopa was telling Krishna please stop playing the flute, it is giving us ultimate happiness, but we have seen what happens when you play the flute , the river become solid and solid things melt in ecstasy and if Giriraj Govardhan in his ecstasy of listening to the flute he may fall down from your hand and then we all will be crushed. Then somebody else said, “Giriraj is a very great personality. When great personalities, even when they are in ecstatic trance, they somehow or other compose themselves for the welfare of others.” And in this way Krishna, for 7 days and 7 nights, he was playing upon his flute, exchanging with his devotees while carrying Govardhan hill. Even when Krishna entering the forest of Vrindavan also is very much enchanting. The soil where the Lord walked is so special, the foot prints of the Lord are imprinted and even though there are lots of cows, Vrajavasis, Gopa’s none of them will step on the Lord’s foot prints. Bhagavatam says those who are self-satisfied they also become attractive.
So, some may even ask what if devotees spend their entire life serving Krishna and practice devotional service but at time of their death, they are not able to remember him due to certain medical condition like Coma. Krishna says my devotee may forget but I remember him because everything is coming from me. It is explained in Bhagavad Gita Chapter 15, verse 15
sarvasya caham hrdi sannivisto
mattah smrtir jnanam apohanam ca
vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedanta-krd veda-vid eva caham
Translation: I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed, I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.
A devotee need not worry about forgetting Krishna nor does not need to endeavor to transfer his soul to higher planets by yoga practices and they need not worry about liberation. If you have Bhakti towards Krishna and are doing various devotional service to him then automatically Mukti is also achieved. It is said that the execution of devotional service is so perfect that one can perceive the results directly by chanting the holy names of Krsna (Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare) in course of time feels some transcendental pleasure and very quickly becomes purified of all material contamination. Mahaprabhu says that he wanted to engage himself in devotional service to Krishna birth after birth. Bilvamangala Thakura also says if one is steady in Bhakti Mukti will stand in the door steps of devotee with folded hands. They are waiting to serve a devotee. If one follows the path of Krishna bhakti everything is achieved that is the faith or Shraddha.
How do we come on the path of shraddha or firm faith? It is by associating with devotees. Before Srila Prabupad came to US no one had heard about Krishna but through him the Western world heard about Krishna and got faith in Krishna. It was difficult for them to believe that the blue Cowherd boy gracing the cows in the field, stealing butter, dancing with the Gopi’s is the Supreme Personality of God Head but Srila Prabupad made them believe Krishna is the Supreme Lord because he had that faith. More we have faith that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of God head and he will take care of us under any circumstances this is the one of the symptoms of surrender. There are 6 limbs of surrender. The first is that one should accept everything that is favorable for the discharge of devotional service, the second is that one should give up everything that is unfavorable to the discharge of devotional service. Thirdly, one should be convinced that only Kṛṣṇa can protect him all respects. Fourthly, a devotee should always accept Kṛṣṇa as his maintainer. Fifth, a devotee is always conscious that his desires are not independent; unless Kṛṣṇa fulfills them, they cannot be fulfilled. Lastly, one should always think of himself as the most fallen among souls so that Kṛṣṇa will take care of him.
Prahalad Maharaj had this faith that Krishna is his protector and no Hiranyakashipu could do any harm to him and he had no anxiety. When his father asks him, what is the best things you learned in school he replies
śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ
arcanaṁ vandanaṁ dāsyaṁ
Hiranyakashipu was outraged to hear his son talking about his enemy Vishnu. Prahalad Maharaj came to know the importance of doing devotional service to Lord when he was in his mother’s womb by listening to Narada Muni recitation of Bhagavatam to his mother. Hiranyakashipu asks young Prahalad where does he gets the strength from, because all the demigods like Chandra, Vayu everyone line up to serve Hiranayakashipu out of fear, but here his own son is talking about Vishnu without any fear. Prahalad Maharaja says that his power is coming from the same source from where his father’s power is also coming that is from Vishnu but he is not realizing it. When a devotee is dependent on the Lord, he will become more powerful. In fact, Prahalad Maharaj did not do severe austerities like Hiranayakashipu, he was only 5 years old and was teaching his friends the importance of worshipping Vishnu. The more we learn about Krishna with right attitude not only for knowledge, but to please him, serve him with complete surrender Krishna will be very pleased. Krishna reciprocates the path of Bhakti. This Samsara or material ocean is the wheel of repeated birth and death. And we all have born in different species of life like trees, animals etc. But all of us are so fortunate by the mercy of Guru and Krishna we know how to practice Bhakti and attain liberation. A child is completely cared for by his parents, and thus his position is secure. Similarly, a devotee does not need to endeavor to transfer himself by yogapractice to other planets. Rather, the Supreme Lord, by His great mercy, comes at once, riding on His bird carrier Garuḍa, and at once delivers the devotee from material existence like how a man who has fallen in the ocean may struggle very hard and may be very expert in swimming, he cannot save himself. But if someone comes and picks him up from the water, then he is easily rescued. Similarly, the Lord picks up the devotee from this material existence. One simply has to practice the easy process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness and fully engage himself in devotional service, then Krishna take care of devotees personally. That is his promise.