There was a rich man I knew. When all members of his household were asleep, he would enter his room with a small lantern, open his iron safe, noiselessly remove the bundles of currency notes and jewellery one by one from it, caress them fondly, count them again and again, exult at owning all of it, put all of it back again into the safe, lock it, and tie the key to his yajñopavīta. He experienced happiness in looking upon his wealth by himself.
It appears that Bhagavān’s behaviour is similar. There is nothing that he needs. There is nothing new that he needs to acquire. He must have created the world when he desired to see and enjoy his own infinite powers for himself. Gauḍapādācārya says:
devasyaiṣa svabhāvo’yam āptakāmasya kā spṛhā
The experience of one’s own power is playing with one’s Self and loving one’s Self. The same is indicated by Bhagavān Vyāsa in his Brahmasūtra.
Just as people in the world do many things for their amusement, Bhagavān has created the entire universe for his enjoyment. There are innumerable ways for enjoyment. Can there be a fixed method for that? Bhagavān Rāmānuja in his commentary on the above sūtra says:
yathā loke….mahārājasya kevalalīlaikaprayojanāḥ kantukādyārambhā dṛśyante । tathaiva parasyāpi brahmaṇaḥ svasaṅkalpamātra-avaklṛpta-jagaj-janma-sthiti-dhvaṃsādi-līlaiva prayojanamiti niravadyam ||
“Just as in the world, we see a great king engaging in a ball game just for amusement, there is no objection to the consideration that Supreme Brahma engages in creation, sustenance, destruction of the universe and other activities with no motive other than amusement.”
The babe in the cradle rolls its eyes around, shakes its arms and legs, and laughs. What might be its motive? To make us smile? To get a certificate from us? Nothing of that sort. It cannot have such selfish thoughts in its infancy. Its play is an expression of its health, a blossoming of its inner happiness, and a flow of the nectar of its bliss.
Another thing: Who is it that asks īśvara the question- “Why did you make the world?” Obedient servants do not pose questions such as - “Why have you left your feet dangling?”, “Why are you sitting cross-legged?”, “Why have you twisted your hand thus?” - to their comfortably seated masters. Disobedient servants do not have to be answered.
Who is it that questions īśvara? His servants? Or his dependents? Those who have taken refuge in him? There is a different, more important question to be answered. Whatever might be īśvara’s objective, what is it to you? The answer is - idle curiosity. Whatever might be īśvara’s objective, we are in no position to change it; neither can we escape from it. Such questions might be applicable if we had powers to reform īśvara or if we could promulgate a “no confidence” motion against him. Since that is not the case, the question does not arise. There is no democracy in the world of adhyātma! When we cannot escape from māyā that is a creation of īśvara, how can we escape from īśvara himself?
What is it then that we can do? Accepting our situation and trying to better it is the only strategy. The final answer to such questions is this:
kuto jāteyamiti te rāma māstu vicāraṇā ।
imāṃ kathamahaṃ hanmītyeṣā te’stu vicāraṇā ॥
Yoga Vāsiṣṭha 4.41
“We do not need to analyse why the world exists or what the objective for its existence is. Whatever might be the reason, we need to think about how to be liberated from this situation.” Should an ensnared bird indulge in thoughts like - “Let’s see. Is this net made of silk? Or cotton? Or fibre or nylon? Was it made in Bengaluru or Mumbai or Manchester?” - or should it think about how to escape from the trap?
Arjuna was directly aware of the true nature of his guru. He had seen with his own eyes that his guru was- “sarvasya dhātāramacintyarūpam” (the sustainer of everything, whose nature is unimaginable). He had realised with his being that his guru was “śāśvatadharmagoptā” (the protector of eternal dharma). Therefore Arjuna did not ask any question about creation. If we remember these three phrases - “sarvasya dhātāram”, “acintyarūpam”, and “śāśvatadharmagoptā”, several of our doubts will get resolved.
Bhagavān śrī Kṛṣṇa fully understood the nature of the human psyche. This is one of the unique greatnesses of the Kṛṣṇāvatāra. He knew exactly the kinds of doubts, the hardships, the questions, and the desires that could possibly be found in the human heart. That is why the Kṛṣṇāvatāra is referred to as a complete avatāra. What can we gather from Arjuna’s behaviour? We see that he was a doubter - one with genuine doubts, not a cavalier - but nevertheless a doubter. Certainty in knowledge is not easy to come by. Bhagavān now utters the concluding statement to dispel any doubts lingering in Arjuna’s mind. This is the same instruction from before.
manmanā bhava madbhakto madyājī mān-namaskuru
māmevaiṣyasi satyan-te pratijāne priyo.si me ||
sarvadharmānparityajya māmekam śaraṇam vraja
ahan-tvā sarvapāpebhyo mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ ||
“Fix your mind in me; be my devotee; worship me; bow to me. If you do this, you will attain me. You are dear to me. Therefore I promise you this. This is true.”
“Abandon all the other dharmas and take refuge solely in me. I will release you from all pāpas and sorrows. Do not grieve.”
These uplifting and consoling words are filled with words like aham (I) and mām (me). Such usages of the first person are seen in several other instructions too. Who is the subject of the first person in those mentions? Is it some man known by the name of Kṛṣṇa? Or an avatāra of Bhagavān bearing that famous name? Or does that “I” refer to the origin of that great caitanya whose symbol is the personality of śrī Kṛṣṇa? Wherever the first person is encountered in the Gītā - such as aham, mama, mām, mat, me, mayi - the subject referred to is not to be construed as human but as an expression of Parameśvara himself.
ವಿಷ್ಣುಪರಬ್ರಹ್ಮಸತ್ತ್ವಮದು ನರನಲ್ಲಂ |
ಕೃಷ್ಣಪದಂ ವಿಶ್ವಹೃದಯಮುರಲೀನಾದಮ್ ||
Kṛṣṇa, in the divine song,
refers to the all-pervading Brahma; not human,
Kṛṣṇa is the world-sustainer.
The name Kṛṣṇa is the music of world’s bosom-flute.
Bhakti is renouncing the ego
“manmanā bhava madbhaktah” - “Be my bhakta”. The Gītāchārya has taught us bhakti in every chapter and verse. What is bhakti? All of us commonly consider ourselves to be bhaktas of a deity. We visit temples; chant divine names; when nothing else is possible, we say - “īśvara is the only way”; we spend money to perform pūjā. All of these are indicators of bhakti. But is that bhakti pure? It is bhakti that is our supreme savior. It is hence necessary to understand its nature through reflection.
Bhakti is love - love towards Bhagavān that is complete and pure.
sā tvasmin parama-prema-rūpā|
Parama here refers to love that is complete by itself and unalloyed with anything else. There is always a bit of selfishness hidden inside our bhakti. “We should trust Bhagavān. Even so, we should be on our guard” - is our usual attitude. “Has not īśvara given us an intellect? Should it not do its work? Do we not have any responsibility? Is it fine to overload Bhagavān with our worries?” - such are our considerations. Discernment is definitely a part of our duty as is self-effort. So is being cautious. But the duty beyond all these is to accept the will of īśvara. All our discernments, adventures, and ideas yield results only because of Bhagavān’s grace. Whether our efforts bear fruit or not is decided by providence. “daivaṃ caivātra pancamam” - refers to the fruits or results of our efforts. Bhakti in Bhagavān is to accept the results of our efforts, though they may be against us. Faith in the divine that is oblivious to “I” and does not ask - “What happened to me? What of my effort” - is true and complete bhakti.
Bhakti and ego are mutually exclusive. They cannot co-exist. Ego cannot stand in front of bhakti. A bhakta’s ego is merely a servant of bhakti. Similarly bhakti does not enter where the ego reigns. Whatever little bhakti is displayed by an egotistical person is but a servant to his ego. Even a modicum of ego cannot be found in the mind, behaviour, and speech of someone whose bhakti is pure and complete. “It is Bhagavān who is the cause of everything. Nothing happens without his order. Compared to Bhagavān’s command, my desires and dislikes amount to arrogant overreaching. Whether I like what I get or not, it is īśvara’s prasāda that I have to calmly accept” - such are the thoughts of a bhakta. A father is a father whether or not he gives us candies or tough love. A doctor cares for our welfare regardless of whether he gives us honey or ginger with pepper. Such is a bhakta’s trust in Bhagavān; trust from which selfishness has been completely effaced. Bhakti is the destruction of I-ness. When worries such as, “I, mine, what of me? Who will look after me?” are all erased without a chance for regeneration; when the mind is full of faith in Bhagavān, then such a state is called bhakti - egoless bhakti.
To be continued...
The present series is a modern English translation of DVG’s Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award-winning work, Bhagavad-gītā-tātparya or Jīvana-dharma-yoga. The translators wish to express their thanks to Śatāvadhāni R Ganesh for his valuable feedback and to Hari Ravikumar for his astute edits.
Sacred thread worn by the first three varṇas