Reflections on the Bhagwat Geeta – Chapter XII

In the first couple of articles of this Blog, we discussed the dual concepts of the Supreme Entity, the first one being Nir-Gun & Nir-Aakaar , meaning without any attributes or form and the second one being Sa-Gun & Sa-Aakaar , meaning with attributes and form.

The Nir-Gun, Nir-Aakaar concept is easy to understand in theory but difficult to practice. When faced with difficulty, when thinking about consequences of one’s actions, when thinking about the after-life, it is much easier to think of or pray to a concrete form. This is why the vast majority of followers of Eternal Dharma express devotion to a particular representation, whether it be Shankar, Kashi- Vishveshwar, Vishnu, Venkatesh, Tirupati, Vithobaa, Mangesh, the various forms of Bhairav and others. This is how the concept of one’s personal God came to be.

This is also the experience of religions who teach the Nir-Gun, Nir-Aakaar approach when describing the Supreme Entity. They also realized the necessity of one visible icon with attributes and form. This was fulfilled by identifying a single savior, a prophet or one book containing the only words from the Supreme Entity.

So the question naturally arises whether there is any difference in worshipping the Nir-Gun, Nir-Aakaar representation or the Sa-Gun, Sa-Aakaar representation. Arjun had this natural question and asked Shree Krishna at the beginning of Chapter XII.

Recall that in Chapter XI , Shree Krishna revealed his Divine Representation to Arjun, a form that no mortal could see without the divine vision Shree Krishna gave him. After viewing this magnificent but frightening representation that was brighter than a thousand suns, Arjun requested Shree Krishna to reappear in the pleasant earthly form.

Then Arjun asked Shree Krishna:

  • Verse 1, Chapter 12Who are the better Yogis? Those who worship your Eternal Representation or those who devoutly worship You (in the form before me) with Bhakti?
Shree Krishna gives a crisp answer:

  • Verse 2, Chapter 12With their minds focused on Me (मयि आवेश्य मनो), those who always worship me (ये माम नित्य-युक्ता उपासते) with total devotion, I consider them My Real Yogis.
Shree Krishna states next that those who worship the Eternal, Nir-Gun representation (अ-व्यक्त आसक्त-चेतसाम) reach him as well. But in Verse 5, Shree Krishna states that they face greater hardships (क्लेशः अधिकतरः तेषाम) in doing so. The path of Nir-Gun worship (अ-व्यक्ता हि गति) is possible for mortals (देह-वाहिर) with some suffering (दुखम अ-व्याप्यते) . Then in Verses 6 & 7, Shree Krishna explains the easy way:

  • Verse 6, Chapter 12 –  Those who deliver unto Me (मयि सन्यस्य मत-पराः) all their Actions (ये तु सर्वाणि कर्माणि) and with all their facilities (अनंन्यें एव योगेन) worship Me (माम ध्यायंत उपासते);
  • Verse 7, Chapter 12 –  Those who reside their hearts in Me (मयि आवेशित चेतसाम), I swiftly become O Arjun (भवामि न चिरात पार्थ), their Redeemer out of this ocean of mortal life (तेषाम समुधर्ता मृत्यु-संसार-सागरात). 
These two verses amply demonstrate why this Chapter is called Bhakti-Yog (भक्ति-योग).  The next several verses amplify this theme. Then in Verse 12, Shree Krishna explains which path is better for the Bhakt:

  • Verse 12, Chapter 12Knowledge or Realization is better than Diligent Study; Meditation is better than Knowledge; Renunciation of Fruits of Action  (कर्म-फल-त्याग) is better than Meditation; Such Renunciation leads to Eternal Shanti (त्यागात शांतिर अनंतरम).
This Verse carries a subtle but important point. Notice that Shree Krishna asks for renunciation of fruits of Action  (कर्म-फल-त्याग) and NOT renunciation of Action. This goes back to the famous Verse 47 of Chapter II that states “Do NOT make Fruits of Action Your Objective (मा कर्म फल हेतुः भूः ) because Your right is ONLY to Action ( कर्मणि एव अधिकारः ते)  and Never to Its Fruits (मा फलेषु कदाचन)”.

We stress this because some tend to interpret the last clause (Renunciation leads to Eternal Shanti or त्यागात शांतिर अनंतरम) of Verse 12 of Chapter XII to preach renunciation of Action. They advocate Bhakti-Marg to the exclusion everything else including the responsibility to Action. They should remember that the Tyaag (त्याग) or Renunciation is of Fruits of Action (कर्म-फल) and NOT of Action (कर्म). 

They should also remember the final admonition in Verse 47 of Chapter II “Do NOT associate with Avoidance of Action ( मा ते संगः अस्तु अकर्मणि)”.

It is important to understand that Chapter XII, Chapter II and all of Bhagwat Geeta teach the concept of Nishkaam-Karma (निष्काम कर्म) or Action without any desire or attachment to the goals or fruits of Action.

Close inspection shows us that the teachings of Section IV & Section V of Chapter II are re-addressed in Chapter XII in the context of Bhakti-Yog. In Chapter II, the discussion was about Stable Buddhi that is necessary for Karma-Yog with a Balanced Mind (स्थितप्रद्न्य). In Chapter XII, the discussion is about Bhakti or Worship of Shree Krishna that enables an easier implementation of Karma-Yog.

This is what is taught in the next verses of Chapter XII. Even the words used are similar to those in Chapter II. For example, Verse 13 of Chapter XII uses the same terms निर-मम (without affection),   निर-अहंकार (without Ego or focus on oneself) as does Verse 71 of Chapter II. The concepts of treating equally happiness and sadness, of jettisoning desires in Chapter XII are the same ones described in Section V of Chapter II.

In Verse 17, Shree Krishna explains that “The devotee (भक्ति-मान) is dear to Me (स में प्रिय) who does not feel happy (यो न हृष्यति), who does not hate (न द्वेष्टि), does not feel sad (न शोचति), does not desire (न कांक्षति), who renounces both the good and not good (शुभ अ-शुभ परित्यागी)”. 

These were the characteristics of one with Balanced Mind (स्थितप्रद्न्य) in Chapter II. These are the characteristics of a true devotee (भक्ति-मान) in Chapter XII. This demonstrates to us that the message of Bhagwat Geeta is consistent and unifies all the three paths of liberation – Action (कर्म), Dnyaan & Samnyaas (सांख्य), Bhakti (भक्ति).

Thus Endeth Chapter XII named Bhakti Yogभक्ति योग) of Shree Bhagwat Geeta, of the Upa-Nisad (उप-निसदत्सु) , of the Yog-Shaastra (योग शास्त्र) of Brahma-Vidyaa (ब्रह्म विद्या), of the dialog (संवाद) between Shree Krishna & Arjun.

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