The Yoga of Devotion
1. Those devotees ever joined in yoga who worship You thus and those who worship the unmanifest indestructible syllable among them, which are the highest masters of yoga?
Arjuna’s vision of the Lord is only momentary, for he has to come down to the world of ordinary reality to perform his duty. But something unique occurred in Arjuna’s life at that moment, and he develops great faith in the teachings of Sri Krishna. All miracles and visions experienced by the aspirant are actually the signs and symptoms that are experienced on the path, but they are not signs of attainment or fulfillment. The attainment is Self-realization.
The first verse of the 12th chapter puts forth a question that is raised in Arjuna’s mind after he sees the vision of the Lord. Overwhelmed by that vision, Arjuna wants to know whether he should meditate on the form of the Lord or on the formless. The absolute truth is beyond the senses, mind, and intellect, and unless one attains that, final liberation is not possible. But if the final realization is attained, there is still another question to be answered: How should one conduct himself in the world? How should he function? After all, he still lives in the world of apparent reality. Sri Krishna is teaching Arjuna how to live in the external world.
2. Those who, ever joined in yoga, entering their mind into Me, worship Me, endowed with highest faith, I believe them to be the most united in yoga.
Most people cannot fathom the idea of meditation on the absolute, which is formless and attributeless. Only a fortunate few are able to attain that highest state of realization. The path of bhakti (devotion) is considered to be superior for those who are unable to realize the pure Self. It is difficult to conceived of meditating without a form or object on which to focus the mind. Sri Krishna, therefore, advises Arjuna to have a concrete form for the concentration of mind, and he teaches Arjuna to worship the manifest form of the lord with firm faith. The aspirant cannot concentrate his mind if he has no faith in his heart and if he mechanically practices the technique of concentration. Whether one follows the path of bhakti or the path of jnana (Self-realization), a one-pointed mind is important, and that cannot be achieved without concentration. Concentration of mind and faith are essentials for treading either path. The ordinary sadhaka or aspirant should have a concrete form for concentration and meditation before his mind is prepared for the either realms.
Sri Krishna says that those who are devoted solely to Him, who worship Him alone, are superior devotees. Such devotees have three positive qualities: full dedication of mind, complete dedication of their whole lives, and worship with full faith. It is only then that the fruit of devotion is secured. Then alone can be considered to be a great devotee. Sri Krishna advise Arjuna to concentrate on an object that has qualities that will lead him toward reverence and devotion. If an object is chosen for concentration but the meditator does not appreciate its qualities, the mind cannot concentrate on that object. The object chosen for meditation should have qualities that enable the meditator respond to it. Any manifest form of the Lord possessed of excellence that suits the aspirant can be used as the object of concentration. Any aspect of manifestation that can be concentrated upon with firm faith is helpful to the devotee. One who fully devotes his life to worshiping and concentrating on any aspect of manifestation with unshaken faith can attain perfection.
3. Those, however, who worship the indestructible syllable, the unmanifest that cannot be specified, the all-pervading, beyond thought, absolute, immovable, permanent One-
4. Who control the group of senses well, hold all to be alike everywhere, delight in benefiting all beings, they find only Me.
5. They have greater difficulty whose minds are drawn to the unmanifest; the unmanifest way is found with difficulty by those who are dwelling in bodies.
Those who contemplate on the non-manifest Self beyond all forms think that saguna worship (the worship of form) is inferior to nirguna contemplation. Nirguna contemplation is focused on the absolute truth, which has no form, no name, and therefore no attributes. Although one cannot worship the formless, it can be a subject of contemplation. Those who find delight in the contemplation of the formless, nameless, and attributeless Brahman think that the worship of God with form and name, with attributes, is inferior. The path of nirguna is difficult, and there are chances for the aspirant to slip. Ordinarily the mind needs a concrete object upon which to focus and rest, for the mind is in habit of depending on concrete objects. It requires great preparation for the finest faculty of mind buddhi, to be able to understand the difference between the Self and the non-self, the real and unreal. But when buddhi is sharpened, one has the capacity to go beyond the realm of forms. Only a fortunate few tread the path of pure reason.
12. Knowledge is better than practice; meditation is distinguished as greater than knowledge. Higher than meditation is renouncing the fruits of actions. Immediately after renunciation comes peace.
Continuing his comparison of various paths, Sri Krishna says that superior to sadhana is the path of knowledge, and higher than knowledge is the path of dhyana (meditation). The path of knowledge was briefly described in the sixth chapter. In the eighth verse of this chapter the method Sri Krishna imparts is to focus the mind, intellect, and heart on the highest Self-alone. But the aspirants who are not able to practice these paths should dedicate the fruits of their actions to the Lord. If the fruits of one’s actions are not dedicated, no path of sadhana is helpful. Only by dedicating the fruits of his actions does one attain peace.
13. Bearing no animosity toward any being, amiable as well as compassionate, free of ‘I’, free of ‘mine’, holding pain and pleasure as equal, forgiving,
14. Always satisfied, with a controlled nature, of firm resolve, a yogi who has surrendered his mind and intelligence unto Me, who is My devotee, he is My beloved.
15. He from whom the world does not become excited, and he who does not become excited from the world, liberated from the agitations or exhilaration, intolerance, and fear, he is My beloved.
16. Free of expectation, pure, dextrous, neutral, free of insecurities, he who renounces expectations of fruits from all acts that he initiates, who is My devotee, he is My beloved.
17. He who neither rejoices nor hates, neither grieves nor desires, he who renounces all that is attractive or unattractive, whosoever is endowed with devotion, he is My beloved.
18. A like toward foe or friend, similarly toward honor or dishonor, alike toward cold and heat as well as pain and pleasure, devoid of attachment,
19. Equal to praise and censure, maintaining silence, satisfied with whatever; homeless, with stable intelligence, whosoever is endowed with devotion, that man is My beloved,
20. Those who follow this virtuous nectar of immortality that I have taught, maintaining faith, holding me supreme, those devotees are My deeply beloved.
To be perfect is to remove all the imperfection in mind, action, and speech. Verses 13 through 20 describe the following virtues, which aspirants should acquire on the path of perfection: (1) Hatred is the root cause of all misery, for by hating others one isolates himself from the whole; therefore learn to love and give. (2) One should be a friend to all; he should not feel animosity toward anyone. (3) Kindness teaches one to be merciful and is a practical way of expressing one’s love; therefore be kind and give. (4) “Mine and thine” are traps of maya that bind one with strong chains of attachment; do not become attached. (5) Do not posses anything, even a house of your own; preoccupation with accumulating wealth is hoarding and is a reflection of greed. (6) Egoism and pride reduce one to nothingness, for the ego makes one petty and separates him from the whole; full effort should be made to purify the ego. (7) When reaping the fruits of his actions, one should learn to be content; contentment is the highest of all wealth, and without it one remains unsatisfied and frustrated. (8) Expectation is a longing for enjoyment, and whether it is fulfilled or not, it creates dependency and robs the human dignity; expectation should be abandoned. (9) One should practice self-control, without which the mind cannot be made one-pointed and the energies cannot be concentrated. (10) A tranquil mind is undisturbed in all situations, favorable or unfavorable; one who has developed tranquility never grieves and is never deluded. (11) Determination builds courage and will power and leads to success in all spheres of life. (12) Firmness is a virtue that leads to fearlessness and self-reliance.
(13) Non-attachment helps one to attain spiritual heights; it is the total absence of the desire for enjoyment. (14) Negative emotions lead one to extremes; positive emotions can be substituted, for example love in place of hate. (15) Giving up the fruits of one’s actions brings great joy, freedom, and peace; one who gives up everything is the greatest lover of mankind. (16) One should remain a witness, a seer, not identifying himself with the seen. (17) With mind, action, and speech, one should be pure, free from stains and faults. (18) One should be vigilant, for carelessness becomes a stumbling block. (19) The desire for fruits is a hindrance in the path of skillful action; give up that desire. (20) One who loves all receives love from all; the expression of love should be practiced in daily behavior by giving the best one has. (21) One who has totally dedicated his mind, heart, and intellect is a true yogi. (22) One who is courageous can face any calamity of life; he remains even in all conditions. (23) Faith is the greatest of all virtues provided it is based on pure reason and not mere belief. All of these virtues are the signs and symptoms of the great devotees of the Lord. Blessed are they who work hard to acquire these virtues and attain perfection.
This chapter is devoted to the path of bhakti yoga, the path of love and devotion. Many students think that is the easiest path, and many consider it to be a path of emotionalism, but that is not the case. To love and to be in love is not easy. The path of devotion and love is as difficult as the paths of jnana and karma yoga. In fact it is more difficult because it requires single-pointed devotion toward the Lord alone, with purity of mind and heart. It is a conscious dissolution of one’s individuality in the love of God. The path of love is full of giving without any expectation of reward whatsoever. It is not mere emotionalism but the height of ecstasy where the lover and beloved become one and inseparable. In this path there is no duality; there is no place for two. As the river meets the ocean, they become inseparably one. So it is in the path of devotion. Fortunate are those who are in love with the mighty Lord and remember His name in every breath. They remain free from the pangs of death. They are free from the rounds of births and deaths, for they remain wedded with the Eternal.
Here ends the twelfth chapter, in which the virtues that lead one to perfection are explained.