The Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga of Devotion
Sadhguru explores what Krishna means by “Yoga of Devotion” in a chapter of the Bhagavad Gita.
Questioner: Sadhguru, can you please explain what Krishna says in Chapter 12 of the Bhagavad Gita, “Yoga of Devotion”?Sadhguru :Arjuna asked, ‘Who is considered more perfect – those devotees who worship you and are thus always united with you in love, or those who worship the eternal and indestructible and unmanifest?’ The Lord of Sri said, ‘Those who surrender themselves to me and fix their total devotion on me and worship me eternally with their minds absorbed in me, I consider them to be the most devoted to me. However, those who are devoted to the unmanifest, that which is beyond all senses, all pervading, they also attain me. But those who are absorbed in the unmanifest face excessive tribulation, as for the embodied being the path of that course is difficult to tread. But, O Arjuna, those whose minds are absorbed in me in total faith and who are engaged in devotional service unto me, for them I give deliverance from the cycle of birth and death.’”
You cannot experience that which is unmanifest – you can only believe in it. Even if you believe in the unmanifest, it is going to be very difficult for you to develop and keep up intense love and devotion towards that which is not. It is so much easier for you to hold your focus of devotion towards that which is. At the same time, he says, “If someone is capable of holding their devotion to the unmanifest, they will also attain me.” When he says “me,” he is not talking about himself as an individual, he is talking about that dimension which includes both the manifest and the unmanifest. “If someone takes that route, they will also come to me, but it involves much tribulation,” because directing your emotions towards something that is not here is difficult for you. You need a form, a shape, a name – something that you can relate to in order to steadily keep up your devotion.
“As for the embodied being, the path of that course is difficult to tread.” This means, if you, as a being who has a body and an intellectual discretion, dedicate yourself to an unmanifest dimension of existence, every day, your intellect will question whether you are really going somewhere or wasting your time. For beings who are not embodied, it is more of a possibility, because they do not have to struggle with their intellect – they go by their tendencies. If they are spiritually oriented, they generally orient themselves towards the unmanifest – not out of conscious choice but out of their tendencies. Therefore, for a disembodied being, a being who is beyond the limitations of the five elements, who is beyond the limitations and the discretion of the intellect, that is a more suitable path. But for an embodied being, it is better to direct your emotions towards something that you can relate to. That is why he says, being focused on him as a live person, it is much easier to attain. Looking for the unmanifest can become a philosophical drama within yourself, without you making an inch of progress.
“But, O Arjuna, those whose minds are absorbed in me in total faith and who are engaged in devotional service unto me, for them I give deliverance from the cycle of birth and death.” This not only Krishna said – any being who is fully realized always says this in one way or another. When people ask me questions like, “Will I get mukti in this janma ?” I tell them, “Just get onto my bus. You don’t have to drive – you just sit in the bus.” But your ego is such that you want to do the driving too. There are many people who sit in the backseat and keep driving – usually, they only apply brakes.
If you are in a certain presence, your attainment at the last moment is not an issue. The question is how beautifully you live the remaining part of your life. Even if you have lived a stupid life, still ultimate release will not be an issue once you are in a certain presence, unless you really screw it up in the final moments of your life. If even at the last moment, you do not have the necessary sense and you get into a huge sense of anger, hatred, or desire, life may perpetuate itself. Otherwise, once you made the mistake of sitting with me, when you die, you will be dead for good. That is what he says here too. These translations into English are not quite accurate. What he actually says is, “If at least for one moment, you are truly absorbed in me, you will attain.”
He tells Arjuna, “Don’t bother about the result of the war. You are here. You have to fight. Whether you win or not is a question of capabilities and other factors. Just fight, and do it well. If you win, enjoy the kingdom. If you die, anyway I ensure your ultimate wellbeing.” Again he is making clear that when it comes to external situations, he cannot ensure everything. With the internal, there is absolute guarantee. But he says, “I will make sure there will be no more birth for you.” This is true with me too. I can ensure that you will not have another birth, but I cannot ensure that you will have a breakfast tomorrow. That may look ridiculous to a logical mind, “If you can ensure such a big thing, why can’t you ensure the breakfast?” That is the reality of life. I cannot ensure tomorrow’s breakfast for you, but I can ensure your ultimate wellbeing. When it comes to inner dimensions, I can completely take charge. When it comes to outside situations, there is no guarantee – everyone has to strive.
Editor's Note: Watch the Leela series, where Sadhguru explores the life and path of Krishna.
Image courtesy: Krishna advises Arjuna by Ark in Time.