Shrimad Bhagavad-gita

by Narayana Gosvami | 2013 | 327,105 words

The Bhagavad-gita Introduction (Shrimad Bhagavad-gita), English translation, including the Vaishnava commentaries Sarartha-varsini-tika, Prakashika-vritti and Rasika-ranjana (excerpts).

Introduction (Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā)

Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā is composed by Śrī Śrīmad Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana Vedavyāsa, the universal teacher and an incarnation of Bhagavān. It constitutes eighteen chapters of Bhīṣma-parva (Chapters Twenty-five to Forty-two) of his vast epic, Śrī Mahābhārata.

Svayam Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa has given very valuable and fundamental instructions to His eternal associate and dear friend Arjuna for the benefit of all human beings, to help them cross the ocean of material existence and attain His lotus feet. To enable deluded conditioned souls like us to pass beyond the delusion of the external, material energy (māyā), He made His eternal associate, Arjuna, become as if enchanted by māyā so that he would ask questions that correspond to the various eligibilities of the deluded living entities. Śrī Kṛṣṇa then answered those questions Himself, thereby dispelling all kinds of doubts and defining the means by which the living entities can be systematically freed from the delusion of māyā.

Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā is also known as Gītopaniṣad. It is the essence of all Vedic knowledge and the most significant Upaniṣad in Vedic literature. Those who constantly study this book with faith, under the shelter of the spiritual master, saintly persons and Vaiṣṇavas will be able to ascertain its true import easily. As a result, they will transcend the ocean of material existence and attain transcendental devotion to the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. In this way, they will become eligible to attain pure love for Him. Of this there is not the slightest doubt.

Nowadays, it is observed that the great thinkers and venerated gentlemen of India revere Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā. Members of all disciplic lineages (sampradāyas) also show great honour and faith in the Gītā. Even many celebrated politicians have shown faith in this monarch of books, and philosophers from all countries of the world have lauded it profusely.

Since ancient times, many commentaries have been written on Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā. Famous among them are the commentaries of prominent monists (advaitavādīs), such as Śrī Śaṅkarācārya, Śrīmad Ānandagiri and Śrī Madhusūdana Sarasvatī. Most people study and lecture from these commentaries alone. Some people conclude their study of the Gītā with the following commentaries: the principle of specialized monism by viśiṣṭādvaitavādī Śrī Rāmānujācārya, the principle of purified monism by śuddhādvaitavādī Śrīdhara Svāmī, or the principle of pure dualism by śuddha-dvaitācārya Śrīman Madhvācārya. Furthermore, at present some people also conclude their study with the interpretations of political personalities like Lokamānya Tilaka, Gāndhījī and Śrī Aravinda. Most people, however, do not receive the good fortune to deeply study the commentary of the proponent of the devotional school of Vedānta established by Śrī Gaurāṅga Mahāprabhu, śrī gauḍīya-vedāntācārya Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa, who is proficient in acintya-bhedābheda-siddhānta (the principle of inconceivable dif-ference and non-difference), nor the commentary of Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, the crest jewel of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava preceptors.

The Seventh Gosvāmī of the Śrī Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sampradāya and the best among the followers of Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, published in Bengali two editions of the Gītā with two different elucidations on its translations, which are based on the import of Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura’s and Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa’s commentaries. His explanations are fundamental and full of beautiful conclusions that follow the rūpānuga conception and that are conducive to śuddha-bhakti. The transcendental benefit bestowed upon mankind by these two great editions is indescribable. Through his elucidations, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura establishes the eternality, universality and supremacy of bhakti, thereby bestowing the greatest benefit upon those journeying to the kingdom of śuddha-bhakti.

At present, various inauthentic persons are publishing speculative commentaries on the Gītā, in which they shamelessly present their imaginary, inconclusive theories about the synthesis of spirit and matter (cit-jaḍa-samanvayavāda). They also try to prove that pure devotion, which is eternal, is worthless. In most of these commentaries, either prescribed duty or empiric knowledge in the form of impersonal māyāvādism is expounded as the sole import of the Gītā. By reading and hearing such commentaries, people of delicate faith are being deviated from the path.

The nigama-śāstras (Vedas) are very extensive. Some portions of them contain instructions on mundane religiosity (dharma), others on prescribed duty (karma), others on analytical knowledge (sāṅkhya-jñāna) and yet others on bhagavad-bhakti, loving devotion to Bhagavān, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. What is the mutual relationship between these systems, and when is it one’s duty to relinquish one to engage in another? Although a description of such gradated eligibilities is also found in those very scriptures, it is very difficult for living entities born in the age of Kali, whose lives are but short and whose intellects are meagre, to completely study those vast scriptures and ascertain their own qualification. For this reason, a concise, straightforward and scientific investigation is indispensable.

At the end of Dvāpara-yuga, most people became incapable of understanding the true import of the Vedic scriptures and thus began to propagate their own theories. Some declared karma, or fruitive action, to be the sole intention of the Vedas, while others declared material enjoyment, analytical knowledge, logic or monism to be its sole intent. In this way, the divergent opinions that arose from their incomplete knowledge began to create affliction in India, just as unchewed foodstuff causes discomfort and pain to the stomach.

At that time the supremely compassionate Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇacandra gave the instructions of Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā to His dear associate and friend Arjuna for the benefit of the living entities of the world. Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā, which is an investigation into the essential import of all the Vedas, is therefore the crest jewel of all Upaniṣads. It describes the mutual relationship between the processes of karma-yoga, jñāna-yoga and so on and expounds pure hari-bhakti as the supreme goal of the living entities. Karma-yoga (the path of spiritual advancement where the fruit of one’s pious action is offered to the Lord), jñāna-yoga (the path of spiritual advancement through transcendental knowledge) and bhakti-yoga (the path of loving devotion to the Supreme Lord) are not actually different systems; they are simply the first, second and third steps of the one yoga process. The first stage of that complete yoga is called karma-yoga, the second, jñāna-yoga and the third, bhakti-yoga. The Upaniṣads, Brahma-sūtra, and Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā are completely devotional literatures. They elaborately describe karma, jñāna, mukti and the attainment of brahma, but then comparatively deliberate on them and ultimately establish śuddha-bhakti as supreme.

Readers of the Gītā can be divided in two categories: those possessed of a gross, or superficial, understanding (sthūla-darśīs) and those possessed of fine discrimination (sūkṣma-darśīs). The first type makes conclusions based exclusively on the external meaning of the Gītā’s statements. The second type, however, is not satisfied with only the external meanings and inquires into the deep, fundamental purport. The external sthūla-darśīs read the Gītā from beginning to end and conclude that it establishes karma, because after hearing the entire Gītā, Arjuna understands that to fight is beneficial.

The sūkṣma-darśīs, however, are not satisfied with such a shallow conclusion. They determine either knowledge of the impersonal aspect of the Lord (brahma-jñāna) or transcendental devotion (parā-bhakti) to be the aim of the Gītā and say that Arjuna’s engaging in battle is simply an example of adhering to one’s own level of eligibility. But this is not the highest essence of the Gītā. A man’s nature determines his qualification to engage in work (prescribed duty). As he maintains his life accordingly, he gradually obtains knowledge of the Truth. Unless he performs some work, he will have difficulty maintaining himself, and without maintaining himself, it will be difficult for him to ponder the Truth. Therefore, in the primary stage, it is necessary to properly execute one’s prescribed duty that is in accordance with one’s varṇa (caste) and station in life. It is important to know here that of all virtuous action (karma), the Gītā only accepts selflessly performed action that is offered to Bhagavān. Such karma gradually purifies the heart and bestows knowledge of the Truth. Then, through the performance of devotion, or bhakti, Bhagavān is finally attained.

In order to understand Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā’s purport and ultimate subject, one must follow the instructions of the person who spoke it: Svayam Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa. He is referred to as Bhagavān, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, on every page. Out of His causeless mercy, throughout the Gītā, Śrī Kṛṣṇa declares Himself to be Bhagavān, the Supreme Absolute Truth:

ahaṃ sarvasya prabhavo mattaḥ sarvaṃ pravartate
iti matvā bhajante māṃ budhā bhāva-samanvitāḥ

Gītā (10.8)

I am the source of both mundane and spiritual worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this well engage in bhajana of Me, with ecstasy in their hearts.

mattaḥ parataraṃ nānyat kiñcid asti dhanañjaya
mayi sarvam idaṃ protaṃ sūtre maṇi-gaṇā iva

Gītā (7.7)

O conqueror of riches, Dhanañjaya, there is nothing superior to Me. This whole creation is dependent on Me, just as jewels are strung on a thread.

ahaṃ hi sarva-yajñānāṃ bhoktā ca prabhur eva ca
na tu mām abhijānanti tattvenātaś cyavanti te

Gītā (9.24)

I am the only master and enjoyer of all sacrifices, but those who do not recognize My transcendental body fall down and repeatedly wander in the cycle of birth and death.

Many other scriptures also state Śrī Kṛṣṇa to be Svayam Bhagavān:

ete cāṃśa-kalāḥ puṃsaḥ kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.3.28)

All avatāras begining with Rāma and Nṛsiṃha are the parts, and parts of the parts, of the Supreme Person Bhagavān. However, only Kṛṣṇa is the original Svayam Bhagavān.

īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ sac-cid-ānanda-vigrahaḥ

Brahma-saṃhita (5.1)

The Supreme Lord, Īśvara, is Kṛṣṇa;His form is eternal, all-knowing and blissful.

aho bhāgyam aho bhāgyam nanda-gopa-vrajaukasām
yan mitraṃ paramānandaṃ pūrṇaṃ brahma sanātanam

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.14.32)

How greatly fortunate are Nanda Mahārāja, the cowherd men and all the other inhabitants of Vrajabhūmi! There is no limit to their good fortune, because the Absolute Truth, the source of transcendental bliss, the eternal Supreme Brahman, has become their friend.*

It is important to know in this regard that of Bhagavān’s various incarnations, none have revealed Their Godliness, or bhagavattā. In the Gītā however, Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa clearly makes known His position as the Supreme Lord, and defines surrender and bhakti to Him as the supreme spiritual practice (sādhana) for all living entities.

Through the principle of tri-satya, or an oath thrice affirmed, Śrī Kṛṣṇa establishes His own Godliness and defines devotion to Him as the topmost spiritual practice (sādhana) and goal (sādhya). He does this with the words mām eva (to Me) in the verse “mām eva ye prapadyante–surrender only to Me” (Gītā 7.24); with the words mām eva (to Me) in the verse “te’pi mām eva kaunteya–they worship only Me” (Gītā 9.23); and with the words mām ekam (to Me alone) in the verse mām ekaṃ śaraṇaṃ vraja –surrender exclusively to Me” (Gītā 18.66). Moreover, not only Śrī Kṛṣna, but even great sages and perfected souls such as Devarṣi Nārada, Asita, Devala and Vyāsa confirm this truth, and Arjuna too accepts it from the very beginning. Therefore, anyone who reads or listens to the Gītā will approach the Supreme Truth in a mood of acceptance, free from the slightest doubt, that the speaker of the Gītā, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, is the original Supreme Personality of Godhead. Each and every one of His teachings are completely true.

Śrī Kṛṣṇa has told Arjuna in the verse bhakto’si me sakhā ceti rahasyaṃ hy etad uttamam... (Gītā 4.1–3), “This Gītā is eternal. At first, billions of years ago, I gave these instructions to the sun-god, Vivasvān. Vivasvān gave them to Manu, and Manu gave them to Īkṣvāku. This system of yoga thus remained in the world through the disciplic succession (guru-paramparā), but that paramparā disappeared with the passing of time. You are My exclusive devotee, My dear friend and My direct disciple; I am therefore bestowing this supreme secret upon you.”

It is impossible to comprehend the profound truths of the Gītā without being a devotee, for throughout this scripture it is declared that its import cannot be grasped without bhakti: “bhaktyā tv ananyayā śakya aham evaṃ-vidho’rjuna –it is only through exclusive devotion that My form can actually be seen” (Gītā 11.54). The Gītā has been spoken only for the devotees of Bhagavān. This is what is meant by the statement “idaṃ te nātapaskāya nābhaktāya kadācana–you should never explain this Bhagavad-gītā to anyone whose senses are uncontrolled, who is a non-devotee, who is devoid of a serving mood, or who is envious of Me” (Gītā 18.67).

The Gītā describes three kinds of sādhakas, or practitioners of a particular discipline. They are the jñānī, the yogī and the bhakta. In the Gītā, the words jñānī and yogī do not refer to impersonalist māyāvādīs who maintain that the Absolute Truth is unmanifest, featureless, formless and devoid of potency. Rather, they refer to jñānīs and yogīs who are endowed with bhakti. In the Gītā (7.19), Śrī Kṛṣṇa clearly says, “bahūnāṃ janmanām ante jñānavān māṃ prapadyate–the true jñānī is one who is surrendered unto Me and who has pure devotion for Me. Such a great soul is very rare.” His definition of a yogī in Gītā 6.47 is similarly clear: “yogīnām api sarveṣāṃ mad-gatenāntarātmanā–he who constantly worships Me with full faith, always thinking exclusively of Me within, is, in My opinion, the topmost of all yogīs.”

Therefore, a person who is devoid of bhakti is never eligible to hear the Gītā. If he is not eligible even to hear it, how can he understand its import? It is necessary to surrender to Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet with the knowledge that He is Svayam Bhagavān, and to hear the truths of the Gītā from the mouth of a great devotee in a true guru-paramparā who has seen the Truth. Unless a person does this, he will not be able to understand the Gītā’s import.

According to Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who possesses all majesty and sweetness (aiśvarya and mādhurya), is the supreme object of worship of the living entities; and bhakti, which attracts Śrī Kṛṣṇa, is the supreme process and goal. Nevertheless, because ignorant people consider this gross body as ‘I’ and objects related to it as ‘mine’, they remain cheated of their true constitutional nature. They are therefore incapable of correctly understanding the essential truths of bhakti. Because of their gross intelligence, they consider mundane fruitive activity (karma) the only reality, and because of their ignorance, they remain engrossed in it. They consequently fall into the clutches of monism, or māyāvāda. Śrī Kṛṣṇa inspired Arjuna to raise the topics of these types of mundane religiosity. He then established both their insignificance and the supreme eminence of bhakti.

Of the eighteen chapters of the Gītā, the first six establish the unique features of karma-yoga; the last six, the main features of jñāna-yoga; and the middle six, the prominent features of bhakti-yoga. Thus bhakti remains situated in the centre and gives shelter to karma and jñāna. This is because karma and jñāna are incapable of bestowing any result without the assistance of Bhakti-devī.

Karma: Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa personally instructs Arjuna about the necessity of performing one’s prescribed duty (karma) for the pleasure of Bhagavān. One's not doing so becomes the cause of bondage, as stated in Gītā 3.9: “yajñārthāt karmaṇo’nyatra loko’yaṃ karma-bandhanaḥ…–O son of Kuntī, all actions other than the selfless performance of one’s prescribed duty offered to Śrī Viṣṇu are a cause of bondage to this world. Therefore, become free from all desires for the fruits of your actions and perform appropriate action solely for His satisfaction.” The word yajñārthāt in this verse means ‘offered to Śrī Viṣṇu’. Therefore, prescribed duties should be performed solely for the pleasure of Viṣṇu, because Śrī Kṛṣṇa says in Gītā 5.29, “bhoktāraṃ yajña-tapasām...–“He who knows Me to be the enjoyer of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Controller of all planets and the well-wisher of all living entities attains liberation.” He also says in Gītā 3.30, “mayi sarvāni karmāṇi sannyasya–all prescribed duties should be performed as an offering to Me.” Furthermore, in Gītā 9.27, He says, “yat karoṣi…–whatever you do, do it for My pleasure;offer it to Me.” We thus see that Śrī Kṛṣṇa instructs living entities who are eligible to perform their prescribed duty, to only perform niṣkāma-bhagavad-arpita-karma, selfless work offered to the Supreme Lord. He does not give them the instruction to merely perform their prescribed duty.

Karma usually only refers to prescribed duty that is accompanied by devotion, or bhakti. Karma in which bhakti predominates over karma is known as karma-miśrā-bhakti or pradhānī-bhūtā-bhakti. Only when the performance of one’s prescribed duty is solely for the pleasure of Bhagavān can it truly be termed karma, as stated in the verse tat karma hari toṣaṇaṃ yat (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 4.29.49). For this reason, in Gītā 11.55, Bhagavān also states, “mat karma kṛn... yaḥ sa mām eti pāṇḍava –only he who performs karma for My pleasure attains Me.”

Jñāna: Śrī Kṛṣṇa states that among the four kinds of people who are surrendered to Him, namely, the distressed (ārtta), the inquisitive ( jijñāsu), the seekers of wealth (arthārthīs), and those in search of knowledge ( jñānīs), the jñānīs are best. What is the nature of the jñānīs? Gītā 7.17 states, “teṣāṃ jñānī nitya-yukta eka-bhaktir viśiṣyate –those jñānīs possess exclusive devotion for Him and are always absorbed in Him.”

Here, Śrī Kṛṣṇa is not speaking of jñānīs who are impersonalists devoid of bhakti. To clarify this, He later says in Gītā 7.19, “bahūnāṃ janmanām ante jñānavān māṃ prapadyate… –after many births, the jñānī who is endowed with knowledge that everything both conscious and inert is related to Vāsudeva fully takes shelter of Me. Such a great soul is extremely rare.”

The word jñāna refers to knowledge that is not predominated by bhakti, whereas knowledge that is inclined towards prema-bhakti is known as jñāna-miśrā-bhakti. When one has made some progress in his sādhana and gives up jñāna due to an abundance of divine love, pure, exclusive devotion, or prema-bhakti, manifests in his heart.

Yoga: At the end of the Sixth Chapter, Bhagavān highly praises the yogīs by stating that they are even superior to the karmīs (those who perform their prescribed duty), tapasvīs (performers of austerity) and jñānīs (those in search of knowledge). He instructs Arjuna to become a yogī: tapasvibhyo’dhiko yogī (6.46). But in Gītā 6.47 Bhagavān defines what kind of yogī, “yogīnām api sarveṣāṃ mad-gatenāntarātmanā–among all kinds of yogīs, the best are those who always faithfully perform bhajana of Me with their hearts.” The word ‘Me’ in this verse refers to Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself. Therefore, when the Gītā speaks of the yogī, it refers to the yogī who worships Śrī Kṛṣṇa in every way. In the Gītā, yoga does not refer to pātañjala-yoga, nor does it refer to the activities of karmīs, yogīs, or performers of dry austerities who are devoid of bhakti.

Bhakti: After bestowing vision of His universal form upon His devotee Arjuna, Śrī Kṛṣṇa tells him, “bhaktyā tv ananyayā śakya aham evaṃ-vidho’rjuna –vision of this form of Mine is only possible through exclusive devotion. You are My exclusive premī-bhakta, and therefore you have seen it” (Gītā 11.54). “Furthermore, in Gītā 18.55, He says, “bhaktyā mām abhijānānti–only through pure devotion can someone see Me, or know Me in truth, and attain loving service to Me in My abode.”

At the end of the Gītā, after giving instructions on the confidential knowledge of the featureless aspect of Godhead (brahma-jñāna), the more confidential paramātma-jñāna, or īśvara-jñāna (knowledge of the localized aspect of the Supreme Lord, Paramātmā) and finally the most confidential bhagavad-jñāna (knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead), Śrī Kṛṣṇa says, “sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṃ śaraṇaṃ vraja –abandon all varieties of religion and surrender exclusively to Me” (Gītā 18.66). In this verse, Śrī Kṛṣṇa instructs Arjuna to surrender to Him, giving up all worldly religion. By this, He establishes that bhakti is the only means to attain His complete form. Such bhakti is of two types: exclusive (kevala) and mixed with another process, predomdinating over it (pradhānī-bhūta).

Exclusive devotion (kevalā-bhakti) is devoid of the slightest scent of reward-seeking action (karma), empiric knowledge ( jñāna) and so forth, and is completely independent. Devotion that is mixed with another process and predominating over it (pradhānī-bhūtā-bhakti) is of three kinds: karma-pradhānī-bhūta (in which devotion predominates over one’s prescribed duty), jñāna-pradhānī-bhūta (in which devotion predominates over knowledge) and karma-jñāna-pradhānī-bhūta (in which devotion predominates over a mixture of prescribed duties and knowledge). When karma and jñāna are devoid of the inclination to perform bhakti. they are simply called karma and jñāna respectively.

Although in some places, the Gītā gives instructions on devotion that predominates over another process, those same places, also, certainly indicate exclusive devotion. To know Bhagavān through pradhānī-bhūtā-bhakti or to attain Him by it is very difficult. Therefore, in the Gītā (8.14) Śrī Kṛṣṇa clearly states that He is easily attained through exclusive devotion (ananyā-bhakti, or kevalā-bhakti): “ananya-cetāḥ satataṃ yo māṃ smarati nityaśaḥ, tasyāhaṃ sulabhaḥ pārtha nitya-yuktasya yoginaḥ –I am easily attained by those eternal yogīs who, being endowed with exclusive devotion, always remember Me and worship Me.”

Furthermore, in Gītā 9.22, Śrī Kṛṣṇa also states how He is controlled by the exclusive loving service of His devotees who are endowed with ananyā-bhakti: “ananyāś cintayanto māṃ ye janāḥ paryupāsate, teṣāṃ nityābhiyuktānāṃ yoga-kṣemaṃ vahāmy aham –I Myself provide and maintain the needs of devotees who exclusively worship Me and who are always engaged in bhakti.”

In various places throughout the Gītā, Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa states that He can be attained only through exclusive devotion: bhaktyā labhyas tv ananyayā (Gītā 8.22), bhajanty ananya-manaso (Gītā 9.13), bhaktyā tv ananyayā śakya (Gītā 11.54), and finally, sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṃ śaraṇaṃ vraja, ahaṃ tvāṃ sarva-pāpebhyo mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ (Gītā 18.66). It is thus verified that viśuddhā-bhakti, ananyā-bhakti, or kevalā-bhakti is the ultimate goal of the living entities.

How should one practise this ananyā-bhakti? Śrī Kṛṣṇa instructs Arjuna as follows: “satataṃ kīrtayanto māṃ yatantaś ca dṛḍha-vratāḥ, namasyantaś ca māṃ bhaktyā nitya-yuktā upāsate – constantly chanting the glories of My names, qualities, form and pastimes, endeavouring with determined vows, and offering obeisances with devotion, they engage in My worship, remaining always connected with Me” (Gītā 9.14).

By this verse, Śrī Kṛṣṇa teaches that saṅkīrtana is the best method to worship Him. Here, saṅkīrtana means the loud singing of Bhagavān’s names, form, qualities and pastimes. It also alludes to the other limbs of bhakti.

Many insolently try to understand the Gītā with their material knowledge, and they also instruct others in this way. They do not know, however, that the Gītā is transcendental, beyond mundane knowledge, logic and intellect. It is beyond the reach of pride, valour, heroism and erudition. It can be understood only by the mercy of Bhagavān and bestowed upon one who is surrendered. Therefore, the Śrutis state, “nāyam ātmā pravacanena labhyo–the Supreme Lord is not obtained by expert explanations, by vast intelligence, or even by much hearing. He is obtained only by one to whom He Himself gives mercy” (Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad 2.3.3) and “teṣāṃ satata-yuktānām...dadāmi buddhi-yogam –upon those who lovingly perform bhajana of Me and yearn for My eternal association, I bestow that transcendental knowledge by which they attain Me” (Gītā 10.10).

In order to ascertain the meaning of a book, it is necessary to consider six things: (1) its opening statements (upakrama), (2) its closing statements (upasaṃhāra), (3) its repetition of a subject (abhyāsa), (4) the extraordinary result of reading it (apūrvatā phala), (5) its praise of a subject (arthavāda) and (6) its logical arguments that establish a conclusion (upapatti). Unless one considers all six elements, a book’s true import remains elusive. Those who deliberate on the Gītā, keeping these six limbs of analysis in mind, will easily understand that pristinely pure devotion is its final import. At present, however, ordinary people make conclusions on the meaning of the scriptures according to their own whims to fulfil selfish desires. They do not deliberate on these six limbs of analysis and therefore remain incapable of grasping the author’s real intent.

Nowadays, there is a trend for writers and speakers to make a comparative analysis in the areas of acquired knowledge, the application of that knowledge, science, politics and so on, but all hesitate to compare various religions. They conclude that such a study, which marks one religion as superior and another as inferior, would lead to tension or dispute between communities, throwing society into unrest. Moreover, social and global development would be obstructed. They conclude that to successfully engender harmony it is essential to establish equality and friendship between all people, rather than to discuss religious distinctions, and that only when all religions are harmonized is it possible to establish peace and mutual friendship among all. In the field of politics, the comparative study of the differences in doctrine between heads of state is the only reason for inauspiciousness for a country and society. These people think that a comparative study of religion would similarly lead to communal dispute.

Our comment on this is as follows: Just as a comparative study of knowledge and religion is necessary, so is a study of true harmony. What does this mean? Say we place on both sides of a scale, virtue and evil, sentience and insentience, diamond and coal, a thief and a saint, and justice and injustice, and then conclude that they are equal. Where is the deliberation? To declare equality in such cases is nothing less than ignorance and is incapable of causing real harmony. The word samanvaya (harmony) is derived from samyak (complete) and anvaya (sequence). In other words, anvaya–the syntax of a sentence, especially in terms of grammar–is known as samanvaya. If a sentence is to have samanvaya (proper harmony) then the subject, object and verb must be properly placed. The syntax will not be proper if we put the verb in place of the subject, the object in place of the verb, and any other component of the sentence in place of the object. Consequently, if there is no anvaya (analysis, or syntax) how will there be any samanvaya (harmony)? Proper harmony, or order, leads to coherence, unity and the absence of impediments. Conversely, artificially making everything equal without considering virtue and fault or qualification and dis-qualification cannot be called harmony. It is not true harmony to try to please everybody in every way by saying that all are equal. To try to please everybody means to please nobody.

At present, certain persons who adhere to the so-called doctrine of harmonization, claim that fruitive action (karma), knowledge ( jñāna), mysticism ( yoga) and devotion (bhakti)–which are all taught in the Gītā –are the same. But therein, Bhagavān distinctly establishes the superiority of jñāna over karma, yoga over jñāna, and bhakti over yoga. For living entities deluded by the external energy, the performance of one’s prescribed duty with a desire for the fruit (sakāma-karma) is described as the best. For those who are more developed, the selfless performance of one’s prescribed duty in which the fruit of that duty is offered to the Supreme Lord (niṣkāma-bhagavad-arpita-karma) is said to be the best. For sādhakas who are even more developed, knowledge of the Truth is described as superior. And ultimately, pure devotion (śuddha-bhakti) is described as most excellent of all.

Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself establishes bhakti as the final subject expounded by the Gītā. To know this is to properly understand the Gītā. It is foolish to depend on one’s limited intelligence to seek a harmony in the Gītā that is different from the scientific, comparative one spoken by Bhagavān. In regard to ascertaining the Absolute Truth, Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa describes knowledge of His impersonal feature (brahma-jñāna) as confidential, knowledge of His localized expansion (paramātma-jñāna) as more confidential and transcendental devotion to Him (parā-bhakti) as most confidential. This is the true samanvaya of Gītā.

Some modern commentators consider worship of various demigods and goddesses to be equal to the worship of Bhagavān. However, the verse ye’py anya-devatā (Gītā 9.23) states that worship of various demigods is unauthorized. Those who worship the demigods attain the planets of the demigods, and after enjoying there, they again return to this world. But those who worship Bhagavān attain loving service to Him in His abode. They never fall from there. This is clearly mentioned in the Vedic scriptures: “yas tu nārāyaṇaṃ devaṃ brahma-rudrādi-daivataiḥ viṣṇau sarveśvareśe tad-itara-sama-dhīr yasya vā nārakī saḥ – those who consider Śrī Nārāyaṇa and the demigods headed by Rudra to be equal are atheists and go to hell.”

Some people incorrectly interpret the verse, “ye yathā māṃ prapadyante tāṃs tathaiva bhajāmy aham–In whichever way a person serves Me I in turn serve him in that very same way. Everyone follows My path in all respects” (Gītā 4.11). They quote this to prove that all people ultimately attain the same abode, regardless of their type of worship. “There are many paths, but their destinations are one.”

But if we carefully deliberate on this verse, we see that this is not what it actually means. Bhagavān is actually saying that He rewards a person according to his surrender to Him: “In accordance with his acts, I shall reward him.” How, then, is it possible for everyone to be the same? The Gītā does not state in this or any other verse that one who is surrendered achieves the same result as one who is not. Furthermore, the aim of those who take shelter of Bhagavān is not the same. The fruitive worker takes shelter of Him with a desire to enjoy, the empiric philosopher with a desire for liberation, the mystic with a desire to attain mystic per-fections, and devotees with a desire to achieve exclusive loving service to Him. Their desires, practices and aims are all different;therefore, it is not possible that they will achieve the same result.

Most people read this verse’s second line, mama vartmānuvartante manuṣyāḥ pārtha sarvaśaḥ, and wrongly conjecture that all people are progressing in all ways on the path to Bhagavān. By such thinking, they must also conclude that thieves, dacoits, ruffians and adulterers are all progressing on the same path, but is this correct? No, never. The true meaning of this verse is that karma, jñāna, yoga and bhakti are all paths delineated by Bhagavān. People receive a result appropriate to the path they follow, in accordance with their qualification. One must accept that different paths lead to different results.

There is a clear distinction between the thoughts and practices of Buddhists, māyāvādīs, Jains, Śaivites, Śāktas and Vaiṣṇavas. It is illogi-cal to say that they all attain the same result and destination, for they all resort to different practices to fulfil their different desires. Śūnyavādī Buddhists desire to merge into nirvāṇa (the void). Advaitavādīs aspire for brahma-sāyujya (merging into the effulgence of the Supreme), and Śāktas desire material enjoyment. Śaivites chant “so’ham–I am Him” or “śivo’ham–I am Śiva” to attain liberation. Buddhists do not accept the Vedas, whereas advaitavādīs do and consider them to be of supra-mundane origin (apauruṣeya). Śāktas consider mahā-māyā to be the primeval potency (ādya-śakti), whereas Śaivites hold that it is Umāpati Śiva who is the para-tattva (Supreme Absolute Truth). Their conceptions, practices, aims and objects of worship vary; so is it anything but sheer foolishness to say that they all attain the same result? The Gītā certainly does not approve of such an opinion.

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