Shrimad Bhagavad-gita

by Narayana Gosvami | 2013 | 327,105 words

The Bhagavad-gita Verse 18.55, English translation, including the Vaishnava commentaries Sarartha-varsini-tika, Prakashika-vritti and Rasika-ranjana (excerpts). This is verse Verse 18.55 from the chapter 18 called “Moksha-yoga (the Yoga of Liberation)”

Sanskrit text, Unicode transliteration, Word-for-word and English translation of verse 18.55:

भक्त्या माम् अभिजानाति यावान् यश् चास्मि तत्त्वतः ।
ततो मां तत्त्वतो ज्ञात्वा विशते तद्-अनन्तरम् ॥ ५५ ॥

bhaktyā mām abhijānāti yāvān yaś cāsmi tattvataḥ |
tato māṃ tattvato jñātvā viśate tad-anantaram
|| 55 ||

bhaktyā–through pure devotional service; mām–Me; abhijānāti–one can fully comprehend; yāvān–how great (My opulence); yaḥ ca asmi–what My svarūpa is; tattvataḥ–in truth; tataḥ–then; mām–Me (My eternal pastimes); tattvataḥ–in truth; jñātvā–having understood; viśate–one can enter; tat-anantaram–after leaving that jñāna.

It is only through pure devotional service that one can actually comprehend the truth concerning My glories and the nature of My original transcendental form. One who thus understands Me as I am enters My eternal pastimes on the strength of prema-bhakti.

Commentary: Sārārtha-Varṣiṇī Ṭīkā

(By Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura; the innermost intention of the commentary named ‘the shower of essential meanings’)

“What is the result of attaining bhakti to You?” Śrī Bhagavān answers this question in the verse beginning with bhaktyā. “It is only by bhakti that jñānīs and various types of devotees can understand the tattva of My opulences, My being all-pervading and My svarūpa (tat-padārtha). I have also said in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.14.21), ‘I can be attained only by pure devotion.’ When the jñānīs cease their cultivation of knowledge, they will come to know Me on the strength of bhakti, and then they will enter into Me. In other words they realize the bliss of sāyujya. Because I am beyond māyā and since ignorance (avidyā) is māyā, I am known only by true knowledge (vidyā).”

The five divisions of true knowledge are stated in the Nārada-pañcarātra: knowledge (jñāna), mystic yoga, renunciation (vairāgya), austerity (tapa) and devotion to Keśava (bhakti). Bhakti is a special function of vidyā. Furthermore, a mere portion of bhakti, which is a function of Śrī Bhagavān’s internal pleasure-giving potency (hlādinī-śakti), enters vidyā to enable its success. And sometimes, a portion of bhakti enters karma to facilitate the success of karma-yoga. Without bhakti, the practice of karma, yoga, jñāna, etc., is simply useless labour that bears no fruit. Vidyā is in the mode of goodness, but bhakti is beyond all modes of nature, so it cannot manifest from vidyā. Vidyā removes ignorance, whereas bhakti enables one to know Śrī Bhagavān. Furthermore, it is said in the Gītā (14.17), “Jñāna arises from the mode of goodness, or sattva-guṇa.” Therefore, that jñāna which comes from the mode of goodness is also in that mode. Vidyā refers to knowledge in the mode of goodness, but the knowledge arising from bhakti is bhakti herself. In some places, that bhakti is indicated by the word bhakti and elsewhere by the word jñāna. It is thus necessary to understand that jñāna is also of two types.

One only achieves brahma-sāyujya, the liberation of merging into the Lord’s effulgence, after relinquishing the first type of jñāna, which manifests from the mode of goodness, and adopting the second type of jñāna arising from bhakti. This can be clearly seen in the Fifteenth Chapter of the Eleventh Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Those who are bereft of bhakti try to attain sāyujya through jñāna alone, but unfortunately, such persons, who are proud of their knowledge, only achieve distress and are thus condemned.

Then there are those who understand that liberation cannot be achieved solely through jñāna and so engage in bhakti mixed with jñāna (jñāna-miśrā-bhakti). They think that Bhagavān’s existence is material and temporary and that His body consists of the modes of material nature. Even after becoming adept in yoga (yogārūḍha), such persons, who falsely think that they are liberated, are condemned. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.5.2–3) states: “The respective qualities of the four stages of life (āśramas) and the four types of occupational duty (varṇas) originated separately from the mouth, arms, thighs and feet of the Supreme Person, Śrī Bhagavān. Those who disrespect that self-born Bhagavān and do not render service to Him fall from their position.” This means that those who do not worship Him and those who do not properly respect Him even while worshipping Him lose their knowledge and fall down, even though they are sannyāsīs.

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam also states (10.2.32):

ye’nye aravindākṣa vimukta-māninas tvayy asta-bhāvād aviśuddha-buddhayaḥ
āruhya kṛcchreṇa paraṃ padaṃ tataḥ patanty adho’nādṛta-yuṣmad-aṅghrayaḥ

O lotus-eyed Lord, one who is falsely proud of being liberated and who does not perform bhakti to You due to his polluted intelligence, falls down because he disrespects Your lotus feet, even after he has taken great trouble to attain the highest position of renunciation.

The word anye in the above Bhāgavatam verse refers to a person other than a devotee of Śrī Mādhava, and the word aṅghri refers to bhakti. To disrespect Śrī Bhagavān’s lotus feet, therefore, means to disrespect bhakti.

Anādṛta-yuṣmad-aṅghrayaḥ means that it is disrespectful to consider Śrī Bhagavān’s body to be composed of the three modes of material nature. This was also stated earlier in the Gītā (9.11): “Foolish people deride Me when I appear in My human form.” In reality, that human form is composed of eternality, knowledge and bliss (sac-cid-ānanda). Only by the influence of Śrī Bhagavān’s inconceivable mercy potency (kṛpā-śakti) does that form become visible. It is said in Nārāyaṇa-ādhyātma-vacana, “Although the svarūpa of Śrī Bhagavān is ever unmanifest, He becomes visible only by the influence of His own potency, or śakti. Who can see His supremely blissful svarūpa without the help of that potency?” In this way, the eternal, all-cognizant and fully blissful nature of Bhagavān’s body is established.

Hundreds of Śruti and Smṛti statements further establish the sac-cid-ānanda nature of Bhagavān’s form: “kliptaṃ sac-cid-ānanda-vigrahaṃ śrī vṛndāvana sura-bhūruha-talāsīnam–the Lord is described as He whose transcendental form of eternality, cognizance and bliss is seated at the base of a desire-tree” (Gopāla-tāpini Upaniṣad) and “śābdaṃ brahma dadhad vapuḥ–His transcendental form can only be understood through the Vedas” (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 3.21.8).

Despite this, some still conclude on the basis of one solitary statement in the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad (4.10) that His name, form, qualities and so forth are material: “māyāṃ tu prakṛtiṃ vidyān māyinaṃ tu maheśvaram–the phenomenon of material nature is māyā, a temporary illusion, and Parameśvara is mayī, composed of māyā.”

There is, however, another statement from Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad quoted in Śrī Madhva-bhāṣya: “ato māyāmayaṃ viṣṇuṃ pravadanti sanātanam–therefore, they declare Śrī Viṣṇu, the eternal Supreme Lord, to be composed of māyā.” According to this statement, Bhagavān is eternally endowed with an internal potency called svarūpa-bhūta-māyā, which is intrinsic to His own transcendental form. On the basis of this, the word māyā in māyāṃ tu from the previously quoted verse (4.10) refers to His spiritual potency, the cit-śakti, which is svarūpa-bhūta. This means that it emanates from His own transcendental form, or svarūpa, and is therefore non-different from the Lord Himself. It does not refer to the material energy consisting of the modes of nature, which is not part of His transcendental form.

Such jñānīs, however, do not accept this meaning. They do not even accept the interpretation that māyā is the material nature, or prakṛti, and that Maheśvara, or Śambhu Śiva, is the master of that māyā. Due to this offensive attitude to Bhagavān, they fall down, even after they have attained the state of jīvan-mukta, or liberation while still within this material body. It is also said in the supplementary statement of Vāsanā-bhāṣya, that even if one who is jīvan-mukta somehow offends Śrī Bhagavān, who is inconceivably powerful, he becomes entrenched in material lusty desires and has to again enter the cycle of material life. He falls down because he abandons his practice upon attaining its fruit, thinking it is of no further use.

This means that upon attaining the stage of jñāna-sannyāsa, he abandons not only jñāna but bhakti also, which is present in jñāna to some degree (guṇī-bhūtā-bhakti), and he maintains the false conception that he is directly perceiving brahma. Because of his offences to the form of Bhagavān, bhakti also disappears along with jñāna and is not to be regained. Without bhakti, however, the Supreme Absolute Truth cannot be realized. The meditation such a person performs at that time is to be understood as useless, as is his pride in being jīvan-mukta, a liberated soul even within this body.

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.2.32) supports this view, stating, ye’nye aravindākṣa vimukta-māninaḥ. Liberated persons who properly engage in the practice of bhakti-miśra-jñāna (knowledge mixed with devotion) are of two types. Both recognize Śrī Bhagavān’s form to be composed of eternality, cognizance and bliss, and such persons achieve parā-bhakti after gradually giving up vidyā (knowledge) and avidyā (ignorance).

The first type performs bhakti with the aim of becoming one with Him (sāyujya-mukti). Aided by bhakti, they achieve direct realization of the impersonal brahma and thus attain oneness with Him. Those individuals are worthy of honour.

The second type consist of highly fortunate persons who, by the influence of the association of tranquil mahā-bhāgavatas, renounce the desire for liberation. Like Śukadeva Gosvāmī and others, they remain absorbed in tasting the sweetness of bhakti-rasa. Such personalities merit the highest veneration. As it is said in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.7.10), “The qualities of Śrī Hari are so wonderful that even great sages who are ātmārāma, or fully self-satisfied, and who have completely cut the knot of ignorance are attracted by His attracting potency. Hence, they perform selfless bhakti to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who performs wonderful feats.”

Therefore, out of these four types of jñānīs, the first two are worthy of reproach and remain bound, while the other two are respectable and transcend the material world.

Commentary: Sārārtha-Varṣiṇī Prakāśikā-vṛtti

(By Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja; the explanation that illuminates the commentary named Sārārtha-varṣiṇī)

In the present verse, Śrī Bhagavān is explaining the result of transcendental pure devotion, parā-bhakti, or kevalā-bhakti, which is symptomized by prema. By some good fortune attained by the mercy of a great personality, one who has achieved the brahma-bhūta stage then attains parā-bhakti. Losing his desire for liberation, he relinquishes jñāna and achieves that bhakti which is free from the modes of nature, thus realizing the fundamental Truth of Śrī Kṛṣṇa as well as his own eternal form as Kṛṣṇa’s servant. This is svarūpa-siddhi. His later entrance into the pastimes of Bhagavān is known as vastu-siddhi.

It is stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.7.10):

ātmārāmāś ca munayo nirgranthā apy urukrame
kurvanty ahaitukīṃ bhaktim itthaṃ-bhūta-guṇo hariḥ

Those who are satisfied within and who are most fortunate can become attracted by the qualities of Śrī Bhagavān if they receive the causeless mercy of Śrī Bhagavān and His devotees. They can then become absorbed in relishing the sweetness of bhakti-rasa by engaging in causeless devotion (ahaitukī bhakti) to Him.

Examples of this are the four Kumāras, who received the mercy of Bhagavān, and Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī, who received the mercy of Śrī Vyāsadeva.

Gītā verses such as 11.54, 8.14 and 9.22 state that Śrī Bhagavān can only be attained by bhakti. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.14.21) states, “bhaktyāham ekayā grāhyaḥ–I am attained only by pure devotional service.” While answering the questions of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, Rāya Rāmānanda said that bhakti that is free from jñāna is the essence of all perfection. But Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu did not accept this as the highest goal of life and requested him to explain further. At this point, Śrī Rāya Rāmānanda presented a Bhāgavatam verse as evidence–jñāne prayāsam udapāsya. This verse states that not all perfected and liberated persons can realize kṛṣṇa-tattva, the reality of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. This has been discussed in various verses such as Gītā 7.3, “manuṣyāṇāṃ sahasreṣu…–only an extremely rare person comes to know Me in truth”; Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (6.14.5), “muktānām api siddhānām…–among millions of liberated souls, only one knows Me in truth”; and Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 19.148), “koṭi-mukta-madhye ‘durlabha’ eka kṛṣṇa-bhakta–among millions of souls who are actually liberated, it is very difficult to find one who is My pure devotee”.

The Śrutis, Smṛtis, Vedānta-sūtra, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Bhagavad-gītā and other scriptures give numerous proofs to show that even after a jīva has achieved mukti, he can become situated in his eternal svarūpa and taste the bliss of service to Śrī Bhagavān. In Śrīla Śrīdhara Svāmī’s Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam commentary called Dhṛta-sarvajña-bhāṣya-kāra, he states (regarding 10.87.21): “muktā api līlayā vigrahaṃ kṛtvā bhagavantaṃ bhajante–even the liberated beings constantly render service to Bhagavān with their transcendental bodies.” In the Śrutis, also, we find statements such as “āprāyaṇāt tatrāpi hi ḍṛṣṭam–what one does throughout one’s life is evident at the time of death” (Brahma-sūtra 4.1.12), and mokṣe ca bhaktir anuvarttate, which describes that bhakti is present even in the liberated state.

Here, viśate tad anantaram (Gītā 18.55) has a deeper, more confidential meaning. One who has known and realized Bhagavān does not enter into Him and become one with Him; rather one enters into His pastimes. For example, when a person enters a city or a bird enters its nest, it does not mean that the person becomes the city or that the bird becomes the nest. It actually means that they enjoy great happiness in meeting with their family members.

The impersonalists (nirviśeṣavādīs) generally use the example of rivers flowing into the ocean to express the oneness of the jīva with brahma. They say that just as the rivers lose their name and form when they merge into the ocean (having given up their separate identity), in the same way, the jīva merges with brahma and becomes one with Him. However, the devotees, who adhere to the doctrine of personalism (saviśeṣavādī-bhaktas) say that, even after liberation, a pure jīva maintains his individual existence, just as the aquatics living in the ocean have their separate existence from the ocean and live there with their family members. To know the ocean, mere knowledge of the ocean’s surface is not sufficient. It is necessary also to know the various aquatics that live deep within the ocean, as well as the ocean’s pearls, gemstones and various other resources. Similarly, to know Svayam Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa as He who is replete with six opulences and full of rasa is to know Him in tattva and in full. Only when a sādhaka, or bhāva-bhakta, has attained this knowledge can he then enter into the pastimes of Bhagavān. This takes place upon attaining the state of full perfection known as vastu-siddhi in which he tastes the bliss of rendering service to Him.

One who deeply deliberates on the statements of scripture clearly understands that jñāna alone will not award liberation unless aided by bhakti. “Śreyaḥ-sṛtiṃ bhaktim udasya…–O Lord, devotional service to You is the main source of all kinds of auspiciousness. Those who give up this path to cultivate jñāna will simply undergo hard work, suffer pain and achieve difficulty, just as the only gain of a person who beats empty husks is hard work, not rice. You can be attained by bhakti alone, not by speculative knowledge” (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.14.4). The jñānīs are of two types: those who exclusively cultivate knowledge (kevala-jñānīs) and those who mix devotion with their cultivation of jñāna (bhakti-miśra-jñānīs).

Bhakti-miśra-jñānīs are also of two types: those who consider the form of Bhagavān to be illusory and those who accept the form of Bhagavān to be composed of eternality, cognizance and bliss. Those who consider Bhagavān’s form to be illusory do not achieve liberation due to their offence at His lotus feet. Still, they erroneously consider themselves liberated.

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.2.32) makes the following statement about such proud jñānīs:

ye’nye aravindākṣa vimukta-māninas tvayy astabhāvād aviśuddha buddhayaḥ
āruhya kṛcchreṇa paraṃ padaṃ tataḥ patanty adho anādṛta yuṣmad-aṅghrayaḥ

O lotus-eyed Bhagavān, He who has cultivated jñāna and who is falsely proud claims to be liberated. It should be understood that his intelligence is polluted because he has no conception that bhakti is an eternal activity. Although, in his cultivation of jñāna, through the process of negation, he has renounced material objects (atat), he only comes close to Absolute Reality (tat), and does not progress. Because he has failed to attain the shelter of Your lotus feet, he eventually falls down.

Gītā (9.12) also states:

moghāśā mogha-karmāṇo mogha-jñānā vicetasaḥ
rākṣasīm āsurīṃ caiva prakṛtiṃ mohinīm śritāḥ

The hopes of such bewildered persons for liberation, material gain and the culture of knowledge all go in vain. Thus, with their minds distracted, they adopt the nature of the deluded, ignorant and passionate.

The second type of jñānī follows the path of bhakti-miśra-jñāna, accepting Bhagavān’s form to be composed of eternality, knowledge and bliss. Such a jñānī, after renouncing knowledge (vidyā) and ignorance (avidyā), attains the liberation of merging with the Lord’s effulgence, but he does not attain transcendental bhakti. Some of these jñānīs, however, are fortunate enough to receive the mercy of a perfected saint. This allows them to relinquish the desire for liberation and thus attain transcendental bhakti.

The following Bhāgavatam verse (1.7.10) is spoken in reference to such self-satisfied jñānīs (ātmārāmas).

ātmārāmāś ca munayo nirgranthā apy urukrame
kurvanty ahaitukīṃ bhaktim itthambhūta guṇo hariḥ

Śrī Kṛṣṇa has such an attractive potency that even the ātmārāma-munis, who have completely cut the knot of ignorance, become attracted to Him and start performing pure, causeless devotional service to Urukrama, the performer of wonderful activities. What, then, can be said of one who is absorbed in attraction to mundane matter?

All of the verses cited above clarify this point.

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