Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Ramanuja | Discourse 12

Chapter 12
Bhakti Yogaḥ
Communion through Devotion

Summary of the Teaching

Arjuna desired to directly experience the unrestricted glory of Lord Nārāyaṇa — the Supreme Brahman, who is the ultimate goal of all who practice Bhakti Yoga.

Lord Nārāyaṇa, revealed this to him, because He is one whose intentions are always accomplished, and who is an ocean of positive attributes like compassion, generosity, affability and others which are all limitless in their excellence.

It has also been taught that real knowledge of, perception of, and the attainment of the Lord can only be obtained by single-minded and persistent devotion.

After this the following points will be explained:

(1) Meditation on the Lord through the medium of Bhakti

(2) the superiority of such meditation over that [of meditation] on the Ātman, because of its rapid fulfilment,

(3) the great ease of its practice;

(4) the method of meditation on the Lord

(5) the practice of contemplation on the Ātman for one who is incapable of meditating on the Lord,

(6) the requirements thereof.

The reason that meditation on the Lord is superior [to meditation on the Ātman] is because of the superiority of the subject of meditation [the Lord Himself] as declared in:

—And among all the Yogis and also with all others, one whose inner self is directed to Me, who worships Me with faith —such a one is deemed by Me to be the most accomplished. (6.47).

arjuna uvāca
evaṃsatata-yuktāye bhaktās-tvāṃparyupāsate |
ye cāpyakṣaram-avyaktaṃteṣāṃke yoga-vittamāḥ|| 1 ||

Arjuna said:

1. Of those devotees, who, ever integrated with You, meditate on You thus, and of those again, who meditate on the imperishable and the unmanifest —which of these have greater knowledge of Yoga?

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

There are those devotees who considering You and none other as the supreme goal, worship You in complete dedication —

as one who is the ocean of attributes of limitless excellence like grace, affability, omniscience, accomplished resolves etc., and endowed with all glory.

On the other hand there are those who meditate on the “Imperishable”(Akṣara) —namely, the Ātman in its immaculate state, which is the same as the “Unmanifest”(Avyakta) —which means that it cannot be perceived by the sense organs.

Which of these two categories of devotees have superior knowledge of Yoga? Who would reach their respective goals sooner?”

—Such is the meaning of the question.

śrībhagavān uvāca
mayyāveśya mano ye māṃnitya-yuktāupāsate |
śraddhayāparayopetās-te me yuktatamāmatāḥ|| 2 ||

The Blessed Lord said:

2. Those who, [desirous of being] forever united with Me and possessing consummate faith, worship Me, focusing their minds on Me —these are considered by Me the highest among the Yogins.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The words āveśya mano means focusing the mind and includes fixing the heart exclusively upon Lord Krishna otherwise if it is not exclusive something else may enter in and then it will not be possible for the Supreme Lord to be their only object of meditation.

The word śraddhā means firm faith and those so endowed eagerly and enthusiastically strive for divine communion with the Supreme Lord.

Those who propitiate Lord Krishna in this way with mind and hearts absorbed totally in Him are His best devotees and yuktamamah the most superior of all

as they joyfully and skilfully with great éclat and determination navigate themselves swiftly through the currents of life to attain eternal communion with the Supreme Lord.

ye tvakṣaram-anirdeśyam-avyaktaṃparyupāsate |
sarvatragam-acintyaṃca kūṭastham acalaṃdhruvam || 3 ||

3. But those who meditate upon the Imperishable (Ātman) the indefinable, the unmanifest, omnipresent, inconceivable, ubiquitous, stable and constant;

saṃniyam endriya-grāmaṃsarvatra sama-buddhayaḥ|
te prāpnuvanti mām-eva sarva-bhūta-hite-ratāḥ || 4 ||

4. Having subdued all their senses, unprejudiced, intent on the welfare of all beings —they too come to Me alone.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Those who are attracted to meditation and upāsate or worship on the avyakta or the unmanifest, impersonal Brāhman being the spiritual substratum pervading all existence

or are devoted to realising the imperishable nature of their ātma or eternal soul which is indefinable by the mind and imperceptible

find that both ways are completely impossible to be perceived by any of the senses.

The phrase sarvatra-gam acintyaṃ means all pervading and inconceivable, respectively.

The understanding is that despite the ātma or eternal soul being present in the etheric heart of every living entity everywhere in creation in the devas, the humans, the animals, the fish, the plants etc.,

It is completely inconceivable how the total aggregate of all these trillions upon trillions of souls approaching even an infinite amount actually comprise the transcendental, spiritual body of the Supreme Lord Krishna.

Not only is it not possible to conceive this, it is also impossible to imagine what such an infinite spiritual form would appear like so it is completely indescribable.

Even if one achieved ātma- tattva or soul realisation and were able to perceive the form of their individual ātma it would not be of any consequence in conceiving by any stretch of the imagination such an infinite and phenomenal spiritual form.

The word kūṭastham means stable or uniform denoting that essence which never changes in form regardless of the constant changing of bodies of all living beings in every life, thus it is acalaṃ or immutable because of its singular unmoving nature and thus dhruvam or everlasting.

Along with this must be saṃniyam endriya-grāmaṃ meaning all the senses must be fully controlled and restrained from absorption in their accustomed sense objects.

The phrase sarvatra sama-buddhayaḥ means equanimity towards all living entities which manifests itself when the cognition of the ātma residing in the etheric heart of all living entities being of variegated and diverse species seen specifically as consciousness although concealed by various forms becomes a reality.

Firmly fixed in this understanding one automatically becomes sarva-bhūta-hite-ratāḥ or favourably disposed to the welfare of all living entities or it can mean well removed from wishing any enmity towards any jīva or embodied being,

for enmity is a product engendered by false ego due to imagining gradations in the ātma's between jīvas because of external differences in their physical bodies.

kleśo’dhikataras-teṣāṃavyaktā-sakta-cetasām |
avyaktāhi gatir-duḥkhaṃdehavadbhir-avyāpyate || 5 ||

5. But greater is the vexation of those whose minds are thus attached to the unmanifest. For the way of the unmanifest is onerous for embodied beings to follow.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Whosoever devotes themselves to contemplation of the ātma will certainly prāpnuvanti or attain the Supreme Lord

which means that by realisation of the ātma is essentially realising of the essence of the Supreme Lord which is like unto His essence as paramātma the Supreme Soul within the etheric heart of all living entities.

This is what is affirmed later in chapter 14, verse 2 with the words:

“Those who meditate on the Imperishable Principle (individual Self) in this way, even they come to Me —this means that they realise that the Jīva is not subject to birth and death and is of a similar nature to Myself.”

Śrī Krishna will refer to “those who have attained similar qualities to me” (14.2).

The Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad states:

[the enlightened one] ‘untainted, attains the highest degree of equality’ (Mun.Up., 3.1.3).

Accordingly Krishna will declare [in 15.16-17] that the Supreme Brahman is different from the liberated Jīva devoid of modification and here denoted by the terms “Imperishable” (Akṣara), and “unchanging” (Kūṭasthā) —“The Highest Person is other than this Imperishable”.

In the teaching of the Imperishable Doctrine (Akṣara-vidyā of Muṇḍaka Upanishad 1:1) what is designated by the term Akṣara is the Supreme Brahman Himself; for He is the source of all created beings.

“Now that higher science by which that Akṣara is known” (Mun. Up., 1.5)

Greater is the vexation of those whose minds are attached to the unmanifest —

“the path of the unmanifest” consists of directing the thought process at the unmanifest as its objective.

It is accomplished only with difficulty by embodied beings, who are under the delusion that the body is the Self. For, embodied beings [generally] identify the Self with the physical body.

Sri Krishna now teaches very clearly how devotees are the wisest of seekers:—

ye tu sarvāṇi karmāṇi mayi saṃnyasya mat-parāḥ|
ananyenaiva yogena māṃdhyāyanta upāsate || 6 ||

6. For, those who dedicate all their actions to Me, holding Me as their supreme goal, intent on Me and who worship Me and meditate on Me with exclusive devotion;

teṣāṃ ahaṃsamuddhartāmṛtyu-saṃsāra-sāgarāt |
bhavāmi na cirāt-pārtha mayyāveśita-cetasām || 7 ||

7. for those whose minds are thus focused on Me, O Pārtha, I soon become their saviour from the fatal ocean of death and rebirth.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Actions are of two types:

One is worldly activities undertaken to maintain and progress the material existence of the physical body such as obtaining food and shelter and material development.

The other is spiritual activities enjoined by the injunctions of the Vedic scriptures such as propitiation to the Supreme Lord, absence of violence to any living being, charity, etc. in short every act without an ulterior motive and without a hopeful gain.

Whosoever being spiritual minded without any motive except for satisfying the Supreme Lord Krishna and without any desire of seeking anything in return from Him,

who offer all their activities as devotion to Him, keeping Him alone as their sole goal and in one-pointed devotion focus their meditation on Him fully

while worshipping Him in all their activities such as chanting His holy names, glorifying Him, offering prayers to Him, prostrating before His deity form, hearing about His Līlās or divine pastimes, enlightening others about His glories, etc. as the be all and end all of all existence itself.

To such devotees as these who always are in communion with Lord Krishna in their hearts and minds, He Himself personally becomes their saviour by being their samuddhartā or deliverer from mṛtyu-saṃsāra-sāgarāt or the deadly ocean of the perpetual cycle of birth and death

which is the principle barrier which stops the ātma's or eternal souls of all jīvas or embodied from attaining Him when the end of each physical life has transpired.

mayyeva mana ādhatsva mayi buddhiṃniveśaya |
nivasiṣyasi mayyeva ata ūrdhvaṃna saṃśayaḥ|| 8 ||

8. Centre your mind on Me alone; and let your intellect (Buddhi) be absorbed in Me. Then, you will abide in Me alone hereafter; there is no doubt.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Inasmuch as the Supreme Lord Krishna is the paramount of all and the ultimate achievement being the highest possible attainment for all living entities throughout creation,

one should dedicate themselves exclusively for His satisfaction so He will become easily and swiftly attained by His desire.

Let thy manas or mind and buddhiṃ or spiritual intelligence be fully reposed in the Supreme Lord remembering Him always and let thy heart be full of bhakti or exclusive loving devotion for Him.

Thus when the mind has been trained and disciplined and the heart has been infused with divine love then ūrdhvaṃ meaning after this life, one will reside with Him eternally in the spiritual worlds.

Lord Krishna emphasises this as reality with the words na saṃśayaḥ meaning without a doubt.

atha cittaṃsamādhātuṃna śaknoṣi mayi sthiram |
abhyāsa-yogena tato mām-icchāptuṃdhanañjaya || 9 ||

9. Now if you are unable to centre your mind on Me in deep meditation, then seek to reach Me, O Arjuna (Dhananjaya), by the Yoga of constant Practice.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

If one is unable to focus their mind steadily on the Supreme Lord Krishna without distraction and interruption

then one should continuously endeavour to perform abhyāsa yoga which is repeatedly fixing the mind on the Supreme Lord while simultaneously restraining oneself from all worldly affairs.

Reflecting on Lord Krishna being the quintessence of all wonderful qualities and exalted attributes such as love, beauty, compassion, sweetness, wisdom, majesty, courage, valour, etc.

while realising that He alone is the Supreme Lord of the spiritual kingdom and the material worlds being the ultimate source and the ultimate goal of all things at the same time being the antithesis and antidote of all that is demoniac and unrighteous.

True endeavour for the Supreme Lord is bhakti or exclusive loving devotion to Lord Krishna.

By remembering and meditating constantly on Him in this way, steadiness and equanimity of mind is achieved and one will directly realise themselves how to attain Him.

abhyāse’pyasamartho’si mat-karma paramo bhava |
mad-artham api karmāṇi kurvan siddhim avāpsyasi || 10 ||

10. If you are incapable of even this practice of mindfulness, then devote yourself to serving Me. For even by dedicating your actions to Me, you will attain perfection.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

If one is still unable to constantly endeavour to perform repeated concentration upon Lord Krishna then one should at least try to perform activities in His service whenever possible

such as cow protection, construction of Vedic temples to house His deity forms, maintaining flower gardens for His worship, cultivation of fruit and vegetable gardens for His service, etc.

Also included in these activities is visiting His holy pastime places and hearing about them, perambulating His holy dhāma or abodes in India, prostrating before Him, singing and dancing in glory to Him, etc.

All these activities for Lord Krishna should be performed with causeless, ardent affection in bhakti or exclusive loving devotion.

Performing such activities exclusively for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord prepares the mind for constant remembrance and subsequent fixed focus on Him without deviation.

athaitad apyaśakto’si kartuṃmad-yogam āśritaḥ|
sarva karma phala tyāgaṃtataḥkuru yatātmavān || 11 ||

11. If you are unable to do even this, then, having resorted to My Yoga with a subdued mind, renounce the fruits of every action.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

With a view of attaining communion with the Supreme Lord Krishna, His devotees enthusiastically perform bhakti or exclusive loving devotion to Him.

When the followers of this path who are always reflecting and reminiscing about His nāma, rūpa, guṇa, līlā, dhāma find themselves due to adverse circumstances unable to perform all their activities for Him alone by which association with Him in loving communion would surely manifest;

then let them launch on the path of akṣaram or the imperishable and eruditely contemplate the nature of the ātma or eternal soul as delineated in chapter two

which would gradually fructify into bhakti eventually if the prerequisite condition to renounce the desire for the rewards of all one's actions was accomplished, then ātma tattva or soul realisation is insured.

The word yatātmanaḥ means of “controlled mind” which denotes a mind that has been trained to perform activities without desiring for rewards in the intangible form of prestige and recognition or the tangible form of gain and position.

It is only to such a one entirely free from all thoughts and desires of compensation and calculation, cleansed of all sins will the Supreme Lord Krishna be their total object of affection and love.

Such a person will focus the fullness of all of their love on Lord Krishna as their sole ultimate goal. All their actions are actually forms of Lord Krishna's worship as they are performed for His satisfaction or as a matter of duty without craving for any rewards.

Meditation on the ātma results in the obliteration of all obstacles and impediments and the eradication of avidya or ignorance and confers realisation of the ātma as being eternal and purely spiritual in totality and essentially a part of Lord Krishna's internal nature.

When this communion has been experienced then love of God erupts in the heart and becomes a natural occurrence. This topic will be further delineated in chapter 18, verses 53 and 54.

śreyo hi jñānam abhyāsāt jñānād-dhyānaṃviśiṣyate |
dhyānāt karma phala tyāgas tyāgāt-chāntir anantaram || 12 ||

12. Wisdom is far better than the practice [of mindfulness of the Lord]. Meditation is esteemed to be better than wisdom; and the renunciation of fruits of action is better than meditation —from such renunciation, peace ensues.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

If the performance of activities for the Supreme Lord is merely an exercise ordered by the mind for the body to enact then in no way can it be considered bhakti or exclusive loving devotion

as it being merely a dictate of the mind has no connection to the heart and without passing through the heart there is no possibility of accessing the consciousness of the ātma or eternal soul.

The mind however great it may be has no qualification or eligibility to access the ātma.

Thus it would behove an aspirant to pursue the next alternative and attempt to develop ātma tattva or soul realisation as instructed by Lord Krishna in verses III. IV and V of this chapter.

If after prolonged practice and attempts if ātma tattva does not arise because of a lack of inner spiritual development or due to an unstable mind easily distracted or because of weakness in controlling the senses

then one should adopt themselves to the contemplation and reflection of the ātma as delineated in chapter two as the next alternative.

If even this is too difficult to execute with regularity then one should perform activities that please the Supreme Lord and renounce the desire for rewards for it.

Such activities are associating with His devotees and rendering service to them, celebrating the appearance days of Him and His avatars or incarnations and fasting from all grains on Ekādaśī which is the 11th day of the waxing and waning moon.

Performing activities in this way without any interest in receiving rewards and benefits will result in the absence of all reactions and thus the cessation of all sins.

Thereafter one will achieve peace of mind and from there one becomes a candidate for practising contemplation of the ātma.

In conclusion aspirants who are inept at performing bhakti are encouraged to perform simpler methods which will step by step gradually bring one up to that platform.

Thus alternative methods applicable for the inept who wish to evolve themselves have been succinctly enumerated.

Now Sri Krishna enumerates the attributes required of one intending to perform unmotivated work: —

adveṣṭāsarva bhūtānāṃmaitraḥkaruṇa eva ca |
nir-mamo nir-ahaṅkāraḥsama duḥkha sukha kṣamī|| 13 ||

13. Not prejudiced towards any living being, friendly and compassionate to all, free from the notions of ‘I’ and ‘mine’, and regarding all pain and pleasure with equanimity, and forbearing;

mayyarpita mano buddhiḥyo mad-bhaktaḥsa me priyaḥ|| 14 ||

14. contented, constantly contemplating, self-restrained and firm in one’s convictions, dedicating the mind and intellect to Me —such a devotee is dear to Me.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The Supreme Lord Krishna confirms that the qualities He is describing are applicable to yo mad-bhaktaḥ which means His exclusive devotee.

The word adveṣṭā means free from hatred for any being at any time.

Maitraḥ means benign and showing good will to all, both well-wishers and ill-wishers by the understanding that they are merely following the tendencies of the impulse imparted to them by the Supreme Lord in relation to one's own good and bad actions.

Karuṇā means compassionate, to be sympathetic towards the sufferings of others, friend and foe alike.

Nir-mamaḥ means devoid of sentiments of possessiveness and ego related conceptions mine-ness regarding the physical body, family and associated relationships and objects.

nir-ahaṅkāraḥ means free from the false conception of thinking one's self to be the physical body and consequently unaffected by the dualities of material existence such as pain and pleasure, praise and ridicule, joy and grief, etc. all based upon the mentality of the mind.

Kṣamī means tolerant, to be unaffected by external incidents such as physical accidents or catastrophes.

Santuṣṭaḥ means always content with whatever comes along by its own accord for the purpose of bodily sustenance.

Satatam yogi is one who always engages themselves to the science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the ultimate consciousness in loving devotion to the Supreme Lord.

Satatam means always and has two meanings: one is to be continuously and perpetually engaged in bhakti or exclusive loving devotion to Lord Krishna at every moment and second is to engage in this bhakti to Lord Krishna in all ways meaning in every possibility and facet of one's life.

Yatātmā means the ability to govern and control the workings of the mind.

Dṛḍha-niścayaḥ means firmly resolved in the knowledge of the Vedic scriptures regarding the immortality of the ātma or eternal soul and the Supreme Lord and irrevocably established in bhakti to the Lord Krishna.

Arpita mano buddhiḥ means who dedicates their intelligence and consciousness to the Supreme Lord by performing activities dedicated to Him without desire for recompense.

Then when the Supreme Lord Krishna is worshipped in this way He would Himself guide one internally to achieve ātma tattva or realisation of the soul and attain communion with Him.

One who possesses all these qualities is very dear to Supreme Lord Krishna and is me priyaḥ or His beloved.

yasmān no dvijate loko lokān nodvijate ca yaḥ|
harṣāmarṣabhayo-dvegaiḥmukto yaḥsa ca me priyaḥ|| 15 ||

15. He by whom the world is not disturbed, and who is not disturbed by the world, who is free from joy and jealousy, fear and repulsion —he is dear to me.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The Karma Yogi does nothing to cause affliction to any being in the world.

He has no cause to fear the world —no action on the part of others can cause him disturbance because of complete freedom from antagonism towards the world.

Therefore he does not show favour towards some and intolerance towards others; he does not fear some or is repulsed by others.

anapekṣaḥ śucir dakṣaḥudāsīno gatavyathaḥ|
sarvārambha parityāgīyo mad bhaktaḥsa me priyaḥ|| 16 ||

16. One who is free from expectations, who is uncontaminated, skilled, impartial and free from anxiety, who has renounced every undertaking—is dear to Me.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The word anapekṣaḥ or indifference means aloof to external objects being solely attracted to the ātma or eternal soul within.

Śucir or purity means sustaining the body by nourishing oneself by sanctified foods as ordained in the Vedic scriptures.

Dakṣaḥ or expert means proficiency in performing the Vedic injunctions and ordinances.

Udāsīna or unconcerned means uninterested in matters that are not eternal.

Gata vyathaḥ or free from agitation means unaffected by experiencing the dualities of pleasure and pain, joy and grief , etc. while performing one's Vedic enjoined duties.

Parityāgī or fully renounced means one who has given up all endeavours unconnected to the Supreme Lord Krishna is very dear to Him.

yo na hṛṣyati na dveṣṭi na śocati na kāṅkṣati |
śubhāśubha parityāgībhaktimān yaḥsa me priyaḥ|| 17 ||

17. One who is full of devotion to Me, who rejoices not, nor hates, nor grieves, nor desires, and who renounces both merit and demerit —such a devotee is dear to me.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna's devotee who is not exultant upon obtaining things which cause joy in mortals, who hates nothing, who grieves not over things that cause grief to mortals such as the death of family members, loss of wealth etc.,

who craves nothing, being desireless for anything in the material existence, who renounces both pious and impious acts knowing they both result in bondage to karma or reactions to actions.

Such a devotee is very dear to Lord Krishna.

samaḥ śatrau ca mitre ca tathāmānāpamānayoḥ|
śītoṣṇa sukha duḥkheṣu samaḥsaṅga vivarjitaḥ|| 18 ||

18. He who is impartial to both foe and friend, honour and dishonour, who is indifferent to cold and heat, pleasure and pain and who is free from all attachments;

tulya nindāstutir maunīsantuṣṭo yena kenacit |
aniketaḥsthira-matiḥbhaktimān me priyo naraḥ|| 19 ||

19. to whom both censure and praise are equal, who is silent [when praised or abused] and content with any condition, who has no home, who is steady of mind, and who is devoted to Me —dear to Me is such a person.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The absence of hate towards any being in general has been already iterated by Lord Krishna in verse 13 of this chapter with the word adveṣṭā meaning free of hatred but that is in a general sense towards every being.

The equanimity mentioned here is of a more profound nature than that of keeping one's equanimity when seeing one in front of them face to face.

The word aniketaḥ means unattached to home or fixed residence due to being firmly attached to bhakti or exclusive loving devotion to the Supreme Lord.

Equally balanced in praise and censure, happiness and misery, pleasure and pain etc. Such a devotee of the Supreme Lord Krishna is very dear to Him.

ye tu dharmyāmṛtam idaṃyathoktaṃparyupāsate |
śraddha-dhānāḥmat-paramābhaktāste’tīva me priyāḥ|| 20 ||

20. But those devotees who adopt this ambrosial virtuous conduct (dharma) as taught above, who are full of faith and who regard Me as the Supreme —they are exceedingly dear to Me.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The path of dharma or eternal righteousness which is holy and that which is amṛtam is immortal, is known as bhakti or exclusive loving devotion unto the Supreme Lord Krishna and is the means as well as the goal.

This was briefly emphasised in verse two of this chapter with the nitya-yuktas upāsate meaning engaged in constant devotional worship were yuktatamah or the most superior of all.

Whosoever devotes themselves to this transcendental path of bhakti as enumerated in the previous seven verses is a true devotee of Lord Krishna and very dear to Him.

hariḥ oṃ tatsat
iti śrīmad bhagavad gītāsūpaniṣatsu
brahma-vidyāyāṃ yoga-śāstre
śrī-kṛṣṇārjuna saṃvāde bhakti yogo nāma

Thus in the Upanishads of the Glorious Bhagavad Gita
The science of the Eternal, the Scripture of Yoga
The dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna
Ends the twelfth discourse entitled
“Communion through Devotion”