Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Ramanuja | Discourse 9 verse 20-34

traividya māṃsomapāḥpūta-pāpa yajñāir iṣṭvāsvargatiṃprārthayante |
te puṇyam āsādya surendra-lokam aśnanti divyān divi deva-bhogān || 20 ||

20. Those who are versed in the three Vedas, being purified from sin by drinking the Soma juice, pray for the way to heaven and worship Me by sacrifices. Reaching the holy realm of the King of the gods, they enjoy in heaven the celestial pleasures of the gods.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The followers or knowers of the three Vedas are called Trai-vidyathey are to be distinguished from those who follow Vedanta (Trayyanta).

“Those who study the Vedanta (Science of the Self), know Me as the only subject to be known from the study of the Vedas. Considering Me as the highest goal of attainment, they adore Me through chanting My names etc., induced by deep devotion to Me, and also through spiritual study.”

But [in contrast] the followers of the three Vedas (Trai-vidya) drink the Soma beverage remaining from the sacrifices in honour of Indra and other devas, as prescribed by the Vedas.

They are thereby purified of the sins that stand in the way of attainment of heaven. In these

sacrifices, in which Indra and the other deities are regarded as God they actually worship Krishna through them. They however do not know that Krishna abides within these devas and so they pray for access to heaven. After attaining the world of Indra, which is free from suffering, they enjoy the divine pleasures in abundance.

te taṃbhuktvāsvarga-lokaṃviśālaṃ kṣīṇe puṇye marta-lokaṃviśanti |
evaṃtrayī-dharmam anuprapannā gatāgataṃkāmakāmālabhante || 21 ||

21. Having enjoyed the vast realm of heaven, they return to the realm of mortals when their merit is exhausted. Thus, those who follow the Vedic rituals and are motivated by desire, come and go.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

They return to the material realm when the positive Karma which is the cause of the experience of heaven is exhausted. After enjoying the trifling and transient pleasures of heaven, they return to Samsāra again and again.

But the great beings (followers of Vedanta) meditating on Krishna, who is incomparably dear to them, obtain boundless and unsurpassed bliss and do not return to Samsāra.

Śrī Krishna describes their distinguishing features:—

ananyāś-cintayanto māṃye janāḥparyupāsate |
teṣāṃnityābhiyuktānāṃyoga-kṣemaṃvahāmyaham || 22 ||

22. There are those who, not being mindful of anything else, adore Me alone, aspiring after eternal union with Me. I Myself take charge of their prosperity and welfare (Yogaand Kṣema).

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

“Those who, excluding everything else and having no other purpose, meditate on Me as their only goal, because without Me they are unable to sustain themselves.  In the case of such devotees aspiring after eternal unification with Me, I Myself undertake the responsibility of bringing them to Myself — Yoga(prosperity) and of preserving them in that state for ever —Kṣema (welfare).” The meaning is that they do not return to Samsara.

ye’pyanya-devatā-bhaktāyajante śraddhayānvitāḥ|
te’pi mām-eva kaunteya yajanty-avidhi-pūrvakam || 23 ||

23. Even those who, endowed with faith are devoted to other gods, they worship Me alone, O Kaunteya, in an indirect manner.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

In the light of the principle that all entities are Krishna’s modalities and He alone is the ultimate existence; names like ‘Indra’ primarily denote Krishna alone. The worshippers of Indra and other deities therefore ultimately worship Krishna only, in ways not sanctioned by the Shastras i.e. they do not worship Indra and other divinities with a proper understanding of the place of these deities in the light of the Vedanta texts. An example is:—

“Wherein (ie., in the Supreme Self) the sacrifices known as the Catur Hotri attain their fulfilment through the gods.” (Tai. Ar. 3:11:1) etc.

The meaning [of this verse] is that in the Catur-hotri sacrifice like Agni-hotra, the full moon and the new moon sacrifices etc., it is the Supreme Being only that is worshipped, as He is the very Self of Indra and the others who are the ostensible subjects of worship in these sacrifices by which these worshippers obtain their aims.

Therefore, the votaries of the three Vedas do not understand that these rituals are intended for the worship of the Supreme Being and that He alone is to be worshipped. Due to their lack of insight they experience limited results, and are again liable to fall into Samsāra. Śrī Krishna says further:—

ahaṃhi sarva-yajñānāṃbhoktāca prabhur-eva ca |
na tu mām-abhijānanti tattvenātaś-cyavanti te || 24 ||

24. For, I alone am the enjoyer and the only Lord of all sacrifices. They do not recognise Me in My true nature; hence they fall.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

I am the only Lord means that “I alone am the bestower of the rewards of all sacrifices.”

How wonderful indeed, that exactly the same type of [ritual] action, yields totally different results through the difference in intention (saṅkalpa); some experience avery trifling reward with the return [to Samsāra], while others receive a reward in the form of attainment of the Supreme Being which is absolute, limitless, and incomparable! Śrī Krishna explains this: —

yānti deva-vratādevān pitṛn-yānti pitṛ-vratāḥ|
bhūtāni yānti bhūtejyāyānti madyājino’pi mām || 25 ||

25. Devotees of the gods go to the gods. The ancestor worshippers go to the manes; the worshippers of inferior forces go to them; and those who worship Me come to Me.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The term Vrata(votary rites) in the text denotes will, intention or motive (saṅkalpa).

Those who are motivated with firm resolution (saṅkalpa) to worship the gods, like Indra and go to them, as do those who worship the ancestors, Yakṣas, Rakṣasas, Piśācas and other inferior forces —they all go to them. But those who, with the same liturgical acts, worship Krishna with the understanding that He is Vāsudeva, the Supreme Self, who manifests Himself through the gods, the manes and the lower forces —they are devotees and they reach Krishna only —they do not return to Samsāra. Such is the meaning.

Śrī Krishna continues to say, ‘There is also another distinguishing characteristic of My votaries’ —

patraṃpuṣpaṃphalaṃtoyaṃyo me bhaktyāprayacchati |
tad-ahaṃbhakty-upahṛtam-aśnāmi prayatātmanaḥ|| 26 ||

26. Whoever offers to Me with devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit or some water, I accept this offering made with devotion by one who is pure of heart.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

“True devotion is love for Me so profound that the devotee cannot sustain himself without making such offering; the devotee has no purpose other than service. Such an offering coming from a heart rendered pure with that singleness of purpose —of considering the offering as an end in itself —I, the Lord of the universe, I accept and enjoy the aforesaid type of offering, as if I was obtaining a desired object far beyond the range of My expectations.”

yat-karoṣi yad-aśnāsi yaj-juhoṣi dadāsi yat |
yat-tapasyasi kaunteya tat-kuruṣva mad-arpaṇam || 27 ||

27. Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer in sacrifice, whatever you give away, whatever austerity you practice, O Kaunteya, do that as an offering to Me.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Whatsoever secular work you do for the maintenance of the body, whatsoever you set aside for the sustenance of the body, whatsoever religious rites, obligatory (nityam) and occasional (naimittikam)  you practice, like offering oblations into the sacred fire, performing charity and austerity —do all these as an offering to Me. Arpaṇa means offering —do all acts, secular and religious, as if the doer, the enjoyer and the worshipped were all offerings to Me.

śubhāśubha phalair-evaṃmokṣyase karma-bandhanaiḥ|
saṃnyāsa yoga-yuktātmāvimukto mām-upaiṣyasi || 28 ||

28. Thus imbued with a mind steadfast in the Yoga of renunciation, you will free yourself from the bonds of Karma, productive of auspicious as well as inauspicious results —thus liberated, you will come to Me.

samo’haṃsarva-bhūteṣu na me dveṣyo’sti na priyaḥ|
ye bhajanti tu māṃbhaktyāmayi te teṣu cāpyaham || 29 ||

29. I am the same to all beings; to Me there is none hateful or dear; but those who worship Me with devotion abide in Me and I in them.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

“Being the refuge for all, I am the same to all beings, be they gods, animals, humans or plants in their multitude of forms from the highest to the lowest, being differentiated according to birth, form, character and consciousness. With regard to those seeking refuge, none is offensive to Me because of inferiority in status, birth, form, character, consciousness etc. No one is discarded as an object of abhorrence. Likewise, those who do take refuge in Me are not esteemed on account of any consideration like birth, status etc. —the fact that one has surrendered toMe is the only consideration.”

The meaning is no one is chosen for Liberation for reasons like birth, status, character etc.

But Krishna appreciates those who adore Him as their only exceedingly beloved objective, and because they find it impossible to sustain themselves without worshipping Him. So they abide in Him, irrespective of their qualities such as high or low birth, etc. They remain with Krishna at ease, as if they possess qualities equal to His. He also abides in them, as if they are His superiors.

api-cet sudurācāro bhajate mām-ananyabhāk |
sādhur-eva sa mantavyaḥsamyag-vyavasito hi saḥ|| 30 ||

30. If even the most sinful person worships Me with devotion to no other, he must be regarded as righteous, for he has rightly resolved.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

“Even though one has transgressed the rules pertaining to one’s social situation or failed to avoid forbidden things; if one has begun to adore Me in the manner described above with undivided devotion, namely, worship as an end in itself —such a person must be considered highly righteous. He is pre-eminent among devotees and must be esteemed as worthy of honour.”

The meaning is that such a person is equal to those enlightened ones [Jñanins] mentioned earlier.

What can be the reason for this? The reason is that, he has rightly resolved, ie. his resolve is in the proper direction —

“The Lord who is the exclusive Cause of the entire universe, is the Supreme Brahman, Nārāyaṇa, the Lord of all that is mobile and immobile. He is my master, my teacher, and my friend, my highest object of enjoyment,”

—such a resolve is difficult to be made by most people. Its consequence; perpetual adoration of Krishna as an end in itself, will naturally arise in one who has made this resolve. Hence he is righteous and is to be highly honoured irrespective of the transgression of social rules which is trifling compared to this kind of excellence. Such a devotee is not to be treated with disdain but esteemed: such is the meaning.

Now, if it be claimed that the transgression of rules will completely obstruct the flow of meditation, as declared in the Vedic passages like:—

‘One who has not ceased from wrong conduct, is not tranquil, is not composed and also not calm in mind, cannot obtain Him through meditation.’ (Ka. Up. 1:2:24),

Śrī Krishna replies: —

kṣipraṃbhavati dharmātmā śāśvacchāntiṃnigacchati |
kaunteya prati-jānīhi na me bhaktaḥpraṇaśyati || 31 ||

31. Speedily he becomes righteous and obtains everlasting peace, affirm on My behalf, O Kaunteya, that My devotee never perishes.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

“Very soon the qualities (Gunas) of Rajas and Tamas are eradicated along with their roots, as he has been purified of all sins through worshipping Me without any ulterior motive.

Quickly his mind becomes especially attuned to meditating on Me with all the ancillaries [of Karma Yoga] and overcomes all impediments. It is this kind of adoration which was alluded to by the term ‘Dharma’ at the commencement of this chapter. Such a person obtains enduring peace, i.e., attains to an eternal state, free from any conduct which hinders access to Me and from which there will be no backsliding.”

“O Arjuna, you may affirm to others that one who has taken the first steps to meditate upon Me in this way, will not perish, even though tainted by some misconduct in the past.

On count of devotion to Me, one will be able to conquer the entire host of impediments [to spiritual progress]. After becoming completely free from impediments one quickly obtains perfection in Bhakti (Devotion/meditation).”

māṃhi pārtha vyapāśritya ye’pi syuḥpāpa-yonayaḥ|
striyo vaiśyās-tathā śūdrās-te’pi yānti parāṃgatim || 32 ||

32. By taking refuge in Me even those of unfavourable birth, women, Vaiṣyas and also Śūdras attain the supreme state.

anityam asukhaṃlokam imaṃprāpya bhajasva mām || 33 ||

33. How much more [easily] then the Brāhmaṇas and royal sages who are pure and are devoted to Me! Having come into this transient world of suffering, do you worship Me.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

“Women, farmers and peasants, and even those who are born into marginalised social circumstances (pāpa-yoni), can attain the supreme state by taking refuge in Me. How much more then the well-born Brāhmaṇas and royal sages who are naturally devoted to me!

Therefore, royal sage that you are, having been born into this impermanent and unhappy world, stricken by the threefold affliction meditate upon Me, as you traverse the path of life.”

Śrī Krishna now describes the nature of Bhakti:

manmanābhāva mad-bhakto mad-yājīmāṃnamas-kuru |
māmevaiṣyasi yuktvaivam ātmānaṃmat parāyaṇam || 34 ||

34. Focus your mind on Me, be devoted to Me, offer worship to Me, bow down to Me. Engaging your mind in this manner and regarding Me as the supreme goal, you will come to Me.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

“Fix your mind on Me without interruption like the flow of a continuous stream of oil —meditate upon Me as the Supreme Ruler, opposed to all that is negative, the sole repository of goodness, the omniscient one who is completely self-determining, the sole cause of the entire universe, the Supreme Brahman, the Supreme Person; having large eyes shaped like a lotus petal; with a complexion like a clear blue cloud; whose radiance is like that of a thousand suns simultaneously risen; the great ocean of exquisite beauty; having four arms, noble and strong, dressed in brilliant yellow raiment; adorned with a pure crown, crocodile-shaped ear-rings, garlands, arm-bracelets and bangles on the wrists; the ocean of infinite mercy, affability, beauty, sweetness, majesty, magnanimity and parental affection; the refuge of all without exception and without partiality —the Supreme Lord of all.”

Offer worship to Me —Worship is really the conduct of one who realises that he is absolutely dependant —(śeṣa) on God. Worship traditionally consists also in offering

(1) all things of enjoyment such as waving of lights etc.

(2) all those things which are tangible like garlands, sandal paste etc.,

(3) food offerings.

Here the term ātman stands for the mind [rather than the Self ]

The purport is that you will reach Krishna alone if you regard Krishna as your only support and with determination you should meditate on Krishna, experience Krishna, worship Krishna and bow down to Krishna —Thus, with such mental resolve you should carry on your secular works for bodily sustenance and religious activities as acts for pleasing Krishna alone, regarding them as impelled by Krishna and finding sole joy in absolute subservience to Krishna. You should always engage yourself in chanting Krishna’s names with love, and endeavour to serve Krishna etc. Contemplating on the multitude of Krishna’s attributes, and practising every day this worship as described, you will reach Krishna alone.

hariḥ oṃ tatsat
iti śrīmad bhagavadgītāsupaniṣatsu
śrī-kṛṣṇārjuna saṃvāde rāja-guhya-yogo
nāma navamo’dhyāyaḥ

Thus in the Upanishads of the Glorious Bhagavad Gita
The science of the Eternal, the Scripture of Yoga
The dialogue between Śrī Krishna and Arjuna
Ends the ninth discourse entitled
“The Royal Secret”