12. BHAKTI YOGA
Bhakti Means 100 % faith in One God, and “TOTAL SURRENDER TO GOD”.
The Gita is an ocean of scriptural and spiritual knowledge. The 700 verses of The Gita are placed in the middle of Mahabharat. Its different chapters provide scientific proof of One God and indicate what is true religion. The Gita explains the need of religion in living a healthy and successful life. The golden thread that runs through and binds all chapters of the Gita is One God philosophy and universal principles of eternal religion (Sanatan Dharma). It is also wonderful scripture of self knowledge (Adhiatma-Vidya or Brahma-Vidya or Atma-Gyana).
Most of these subjects are nicely condensed in only 20 verses of this 12th chapter. Hence this Bhakti Yoga chapter is like a pendant of diamonds in a necklace of pearls. Bhakti Yoga is the shortest chapter of the Gita, having only 20 verses. They are simple and easy to memorize. They provides a good group chanting for mass prayers. A beginner can easily memorize the 20 verses in 20 days - at the rate of only one verse a day, provided one is determined to memorize them. Do not bother for the meaning of the verses in the beginning. Meaning will unfold in due course of time. Later one will memorize the 32 steps of the ladder of Bhakti, and know on which step he is standing by self-meditation.
It is not necessary to study scriptures like the three Vedas, or perform complicated rituals or give big donations to human Gurus and priests for revelating experience (Darshana) of God. By devoted study of this one chapter of the Gita any seeker of God can see Him in short time. Mahatma Gandhi loved this chapter very much. This chapter is recommended to beginners by all masters who have studied the Gita in some depth. A person cannot call himself a Hindu who does not know this chapter. May God bless all curious seekers to take the first step on the path of Bhakti.
This 12th chapter is like the heart of the Gita and Bharatiya scriptural heritage. Bhakti springs from heart and not intellect. Hence it is placed in the middle of the Gita. Bhakti Yoga provides us a map indicating a perfect path of reaching the Supreme God by understanding what is religion and knowledge of every individual and true Self.
The verses are in simple Sanskrit. Their meaning becomes clear soon to any person who knows some Indian language like Hindi, Rajasthani, Punjabi, Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati etc. By daily chanting of these verses, one slowly starts understanding their meanings. The last 8 verses provide a list of noble values and divine attitudes to be developed by any individual (SELF or ATMA).
In the name of religion and God many, who are impostors and hypocrite Gurus misguide people and cheat masses. This master piece of Sanskrit literature pinpoints morals and good qualities of a true devotee of God. At least for gaining this knowledge this chapter needs to be studied by curious students of all religions and people interested in search of invisible and formless God (Nirakar Ishvar).
Swami Chinmayanandji on Bhakti Yoga.
I was lucky to hear a wonderful discourse on this Bhakti Yoga of Gita from the late Rev. Swami Chinmayanandji in Bharatiya Temple, Troy MI. It was his last visit in Detroit before his Brahma-Nirvana. Some interesting points narrated by Swamiji before starting this chapter are recorded here.
1. Why this chapter is placed in the Gita as 12th chapter, though many scholars advise it to be studied as the first chapter for any beginner?
This was the first point which Swamiji raised and then answered in following manner.
Swamiji asked what is the name of the previous chapter? We answered, “Vishva roop- Darshana Yoga”. Then he said that real Bhakti starts only after seeing the universal form of LORD (God) of universe, which Arjuna saw in 11th chapter.
Then Swamiji pointed our attention to the last 4 verses of 11th chapter. These should be read and studied first before starting this chapter. This recommendation of Swamiji is worth remembering. He explained that though every chapter is a masterpiece of Sanskrit literature by itself, a continuos thought stream runs in the Gita which connects different chapters in the ending verses and/or the starting verses. Let us look at these verses as Swamiji had suggested.
A student of the Gita and Yoga meditation should remember that the Gita is written in such a manner that the Supreme Lord, (One God, Bhagavan- the maker of our universe and the destiny of all beings and things visible to eyes and perceptible by other senses) is speaking in ‘first person singular pronoun’ as 'I'.
The Lord is speaking to Arjuna, who is a man of great ability and intellect. But he is confused regarding his duty on the battle field and is in duality of mind. He is worried about the outcome of the war. He is in the grip of emotions due to family attachments. He has many questions regarding God, religion, duty and the path of right actions.
Many questions of Arjuna are answered in earlier chapters. Then having blessed Arjuna with divine eyes (Divya-chakshu) in Vishva-Roop-Darshana Yoga (11th chapter), Lord shows His Infinite Universal form to Arjuna. Arjuna gets horrified upon seeing this gigantic form of God having thousand heads, thousand eyes, thousand hands and thousand feet. Arjuna requests Lord to show him simple human form once again. Lord shows his human Krishna form of the charioteer and sums up the 11th chapter with these words.
Naham Vadeir na tapasa, na danen na ch yejyaya,
Shakya avm vidho drastum drastavan asi man yatha;
Bhaktyatu ananya shakyaha aham avm vidho- Arjunaha
Gnyatum drastumch tatvena pravestum ch Paramtapaha
(Ch.XI-Ver 53 & 54) )
Lord says " Oh Arjuna, it is not possible to see my universal (Vishva-Roop) form, which you just now saw- by the study of Vedas, by penance (tapascharyas), by giving great donations (to Brahmins, and Gurus) or by performing great Yagnas (fire sacrifices). Oh Paramtapa, only by true devotion (Bhakti) alone to ME, One God of this universe, it is possible to see my universal form. Only then it is possible to Know me, See me and Merge with me". (The title of 11th Chapter is Vishvaroop Darshan Yoga).
Compare the above verse with a famous poetry stanza of saint Kabir. Kabir was a true devotee of God who lived during 12th century AD. (For life and message of Kabir see a separate article in this issue).
Char Veda Pundit padha aur tark kare nadan
Bhava Bhakti Jane nahi sabhi pariksha baad.
"Pundits (Scholars) learn the four Vedas and debate in ignorance about God and religion. But they do not know anything about God even after passing all their examinations. God could only be realized by true devotion (total surrender) and love for all creations of God." No wonder why Kabir was disliked by orthodox Brahmins in his times and even today.
2 Second important point Swamiji told was more interesting. The word Bhakti is not seen in the Vedas, most Upanishads and the Six Hindu Darshans.
The word 'Bhakti' is usually translated as 'Devotion to God'. But its real meaning is total 'Surrender of body, mind, intellect and all possessions to the mercy of God'. Lord asks repeatedly in the last 8 verses of this chapter, "Surrender your mind and intellect to ME. I love only such devotees."
3. The third interesting point Swamiji told was regarding the literary nature of this chapter. This chapter is a masterpiece of Sanskrit literature. There is not a single word more or less. It is not possible to replace or eliminate any word. All the words in the 20 verses of this chapter are so wisely and perfectly chosen that it is not possible to delete, add or alter any word. It is such a perfect work of literature.
4. Swamiji told many other points which are not recorded here for sake of brevity. I suggest after my study of the Gita for last 15 years that this chapter should be committed to memory by all Hindus.
A person is not a Hindu who is not able to recite this chapter in original Sanskrit.
Let this chapter become a part of daily regular prayer in your life and all temples of Bharatiya heritage and culture.
Meaning of the 20 verses of Bhakti Yoga in simple words
(A good discourse of this chapter requires about 8 to 12 hours, divided into 4 to 8 short continuous sessions during a week/ or weekend. For simple understanding of the verses a theme translation (Bhavaanuvad) is presented below).
Bhakti Yoga means to unite with God by becoming a true devotee of God. A devotee has 100 % faith in One God and His perfect laws governing all creations in just, equal and fair manner. The word Yoga is generally understood as static postures, deep breathing exercises and some methods of meditation. But the correct meaning of Yoga is 'to join with, bound to or united with God and religion’. Religion means awareness of moral obligations or consciousness of duty at all times.
Following is simple theme translation of the 20 verses. The Sanskrit text is given on in the end, for keeping into pocket for chanting and memorizing.
The chapter starts with a question of Arjuna (any curious and intellectual soul).
Arjuna addresses Lord as Thee, Thou, thy, etc..(second person singular pronoun).
(Verse 1).Arjuna asks the Lord. "There are two types of devotees. (a) Those who have great faith (Shraddha) in God. (People firmly believing in One God with unshakable faith) and (b) Others trying to find Thee by meditation Thy unmanifest, invisible and imperishable but all pervading, omnipresent form. Out of these two types of devotees, who are truly united (IN YOGA) with THEE ? Please tell me". (V-1).
The next 19 verses are spoken by the Lord, who speaks as “I, me or mine”.
Lord gives answer to the first line of the first verse in the 2nd verse:
(Verse. 2) “They are my true devotees whose minds are ever tuned with me, they are my well united devotees (true Yogies). They constantly (Satat) and daily (Nitya) worship me at all the times. They have unshakable faith (Shraddha) in Me” (V-2).
Then Lord answers the second question regarding seekers of invisible God in verses Nos 3 and 4.
(Verse. 3) “Those who search my imperishable, invisible, unmanifest, omnipresent, beyond the limits of imaginations and yet permanent and hidden form (Spirit or soul) are also my devotees”. (V-3). For such devotees Lord indicates a three point plan (formula or path) in verse N0. 4.
(Verse. 4) “Those who search me via search of self (Atman) and soul can also see me in following way: (1) They have to control 10 organs- 5 sense organs and 5 organs of actions, plus mind and intellect; (2) They have to develop an attitude of equality for all living beings, (namely all living human beings, animals and plants) (3) They have to ever remain active in benevolent deeds for the welfare of all beings and creations during their entire life. Then such devotees can see my infinite form”. (V-4).
This verse is like a measuring tape for judging half true, half false Gurus talking about spirituality, body, mind, soul and teaching Pranayama and Yoga postures.
(Verse. 5)Lord gives a warning and declares, “To see my formless image by the path of meditation is a very difficult thing. (It is not possible for average people and family men). One has to undergo many bodily penance and hardships”. (Verse No. 5).
But to make it simple for everyone Lord suggests a simple path (formula).
(Verse. 6 & 7) “I am the ever ready (omnipresent) savior and protector for those who worship Me and surrender to Me their all actions and deeds with faith and conviction that I am the only One Supreme Lord of the universe. I uplift them from false fears of deaths and an endless ocean of family bondages”.(V-6 & 7).
From verses No. 8 to 12, Lord suggests different paths of “Seeing or reaching God” according to mental and intellectual level of any student. Lord says.
(Verse. 8) "Engage thy mind (Remember Mana =conscious mind; Chitta = sub conscious mind and Buddhi = intellect in all next verses) in ME. Thus you will ever stay with and within ME: and you will surely uplift yourself”. (V-8). If this is not possible then Lord gives another alternative.
(Verse. 9) “If it is not possible to constantly keep thy mind (Chitta) stead-fast in Me, then study Yoga (eight steps of Yoga) and know thy true self. Then you can expect to see Me, realize Me”. (V-9). If this is not possible, then a third plan is suggested.
(Verse. 10) "Do all thy deeds and actions for Me, as if you are my employee. By doing your actions in this manner you will achieve great (material) successes in life”. (V-10).
(Verse. 11) And lastly Lord says, “If you are not able to do all the actions for Me, then you can do all actions for yourself and as you achieve great fruits (results), those fruits of actions must be surrendered to Me”. (V-11).
In next verse No. 12, all above mentioned paths are summarized beautifully.
(Verse. 12) “Self-Knowledge is higher than the worldly knowledge. Dhyana (art of fullest attention in the Karmas one is doing- the 7th step of Yoga) is higher than self knowledge. But renunciation of the fruits of actions is higher than Dhyana; because permanent peace of mind only comes by renunciation of the fruits of actions”. (V-12).
32 qualities of a True Devotee of God
From Verse 13th onwards, Lord shows a ladder of nearly 32 steps. These are the good virtues (Goons, qualities) to be developed by a true devotee and seeker of God. When one reaches the top, one becomes a true devotee (messenger, messiah) of God. A devotee feels God's presence at all times, in all places and all things. By translating these noble qualities in life, any body can become a welcome person in any family and society. These qualities are summarized in brief as follows:-
(Verse. 13). The first quality of a devotee is that he or she is not jealous of any body (1). He is a compassionate friend of every one (2). Every thing belongs to God (Nirmama) is his attitude. He acts like a trustee of the wealth or political power given to him by God (3). He is devoid of all false egos (4), He is equipoise in happiness and grief (5) and is of forgiving nature (6)”. (V-13).
For the example of forgiveness, one should remember the last message of Jesus Christ on the cross. He says, “Oh, Lord forgive them because they do not know what they are doing”.
(Verse. 14) “My devotee is always satisfied or contented in all situations (7), he is an ever active person (8), he is a man of firm determination (9), and he has surrendered his mind and intellect to Me (10). I love such devotees”. (V-14).
(Verse. 15) “People are not afraid of him (11), and he is not afraid of people (12). He has conquered elations ((13), fears (14), worries (15), tensions (16) and idleness (17). (V-15).
(Verse. 16) “He does not expect any thing from any one, really independent (18), has clean manners (19), is smart (20), indifferent towards unhappy events of past (21), not worried about the outcome or results of his plans and actions (22). (V-16).
(Verse. 17) “He does not worry over things over which he has no control (23), does not expect miracles to happen, is not a judge of events and things- whether this is good and that is bad”.(24) (V- 17).
And now starts the list of highest qualities of a true devotee of God.
(Verse. 18) “He is equal in his behavior towards friends and enemies (25), cool headed during insults or praises (26), bears with ease heat and cold (27), is beyond happiness and unhappiness, and has no sensual attachments of likes and dislikes (28). (V-18).
(Verse. 19) “He is balanced in his criticism and praise of others and knows where to keep his mouth shut (29). He is satisfied with little or great rewards coming to him (30); is not attached to house (family) (31) and is always a man of firm opinions and sound intellect (32)”. (V-19).
In the above list of 32 qualities of a true devotee, Lord gives a measuring tape by which any one can judge an impostor priest misguiding people about God and Religion. This 12th chapter teaches practical religion in daily life. It provides a path of contemplation and indicates so many good points for meditation. In summing up this entire chapter, Lord says;
(Verse. 20) “The above is the ‘Nectar of Religion’ (Dharma-amrutam). One has to practice it daily, with faith and devotion to Me. I love such devotees very much” (V-20).
* * * * *
Bhakti Yoga of the Gita teaches us to unite with (Yoga with) God by practice of true religion preached in this chapter. A student on the path of Bhakti has to ask himself or herself this question daily and constantly. "Do I possess any or some of these 32 qualities and attitudes?
- Summary of 20 verses of Bhakti Yoga.
- Hindu belief of One Supreme invisible and formless God, or God in human form, and how to realize God are discussed in verses no 2 to 5. A seeker develops absolute faith and conviction about One Infinite God when he understands these verses.
- From verses No 6 to 11, Lord shows different methods of reaching HIM according to mental and intellectual levels of different individuals.
- Verse 12 evaluates the importance of knowledge and practice (Abhyasa = study or sadhana), self-knowledge (Gyana), concentration or attention (Dhyana), and renunciation of the fruits of actions (Karma-fala- Tyaga). The fine difference between Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism could be understood by understanding this one particular verse.
- Who is a true devotee (Bhakata)?. Verses from 13 to 19 describe nearly 32 psychological attitudes and mental qualities of a true devotee of God. They provide a measuring tape for discovering a true devotee of God. One might not possess all the noble qualities to start with. By memorizing these verses one starts climbing the divine ladder of 32 steps of Bhakti. It takes any student towards God.
- Remember the first few qualities to be developed. No jealousy, no attachments, No Egos of any kind, and positive helping nature filled with compassion, love, forgiveness, satisfaction etc.,..
- This chapter indicates a path of getting mental peace, spiritual upliftment, ability of making firm decisions, and unshakable faith in God. To become a true devotee one has to develop many good qualities (Sad Goonas). These are described in the last 8 verses, which provide a ladder of 32 steps. A true seeker is supposed to climb it step by step, slowly and steadily to reach GOD.
- The knowledge of these qualities provides a guideline to find a real devotee from an impostor. Even for this purpose, one has to learn and memorize this chapter of the Gita. It will save hard earned money going to wrong kind of people in the name of religious donations. The essence of religion is shown in last (20th) verse.
- Reigion is to be practiced first by the self, and then preached by the example of one’s self by exhibiting above mentioned good qualities.
SHRIMAD BHAGAVAT GITA = BHAKTI YOGA. Chapter - XII.
(For group Chanting by the Youth and others who cannot read Sanskrit alphabates.)
evam satatyukta ye, bhakta stvam pary-oopasate
ye chapya-ksharam avyaktam tesham ke yoga vittamaha. 1.
mayya-veshya mano ye mam, nitya yukta oopasate,
shraddhaya paryo petaha, te me yuktatama mataha. 2.
Ye tu-aksharam anir-deshyam, a-vyaktam par-oopasate
sarvatra-gam a-chintyam cha kutastham achalam dhruvam. 3.
sanniyamya indriya-gramam, sarvatra sama buddhayaha
te prapnuvanti mam eva, sarva bhuta hite rataha. 4.
klesho adhiktarah tesham, a-vyakta a-sakta chetasam
a-vayakta hi gatir dukham dehavad-bhir avapyate. 5.
ye tu sarvani karmani mayi sanyasya matparaha
ananyena eva yogena mam dhyant oopasate 6.
tesham aham samuddharta mrutu sansar sagarat
bhavami na chirat Partha, mayya veshita chetasam. 7.
mayyava mana adhasva, mayi buddhim niveshaya
nivasishyasi mayy-eva, atah urdhavam na sanshayah. 8.
atha chittam samadhatum, na shaknosi mayi sthiram
abhyasa yogena-tato, mam ichhaptum Dhananjaya. 9.
abhyase api a-samarthosi, mat karma parmo bhava
madartham api karmani, kurvan siddhim avapsyasi. 10.
athaitat api-a-saktosi, kartum madyoga-mashritah
sarva karma-fala tyagam, tatah kuru yatatmavan. 11.
shreyo hi gyanam abhyasat, gyanat dhyanam vishishyate
dhyanat karma-fala tyagam, tyagat shanihi anantaram. 12.
adweshta sarva bhutanam, maitraha karunaha eva ch
nir-mamo nir-ahankarah sama dukhaha sukhaha kshamihi. 13.
santustha satatam yogi, yatatma dradha nishchayaha
mayya-arpita mano buddhihi, yo madbhaktaha sa me priyaha. 14.
yasmat no-dvijate lokah, loka-nno-dvijate cha yaha.
harshaamarsha bhayodvagaihi, mukto yah sa cha me priyah 15.
anapekshaha shuchir-daksha udasino gatah-vyathaha,
sarva-arambha pari-tyagi, yo mad bhaktaha sa me priyah. 16.
yo na hrushyati na dweshti, na shochati na-(a)kankshati,
shubha-ashubha pari tyagi, bhaktimanya sa me priyah. 17.
samah shatrau ch mitre cha, tatha man-apamanyoho,
shit-ushna sukh dukheshu, samah sangah vivar-jitaha. 18.
tulya ninda stutir-mauni, santustha yen ken chit,
aniketah sthira-matihi, bhaktiman me priyo narah. 19.
ye tu dharma-amrutam eedam, yathoktam pari oopasate,
shraddhana mat parma, bhaktaste-(a)tiv me priyaha. 20.
Om tat sad, eeti Shrimad Bhagavat Gitashu Upanishadshu, Bhrham-vidyam,
Yoga-Shahtra, Shree Krishna-arjuna samvade, Bhakti Yogo nam Dwadasho-adhyaha.