Commentary on the Bhagavadgita
by Swami Krishnananda

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Discourse 28: The Ninth Chapter Concludes – Undivided Devotion to God

Ananyāś cintayanto māṁ ye janāḥ paryupāsate, teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yogakṣemaṁ vahāmyaham (9.22): “If you resort to Me, it shall be My duty to take care of you. I shall provide you with all your requirements, and I shall also see that what you have been provided with is secure.” This is a compassionate statement. Not only will we be given what we want, but that which is given will be protected, safeguarded.

Commentators have a question: Is not God kind to everybody, or is He kind only to those who resort to Him in consciousness? Does He not provide food, clothing and shelter to everybody, or does He give it only to those who resort to Him?

Yes, it is true that everyone is taken care of by the Almighty Lord, and that even an ant that crawls is given what it needs. But it is said that in the case of ordinary individuals, the protection is granted through a series of operations. Their karmic bodies are associated with the Supreme Being in a very indirect manner, whereas direct action is different from indirect help that is given through accessories, agents, lesser gods, or through the fructification of karma. In the case of those who are perfectly united with God—like saints Tukaram, Jnanadev, Ekanath and others—God does not merely provide what they need; He becomes a kind of servant, as it were, of these bhaktas.

There was a Brahmin who was fond of this sloka. He devoted himself entirely to this one verse, and trusted entirely in God’s mercy and compassion and capacity to provide him everything. He was a beggar, and had to go for alms every day. He had a family which he had to feed—children crying for food—and every day he had to go about to get enough alms for the maintenance of his family. One day it so happened that even though he had wandered throughout the streets the entire day until sunset, he could not get even one grain of rice. He came back disappointed.

The children asked, “Papa! Where is the food?”

His wife asked, “What has happened?”

He replied, “I do not know. God has deserted me. He has not fulfilled His promise. I tried my best by wandering throughout the day, but I could not get even one grain of cereal.”

He children were crying, and his wife was anxious.

“False is this promise!” the Brahmin exclaimed in anger.

In those days, scriptures were written on palm leaves, as there was no printing on paper. So the verse from the Bhagavadgita—ananyāś cintayanto māṁ ye janāḥ paryupāsate, teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yogakṣemaṁ vahāmyaham—was written on a palm leaf. He tore that sloka with a nail, thinking that is a false promise, and left the house in disgust.

About an hour or so after he had left, a boy came to the house with a big bag full of cereals and grains, etc., threw it on the veranda, and loudly called to the Brahmin’s wife who was inside, “Here are the rations sent by your husband.” But the boy’s tongue was torn and bleeding.

The wife asked, “Who sent this?”

“Your husband has sent it.”

“My husband? I am very glad. What is the matter with you?”

“He was very angry with me because I was a little late, so he tore my tongue,” replied the boy.

“This is a horrible man! What kind of person is he? You are a servant, you brought the rations, and he has the cruelty to tear your tongue?” As she was saying this, the boy vanished.

When the Brahmin came back, his wife said to him, “What has happened to you? You are a fool. Are you out of your mind? You tore the tongue of the boy who brought the rations which you sent.”

“I didn’t send any rations,” he said. “I didn’t tear the tongue of anybody. Where are the rations?”

She showed him the bag. “The rations are sufficient for a month,” she said, “but blood was pouring from where the boy’s tongue had been torn.”

He fell at the feet of that lady and said, “You are my Guru from today because you had darshan of the Lord. I am a sinner. Because I tore the sloka, I could not see Him.”

There are many stories of this kind. There was an incident that took place in the Punjab sometime back. A railway guard had to be on duty at 8 p.m. in the evening, and before that he happened to go to a satsang. He thought that he would remain in satsang until 8 o’clock and then go to the station. The satsang inspired him to such an extent that he fell into a state of ecstasy. He remained in this state all night, and forgot the time. In the morning, he became conscious that he had not gone on duty at the railway station and thought, “What happened to the train? What is the matter? Now what will happen to me?”

He repented very much, and went to the chief officer and said, “I am very sorry. I could not come on duty. I do not know what happened to the train. I was to be on guard duty.”

“What is the matter?” the officer asked. “You were on duty. I saw you.”

“Don’t talk to me sarcastically. I could not come.”

“What are you saying? The train went on time. You were there. See your signature in the attendance register.”

His attendance was marked, and his signature was also there. He was stunned. It seems he wept before the Almighty and said, “O Lord! If Thou art so kind to me, I shall devote my entire life to you only!” He immediately submitted a letter of resignation, left the service, and spent the rest of his life doing bhajan and kirtan.

The lives of saints are replete with instances of this kind. Another case is Bhadrachala Ramadas, who was put in prison because he could not replace the gold coins of a Nawab, which he had distributed to the poor. Immediately, somebody came with a bag of gold coins and threw it in front of the Nawab.

The lives of saints are standing illustrations of the truth of this great statement of the Almighty, which is applicable not only to saints and sages, but to every one of us. Perhaps we are saints in the making.

Ananyāś cintayanto māṁ ye janāḥ paryupāsate, teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yogakṣemaṁ vahāmyaham. If we are undividedly united with Him in our soul, in our heart, in our spirit, thinking only That, brooding over only That, and every day there is no occupation except this, to those who are ever united in the deepest spirit of their being, to them there is no lack, no penury, no sorrow, no suffering, no fear—because it shall be seen by God that all things are put in order. Eternally awake is the Almighty in His omniscience. Here is a gospel in a single verse, considered by devotees as a precious jewel, an ornament in the middle of the great scripture of the Bhagavadgita.

Ye’pyanyadevatābhaktā yajante śraddhayānvitāḥ, tepi mām eva kaunteya yajanty avidhipūrvakam (9.23). What about those who worship minor gods? They also get their fruits. It has already been explained in the Seventh Chapter that the fruits they get will have a beginning and an end. They worship the Supreme Being unconsciously, through limited concepts of lesser divinities. They do not know what they are actually worshipping. They have only a narrow notion of a localised god, who will give only a prescribed grant of the thing asked for, for the given moment of time. “Unconsciously they are worshipping Me, because even the little blessing that comes from the lesser gods is actually a grant acceded to by Me.” We need not go into the details of this subject, as we already have studied it in the Seventh Chapter.

Ahaṁ hi sarvayajñānāṁ bhoktā ca prabhur eva ca (9.24): “I am the Lord of all the fruits of sacrifices, I am the enjoyer of all these offerings made in the sacrifices, and I am also the impeller to the action of the performance of sacrifice; but people do not know that I am that.” Na tu mām abhijānanti tattvena:In reality, people cannot know Me. They know Me only as invested with form and shape and name and location, according to their capacity to think in terms of space, time and objects. They suffer on account of limited vision, even though I pervade all things and am shining before their eyes as this world. But their inner perceptive insight cannot visualise that what they see with their eyes as this world of manifestation is I Myself, shining through these names and forms. Through all the eyes, I see; through all the ears, I hear; through all the feet, I walk; through all the hands, I grasp. All the activities of all individuals are really My activities. I am doing all things. Even the perception through the sense organs is conducted by Me only, but people do not know this reality.” Ᾱtaś cyavanti te: “Therefore, they fall down into the state of rebirth on account of attachments to limited concepts of what is good and bad for them.”

Yānti devavratā devān (9.25): “If you worship gods like Indra, Varuna, Mitra, etc., you will go to them.” Pitṛn yānti pitṛvratāḥ: “If you worship the forefathers, pitris, you will go to them. Bhūtāni yānti bhūtejyā: “If you worship demons, you will go to demons.” There are demoniacal pisachas, etc., who are sometimes considered to be lower divinities capable of granting small rajasic and tamasic blessings. If you worship them, you will become that. Yānti madyājinopi mām: “If you want gods, go to gods; if you want pitris, go to pitris; if you want demoniacal natures to immediately come to your help—okay, do that; but if you come to Me, you are really safe. Those who worship Me in truth—‘in truth’ is the word that has to be underlined, tattvena—not as I appear, but as I really am in Myself, if one can contemplate on Me as I really am in Myself, as the eternal principle not involved in the perishable names and forms, if they can resort to Me by meditating on Me in this way, they shall be really blessed, and they shall not return to a mortal coil.”

“I shall be easily pleased. My worship is not difficult.” We do not require large assets to please God. The samarpana or the naivedya that we have to offer to God is simple. Patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ (9.26): “You can offer a leaf, I shall be satisfied. You can offer a single flower, I shall be satisfied. You can offer Me a spoon of water with devotion to Me, I am fully satisfied with it. But it has to be offered with devotion.” What is offered is not of consequence in the eye of God. The bhava, or the feeling, or the mode, or the attitude with which it is offered is what counts. God does not want anything from us—not large estates, not many kinds of delicacies. God has enough of these in His Vaikuntha, in His Kailasa, in His Brahmaloka. These are not going to be the means of His satisfaction. But if our heart is there, then of course He will accept it. If our heart is not there, the offering is devitalised. Devitalised offerings are not accepted. And, finally, the vitality comes from us only. If we offer ourselves, that shall be the greatest pleasure to God. If we offer something that is dear to us, that is also a pleasure to God, but a lesser pleasure. But if we offer something that is not dear to us—an old coin or a torn note—that is not going to satisfy God because He knows our feelings, our motives. Even before we think, He knows what we are going to think. So no deception, no trick, can be played here. “I am simple and accessible in a very, very easy manner.”

It is said that Arjuna and Bhima were worshipping Lord Siva. Arjuna was collecting tons and tons of bilva leaves, and offering mountains of these leaves to Lord Siva in worship. Bhima was also worshipping Lord Siva, but he did it only in his mind. He had no physical leaf, and did not bring anything from the forest to offer to Lord Siva. One day, it seems, Arjuna and Bhima were taken to Kailasa for some reason. They saw cartloads and cartloads of bilva leaves being brought by the ganas of Siva, and they were poured at his feet. And some people were also bringing little handfuls of leaves and throwing them.

Arjuna asked, “Who are these people who are bringing little bunches of leaves and offering them, and who are these who are offering cartloads?”

“That little bit is what has been offered by Arjuna, and the cartloads are the offerings of Bhima,” they said.

“Bhima? He never does any worship,” said Arjuna.

“He has done the worship, and Lord Siva is pleased,” they replied.

Bhima offered cartloads because his mind was there; and Arjuna offered a little bit because it was a physical offering.

Tad ahaṁ bhaktyupahṛtam aśnāmi: A leaf, a little particle sticking to the vessel in which Draupadi had her meal, satisfied everyone in the whole universe. Their stomachs started bloating with the satisfaction of overeating on account of the little leaf that went into the mouth of this Cosmic Person, Bhagavan Sri Krishna. “I am easily satisfied if it is offered to Me with devotion. Because you have come to Me with an utter spirit of self-surrender, I shall accept what you give—even a spoon of water or a leaf, or even a thought. I shall be happy even with the thought of your surrender to Me. Forget the leaves, etc.; even the idea is sufficient for Me. Your love for Me is enough for Me, and I know that your heart is for Me, and I shall take care of you.”

“Whatever you do, O Arjuna, offer it to Me.” Yyat karoṣi yad aśnāsi yaj juhoṣi dadāsi yat, yat tapasyasi kaunteya tat kuruṣva madarpaṇam (9.27): “If you offer anything in sacrifice, yajna, let it be to My satisfaction. I am the Universal bhokta, or the enjoyer of all sacrifices. If you eat anything—a meal, breakfast, lunch—let it be offered to Me.”

This kind of offering of food which goes into our stomach as a dedication to the Almighty is described in the Chhandogya Upanishad. It is called pranagnihotra. Pranaya svaha, apanaya svaha, vyanaya svaha, samanaya svaha, udanaya svaha—people chant these mantras and sip water five times before they start their meal. This is a ritual known mostly to Brahmins. The idea is that we should not eat our meal like animals, gulping it like pigs or swallowing it like dogs. Our attitude towards food should not be that of an animal. Food is a sacred offering to the divinity inside, who digests whatever we eat through the Vaisvanara fire—pacāmyannaṁ caturvidham (15.14). The pranas are the digesters of the food. If the pranas are not satisfied with the food that we throw into our stomach, it is not going to be received. Disturbed pranas will not receive any kind of delicacy; and if the stomach is not operated by the Vaisvanara agni, the food is not going to be digested.

“Whatever you offer outside in the form of sacrifices, in yajnasalas, that is also an offering to Me, and whatever you offer inside by way of a meal that you take, that is internal yajna that you perform as prana-agnihotra. Therefore, may your actions be devoted to Me, dedicated to Me. Whatever be these actions, whether secular or religious—clerical, military, business, sweeping the floor, or anything that you perform according to the station of your life and your location in society—let it be dedicated to Me, and you shall see that you are taken care of abundantly by the guardians of the earth.”

“If you do tapas, spiritual practice, yoga sadhana, let that also be a satisfaction to Me.” Do not be under the egoistic impression that you are independently doing some yoga for your personal salvation. If you are a spiritual seeker, this ego should not be there in you. You are a humble, simple ray of the Almighty that is seeking unity with it. Therefore, your meditations are actually the highest kind of worship that you perform, the greatest naivedya that is offered, the best gift that you can think of as pleasing to God.

Tat kuruṣva madarpaṇam: “Let all this be given to Me. Let there be no responsibility on your part. Place all responsibility in Me, and I shall feel very happy to take all the burden of the whole world on My head.”

It is said that Dattatreya, the great sage, carries a bag when he goes for alms, and he asks for the sins of people. The alms that Dattatreya seeks from people are their sins. “How many sins you have committed? Bring. I will put them in the bag.” He digests the whole thing. Like that, God will absorb all our errors, mistakes, misconceptions, and even sins; and we will find we are purified in an instant by the repentance for the sins that we committed, the determination not to commit these sins again, and a whole-souled devotion to God in Whom we have such faith that we believe entirely—without any doubt, with all the recesses of our being—that He shall protect us. Whatever we think, that shall take place. Whatever we believe in, that shall materialise. Whatever we deeply expect, that shall be granted to us; and if we expect the grace of God, it shall be poured abundantly upon us.

Śubhāśubhaphalair evaṁ mokṣyase karmabandhanaiḥ, saṁnyāsayogayuktātmā vimukto mām upaiṣyasi (9.28). Sannyasa and yoga have already been discussed in earlier chapters—in the Third, Fourth and Fifth Chapters—and it is mentioned once again here. One who is an adherent to the dharmas of sannyasa and yoga—renunciation and actual practice—such a person is freed from all the results of good and bad deeds. Karmabandha is broken. Karma is supposed to be binding, and no one can be freed from the bonds of karma. But here is a recipe to break the chain of karma; and the laws that usually operate in the world of space and time, the three-dimensional realm, do not operate in the four-dimensional realm. That is the meaning of saying that even sins are pardoned and destroyed. If we commit a mistake in a dream, we are not punished for it when we wake up. Whatever be the mistake that we commit in a dream, it is absolved merely by the fact of our waking. So is the case with any mistake that we commit here. Any error, even any sin, is abolished completely, root and branch, because we have awakened into the consciousness of the eternal four-dimensional Absolute.

Samohaṁ sarvabhūteṣu na me dveṣyo’sti na priyaḥ (9.29): “I have neither friend nor foe. Like sunlight and rain, I pour myself on all people equally. But if you do not open yourself to Me, the light will not shine upon you and the rain will not affect you in any way. I am equally accessible to all.” The basic fundamental reality behind all the names and forms is one and same: sat-chit-ananda svarupa—Existence-Consciousness-Bliss. It is equally present in all names and forms—in inanimate matter, in insects, in ants, in reptiles, in animals, in plants, in human beings, in the gods in heaven. It is equally present everywhere, as the ocean is equally present and at the root of all the ripples, waves, etc., that appear on its surface.

“I am equal to all. I have no friend or enemy, and I do not have any partiality in respect of any person. The intensity of your meditation will be the determining factor of the extent of grace that will be poured upon you automatically, and I do not look upon you as a friend or an enemy. You shall reach Me by the spirit of sannyasa, renunciation in respect of all names and forms, and yoga, which is inner communion that you practise daily as your sadhana.” He is like a judge of the Supreme Court whose dispensation is totally impartial.

Samohaṁ sarvabhūteṣu na me dveṣyo’sti na priyaḥ, ye bhajanti tu māṁ bhaktyā mayi te teṣu cāpyaham: “I am always inside you, and you are inside Me, if you are devoted to Me as Sudama was devoted, as Vidura was devoted, as Draupadi was devoted, as the saints were devoted.” God is so kind as to say that He shall dwell in us and take care of us, and shall put us inside Him and save us from all the sorrows of life.

Even the worst of sinners can be saved. There is no sin that cannot be burnt in the fire of wisdom. Api cet sudurācāro bhajate mām ananyabhāk, sādhur eva sa mantavyaḥ (9.30): “He is to be considered as a saint—even though in the eyes of people he is a culprit, a criminal, a sinner—provided he has resorted to Me, and his heart has been purified by the repentance that he has felt in his heart and the devotion that he has shown to Me honestly, sincerely, without any kind of restriction.” There is no sin before God. There is no hell before Him, and there is no heaven before Him. If there was really a hell, God would also see it; and if He saw it, it would be in front of Him. But the Universal Being, Who is bliss and eternity incarnate, does not see hell in front of Him.

The mistakes, the karmas, the sorrows, and the hells and heavens that we speak of are the reactions set up from the forces of nature to our own actions; and these reactions cannot cease as long as we are bound hand and foot through this body in terms of space, time and objectivity. But if our soul rises beyond the limitations of this body and does not get attached to anything that is in space and time, the very concept of sin is destroyed because it is relevant only to the world of space and time. So when we are free from space and time, and our worship is through the soul rather than through the mind or through the hands and feet, then all forces—even the greatest gravitational forces of the planets—are overcome because no law in this world is a law in that eternal realm. The laws of eternity and of temporality which catch us here bit by bit and annoy us, and man-made laws, scriptural laws, or laws made by anybody—every law is completely negated. This is because they are valid only in the three-dimensional world of space and time, and are completely invalid in the waking of the soul into Universal Existence.

As I mentioned, all experiences of dream are invalidated in waking. Whatever be the experiences of sorrow or joy, emperorship or beggary—whatever we have been undergoing in dream—the whole thing is abolished in one stroke merely because we have woken up. Waking consciousness is superior to dream consciousness. A beggar in waking is certainly happier than a king in dream. The point is not whether one is a king or a beggar; the point is whether one’s consciousness is superior or inferior. The superior consciousness of that eternity abolishes all the laws of this temporality of earthly existence. “So he is to be considered as a saint who has resorted to Me whole-heartedly, even if in the eyes of society he has been a very bad fellow, because bhajate mām ananyabhāk—undividedly, wholeheartedly, he is melting his personality. He has poured himself into Me.”

Devotion to God is the subject of Chapters Seven and Nine, and it is difficult to put into words the spirit of the kind of devotion that is expected from us by the Almighty. An ordinary devotion of a ritualistic type, or gauna bhakti, as it is called—a secondary type of devotion—will not do. Only a devotee can have the vision of the Universal, and nobody else. Even with all one’s learning, with all one’s sacrificial merits and all one’s tapasya, one cannot have this vision. “Only bhaktas can see Me,” is the statement in the Eleventh Chapter. But what kind of bhakti is it? What kind of devotion is it that transcends tapasya, transcends charity, transcends Vedic knowledge, and transcends every kind of good thing in the world?

It is not something that we offer by way of scriptural study or a garland or ritualistic performance in a temple or a shrine. Superior to all this is the soul wanting God—not merely our mind or our physical personality feeling pain and expressing a desire to unite ourselves with God. The deepest in us asks for the deepest in the cosmos. That is the highest devotion, which is described here in various forms in the Seventh and the Ninth Chapters. It reaches its culmination in the coming chapters until the Eleventh, where only God is shining, to the exclusion of even the existence of the devotee.