Commentary on the Bhagavadgita
by Swami Krishnananda

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Discourse 51: The Eighteenth Chapter Concludes – The Bhagavadgita Concludes

The Bhagavadgita is coming to its conclusion.

Īśvaraḥ sarvabhῡtānāṁ hṛddeśerjuna tiṣṭhati, bhrāmayan sarvabhῡtāni yantrārῡḍhāni māyayā (18.61): Ishvara, the Supreme Creator of the universe, is residing in the heart of all. He is all-pervading, transcendent, above this creation that He has manifested from Himself, yet residing in all hearts as the ruler of all, and also the Self of all. From the objective point of view, He is the dispenser of justice—the Creator, Preserver, Destroyer. From the subjective side, He is the deepest consciousness—the Atman.

In the deepest recesses of the heart of all beings, Ishvara, the Supreme Lord, resides. He controls the destiny of everything that is created, and rotates, as it were, the fates of people and all things as if they are mounted on a machine which He is operating—yantrārῡḍhāni. By a kind of power, which is called maya here—an inscrutable force, shakti, that He wields and exerts on everyone—He exercises a permanent control on all things. His rule of law does not require any emendation in the course of time. Once creation was willed, everything necessary for the maintenance of this creation was also simultaneously willed.

Yāthātathyato’rthān vyadadhāc chāśvatībhyas samābhyaḥ (Isa 8) is a passage from the Isavasya Upanishad. Ishvara, when He projected this universe, also made a law to maintain this universe in a stable form. This rule of law that He laid down at the beginning of creation for the purpose of the origin, the sustenance, as well as the end of all things does not require any change from moment to moment. Those changes that may be required under given conditions in the process of history have already been well thought out at the origin of things. If history is a process of turmoil, and everything seems to be out of control—anything can happen at any time, people seem to be exercising a kind of free will—all this has also been decided in the beginning of things. That there shall be a kind of turmoil, that there shall be an end of a certain epoch in history, and that there shall also be a remedy to it, was willed in the beginning of things. That is to say, omniscience being the quality of God, Ishvara, there is no necessity for His omniscience to get amended from time to time. His parliament is an eternally set organisation. It does not call for changes under any circumstance. The whole thing is controlled permanently, for ever and ever, right from the beginning, as a machine may be controlled by an operator of the machine.

Tam eva śaraṇaṁ gaccha (18.62). Such a Being exists; such a Lord is ruling the whole universe. Resort to Him. Surrender yourself to Him. Seek refuge in Him. Tam eva śaraṇaṁ gaccha sarvabhāvena bhārata: From the whole of your being, from all sides of your being, go and surrender yourself to that Almighty. Do not surrender only some part of your nature; do not reserve something to not be offered to God. Sarvabhāvena: Every aspect of your being has to be offered. Every aspect, every facet, and in every way is this surrender to be effected—total surrender is called for—and seek refuge in Him: tam eva śaraṇaṁ gaccha sarvabhāvena bhārata.

Tatprasādāt parāṁ śāntiṁ sthānaṁ prāpsyasi śāśvatam: By the grace of this compassionate Almighty Lord, Ishvara, you shall attain to the peace that surpasses understanding—that supreme peace which is eternal and untarnished by the process of spatial and temporal history. His grace, please seek it.

Iti te jñānam ākhyātaṁ guhyād guhyataraṁ mayā, vimṛśyaitad aśeṣeṇa yathecchasi tathā kuru (18.63): “I have told you everything that is necessary. Is there anything left now? I have concluded by the word that God is supreme. Surrender to Him is the final word. Devotion to the Supreme Being is the ultimate sadhana. I have told you the secret of all secrets. Consider deeply the pros and cons and the various aspects of this wisdom that I have imparted to you, and then do what you like.” After having said this much, Sri Krishna does not compel Arjuna by saying, “Therefore, do this.” After saying all these things, Sri Krishna says, “Do whatever is proper according to your opinion.” There is freedom even then.

Sarvaguhyatamaṁ bhῡyaḥ (18.64): “A very great secret I have imparted hereby.” Śṛṇu me paramaṁ vacaḥ: “Again I shall tell you something, a very great secret indeed.” Iṣṭosi me dṛḍham: “Because you are very dear to Me, you are devoted to Me, therefore I feel like telling you something more about this great secret of the love of God. Listen to Me.” Tato vakṣyāmi te hitam: “For your welfare I say this.”

Repeatedly, again and again, these instructions are given in different places of the Gita. Manmanā bhava (18.65): “Let your mind be absorbed in Me.” Madbhaktaḥ: “Totally be devoted to Me.” Madyājī: “Offer everything to Me; sacrifice everything to Me. Whatever is there, including your own self, let that be offered to Me.” Māṁ namaskuru: “Prostrate yourself before Me.” Mām evaiṣyasi: “You shall attain Me.” Satyaṁ te: “This is the truth.” Pratijāne priyosi me: “I promise that you are dear to Me and you shall certainly reach Me, if only you follow this advice in the letter, as well as in the spirit.”

Sarvadharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja, ahaṁ tvā sarvapāpebhyo mokṣyayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ (18.66): “The power of God is greater than the power of all the people in the world, in all creation. Renounce all the rules and regulations of the temporal world, which are temporary because they require transformation, change, emendation from moment to moment; but stick to the supreme dharma which is devotion to Me. Leave other dharmas which are characteristic of performance of work, etc., in the world of diversity, because all that variety of dharma is subsumed under this greatest of dharmas, that is, love of God. There is no dharma equal to that.”

There are varieties of dharmas in this world: family dharma, individual dharma, social dharma, political dharma, Kshatriya dharma, Brahmana dharma, and so on. They are all good in their own way, in their own place, but they are all nothing before the utter surrender of the soul to God. And all these dharmas, these rules, these Smirtis, these law codes—these systems of operation of secular dharma—are all included in that highest of spiritual dharmas, namely, unity with God.

Mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja: “Surrender yourself to Me, and resort to Me only. I shall destroy all your sins.” This is a great statement indeed, because it is believed that sins cannot be destroyed. Avashyameva bhoktavyamkrtamkarma shubhā shubham, nābhuktamkśiiyate karma (B.V.): These verses tell us that unexperienced karma cannot leave us; we have to undergo the effect of what we have done. Wherever we go, the karmas will follow us.

The greatest sin is ignorance of God, and every other form of crime, offence and sin is an offshoot of this ignorance of the Ultimate Reality. Because the final sin is the separation from God Himself, unity with God will destroy all sins—just as all evil that we perform in the dream state will be destroyed automatically by waking up. In dream we have borrowed so much wealth from somebody, we have committed this offence, that offence, all our property has been taken away, we are in a state of great grief. We are on our deathbed, as it were. All these stories can be found in the Yoga Vasishtha. All the experiences, all the sorrows, all the agonies, all the obligations, all the duties, all kinds of relationships that we were involved in during the state of dream do not produce any effect whatsoever when we wake up into a consciousness higher in quality than the dreaming state. The mere transformation of consciousness is equal to the fulfilment of all duties. Otherwise, even after waking up from dream we have to pay the debts that we have incurred in dream. We have to take care of all the children that we produced in the dream state because deserting our own children is a great sin, so why should we not also think of them when we wake up? Nothing will affect us, because consciousness determines everything. God-consciousness being the highest of awakenings, the world stands in relation to it as a dream. So, all the values, all the goodness and the badness, evil and sin in this world, whatever we call it, is like mist before the sun. It is annihilated root and branch because we have fulfilled the highest law. The offences and the sins that we commit in this world are no doubt violations of certain laws, but the fulfilment of the highest law includes all expiation in regard to the violations of laws that we have performed. God takes care of us to see that we shall not be punished, because we have done the greatest duty, more than anything that the world can conceive; and we have performed the greatest sacrifice, not comparable with any sacrifice that we can think of in this world; and we have cut at the root of all sin by uniting ourselves with God. Therefore it is that the Lord says: “I shall free you from all sins.” Ahaṁ tvā sarvapāpebhyo mokṣyayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ.

But we should not be under the impression that we can go on committing some foolish acts and God will come to our aid. He comes to our aid only when we are oblivious of our own existence, we are totally unaware of even the existence of the world, and we are absorbed in the Universal God utterly. It is in that condition of total transcendence of oneself that it is possible to expect this kind of blessing from the Almighty whereby all our offences are pardoned. Otherwise, as long as we are world-conscious and body-conscious—we know that there is a world and we know that there are people and that we also exist—then this law does not apply. We will have to reap the fruits of our karmas. Therefore, this is not a blanket cover for every kind of state of consciousness. It is applicable only to one state of consciousness—which is unity with God, not otherwise.

Idaṁ te nātapaskāya nābhaktāya kadācana, na cāśuśrῡṣave vācyaṁ na ca māṁ yobhyasῡyati  (18.67): “This great scripture should not unnecessarily be broadcast in the streets, and it should not be communicated to people who have not done some austerity in their life.” Atapaskāya: “One who is indulgent and grossly attached to objects in the world, totally far away from self-restraint, to such person communicate not this knowledge. One who has no devotion to Me, who carps at Me, denies Me, also to him let this not be communicated.” Kadācana: “Never. Do not communicate this to those who do not want to listen. They will say, ‘What are you boring into my ear?’” Na cāśuśrῡṣave vācyaṁ: “To such people, do not say anything.Na ca māṁ yobhyasῡyati: “Those who are jealous, and who deny the very existence of God Himself, to them let this secret be not revealed.”

Ya idaṁ paramaṁ guhyaṁ madbhakteṣv abhidhāsyati, bhaktiṁ mayi parāṁ kṛtvā mām evaiṣyaty asaṁśayaḥ (18.68): “But those people who are devotedly concerned with communicating this knowledge to true devotees of God, their devotion increases by this act of communicating this knowledge spoken by Me to you.” Speaking of glorious things is also a glory for one’s own self. When we speak of lofty things, our minds are lifted to a lofty level. Therefore, our devotion to God is also enhanced simultaneously by our loving communication of this knowledge to true devotees of God. Mām evaiṣyati: “Then you attain to Me.” Asaṁśayaḥ: “No doubt.”

Na ca tasmān manuṣyeṣu kaścin me priyakṛttamaḥ (18.69): “I have no friend more dear than this person who is intently thinking of Me, and who glorifies Me wherever it is possible by teaching this wisdom to those who are really devoted. I consider that person as very dear to Me indeed. No one is equal to that person in devotion to Me.” Dearest to God is one who is always considering God as his dearest. If to us God is the dearest, then God also will consider us as the dearest. Na ca tasmān manuṣyeṣu kaścin me priyakṛttamaḥ, bhavitā na ca me tasmād anyaḥ priyataro bhuvi: “No one is equal to him. No one in the world can compare with this devotee whose soul is rooted in Me and who is spending his entire life in communicating this wisdom to others who are truly devoted to Me.”

Adhyeṣyate ca ya imaṁ dharmyaṁ saṁvādam āvayoḥ, jñānayajñena tenāham iṣṭaḥ syām iti me matiḥ (18.70): “If anyone studies this Gita with love and devotion, full of the feeling of the righteousness of God, if anybody studies this conversation between Me and you intently, daily, with concentration of mind, I shall consider that I am worshipped by jnana yajna.” The worship of God through knowledge is called jnana yajna. So, the highest knowledge, or jnana, is here embodied in the Bhagavadgita text. “Whoever studies this lovingly, devotedly, every day, is veritably performing jnana yajna, the wisdom sacrifice. This is My opinion,” says the Lord.

Śraddhāvān anasῡyaś ca śṛṇuyād api yo naraḥ (18.71): Not only those people who study this every day, but even those who listen to this affectionately and with faith, with no prejudice, with no dubious mind, no doubts, and without the evil of faithlessness. Śraddhāvān is a person endowed with real faith. Anasῡyaś ca: With no doubt in the mind. Śṛṇuyād api yo naraḥ sopi muktaḥ: One who hears in this manner, such a person also should be considered as really liberated. One who is united with God is liberated, one who studies the Gita is also liberated, and even one who listens to it is also said to be liberated. Very great compassion indeed! Sopi muktaḥ śubhāṁl lokān prāpnuyāt puṇyakarmaṇām: Even such a person who merely listens to this great wisdom and teaching shall attain to the higher regions of the blessed ones.

“Arjuna, have you understood what I said? Has something entered your head?” Kaccid etac chrutaṁ pārtha (18.72): “Have you listened to what I said with concentration of mind—ekagrena chetasa—or was your mind wandering and you were listening some of the things, and not to everything? Did you listen to everything that I said with concentration of mind? Has your delusion gone? Have I dispelled your delusion?” Kaccid ajñānasaṁmohaḥ pranaṣṭas te: “Please tell Me whether or not your delusion, with which you began speaking to Me in the beginning, has gone.”

Now Arjuna says, “My delusion has gone, O Lord!” Naṣṭo mohaḥ (18.73): “I have no more confusion about duty now. I understand what is proper and improper.” Smṛtir labdhā: “I have recollected, my memory is restored as to what is good for me and in what manner I should conduct myself in the fulfilment of this ultimate goodness. I had lost my highest memory earlier. I did not recollect my higher nature, and I considered myself as an ordinary individual, related to the Kuru family, fighting the battle of life. Now I remember. My memory has been raised to the status of my relationship with the higher realities, with Your own Self also, finally.” Tvatprasādān mayācyuta: “All this is by Your grace, O Lord! O Imperishable Being, with Your blessing and kindness I have regained my true consciousness. Now I am steadfast, without any kind of doubt.” Sthitosmi gatasaṁdehaḥ: “I have absolutely no doubt about anything now. I am steadfast in my duty, and I shall do what you say.” Kariṣye vacanaṁ tava: “Here am I as Your disciple and Your servant, ready to do whatever You ask me to do.”

Here is the final word of Bhagavan Sri Krishna, and also the final word of Arjuna, where the whole subject of the Bhagavadgita is clinched.

The Bhagavadgita was told by Sanjaya to Dhritarashtra, right from the beginning, because Dhritarashtra was the person who raised the question, “What is happening in the battlefield of Dharmakshetra Kurukshetra? What are my children doing? What are the Pandava children doing?”

In answer to that, Sanjaya started recounting the entire history of the war, and he ended by saying, “Bhishma fell.”

“O Bhishma fell? Tell me everything. I am very much disturbed by hearing it.” Dhritarashtra wanted to know all that was happening.

Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa came and said, “If you want to see all things by yourself, I shall bless you with a vision with which, from this room in the palace, you will be able to see everything that is taking place in the yuddha-bhumi. Would you like to see that? I shall bless you with that vision.”

Dhritarashtra said, “I do not want to see this kind of horror. I shall be satisfied if someone tells me what is happening.”

So Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa blessed Sanjaya with divine vision. He could see everything that was taking place. Not only that, he could also know what anybody was thinking in their mind. There were millions of people on the battlefield, and Sanjaya could know what each one was thinking at what time, apart from what they were doing.

Such a person, Sanjaya, now speaks. Ity ahaṁ vāsudevasya pārthasya ca mahātmanaḥ, saṁvādam imam aśrauṣam adbhutaṁ romaharṣaṇam (18.74): “My hair stands on end when I speak this, when I recount this great story of the Mahabharata. This conversation between Krishna and Arjuna—this miraculous, hair-raising, marvellous, tremendous conversation between Sri Krishna and Arjuna—I have come to know fully by the grace of Vyasa.”

Vyāsaprasādāt (18.75): “I came to know by the grace of Vyasa.” Chrutavān etad guhyam ahaṁ param: “This secret of secrets, which others could not know. Nobody knew what Sri Krishna was speaking. Nothing was known to other people, but I know everything because of the blessing I received from Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa. I am elated. I am in a state of rapture because of the vision of the yoga of Bhagavan Sri Krishna.” Yogaṁ yogeśvarāt kṛṣṇāt sākṣāt kathayataḥ svayam: “The greatest Yogesvara Himself is teaching yoga. What can be a greater blessing than to listen to that conversation? The greatest Yogesvara is teaching yoga, and I have listened to that. I consider this as a great blessing from Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa.”

Saṁsmṛtya saṁsmṛtya saṁvādam imam adbhutam, keśavārjunayoḥ puṇyaṁ hṛṣyāmi ca muhur muhuḥ (18.76): “I smile within myself. I am in a state of horripilation again and again by remembering again and again this wondrous conversation of Sri Krishna and Arjuna. Marvellous, I should say. There is no other word to describe this.” Adbhutam: “Wondrous is that conversation.”

Tac ca saṁsmṛtya saṁsmṛtya rῡpam atyadbhutaṁ hareḥ, vismayo me mahān rājan hṛṣyāmi ca punaḥ punaḥ (18.77): “Remembering again that Visvarupa, I could see it, which others could not see. I could behold that terror-striking Cosmic Form by the blessing of Sri Vyasa. Remembering it now, again and again, that miraculous Form of Sri Hari, I am really stunned. I am stupefied when even remembering it. I am highly elated that I had the blessing of having this vision of the Supreme Universal Virat, which nobody else could see.”

Yatra yogeśvaraḥ kṛṣṇo yatra pārtho dhanurdharaḥ, tatra śrīr vijayo bhῡtir dhruvā nītir matir mama (18.78). Wherever is Sri Krishna, and wherever is Arjuna—Sri Krishna, the Master of yoga, and Arjuna, the wielder of the bow—wherever these are seated in one chariot, there is prosperity, victory, happiness, and firm qualities. Whenever Bhishma was accosted and asked who will win finally, he used to say yataḥ kṛṣṇas tato jayaḥ: “Wherever is Krishna, there is victory.” Yato dharmas tataḥ kṛṣṇo yataḥ kṛṣṇas tato jayaḥ, or in another way, yataḥ kṛṣṇas tato dharmo yato dharma tato jayaḥ: “Wherever is dharma, there is Krishna; and wherever is Krishna, there is dharma; and wherever is Krishna, and hence dharma, there is victory certainly.” Bhishma said this, to the chagrin of Duryodhana, who showed a wry face and went from there saying, “I don’t depend on you people. I have others, like Karna.”

Sri Krishna represents divine grace, cosmic power, eternity operating in all temporality; and Arjuna represents humanity, the essence of mankind, the essence of human effort, the essence of aspiration, the essence of movement towards God. Arjuna is the specimen of the human individual, and gandiva dhanush is the instrument of action. It can be a fountain pen in the case of a writer, it can be a pickaxe in the case of a labourer, it can be a needle in the case of a doctor—anything can be considered as an instrument of action. It is symbolic of the manner in which one engages himself or herself in action. That is symbolised in Arjuna with the gandiva dhanush in hand. And every one of us is an Arjuna holding a gandiva dhanush in the sense that we are individuals with a destiny ahead of us, which we have to achieve with hard effort and with rightly motivated action.

But merely human effort will not work. There is a necessity for its being backed by Universal Grace. The Pandavas, including Arjuna, were not lacking in effort. They had the highest, strongest and the most virulent weapons in their hands. But they could not have moved persons like Bhishma, Drona and Karna even an inch but for the miraculous, subtle, unknown operation of divinity in the form of Bhagavan Sri Krishna and all the gods.

Therefore, effort is very necessary. The Bhagavadgita tells us again and again: “Do work! Do not be idle! Do not resort to inaction! Always be active! But be motivated to do righteous action.” Even then, it was necessary to reveal the Cosmic Form of God. Where is the need for the glorification of God’s power in Chapters Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten and Eleven if mere action is sufficient, and karma yoga is all, and the consciousness of righteousness in the performance of duty can liberate us? If that is the case, there is no necessity for the other chapters of the Bhagavadgita, such as the Visvarupa Darshana.

God’s grace has to be there behind every effort. There is a joint action taking place between the individual and God. That is symbolised by Arjuna and Krishna seated in one chariot. That is Ishvara and jiva in this very body. They are working together like two birds perched on the same tree, as it is said.

“Wherever this unity of purpose between God and man is achieved fully, and they are working in harmony, one not conflicting with the other’s motive, there shall be victory, there shall be prosperity, there shall be glory, and perfect quality. This is my opinion,” says Sanjaya.

OM tatsaditi śrīmad bhagavadgītāsῡpaniṣatsu brahmavidyāyāṁ yogaśāstre,
śrīkṛṣṇārjunasaṁvāde mokṣasaṁnyāsayogo nāma aṣṭādaśo´dhyāyaḥ

Hari Om Tat Sat

Sri Krishna Bhagavan ki jai!