The below article is by a young listener of Sri Ramanujamji’s recent exposition of the Bhagavad Gita’s 12th Chapter on Bhakti Yoga in Jan 2017 at California. The listener writes here about what she gleaned and what touched her, from the enlightening lecture series.
Sri Ramanujamji stresses in his lectures that access to an explanation of the Gita is hard to achieve. True knowledge and understanding of it is only given to those who have earned it, who have done the requisite prior work to be open to true comprehension of scriptures. Over a seven day series of lectures, Sri Ramanujamji explained Chapter 12 of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Bhakti Yoga, to a full crowd at the Fremont Temple.
One of the most important points was delivered on the first day. “Mat karma krit mat paramo madbhaktah“, in the early verses of the chapter, sets the tone for all future learning and lectures. Sri Ramanujamji’s translation of the verse says that we are called to do Krishna’s work in our lives without motivation by fame, money or personal interest. Unselfish action, done with God’s love in mind and the hope of reaching union with Him in the heart, paired with gratitude even for the opportunity to be able to do so, is the quickest and most effective way to reach God.
A point made over and over again was that bhakti (or devotion) is for everyone. Everyone is eligible to have absolute devotion (or shraddha) to God– the devotees that get the honor of seeing Krishna do so because the power of their devotion is such that he reveals Himself to them. Reaching God through love, or bhakti margam (the path of devotion), is the path He (Krishna Himself) considers the best. Jnana margam (the path of knowledge), which involves detachment from the world, is by far the harder path, but seeing God in everything, the essential point of bhakti margam, is emotionally more rewarding.
As humans, we are imperfect in our attention spans, desires and motivations. Seeing God’s hand in everything, and therefore seeing His love in everything, helps motivate us to do better and be better. Seeing Krishna as the center of any action immediately makes it divine, and doing so ceaselessly, so much that it becomes second nature, will make every work seem worth doing, as it is being done in God’s Name. Actions carry meaning, because they are a physical representation of faith and belief.
For those following jnana margam, they are encouraged to retreat from the world and focus inward, which is quite the task in today’s world, which emphasizes constant connection and awareness of your surroundings at all times. But bhakti margam takes advantage of that connection by steeping it in love and devotion– it gives all your actions power and weight.
And all actions have weight, no matter how significant or insignificant they may seem. Chapter 12, Verse 12 gives us a series of steps or levels, and their view in the eyes of God:
shreyo hi jnAnam abhyAsAt jnAnAd dhyAnam vishishyathe |
dhyAnAt karmaphalatyAgaha tyAgAt shAntiranantaram ||
A rough translation is that knowledge is better than formal practice, meditation is better than knowledge, and surrendering yourself to God out of love is better than meditation. Peace immediately follows surrender. Sri Ramanujamji later went on to say that though there is a ranking in these paths, all are eligible paths to reach God. No matter what path is taken, God’s love and peace will always result.
Following the majority opinion is always the easiest thing to do. Mediocrity is always easily accessible. Following high standards, such as the ones set by Chapter 12, allows for a richer and more fulfilled life. As Sri Ramanujamji told us, we cannot reduce our standards (ideals) to be comfortable. Being comfortable leads to complacency, which leads to inaction. We should aspire to live uncomfortably and to maintain our standards and values, no matter how much they are challenged by the outside world. We are called to see unity in diversity, but recognize the individual struggles of those around us and assist them as best as we can.
Shruti Swaminathan, Bay Area, CA