|Chapter 12||The Path of Devotion||Verse 1|
Rudra Vaisnava Sampradaya:
The twelfth chapter conclusively determines which of the following two paths is superior. The worship of the abstract impersonal and imperishable brahman which is the spritual substratum pervading all existence or personal devotion to the Supreme Lord Krishna in His original, two armed form with personality, qualities and attributes. At the conclusion of chapter eleven Lord Krishna declared that one who performs all actions dedicated to Him and has only Him as the ultimate goal being exclusively devoted to Him attains Him. In various verses such as chapter 9, verse 31 Lord Krishna has ordered Arjuna with kaunteya pratijanihi na me bhaktah pranasyati which means declare it boldly that My devotee is never vanquished. This shows the inherent superiority of the devotees of Lord Krishna. Similarly the superiority of one who is devoted to knowledge has been given in chapter 7, verse 17 with tesam jnani nitya-yukty eka-bhaktir meaning one in knowledge of exclusive loving devotion is always in communion with Him. Such men of knowledge excel all others. Thus although both paths are exemplary Arjuna is requesting to know which of the two paths is superior being better suited for yoga or the science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the ultimate consciousness.
Brahma Vaisnava Sampradaya:
Hari OM! This chapter confirms that propitiation to the Supreme Lord Krishna is superior to the unmanifest, impersonal and imperishable brahman or the spiritual substratum pervading all existence. Here Lord Krishna outlines the procedure of performing it. The procedure itself becomes the means for moksa or liberation from material existence. All who propitiate the brahman will also achieve moksa after having all their desires fulfilled. In the Agni section of the Sama Veda it states: Propitiating that which is superior to the eternal and beginningless brahman one achieves moksa from samsara or the endless cycle of birth and death. The words aksaram avyaktam refer to the indestructible, unmanifest supreme absolute or brahman whose steadfast worship eventually releases one from all constraints. So great is the result of propitiation in reference to this as revealed in the Vedas. Those who worship the goddess Sri Laksmi with four arms and hands, ever young, ever content, resplendent as the eternal consort of the Supreme Lord in the spiritual worlds being His sakti or spiritual feminine potency in the material worlds, endowed with the wealth of wisdom; such a being is blessed by the two-fold form of the Supreme Lord which manifest themselves both externally as an experience and internally within one's heart.
This has been documented in other Vedic scriptures as well in the Puranas. Having started with the declaration in Rig Veda X.CXXV that: Sri Laksmi wanders wherever the different vibhuti or divine, transcendental opulence of the Supreme Lord appear such as the Rudras, the Vasus, the Adityas, the Visva-devas etc. She is the gatherer of treasures and the empress of Lord Krishna's direct expansion Narayana the Lord of all Vaikuntha, the eternal spiritual worlds and being the personal sakti of the Supreme Lord she also expands herself as the consort of each and every incarnation and expansion of Lord Krishna and thus also merits worship. Thus the demigods and elevated beings have established her worship in many places and homes to abide in, on the left side of the Supreme Lord. Through her alone all eat the food that feeds them as well as sees, breathes and hears the sound of the word outspoken, although they know it not and are unaware. Hear now one and all the truth as she declared it: The one who she benedicts excels above others and is most powerful becoming a sage, yogi or brahmana. It is by her energy that the bow of Rudra is bent and his arrows are propelled to strike and slay those who disrespect, despise and offend the devotees of the Supreme Lord. On the worlds summits she designates the powerful. Her home is in the waters of the casual ocean far, far beyond the material worlds and far beyond even the heavenly planets. Sri Laksmi the universal mother is majestic in her grandeur. One who pleases her is blest to become a Brahmin, opulent and wise. Because the Vedic scriptures state like this there may be some doubt as to whether Sri Laksmi has the capacity to grant moksa or liberation by the power of the Supreme Lord. To discern this subtle truth and for the sake of knowledge Arjuna uses the word evam meaning in which way.
Arjuna is requesting reassurance since experiencing the reality of Lord Krishna's visvarupa or divine universal form, he was puzzled and unsure if avaktya or the unmanifest being the brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence should be meditated on or should he meditate on prakriti the material substratum underlying physical existence which is the source of the three gunas or modes of material nature being tama or ignorance, raja guna or mode of passion and sattva guna or mode of goodness The word aksaram means eternal, absolute and Sri Laksmi is also eternal and absolute and prakriti arises completely out of her but the Supreme Lord is superior to all that. Then he is wondering should he not worship the atma or eternal soul within or should he just directly worship the Supreme Lord Krishna with loving devotion? The indestructible brahman is a direct reflection of the Supreme Lord and none other then He. Always being blissful He appears as Vasudeva and is all pervading. He is also paramatma the Supreme Soul within the etheric heart of all sentient beings. This has been given in chapter two. His form and qualities have been given in chapter three and meditation has subsequently been advised as the consequent activity.
Knowledge of the prodigious manifold forms of the Supreme Lord, His manifold expansions, His manifold incarnations, His visvarupa or divine universal form and the unlimited lilas or pastimes of them all begins the revelation that Lord Krishna is the immortal, eternal Lord of all lords, from whom everything emanates in existence and to whom all paths return back to Him. In the Sama Veda, Saukarayana section we find that Rudra the mind born son of Brahma approaches him and asks to know who is verily the ultimate goal of all existence, the eternally established, creator of all beings who bestows moksa or liberation upon the aspirants, the righteous and the noble. How does one meditate upon such a Supreme Being and how can one meditate upon a Supreme Being who is completely spiritual without any material qualities or attributes? Brahma replied it is verily the Supreme Lord Krishna who is the ultimate goal as well as the object of meditation by the aspirants and the granter of moksa. Of unlimited avatars or incarnations, expansions and manifestations, appearing in many colours surrounded by a golden hue. He verily is shining like the sun and should be meditated upon within the heart as a personality resembling a human the colour of a radiant dark blue sapphire with gentle smile and hands giving blessing surrounded by a golden hue. He is camouflaged by the brahman the spiritual substratum pervading all existence and which emanates an impenetrable dazzling light throughout all creation which effectively covers His all pervading form. It is for this reason that He is also propitiates as avyaktam or immutable and aksaram or unmanifest because He cannot be perceived by material vision.
Now begins the summation.
Hari OM! Here is explained the means of achieving spiritual practice.
The immutable, unmanifest known as the brahman although without form by the will of the Supreme Lord arises from His sakti or spiritual, feminine potency known as Sri or Laksmi. For her propitiation an aspirant must leave home and for being initiated in tattva or knowledge about her one must approach and accept a spiritual master in her line. Whomsoever learns to propitiate her attains moksa. Thus the objective of both the aspirant and the guru are fulfilled. Those who propitiate Sri Laksmi, the consort of the Supreme Lord is His sakti which controls the material existence and is also known as Ambika, Agrya, Aupala, Hri and Sivdya are granted moksa, If Sri Laksm is pleased then the Supreme Lord becomes pleased also and if she is not pleased then the Supreme Lord remains unpleased as well.
The Brahmanda Prurana states: Sri Laksmi is known as avyaktam or unmanifest because prakriti or the material substratum underlying physical existence arises from her. She is also known as aksaram or immutable, the Supreme consciousness, the primal source, the refuge for all and the abiding one; but the Supreme Lord who empowers her is verily superior to her. So such propitiation to the avaktam is synonymous with propitiation to Sri Laksmi and the Supreme Lord. This has been asked by Arjuna for clarification of which path is more meritorious for attaining moksa. That which is abiding within is known as the immutable and never changing. This is clearly determined by such statements in the Vedic scriptures such as: That which who abides within, eternally, unlimited, all pervading, etc. These things clearly refer to the unmanifest consciousness. Otherwise such distinct queries such as who is to be propitiated and the method of propitiating Him and between the two which is superior would not have been asked. Those who consider propitiation to the abstract, indistinct, impersonal and imperishable brahman to be superior to direct loving devotion unto the Supreme Lord are verily deluded and far away from the actual tattva or conclusive truth.
Sri Vaisnava Sampradaya:
In the previous chapter the Supreme Lord Krishna, the possessor of all divine attributes as well as countless exalted qualities such as an ocean of mercy, compassion, affability, omniscience etc. and the source of all avatars or incarnations and expansions, being the ultimate object of worship to all who aspire for the path of bhakti or exclusive loving devotion unto the Supreme Lord Krishna; revealed His unlimited sovereign power of universal dominion in the form of His visvarupa or divine universal form after being requested by His devotee Arjuna. It has also been established that uninterrupted profound, sublime bhakti alone without cessation is the only possible way to realise the Supreme Lord in His ultimate nature and experience communion with Him. Now in this chapter the following three realities will be examined. 1) The inherent superiority of an aspirant performing bhakti involving meditation directly upon the Supreme Lord Himself as compared to meditation upon the atma or the eternal soul which only leads to atma tattva or realisation of the soul in order to attain the ultimate goal of all existence. This superiority of bhakti is measured in terms of absolute fulfilment of the ultimate goal and in the sublime felicity and bliss of performance. Bhakti or love of God is considered the fifth purusharthas above the other four ambitions of humans beings which are 1. Dharma or righteousness which consists of two parts first being the regular performance of Vedic activities and the second being performing actions which benefit all living entities such as freely providing fresh water and salt to all and protecting against all demoniac influences whenever they appear. 2. Artha or the righteous acquirement of wealth according to the Vedic scriptures without usury or deception. 3. Kama or enjoyment and pleasure in the material existence following the Vedic scriptures without perversion or degradation. 4. Moksa or liberation from material existence by atma tattva or liberation from material existence by bhakti realising the Supreme Lord direct. It should be noted that atma tattva is automatically an inherent part of bhakti and thus those blessed living entities who perform bhakti to the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of His authorised avatars do not have to make any separate or special effort to achieve this. 2) The method of realising the Supreme Lord will be given in verse two. 3) The aksaram or abstract, impersonal unmanifest path examined in verses 3,4,5 is applicable for those who are inept and unqualified. This ineptitude and lack of qualification is due to the absence of humbly approaching a spiritual master from one of the four authorised Vaisnava sampradaya's or empowerd lines of disciplic succession and after being accepted by him and initiated being taught the fundamentals of bhakti.
The superiority of bhakti or exclusive loving devotion to the Supreme Lord Krishna is made manifest by the superiority of He, Himself being the object of such loving devotion. This maxim of superiority was briefly stated by Lord Krishna in chapter six verse 47 where He states : Those with firm faith in the Vedic scriptures describing super-excellent devotion to Him and with hearts full of love dedicate all their actions to Him are yuktatamah the most superior of all.
The words satata-yuktah meaning always engaged denotes ever devout towards the Supreme Lord being ever intent on communion with Him which is continuing the sentiments of the last verse in chapter 11. The words tvam paryupasate means direct worship of Lord Krishna and refers to deeming the Supreme Lord as the complete fulfilment of one's every ambition and desire. The Supreme Lord, the perfect, infallible one, the Sovereign Lord of all creation and the refuge of all cosmic glories, possessing unlimited attributes of exalted qualities such as divinity, omniscience, compassion, omnipotence, etc. Such ones are thy eternal adorers and always your beloved.
Those other votaries are the worshippers of the abstract, impersonal, avyaktam or unmanifest and imperceptible. which is aksaram or imperishable. Such also reflect and contemplate upon the nature of the pratyagatma or individual soul which is imperishable also as well as being unmanifest in as much as it is indiscernible by the mind and imperceptible to any of the senses such as the eye or ear, etc.
Of these two classes of aspirants which one is superior and most suitable for performing yoga or the science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the ultimate consciousness. Inferring which one would achieve their respective goals most expediently. In verse seven Lord Krishna gives the definitive reply in answer to this query by succinctly revealing the most expeditious way to attain the ultimate goal.
Kumara Vaisnava Sampradaya:
In the last verse of chapter 11 the prerequisite method of attaining the Supreme Lord Krishna is revealed as bhakti or exclusive loving devotion. In verse 20 of the eighth chapter Lord Krishna refers to the innermost self the atma or eternal soul which is avyaktah or unmanifest and imperceptible to eyes and other senses and any external means of proof except by the Vedic scriptures. This avyaktah is of a superior nature far beyond the aksaram or indestructible brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence. Continuing in verse 21 of chapter eight Lord Krishna states that the Vedic scriptures proclaim the brahman to be paramam gatim meaning the supreme destination.
Thus what can gained by achieving either of the two goals and which is more appropriate is what is being asked. Of the two ways described in chapter 8 and chapter 11 which is better? Which is the most easily achieved? What practitioners of which path are the best? With a desire to understand these things Arjuna requests Lord Krishna for clarification. The Supreme Lord's devotees have their minds constantly fixed on Him. They adore His form, pastimes, attributes and qualities such as omniscience, omnipotence, infinite prowess, etc. Then there are those who adore as the supreme destination the abstract, impersonal, unmanifest brahman which cannot be perceived by anything material such as the mind and senses. Which of the two practitioners following different paths are the most elevated in yoga or the science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the ultimate consciousness? They are called the most elevated because they are yoga-vittamah meaning the best knowers of yoga and because they know the best means for attaining the Supreme Lord they have achieved moksa or liberation from samsara or the perpetual cycle of birth and death.