Gita essays – 16
Sakama bhakthi and Nishkama bhakthi are the two motive based divisions of bhakthi. In Sakama bhakthi, the motive is the finite goal of artha and kama purusharthas. In Nishkama bhakthi the motive is the infinite goal of moksha purushartha. After describing the bhakthas who worship the Lord in different ways, Lord Krishna starts talking about Sakama bhakthi and Nishkama bhakthi. He points out that the sakama bhakthas are stuck up in samsara, however religious they are and also well-read in scriptures, in verses 20 & 21.
The knowers of the three Vedas, the drinkers of soma, purified of all sins, worshipping Me by sacrifices, pray for the access to heaven. Having reached the sacred world of Indra, they enjoy the celestial pleasures, of the Gods in the heavens. (9-20)
Having enjoyed that vast heavenly world, they come back to the world of mortals when their punya is exhausted. Thus, the seekers of sense pleasures who have taken to the ritual of the Vedas are subject to birth and death (9-21)
These sakama bhakthas are versed in the three Vedas, have performed many yajnas, including soma yaga offering soma rasa to Agni and partaking the soma rasa as prasada. They are great bhakthas who have earned enormous punyam but they are after the pleasures of Svarga only, which they get. This stay in Svarga earned through their punyam gets exhausted through enjoyment in their stay. They cannot earn fresh punyam there as all the worlds except bhuloka are bhoga bhoomis and ony bhu loka is karma bhumi. So they have to return to earth and start earning fresh punyam, as directed by their prarabhdha. This cycle of coming and going will continue choicelessly, if they do not change their goal and seek the Lord instead of praying for sensual pleasures and worldly objects.
After explaining that samsara is the fate of sakama bhakthas, Lord talks about nishkama bhakthas who worship Lord with ananya bhakthi. He assures that He will take care of the yoga and kshema of those dedicated bhakthas. Yoga stands for securing what one does not have and kshema stands for preserving what one has got. If one’s life is analysed, it can be seen that all one’s energies are spent in acquisition and preservation of things. These the Lord assures He will take care of, for these stead-fast bhakthas who seek His Grace and Grace alone and whose thoughts are on Him and His glory alone. This means that for such bhakthas who have renounced all their worldly pursuits seeking His Grace, their worldly well-being will be taken care of by the Lord.
Sakama bhakthas do elaborate rituals even for the finite benefit of heavenly pleasures for a limited time. So for the infinite benefit of total liberation from the cycle of birth and death, how elaborate and involved the ritual should be, if one wonders, Lord allays their fears. He says that what is offered in worship is not important but how it is offered is important. He will happily accept and be satisfied with even a fruit or a flower or a leaf or even with little water when it is offered with total devotion and a pure mind. We have the examples of:
1) Sabari, in Ramayana, who offered fruits only and that too after tasting to choose the choicest fruits, which Sri Rama accepted with relish
2) Gajendra, in Bhagavatham, who offered flower only when he surrendered to Lord Vishnu, which he accepted gladly and saved Gajendra from the clutches of the crocodile
3) Draupadi, in Mahabharatha, who could offer only a green leaf which Sri Krishna happily accepted to save the pandavas from the wrath of sage Durvasa.
4) Kannappa Nayanar, the ignorant hunter, who carried water in his mouth and offered in all faith and sincerity to Sivalinga along with the roast meat which he had tested by tasting, was acclaimed by Lord Siva as a great devotee and blessed with moksha.
Lord also explains ananya bhakthi for Arjuna’s benefit in verse 27
Oh Arjuna, whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer (as oblation), whatever you give (in charity), whatever austerity you practice, do it all as an offering unto Me. (9-27)
Such a nishkama bhaktha is a karma yogi as well as karma sanyasi as he acts without ego and with a sense of surrender to Lord and renounces concern for fruits of action. Lord declares that such a bhaktha will be free of bonds of karma, punyam and papam, and will attain Him.
Lord Krishna has been talking of Nishkama bhakthi and worship of Saguna Brahman in first person singular. But as Dr. Radhakrishnan says “It is not the personal Krishna to whom we have to give ourselves up utterly but the Unborn, Beginningless, Eternal who speaks through Krishna”. Lest it be mistaken that all His words apply only to the worship of Lord Krishna alone, Lord clarifies that they apply to whatever Devata one worships with faith and single-minded devotion. But they worship in ignorance if they worship that Devata, not knowing the Supreme it represents. To add emphasis to His statement, He also adds that He is the Lord of all yajnas, and to whomsoever oblations are offered, they all reach Him only and He is the real receiver and enjoyer of all offerings. As they do not know Him in reality as Supreme Brahman, they return again and again to the world of mortality. Lord has no preferences or partiality in respect of His bhakthas. He treats them all equally. They attain from Him what they seek. If they worship and are devoted to Devas, then they go to the world where the Devas are and enjoy the benefits and pleasures there until their exhaustion of punya and return to the mortal earth. The same way, worshippers of Pitru devatas go to pitru loka and return; and the votaries of Bhuthas go to the loka of Bhuthas and return. But only those who seek the Grace of the Supreme Brahman only, attain Him and suffer no return at all. Attaining Him is realizing the Jiva Brahma Ikyam even during lifetime as Jivan mukthi, i.e. realisation of the identity of one’s Real Self as the Supreme Brahman, even before one’s death. So in this context Lord Krishna says as Supreme Brahman that such a bhaktha is in Him and He is also in such a bhaktha.
Ananya bhakthi is a great purifier, Lord Krishna points out. However vile or vicious one’s past be, if one sincerely repents his wicked ways and turns a new leaf as an ananya bhaktha that person too can attain the Lord. So the past should not be held against such people and they be treated as righteous, once they repent and mend their ways to become sincere, single-minded nishkama bhakthas. We have the example of saint Arunagirinathar who was a wayward youth chasing women of ill-repute. Thanks to his sister, he sincerely repented his ways and wanted to end his life when he was saved by Lord Muruga and became His great devotee. Ananya bhakthas of the Lord who have surrendered to Him totally can attain the highest goal of moksha, irrespective of their caste and sex as well. We have the examples of Karaikal ammayar and Nandanar, ranked and revered among Nayanmars and Sri Andal and Thiruppanalvar, adored among the twelve Alwars to illustrate sex and caste is no bar to earn Lord’s Grace and Liberation through ananya bhakthi. So Lord tells Arjuna to become a bhaktha and how to become a bhaktha, Lord beautifully portrays in the concluding verse of this chapter on what he termed earlier as the “greatest knowledge and greatest secret”.
Swami Paramarthananda splits this formula into five stages. I give below the Lord’s advice split in stages on the above lines.
“!) Become My bhaktha, maybe even for the worldly goal at the first instance
2) Convert Me as your supreme goal, gradually changing from means to goal and then to primary goal.
3) Be always humble, never become arrogant over your spiritual progress, for whatever that is achieved is through My Grace only
4) Keep Me always in the mind i.e. never forget Me as the goal
5) Convert your very life into a form of worship of Me
Following these five steps sincerely, you become My ananya bhaktha; and you will certainly attain Me.”