“Dear Krishna, we are always busy in our family affairs. We therefore request that You remain within our hearts as the rising sun, and that will be Your greatest benediction.” (Gopis speaking to Lord Krishna, Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 27)
The Bhagavad-gita is the most well-known book of the Vedic tradition. It is the closest equivalent to a Bible or Koran in a religious sense, but since the topics discussed within cover the full spectrum of material and spiritual activities, many people outside the scope of the Vedic tradition take to reading it. Considered the introduction to Vedic philosophy, the “ABCDs” of spiritual life in the Indian tradition, the Gita appeals to every type of person. Followers of pretty much any philosophy can find a verse in the Gita that appears to support their position. Be it non-violence, violence, action, inaction, going for what you want, waiting for things to happen, taking to religious functions, rising above religious rituals, etc. – all topics are covered by Lord Krishna, the speaker of the Gita, a book which is also known as the Song of God. This last point is the most important one. The true potency of the Gita does not come from the words or the teachings found within, but rather from the source of the knowledge presented. That source is none other than Lord Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is much more beneficial to develop an attachment to the Gita’s speaker than it is to take shelter of the words themselves. Argument and logic can only take us so far in life, while Krishna, being the fountainhead of all knowledge, can turn anyone who connects with Him in a loving mood into the wisest person in the world.
“This material nature is working under My direction, O son of Kunti, and it is producing all moving and unmoving beings. By its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.10)
How do we know that Krishna is God? For starters, the Lord tells us so in the Gita. Moreover, Krishna is often addressed as Bhagavan by the compiler of the Bhagavad-gita, Vyasadeva. Bhagavan is a Sanskrit word which refers to the most fortunate person. We usually equate fortune with the acquisition of money or some other beneficial circumstance. The Vishnu Purana, spoken by Vyasadeva’s father Parashara Muni, groups the different types of fortune into six distinct categories: beauty, wealth, strength, fame, renunciation, and wisdom. Anyone who possesses all of these opulences can be considered the most fortunate, or Bhagavan. Lord Krishna, a historical personality who appeared on this earth some five thousand years ago, is described as possessing all of these opulences at the same time and to the fullest degree. This means that He is God, the Supreme Controller and Ultimate Enjoyer.
Krishna exhibited these opulences through various pastimes. He proved He was the most beautiful by attracting the hearts and minds of all around Him, especially the residents of the town of Vrindavana. He proved to be the richest person in the world from the wealth He possessed while ruling as king of Dvaraka. Moreover, He also could acquire any beautiful item that existed in other worlds, such as the parijata flower which the Lord kindly took from the heavenly kingdom to give to one of His wives, Satyabhama. Krishna proved His strength on many occasions, the most notable of which was His lifting of the gigantic Govardhana Hill when He was merely a child. He not only lifted this hill, but He held it up with one finger for seven days. The fact that Krishna has been talked about and worshiped for at least the last five thousand years is enough to prove His fame. In fact, He has been worshiped since the beginning of time, with generations of devotees regularly chanting His names and offering their obeisances. Krishna’s renunciation was seen when He departed the town of Vrindavana which He grew up in as a child. He had many close associates in Vrindavana, including His eternal consort Shrimati Radharani. Yet His self-appointed duties called for Him to travel to Mathura and then to Dvaraka to battle various demons and deal with political matters relating to His family members. Only the most renounced person could voluntarily give up the association of the most exalted citizens of Vrindavana, people who were completely faultless and pure in nature.
“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.20)
Lastly, proof of Krishna’s unmatched wisdom is found in the words contained within the Bhagavad-gita, Ramayana, Puranas, and other important Vedic literatures. Out of all these books, the Gita has turned out to be the most widely read since it provides the key concepts of the Vedic tradition in a succinct and straightforward manner. The basic tenet of Vedic philosophy is that the living entities are not their bodies. The soul inside the body is the essence of life, the driving force of all activity. The body is simply a covering for the soul; a temporary manifestation of matter that constantly goes through changes. Birth and death represent the complete changing of bodies for the soul. The transmigration of the soul is an evolution of sorts, with the final destination hopefully being that of the spiritual realm. In the spiritual world, there is no such distinction between spirit and matter. The soul retains its identity and assumes a spiritual body. In this condition, the soul is free to associate with its progenitor, its ultimate reservoir of pleasure, Shri Krishna.
“The whole cosmic order is under Me. By My will it is manifested again and again, and by My will it is annihilated at the end.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.8)
The life cycle of the body is similar to the life cycle of the entire world. Just as the soul is the driving force behind the machine known as the body, the giant soul, or Supersoul, is the driving force behind the activities of nature. The material world constantly goes through cycles of creation, maintenance, and destruction. The temporary and perishable realm remains intact for as long as there are spirit souls who desire to imitate the activities of the Supreme. This desire lands the purified spirit soul in the temporary realm and upon assuming a temporary body, the resulting living entity takes to various fruitive activities. Working under the model of karma would not be so harmful were it not for collisions with other living entities. Each person, or life form, has independence in how they choose to act. Since every person has different desires, there are bound to be collisions in activities, and thus both favorable and unfavorable results. Regardless of the nature of work and the fruits that come to bear, the resulting enjoyment or suffering is temporary. Moreover, once a person’s desires are fulfilled, new desires immediately spring up. The ultimate desire is to become God, the supreme enjoyer and proprietor. Though this desire is the root of all fruitive activity, the title of God can never be acquired by a soul which wasn’t even capable of choosing the time and circumstance of its initial descent to earth. Therefore, the desire to become God remains forever unsatisfied, resulting in an endless cycle of misery and frustration.
“Intelligent persons who are endeavoring for liberation from old age and death take refuge in Me in devotional service. They are actually Brahman because they entirely know everything about transcendental and fruitive activities.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 7.29)
All hope is not lost, however. Lord Krishna spoke the famous Gita on the battlefield of Kurukshetra to His dear friend and cousin, Arjuna. This discourse touched on all areas of life, both material and spiritual, with Krishna providing the formula for getting out of the dreaded cycle of birth, old age, disease, and death. The Lord, being the original form of Godhead, kindly stated that anyone who thought of Him at the time of death – one whose consciousness was fixed on the Supreme Lord at the most critical of junctures – would immediately ascend to Krishna’s spiritual realm. Moreover, anyone who returned to such a realm would never have to accept a material body again. Thus Krishna not only explained the concept of reincarnation in the Gita, but He also provided the roadmap for how to escape it.
Though ultimate surrender unto God is the gist of the Gita, the teachings contained within are presented in a very logical way, for the Lord wanted to stay in line with the instructions provided by previous spiritual leaders of the Vedic tradition. Several times Krishna makes references to teachings put forth by learned men of the past. In this way, the Gita is not simply a sectarian or sentimentalist doctrine, but rather an authorized scientific breakdown of the various components of nature. The system of karma, or cause and effect, is a science that is extremely complex. The results of action can be thought of as a giant neural network of outcomes that are managed by elevated living entities known as devas. Krishna, as the creator of this system, is the only person capable of truly understanding it.
“According to one’s existence under the various modes of nature, one evolves a particular kind of faith. The living being is said to be of a particular faith according to the modes he has acquired.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 17.3)
Since the Gita is presented as a scientific study, some choose to remove Krishna from the picture altogether. Those who do this usually have their own agenda going in. Such philosophers are looking to support their own mentally concocted theories which were crafted up through their own sets of logic and reasoning. Finding what they want in the Gita, they carefully try to cut Krishna out of the picture. This is certainly a grievous error, for Krishna can never be separated from His words. More importantly, Krishna is greater than the Gita. The teachings found within only represent a small fragment of the full scope of knowledge available to the conditioned soul. The human brain is not capable of thinking beyond time, space, logic, and reasoning. Therefore it is considered very dangerous to take complete shelter of argument. Since the concepts of “good” and “bad” are both relative to the scope of activities and the desired result of the performer, no argument can be considered an absolute truth simply based on the words contained within. Any argument can be negated simply through using various logical proofs and truths. Therefore, the end result of dry argument and logic is a position of voidism, or the absence of any truth. When there is void, there cannot be a God; hence it is not surprising to see that the atheists and agnostics, who have no interest in connecting with the Supreme Spirit, are often the greatest servants and devotees of argument and logic.
“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.66)
The last instruction provided by Krishna in the Gita is the most important. After describing in detail the nature of the soul, matter, the universe, the Supersoul, and the living entity’s position in this complex world, the Lord tells Arjuna to abandon all other dharmas and simply surrender unto Him. Doing so would deliver him for all negative, sinful reactions. The Lord would personally see to it that Arjuna would not have to suffer ever again. Dharma is the Vedic term for religion or occupational duty. Religion is simply a person’s ultimate conclusion, the guiding force for their activities. Since every person has different inherent qualities, they are bound to come up with different ultimate conclusions, or religions. This means that they essentially create their own dharmas. One person is taking their dharma to be the saving of the environment. This leads to activities of planting trees, lobbying against oil drilling, and the promotion of the practice of recycling. Another person is taking their dharma to be the acquisition of material wealth, while another is seeking to eliminate poverty worldwide.
Since none of these occupational duties involve the soul and its future destination, they can all be considered bogus or sub-standard dharmas. In addition, it is seen that many of the followers of such dharmas pick and choose various sections from the Gita and other religious texts to support their ultimate conclusions. Lord Krishna, ever the wise seer, knew that people would try to mince His words and shape and mold the meanings to suit their particular dharma. It is for this reason that He made sure to definitively state His own ultimate conclusion. Lord Krishna, the origin of all knowledge, tells Arjuna, and everyone else for that matter, to abandon all irrelevant dharmas and simply surrender unto Him. By so doing, the living entities would be abiding by the highest dharma, the only occupational duty worth adopting.
What does surrendering to Krishna entail? Surrender in the military sense equates to giving up, or losing one’s will to fight. Surrender in the area of romance means making yourself completely vulnerable, putting another entity, the object of your affection, in charge of your emotions. The combination of these two concepts can help us understand surrender to God. As stated before, the soul remains in a conditioned state for as long as the desire to imitate God remains. So the first aspect of surrender involves recognition of Krishna’s supremacy and the fallacy of trying to excel Him in areas of creation, maintenance, and destruction. The second aspect of surrendering unto Krishna requires putting Him in complete charge of our emotions. Normally this right is reserved for our significant others or loved ones. It is the nature of the soul to serve, so when this service is directed at the Supreme Spirit, it becomes purified. This service, which represents true surrender, allows the soul to experience never before seen transcendental bliss.
What’s interesting to note is that the more one surrenders unto Krishna, the more their knowledge increases. An example of this effect was seen with the gopis of Vrindavana. Lord Krishna spent His childhood years in the farm communities of Gokula and Vrindavana, where He enjoyed the company of His friends. The gopis, the cowherd girls, were especially devoted to Krishna. They always thought of Him, day and night. They weren’t formally educated, nor did they study the Vedas. They weren’t familiar with Vedanta philosophy or the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita, yet their knowledge on all subjects was perfect. This was due to their minds always remaining fixed on Krishna, even when they were separated from Him. They were completely surrendered to Krishna, so they only looked to Him for pleasure. The gopis went along with their prescribed duties as cowherd women, wives, and mothers, but they had no attachment to this work. Their only dharma in life was service to Krishna, taking Him to be the ultimate reservoir of pleasure.
Therefore it is more important to connect with Krishna than it is to merely take shelter of the postulates and aphorisms of the Bhagavad-gita or Vedanta philosophy in general. Lord Krishna is the fountainhead of all knowledge, so He can create thousands of Gitas in a second, with each being more profound than its predecessor. Similarly, when one is devoted to Krishna and tuned into the spiritual world, they can go on and on explaining spiritual life, seeing everything in terms of its relation to the Lord. The same can’t be said of material topics. We can only take in a certain amount of political, sports, or entertainment information before we get fed up. Topics relating to Krishna, or Krishna-katha, don’t suffer from this defect. The more one surrenders unto the beautiful Lord, the more their attachment for Him grows. Success in spiritual life has a linear relationship with affection for Krishna; the greater the attachment to the Supreme Spirit, the greater the knowledge that is acquired. The Vedic literatures represent the most comprehensive information about spirituality found in this world. Actually nothing can compete with Vedic wisdom; a fact that serves as a true testament to the infallibility and opulence of its greatest orator, expounder, and teacher: Lord Shri Krishna. Bhagavan is always more powerful than any set of words, theories, or truths. Therefore we should always stay connected with this powerhouse of energy, the Supreme Energetic Lord.