“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.66)
The friend was distressed. It was the biggest moment of his life. So many memories helped to increase the weight on his shoulders. There was the poison cake offered to his brother Bhima during youth. There was the house made of lac, intentionally built as such to burn to the ground while the brothers were inside. Their mother was always with them, and she was a widow.
Then there was the embarrassment of the wife Draupadi, in front of so many people in an assembly. The brothers got kicked out of the kingdom for thirteen years. Nothing was easy for them. Despite the difficulties, Arjuna stayed on the pious path. He did not deviate.
Now it was time to end things once and for all; to reverse the trend. Arjuna’s cause was right. They had not attempted murder. They were not arsonists. They were not thieves occupying land that didn’t belong to them. The other side was guilty of these things. Arjuna was set to lead his side to victory.
There was one problem. Weakness of heart. Arjuna did not want to go through with it. Why kill so many people? Why do it just for a kingdom? Arjuna had the spirit of renunciation in him, despite belonging to the kshatriya, or warrior, occupation. Rather than act whimsically, the son of Kunti Devi put his questions to his charioteer, Shri Krishna.
The person who had always been a great friend and relative was there to guide him. In a departure from their relationship, Krishna became the acknowledged teacher and Arjuna the humble and inquisitive disciple. Krishna went on to explain many things, secrets of living that every person should know. Despite all the nuance and intricacy of high topics, in the end Krishna told Arjuna to simply abandon all varieties of dharma and surrender unto Him. There was no reason to fear; Krishna would protect.
1. Give up dharmas that bring only temporary benefit.
The dharma of fire is heat and light. The dharma of water is wetness. Of the kshatriya it is heroism, courage, offering protection and giving charity. In this way we understand that the Sanskrit word dharma refers to an essential characteristic. The defining feature in an object – that is dharma.
Krishna advises Arjuna to abandon all varieties of dharma. Sarva dharman parityajya. These dharmas relate to different situations of temporary benefit. For instance, there is a dharma for someone who wants wealth. They should act in a certain way. It is not just left up to chance. The same goes for the person who desires knowledge. There are dharmas for the different stages of life, like being a student or living with a spouse.
These conditions relate to the temporary body. Find something higher. Work for Shri Krishna and come in contact with the dharma of the soul, which is the essence of identity.
2. Stop viewing spiritual life as a faith
Dharma also gets translated as religion. The meaning is basically the same; a set of guidelines and procedures meant to bring about a specific characteristic or objective. Religion is typically viewed as a faith. I am a Hindu. I am a Christian. I am a Jew.
Faith can change. It is something like picking a team to support in professional sports. Real religion is dharma, and that dharma is sanatana, or never changing. It is the same for every single person. Arjuna should give up any idea of religion as faith and follow Krishna, who is the all-attractive Almighty, the one God that is worshiped by every person already, either directly or indirectly.
3. Convert the consciousness to eternal life
The person who views religion only in terms of faith might object to this verse from the Bhagavad-gita. It seems that Krishna is insisting that everyone convert to Hinduism. Even people within Vedic culture might worship other devas, or gods. Krishna is introducing sectarianism, they will say.
“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.8)
In fact the only conversion is in terms of consciousness. Abandon all other dharmas that keep the consciousness fixed on the temporary body, living in this temporary life. Go towards eternal life. Be conscious of the one who is responsible for both the material and spiritual worlds.
4. Bhakti is something to continue lifetime after lifetime
Incorporated in that surrender specifically for Arjuna is getting up and fighting against the enemy. He should continue forward in honor of Krishna. The Supreme Lord will protect him. More importantly, that service will never end. After victory over the rival party, Arjuna and his brothers will continue to be devotees.
Bhakti-yoga, which is another way to define the real religion, continues lifetime after lifetime. The engagement matches the nature of the soul, who is sanatana. The soul never comes into being and it never dies. Never was there a time that the soul did not exist, nor will it ever cease to be in the future. Bhakti is the nature of the soul at all points in the infinite time continuum.
5. You don’t have to change your occupation
It is important to understand that although Krishna told Arjuna to abandon all varieties of religion, Arjuna did not change his occupation. The warrior didn’t suddenly turn into a renounced yogi. He did not become a brahmana, or member of the priestly class. He was a disciple to the timeless wisdom spoken by Krishna, but he was not your typical student. He was not of the occupation that is expected to learn the Vedas and teach it to others.
Arjuna stayed a warrior and he is still considered among the greatest transcendentalists. The idea is not to change faith, change official religion, or even change occupation. Just change the consciousness. Abandon the hope of enjoying permanently in this world. Abandon the idea of competing with God in areas of opulence such as beauty, strength and wealth. Surrender the fight at the feet of Krishna and let Him guide you. He guided Arjuna directly and today the same guidance is there through the representative, who has himself abandon all dharmas in favor of devotional service.
To surrender from final verse seen,
But what exactly words to mean?
Like faith, following preferred team?
Or sectarian God, exclusive and mean?
Dharma no longer as faith view,
Eternal soul identity of me and you.
Permanent happiness in any occupation so,
Change consciousness, towards spiritual to go.
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