“O son of Kunti, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.27)
यत् करोषि यद् अश्नासि
यज् जुहोषि ददासि यत्
यत् तपस्यसि कौन्तेय
तत् कुरुष्व मद्-अर्पणम्
yat karoṣi yad aśnāsi
yaj juhoṣi dadāsi yat
yat tapasyasi kaunteya
tat kuruṣva mad-arpaṇam
There are no graduates or degrees. This is because the learning never stops. The subject matter is itself infinite; part of the definition of the person being studied. Naturally, what He produces shares the same properties. Though the basic distinction is between material and spiritual, both energies are eternal. The meaning is they have no known origin and no one can pinpoint when they will be completely annihilated in the future.
Still, there is plenty to study. If a college course were to be generated off of a single book of importance, the Bhagavad-gita, then certain verses would have to be covered. These would provide a sufficient overview of the subject matter, which can be contemplated going forward multiple times over, with additional meanings and appreciations emerging due to shifts in perspective.
1. Dehino ‘smin…
The setting of the collection of verses is a battlefield, of all places. The premise is that the leading fighter for one side is something like a conscientious objector. He is in the military voluntarily; no conscription or draft. He is the most capable, having proven himself many times in the past. The cause is right; he and his family have suffered the effects of adharma from the other side for too long.
Even with such a solid justification, Arjuna is unsure about proceeding forward. He knows the likely outcome: victory. He knows the reward for the win: control over a kingdom. Is that enough, though? Is it worth the cost of lives on the other side, which contains some well-wishers and family members?
Shri Krishna is there to guide, both as the chariot driver and the guru. He is the original spiritual master, in fact; a truth known to Arjuna prior but revealed again during the conversation to settle any doubts. Krishna begins the discussion by describing how the body continues to change.
There is youth, then adolescence, adulthood, and finally old age. This is the typical life cycle of the human being, though there is no guarantee to make it to an elderly state prior to the arrival of death.
देहिनो ऽस्मिन् यथा देहे
कौमारं यौवनं जरा
धीरस् तत्र न मुह्यति
dehino ‘smin yathā dehe
kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā
dhīras tatra na muhyati
“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)
While all of these changes are taking place, the spirit soul is unchanged. Death is merely the final change; the individual travelling to a completely new body, which has its own setting, i.e. circumstances of birth. The sober person, dhira, is not bewildered by these changes.
2. Yam yam vapi…
What exactly are those circumstances? Can they be controlled? What will happen to the fighters who perish in the upcoming conflict? The existence is not finished; that we now understand. But to where will they travel? What will the situation be?
यं यं वापि स्मरन् भावं
त्यजत्य् अन्ते कलेवरम्
तं तम् एवैति कौन्तेय
yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ
tyajaty ante kalevaram
taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya
“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)
Krishna explains that the state of being at the time of death is the determining factor. Sort of like the life flashing before the eyes, the consciousness is key. If a person is contemplating their dog and the attachment to it, a similar circumstance will follow in the next life. Perhaps birth in a dog’s body will occur.
3. Yat karosi…
We have birth and death covered, and the changes that take place in between. Try to have the right consciousness while quitting the body, but what about during the period of living itself? What should be the goal of activity? Eating, offering, sacrificing, renouncing, and working take place, irrespective of language spoken or accepted religious tradition.
Shri Krishna recommends to do everything as an offering to Him. The fight ahead for Arjuna, the focus and determination necessary for victory, the acceptance of a kingdom, the fruits of the work – everything should be done with Krishna in mind. That will provide the ultimate benefit.
4. Param dhama…
This is because Krishna is the ultimate repository. He is the Supreme Shelter; surrendering to Him will bring the best result. He is not an arbitrarily assigned object of worship. His supreme status was on visible display to Arjuna, who received a special set of eyes to be able to see.
परं ब्रह्म परं धाम
पवित्रं परमं भवान्
पुरुषं शाश्वतं दिव्यम्
आदि-देवम् अजं विभुम्
आहुस् त्वाम् ऋषयः सर्वे
देवर्षिर् नारदस् तथा
असितो देवलो व्यासः
स्वयं चैव ब्रवीषि मे
paraṁ brahma paraṁ dhāma
pavitraṁ paramaṁ bhavān
puruṣaṁ śāśvataṁ divyam
ādi-devam ajaṁ vibhum
āhus tvām ṛṣayaḥ sarve
devarṣir nāradas tathā
asito devalo vyāsaḥ
svayaṁ caiva bravīṣi me
“Arjuna said: You are the Supreme Brahman, the ultimate, the supreme abode and purifier, the Absolute Truth and the eternal divine person. You are the primal God, transcendental and original, and You are the unborn and all-pervading beauty. All the great sages such as Narada, Asita, Devala, and Vyasa proclaim this of You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me.” (Bhagavad-gita, 10.12-13)
Upon witnessing that amazing form, known as the virata-rupa, the leading fighter for the Pandavas broke out into spontaneous praise. He extolled Krishna’s virtues, and glorified Him as the Supreme Pure. Hence there is also proper justification for offering everything unto Krishna.
5. Sarva dharman…
This verse appears towards the very end of the conversation. If there was any confusion as to the teachings presented, which may appear contradictory in some ways, just know that full surrender will take care of everything. Take every kind of religious system, dharma, and let it go. Just accept Krishna’s shelter and everything will be okay.
माम् एकं शरणं व्रज
अहं त्वां सर्व-पापेभ्यो
मोक्षयिष्यामि मा शुचः
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
“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)
Saints of the Vedic tradition have expanded on the concept. Tailored specifically to this age is the dharma of chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
जथा भूमि सब बीजमय नखत निवास अकास |
राम नाम सब धरममय जानत तुलसीदास ||
jathā bhūmi saba bījamaya nakhata nivāsa akāsa |
rāma nāma saba dharamamaya jānata tulasīdāsa ||
“Just as within the earth is found every kind of seed and within the sky live all the stars, Tulsidas knows that Shri Rama’s holy name is the reservoir of all dharma.” (Dohavali, 29)
Goswami Tulsidas makes the comparison to the earth and the sky. All the stars can be found in the sky and all seeds necessary for the continuation of plant life can be found in the earth. In the same way, the result of all dharmas can be found in the chanting of the holy name. There is no need to be so concerned over this rule and that regulation. Maintain a connection to Bhagavan and life’s mission will be successful, as it was for Arjuna.
If Bhagavad-gita as course to try,
Then necessary verses five.
That body changing from new to old,
To offer everything to Krishna told.
The supreme shelter by Arjuna explained,
Full surrender to all dharmas the same.
Consciousness at death’s moment measured,
Best if held Lord’s company treasured.
Categories: the five