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BG Chap 9 - The meaning of the term jñāna

The term jñāna refers only to direct bhakti in the form of singing the Lord’s glories and other devotional activities. Also, the actions of bhakti such as kīrtana arise from the cit-śakti, the energy of the Lord which manifests spiritual knowledge, and can thus be considered knowledge. In addition, jñāna literally means “that by which something is known.” Since the Lord is known by bhakti, bhakti is called jñāna. The jñāna mentioned earlier is in sattva guṇa but Kṛṣṇa uses the term avyayam (indestructible) to refer to this jñāna. Thus this knowledge is beyond the guṇas and thus refers only to bhakti. The term dharma in verse 9.3 also refers to bhakti only.

BG Chap 9 - The qualification to understand bhakti

One should be non envious and devoid of the habit of seeing faults in the Lord. Generally the commentators, even if they are highly scholarly, are all envious of Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Even the most erudite scholars write on Bhagavad-Gītā very inaccurately. Because they are envious of Kṛṣṇa, their commentaries are useless. The commentaries given by devotees of the Lord are bona fide. No one can explain Bhagavad-Gītā or give perfect knowledge of Kṛṣṇa if he is envious. One who criticizes the character of Kṛṣṇa without knowing Him is a fool. Some criticize the Lord saying He is speaking of His own glories, but one who is freed from such envy is qualified to understand bhakti. Thus bhakti is taught only to one who is not selfish or inimical.

One who understands bhakti will have a direct realization of the Lord and be freed from rebirth (saṁsāra) and freed from all obstacles to bhakti.

BG Chap 9 - Characteristics of bhakti

(a) King of all knowledge and king of all secrets

This knowledge is the king of all types of knowledge (rāja-vidyā) such as śāṇḍilya-vidyā, vaiṣvānara-vidyā, and dahara-vidyā, which are all mentioned in the Upaniṣads. Among the principal philosophers in India are Gautama, Kaṇāda, Kapila, Yājñavalkya, Śāṇḍilya and Vaiśvānara. And finally there is Vyāsadeva, the author of the Vedānta-sūtra. So there is no dearth of knowledge in the field of philosophy or transcendental knowledge. But the Lord says that this is the king of all such knowledge. Since knowledge here refers to bhakti, this is the highest bhakti exceeding all others. This is the king of secret matters (rāja-guhyaṁ) concerning the real nature of the jīvātmā and other items. Bhakti of any type is very secret, and of all types of bhakti, this is the king, the most secret.

Rāja vidyā and rāja guhyaṁ also means knowledge belonging to the kings and the secret belonging to the kings. This knowledge belongs to persons like kings who are generous and compassionate, and who thus consider even heaven insignificant. It is not the knowledge of those with selfish hearts worshipping devatās with desire for quick gain of sons or wealth. Just as kings do not keep their treasures secret, but attentively keep their personal mantras secret, though they are generous, so the devotees, though generous, keep this knowledge secret with great care, though they do not keep other types of knowledge secret.

(b) Most purifying

This knowledge is supremely pure because it destroys all sins including the subtle body, where the karmas are stored. With the disappearance of all karmas, the subtle body dissolves and one attains liberation. Sins in the form of aprārabdha (whose effects will manifest in future lifetimes), kūṭa (dormant), bīja (seed like state) (both stages are intermediate stages before which the effects manifest), and prārabdha (effects manifest this lifetime as enjoyment and suffering) are gradually destroyed for a person engaged in worship of Viṣṇu. As a needle pierces one leaf at a time in a pile of leaves, so bhakti will destroy karmas one at a time. Thus this knowledge is most purifying.

BG Chap 9 - Characteristics of bhakti ...Continued

(c) Gives realization of the Lord

This knowledge gives direct perception of the self and the Lord by realization and thus is the perfection of religion. The Lord makes His appearance in direct perception arising from methods such as hearing. Devotion, direct experience of the Lord, and detachment from other things – these three occur simultaneously for one who has taken shelter of the Lord. The attainment of realization is in accordance with the intensity of worship. This knowledge is faithful to dharma. It is nourished by righteous acts such as service to guru. Though one may fail to perform all dharmas, bhakti is the perfection of dharma. As pouring water on the root of a tree nourishes the entire tree, and as supplying food to the stomach enlivens the body, simply by worshipping the Supreme Lord satisfies the demigods, who are parts of the Supreme Personality.

(d) Easy to execute

The process of bhakti is easy to execute and performed thru acts like hearing about the Lord or offering tulasī leaves and water drops to the Lord. Unlike karma, jñāna and other processes, there are no extreme pains to the body, voice or mind. One can execute devotional service even in the most poverty-stricken condition. The Lord says, patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyam: He is ready to accept from the devotee any kind of offering, never mind what. Even a leaf, a flower, a bit of fruit, or a little water, which are all available in every part of the world, can be offered by any person, regardless of social position, and will be accepted if offered with love.

BG Chap 9 - More Characteristics of bhakti

(e) Joyful to perform

Bhakti is joyfully performed. Bhakti destroys all karmas, yields perception of Bhagavān and is easy to execute. Devotional service consists of śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ [SB 7.5.23], so one can simply hear the chanting of the glories of the Lord or can attend philosophical lectures on transcendental knowledge given by authorized ācāryas. Simply by sitting, one can learn; then one can eat the remnants of the food offered to God, nice palatable dishes. In every state devotional service is joyful. Bhakti yoga is joyfully performed because it entails using our senses in Kṛṣṇa’s service, and does not require renouncing our activities as in jñāna yoga. Renouncing sense activities does not bring joy but rather, dryness and misery.

(f) Eternally performed

Bhakti is indestructible and exists even in liberation. Being beyond the guṇas it is eternal. Karma yoga does not destroy all karmas until it turns to jñāna. Jñāna yoga and aṣṭāṅga-yoga are not easy to execute and are given up on liberation. But bhakti continues after liberation. Karma yoga indirectly leads to perception of ātmā, and jñāna yoga and aṣṭāṅga-yoga give perception of the ātmā and Paramātmā but not Bhagavān.

BG Chap 9 - The faithful and the faithless

Those who do not have firm faith in the dharma of devotional service to Kṛṣṇa, though its strength is well known in the scriptures because they think these statements are exaggeration, do not attain the Lord but remain in this world. Even if they perform other practices to attain the Lord, while ignoring bhakti, they do not attain the Lord. They remain fixed on the path of saṁsāra, which brings about repeated birth and death.

Faith is created by association with devotees. Faith is the complete conviction that simply by serving the Supreme Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, one can achieve all perfection. There are three divisions of Kṛṣṇa conscious men. In the third class are those who have no faith. They have neither perfect knowledge of the scriptures nor good faith but by association and simplicity are trying to follow. In the second class are those who are not very advanced in understanding the devotional scriptures but who automatically have firm faith that kṛṣṇa-bhakti, or service to Kṛṣṇa, is the best course and so in good faith have taken it up. One who is well versed in the literatures of devotional service and has attained the stage of firm faith is called a first-class person in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.

BG Chap 9 - The inconceivable powers of the Lord

The remarkable powers stimulate devotion to Him. This knowledge is required by devotees who are in dāsya bhakti. Kṛṣṇa says that He pervades the whole universe by His unmanifested form. All beings are in Him, as He is the cause, but He is not in them, since He is completely detached. The universe is pervaded by the Lord, whose svarūpa cannot be grasped by the material senses. All moving and non moving entities are within Him because their existence depends on Him. But the Lord is not situated in all of these living entities because He is not dependent on them. Thru His expansion as the Paramātmā, rather than personally, Kṛṣṇa enters within the universe and controls and supports it. The material world rests on His energy, but He is aloof. Just as the sunshine is spread all over the universe, the energy of the Lord is spread all over the creation, and everything is resting in that energy. Yet one should not conclude that because He is spread all over He has lost His personal existence. To refute such an argument the Lord says, "I am everywhere, and everything is in me, but still I am aloof." He is the source of the material world, and He maintains it, but He does not directly associate with it. He is free from material nature, but material nature is not free from Him. This is knowledge of Kṛṣṇa’s inconceivable opulent potency – all matter rests upon Him yet He remains aloof.

BG Chap 9 - There is no burden for the Lord

If all beings are in Kṛṣṇa, does it present a burden for Him to carry them?
Kṛṣṇa answers that although are beings are in Him (mat-sthāni sarva bhūtāni), by His mystic yoga, everything that is created does not rest in Him (na ca mat sthāni bhūtāni). The creation does not present even the smallest of burdens to Him. He maintains all that exists while remaining completely separate and detached in the spiritual world. In His spiritual body, Kṛṣṇa is not situated in His creations. Yoga is defined as the means by which something very difficult is accomplished. Yoga thus refers here to the Lord’s form endowed with inconceivable śakti, whose quality is that His every desire is fulfilled without effort. Kṛṣṇa is in everything and contain everything, but He is also not in anything and contains nothing, since He maintains and controls everything, and has no contact at all either from inside or outside. He maintains and protects everything by His extraordinary yoga, and thus everything is done by His will (mind). He does not have to act with His body to do this.

Isn't the mind and the body of the Lord non different? True, but one makes practical distinctions thru the power of viśeṣa, as one does in statements such as ‘Being exists’. Viśeṣa is the peculiar characteristic or potency of things which makes description and talk of difference possible, whereas, as a matter of fact, only identity exists. It is the power of things in themselves which, through an underlying identity of essence, enables us to distinguish a particular from its universal; a quality from its substance; motion or power or energy from things possessing them; the svarūpa from the possessor of the svarūpa. The sentence “being exists” makes sense, though the words “being” and “exist” actually mean the same thing, because of making distinctions within oneness.

BG Chap 9 - The Lord's relationship with material energy

The jīvas accept a body, protect it, and developing attachment to it, remain in that body. But the Lord, though He accepts all living beings and protects them, is not situated in them because He is not attached.

Kṛṣṇa gives the example just as the wind blowing everywhere rests always in ether, so all beings are resting in Him alone. The great air which cannot support itself, situated in the great ether which also cannot support itself, moves everywhere. Since they have no supporting power of their own, their existence is enabled by Kṛṣṇa’s will alone, and movement takes place thru the Paramātmā within. The wind remains always situated in the ether, which has a nature of being detached. The wind has a nature of being restless, going everywhere and is great in size. Because of the detachment of the ether, the wind is situated in it, but also not situated in it; the ether, though in the wind, is not in the wind, because of detachment. Similarly all things such as ether, which are great in dimension and are moving everywhere, are situated in Kṛṣṇa, who is also detached.

Out of fear of the Lord, the wind blows (Taittirīya Upaniṣad). The sun moves in its orbit by the order of Govinda. This material manifestation, which appears to us to be very wonderful and great, is under the complete control of the Supreme. Just as the air exists and moves in the ether by the Lord’s will, all beings are situated in the Lord, maintained and controlled only by His will. But the Lord remains unaffected.

BG Chap 9 - The independence of the dependent living entity

Although all living entities are within Kṛṣṇa, are dependent on Kṛṣṇa and are supported by Kṛṣṇa, they nevertheless act independently. This is an inconceivable feature of the relationship between the living entities and Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa provides an analogy to help us understand. The sky, like an upside-down bowl, contains the wind. In the same way, “all created beings rest in Me.” Just as the sky is detached from the wind, the wind, though in the sky, blows freely and independently. The sky restricts only the area of movement, not the movement itself. Kṛṣṇa thus limits the activities of the conditioned living entities, regardless of the extent of their power, to the circumference of the material world. Within the material sphere they are free, and Kṛṣṇa is detached from their independently enacted activities and from the reactions their activities generate. The living entities are thus simultaneously fully dependent on Kṛṣṇa and independent of Him.

Now one may ask how can the powers of the Lord remain inconceivable if they are just like ether and wind? Ether has detachment because it is unconscious by its very nature (matter does not form attachments). Among conscious beings, only the Lord is truly detached even though He is at once the abode of everything and its controller. This establishes the inconceivability of the Lord. The example comparing ether to the Lord is given for the understanding of the common man.