The Bhagavad-Gita, the greatest and holiest of Hindu sc riptures, emphasizes the importance of 'Bhakti' or loving devotion to God. Bhakti, says the Gita, is the only way to realize God.
In Chapter 2, Shlok (Verse) 7, Arjuna asks, "My soul is oppressed by a sense of frustration. My mind is unable to determine what is right. I am requesting you to tell me definitely what is for my good. I am your pupil. Teach me. I have surrendered myself to you."
But, Lord Krishna does not answer Arjuna's request until Chapter 18, Shloks (verses) 65-66 where He says, "Let your mind be constantly directed towards me; be devoted to me; dedicate all your actions to me; prostrate yourself before me; over and above the claims of all Dharmas (duties) is complete surrender to me and me alone".
However, Lord Krishna does partially answer Arjuna in Chapter 11, Shloks (verses) 53-55 after exhibiting His cosmic form, "It is not possible to see me as you have done through the study of the Vedas or by austerities or gifts or by sacrifice; it is only by one-pointed devotion (Bhakti) to me and me alone that you thus see and know me as I am in reality and ultimately reach me. It is he alone who dedicates all his notions and actions to me with a knowledge of my superiority, my devotee with no attachment and who has no enmity to any living being that can reach me". Bhakti therefore, is the only way to the true knowledge of God and the surest way to reach Him.
Bhakti: Unwavering Devotion & Love for God
Bhakti, according to the Gita, is the love for God and love reinforced by a true knowledge of the glory of God. It surpasses the love for all things worldly. This love is constant and is centered in God and God alone, and cannot be shaken under any circumstances whether in prosperity or in adversity.
Bhakti is Strictly Not for Non-believers
It is not for everyone. All human beings fall into two categories, the devotees (Bhaktas) and the non-devotees (Abhaktas). Lord Krishna says specifically that the Gita is not for the 'Abhaktas'.
In Chapter 18, Shlok 67 Krishna says, "This (Gita) is not to be communicated to one who is not disciplined, or who is not a devotee, or who has not served the learned or to one who hates me". He also says in Chapter 7, Shloks 15 and 16: "The lowest among men, those of wicked deeds, and the foolish ones, do not resort to me; for their mind is overcome by Maya (illusion) and their nature is 'Asuri' (demonic), inclined to worldly pleasures. Four kinds of people of good deeds turn to me-those who are in distress, or who search for knowledge, or who desire worldly goods, or the truly wise". The Lord further elaborates in the 28th Shlok of the same chapter "It is only those of good deeds whose sins are ended, and who are freed from the spell of opposites that run to me with firm determination".
Who is an Ideal Devotee?
Even those with Bhakti must have certain qualities to gain the grace of God. This is explained in detail in Chapter 12, Shloks (verses) 13-20 of the Gita. The ideal devotee (Bhakta) should
- not hate any living being
- cultivate friendship and compassion
- give up the feeling of "I and Mine"
- be unmoved by happiness or misery
- be forgiving
- strive for self-control
- always be content with what he/she has
- have a strong determination
- surrender his/her mind and intellect to God.
- not be afraid of anyone; and none in the world should fear him/her
- desire nothing
- be pure and efficient
- be free from elation, anger, fear and turbulence of mind
- be indifferent to what befalls him/her
- be free from weakness of mind
- free from the feeling that he/she is an independent agent
- have no feeling of elation and enmity or desire
- develop an attitude of mind which rejects good as well as bad things
- have no attachments and should accept pain and pleasure, honor and disgrace, heat and cold equally as his/her portion
- look upon friends and foes alike
- not indulge in idle talk
- not attached to any fixed abode
- be steadfast in mind.
It is such a 'Bhakta' that is dear to Sri Krishna. And most important of all, those Bhaktas are most dear to God who love him with full faith in his supremacy.
May we all be worthy of Gita's Bhakti!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gyan Rajhans, is a scientist and broadcaster, who has been running his non-commercial Vedic religion radio program in North America since 1981 and worldwide web cast on bhajanawali.com since 1999. He has written extensively on religious and spiritual matters, including a translation of the Gita in English for the younger generation. Mr Rajhans has been conferred various titles, including that of 'Rishi' by Hindu Prarthana Samaj of Toronto Hindu Ratna by Hindu Federation of Toronto.