by Swami Krishnananda
Devotees often have the erroneous notion that a god is only in one place: here is Ganesha, and here is Devi, and here is Surya, and one has no connection with the other. Devotees think that the different gods can grant different boons – that what one god grants, another cannot grant – and that for the purpose of a particular boon, they have to approach a particular god. Offering different prayers for different kinds of ailments – physical, social or mental – is a lesser religion of the masses. “They shall be granted their boons,” is the proclamation of the great Lord. Kamais tais tair hrita-jnanah prapadyante anya devatah, tam tam niyamam asthaya prakritya niyatah svaya (7.20). This means to say that even if we want a cup of tea and expect to get it from our god, it will be given to us, though it is a petty, flimsy thing that we are expecting from our adored deity.
This is religion indeed, in the sense that there is a desire to be devoted to an ‘other than oneself’, which is considered as a god capable of bestowing all boons. But these are limited fruits consequent upon limited devotion coming from a limited god who appears to be in one place – in Kailasa only, in Vaikuntha only, in Brahmaloka only, in Manidveepa only, or in the sky only as Suryanarayana – and not anywhere else. That the god is not anywhere else is the peculiarity of a limited devotion to a particular isolated concept of the deity.
Yo yo yam yam tanum bhaktah sraddhayarchitum icchati, tasya tasyachalam shraddham tam eva vidadhamy aham (7.21). The force of the Universal Being animates these different deities as the replica of that Supreme Being, and so they have in them a power to evoke devotion, and it is mistaken for the evocation coming from that particular deity only. The idea is that when we see a brilliant electric bulb, we are carried away by the bulb’s power; we adore it and worship it and put a garland over it – “O Thou that is giving me brilliant light every day” – and so on, not knowing that the brilliance does not come from the bulb. It is pumped from a universal source whose generating centre is somewhere else. Similarly, even the capacity of a particular god to bless us comes from a universal source. The poor devotee who is clinging to a little concept of a localised entity does not know this.
Our own limitation of thought binds us, though there is a large reservoir of abundance that is ready to pour upon us whatever we want. But even if the granter is ready to give us all things, we ask for little; and so we are rewarded with that which we deserve. If we ask, it shall be given; but it shall be given only in the measure that we ask, in the manner that we expect, and in the quantum that we deserve. Here is a religious outlook which is so catholic in its nature that it does not condemn, denounce or deprecate any concept of god, any faith, any cult or any religious outlook. It only considers them as insufficient and inadequate for the purpose of attaining of the final goal of life.
There are various degrees of satisfactions in this world. If we have a cool drink, it is a satisfaction. If we have a good meal, it is a satisfaction. If we have a good rest, it is a satisfaction. If we have glory, praise and status in society, it is also a satisfaction. But these are brittle, localised, with a beginning and an end, and so there is a desire in us to go for higher satisfactions which are more than the meal or the available things in the world. That is why people worship gods. They have little gods in their homes, in their temples, on a shelf in a cabinet; and something called a little prayer is offered. This little prayer, this little ‘Jaya Jagadisha Hare’ that we sing while lighting a candle or even an incense stick, is the outcome of our feeling of there being something higher than us.
We have kept a little idol in a corner of our room; but our feeling is of a different nature altogether. Though the sense organs tell us that it is a little piece of wood or metal, or a painted picture that is in front of us, we consider it as embodying some capacity to overcome our limitations. That means to say, we are somehow or the other conceptually implanting in that idol or symbol a power that is not easily available to any man in this world – not available even to all humanity. So there is a double dealing on the part of the devotee, who knows that the little deity, little idol is not going to bless him. It is made of a material substance. It is in one place; it looks small. What kind of blessing can be expected from it? Yet the feeling is so powerful that the devotee unconsciously feels the presence of something in it which he cannot easily comprehend intellectually. It is a superior inundation, a capacity that theoretically comes from somewhere else – just as a child knows that the light comes from somewhere else, though he does not know from where it comes.
Because of our persistent sensory limitation of that god – limiting that god to one particular place only – the blessing is delimited. Nevertheless, whatever our faith is shall be considered as worthwhile because of the fact that whatever our faith is, it is, after all, a faith in something higher than our own self. All religion is great, and every concept of God is adorable in the sense that it is a worship of something greater than one’s own self and, therefore, it supersedes the individual ego. In that sense, every religion is good and every notion of God is worthwhile. All concepts of spirituality are equally adorable from the point of view that they lift our minds from our own egoistic centre and we unconsciously ask for something that is beyond us, above us, more than us, and infinitely greater than us. Here is a beautiful presentation of universal religion – which has no communal touch and no hatred of any kind and considers every cult, every creed, every type of worship, every faith, and every form of adoration as good enough from its own point of view, though inadequate from the highest point of view.
Sa taya sraddhaya yuktas tasyaradhanam ihate, labhate cha tatah kaman mayaiva vihitan hi tan (7.22): “If Ganesha blesses you or Devi blesses you or Surya blesses you or anybody blesses you, ultimately it is My blessing that is coming. I am conscious of what you are thinking and feeling.” The omniscient Absolute is aware of our intentions, our limitations, our foibles, and our poor approach to the deity, which based on our mental conception. Nevertheless, the omniscient eye – which sees through the very deity that we are worshipping – grants, with its omnipotence, the energy that our deity requires to grant the boon that is expected by us. Lord Siva’s power or Lord Vishnu’s power or anybody’s power is the power of the Absolute, and the omniscience and omnipotence of the Absolute is the reason why any god is capable of blessing us. But just as the quantum of water flows according to the thickness of the pipe, the blessings that we receive from these gods will also be limited by the ‘pipe’ of the personality that we have foisted on these deities. Yet, we will get it.
Antavat tu phalam tesham (7.23): Poor indeed is the result that follows from this kind of limited worship. “Though I agree that worship is good in every way, you could have asked for better things.” But how can we ask for better things? Our minds are limited, like little cups, and can contain only cupfuls and not the entire ocean. This is because our minds are limited to the concepts of space, time and objects and, therefore, even our spiritual expectations are limited to these objectively presented dimensions, which are limitations and which will end. The whole point is that whatever has a beginning will also have an end. Therefore, it is good for us to ask for something infinite, which has neither a beginning nor an end; but that infinite can respond only if that infinite in us rouses its spirits and asks for the infinite. The infinite within us alone can ask for the infinite outside. The little soul in us cannot ask for the infinite. It can ask only for its counterpart. Just as a sweeper’s friend is a sweeper, a labourer’s friend is a labourer, a driver’s friend is a driver, a fisherman’s friend is a fisherman, and so on, we expect from our deity whatever we are in ourselves. If our deepest soul does not rise to the occasion, the highest universal soul will not respond. If it is only a mental asking, a psychological, sentimental craving, and even a biological expectation, that will be given to us – but the infinite will not be given. The infinite can respond and grant us infinite blessing only if we approach it as an infinite soul. The total man has to rise to the total occasion in order that the total reality may respond. Otherwise, all results of worship will be limited. They will have a beginning and end; and when we go, that also goes. Antavat tu phalam tesham tad bhavaty alpa-medhasam: A poor understanding of the nature of spiritual life – not knowing that God is everything, and expecting something ulterior from God – is not true spirituality or religion. Not knowing this, people with a lesser intellect commit this error and get reborn – though perhaps into a better world on account of their devotion.
Devan deva-yajo yanti mad-bhakta yanti mam api: We shall reach that which we are thinking in our minds. What will we reach after death? Whatever we are expecting now, that we will reach. If we want union with a particular deity, we will attain union with that particular deity in that particular location of a higher realm – a different realm of being. “But those who worship Me as the total infinite, reach Me.” Devan devayajo yanti madbhaktah yanti mamapi. Here mam means ‘Me, the total Absolute’ speaking through the personality of Bhagavan Sri Krishna and including all the gods. Did we not notice that all the gods were there in the Visvarupa? Right from earth to heaven – everything was spread out and every deity was shining in the different limbs of the Virat Svarupa. That Visvarupa is speaking here as the All-in-All, the be-all and end-all of all things.
Avyaktam vyaktim apannam manyante mam abuddhayah, param bhavam ajananto mamavyayam anuttamam (7.24). Here Bhagavan Sri Krishna is referring to Himself. “People think that I look like a human being. My higher nature is not known to those with poor understanding.” The personality of Sri Krishna is a concretisation and a beaming forth of a resplendence that is all pervading. There is a larger reality behind this presentation in the form of the personality of Sri Krishna. To the friend, he looked like a friend in human form; to the warrior, he looked like a warrior. But behind him, behind his personality, there was an oceanic expanse which was pumping energy into him indefinitely and infinitely. He wielded purna sakti. We say that Bhagavan Sri Krishna is krishnastu bhagavan svayam and shodashakala purna avatara. That is what is generally believed. The idea is that the perfect God manifested Himself in this perfect personality. The whole of the Absolute was concentrated into a pinpoint, as it were, and that was the power of Sri Krishna’s complete incarnation. Yet, “I am actually the total whole that is concentrated through this personality, but don’t mistake this personality itself for the total whole. Your senses see only My little form, but I represent another light altogether – which is beaming through Me, which is larger than this visible form. But those with poor understanding do not recognise this. People think that I am endowed with a human personality – that I think like a human being and walk like a human being – but I am the infinite that is made visible to the eyes of man as an incarnation for a particular purpose that has arisen.”