by Swami Krishnananda
"How do we approach God?" and "How do we conceive Him?" are questions raised at the beginning of the Twelfth Chapter. These procedures that we adopt in our endeavour to contact God are called, as you know very well, Yoga. A Yoga is an art of union with Reality. God, who is the Ultimate Reality, is to be contacted by some means. The means that we adopt is the Yoga, the method of inner communion.
It is possible to regard God as an all-pervading, infinite presence. Or, we can conceive God as a Supreme Person appealing to our emotions and feelings. Which is the better way? Arjuna put a question: "Are we to concentrate our mind on our concept of the Universal Impersonality of the Absolute, or are we to occupy ourselves with the Supreme Personality of God?" The answer is very interesting: It is perfectly all right if you are in a position to commune yourself with the Infinite Presence. This is very good. But who on earth will be able to achieve this, or perform this mighty feat?
The concept of the Infinite becomes a bare abstraction without any inner content when we stand outside it as visualisers of the Infinite. The mistake that the concept of the Infinite can commit is that it stands outside the Infinite when it so conceives it. Who will conceive the Infinite, inasmuch as the Infinite includes all the finites? So the question itself becomes redundant. Are we to meditate on the Infinite Impersonality? Who are 'we'? What kind of 'we' or 'I' is this? Who is it that is thinking in this strain? Is there anyone capable of conceiving the Infinite? The Infinite precludes the concepts of finitude of every kind – finitude of even the conceiving person, the seekers of God. As long as this body is here as a so-called hard substance clinging to our consciousness, as long as even the best of seekers of Truth cannot forget that he or she has a body, a strong isolated personality and the consciousness of 'I' exists. The best of people cannot overcome this consciousness of 'I exist'. The consciousness of 'I exist', or the awareness of the so-called 'me', will not be able to achieve this feat of the communion with the Infinite.
Kleśodhikataras teṣāṁ avyaktāsaktacetasām (Gita 12.5): A great difficulty, great sorrow, great problem indeed is this for anyone to think of the Infinite, inasmuch as the Infinite alone can think the Infinite. The only one who is fit to meditate or conceive the Infinite is the Infinite itself, and no one else can do that because anyone else is a finite. So while it is a wonderful thing to hear that someone is attempting to conceive the Infinite and meditate on the Infinite – most glorious indeed even to hear that such a thing is possible – is it practicable? It is not practicable as long as body-consciousness persists, as long as I-consciousness of individuality continues. When you exist as a person, the Infinite cannot be there. Either you are there, or the Infinite is there.
So we can, for the time being, conclude that nothing can be better for a person than to endeavour to contact the Infinite. Yet, there has to be a proviso that it is not practicable in ordinary circumstances. We can aspire for it, we can keep it as a kind of possibility in our future; it is a great, worthwhile thing, yet the physical individuality which is ridden over with ego and often controlled by the activities of sense organs will be an unfit instrument for even the notion of the Infinite.
Therefore, the personality of the individual seeker can accommodate itself only with the personality of God. A person can contact only a person. A person cannot contact a nonperson. There cannot be any kind of harmony between personality and impersonality. As every one of us is a person, God also has to be a person for us – a Supreme Person. We can stretch our imagination to the extent of excluding everything outside His personality. Mighty Visvarupa, Cosmic Form, All-inclusive God, Almighty Father – you may designate Him in any way you like, but nevertheless He is the Supreme Person.
The concept of God's personality arises on account of our impossibility to get over the consciousness of our own personality. God's personality, as we conceive it, is a cosmic counterpart of our own individual personality. It is an extension of our own notion of what we are, so that God would look like a big person and something like our own personality. We cannot think in any other manner. If we want to associate immense capacity and great knowledge and power with God, the only thing that people can think is that He has multiple powers. His eyes are everywhere, His hands are everywhere, His feet are everywhere, as the Gita tells us. Inasmuch as our hands or eyes cannot be everywhere, we have to associate God with everywhereness of even the limbs. We are ignorant, and therefore God has to be all-knowing. We are unhappy; therefore, God is bliss. We are in only one place; therefore, God is everywhere. There is an opposite, counter-correlative aspect of God's conception of us in our endeavour to think Him.
So in the earlier stages of spiritual practice, it is no use on the part of any seeker to jump over his own skin and try to be infinite if the Infinite becomes only a conceptual object, an abstraction to the conceiving mind. Yet, we may maintain it as a kind of theoretical possibility. One day or the other, this finitude of ours may melt down and the Infinite may take possession of us. It is a blessedness we may await. But in the earlier stages, God-consciousness will take the form of a blessed, benevolent father, mother, friend, guide, philosopher – whatever you call it. This is the answer Bhagavan Sri Krishna gives to Arjuna's question: Which is the better way for a spiritual seeker – the pursuit of the impersonal Absolute, or devotion to a personal God?
The answer is that both are equally good, under different circumstances and conditions. But the body-consciousness of an individual will not permit an immediate communion of itself with the infinite Absolute, so love of God is what is available to us as a redeeming factor. Meditation should be carried on in this way, on the Supreme Being, the Creator of the Universe. What kind of meditation? How are we to adjust our mind to the thought of God?
As I mentioned, these ways are called Yoga. We have four Yogas mainly, as you must have heard – Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga and Karma Yoga. Four verses, commencing with the verse mayy eva mana ādhatsva mayi buddhiṁ niveśaya, nivasiṣyasi mayy eva ata ūrdhvaṁ na saṁśayaḥ (Gita 12.8), briefly adumbrate the nature of the practice of the four Yogas: Concentrate yourself on Me only, to the exclusion of everything else. Let your mind be devoted to Me and the intellect dedicated to Me, and you shall reside and abide in Me. The abiding of oneself in God is the crucial point in Jnana Yoga.
When we tried to understand the meaning of jnanin on an earlier occasion, we observed that a jnanin expects nothing from God because he wants God only. To want God is to abolish oneself as a person because of the infinite inclusiveness of God. So the abiding of oneself in God implies, would suggest, a total surrender of oneself to the extent of annihilation of personality itself; otherwise, abiding in God would be difficult. You would be abiding in God as a separate entity there, and the infinitude of God would not permit that situation. So this verse is a suggestion for Jnana Yoga: seeing everything everywhere.
Taccintanaṃ tatkathanam anyonyaṃ tatprabhodhanam, etad ekaparatvaṃ ca brahmābhyāsaṃ vidur budhāḥ (Panchadasi 7.106). Brahmārpaṇaṁ brahma havir brahmāgnau brahmaṇā hutam, brahmaiva tena gantavyaṁ brahmakarmasamādhinā (Gita 4.24). These verses tell us that our occupation in daily life should also get melted down into the very process of meditation. Work and meditation do not stand apart in jnana. There is no secular life and spiritual life isolated from each other. In jnana, in wisdom of God, there is no secularity, materiality, externality, personality. All 'ities' vanish. There is only the wisdom of existence, wherein one beholds all things everywhere. If a jnanin talks, he does not talk on any other subject. And when he discourses to people, he will not discourse on anything else. He will try to elevate people to the consciousness of the Infinite Existence of God and depend on the grace of God only. The Gita also tells us tadbuddhayas tadātmānas (Gita 5.17): The mind is sunk in it, the intellect is entirely devoted to it, and the soul is totally inseparable. Depending on that only even for your sustenance, such a thing is jnana, which is hard for anyone to practice because it depends mostly on external factors, under conditions of bodily existence and, to some extent, sensory activity.
If you find that to be difficult, the Lord adds more. Without expecting any word from the disciple, the Teacher, the Master, the Guru apprehends the difficulties that are possible in the case of an ordinary seeker, and without even a question raised, the answer comes as an emendation of the first doctrine of jnana: If this is not possible, go on practicing again and again the same routine every day, whether you succeed or not. A continuous day-to-day maintenance of the consciousness of God's omnipresence as jnana may be difficult, but you may try for it at least. By practice you become perfect. Sit for meditation at a particular time, at any time as is convenient to you, and do not forget to be seated for meditation at this particular time. You may say the mind is not concentrating, it is not coming round. It does not matter; sit nevertheless. Make a decision that, "I have sat here for meditation to rouse in my mind the consciousness of God's existence." And every day if the sitting is done, one day or the other the mind will come round, and you will succeed. Repeated attempts on the part of a person to see that the consciousness of God enters one's mind can be assisted by the study of scriptures, the company of great masters and saints, etc.
Perhaps this is also not possible: "Even that repeated practice is difficult for me; my knees are aching and my back is paining in excruciating agony, and my mind is flitting from one thing to another thing; even my simple practice is difficult, let alone jnana, or the knowledge of God." The Lord says if the second prescription is also not fitting to you, love God with all your heart and all your soul and all your might. Can you not at least love? Are you so poor that even love is not possible? I am not asking you to concentrate your will or strain your intellect or reason. I am telling you some simple recipe. Be immensely affectionate to God. You can love God and want nothing else. Always wanting God is the highest sadhana, as you will realise one day or the other. If you do not want Him, all your efforts, concentration of will – dhyana, bhakti, karma – nothing will work. As love can emanate from a person spontaneously on account of the preponderance of the emotional faculty in oneself, loving God is considered as easier, especially in this age of distraction and sufferings of various kinds. The directing of one's feelings and emotions to God in utter devotion and surrender is to be considered as the best of Yogas. You need not go to Patanjali's Sutras or Yoga Vasishtha or the Upanishads; they are very difficult things. If you love anyone, the love is reciprocated automatically. Your affection will be felt even by animals and trees. Therefore, if you cannot sit for meditation every day and carry on this practice, at least in your heart be devoted to God.
But that also is not possible. You have an excuse for that also; even love is not possible. What else is possible? "I will do work. I am very busy with all kinds of work, so I have no time to love anybody." If you say that, okay; if you do not want to love even God Himself, do your work. But whatever fruit accrues out of your work, offer it to God. If you get something as a fruit, as a consequence, as a result, a fructification of your deeds, do not enjoy those fruits. The phala tyaga, or the abandonment of the fruits of one's action and the dedication of these fruits as a consecration to God, that also is a Yoga, and God says He can be satisfied with it. Sarva-karma-phala-tyāga (Gita 12.11) is also a great Yoga.
But the mind is such a mischievous imp that it will not permit you to do even that: "Why should I abandon the fruit? It is my tree and, therefore, the fruit also is mine only. How can the tree be mine and the fruit be somebody else's? If I do hard work, I will reap the fruit thereof. And if God takes the fruit, and I work hard, the mind will say that this is no good."
You have to expect something. The expecting of some result as a consequence of your deeds is to create a gulf between the fruit and the action because the action is confined to the present, while the fruit is in the future. The expectation of the fruit of an action is also a miscalculation. The fruit you accrue is not in your hands. Only the action is your prerogative. Work you must, but you cannot expect a particular result to follow from it. While you have the choice and the freedom to act according to the ability of your higher reason, you cannot know at that time what consequence will follow from that action because the result of an action is conditioned and determined by various other factors which are not always under your control.
First of all, the fruit is in the future, not in the present; therefore, your expectation of the future fruit will cause unnecessary distress in your mind: when will it come, when will it come, when will it come? And when it comes, it may not come in the way you expected. So many a time you find that your actions fail, as they do not bring you what you wanted. Sarvārambhā hi doṣeṇa dhūmenāgnir ivāvṛtāḥ (Gita 18.48), says the Bhagavadgita: Every action that one performs is infected with some defect. As no one can be omniscient, no one can know what kind of result will follow from a particular action. Unexpected result follows. Therefore, expecting a result of an action is not wise. Let anything come, and offer it to God. You have done your duty.
Here also a caution has to be exercised that the work that you perform should be a duty, and not merely any kind of humdrum activity. Selfish action cannot be regarded as duty. A duty is an incumbent operation on your part for the welfare of a larger inclusiveness of your personality which comprehends other people also. Service of nation, service of people, service of humanity, does not actually mean service of somebody outside you. Outsideness also brings selfishness, together with it. The people outside, so-called – humanity in general whom you are serving – are not standing outside you as independent individuals. They are included as ingredients in a larger comprehensiveness of a vital selfhood you call the self of humanity. Actually, you are serving the larger self of your own individual self, you may say. In your service to people you have actually expanded the dimension of yourself, and you see yourself in the selves of other people. The otherness of people gets obliterated completely as soon as the Selfhood in them is recognised. You see people as ends, and not as means.
So the duty that you perform is a kind of participation in the welfare of the world as a whole, and not some work that you do for personal gain or profit. If this kind of unselfish action is performed, and your life is devoted to this kind of unselfish work, and the fruit is dedicated to God only, that is also a great Yoga, and God is satisfied with it. How a devotee behaves in this world – how gentle and good, how compassionate, how satisfied, how non-complaining – is described towards the end of the Twelfth Chapter.