Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Canto XII : the Way of Devotion

Shraddha and bhakti -- faith and devotion -- are the two words repeatedly stressed in the previous two Cantos. The key last shloka of Canto XII clinches the favoured status of devoted believers :'Dear to me are those who along this deathless dharma, and follow me with shraddha. They are my devotees, and I love them'.

So far, in seven consecutive shlokas, 13 - 19, Krishna has described the good points in the character of an ideal devotee (bhakta) : compassion for all creatures, freedom from jealousy, fear and worry, self-sufficiency, indifference to ups and downs, self-control, determination, decisiveness, impartiality to friend and foe, equal-mindedness in devotion, praise and blame; silence, satisfaction; single-mindedness in devotion. At the end of each shloka he remarks : 'sa me priyah' (he is dear to me).

In the final shloka of the Canto, he adds, 'bhaktase-ativa me priyah'. 'Ativa priyah' ('exceedingly dear') -- the only way one can express it in English is by using the word 'love'. 'I love such devotees' is what Krishna is saying. A stage has now been reached in the relationship between confused Arjuna and the confident Krishna when their Nara-Narayan closeness asserts itself. This intimacy is very special. Arjuna has been described by Krishna as his 'sakha' ( a word for which there is no parallel in English, though 'loving friend and loved friend' comes near); and now Arjuna is on the brink of becoming a still more special person : a sakha-bhakta, a loved and loving friend-cum-devotee.

Arjuna asked :

Who are the better yogis, Krishna, those who steadfastly worship you, or those who worship the invisible and ineffable Brahman ?

Krishna replied :

Those who worship me single-mindedly and those who have unshakeable faith, are for me the most learned in Yoga.

But those who worship the deathless Brahman, the imperishable, unnameable, the invisible, the immutable, unshakeable, and eternal --

They subdue their senses, and seek the welfare of all, they also find me.

But their problems are greater : for finite beings to attain the infinite is difficult.

Those who worship me, offer their deeds to me, consider me the supreme goal,

And think of me with singleminded devotion -- I am their salvation from the whirlpool of the world.

Put all your mind in me, all your intelligence in me; and you will certainly live in me for all time.

If you are unable to do so, at least learn the importance of virtuous habit.

If the art of good habit is difficult, learn to do everything for my sake -- even that will suffice.

If even that is difficult, take shelter in me, do not hanker for the fruits of your actions. Discipline yourself.

Knowledge is superior to good habit, meditation is superior to knowledge, and giving up the fruits of actions is superior to meditation.

Dear to me is the man who hates no one, who feels for all creatures, who has shed 'I' and 'mine', who is not excited by sorrow or joy,

Who is patient and serene, steadfast and subdued.

Dear to me is the man who neither annoys nor gets annoyed, who is free from passion, jealousy, fear and worry.

Dear to is the man who is self-sufficient, chaste, indifferent, determined and decisive.

Dear to me is the man neither regretful nor passionate, who forsakes the fruits of deeds, renounces purity and impurity, and is devoted.

Dear to me is the man alike to friend and foe, alike in fame and infamy, in heat and cold, in joy and sorrow; unattached,

Equal-minded in blame or praise, silent, satisfied, undisturbed, singleminded in devotion. He is dear to me.

Dear to me are those who walk along this deathless dharma, and follow me with shraddha. They are my devotees, and I love them.

No comments: