Chapter 12: Bhakti Yog

The Yog of Devotion

This small chapter stresses on the super-excellence of the path of loving devotion over all other types of spiritual practices. It begins with Arjun asking Shree Krishna whom he considers more perfect in Yog—those who are devoted to the personal form of God or those who worship the formless Brahman. Shree Krishna responds by declaring that both paths lead to God-realization. However, he regards the devotees of his personal form as the best yogis. He explains that meditation on the impersonal unmanifest aspect of God is full of tribulations and is exceedingly difficult for embodied beings. But devotees of the personal form, with their consciousness merged in him and all their actions dedicated to him, are swiftly delivered from the cycle of life and death. Shree Krishna thus asks Arjun to surrender his intellect to him, and fix his mind in exclusive loving devotion on him alone.

However, such love is often not forthcoming in the struggling soul. So Shree Krishna gives other options, and says that if Arjun cannot immediately reach the stage of complete absorption of the mind in God, he should strive to reach that stage of perfection by constant practice. Devotion is not a mysterious gift and can be cultivated by regular effort. If Arjun cannot do even this much, he should still not admit defeat; rather he should work in devotion for the pleasure of Shree Krishna. If this is also not possible, then he should merely renounce the fruits of his works and be situated in the self. He then explains that higher than mechanical practice is the cultivation of knowledge; higher than the cultivation of knowledge is meditation; and higher than meditation is the renunciation of fruits of actions, which immediately leads to great peace. The remaining verses of the chapter describe the wonderful qualities of God’s loving devotees who are very dear to him.

Arjun inquired: Between those who are steadfastly devoted to your personal form and those who worship the formless Brahman, who do you consider to be more perfect in Yog?

The Blessed Lord said: Those who fix their minds on me and always engage in my devotion with steadfast faith, I consider them to be the best yogis.

But those who worship the formless aspect of the Absolute Truth—the imperishable, the indefinable, the unmanifest, the all-pervading, the unthinkable, the unchanging, the eternal, and the immoveable—by restraining their senses and being even-minded everywhere, such persons, engaged in the welfare of all beings, also attain me.

For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifest, the path of realization is full of tribulations. Worship of the unmanifest is exceedingly difficult for embodied beings.

But those who dedicate all their actions to me, regarding me as the Supreme goal, worshiping me and meditating on me with exclusive devotion, O Parth, I swiftly deliver them from the ocean of birth and death, for their consciousness is united with me.

Fix your mind on me alone and surrender your intellect to me. There upon, you will always live in me. Of this, there is no doubt.

If you are unable to fix your mind steadily on me, O Arjun, then practice remembering me with devotion while constantly restraining the mind from worldly affairs.

If you cannot practice remembering me with devotion, then just try to work for me. Thus performing devotional service to me, you shall achieve the stage of perfection.

If you are unable to even work for me in devotion, then try to renounce the fruits of your actions and be situated in the self.

Better than mechanical practice is knowledge; better than knowledge is meditation. Better than meditation is renunciation of the fruits of actions, for peace immediately follows such renunciation.

Those devotees are very dear to me who are free from malice toward all living beings, who are friendly, and compassionate. They are free from attachment to possessions and egotism, equipoised in happiness and distress, and ever-forgiving. They are ever-contented, steadily united with me in devotion, self-controlled, firm in conviction, and dedicated to me in mind and intellect.

Those who are not a source of annoyance to anyone and who in turn are not agitated by anyone, who are equal in pleasure and pain, and free from fear and anxiety, such devotees of mine are very dear to me.

Those who are indifferent to worldly gain, externally and internally pure, skillful, without cares, untroubled, and free from selfishness in all undertakings, such devotees of mine are very dear to me.

Those who neither rejoice in mundane pleasures nor despair in worldly sorrows, who neither lament for any loss nor hanker for any gain, who renounce both good and evil deeds, such persons who are full of devotion are very dear to me.

Those, who are alike to friend and foe, equipoised in honor and dishonor, cold and heat, joy and sorrow, and are free from all unfavorable association; those who take praise and reproach alike, who are given to silent contemplation, content with what comes their way, without attachment to the place of residence, whose intellect is firmly fixed in me, and who are full of devotion to me, such persons are very dear to me.

Those who honor this nectar of wisdom declared here, have faith in me, and are devoted and intent on me as the supreme goal, they are exceedingly dear to me.