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Four ways to reach Krishna || Acharya Prashant, on Bhagavad Gita (2020)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
13 min
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मय्येव मन आधत्स्व मयि बुद्धिं निवेशय ।

निवसिष्यसि मय्येव अत ऊर्ध्वं न संशय: ।। 12.8 ।।

mayy eva mana ādhatsva mayi buddhiṁ niveśhaya

nivasiṣhyasi mayy eva ata ūrdhvaṁ na sanśhayaḥ

Fix thy mind on Me only, place intellect in Me, (then) thou shalt no doubt live in Me hereafter.

~ Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12, Verse 8

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अथ चित्तं समाधातुं न शक्नोषि मयि स्थिरम् ।

अभ्यासयोगेन ततो मामिच्छाप्तुं धनञ्जय ।। 12.9 ।।

atha chittaṁ samādhātuṁ na śhaknoṣhi mayi sthiram

abhyāsa-yogena tato mām ichchhāptuṁ dhanañjaya

If thou art unable to fix thy mind steadily on Me, then by Abhyāsa-Yoga do thou seek to reach Me, O Dhananjaya.

~ Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12, Verse 9

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अभ्यासेऽप्यसमर्थोऽसि मत्कर्मपरमो भव ।

मदर्थमपि कर्माणि कुर्वन्सिद्धिमवाप्स्यसि ।। 12.10 ।।

abhyāse ’py asamartho ’si mat-karma-paramo bhava

mad-artham api karmāṇi kurvan siddhim avāpsyasi

If also thou art unable to practice Abhyāsa, be thou intent on doing actions for My sake. Even by doing actions for My sake, thou shalt attain Perfection.

~ Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12, Verse 10

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अथैतदप्यशक्तोऽसि कर्तुं मद्योगमाश्रित: ।

सर्वकर्मफलत्यागं तत: कुरु यतात्मवान् ।। 12.11 ।।

athaitad apy aśhakto ’si kartuṁ mad-yogam āśhritaḥ

sarva-karma-phala-tyāgaṁ tataḥ kuru yatātmavān

If thou art unable to do even this, then taking refuge in Me, abandon the fruit of all action, being self-controlled.

~ Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12, Verse 11

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Questioner (Q): After speaking on the way to the Manifest and the Unmanifest, Shri Krishna here speaks of four ways of worshiping the Manifest.

So, how to know which of these four ways is most suitable for a seeker?

Acharya Prashant (AP): We shall, first of all, understand these four ways. They have been beautifully enumerated.

The first way, the topmost one, is the Sahaja way (natural way). Krishna prescribes no method there. He says, “Arjuna, just come to Me and be seated in Me, be affirmed in Me, pretty steadfastly. Just do it. Simply, obviously, instantly.” That is the Sahaja way. “Do it directly, Arjuna. If you really are sincere, and if you really have love for Me, then do it right now, right here, right away. What are you waiting for? What do you require a method for? Nothing is needed. You have the intention, you really want it, you aren’t fooling yourself. I am here, come and be settled in Me and that’s it.”

So, that’s the way for someone who is very dedicated, very sincere. Such a person requires no method, no training, no education. He just needs to be given an opportunity. He probably even need not be given an opportunity; he will create an opportunity. So that is the first way. He is saying, “Simply let the mind move into the Truth with ease.” So, this is the most subtle way possible of attaining Krishna; simply let the mind move into Krishna. But, as we said, one requires great sincerity and great love for this to be happening.

Then, he says, “If you cannot do that, simply with ease, smoothly, absolutely frictionlessly, then the way of Abhyāsa is for you. With Abhyāsa, you will be able to do this.”

What kind of Abhyāsa and practices Krishna is referring to? Krishna is saying, the mind is conditioned to move towards objects and perceive only their surface, or periphery, or form. Develop the practice of penetrating further; let Truth be your practice. The moment you would look at something—and you are in no position to not look at things; being embodied, you would look at things—whenever you look at something, don’t just rush into easy and cheap conclusions. Ask: "What is really going on? What’s happening? What am I experiencing? Where is my experience coming from? What is this feeling? What is this thought? What is this reaction? To whom are these things experienced? From where do they arise? From which center do they come?" That has to be your practice.

You could even say, if you want to put it into a more classical context, Krishna is asking here that “Arjuna, practice ’Koham’, ‘Who am I?’. What’s going on?” Or you could put it in many different words, different ways, but Krishna is actually asking Arjuna to be curious, attentive. “Pay attention, Arjuna! What’s going on?”

The way you are configured, your biology does not really mandate you to be attentive. You can go about life even in inattention; you can continue to live even in inattention. Attention, therefore, is not really necessary or compulsory to continue living biologically even. If you have no attention, then you might still live for seventy years. Therefore, attention has to be practiced. It will not come naturally or biologically to you; it has to be a thing of practice. Biologically, all that comes to you without practice, without any kind of effort, are your biological tendencies.

You have to understand this.

Nobody ever says that you have to practice foolishness; foolishness comes by default, but Wisdom has to be practiced. Nobody says that you have to practice lust; lust just comes. You might be a total fool and an utter retard, and still you will find yourself getting sexually excited once you reach a particular age. Did you need some practice? No, you didn’t. It just happened. But if you were to understand lust, if you are to cross over, if you are to be a master of your body, then it will require a lot of your practice, and that will necessarily and obviously tell you about your predicament.

All the nonsense that happens to you happens on its own. You do not need to prepare for it; you do not need to ask for it. All the foolish things will just keep happening to you as if you have been made to experience and exhibit foolishness. But anything that is life-giving, worthy, exalted, beautiful would not happen to you automatically by way of Prakriti, or by way of chance. Beauty and greatness cannot just come to you accidentally; they have to be earned, achieved, by way of practice. You have to pay the price.

That is what Krishna is saying.

Krishna is saying, “Arjuna, go against your Prakriti.” And by going against your Prakriti, you do not really need to resist it. It is not so much about resistance; it is much more about understanding, and that understanding is actually resistance. I’ll tell you why.

Prakriti does not want you to understand. Therefore, when you understand Prakriti, you are actually resisting Prakriti. Have you seen that in the moments when you are totally body-identified your power to understand totally diminishes? Have you seen that? For example, in your moments of sexual excitement, is it possible for you to understand anything anymore? The whole atmosphere is erotic, and you are terribly aroused—where is your intelligence right now? Where is your comprehension? Where is your wisdom? You are a sheer animal, aren’t you? That is what Prakriti wants you to be. Prakriti does not want you to understand; it merely wants you to participate in that primitive cycle. Therefore, when you understand Prakriti, you have actually resisted Prakriti.

So, you don’t need to fight Prakriti. Rather, you can fight Prakriti only by understanding it, and understanding is a much more acceptable, decent, and non-violent word. Simply say, “I want to understand you.” Tell life, “I want to understand you. No, I am not fighting, I am not spitting, I am not biting at you, I am not tearing you away. I want to understand you. I just want to understand.”

That’s the reason the moment you say, “I want to understand,” you will be offending many who want to relate to you only in the physical or prakritik way. Somebody comes to you and says, “I love you!” with a lot of sentiment and passion, and if you reply, “I want to understand this,” the other person would take offense, serious offense. See, you have expressed your delicate sentiments, “I love you!” and what did the other person reply? “I want to understand this.” The whole flavor of the moment is gone; the dish has been spoiled. When the other person is saying in a semi-erotic way, “I love you,” you are not supposed to talk of understanding. You are supposed to talk of drowning, right? He wanted you to drown, and you have drowned. To understand is to be rescued and be saved from drowning. So, Prakriti does not want you to understand. You must understand, and that is the practice that Arjuna is being advised to do by Krishna.

Understand what is going on. Be vigilant. Ask. Don’t just let your mind carry you away; don’t just let that wind blow you away. Pause, pause, pause. I understand that the drift is pretty strong; I understand that the inner force is pretty overwhelming, it wants to overpower you, but there is no compulsion for you to be overpowered. Halt, dig in your heels, don’t be swept aside! That’s Abhyāsa.

So, these are the two ways for the ones who live subtle lives. The first way was the Sahaja way: move easily into the Ultimate, move instantly into the Ultimate. And the second way was the way of Abhyāsa, or practice.

Then Krishna realizes that, you know, Arjuna probably is not the right candidate to benefit from either of these two ways. So, he opens up more possibilities. He says, “Fine. Arjuna, if you cannot operate at the level of the subtle mind, then operate at the level of gross action. Do the right thing.” Do the right thing—that is the third way. Do the right thing. What does he say here? “If also, you are unable to practice Abhyāsa, be thou intent on doing actions for My sake. Even by doing actions for My sake, thou shalt attain perfection. Do the right thing, act for My sake, don’t act for your own sake. Don’t be a servant to foolishness or littleness.” Whatsoever you are doing, do it for something as immense and as vast as Krishna. What he’s actually saying is, “Dedicate your life to the right work. Dedicate your life to the right work. Do this, Arjuna. If you cannot attain Me purely at the mental level, then attain Me by dedicating your life to the right work.”

Arjuna probably is still not sending out the right vibes to Krishna. So, Krishna finally opens the last possibility to Arjuna, and he says, “Alright. If you cannot do the right work, if you are still a slave to your patterns, and if you want to continue doing what you are already doing, then at least dedicate the fruit of your work to Me.” The third way is actually: Choose the right job. Quit from your present job, and choose the right job. What is the right job? The right job is the one in which you are working for a cause that is aligned to Krishna. That’s the third way that Krishna is recommending Arjuna. Choose the right job.

But Arjuna is saying, “You see, there are so many people who are terribly afraid of quitting their jobs and enrolling into the right kind of job.” So what is the fourth option that Krishna is finally opening up? He says, “Alright, you continue to be in your old rotten job, but at least dedicate your money to Me. If you cannot quit your job, then you continue doing what you have been doing; maybe that is what you are accustomed to, maybe that is what your habit is now. If you are so habituated to misery that you cannot give up on what you are doing, then at least dedicate the fruits of your action to Me, Arjuna. That is the least that you can do for Me and for yourself.”

But that is the obviously the least preferred way. Why continue to be in misery by doing the wrong kind of work? It is no relief, really, to be doing the wrong kind of work, and then dedicating the fruit of that work to Krishna. It is a very minimal kind of compensation that you can offer yourself. Not really advisable. It is far better if you choose the first way, and if that is too much for you, then the second option, or the third option. The fourth one is only for the ones with the least developed and the least loving consciousness.

Now, the questioner is asking, “How do I know which of these four ways is for a particular person?”

For every person the right way is the first way. Go for the first way.

Now, if you cannot bring yourself to meet the demands of the first way, then try the second way. And remember that even in trying the second way, you have lost out on something, and be determined that at least the second way you would ensure that it works out for you.

And if somehow you are so unlucky or so very lacking in determination that even the second way cannot work out for you, then only try the third way. But when you move to the third way, you should be moving with a heavy heart; you should be knowing that you are already losing out on the best of the opportunities. You have already lost out on the best two; now you have the third one. There is no way you can afford to lose out even on this one—and you should not lose out on the third one. I do not see how someone would want to reach Krishna using the fourth way. The fourth way, I repeat, is only for terribly unlucky people.

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