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What does it practically mean to fix one's mind on Krishna?|| Acharya Prashant, on Bhagavad Gita(2020)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
21 min
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मय्यावेश्य मनो ये मां नित्ययुक्ता उपासते ।

श्रद्धया परयोपेतास्ते मे युक्ततमा मता: ।। 12.2 ।।

mayy āveśhya mano ye māṁ nitya-yuktā upāsate

śhraddhayā parayopetās te me yuktatamā matāḥ

The Blessed Lord said: Those who, fixing their mind on Me, worship Me, ever-steadfast, and endowed with supreme Sraddha, they, in My opinion, are the best versed in Yoga.

~ Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12, Verse 2

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क्लेशोऽधिकतरस्तेषामव्यक्तासक्तचेतसाम् ।

अव्यक्ता हि गतिर्दु:खं देहवद्भिरवाप्यते ।। 12.5 ।।

kleśho ’dhikataras teṣhām avyaktāsakta-chetasām

avyaktā hi gatir duḥkhaṁ dehavadbhir avāpyate

Greater is their trouble whose minds are set on the Unmanifested; for the goal of the Unmanifested is very hard for the embodied to reach.

~ Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12, Verse 5

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Questioner (Q): To Arjuna, an embodied Shri Krishna is available in his vicinity, physically overseeing his actions. And to him the Lord says, "Fix your mind on Me." But to someone like me, to whom a Shri Krishna is not available in close proximity, in embodied form, what is the way to fix one's mind on him? How is this different from worshipping the Unmanifest?

Acharya Prashant (AP): Alright. First of all, it has to be understood that Shri Krishna cannot be biased or partial towards one particular jiva, person named Arjuna. If Krishna is indeed the Ultimate, the Total, then there is no question of Krishna being limited in time and space, Krishna being available only in one personality, and Krishna being more favorably disposed towards one person, one friend, one disciple. Chapter 12 of Bhagavad Gita is as special as the other chapters. Each chapter is unique.

Shri Krishna says, "Both are wonderful, those who worship Me in the unmanifested form, those who worship the nameless, formless Brahma, as well as those who worship the form of Me." Krishna says, "Both are wonderful; I love both of them equally. But,” he adds, ”the way for those who want to worship the formless and unmanifested is full of troubles and pain. It is quite difficult and rather impractical for the embodied one to worship and fathom the bodiless. Therefore, their way, their sadhana (spiritual practice) is quite arduous and involves a lot of suffering.” And he says that, "On the contrary, the ones who worship the form, who invest themselves in the forms, ones who see Myself formed are the ones who achieve Me relatively quickly and with relatively less suffering and difficulty." That's what he says.

Now, a lot of misinterpretation is possible here. When Shri Krishna says that "Arjuna, those who worship the form of Mine reach me rather quickly," then the uninformed mind that wants to hurriedly jump to conclusions may conclude that Krishna is referring to that one particular form or personality of his that is visible to Arjuna in the 10th century B.C., or whichever century it is. The fact is that the Krishna-Arjuna dialogue is an event in time. It happened at a particular place; it happened on the fields of Kurukshetra. Surely it happened on a particular day or over a few particular days. So, it is an event in time. Vasudeva Krishna, the person who spoke to Kunti Putra Arjuna was a man, one particular man, right? When Krishna is speaking to Arjuna as he does, it is through that man. Please, the distinction has to be very very clear.

Krishna is Brahma itself. Krishna is Totality itself. On that particular day, at that particular place, that Totality was talking through the body and person of Vasudeva. So, the Krishna that we know of, the one wearing mor pankh (peacock feather), the one wearing Sudarshana Chakra, the one acting as Arjuna’s charioteer, is one particular instance of Krishnatva (Krishna-ness). He is not the Krishna; he is a Krishna. Krishna is Total. The Krishna that we see speaking to Arjuna is just one particular incidence of Krishnatva. There, at that place on that day, Krishnatva itself found expression through that man. Therefore, we must not say that when Krishna is saying that, "Arjuna, it will be easier for you to be liberated if you seek Me in forms," that Krishna is referring to that one particular form of his.

But we have erroneously believed in this notion. Therefore, we have had cults of Krishna worshippers who have been worshipping one particular form of Krishna. No. Now, we must understand what is it that Krishna means by ‘worshipping His form’. If Krishna is Brahma, then what is the form of Brahma? Tell me. If Krishna is Brahma, then what is the form of Brahma? Go to the Upanishads, you will get the answer. They tell you that the universe is the body of Brahma. The universe, the samsara itself is the body or form of Brahma. So, when Krishna is saying, "Seek Me in the form," Brahma is saying, "Seek Me in the form." Then, you have to seek Brahma in the form of Brahma. And the form of Brahma is not necessarily the charioteer of Arjuna. The form of Brahma is this entire universe.

What Krishna is actually telling Arjuna is, “Arjuna, you have to seek Me in this formed world itself. You have to seek the truth of forms, because Truth is what you are seeking. What is your eye doing all the time? Looking at forms. What are ears doing all the time? Hearing the forms, right? And what is it that you want from all this exercise—listening, seeing, touching, grasping, groping, thinking, analyzing? What is it that you want from all this activity? You want the Truth. Therefore, you have to seek the Truth in all this because you have no option, Arjuna.”

Your eyes will continue to look. And if your eyes are continuing to look, then you'd better look for the Truth in what you look at, right? You look at this, you look at that. And if you look at this, you look at that, you look for Truth in what you look at. That's what Krishna is saying. Krishna is not saying, "Worship my particular form." Krishna was not saying that the Truth looks like the one who plays the flute. We have made an error on this count. We have severely misinterpreted Chapter 12.

I am again asking you, is the Truth going to express itself only in one particular form? And if the Truth is expressing itself only in one particular form, what are the other forms an expression of? Obviously, all forms are expressions of Truth, right? For Arjuna, that one particular form of Krishna is of great value. Why is it of great value? Because it will take him to the formless. That does not mean that the other forms are of no value. Further, that one particular form of Krishna that was available to Arjuna will no longer remain available to everybody else. Even on the battlefield, that form that was available to Arjuna was not available to the others, or was it? So, that's the problem with worshipping one particular form of Krishna. That one particular form was of utility to Arjuna, whereas the Total, the Godhead is compassionate enough to make himself available in diverse forms right in your vicinity. Why do you want to stick to that one form only that taught Arjuna?

Look at your question. You are saying, "Oh, Arjuna was so lucky; he had Krishna by his side! I'm not so lucky. I don’t have Krishna to guide me! So who do I listen to? Whom do I worship?" Your notion is not well-founded. Arjuna had one Krishna for him.

There is nobody in the world who has not been blessed with an ample number of Krishnas. You must have the urge to seek Truth; your particular Krishna will appear. And you cannot have ideas or notions about the form in advance. You just need to have that urge. Whatsoever assists your urge in reaching its fulfillment, is Krishna. Krishna is what you seek—Krishna means Totality—and Krishna is what comes to assist you, provided you are sincere enough. So, it's not as if Arjuna was especially lucky and you are not. Life is available to all of us, and all forms in life, I repeat, are expressions and manifestations of Truth itself. Therefore, all forms of life are potentially manifestations of Krishna himself.

That's what you have to be attentive to. Be attentive to whatever is going on; be very-very careful. Ask, "What is this, what is that?" And Krishna is saying, "If you do this, if you take the route of forms, Arjuna, you will reach Me quickly." That's the word he uses, 'quickly'. He says, "If you keep imagining about the unimaginable, then maybe you will make some progress, but it will be very tortuous. Maybe you will even reach the end, but it will involve a lot of hardship. Far better it is to pay attention to the world, the world of names and forms.” Pay attention to the forms, pay attention to images. Remember that all images are images of Krishna. There is no need to attach particular sanctity or importance to that particular image of Krishna that Arjuna benefitted from. You will probably not benefit too much from that image. And that which you will benefit from is receiving your disdain because you are enamored with that one particular historical image.

Think of it, if Arjuna were to say that "Only Rishis of the Upanishads can save me!," and all the Rishis are in antiquity; they are physically gone hundreds of years before Arjuna was born. And Arjuna is saying, "No, no. They are the ones to whom the Vedas were revealed. They are the ones who gave us the richas ('verses') of the Upanishads. They are the real ones! Only they can save me!," then will Arjuna be able to pay any attention to Krishna? If Arjuna is already pre-decided, if Arjuna has stubbornly concluded that only some historical figure will be of benefit to him, that only some historical image represents the Truth to him, then will he be able to give respect and his ears to the image of Krishna standing right in front of him? He would be able to give neither respect nor his ears.

Go to the initial chapters, when Krishna is narrating the knowledge of Gita to Arjuna. He does something quite strange—even Arjuna would have been a little surprised. He tells Arjuna, "Arjuna, this knowledge that I am telling you, it traveled from that rishi to that rishi, from that rishi, that rishi, and from that rishi to that king, and from that king to his son, and then to this, and then to this, and then to this." An entire sequence he describes, and says, "And having traveled from this to this, this, this, this, now it has come to you." Arjuna must have thought, "Why is Krishna saying all this to me?" You must know why Krishna told all this. What Krishna is saying is, "The knowledge that I am giving you, Arjuna, is eternal, but it requires a fresh form in every age and for every recipient to receive this knowledge. Thousands of years back, there was that particular person who dispensed that knowledge, and then a hundred years later there was somebody else. And then hundred years later, there was somebody else, and then there was somebody else, and then there was somebody else, and then there was somebody else, and now, in this battlefield in front of you, it's Me."

Now, tell me, if the sequence continued till Krishna Vasudeva, would that sequence have stopped after Krishna Vasudeva? Obviously the sequence is still continuing till this date. Therefore, there is no need to be extremely or overly besotted with one particular image of Krishna. That will block you against receiving direct instructions and education from life. You will keep just clamoring for, harping for that Krishna and that Krishna. That person is gone; he is long since dead because he was a body. Bodies come and go. Krishnatva is not a body; the essence of Krishna is not a body, but the Krishna that is talking to Arjuna is indeed a body. Therefore I said, the one who is talking to Arjuna is just one particular incidence of Krishna; he is one of the Krishnas. He is not 'the Krishna'.

Just as in Buddhism you have—you know, you do not say that there has been just one Buddha. You refer to Gautama Buddha as the Shakyamuni Buddha. And then you say, "Of course, there have been hundreds of Buddhas. Gautama Buddha or Shakyamuni was just one particular incidence, and there have been many more."

Similarly, you have to look for your own Krishna. And that Krishna, I say, may not look like Arjuna’s Krishna at all. That Krishna may not be a male at all. That Krishna may not be a person at all.

See what he is saying. "The goal of the Unmanifested is very hard for the embodied to reach." Krishna is again and again pointing to Arjuna that “Arjuna, you are embodied. Arjuna, you have a body. Since you have a body, you will have to look for a body in your vicinity; you have to look for a form in your vicinity. And if you indeed have to look for a form, is there a restriction that you have to look for one particular form—and especially one particular form that suits your notions and biases and imaginations? No. You have to be in love with Krishnatva, and then so many forms would spring up to teach you.”

If you want to go deeper into it, if you are looking for Krishna, and all you can look at is this wall, then you know your situation. What is it that you are looking for? You are looking for Peace, let's say, or you are looking for realization, or Truth, or Freedom; you are looking for those things. But what is it that your eyes can show you at maximum? The wall. You see your situation?

You want Peace, you're looking for Peace, but all that your eyes can see is the tree, that wall, that man, that child, that woman, that building, skies, rivers, roads. That's all your eyes can look at, right? Now, what is it that you must do? Neither can you stop looking for Truth, because that's the crying urge of your consciousness, nor can you make your eyes not look at the material, because that's the Prakriti (nature) of the eyes. Both of the facts are unchangeable and immobile, right? Your consciousness will continue to look for the Truth, and your eyes will continue to look at material. So, then what is the only option available to you? Look for the Truth in the material, through the material. That's how one has to see Krishna, and that is the only way. It's obvious.

So, how do you proceed? You look at the material, and you immediately know that the material, first of all, holds meaning to you not on its own accord, but because you supply meaning to it. You make the material meaningful to yourself, whatsoever you look at. If you are attentive, you will find that you are the one who supplies meaning to the object looked at. And if you are even more attentive, you will find that you are the one who actually creates or projects the object you are looking at. Without your eyes being the way they are, and without your brain being configured the way it is, would you ever perceive an object? So, this world of forms is actually the world inside you.

Now, you are seeking Truth, and you are seeking Truth in this world of forms—because you have no other option. And now you discover that this world of forms is actually the world inside you. The world inside you exhibits itself as this world of forms outside you, correct? And you are seeking Krishna. So now, what is the option you are left with? Seek Krishna within your own world. That's what Krishna is leading Arjuna towards. You will have to seek Krishna within yourself, because all forms are ultimately within yourself. Your mind is the form generator. It generates forms and throws them around, and then pretends as if the forms are all there objectively on their own. They are not there objectively on their own; you have thrown them and splashed them, scattered them all around you. And now in your ignorance—probably deliberate ignorance—you pretend as if that thing is out there, whereas the thing is actually in here (pointing at head) .

Therefore, if you have to look for Krishna, you will have to look for Krishna in here (pointing at head) . And in projecting that thing out there, you know, you have only demonstrated your great love for Krishna. Think about it.

So much is your love for Krishna that you project your entire universe to look for him. You love him so much that you actually create an entire universe to look for him. Why else do you create this entire universe? You create space for yourself; you create scope for yourself that you can use to search for Krishna. If you do not create the universe, where would you look for Krishna? That’s the reason why the universe exists for you—so that you can go around looking for Krishna here and there in the universe. That's what we inwardly do. And once you realize this, then you smile at your own mischief.

Think of this depth of love—mischievous love, obviously, but still one has to respect the depth of this love. We have created an entire universe just so that we can enjoy looking for somebody.

See, if you want to play with your beloved; let's say you want to play badminton with the beloved and you have a field, but that field is covered with a lot of this and that—maybe trash is there and maybe weeds are there. What is the first thing that you do? You go and clear it; you create space. You create space so that you can enjoy playing. You create space so that you can play. That's what man does.

We have created this space so that we can play with the beloved. It's just that we forget that it's a game that we have dreamt up. The beloved is not really lost; the one that we are looking for is just around. In fact, only because He is around, He is enabling us to perform all our mischief. Otherwise, who would power our mischief? There has to be somebody as uniquely mischievous as Krishna to power our little mischiefs. So, you see, Krishna is using the metaform of forms, the route of forms, to take Arjuna to the formless. That is a great way. He is using all images, to take Arjuna to that which is beyond images.

And then there is the other route. What is the other route? The other route is to worship the formless, nameless Brahma. There you start with an absence of images, but find that at every step you are struggling with images. So, that's not a practical or efficient route. Krishna is very practical. Krishna is saying, "Alright. All that you have is images, so let's start with images. We'll start with images happily, unabashedly, and we will use images to cross over images.” Right? That's the way of Krishna—very practical man.

Then there is the route of those who say, "No, no, no. No image worship, no idolatry. We don’t want to look at images at all. And we are not talking of deity worship here; we are talking in a more general sense.” So, they say, "No, we believe in Nirguṇa Upāsana (formless worshipping); we believe in the one Ultimate Truth that has no form, no shape, no name, that is beyond, beyond, beyond.” Alright. What you are saying is absolutely true. The one you really want has no form, no shape, is absolutely beyond. But here the question is not whether He has any shape; the question is whether you have shape. You are embodied, you have shape, and you are pretty arrogantly claiming that this shaped one will worship the one with no shape. How will you do that? Being shaped, have you ever come across anything that has no shape? Being shaped, can you even talk of the one that has no shape? Then, being shaped, how exactly are you going to worship the one with no name, no form, no shape?

Your intention is lovely, but your idea is impractical; your method won’t work. So, you will start off with the intention to have no forms, no shapes, but as you move along, as you progress on your sadhana, you will find that you have been compelled to bring in shapes, forms, methods, rituals, all kinds of structures. And every structure is a shape, every structure is a form, is it not? That's what happens.

Krishna is saying, "Instead of following this kind of a route in which you keep losing the game along the journey, follow a different route. Accept your mortal weakness and limitations right away. You say, ‘I'm embodied, so I have to start with bodies. I'm a body, so I'll start with bodies.’ And starting with bodies, penetrate deep into bodies, and discover their essence. At their essence, you will find Me smiling." That's the way of Krishna.

But you have to be very careful when Krishna is saying, "Penetrate deep into bodies or pay attention to bodies or worship the form of Truth." Krishna is not asking you to limit yourself to only one historical form of Krishna. You cannot limit Krishna to history. It is a great insult to Krishna to limit him as one particular personality in history. You can do that with kings; you can do that with other historical figures. Krishna, if he really is Ultimate, cannot belong to history, right? And if he cannot belong to history, then kindly do not pick up a historical shape, name, and form, and start worshipping it. It makes no sense.

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