Instead of getting to heaven at last, I’m going all along!–Emily Dickinson
Turning the mind toward God
Since it is our nature to return to God it is a simple matter to do so. Fixing the mind on God is the essential thing. Therefore Krishna now outlines the way.
Whoever offers to me with devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water, I accept that offering of devotion from him whose heart is pure. (9:26)
Devotion is the key to uniting our heart to God as the first step of The Way Back. It is usual in India to offer flowers, fruit, and water in worship, and Krishna recommends this. But there is much more to devotion than this, so he continues:
Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer in sacrifice, whatever you give, whatever tapasya you practice, do that as an offering to me (9:27).
The idea here is quite clear: Everything in our life must be offered to God, must be looked upon as steps in the pathway to God. If there is anything in our life that cannot be rightly offered to God, then it should be eliminated. This is an important guideline. So often people want to know what they should do to gain peace of mind, but rarely do they inquire as to what they should stop doing to gain peace of mind.
Thus shall you be freed from the bonds of actions producing both good and evil fruits. Steadfast in the yoga of renunciation and totally liberated, you shall come to me (9:28).
The only karma we should have is God-karma! This will occur if we continually keep our mind immersed in the awareness of God.
Often in religious writings we find the idea that if we pay attention to God, he will pay attention to us; that if we are devoted to God, God will be concerned with us. In other words, we can control how God reacts to us. Not likely! It is true that God must hold a special place in our life, but that will not make us “special friends” of God. There is no You Be Nice To Me And I Will Be Nice To You bargains with God. Otherwise he would be as changeable and undependable as are we. To free us from these illusions Krishna next says:
I am the same to all beings. There is no one who is disliked or dear to me. But they who worship me with devotion are in me, and I am also in them (9:29).
Samo’ham sarvabhuteshu, can equally mean “I am the same to all beings” and “I am the same in all beings.” Both meanings are intended here, I feel sure, for one explains the other. God is the same to all beings because he is the unifying element within all beings. So all beings are equal in essence. Since God sees the potential in all beings, with the knowledge that all without exception shall realize that potential–and also that when the potential is realized all will be in exactly the same spiritual status–there can be no question of God looking differently on anyone. To start with, he sees himself within all. For him the beginning, middle and end of our evolutionary journey are simultaneous. There is no possibility of him reacting differently to different beings, nor even of acting differently to a particular being according to the stage of his journey at any moment.
“But they who worship me with devotion are in me, and I am also in them.” Nevertheless there are differences between beings, but only from their side. Those who worship God in their hearts through an attitude of reverence and devotion are enabled to feel God within them and themselves within God. No one can ever be outside of God in actuality, but many are those who through delusion’s darkness cannot perceive their existence within God and God’s existence within them. In their consciousness there is no God, even though they are ever intimately known to God. Just as a person will starve with food right at hand if he does not know it is there, so these unhappy people live in a mental world devoid of God.
God is also manifested in the lives of the saints, who are living proofs of his reality, just as Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian saints prove the existence of Krishna, Buddha, and Jesus.
Sinner no more
If even an evildoer worships me single-heartedly, he should be considered righteous, for truly he has rightly resolved (9:30).
There is an interesting and important implication here. Krishna is telling us that if an evil doer (for no one is evil by nature) resolves to fix his mind perpetually and undividedly on God, that person should be considered righteous. This is because we all are righteous in our inmost being, and those who resolve to conform their outer life to their inner nature are at that very moment righteous. Oh, yes, they will still have negative karmas and their minds and hearts will need to be cleared out and purified. But if they make that genuine resolve–not a whim of the moment or a reaction of fear of future misfortune–they will rise above the karmas and conditionings and manifest their atmic nature. We should respect and honor them, confident, as is Krishna, that they shall succeed. They are like minors that one day shall enter into their inheritance–in a sense they are already wealthy.
Quickly he becomes a virtuous soul and goes to everlasting peace. Understand: no devotee of me is ever lost. Truly, those who take refuge in me even though they be from wicked origins, women, Vaishyas or Shudras, they also attain the Supreme Goal (9:31-32).
Part of our problem is figuring out the intended meaning of papayonayah. Yoni is womb–that is easy. But papa means sin, degradation and–to make up a word–demeritorious. In other words, people either with unfortunate karma or without any particularly good karma are papayonayah.
Basically Krishna is saying that even those who have bad or unfortunate karma can attain Brahman as easily as those with good spiritual karma and a marked degree of spiritual development from previous lives. No one is left out of Krishna’s call to higher consciousness. At the time of Krishna, and even today in India, some ignorant people, denying the truth of the Self, claim that only Brahmin males can attain liberation–and they have to be from “good” backgrounds. Krishna denies this.
It does not require much imagination to further realize that even now it is not such a good thing in Indian society to be of a low caste or a woman–and it was much, much worse before the twentieth century. Just consider how right now in south India when it is determined through ultrasound scanning that a child in the womb is female its death is cold-bloodedly planned either through abortion, poison, or even outright murder after her birth. Throughout the world women have lived in socially accepted slavery for thousands of years. The exceptions do not make the situation different.
Krishna–and Vyasa, the transmitter of his words–is telling us that since the Self is the same in all beings there are none that cannot attain the heights of God-realization. All that is needed is right resolve and dedication to spiritual life.
And now the pitch…
All the foregoing was the windup and now Krishna gives us the pitch.
How much more easily, then, the holy Brahmins and devoted royal (kshatriya) sages. Having come to this impermanent and unhappy world, devote yourself to me. With mind fixed on me, devoted, worshipping, bow down to me. Thus steadfast, with me as your supreme aim, you shall come to me (9:33-34).
Read the next article in the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening: Wisdom and Knowing