In whatever way men resort to me do I thus reward them. It is my path which men follow everywhere (4:11).
For us raised in the “light that is darkness” of Western religion, every verse of the Gita is a revelation of stunning proportions. Certainly this is one of the most revelatory of them all–it opens vistas that free and expand the heart as we never dreamed possible. Let us continually look at them and rejoice in them. For Sanatana Dharma is not a dose of medicine or a contract of obligation, it is the key that unlocks our shackles, the light that dispels darkness and reveals the wonders of the way things are.
In whatever way men resort to me do I thus reward them. Bhajami basically means “I reward,” but it can legitimately be translated “I share with” and “I love.” In other words, however we may approach God, he will respond and fulfill our spiritual needs, loving us as his own being. It is all a matter of the disposition of our inmost mind and heart. Many people think they are seeking God, and many more tell others that they are seeking, but God truly knows, and responds–or not–accordingly. What is so heartening here is that however God is approached, he responds. Since we are incapable of meeting him on his own terms, he meets us on ours, and enables us to come up to his standards in time. For his motive is love. Those religionists whose motive is hate, greed, and ego, say otherwise, but that is their problem. While they are trying to beat others into conformity and submission to them, God’s truth sets their victims free from such tyranny.
If we come seeking spiritual relief and healing, we will receive that. If we come seeking understanding, that will be given us. If we come yearning for living contact with God, that shall be ours. In other words, God will listen to the inmost movements of our hearts and grant any worth seeking. It is the character, the quality, of our taking refuge that will determine the outcome. No legitimate seeking is fruitless. It is not the form of the seeking, the externalities, that matter, but the interior intention and disposition of the heart that evokes the divine response and determines its character. Here, too, it is a matter of sowing and reaping.
It is my path which men follow everywhere. Of course! There is nothing other than God, and all relative existence is his manifestation/embodiment. So obviously there is no other path but his. Even Shakespeare knew this, saying: “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will.” However much we tangle things up and subvert our true nature, however horrific the mess of our life may be, yet we are walking on the One Path. The problem is, we walk the path in our manner, according to our arrogant (and errant) ignorance. Nevertheless, it is his path, and the moment we turn toward him, however blindly or uncomprehendingly, we will start to walk it in his way–a glorious way, for it ends in him. So we can say with Horatio, to whom Hamlet addressed the previous quote: “That is most certain.”
This is wonderful to contemplate, so let us not leave it just yet. Every single human being is traveling a path that ultimately belongs to God. This is logical, since he is the source of all. They may be misusing that path, but it cannot change the fact that every thought and act of a human being has its roots in the Divine Being. Humans may subvert and trivialize the power of God, but they cannot wrest it from him. In time its true nature will be revealed. This is why we read so much of men and women who were spiritually awakened and redirected in the midst of their folly and wrongdoing. Some have stepped from darkness into light in the very act of evil–which they turned from in gladness. Many have found God present in the depths of degradation. That is why the Psalmist wrote: “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me” (Psalms 139:7-11). This we can know: whatever path anyone is now following, however foolish or negative it may seem, it is fundamentally God’s path. It is the way we walk it that gets us in or out of trouble.
Thinking of this, I recalled a wonderfully peaceful evening when I was going down the holy Narmada river in a sailboat to an ashram located on its banks. As the boat glided along it came to the large bathing ghat of the town of Chandod. A hundred or more people were there, sitting looking over the river, visiting, or engaged in various tasks including bathing and laundry. As I watched this tranquil spectacle, for some reason the Christian missionaries in India popped into my mind. What a different reaction they would have! To my mind I was viewing blessed souls making their way toward the Divine Goal, souls whose ultimate destiny was assured. But the missionaries would see lost and darkened souls destined to be dragged off to eternal hell unless they (the missionaries) proclaimed the Gospel and persuaded them to “accept the Lord Jesus Christ”–someone they already believed in as a Son of God in a manner far more realistic than the erroneous theology of the missionaries. Because of this difference in viewpoints I was living in heaven; but they would be in hell–already.
Wherever a human being walks, however tangled the path or how dark the surroundings, eventually it will emerge in the light and they will know themselves as children of the Light. This is a marvelous truth. It also points out that all spiritual seeking, whatever its flaws may be, will lead in time to God. Yes, even the anxious and miserable missionaries will find in time that their sincere endeavors have produced positive karma for them that will enable them to move from ignorance to wisdom. Then they, too, will know the truth expressed here in the Gita.
Of course, not all seeking is spiritual seeking. Therefore Krishna makes this comment:
Longing for success in action, in this world men sacrifice to the gods because success from such action is quickly attained in the human world (4:12).
Whether many gods, or the One God, are worshipped by people, their worship is usually not God-oriented, but centered in this world and their material aims. However, those aims are obtained by them, because no attention given to God is in vain. Moreover, faith is produced in them by their answered prayers so that when they do come to seek God for the right reasons their faith will strengthen and motivate them.
The sum and substance is this: Worship God, worship God, worship God… and find God. It is assured.
Read the next article in the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening: Caste and Karma