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Worshipping the One

Part 62 of the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening

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Krishna now states quite simply:

Even those who with devotion worship other gods also worship me, though with a mistaken approach (9:23).

The meaning is clear: there are no “other gods”–there is only the One who is being worshipped through all revealed names and forms.

“Even those who worship other gods with faith, also worship me, though they do so in ignorance” (Sargeant’s translation). The word Sargeant translates as “in ignorance” is avidhipurvakam. It literally means “not according to the rules” or even “without/outside the rules.” The idea is that these people do not know or understand how to worship God because they do not know or understand the nature of God. Other possible terms–ignorantly, incorrectly, mistakenly, improperly, inappropriately, inappositely, inaptly, ineptly, haphazardly, irregularly–either express a value judgment or add an extra meaning or attitude the Sanskrit does not include. This is good to keep in mind.

In very truth there is a Science of Religion, and that has been perfected in India. When those of other religions intuitively follow that science, things work exactly right and spiritual awakening and growth occur. However, since that science is just stumbled upon by the questing souls, and is not an integral part of those religions, the science is quickly, even instantly, lost. But since it is the bedrock foundation of Sanatana Dharma it endures through the ages, though often neglected by individuals. But once the eternal rules are followed, all is well.

The fine print

The paramount idea is that all are worshipping God–there is no one else to worship:

Truly I am the Enjoyer and Lord of all sacrifices; but because they do not know me in truth they fall back into rebirth in this world (9:24).

This is not a matter of holding a mistaken intellectual conception of God, but of not directly perceiving God as he truly is. It is necessary for us to see God in his pure Being, for only then will we truly see our own Self and thereby be enabled to unite with God and attain total liberation in Spirit.

God sees all things “in truth” at all times. We do not, but it is necessary for us to do so, as explained in the previous sentence. Seeing God in truth is not an experience but a state of being, a state of identity with God. I am making such a point of this so we will not slip back into the dogmatizing and theologizing outlook of externalized religion.

The import of this verse is thoroughly mystical and thoroughly practical. Krishna is telling us that those who do not know God cannot go to God. No amount of reading sacred texts will help us, nor will all kinds of devotional and emotional effusions or multitudes of good deeds. We must ascend in consciousness to the heights of divine experience and be united forever with God. All the religiosity in the world is irrelevant here. Yoga–perfect union–alone is the means and the goal. Without yoga nothing is possible. It is not a matter of what religion or philosophy we hold, but a matter of evolution of consciousness. As the Gita says, we must become yoga-yukta–united to God through yoga. We must never lose sight of this fact.

Many paths–many goals

There are many paths and just as many goals. That is why Krishna says:

Those who are devoted to the gods go to the gods. Those who are devoted to the ancestors [pitris] go to the ancestors. Those who are devoted to the spirits [bhutas] go to the spirits. Those who are devoted to me surely come to me (9:25).

Three terms are used in this verse: devas, pitris, and bhutas. Devas are the demigods presiding over various powers of material and psychic nature. Pitris are ancestors or other departed human beings. Bhutas are non-human spirits of various sorts, some of them low-level nature spirits such as “elementals.” Others are earthbound human spirits, and quite a few are beings of completely other streams of evolution–of other creations, even–that have somehow wandered into our universe and gotten trapped here. All of these may be either positive, negative, or neutral.

Those who occupy themselves with these beings will go to their astral regions after death and eventually return to earthly life. But those who orient their minds toward the Infinite will go to the Infinite. Even if they do not attain full union with God while here on earth, they will escape rebirth, graduate from the earth plane, and go to a higher world from which they will reach God after completing their evolutionary development. Alternately, they will come back to earth in a family of yogis and be impelled toward seeking union with God. “There he regains the knowledge he acquired in his former incarnation, and strives from thence once more toward perfection” (6:43).

We should step back to the fourth chapter of the Gita. There Krishna says: “In whatever way men resort to me do I thus reward them. It is my path which men follow everywhere” (4:11). Is this a contradiction to what he has now said regarding the worship of relative beings instead of the Absolute? No, because even that worship will eventually lead to something higher–even if only through disillusionment–until the questing soul learns to worship God alone.

Read the next article in the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening: Going To God

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Introduction to The Bhagavad Gita for Awakening

Preface to The Bhagavad Gita for Awakening

Bhagavad Gita for Awakening links:

  1. The Battlefield of the Mind
  2. On the Field of Dharma
  3. Taking Stock
  4. The Smile of Krishna
  5. Birth and Death–The Great Illusions
  6. Experiencing the Unreal
  7. The Unreal and the Real
  8. The Body and the Spirit
  9. Know the Atman!
  10. Practical Self-Knowledge
  11. Perspective on Birth and Death
  12. The Wonder of the Atman
  13. The Indestructible Self
  14. “Happy the Warrior”
  15. Buddhi Yoga
  16. Religiosity Versus Religion
  17. Perspective on Scriptures
  18. How Not To Act
  19. How To Act
  20. Right Perspective
  21. Wisdom About the Wise
  22. Wisdom About Both the Foolish and the Wise
  23. The Way of Peace
  24. Calming the Storm
  25. First Steps in Karma Yoga
  26. From the Beginning to the End
  27. The Real “Doers”
  28. Our Spiritual Marching Orders
  29. Freedom From Karma
  30. “Nature”
  31. Swadharma
  32. In the Grip of the Monster
  33. Devotee and Friend
  34. The Eternal Being
  35. The Path
  36. Caste and Karma
  37. Action–Divine and Human
  38. The Mystery of Action and Inaction
  39. The Wise in Action
  40. Sacrificial Offerings
  41. The Worship of Brahman
  42. Action–Renounced and Performed
  43. Freedom (Moksha)
  44. The Brahman-Knower
  45. The Goal of Karma Yoga
  46. Getting There
  47. The Yogi’s Retreat
  48. The Yogi’s Inner and Outer Life
  49. Union With Brahman
  50. The Yogi’s Future
  51. Success in Yoga
  52. The Net and Its Weaver
  53. Those Who Seek God
  54. Those Who Worship God and the Gods
  55. The Veil in the Mind
  56. The Big Picture
  57. The Sure Way To Realize God
  58. Day, Night, and the Two Paths
  59. The Supreme Knowledge
  60. Universal Being
  61. Maya–Its Dupes and Its Knowers
  62. Worshipping the One
  63. Going To God
  64. Wisdom and Knowing
  65. Going To The Source
  66. From Hearing To Seeing
  67. The Wisdom of Devotion
  68. Right Conduct
  69. The Field and Its Knower
  70. Interaction of Purusha and Prakriti
  71. Seeing the One Within the All
  72. The Three Gunas
  73. The Cosmic Tree
  74. Freedom
  75. The All-pervading Reality
  76. The Divine and the Demonic
  77. Faith and the Three Gunas
  78. Food and the Three Gunas
  79. Religion and the Three Gunas
  80. Tapasya and the Three Gunas
  81. Charity and the Three Gunas
  82. Sannyasa and Tyaga
  83. Deeper Insights On Action
  84. Knowledge, Action, Doer, and the Three Gunas
  85. The Three Gunas: Intellect and Firmness
  86. The Three Kinds of Happiness
  87. Freedom
  88. The Great Devotee
  89. The Final Words
  90. Glossary

Visit our e-library page for Free Downloads of this and other ebooks in various formats.

Read the Maharshi Gita, an arrangement of verses of the Bhagavad Gita made by Sri Ramana Maharshi that gives an overview of the essential message of the Gita.

Read The Bhagavad Gita (arranged in verses for singing) by Abbot George Burke (Swami Nirmalananda Giri).

Read about the meanings of unfamiliar terms in A Brief Sanskrit Glossary

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