The Lord says in B.G.9.4 : The entire world has been pervaded by Me in My unmanifest form. All beings dwell in Me, but I dwell not in them – says the Lord. This is the mystery of the mAyic world. In twilight when things are not seen clearly somebody sees a snake, but it is actually only a rope appearing to him like a snake. The snake ‘dwelt’ in the rope but the rope was never in the snake, because there was no snake ever! The world that appears to us is only an appearance on the base, Brahman. So all beings are located in the Supreme but the Supreme is not located in them. This mystical fact is the foundation for all that happens in the expressions of Bhakti. In the three words of ‘yukta AsIta matparaH’(2 .61), the word yuktah has three connotations: one, that indicates communion with the Ultimate through the yoga defined by 2.48 (yogasthaH kuru karmANi ..), another, that indicates union of oneness with the Ultimate through ‘Atma-samsthaM manaH kRRitvA …’ of 6.25 and the third, through this concept of bhakti, that arises from the understanding of ‘mayA tatamidam sarvaM …’ of 9.4. But this third one needs more explanation, because it is not yet clear how one translates the spiritual fact of pervasion by Brahman of everything, into our activities in the transactional world.
Krishna Himself gives the methodology for such a translation. In other words this is the Lord’s own description of how to integrate bhakti as the summum bonum of everything in the day-to-day world of living. Here is that shloka, which is one more of the all-important five-star shlokas of the Gita:
Yat-karoshhi yad-ashnAsi yaj-juhoshhi dadAsi yat /
Yat-tapasyasi kaunteya tat-kurushhva mad-arpaNam // 9.27.
Whatever you do (karoshhi), whatever you consume or experience (ashnAsi), whatever you offer to deities through fire or otherwise (juhoshhi), whatever you give away or renounce (dadAsi), whatever you perform as a discipline with or without an end in view (tapasyasi) – do all this in dedication to Me, says He through this shloka. Here five facets of man’s activities are mentioned. We shall take this together with 11.55, , where the same five facets are referred to in a different format:
Mat-karmakRRin-mat-paramo mad-bhaktaH sanga-varjitaH /
nirvairaH-sarvabhUteshhu yaH sa mAm-eti pANDava // 11.55.
Whosoever does all his works for Me (mat-karmakRRit), makes Me his supreme goal (mat-paramaH), becomes My devotee (mad-bhaktaH), is devoid of all attachments (sanga-varjitaH) and, in respect of all beings, is free from enmity (nirvairaH), will come to Me, assures the Lord at end of the 11th chapter after He has shown His Cosmic Personality to Arjuna.
These two shlokas, 9.27 and 11.55, both enjoy a unique status in the Gita because each of them incorporates a summary of the Gita by encompassing the five facets of the total message of the Gita that we enunciated right at the beginning. Each lists the five facets in its own style.
1.Whatever you do, - ‘yat karoShi’ - do it in dedication to Him. In other words all your engagement in actions must be in dedication to Him. This is karma yoga, the most-often-talked-about part of the Gita. This is Efficiency in action. In the crucial verse (11-55) which Shankara marks as the whole Gita in a single capsule, this corresponds to the words matkarma-kRt (Doing all actions only for Me). The Lord has already given the methodology for this in 3.30 (mayi sarvANi karmANi …)
2. Whatever you consume or experience, - ‘yad-ashnAsi’ - dedicate it to Him. In other words there is nothing that you experience for yourself. Whether it is joy or sorrow, pleasure or pain, it is all His. It is not only His will but also His experience, not yours, because He is in you and there is nothing else in you. This is the “Being my devotee” (mad-bhaktaH) in (11-55). This is the meaning of being devoted wholly to Him and still living a life. This is the life of bhakti. This is bhakti yoga; and more, it is advaita-bhakti. This is what leads us on to the ideal ‘I am not the experiencer’-attitude. When pleasant things happen to us we would not like to say ‘I am not the enjoyer’. When unpleasant things happen to us, we would very much like to say ‘I am not the enjoyer’, but our body-mind-intellect does not allow us to say so. In one case we like to say so and in the other case we do not have the will to say so. Gita says in both cases we should be able to say so and feel that way. This is the meaning of the Gita’s insistence on discarding both likes and dislikes. Here the first step is to start with the pleasant happenings. With a little will power and effort, at least in small things, we should be able to try it. That is the starting point. And in due course of this practice, one should be able to carry the attitude of ‘I-am-not-the-enjoyer’ to even unpleasant experiences. The methodology is to follow 9.26 in both cases.
3. Whatever you offer to deities – ‘yaj-juhoShi’ - through Fire or otherwise, dedicate it to Him. This implies, there is no other object for your worship, reverence or care. He is the goal; He is the refuge. “Keeping me as your only destination” (mat-paramaH) says the Lord in (11-55). It is for Him you do everything; more, You are not the doer. You have renounced all ‘doership’ in His favour! When we do something blameworthy, it is convenient to say ‘I am not the doer’. But that is not to be the starting point here. What we should start with is the situation when we do something which is creditworthy. We should not take the credit ourselves. This is the rock bottom first step. Even when others give us the credit, we should be able to tune our mind to say (and also feel so!) that it is due to somebody else; if we cannot find an acceptable ‘somebody else’ we should be able to say (and feel) that it is the will and work of God. To follow Krishna according to the path of His Gita-teaching, this is the step next to the rock bottom first step. The entire concept of yajna (dedicated selfless action) is for training us along this path. This is the one that ultimately leads us to the methodology of complete surrender envisaged in 18–66.
4. Whatever you perform - ‘yat tapasyasi’ - with or without an end in view, dedicate it to Him. This performance is tapas; meaning, enduring the ‘shrama’ (effort or ‘pain’) while performing and having no attachment to anything (cf. sanga-varjitaH in 11-55 and several other places in the Gita). Doing something for the sake of some noble cause or someone whom you revere, is tapas. Even ordinary acts of a difficult daily commuting is also a tapas, if you adopt the attitude of dedication to the cause that motivates you to undertake the journey. All this has to be dedicated to Him, because if you have no end in view, that is already a dedication, and if you have an end in view, dedication to Him means you are not attached to that end in view. Thus the whole process is a sAdhanA (practice) for detachment, culminating in the ideal ‘I am not the BMI’. This performance is tapas, meaning, a voluntary acceptance of suffering/pain/stress/strain for the sake of spiritual improvement. Tapas is another technical word, like Yajna, which carries this more profound meaning in the Gita than what it ordinarily does in the scriptures. Tapas always involves a dedication. The whole process is a sAdhanA (spiritual practice) for detachment. And the methodology takes you to the practice of yoga-sAdhanA, which has the deepest advice in 6.26 (yato yato nishcarati … )
5. Whatever you give away or renounce, - ‘yad-dadAsi’ - dedicate it as well as the action, to Him. Because nothing belongs to you, really. Everything belongs to Him. Even when you are giving or renouncing, you are renouncing only what you think you have, but in reality you do not have. Nothing belongs to you or to anybody. This is the combination of the fundamental idea of equanimity and also of the Vedantic maxim that everything is transient, i.e., mAyA. Therefore there is no reason to bear even an iota of ill-will to anybody, even when you feel, in the worldly sense, that the other person is possessing what you think must be, or should have been, in your possession. Love every one; and more importantly, “hate no being” -- nirvairaH sarva-bhUteShu in (11-55). This is the attitude of equanimity – ‘samadRshTi’ - that is the hallmark-teaching of the Gita. The methodology therefore is the brahma-bhAva scripted for us in 6.30.
Shankaracharya says that the shloka (11.55) is the essential import of the entire science of the Gita aimed at liberation and summarised for practice.
Note that the five tenets of practical advaita as: (the numbers correspond to the paragraph numbers listed above):
Efficiency in action (karmasu kaushalaM)
Attitude of ‘I am not the experiencer’ (na aham bhoktA)
Attitude of ‘I am not the doer’ (na-ahaM kartA)
Attitude of ‘I am not the body, mind or intellect’ (na-aham deho nendriyANy-antarango na-ahamkAraH prANavargo na buddhiH)
Equanimous view (sama-buddhiH)
No.4 is fundamental. No.3 rids you of further accumulation of vAsanAs (tendencies) through present action. No.2 takes care of the exhaustion of consequences of past action, without leaving any trace for future tendencies to sprout. No.1 is action, even though in the mAyic world! But one has to live in that world. It has inbuilt into it the concept of dedication of all actions to the Supreme and therefore the Devotion that forms the basis of that dedication. It is this Devotion to the Supreme that finally disposes off all the accumulated ‘karmas’ and ‘vAsanAs’ of past lives so that the sprouting of further births to exhaust the consequences of those ‘karmas’ does not happen. Thus #s1, 2, 3 and 4 release you from bondage and seal all future births. The fifth is what becomes the Ultimate Stage of Oneness in Brahman. What then is ‘JIvan-mukti’ if not the ideal state of #5? Together all the five constitute advaita in practice. And it is (9-27) as also 11.55, that marks for us the highway – the only highway – to follow advaita in practice.
The table below summarises all this succinctly.
Five teachings of
the Gita →
( Sense control)
11 – 55 →
9 - 27→
Yo mAM paSyati…
Five tenets of
Efficiency in action
I am not the experiencer - attitude
I am not the
I am not
the BMI- attitude