Sri Gitopanishad’s Self Surrender
By Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Goswami
The Aryans have glorified Srimad Bhagavad-gita as Upanishad-cudamani, the crest jewel of all the Upanisads. In comparison to other Upanishads, Sri Gita specifically establishes Bhagavan’s lilamayatva (being endowed with lila). Also, in the verses that sing the glories of Gita (Gita-mahatmya), it has been described as the essence of all Upanishads:
“This Gitopanishad, Bhagavad-gita, the essence of all the Upanishads, is just like a cow, and Sri Krishna, who is famous as a cowherd boy, is milking this cow. Arjuna is just like a calf, and learned scholars and pure devotees are to drink the nectarean milk of Bhagavad-gita.” (Gita-mahatmya 6)
The speaker of Gita, which is a part of Mahabharata, is Devaki-nandana Sri Vasudeva. However, in the above verse it is said ‘dogdha gopala-nandana‘ i.e. the milkman (speaker) is Goparaja-nandana Krishna. It is thus clearly understood that Vrajendra-nandana Vrindavana-bihari Sri Krishna alone is the speaker of Sri Gita. Although he has spoken Gita in his Vasudeva form, his own statements have revealed his real rasamaya-svarupa. Our goswamis have indicated in their literature that another name of Mother Yasoda is Devaki, and Devaki-putra (the son of Devaki) is indeed another name of Yasoda-putra. Although Devaki-putra Vasudeva is apparently the speaker of Sri Gita, Sri Nanda-nandana Krishna is the actual speaker.
By discussing the beginning, the conclusion, and so on of Sri Gita, it can be understood that Sri Krishna alone is the supreme (parama-deva), and the topmost worshipable reality. He is worshiped only by bhakti, and prema-bhakti is the climax of that worship.
Now we will discuss the nature and development of atma-nivedana (self surrender) explained in Sri Gita. From an external point of view, the instructions of Gita are universal. From karmarpana (offering the results of activities) up to saranagati (surrender) and atma-nivedana (full self-surrender)—everything related to bhakti is sung there in condensed form.
Atma-nivedana is of two kinds: ordinary (common) and extraordinary (uncommon). In Sri Bhakti-sandarbha, Srila Jiva Goswamipada has classified these two types of atma-nivedana: ordinary atma-nivedana is bhavam vina, devoid of any sthayi-bhava, or permanent mellow, and extraordinary atma-nivedana is bhava vaisistena ca, endowed with specific bhava, or permanent mellow. To illustrate the first type, Srila Jiva Goswamipada has quoted the following verse from Srimad-Bhagavatam:
A person who gives up all fruitive activities and offers himself entirely unto me, eagerly desiring to render service unto me, achieves liberation from birth and death and is promoted to the status of sharing my own opulences.(11. 29.34)
To illustrate the second type, bhava-visista atma-nivedana, he has quoted the statement of Sri Rukmini-devi:
Therefore, my dear Lord, I have chosen you as my husband and I surrender myself to you. Please come swiftly, O Almighty One, and make me your wife. My dear lotus-eyed Lord, let Sisupala, who is like a jackal stealing the property of a lion, never touch the hero’s portion.(SB 10.52.39)
Here the word bhava means sambandha, relationship in terms of raganuga bhakti in dasya-rasa, sakhya-rasa, and so on. According to Bhakti-sandarbha, ‘bhava vaisistena‘ refers to four bhavas: dasya, sakhya, vatsalya, and madhurya bhava. The atma-nivedana at the lotus feet of Bhagavan which is endowed with any one of these four bhavas, or specific relationships, is bhava-yukta atma-nivedana, and the atma-nivedana that is performed at the lotus feet of Bhagavan before the awakening of any of these four bhavas is called bhava-hina atma-nivedana.
Bhava-hina atma-nivedana is visible in the life of Sri Bali Maharaja, and Srila Jivapada has shown this elsewhere in his Sandarbha. Sri Bali Maharaja’s dasya is bhavahina dasya, devoid of any bhava or sambandha, and is not raganuga-dasya. The most confidential and topmost instruction of Gita is:
Completely abandoning all bodily and mental dharma, such as varna and asrama, fully surrender to me alone. I shall liberate you from all reactions to your sins. Do not grieve. (BG 18.66)
The sloka of Srimad-Bhagavatam beginning ‘martyo yada tyakta-samasta-karma,’ quoted by Srila Jiva Gosvami as an example of bhavahina atma-nivedana, and the sloka ‘sarva-dharman parityajya,’ which is the topmost instruction of Gita, conveys the same meaning. Moreover, ‘aham tvam sarva-papebhyomoksayisyami ma sucah‘ is only the explanation of the words ‘vicikirsito me‘ (desirous of doing something special) clearly instructs bhavahina atma-nivedana for the common masses.
Now we have to consider whether or not the indication or hint of bhava-yukta atma-nivedana is given in Gita. An intelligent lover, who is the object of love for everyone, will speak to common people in a general way about affectionate service to him. If his beloved is also present among the general people, then, in midst of his general topics, he will hint to his beloved in a hidden manner about how to please him in a special way. Although ordinary people will be unable to understand such hints, those who are extraordinarily dear to him will certainly be able to comprehend them.
Similarly, vidagdha-cudamani, the crest jewel of intelligent lovers, Gopala-nandana Sri Krishna, while aiming at ordinary people, has given hints about extraordinary service or extraordinary atma-nivedana (bhava-yukta atma-nivedana) for those who are so desirous. What to speak of karmis (fruitive workers), even jnana-misra-bhaktas cannot understand such hints. On the other hand, bhaktas who desire an extremely intimate relationship with him in raganuga-bhava not only comprehend his hints about bhava-yukta atma-nivedana, but also realize his clear instructions on the subject.
In the Tenth Canto, Sri Rukmini-devi prays to Sri Krishna in her letter, “I accept you as my husband and fully dedicate myself (atma-nivedana) at your lotus feet.” Here, atma-nivedana is performed by possessing kanta-bhava, a conjugal relationship, in the heart.
Bhava-yukta atma-nivedana is clearly expressed in Bhagavad-gita:
Those whose minds are absorbed in me and whose lives are wholeheartedly devoted to my service, derive great satisfaction and bliss from constantly enlightening one another about my tattva and performing kirtana of my name, form, qualities and pastimes. (Gita 10.9)
Upon those who perform bhajana to me with love, yearning for my eternal association, I bestow the transcendental knowledge by which they can come to me. (Gita 10.10)]
Here, Krishna is saying: “Those whose minds and lives are devoted to me and who always meditate on me, always speak about me and derive satisfaction in me alone, their minds feel relaxation and comfort only by thinking about me, and they are constantly desirous of perpetual union with me. I bestow upon such bhaktas buddhi-yoga, transcendental intelligence and knowledge by which they can attain me.”
Most Gita commentators, including Srila Sridhara Swamipada, explained these two slokas from the perspective of common people only. However, vidagdha-siromani Sri Krishna cannot check himself from speaking the core instructions, even in the midst of speaking his general instruction. That essential instruction is to render visrambha-seva, intimate loving service unto him. These commentators give a general explanation of the component ‘ramanti ca‘ in their purport which is similar to the explanation of ‘tusyanti ca‘. Thus, there remains no specific significance to the phrase ‘ramanti ca‘. However, unless there is a specific meaning to these words, there would have been no reason for Krishna to use them. Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana Prabhu and Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura have therefore excluded the general meaning of ‘ramanti ca‘ and have only accepted its specific meaning through its verbal root (which carries its innate meaning). Ram-dhatu i.e. the verbal root ‘ram‘, means ‘krida‘, sport or play. Use of the verbal root ‘ram‘ not only indicates bhava-yukta atma-nivedana, but it indeed also indicates the topmost among all bhavas—madhura-bhava-yukta atma-nivedana.
Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana Prabhu has said in his commentary: ‘ramanti ca yuvati-smita-kataksadisu eva yuvanah.’ Only that atma-nivedana that is characterized by accepting Bhagavan as the object of madhura-priti is referred to here. That kanta-bhava (conjugal relationship) has the attributes of smiles, sidelong glances, and so on. Srila Jiva Goswamipada quotes a part of Sri Rukmini-devi’s letter (tan me bhavan khalu vrtah patir), as an example of bhava-yukta atma-nivedanam, which has the same meaning as the inner meaning of the ‘ramanti ca‘ portion of the Gita’s sloka.
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura gives a similar meaning for ‘ramanti ca‘. He explains that raganuga-bhakti is expressed in these words of Bhagavan. The only satisfaction and delight of the ananya bhaktas is the performance of bhakti. This is the secret. Even in the stage of sadhana they attain satisfaction by the unobstructed performance of bhajan. While meditating on their future stage of perfection, sadhya-dasa, they experience delight. In other words, they enjoy with their prabhu, Krishna, within their minds.
In Arjuna’s words:
O Deva, just as a father forgives his son, a friend tolerates a friend, or a lover excuses his beloved, please forgive all my offences. (Gita 11.44)
Here, the subject of atma-nivedana that is endowed with dasya, sakhya, vatsalya, and madhura bhavas, has been clearly expressed. ‘Dadami buddhi-yogam tam yena mam upayanti te.’ Here, the prominent mahajanas, Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana Prabhu and Srila Cakravartipada, express that ‘buddhi-yoga‘ is suggestive only of bhava-yukta sadhana, (sadhana endowed with bhava [relationship]).
Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana Prabhu states in his commentary: “I am svabhakti-rasika, the enjoyer of the rasa derived from the happiness of my own bhakti, and I bestow upon my devotees that buddhi-yoga by which they attain me. I inspire their buddhi in such a manner that they can understand me, who am replete with unlimited qualities and majesties. Thus, they can attain me by their worship.”
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has said in his purport to this verse: “I bestow upon them buddhi-yoga. I inspire that buddhi-yoga within their hearts’ tendencies. That buddhi-yoga cannot be achieved by individual efforts, nor can it be obtained from anyone else. It is bestowed by me alone, and only such bhava-yukta sadhakas can receive it. This is the meaning of Krishna’s words.”
This article originally appeared in the Gaudiya-patrika, circa 1930.