A general discussion of devotion on the usual lines has
already been covered in the latter part of the last chapter.
Here an important doubt is raised by Arjuna in regard to
two possible kinds of devotion implied in what till now was
just called bhakti (devotion).

We know that in the rational, heterodox or Buddhistic
tradition bhakti (devotion) to a personal god was greatly
discredited. The Gita being a revaluation of both orthodox and
heterodox tendencies in spirituality, covering both the
rational and the emotional aspects, has to make it clear what
importance it gives to the role of devotion in the spiritual
progress of the aspirant to wisdom. Further, the variety of
bipolar relationship which in the Gita is called devotion
conforms more to a contemplative discipline rather than to
religious worship.

We have seen that the more ordinary approaches to devotion
have been revalued or superseded in xi, 48 and 53. Discredit
on Vedism generally was reflected even in ii, 42, 43,
44 and 46. Brahma as a deity to be worshipped was
superseded in xi, 37. There is no mistaking therefore, that
when devotion is referred to in this chapter, the usual forms
of upasana (devout worship through ritual, offerings of
flowers, etc.) or even popular forms of devotion, are not
implied. The word contemplation rather than devotion
would apply more especially to the type of spirituality of
the person implied in Verses 13-19 inclusive.

Further a bhakta (devotee) is portrayed as a detached and
dispassionate individual, and wisdom is still his higher goal,
as indicated even in Verse 12 of this chapter. The attitude
of a devotee here shows the same traits of a yogi such as
balance between opposites like pleasure-pain, etc., as also
found in other parts of the Gita. The only question that is
discussed in this chapter, which is of particular interest
to the author


Vyasa, consists in the difference between a devotee who
thinks of the Absolute as a person, which might cover even
the personification of a principle; or the devotee who
regards the Absolute in a more theoretical or philosophical

Krishna here votes definitely for the personal, as far as a
yogi is concerned, but the chapter contains verses which
do recognize the superiority of a person capable of
accomplishing the more difficult task of contemplating the
Absolute in a more abstract philosophical manner.
The attributes of the Absolute in the latter case have to
attain a certain globality. Component factors must have an
organic coherence, thus tending to constitute in their
totality a unitive value, and such a value must be
contemplated upon in a bipolar manner. This bipolarity, as
we have said, is the mystical way which is not different
from that of Yoga or contemplation. The conditions are not
consciously fulfilled by rationalists when they think of the
Absolute impersonally. If their contemplation fulfils these
requirements the devotion gains a superior status, as stated
in Verses 3 and 4. It is only just, therefore, that there
is here in Verse 5 an apologetic reference to the difficulty
facing a man who wants to affiliate himself to the Absolute
through mere abstractions.

But this apologetic reference to difficulty does not
detract from the superior status that such people who can
take this difficult path have to be given. In fact this
recognition is what has been again conceded in the form of
a second thought in the last verse of this very chapter.
The Gita is a yoga sastra, a reasoned textbook on
unitive understanding; and although a merely theistic
approach is outside its scope, as we have pointed out, a
certain amount of anthropomorphism is admitted into its
general scheme. It is a personal Krishna who always
represents the Absolute, and as the technique of Yoga
implies counterparts, one of whom is always a personal
devotee, the representation of the Absolute as a person
should not be considered as altogether inconsistent.
In the context of Yoga, therefore, the element of
anthropomorphism implied in the Gita is excusable. Such
a position does not, however, amount to theism, as held
by certain scholars today. It should be treated as part
of the inevitable technique of the practice of the
contemplation of the Absolute.


Arjuna uvacha
evam satatayukta ye
bhaktas tvam paryupasate
ve cha 'py aksharam avyaktam
tesham ke yogavittamah

Arjuna said:
Those devotees who worship You, ever unitively,and those
again (who meditate on) the Imperishable and the
Unmanifested; of them which excels in yoga- knowledge?


The word evam (thus) with which this verse begins, is
meant to refer backwards to the last verse of the previous
chapter, where a personal surrender of actions to a supreme
entity was implied.

Bhakti (devotion) is conventionally associated with the
worship of gods of mythology or idols, especially in India.
Theistic ideas of God are not foreign to Indian thought, as
we found in XI, 43, in referring to the Father of the World;
but theism free from myth or idolatry is found in religions
such as Christianity or Islam. Some of the Vaishnavite
religions of India do place Vishnu in a supreme hypostatic
position resembling a theistic God, but the general tendency
in Indian thought is to approach God more ontologically
through creation itself.

The God described in the previous chapter cannot conform
to the pattern of a beneficent Vishnu theistically
understood, although Vishnu, thought of as an all-
pervading radiance, could be associated with the vision
presented, in a secondary fashion. The destroyer of the
worlds, as Krishna described himself to be in the vision,
could hardly be fitted within the limits of theism proper.
God does not devour his own children - except in the case
of a Greek Ouranos - but such a god must be considered as
belonging more to mythology than to theology.

Arjuna puts here a pointed question in which a subtle
distinction is implied between one who meditates on a
personified God and one who meditates only on impersonal
aspects of the akshara (Imperishable) and the avyaktam
(Unmanifested). Both are equally included under the
designation of Yoga, and it is only a matter of comparison
between them that is here undertaken as expressed by the
phrase yogavittamah (best of Yoga-knowers).


Sribhagavan uvacha
mayy avesya mano ye mam
nityayukta upasate
sraddhya parayo 'petas
te meyuktatama matah

Krishna said:
Those with minds entered into Me, who unitively meditate
on Me, with a fervour pertaining to the Supreme, those
according to Me are the most unitively (attuned) in Yoga.


In the answer of Krishna we find two expressions important
to note. Although both the cases in question are about
yogis, what distinguishes the first group is that they
are mayy avesya manah (with minds entered into Me). In
what sense this entering in is to be understood, we have
already discussed. It pertains to the condition of a bipolar
reciprocity. The other term that distinguishes this first
group is the word sraddha (fervour, faith), which the author
takes care to modify at once by the qualification paraya
(pertaining to the Supreme). Mere religious devotion to an
object will not fulfil the requirement in the mind of the
author. The faith has to refer to something beyond. Thus we
see that it is, as it were, a two-way traffic as between the
worshipper and the worshipped, which is insisted upon
throughout in this chapter on devotion or contemplation.
When the idea of a personal God becomes more vague or
theoretically superior, it has to be compensated by a
faith that is more fervent. When the faith becomes superior
through a better philosophical understanding of the idea
at the other pole has to gain in definiteness of outline.
Therefore although Krishna here apparently votes definitely
in favour of an affiliation to a personal God, it becomes
qualified by other considerations in this chapter as we
proceed, until one is left gasping. The true picture of
the Absolute intended by the Gita seems to be one that is
neither personal nor altogether impersonal.

This view is justified especially in the last verse of this
chapter, where all others who merely think of a value there
referred to as dharmyamritam (an eternally righteous value),
not necessarily personal, are stated to be surpassingly
dear to Krishna.


ye tv aksharam anirdesyam
avyaktam paryupasate
sarvatragam achintyam cha
kutastham achalam dhruvam

samniyamye 'ndrayagramam
sarvatra samabuddhayah
te prapnuvanti mam eva
sarvabhutahite ratah

But those who meditate upon the Imperishable, the
Undefineable, the Unmanifested, the All-Pervasive
and the Thought-transcending, the Firmly-established,
the Immobile, the Constant,

having restrained all sense-aggregates, regarding
all with equalizing understanding, interested in the
well-being of all creatures, they reach Me too.


These verses describe the other variety of spiritual
aspirant involved in Arjuna's question. No personal God
is involved in any of the descriptive terms enumerated.
But we note that the word upasana (meditate upon)
applies equally to such an aspirant as to the worshipper
of a personal God. It must therefore have a purer connotation
than when employed in the context of mere conventional
worship. Here we have to do with a philosopher whose
vision, while it is theoretical and abstract, is accompanied
by a personal attitude involving qualities enumerated in Verse 4, such as samabuddhayah (those who regard all with equalizing understanding). The counterparts implied in his attitude are: firstly, a correct philosophical vision of the Absolute; and secondly, a generous and open attitude of free and joyous life among his fellow beings.

As Sankara points out, here upasana (meditate upon) should
be understood in its extended sense. He says it"consists in approaching the object of worship by contemplating it according to the sastra (revealed text) and remaining for a long time fixed in the current of the same thought (continuous) like a line of descending oil".


When these two aspects of the personal life of the aspirant
described in the second case are considered unitively, we can
hardly deny that he attains a spiritual status at least equal
to that of any bhakta (devotee) who might conform to the first
type of aspirant. The two types tend to coalesce when understood
in the proper light of the Yoga which is specifically referred
to as yathoktam (as stated) in Verse 20. When properly understood
there would remain nothing to choose between the two cases.


klesho 'dhikataras tesham
avyaktasakta chetasam
avyakta hi gatir duhkham
dehavadbhir avapyate

The difficulty of those whose relational minds are set on the
Unmanifested is greater, for the way of the Unmanifested is
very hard for the embodied to reach.


A direct answer to Arjuna's question is not given in this
verse. Krishna rather chooses to bypass the issue, taking
an apologetic attitude, favouring for the present the one
devoted to a personal God. It is in the name of klesha
(difficulty) and not in the name of intrinsic superiority
that the type of bhakta (devotee) is preferred.

All devotees are human beings first and yogis afterwards,
and there are limitations belonging to bodily existence
which set a limit to establishing effective relation with
the Absolute. Each man, according to his own temperament,
has to draw the line between the transcendental and the
immanent aspects of the Absolute for his own purposes of
constant meditation. Those who by education and training
are capable of visualizing the Absolute globally, yet
impersonally, are very rare.


ye tu sarvani karmani
mayi samnyasya matparah
ananyenai 'va yogena
mam dhyayanta upasate

tesham aham samuddharta
mrityu samsara sagarat
bhavami nachirat partha
mayy avesita chetasam


But those who worship Me, renouncing all actions in Me,
regarding Me supreme, meditating on Me by that Yoga
exclusive of all else,

for them whose minds have entered into Me, I become ere
long, 0 Partha (Arjuna), the saviour out of the ocean
of death and repeated cyclic existences.


From Verses 6 to 12 we have a graded reference to persons
of different temperaments who have several alternatives
to choose from, such as knowledge, practice, meditation,
renunciation of benefits of actions, etc. The alternatives
are considered in a certain order and in Verses 6 and 7
we have the extremely rare case of a wise yogi who is
capable of renouncing all actions in favour of the Absolute.
This type conforms to what is mentioned in xviii, 2.
The samnyasin (renouncer of actions) here represents a
thorough-going contemplative or yogi with whom no
question of having to do anything arises. His Yoga has the
character of being ananya (without any extraneous factors)
and consists of being wholly absorbed in the Absolute. The
Absolute itself in such an extreme case may be considered
to be that potent factor capable of saving the life of the
individual from the relativistic context of death and
samsara (cyclic repetition of life-states), which is here
compared to an ocean because birth and death are like the
rising and falling of waves.

The expression mayy avesita chetasam (those whose minds
have entered into Me) applies to this type of wholehearted
devotee, and the initiative in the matter of saving such
devotees as stated here, devolves on the Absolute.
There is to be noticed here a wholehearted devotion met
by a wholesale hope of salvation, the two counterparts
of the devotional situation being equalized.

A simple samnyasin (renouncer of actions) is unlike a
tyagi (relinquisher of benefits of actions) because in the
latter case his renunciation applies only to benefit derived
from action and not to action itself.

Elsewhere in the Gita (ii, 5 and 8; xviii, 11) it has been
repeated that it is impossible to relinquish action

The distinction of the Gita as a philosophical treatise
consists in that it never minimizes the importance of the
necessary aspects of life. This reference to the extreme
type of samnyasin (renouncer) devotee who is capable of
being a pure meditator or contemplative at the same time,
is here brought in more as an exception than as a rule,
to head the list of other instances of a lesser order
which are to be enumerated presently.


mayy eva mana adhatsva
mayi buddhim nivesaya
nivasishyasi mayy eva
ata urdhvam na samsayah

Place your mind in Me only, let your higher reason enter
into Me; you shall without doubt thereafter live in Me.


After citing the rare and perfect case in the last two
verses, we come to cases of devotees of lesser grades, who
cannot be so easily saved. They are, given detailed
instructions of choice between alternative courses to follow
in contemplative discipline. This continues up to Verse 12.
In the present verse, we think of the next best type. It is
one who is capable of placing his mind in and making his
faculty of higher reasoning enter into the Absolute. It is
evident that even such an operation or adjustment is a
difficult one, as is recognised by the author in the next

The bhakti (devotion) implied in this verse involves a
degree of unity between the worshipper and the
worshipped. Even this is rare in the usual context of


atha chittam samadhatum
na saknoshi mayi sthiram
abhyasayogena tato
mam ichchha'ptum dhanamjaya

If you are unable to fix your thoughts steadily on Me,
then by means of unitive ascent (Yoga of practice)
seek to reach Me, 0 Dhanamjaya (Arjuna).


We come now to a type of devotee capable of establishing
a lesser degree of unity with the Absolute. The term
sthiram (steady) indicates that this type wavers and
sometimes allows other interests and activities to absorb
his attention or time. The remedy recommended is to bring
back the straying mind to the Absolute every time it runs
away. The nature of the practice implied here is evident
from vi, 26.


abhyase 'py asamartho 'si
matkarma paramo bhava
madartham api karmani
kurvan siddhim avapsyasi

If you happen to be incapable even for practice,
then become one whose every action belongs to
Me, the Supreme; even doing work for My sake,
you shall attain to perfection.


An even lesser alternative is now given for a man still
weaker in devotion. The phrase matkarma paramah (one,
all of whole actions belong to Me as the Supreme) has been
subjected to various interpretations. Abhinavagupta
includes within its scope all conventional devotional
actions, including the usual ritualistic ones. As we have
explained under xi, 55, this expression is one of those
peculiar to the Gita. All possible action which a man cannot
help doing in the normal course has to be thought of
together on the one hand, and on the other hand the totality
of such unavoidable necessary action must be treated as
belonging to paramam (the Supreme) which the Absolute

Thus equated, the evil attached to karma (action) becomes
neutralized by its necessity or inevitability, and also
as belonging to the Absolute; because the Absolute is
responsible directly for whatever evil of necessity may be
in actions. All nature is good, as Rousseau would put it.
By the same principle, all necessary or inevitable action
equated to the Absolute; or thought of as belonging to the
Absolute, becomes free from any taint.

The allusion to "My action" should be understood in this
sense. The Absolute itself has no karma (action), but the
inevitable, natural and necessary action of the devotee
becomes acceptable to the Supreme, whose touch may be said
to absolve him (as the actor) from any evil in such karma

Even if the subtle import of this is not understood by the
devotee, the same perfection is promised through an even
simpler alternative implied in the expression madartham
(for My sake), that is, "out of love for Me"


athai 'tad apy asakto 'si
kartum madyogam asritah
sarva karma phala tyagam
tatah kuru yatatmavan

If you are unable to do even this, then seek refuge (for
your individuality) in My unitive (Being),renouncing the
benefits of all actions as one of controlled Self.


The former verse implied that all necessary and unnatural
actions were pruned to make activity as a whole conform to
the will, as it were, of the Absolute principle. Here a
further concession is made in the name of a weakness that
is incapable even of omitting unnecessary flourishes in
the field of natural activity.

What is recommended in such a case is that the devotee
should merge his individuality into the larger unitive
individuality of the Absolute, however vaguely the devotee
may be able to understand such a numinous factor, which is
here called madyogam (My Yoga, My unitive Being). Yoga as
applied to the Absolute is a vague term and at best can be
thought of as a unitive way of life dedicated to the unitive
of the Absolute, wherein the necessary and the contingent
aspects of life merge without difference.

What happens to a devotee who has effaced his active
individuality in this way is that he becomes no more
interested in gaining anything for himself as a result of
his activity. For examples he might engage himself in
cultivating a field, but he is not keen on seeing that the
sale proceeds go into his own pocket to be used for diversions
that take his mind away from the Supreme or the Absolute.
All that this amounts to is that he effaces his egoistic
individuality which reaches out towards objectified values
for self-gratification. Karma phala tyaga (renunciation of
the benefits of action) should be taken in the sense that
means and ends are unitively understood as belonging to the
Absolute without egoistic interests, which correspond to
the benefits intervening.

Nishkama karma (passion-freed action) and karma phala tyaga
(renunciation of the benefits of action) both equally
refer to one of the important doctrines of the Gita,
mentioned as early as ii, 47 and repeated in v, 12 and
elsewhere. Some commentators interpret this to mean that
a man should not have any result in view for the action he
undertakes. If there is a


disparity between ends and means altogether, the result would
be an absurdity. Therefore the renunciation of the result or
benefit of action, if it is not to lead to absurdities in
life, should be understood in the sense that the actor does
actions for their own sake which bring natural results. Into
such a bipolar relationship established between ends and
means, the individual craving for pleasures that lie outside
his interest in the Absolute, do not enter in as interfering
third factors.


sreyo hi jnanam abhyasaj
jnanad dhyanam visishyate
dhyanat karma phala tyagas
tyagach chhantir anantaram

Better indeed is knowledge than practice; than knowledge
meditation is superior; than meditation,renunciation of
the benefit of action - after renunciation - peace.


The alternatives given from Verses 6 to 11 were based on the
motive of easiness. In this verse a gradation is indicated
which is based or superiority. Whether a man worships a
manifested God in the form of Vishnu or Rudra, or whether
he is capable of meditating on the abstract notion of the
Absolute as the Unmanifested, the final criterion by which
all devotees have to be measured consists primarily of the
question of how far their devotion has brought them
happiness or peace.

Judged from this normative principle of peace, it is
possible to grade and arrange all forms of devotional
practice or contemplation as is done here.

Blind practice of devotion without knowledge can only be
inferior to a devotion that is guided by knowledge. It is
therefore legitimate that the author has given knowledge
primacy over practice. Practice covers quite a variety
of items: from hatha yoga (Yoga which is forced, involving
severe psycho-physical disciplines) and ritualistic and
religious practices; to the pranayama (restraint of vital
forces like breath etc.), mentioned by Patanjali. Even
taking the most respectable connotation implied in practice
here, as indicated in vi, 26, there is an artificial and
mechanistic effort to be made by the devotee to bring back
the mind to the subject of meditation. Unless the


interest in the subject is intelligent, the effort to bring
back the mind constantly would in most cases be futile.
Therefore primacy is first given to knowledge here.
In its turn, knowledge cannot be sustained and focussed
for a long time uninterruptedly without that element of
interest which can give it that oily flow so often referred to,
which distinguishes meditation from mere thought or knowledge.
The condition of bipolarity in devotion is better fulfilled
in dhyana (meditation) and therefore it is given primacy
over knowledge.

To sustain meditation uniformly and to save it from
distractions that might develop at any time, one should have
the power to eliminate all those factors that are likely to
drag the mind into channels of instinctive desires. This
implies a certain neutrality in regard to means and ends,
which is implied in the word karma phala tyagam (renunciation
of the benefits of action) already explained.

Whether in the form of such a limited relinquishment of
benefit only, or in the form of fuller renunciation, as
implied in Verses 6 and 7 earlier, the element of giving up
of personal interest goes very far in establishing that final
value in spiritual life leading to the peace or happiness for
the contemplative devotee. Thus renunciation has its place
higher than meditation because it is by renunciation that
peace comes.

This verse brings the subject of devotion further in line
with the discipline of Yoga or contemplation, as understood in
other chapters. Devotion or practice in the Gita are not to
be confused with indications in such texts as the Narada
Bhakti Sutras and Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, which should be
looked upon as distinct darsanas (systematic visions of
reality) of their own with very little in common with the
pure contemplation of the Absolute which is implied in
this chapter. These darsanas have been revalued here.


adveshta sarva bhutanam
maitrah karuna eva cha
nirmamo nirahamkarah
sama duhkha sukhah kshami

samtushtah satatamyogi
yatatma drishanischayah
mayy arpita mano buddhir
yo madbhaktah sa me priyah


He who has no hatred to all creatures, who is also
friendly and compassionate, who is free from
possessiveness, (mine-ness), and egoism, who is
equalized in pain and pleasure, and forgiving,

such a unitively-disciplined one (yogi) who is
always contented, self-controlled, firmly resolved,
whose mind and reason are dedicated to Me he,
My devotee, is dear to Me.


The last section of this chapter from Verse 13 to 19
describes the ideal bhakta (devotee) who conforms to a
contemplative type, as the Gita understands him. We notice
at once the difference between the usual devotee in the
minds of most people, especially in India, and what is
presented here. The devotee here is hardly distinguishable
from the contemplative mystic or yogi. The only trait that
marks him out is his retiring nature. He is a type who wants
to be left alone and at peace with himself.

Such a type is hardly one that could be expected to fight
with that zeal which is demanded of Arjuna (in the last
chapter). At best he would perhaps conform to the pattern of
Socrates fighting for the Athenian city-state, familiar to
us through Plato's "Symposium".

The difference in style and outlook here can be justified
only in the light of the fact that it was again within the
parenthetical brackets of Samjaya's words that the
inducement to war was recommended by Krishna in Chapter
xi. Now that the bracket of such a literary device has been
effectively closed; when the style after xi, 50, as we have
noticed, is again the normal one of the Gita, the toning down
here of the personal attitude of the devotee is understandable.
This section, moreover, does not refer to bhakti (devotion)
as something to be actively cultivated from the side of the
devotee, but rather refers to conformity to the will of the
Absolute by which the devotee is said to become dear to the
Absolute, as stated in the termination of almost every verse
from 13 to 19.

The reference in verse 13 to being equalized in pain and
happiness does not suggest any more a bhakta than a
contemplative yogi. The principal feature of the yoga of
the Gita lies in the concept of samya (equalization) as
recognized by Arjuna in vi 33. There is a regular definition
of Yoga itself as consisting of samatvam (equanimity), in ii,


Even in Chapter v,wherein renunciation is the principal theme,
we find in Verses 19 and 20 the same idea of equanimity or
equalization given due importance. Thus, whether it is action,
renunciation, or devotion, this equalization of two counterparts
is a common distinguishing feature of the perfected yogi,
irrespective of the section of chapter where it is discussed.
If we keep this in mind, the rest of this section (Verses 13
to 19 inclusive) hardly needs further comment.


yasman no 'dvijate loko
lokan no 'dvijate chayah
harshamarsha bhayodvegair
mukto yah sa cha me priyah

He who does not disturb (the peace of) the world and (whose
peace) is not disturbed by the world, and who is free from
exaggerations of joy, haste and fear, he too is dear to Me.


The neutrality and lack of exaggeration in the attitude of
the bhakta (devotee) are referred to here. We know in the
Puranas (religious legends) and in the Indian scene generally
that a great place is given to exaggerated emotionalism,
from what might be called "Lord-Lordism "or "Krishna-
Krishnaism" to ecstasies of joy, horripilation or tears, all
of which pass under the name of bhakti (devotion). The Gopis
(milkmaids) of Brindavan lost themselves in their love for
Krishna, which is another form of popular devotion in India
coming under erotic mysticism. Now, however much such types
of emotion may be justified in the context of religious
legends or Puranas, such exaggerated ways of devotion are
not at all countenanced in the Gita, as definitely expressed
in the phrase harshamarsha bhayodvegair mukto (free from
exaggerations of joy, haste and fear).

Such emotions do have their natural place in the Puranic
literature of India, and in some of the texts such as the
Narada Bhakti Sutras and even in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras
where there is reference to Isvarapranidhana (worshipping
Isvara) as an alternative in Yoga. In Vedantic literature
however, bhakti (devotion) is referred to by writers like
Sankara in the Viveka Chudamani (Verse 31) as meditation
on the Self.

All exaggerations are thus discredited in the Gita and
even in the Vishnu Purana, as Radhakrishnan quotes in his


"Introductory Essay to The Bhagavad Gita" (p. 65).
Bhaktiratmanusandhanam (devotion is constant meditation
on the Self) is also found as a definition in the Bhakti
Darsana (Reality Viewed as Devotion) of Narayana Guru's
Darsana Mala (Garland of Visions of Reality). He adds
further that bhajatitya yadatmanam bhaktiritya bhidhiyate
(from meditating on the Self it is called devotion). Though
dualism between worshipped and worshipper is recognized
by Ramanuja and Madhva, they too give the wisdom of the
Absolute an important place in their writings on devotion.
Even modern writers like Radhakrishnan who support the
idea that the Gita is a religious classic standing for theism,
misunderstand the type of bhakti (devotion) represented in
this chapter, and give recognition to exaggerated forms of
devotion belonging to the Puranas and to the context of the
erotic mysticism of the milkmaids who fell in love with
Krishna. Radhakrishnan himself admits that such bhakti
(devotion) is more natural to women. He writes:

"As a rule the particular qualities associated with bhakti,
love and devotion, mercy and tenderness, are to be found
more in women than in men. As bhakti emphasizes humility,
obedience readiness to serve, compassion and gentle love,
as the devotee longs to surrender himself, renounce self-will
and experience passivity, it is said to be more feminine in
character"etc. (p. 61, Introductory Essay to The Bhagavad

However much such forms of bhakti (devotion) might find
their place in religious legends, we can confidently say that
the Gita discountenances them, as is sufficiently evidenced in
this chapter, and especially in this verse which condemns all
forms of excitement or exaggeration. Moreover, in this verse
we find the further definition of bhakti, by which it does not
stand out in contrast or relief as something that disturbs the
normality of human life. A true bhakta (devotee) effaces his
personality to such an extent that he leaves no mark on his
surroundings, and the surroundings on their part take no
notice of him.

In India at least, ostentatious forms of devotion, especially
collectively practised, often express themselves as disturbing
elements in social life. The love of the gopis (milkmaids) for
Krishna as related in the Bhagavata, none can deny, created
some stir in the life of the simple people of Brindavan
judging by the descriptions given. We have only to imagine
ourselves questioning Yashodha and some of the peasant
husbands to find out whether the bhakti of the Gopis to
Krishna was a disturbing factor to the people or not!
Such devotion cannot therefore be said to fit into the
requirements mentioned in this verse.


anapekshak suchir daksha
udasino gatavyathah
sarvarambha pariyogi
yo madbhaktah sa me priyah

He who neither rejoices nor hates, nor grieves nor desires,
and who has relinquished (both) the beneficial and the
harmful, such a one endowed with devotion is dear to Me.


The epithets suchi (clear, clean) and daksha (expert) do
not suggest the sloppiness or slovenliness which is often
condoned in the name of other-worldliness or mysticism. A
man of devotion is not steeped in the negative state of inert
ignorance. A contemplative is not a hobo type. The Gita
here discountenances any type of spirituality which does not
include being awake to the details of a given situation,
without which no-one could be described as daksha (expert),
i.e. a man of savoir-faire.

The epithet sarvarambha parityagi (relinquisher of all
undertakings) just means that he does not initiate any course
of action as a conscious agent. He participates in life only
as a boat would go downstream.

The expression anapekshah (one who expects no favours)
indicates his neutral poise, in the same way as the
other term udasinah (one who sits unconcerned). This
picture of a contemplative can hardly be made to
correspond to what is required of a warrior on the


yo na hrishyati na dveshti
na sochati na kankshati
subhasubha parityagi
bhaktimanyah sa me priyah

He who expects no favours, who is clean, expert, who sits
unconcerned, carefree, who has relinquished all undertakings,
he My devotee is dear to Me.


Subhasubha parityagi (relinquisher of both the beneficial
and the harmful) raises the devotee at once from the merely


ethical and social level to one who is above mere virtues in
the usual sense, and makes him conform to the mystical or
Upanishadic way of life. He should not be confounded with
that ostentatious type of devotee who, like the Pharisee,
prays in public, or who puts the leaf of the tulsi plant
(ocymum basilicum, the sacred basil of India) which has
been distributed from the temple altar, on his ear in order
to declare his devotion, and about whom one should beware,
according to Sri Ramakrishna.


samah satrau cha mitre cha
tatha manapamanayoh
sitoshna sukhaduhkheshu
samah sangavivarjitah

tulyanindastutir mauni
samtushto yena kenachit
aniketah sthiramatir
bhaktimam me priyo narah

He who is the same to foe and friend, and also in honour
and dishonour, who is the same in cold and heat, in pleasure
and pain, and who is free from attachment;

to whom censure and praise are equal, who is silent
(in manner), content with whatever happens to come, having
no fixed abode, mentally constant, such a man of devotion is
dear to Me.


These verses supplement the description of the type of
contemplative recommended by the Gita. When all the
different qualifications are put together we get the picture
of a man who is at once both a yogi and a bhakta (devotee).
There are other sequences of descriptive verses (e.g., ii,
57 et seq.; xiii, 6 et seq.; and xiv, 22 et seq.) which
illustrate spiritually advanced types, according to the
grades to which they belong. Narayana Guru cites them
when he speaks of different stages of nirvana (pure or
absolute consciousness, with the "blowing out" of desires)
in the last chapter of his Darsana Mala (Garland of
Visions of Reality), and such graded types are also
mentioned in the Yoga Vasishtha, a compendious textbook
on Vedanta, in the form of copiously illustrative
stories related by the Guru Vasishtha to the young Rama,
where the


varieties are called bhumikas (grounds or steps). The
interested reader would profit by a comparative study of
these texts.

Aniketah sthiramatih (having no fixed abode, mentally
constant) is another of those double-edged expressions
peculiar to the Gita. The lack of constancy in the physical
sense is at once counteracted by a constant loyalty to the
mental ideal which is here the Absolute, and while the
devotee is at home in regard to the Absolute he does not
care where his body finds itself lodged. All tendency to a
closed, static or parochial form of spirituality tends to
be abolished by this condition.


ye tu dharmyamritam idam
yathoktam paryupasate
sraddadhana matparama
bhaktas te 'tiva me priyah

But they who cherish devotedly this righteous immortal
value, as stated, endowed with faith, with Me for
Supreme, these devotees are exceedingly dear to Me.


Here it is not the individual devotee conforming to the
pattern described in the previous verses who is referred to,
but a more general and wider group of persons who
legitimately ought to be considered according to the Gita as
conforming to the requirements of a devotion of a very high

The term Yathoktam (as stated) must refer to all those
who have not been covered by the specific reference of the
section just concluded. Whether this reference includes
those of verse 5 who were attracted to the Unmanifested is
not explicitly stated, but the type of contemplative in verses
3 and 4 is certainly within the scope of this reference. Then
the expression dharmyamritam idam (this eternally righteous
value) gives us an indication of what is implied here.

Clearly it is not a person that is referred to by the phrase "The Unmanifested Impersonal" could be conceived by some rare devotees as an immortal value that does not violate the laws  of existence or being.

Such a devotee is given a superior status to all the other types alluded to.

We see, however, in xiv, 27 that this Impersonal value
referred to here is equated with the absolutist personality
of Krishna. The idea of an eternally righteous value is treated
personally and impersonally, indifferently, in the Gita.


The difficulty mentioned in Verse 5 that applies to others
does not apply to this rare type of devotee here mentioned by
way of rounding off the discussion. By this verse, we see that
the Gita does not limit itself to the opinion that only personal
devotion can bring a man to the highest form of perfection.
In the light of vii, 17, where the man of wisdom is praised,
the view that we have taken becomes further justified.
It is usual for people to refer to the head and heart as
if to say that what is gained by wisdom is taken away from
feeling, implying thereby that the same man cannot be wise
and kind or devoted at the same time. Swami Vivekananda's
favourite saying, in which he contrasts Sankara and the
Buddha, the former as having a wise head and the latter as
having a warm heart, has influenced the ideas of more than a
generation of Vedantic enthusiasts, both at home and abroad.
But according to the present chapter, it must be sufficiently
clear that the devotion which implies peace has its start in
wisdom and its main expression in renunciation as stated in

The word matparama (with Me for Supreme) might suggest even
in this verse, personal worship, but being a secondary epithet
and upasana (worship, cherish) applying primarily to the eternal
value, our suggestion that no personality is directly implied
here may be justified.

Therefore, on final analysis, as stated in this last verse, we
find that the Gita gives to the men of philosophic vision even
a higher place than to those who conform to the requirements
of devotion in their attitudes and ways.


ity srimad bhagavadgitasupanishatsu brahmavidyayam
yogasastre srikrishnarjunasamvade
bhaktiyoga nama dvadaso 'dhyayah

Thus ends in the Upanishads of the Songs of God,
in the Science of the Wisdom of the Absolute, in
the Dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna, the
Twelfth Chapter entitled Unitive Devotion and