Arjuna Asks How to Achieve Moksha & Best Spiritual Path (108)


Lesson 108 gives overview what CH12 is about, what is Bhakti-Yoga? Arjuna asks who is the best kind of devotee (closest to liberation)? Krishna doesn't answer directly because question is faulty.

Source: Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12, Structure, Verse 1, Verse 2

Structure of Gita Chapters to Give Context to CH12::

  • CH 2-5: individual (jiva).
    • Culminates in CH6 (jiva turning mind inwards onto the acknowledgement of the meditator).
  • CH 7-11: Ishvara and jagat (universe/world).
    • CH7-9: How universe comes about.
    • CH10: Recognizing presence of Īśvara in individual forms.
    • CH11: Recognizing that the essence of ALL forms is Īśvara.
  • CH7-11 culminates to CH12: Jivas devotion to Ishvara.
    • So CH6/12 are chapters of practicing the theory.
  • Arjuna condition: He is filled with reverence for God. Only possible because Arjuna:
    • 1) Got educated about Ishvara orders… including creation, sustenance, destruction. (CH7-9).
    • 2) Took a tour of Bhagavan’s glories (CH10).
      • EG: Sun, Himalaya, Brahma Vidya, Letter ‘’, ganga.
    • 3) Came to appreciate Bhagavan’s cosmic vision (CH11) by means of divya-caksu.
    • Result of 1-3, Arjuna’s heart filled with devotion.


  • Bhakti-Yoga means: Aligning (associating) your thoughts/choices/actions to presence of Ishvara’s orders (like dharma, karma). OR Keeping Ishvara in and through daily events.
    • EG: Culture that emphasises presence of God = devotion is prominent throughout life.
  • Bhakti Yoga is not one specific sadhana. It’s a name given to range of spiritual sadhanas, which culminate to moksha.
  • Specifically bhakti-yoga refers to 3 sadhanas in Vedas: Karma-Yoga, Upasana-Yoga, Jnana-Yoga.
    • In Vedas/Upanishads, word “bhakti-yoga” is not used at all. It’s a word that came later in Bhagavad Gita and other complimentary texts.
  • Krishna further refines 3 sadhanas into 5 for more specificity.
    • Karma Yoga: Level 1/2.
    • Upāsana Yoga: Level 1/2.
    • Jñāna-Yoga.


  • Level 1: sakāma-bhakti
    • For personalities which:
      • Consider kama/artha (money/entertainment) purpose of life.
        • Dharma: Self-growth is considered unnecessary because can’t see how it can bring immediately satisfaction compared to kama/artha.
      • Giving/contributing to others is an alien concept (except to close associates).
      • Disinterested in spirituality/moksha. Except holy place occasionally.
    • Krishna says, these types shouldn’t suppress fulfillment of desires because mind will continue fantasizing. They should continue pursuing world goals, long as 2 conditions are met (to be qualified as Karma-Yogi):
      • Condition 1: Fulfillment of desires should be legitimate/honest.
      • Condition 2: When receive results of own actions, before enjoying them, first consider them as gifts from the Lord. Īśvara prasāda.
        • EG: If buy/rent house, look upon it as temple of God. Then imagine living in that temple, gifted by Parameshvara.
    • RESULT?
      • Level 1 trains the mind to acknowledge presence of Bhagavan in everything.
      • Through time, Level 1 cultivates vairagyam (dispassion for things) & viveka (discernment that all things are fleeting).
        • Both make person realize that only taking from this world, limits the human experience. Slowly person considers contributing. This leads to Level 2…
  • Level 2: niṣkāma-bhakti
    • In Level 1, “success” was defined “how much I am gaining”. In Level 2, “success” is upgraded to “how much am I giving?”.
      • This is not selfless giving (where person neglects themselves).
    • In Level 2, you develop alertness of others needs. Consideration for the environment. Sensitivity to existence of other beings.
    • Person gets attracted to activities where you can give your time, energy, effort, words, knowledge… even if not paid.
  • Once person has gone through Karma-Yoga L1/2, they’re ready to graduate to Upāsana.


    • What is upāsana-yoga? Mentally dwelling upon the object of meditation. This includes all yoga practices in like: rāja/kriya/kundalini/ashtanga.
    • Why does upāsana COME AFTER karma-yoga?
      • Karma Yoga Level 1/2 keeps mind focused on world.
      • Extrovertedness is obstacle to concentration. Without concentration, inquiring into nature of reality is impossible OR too short (leading to shallow understanding).
      • Therefore in upāsana, the bhakta invokes Lord within the heart (puts spotlight on oneself).
    • Meditation has 2 levels…
  • Level 1: eka-rūpa-īśvara-dhyānam
    • Abhyāsa-yoga: Meditating on a personal version of divinity. Could be:
      • Samadhi, symbol of Rama/Krishna, light in 3rd eye, prana movement through spine, plant medicines.
      • Sanskrit: vipaśyanā (right knowledge) OR Pāli: vipassanā.
    • Purpose is the help mind focus/concentrate for period of time.
    • Once mind is naturally focused, ready for Level 2…
  • Level 2: aneka-rūpa-īśvara-dhyānam / viśva-rūpa-īśvara-dhyānam
    • Definition of meditation changes from sitting down (mostly closed eyes) to an attitude or perspective change towards the world.
  • Once person has gone through 4 levels, then mind is certainly qualified for…


  • This is inquiry into Brahman.
  • Consists of 3 stages:
    • Śravaṇam: systematic study of Upanishadic scriptures which deal with Brahman. Culmination of study is removal of a beginningless notion that “I am an insignificant mortal individual”.
      • From standpoint of Brahman, there’s no difference between īśvara and jīva. Both are limitless.
      • From standpoint of īśvara… jīva is limited, while īśvara is limitless. Jīva has to respect this apparent fact while living.
    • Mananam: Correcting intellectual obstacles in form of doubts, of knowledge learned in śravaṇam.
    • Nididhyāsanam: Managing emotional obstacles / psychological traumas from childhood, which deny the enjoyment or full benefit of self-knowledge.
      • Most universal gauge is general cheerfulness each day. Inner smile.


  • All 3 sādhanas put together = bhakti yoga. Hence it’s incorrect to ask: Are you into bhakti OR jñānam? Because jñānam IS bhakti.
  • Every human being has to go through all 5 steps (not limited to just one lifetime). Because there’s not one person born with immediate and consistent desire to know God.
    • To be born is to come with worldly desires, else would’ve not been born.
    • That’s why majority of Vedas consists of rituals for sakāma-karma (how to design a successful life).


  • Krishna lists qualities of a perfected person. A jñāni / jivanmukta who is has correctly undergone through 3 sādhanas.
  • Krishna says such devotee is dearest to Me, because there’s no distance between us. I am one with devotee, Devotee is one with Me.


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12, Verse 1:

arjuna uvāca
evam satata-yuktāḥ ye bhaktāḥ tvām paryupāsate ।
ye ca api akṣaram avyaktam teṣām ke yoga-vittamāḥ ॥ 12-1॥
Arjuna asked – Who are the best Yōgis among them? – the eversteadfast devotees who meditate upon You as described before and (or) those who (meditate upon) the imperishable, unmanifest (Brahman) ?

  • Arjuna is asking, which bhakta is superior:
    • nirguna-meditator: (one in pursuit of self-knowledge; jnana-yoga).
      • Mind which is owning up to the fact that attributeless Reality (called Nirguna Brahman) is the very subject, I.
        • EG: What does your tongue taste like? It’s tasteless. Thus it’s able to taste flavors.
      • Per Swami Dayananda Home Study Course CH12, this meditator is also called sannyasi (life immersed in knowledge, whether liberated or not).
    • saguna-meditator: (Practices karma-yoga, upasana)
      • Mind meditates on Ishvara with attributes/qualities.
        • General understanding: Entire universe consists of beings/objects/experiences. They are all TESTIMONIES of Bhagavan’s glories.
          • Examples: Person identifies various Intelligent/Material causes within sciences. Listens to stories of God’s glories. Serves divinity through worldly duties.
  • Arjuna is indirectly asking:
    • Which is best way of worshipping Ishvara? Which path brings one more effectively (less likely to fail), and efficiently (with less steps) to moksha?
  • What is making Arjuna ask this?
    • Question based on fact that there are many paths, all seeming legit.
    • EG:
      • Some people say, God is formless, but has divine attributes (love/compassion).
      • Some say devotion to Bhagavan is best expressed through nature, idols, meditation, service to mankind, rituals.
      • Each feels “my way is BEST”.
  • Arjuna describes who practices saguna-bhakti:
    • satatayuktāḥ: Devotees who regularly meditate upon saguna-ishvara… with steadfastness, dedication.
    • This meditation can be of 2 types:
      • Karma-Yoga: Any dharmic activity performed, with acknowledgement of Ishvara.
      • Upasana: Mental activity involving contemplating upon the presence of Ishvara. Also synonymous with word dhyanam (meditation).
  • Then Arjuna describes nirguṇa-bhakti:
    • akṣaram avyaktam: Refers to nirguṇa Brahman that can’t be objectified through sense organs nor with the mind.
      • Doesn’t mean it can’t be known by the mind. It means Brahman can’t be turned into a time-bound thought in the mind.
      • Then how can one meditate upon a formless principle?
        • Owning up to the fact that Brahman is the very Subject, I… because of which all experiences are validated / known to be experienced.
        • Meditating on the meditator.
  • SUMMARY: Who of these 2 is superior?


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12, Verse 2:

Krishna speaks of the 2 types of bhaktas…

śrībhagavān uvāca
mayi āveśya manaḥ ye mām nitya-yuktāḥ upāsate ।
śraddhayā parayā upetāḥ te me yuktatamāḥ matāḥ ॥ 12-2॥
Lord Krishna said — fixing the mind upon Me with great faith, those ever-steadfast (devotees) who meditate upon Me are considered to be the best yōgis by Me.

    • Bases of Arjuna’s question comes from incomplete knowledge, which produces a faulty question.
    • EG of incomplete knowledge:
      • Ishvara is ONLY with form/qualities.
      • Isvhara is ONLY without form/qualities.
      • Why are both incomplete? Because they are limiting Reality. Both are True.
    • So best kind of devotee is one who sees no contradiction in the presence of BOTH. Meaning best kind of devotee is one who’s mind is more often absorbed in Ishvara.
      • EG: If I think Ishvara is ONLY formless, then devotee is not absorbed in Ishvara when it’s thinking about world.
  • Not to insult Arjuna’s intelligence, Krishna doesn’t answer directly.
    • Because when comparing two things, it can only be done between similar. Not dissimilar.
      • EG Similar: Want coffee or tea?
      • EG Dissimilar: Want Coffee of cup?
    • In reference to nirguna/saguna-bhakti, one is a means (method), other is end (destination).
      • Devotee has to go through saguna-bhakti to reach nirguna-bhakti.
  • Krishna answers anyway:
    • Saguna-bhaktas are superior. While nirguna-bhaktas attain Me.
    • He says this because just to ask a faulty question, implies you need saguna-bhakti to refine the mind.
  • He says, mayi āveśya manaḥ ye mām nitya-yuktāḥ upāsate: Some practice meditation upon Me.
    • How do they meditate? nitya-yuktāḥ, ever steadfast and committed.
      • Story EG: Gopīs of Vrindavan (Krishna spent childhood; Uttar Pradesh, northern) loved young Krishna. They sang, danced for Him. Waited for Him. Made butter for Him. Lived for Him. After Krishna left, Shri Uddhava went to Vrindavan and saw Gopis in pain from separation from Krishna (God). He said “Why don’t you forget Him and worship someone else. He heartlessly left you all”. They replied, “We would if we could. Unfortunately we have one mind that has been stolen by Krishna. With what then shall we worship anyone else?”.
  • Krishna continues: They are endowed with, upetāḥ parayā śraddhayā: FULL faith in scriptures, guru, ishvara.
    • What is PARTIAL faith?
      • Lord is omniscient (all-knowledge), yet I tell Him my sorrows.
      • Lord is omnipotent (all-power), yet I worry if He can help me in accomplishing my Goal.
      • Lord is omnipresent (all-pervading), but don’t see Him in myself.
      • Jesus: “O ye men of little faith!”
    • What is FULL FAITH? Story…
      • Man worshipped Ganesha for years. One day he was in trouble. Prayed to Ganesha, but problem wasn’t solved. In anger, he puts Ganesha on top shelf of alter. Replacing with Shiva. He notices incense smoke entering trunk of Ganesha. In anger, stuffs trunk with cotton. Seeing this, Lord was pleased and appeared before the man, and said, “For first time, you showed faith that idol wasn’t just piece of stone, but a living, breathing God.”
    • Why need strong faith?
      • Because saguna-dhyanam provides delayed results, like: self-growth, expansion of mind, purity, sensitivity, sharpness. All takes time and is subtle to detect.


Keywords: aneka-rupa, eka-rupa, isvara, iswara, jivanmukta, jnana, jnana-yoga, jnani, nididhyasana, nishkama, niskama, raja, sadhana, shravana, sravana, upasana, vipashyana, vipassana, vipasyana, vishvarupa, visva-rupa, visvarupa

Credit for help in Bhagavad Gita teaching given to Swami Dayananda (Arsha Vidya), Paramarthananda & Chinmaya Mission.

Recorded 12 Jan, 2021


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