Summary of Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12 (Becoming a Jivanmukta) (118)


Lesson 118 summarizes CH12 in context of seekers journey. It's a chapter about your endeavor from total ignorance to complete knowledge. It shows us the progression of devotion to the highest.

Source: Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12, SUMMARY

Summary of Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12:

  • In CH12, Lord Krishna condenses essence of Four Vedas in 20 verses.
  • How does CH12 start?
    • In CH11, Krishna revealed to Arjuna that entire universe of names-forms, laws-orders are manifestations of One Intelligence.
    • So from standpoint of manifested universe (you’re experiencing now), this infinite Intelligence is called: viśva-rūpa-īśvaraḥ.
    • Arjuna’s mistake in CH11 was he witnessed viśva-rūpa (as though) an existence different from his own. So he pushed the physical world away. This act of pushing away (instead of embracing), sustained his perturbed mind.
      • Therefore all restlessness can be traced to one root cause: putting things under the carpet.
        • Meaning:
          • (a) Choosing not to use free will to look into the troubling persistent thoughts.
          • (b) Resisting what-is-infront-of-me, instead of taking time to get curious about it.
  • CH12, VERSE 1: Arjuna’s fear of the world motivated him to solve it.
    • So he asked Krishna: To resolve my perturbed mind (the one obstacle denying me from capturing the final reality), which is better bhakti: saguna OR nirguṇa?
    • What is:
      • saguṇa bhakti:
        • Entire karma-kāṇḍa section of Vedas. Every spiritual practice other then jñāna-yoga.
      • nirguṇa bhakti:
        • Self-knowledge, specifically found in Upanishads, Brahma Sūtra, Bhagavad Gītā (CH2, 7, 9, 13, etc).
        • Can also mean mokṣa whereby devotion is spontaneous and effortless.
  • Krishna answers: It’s not a matter of “better”, but a matter of qualifications. Meaning saguṇa-bhakti qualifies the aspirant to nirguṇa-bhakti.
  • Then Krishna enters two topics:
    • (1) bhakti sādhana: V3-12. Range of practices (specifically Karma Yoga, Upāsana Yoga, Jñāna Yoga). It’s not any one particular, but all.
    • (2) bhakti phalam: V13-19.


    • 1) Karma Yoga – Level 1:
      • When person is born, they carry forward from past life (a) puṇya/pāpa karma (b) unfulfilled desires (unfinished business).
        • Both a/b make up this life’s prārabdha-karma (destiny), which itself is modified by free will (puruṣārtha).
        • This means, it’s unwise to tell young person that desires are “bad”, or to supress them. Because prarabdha-karma is too strong.
      • Question: What practice to prescribe so this person channels the force of their prārabdha, into a spiritual sadhana? Because if prarabdha is left untamed, it’ll lead to ongoing cycles of rebirth.
        • Answer: Person is allowed to do any action to fulfill his/her desire. But whatever happens, see the result as a blessing OR response from the Intelligence. Ishvara prasada.
    • 2) Karma Yoga – Level 2:
      • Eventually bhakta becomes mindful of this Intelligence not only in results, but also in one’s actions.
      • Therefore bhakta’s actions become a form of devotion to this Intelligence, and not just for my sake.
      • This attitude purifies/expands the mind.
        • How does it expand/purify?
          • Long as actions are done for my sake, they’ll continue sustaining personal should-ism (likes/dislikes).
          • What’s the effect of should-ism? A narrow version of reality.
          • Whereas when notice your actions are influence the whole world, then actions become more responsible. Thus transforming the personality.
    • 3) Upāsana Yoga – Level 1:
      • In CH12, called: abhyāsa-yoga.
      • KY L2 lessened mind’s agitations (should-ism’s), thus person becomes qualified for meditation.
      • What kind of meditation?
        • Personalized, customized meditation that bhakta feels attracted to.
        • UY L1 is about iṣṭa-deva; I am attempting to contact/enjoy my version of Divinity according to my notions.
    • 4) Upāsana Yoga – Level 2:
      • UY L1 makes buddhi refined enough to question the one’s own iṣṭa-deva.
        • Persons gets suspicious at divisions of Gods. They’re all bound within time-space. Who created time-space?
      • Therefore “iṣṭa-deva” notion becomes extended to entire universe, called: viśva-rūpa-īśvaraḥ.
        • Lord is everything. Everything is Lord.
    • 5) Jñāna-Yoga:
      • Prior 4 stages have made buddhi Capable of grasping subtler realities.
      • Thus final stage is whereby the mind inquiries into the non-changing Awareness that’s illumining the mind (thought, emotion) and the body (sensations).
      • What is jñāna-yoga?
        • Consistent and systematic Vedantic study of a length of time, under guidance of a competent ācāryaḥ.
          • Competent means:
            • (a) Grasped reality, and continues to learn/refine themselves.
            • (b) Teaches wide range of topics per Vedic Isn’t selective.
          • Exception (very rare): Guidance of ācārya isn’t always the case. Some carry over lots of culmination from past life.
            • EG: Ramanujan (math), Ramana M, Nisargadatta (had faith in teacher). Even silent teaching (reminder to still the mind).
      • 3 Stages of jñāna-yoga:
        • śravaṇam: Expound Vedanta.
        • mananam: Removal of doubts.
        • nididhyāsanam: repeatedly reminding my higher nature to myself.
          • Irresponsibility in partial schools of Vedanta:
            • They go straight to nididhyāsanam. Meaning teaching mostly consists of REMINDING the seeker of his/her highest nature.
            • This is highly ineffective (next to useless), because:
              • (a) previous 4 sādhanās haven’t qualified the mind to hold the vision. That’s why seeker gets frustrated through time.
              • (b) śravaṇam, mananam was skipped.


    • V13-19.
    • How to know jñāna-yoga is working?
      • The knowledge has an emotional transformation in your personality.
      • If it doesn’t, continue 5 sādhanas (they’re not clear cut, but always in mixture).
    • Explanation how self-knowledge has emotional impact:
      • STEP 1: Understand ignorance is problem of buddhi
        • Everyone is born ignorant. Math, walking/eating, language, etc.
        • As we learn, we remove ignorance of ___. As we do, there is a certain relief.
          • So far:
            • 1) Where does knowledge and removal of ignorance take place? Buddhi.
            • 2) Emotion (like relief) is just a by-product of having removed ignorance within the buddhi.
          • Meaning ignorance of my real Identity is also within scope of buddhi.
      • STEP 2: Motive for removing ignorance?
        • Why do we remove ignorance in the first place? Because it’s painful, frustrating to NOT know. It reminds us of our smallness.
          • Meaning we can’t stand ignorance because everyone inherently knows “My nature is all-knowledge, all-power”.
            • EG: Some find their own ignorance so repulsive, can’t even spend a min in conversations with topics they have little knowledge about.
      • STEP 3: Many emotional issues stem from “inherent smallness”.
        • Over time, person notices removing relative ignorance doesn’t remove my sense of smallness.
        • This leads to low self-esteem, inferiority/superiority complex, greed for more, jealously, anger (when desire is obstructed).
        • SUMMARY:
          • Root of problem is ignorance about “I AM”. Effect of this ignorance is emotional disharmony in various forms.
          • Therefore, the more ignorance of “I AM” is removed, the more emotional harmony body-mind enjoys in respect to inner/outer world.
            • BG 4.37: There is nothing as purifying as knowledge. Fire of knowledge consumes every sin.
    • What is the benefit of self-knowledge while alive?
      • Change of relationship to 3 roles (we conduct while living):
        • Role of doer (kartā).
          • Jīvanmukta’s actions NOT born out of incompleteness. But done out of fulness.
          • Since mind isn’t mulling over it’s smallness, it’s more available to present tasks, thus performance in relative world is improved.
        • Role of enjoyer (bhoktā) / experiencer.
          • Since Jīvanmukta operates from fullness, it helps one absorb challenging times.
        • Role of perceiver (how the individual looks at the world).
          • Jīvanmukta’s knowledge about nature of this world is firm (intelligent/material cause). Hence it perceives it with sanctity. Everything is worthy of worship.
          • EG: Three people are building a temple. Ask each, “What are you doing?”
            • One person is breaking stones, another building temple, another facilitating connection between God and people.
      • SUMMARY: Therefore the true jīvanmuktaḥ is ironically the most prayerful, devotional.
        • Fake spirituality is talking/teaching Oneness, yet life lacks an aspect of devotion, or dismissing objects in this universe.
        • The more enthusiastic/proactive you are in life, the more spiritual. Because your place in this universe is not insignificant, because it’s within the scope of Ishvara’s grand order.

Keywords: abhyasa-yoga, bhokta, brahma sutra, ista-deva, istha-devata, isvara prasada, jivanmukta, jnana-yoga, karma-kanda, karta, nididhyasana, nirguna, papa-karma, prarabdha-karma, punya-karma, purusartha, purushartha, saguna, shravanam, upasana yoga, vishva-rupa, visva-rupa

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

Recorded 16 March, 2021


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