Conquering Rebirth of Samsara & Why So Many Gods/Deities? (Symbolism & Meaning) (61)


Lesson 61 finishes remedies for removing grip of samsara. Then compares dvaita vs. advaita bhakti (dualistic vs. non-dual devotion). We then discover that one only ever loves oneself, because we always love for OUR sake; not for another's sake. Finally we learn symbolism/meaning of countless deities in various religions.

Source: Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 7 – verse 17, 18, 19, 20


  • Problem of saṃsāra in 13th Krishna talks of remedy for saṃsāra verse 14-19. Today session we finish up to V19.
  • Continued saṃsāra is caused by 3 major urges of humans:
    1. Security.
    2. Permanence: something to hold onto.
    3. Fulfillment in life / happiness: pūrṇatvam, ānanda.
  • And problem is human does NOT know where to find them. TRUE source/origin is beyond their knowledge. This causes search in aparā-prakṛti (lower nature of perishable creation). Example…
    1. Security: perishable/bound by time.
    2. Permanence: tampered by events in time.
    3. Pūrṇatvam: everything in creation = FINITE/LIMITED (apūrṇaḥ)
  • TRUE source of 3 urges is parā-prakṛti (higher nature of Īśvara).
  • Chāndogya Upaniṣad says: na alpe sukham asti
    • Alpa (finite) cannot give happiness, because sukham is expression of pūrṇatvam (fullness).
      • And if gives happiness, then FAKE (temporary). Reason why upon getting desired object, we soon DISCOVER it has no significant ānanda. Motivates continued desiring.
      • Meaning expectations fail which leads to sorrow, disappointment, discouragement.
    • Accumulated consequences of above is called: saṃsāra (yo vai bhūmā tat amṛtam)
  • What is remedy to saṃsāra?
    • Acknowledge pūrṇa (fullness / beyond time-space) alone gives fulfillment (ānanda).
    • Convert existing life, into life of bhakti.
    • Krishna divided bhakta in 4 types: ārtaḥ, arthārthi, jijñāsuḥ, jñāni.
    • Amongst 4 bhaktās, only jñāni fulfils 3 urges (enjoys infinite & permanent security / fulfillment).


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 7 – Verse 17:

teṣāṃ jñānī nityayukta ekabhaktirviśiṣyate |
priyo hi jñānino'tyarthamahaṃ sa ca mama priyaḥ ||

Among them the wise who is ever steadfast (and) who has undivided devotion is superior, for I am very dear to the wise man and he is very dear to Me.


  • Having spoken of 4 levels of bhakti, mind will compare and wishes to know who is GREATEST. Krishna answers Verse 17.
  • teṣām jñāni viśiṣyate: Among 4 bhaktās OR 4 levels of bhakti, the jñāni bhakta (devotee) excels (viśiṣyate) all others.
    • Important point because this śloka (verse) removes certain misconceptions. They are…
      • People think devotee can follow bhakti ALONE and attain liberation, WITHOUT coming to jñānam. EG: Hari Krishna 1966, popularized by Prabhupada, Gita As It Is.
      • They say jñānam is most difficult, driest sādhana. In Kaliyuga, proper jñāna-yoga is impossible. “Hence I will follow bhakti.”
      • CORRECTION: Realize both bhakti & karma-yoga is meant for attaining purity ONLY. But one cannot escape from stage of jñānam. Last stage ALL pass through before mokṣa.
      • WHAT IS Jñāna-yoga?
        • Meditation? No. Reproduce only what already know.
        • Answered 4.34: Systematic and consistent study of śāstra for length of time – under guidance of competent ācāryaḥ.
        • What TYPE of śāstra? one which deals with LOWER & HIGHER nature of Īśvara. Aparā/parā. Nirguṇa/saguṇa svarūpam.
          • EG: Some who study Bhāgavatam filter out nirguṇa portion. Talks about Ajamila / Jada Bharata upākyānam (short tales).
            And when nirguṇa section comes, they SKIP! Like school teachers leave portions out, because won’t be in exam. Such attitude is unacceptable for a serious Vedāntic student.
            Because any vedic scripture is result of a sophisticated mind. Thus following them as prescribed, without skipping any portions, is meant to help individual become a fully integrated human being.
      • Whoever is a jñāni, cannot have bhakti. Because it is seen as dvaitam. What am I devoting to?!!
      • CORRECTION: If feel like this, then only studying Vedānta. Not applying. If applying, then bhakti increases. Because WHOLE is made up of both parā & aparā. Vedāntin is never away from either.
    • SUMMARY: Krishna says, amongst all devotees, jñāni is viśiṣyate (greatest).
      • What kind of jñāni? Advaitam, parā-prakṛti, nirguṇa Īśvara jñāni.
  • Why does the jnani excel (viśiṣyate)? Because nityayuktaḥ, ever established in My nature. Ever steadfast.
    • In dvaita bhakti, Īśvara subject to arrival/departure.
    • In advaita bhakti, self never away from Īśvara. And Īśvara is never away from self. Non-distinguishable.
    • Meaning jñāni is:
      • Īśvara niṣṭhā: firmly rooted AS the highest Truth.
      • Abheda bhakta: Abheda – absence of distinction between vyaṣṭi/samaṣṭi.
        • EG: Stevia/sugarcane are different. But essence of both is sweetness.
  • Since jñāni is greatest, it means he/she has most LoVE. We explain…
    • Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upanishad poses a question: What does human being love most?
      • Most reply: Spouse, child, mother, father, etc.
    • However Upaniṣad says: na vā are patyuḥ kāmāya patiḥ priyo bhavati, are patyur kāmāya patis priyas bhavati ātmanastu kāmāya patiḥ priyo bhavati | na vā are jāyāyai kāmāya jāyā priyā bhavati, ātmanastu kāmāya jāyā priyā bhavati |
    • Meaning: No one loves anyone. Everyone loves oneself only. A bitter truth.
      • Why is above the case? Because I want object of love for my sake. Not for your sake. Meaning, love is conditional/partial.
      • For example, western popularized I love you” phrase…
        • My self-love towards myself is doubtful. So I NEED you to keep reassuring “I am worthy of love”.
        • All time I fear you may leave me, then I’ll no longer be loved. So I need reassurance you won’t leave me, for MY SAKE!
        • In both cases, I am only interested in my happiness. I keep loving you or making you happy because your happiness makes me happy. So I love YOU for MY sake. Not for your sake. If you stop loving me, I’ll find someone else to love me.
        • Meaning: as long as external factors are conducive to me feeling loved, all is oK. Soon as they become unconducive, like burnt pancake, I REJECT.
      • Supported by Bhaja Govindam, Verse 5:
        • Long as I am productive EARNING member, I get extra respect. once retired, respect goes. I mostly take care of myself.
        • This is reason why many in old age feel rejected. “I was respected until now”.
    • OBJECTION TO ABOVE: “I disagree. I do love with all my heart!”
      • Answer: Even if things are loved, it is conditional.
      • What is the condition?
        • Object of love SHOULD be favorable to me. Moment it becomes unfavourable, I begin thinking of getting out.
        • Meaning if person/object is useful/helpful/functional, it IS loved. Why is it loved? Because object’s existence gives meaning/security to my life in some way.
        • Even love of God is conditional. For example…
          • After bhakta prays to God, but problems keep coming, then bhakta STOPS praying. Meaning I WANT to love God as long as God is favourable to my needs.
  • How is Jñāni’s love/bhakti unconditional or greatest?
    • Self-love is identical with Īśvara. Because there is only Īśvara. Thus self-love is not different from Īśvara-love.
    • Meaning jñāni only ever loves Īśvara, since Īśvara is never away from self (ātman).
      • Whereas non-jñāni also loves self, but partial self owning to intellects ignorance of what self is. (IE: Self = body-mind-intellect)
    • Therefore for jñāni, Īśvara-love = self-love. And self-love = Īśvara love. Identical whichever way looked from.
  • ekabhaktirviśiṣyate: Such jñāni has undivided attention. That’s why it’s superior. (Because it’s non-partitioned).
    • For jñāni, I am (Krishna says) dearest one. Because jñāni identified myself (Īśvara) with him/herself. For that reason, I (Krishna) become dearest to him/her.
  • ahaṃ sa ca mama priyaḥ: I am dearest to jñāni because he is CLOSEST to Me (Īśvara). Because both are identical.


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 7 – Verse 18:

udārāḥ sarva evaite jñānī tvātmaiva me matam |
āsthitaḥ sa hi yuktātmā māmevānuttamāṃ gatim ||

All these (devotees) are certainly noble. However the wise man is myself — this is my teaching. Because, with a steadfast mind, he has resorted to Me alone who am the highest goal.


  • Because of Verse 17, other bhakta types may feel bad. Bhagavān votes for jñāni only, doesn’t like rest of us!
  • So Krishna reassures, udārāḥ sarva evaite, all devotees are indeed great. Whether it is ārtaḥ, arthārthī, jijñāsu or jñāni.
    • only difference, jñānī tvātmaiva me matamjñāni is indistinguishable to Me (Īśvara).
      • For others types, bhakta and God are DIFFERENT. Hence love towards God is conditional only.
      • Hence this line is a mahāvākya. Because it declares aikyam (sameness) between jñāni and Bhagavān.
  • What is the greatness of a jñāni? sa hi yuktātmā, has a committed/integrated mind.
    • Very clear about purpose in life. Direction/destination are glowing.
    • Puruṣa of commitment.
  • Hence, mām anuttamāṃ gatim āsthitaḥ, he/she has come to highest goal of life, which is myself (Īśvara).
    • Whereas ārtaḥ & arthārthi also have goals, but inferior/finite. For example in the Bhāgavatam, there’s a story of couple who wanted a child. Disinterested in mokṣa.
      • They prayed to ṛṣi for a healthy child. The child came. But dies soon. (Where birth, also potential for death).
      • Couple mourn and ask ṛṣi for boon to talk to child in another loka.
      • Couple tell child “We are your parents. You are our child”. To which the child replies: “Which parents are you talking about?”.
        • This means, with regards to each particular body, we have particular parent. When child dropped the body, relationship if BROKEN.
      • Couple then realized: ārtaḥ & arthārthī are RELATIVE accomplishments.
  • CONCLUSION: Any gain other then permanent Īśvara, is inferior. Because it will end – because it is RELATIVE to something else. Whereas Īśvara is not a relative accomplishment, but highest/absolute.


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 7 – Verse 19:

bahūnāṃ janmanāmante jñānavān māṃ prapadyate |
vāsudevaḥ sarvamiti sa mahātmā sudurlabhaḥ ||

At the end of many births one comes to ME as a wise man (with the wisdom) that Vasudeva is everything. Such a noble soul is very rare.


  • Krishna states 4 bhakti stages can not be done in a single janma (birth). Takes time.
  • Demonstration why ārtaḥ / arthārthī by themselves can take lifetimes:
    • Imagine don’t have water. Bhagavān asks “Want water or Me?”.
    • Person responds: You are eternal. I can have you ANYTIME. But WATER is urgent. So give me water NOW. I will have you later!
      • Question: When do things not appear urgent or important? NEVER! All day, we only ask for water.
      • Meaning our usual attitude is when problem comes, first request is REMOVAL of problem/unpleasantness.
        • EG: Hungry person wants food from God, not Gītā.
    • Meaning in time, we get HABITUATED to using bhakti for worldly accomplishments.
      • This is called: sakāma bkhati (selfish desire). Does not incur pāpam, if used dharmically.
    • What happens next?
      • Eventually sakāma gets boring (same old), and turns 1st gear jijñāsu stage. For example at 93 we say “I’ve seen everything!”. Then person dies.
      • However in next janma, one is less interested in the world. And more interested in Spirituality. Early 2nd gear jijñāsu stage.
  • OBJECTION: So I have to go through many lifetimes to convert to jijñāsu/jñāni? Don’t assume this is your 1st You have ALREADY started. Thus pessimism is unrealistic.
  • bahūnāṃ janmanām ante: end of many janmās, one will begin to VALUE freedom (mokṣa) more then selfish desires (sakāma / manda bhakti).
    • mumukṣutvam develops gradually. Eventually though much śravaṇam, mananam, nididhyāsanam – one is sublimated/sanctified to jñāni-bhakta.
  • And this jñāni-bhakta, mām prapadyate, attains Me. Becomes ONE with Me. As though merges into Me. Gap between him/herself and Me is removed.
  • What it jñāni’s jñānam (knowledge)? vāsudevaḥ sarvam
    • Vāsudeva Krishna is everything. Parā/aparā.
    • It’s not referring to personal God Krishna. Because word “sarvam” is used. Everything.
      • EG: If stop thinking about personal God, then God vanishes. Thus disqualified from “sarvam”.
      • EG: Krishna has some body features, but not others. EG: He is 180cm tall, but not 150cm tall. Hence limited features are disqualified from “sarvam”.
    • Hence Vāsudeva Krishna refers to infinite brahman.
      • Vāsuḥ refers to sat: existence in which all beings enjoy their existence.
      • Devaḥ refers to cit: Awareful Īśvara.
  • sa mahātmā: such jñāni alone is a mahātma, greatest seeker, noblest soul (living being).
  • Finally, sudurlabhaḥ: such noblest soul is extremely rare.
    • Rare because in 7.3, Krishna said: Many do not want mokṣa. Those who want, few come to jñāni-bhakta stage.
  • So Arjuna, strive to attain jñāni-bhakta (uttamam-bhakti) in THIS lifetime!


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 7 – Verse 20:

kāmaistaistairhṛtajñānāḥ prapadyante'nyadevatāḥ |
taṃ taṃ niyamamāsthāya prakṛtyā niyatāḥ svayā ||

Governed (compelled) by their own nature (and) deprived of discrimination by various (finite) desires, (the others) resort to other deities by taking to various disciplines.


  • V19 concluded remedy to saṃsāra by reminding us to convert our bhakti to higher stage. Now Krishna enters new aspect on devotion.
  • Krishna will classify bhakti into 2 types: (So we get to contrast/compare both.)
    • sakāma bhakti: V20-26. Minus points.
    • niṣkāma bhakti: V27-30. Advantages.
  • “Bhakti” word revision: Devotion and worship of Īśvara. Meaning it is BOTH (1) attitude of worship, (2) act of worship.
  • Sakāma bhakti explained:
    • Using bhakti as means for finite ENDS. Devotion/worship used to accomplish RELATIVE goals.
    • Materialistic, business, commercial bhakti. I do THIS in return for THAT.
    • Gives FINITE goals/learnings.
    • What is a FINITE goal?
      • Dharma: all forms of punyam. Takes person higher realities after death. Finite because loka is RELATIVE to present life punyam.
      • Artha: material wealth. Exhaustible.
      • Kāma: sense pleasures. Limited based on interpretation/mood of mind & age of body.
      • To generalize “finite goals” in following languages:
        • Religious: anything other then God = finite.
        • Vedāntic: all material objects (anātma) = finite, because decays.
        • Kaṭha Upaniṣad: preyaḥ is finite goal.
  • Niṣkāma bhakti explained:
    • bhakti NOT used for material ends. No desire for material.
    • Does not mean TOTAL desirelessness. All desire channeled for discovering infinite Īśvara only. Hence niṣkāma is actually sakāma-bhakti DEVOID of desire for dharma, artha, kāma.
    • Also called: mumukṣu bhakti (willingness to let go).
  • Krishna says both are OK. But know you HAVE to eventually come to niṣkāma bhakti to discover pūrṇaḥ (fullness / Īśvara), which Krishna symbolizes.
  • Krishna in Bhagavad Gītā represents infinite. Meaning he symbolizes ultimate END of life; mokṣa.
    • While all other God’s (deities / devatās) in Gītā, represent finite ends.
      • CAUTION: If we take Krishna as personal God, then he also becomes finite. EG: birth, size and form. Meaning personal God implies by default, a finite deity.
      • Although, when personal God is INTENDED to symbolize the infinite, THEN same God represents the infinite.
        • EG: Small flag symbolizes big country. We superimpose entire country onto national flag. So one flag represents ONE country. But all flags of all countries represent the TOTAL of all countries, which is the ONE GLOBE.
    • In same way, like flags… deities are MANY.
      • EG: Rāma, Śiva, Buddha, Jesus, Ayyapan, Zeus (Greece), Ra (Egypt).
      • All are finite because of different attributes. But any finite devata (deity) CAN represent INFINITE.
    • And what accounts for change of FINITE to INFINITE deity? Type of scripture (śāstra) used.

      • EG 1: In Śiva purāṇam: Śiva represents infinite goal. other God’s represent finite.
      • EG 2: In Bhāgavatam: Viṣnu represents infinite. Śiva is part of Viṣnu.
      • EG 3: In Devi Bhāgavatam: Devi is ultimate. Lord Śiva, Brahmā, Viṣnu are all at her feet.
    • Meaning, whichever deity is superior – is DETERMINED by your invocation from the śāstra.
      • EG: If iṣṭa devata = Krishna, then he represents infinity. others are finite.
      • If iṣṭa devata = Ganeśa, then represents infinity. others are finite.
    • METAPHORE: Empty cheque book leaf value is determined by what person write on it. In same way, we write value on our deities. Thus never put down anyone’s God/deity.
      • EG: Vaiṣṇavās claim Viṣnu is #1! While Śaivās claim Śiva is #1.
      • Śāstra says both have not understood vedic teaching. Because who is GREATEST, depends on own invocation.
  • How to integrate above explanation into Bhagavad Gītā?
    • In Gītā – Krishna represents INFINITE goal of life. Therefore all other devatās, represents FINITE goals in life.
    • Example for clarity:
      • Bhagavad Gītā:
        • Sakāma bhakti is symbolized as devata-bhakti. Worshiping any God other then Krishna.
        • Niṣkāma bhakti (desire to discover the Truth) = Kṛṣṇa-bhakti.
      • Śiva purāṇa:
        • Sakāma bhakti = viṣnu / ganeśa bhakti
        • Niṣkāma bhakti = Śiva bhakti.
  • kāmaistaistairhrṛtajñānāḥ prapadyante anyadevatāḥ: Some bhaktās only interested in finite ends…
    • Dharma: puṇyam.
    • Artha: wealth.
    • Kāma: entertainment.
    • Because of finite desires, they worship finite deities (sakāma/devata bhakti).
      • EG: Lakṣmi devata = wealth. Not health.
      • EG: Ganeśa devata = freedom from obstacles related to specific life situation.
      • EG: Sūrya devata = power of perception.
      • Thus each gets finite result, isolated to the benefit of the summoned devata.
        • EG: In Sanisvara Siva Temple (śanīśvara śiva), everyone has devata bhakti, for problem removal oR attainment of result.
  • Why sakāma (devata bhakti) is so prevalent? prapadyante anyadevatāḥ, because of their INTENSE desire.
  • What is consequence of this desire? Hṛtajñānāḥ, discriminative power obstructed/blunted.
    • Preventing viveka like: Any object of desire will go away. Thus can’t give lasting happiness (which is what all are seeking).
    • Hence such people are short-sighted. Absence of farsightedness.
  • Another minus point of seeking sakāma-bhakti through various deities (devatāḥ):
    • one has to follow daily and remember many conditions.
      • EG: Pūja particular time, at certain temple. Take 1,2,3 limes.
      • EG: Wedding of son/daughter > temple > give māla > keep one with you > exchange that māla.
  • Therefore, tam taṃ niyamam āsthāya: they religiously observe all rules for sake of receiving the benefits.
    • “Tam tam” repeated to indicate respective rule associated with respective devata.
  • And why people follow such rules repetitively/mechanically? prakṛtyā niyatāḥ
    • Because of intense rāga-dveśa. Either get rid of THIS, or attract THAT.
    • Prakṛti = svabhāva = personal likes/dislikes = one’s nature.
  • And since rāga-deveśa is infinite, such individuals are controlled/enslaved by own kāma.


Keywords: amrtam, ananda, apara prakriti, apurna, arta, artah, artharthi, bhagavan, bhagavata, bhaktas, brahma, Brihadaranyaka, chandogya, devah, genesha, gnani, ishta devata, ishvara, ista deva, isvara, jijnasu, jnana yoga, jnanam, jnani, kama, katha upanishad, lakshmi, mahatma, moksha, mumukshu, mumukshutva in sanskrit, nididhyasana, nirguna, nishkama, niskama, nista, nistha, para prakriti, preyas, purnatvam, purusa, purusha, raga-dvesha, rama, saguna, sakama, samashti, samasti, Shaivas, shiva, shiva purana, shloka, sudurlabhah, surya, svabhava, svarupa, upakyana, upanishad, Vaishnavas, vasudeva, vasuh, vedanta, vedantic, vedantin, vishishyate, vishnu, visishyate, vyashti, vyasti, yuktama


Credit for help in Bhagavad Gita teaching given to Chinmaya Int. Foundation & Swami Paramarthananda

Recorded 6 Aug, 2019



  1. Hi Andre.
    With respect to the bitter truth that “ we only love ourselves “.
    A couple of points.
    Does this mean there is no such thing as sacrifice?
    When I think of my children, I know that I would have given my life in order to save theirs.
    This hardly seems rational if the only love is self love.
    I know I am not the only parent to feel this way.
    How does Vedanta reconcile this?

    1. “Ourselves” refers to self.

      What is the self? The One content of everything which is Īśvara.

      Therefore we only love Īśvara in form of ____. (Children, money, food, peace, recognition, etc).

      Self and Isvara are not-two.

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