This question may arise in the minds of those who have carefully studied the Gita, that though Sri Krishna has repeatedly used the word ‘Yoga’ and described the state of being in yoga, union, yet this is quite unlike what ordinary people understand as ‘Yoga’. Sri Krishna has at places praised asceticism and indicated too that the highest liberation can come through the adoration of the Impersonal Divine. But dismissing the subject in a few words, He has explained to Arjuna in the finest portions of the Gita the majesty of the inner renunciation and the various ways of attaining to the supreme state through faith and self-surrender to Vasudeva. There is a brief description of Rajayoga in the sixth chapter but the Gita cannot properly be called a treatise on Raja-yoga. Equality, detachment, renunciation of the fruits of work, complete self-surrender to Krishna, desireless work, freedom from the bondage of the three essential modes of Nature and pursuit of one’s own law of works: these are the fundamental truths of the Gita. The Lord has glorified these precepts as the highest knowledge and the most secret mystery.
It is our belief that the Gita will become the universally acknowledged Scripture of the future religion. But the real meaning of the Gita has not been understood by all. Even the great scholars and the most intelligent writers with the keenest minds are unable to seize its profound significance. On the one hand, the commentators with a leaning towards liberation have shown the grandeur of the Monism and asceticism in the Gita; on the other hand, Bankimchandra, well-versed in Western philosophy, finding in the Gita the counsel to carry out heroically one’s duty, tried to inculcate this meaning into the minds of youth. Asceticism is, no doubt, the best dharma but very few people can practise it. A religion to be universally acknowledged must have an ideal and precepts which every one can realise in his own particular life and field of work, yet which if practised fully must lead him to the highest goal otherwise available only to a few. To carry out one’s duty heroically is, of course, the highest dharma, but what is duty? There is such a controversy between religion and ethics regarding this complex problem. The Lord has said, gahana karmaṇo gatiḥ, ‘thick and tangled is the way of works’. ‘Even the wise are perplexed to decide what is duty, what is not duty, what is work, what is not work and what is wrong work, but I shall give you such a knowledge that you will have no difficulty in finding the path to follow,’ in a word, the knowledge which will amply explain the aim of life and the law which has to be always observed. What is this knowledge? Where can we find this word of words? We believe that, if we look for this rare and invaluable treasure, we shall find it in the last chapter of the Gita where the Lord promises to reveal to Arjuna His most secret and supreme Word. What is that most secret and supreme Word?
manmanā bhava madbhakto madyājī māṁ namaskuru
māmevaiṣyasi satyaṁ te pratijāne priyo’si me (18. 65)
sarvadharmānparityajya māmekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarvapāpebhyo mokṣyayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ (18. 66)
(Become My-minded, My lover and adorer, a sacrificer to Me, bow thyself to Me, to Me thou shalt come, this is My pledge and promise to thee, for dear art thou to Me. Abandon all dharmas and take refuge in Me alone. I will deliver thee from all sin and evil, do not grieve).
In brief, the meaning of these two slokas is self-surrender. To the extent that one can make his surrender to Krishna, the Divine Force comes down into his body by the grace of the All-Merciful, delivering him from sin and conferring on him a divine nature. This self-surrender has been described in the first half of the sloka. One has to be tanmanā, tadbhakta, and tadyājī. Tanmanā means to see Him in every being, to remember Him at all times, to remain in perfect felicity, being aware of the play of His power, knowledge and love in all works and events. Tadbhakta signifies union with Him founded on an entire faith and love. Tadyājī means offering of all works big and small as a sacrifice to Krishna and being engaged in doing rightly regulated action to that end, by giving up egoistic interests and the fruits of work.
It is difficult for a human being to make a complete self-surrender, but if he makes even a little effort then God Himself gives him assurance, becomes his guru, protector and friend and leads him forward on the path of Yoga. Svalpamapyasya dharmasya trāyate mahato bhayāt. Even a little of this dharma delivers one from the great fear. He has said that it is easy and delightful to practise this dharma. And in fact it is so, yet the result of the total consecration is an inexpressible joy, purity and acquisition of power. Māmevaisyasi (to Me thou shalt come) means the human being will find Me, will live with Me, will acquire My nature. In these words the realisations of sādṛśya, God-nature, sālokya, living with God, and sāyujya, identification with God are mentioned.
One who is free from the bondage of the three essential modes of Nature has indeed acquired sādṛśya, the nature of God. He has no attachment yet he works; delivered from all sin, he becomes an instrument of Mahashakti and delights in every action of that Power. Sālokya, habitation with God, can be realised not only in the Brahmaloka, abode of the Brahman, after the fall of the body but in this very body. When the embodied being plays with the Lord in his heart, when his mind is thrilled by the knowledge coming from Him, when the intellect constantly hears His words and is conscious of His impulsion in each of his thoughts, this indeed is living in a human body with the Lord. Sāyujya, the identification with the Lord, can also be achieved in this body. The Gita mentions ‘living in the Lord’. When the realisation of the Divine in all beings becomes permanent, when the senses see, hear, smell, taste and touch Him only, when the being becomes accustomed to live in Him as a portion, then there can be the identification even in this body. But this consummation is entirely the result of an askesis (practice of discipline).
However, even a little practice of this dharma gives great power, unalloyed joy, complete happiness and purity. This dharma has not been created only for people with special qualities. The Lord has said that the Brahmin, the Kshatriya, the Vaishya, the Sudra, man, woman and all beings of inferior birth can come to Him by adhering to this dharma. Even the greatest sinner, if he takes refuge in Him, is quickly purified. Therefore, every one ought to follow this dharma. In the temple of Jagannath no distinction is made on account of caste. Yet the crowning glory attained through this dharma is in no way less than the supreme state indicated in other religions.
(Dharma, No. 2, August 1909)