In the previous chapter, Shri Krishna described the endless cycle of creation and dissolution of the universe, and how all beings are stuck in that cycle. In this chapter, he began to reveal an extremely profound and secret knowledge to Arjuna that would allow him to escape this endless cycle. That knowledge is devotion or bhakti towards Ishvara. It is the easiest means of obtaining liberation, easier than than performing rituals or penance or renouncing the world.
What is this knowledge? Ishvara is the ultimate cause of the universe. Everything is sustained by Ishvara. Everything is in Ishvara, like the wind is in space. We are not able to see Ishvara because our senses are preconditioned to only perceive names and forms, just like we see a blue sky where there is no real blue colour.
Ishvara becomes the ultimate cause of the universe through his power known as Prakriti. Through this power, he creates the world of names and forms, sustains them and eventually dissolves them. Prakriti is nothing but the three gunas. It is a fully automatic system that delivers results to individuals based on their actions. Most people are stuck in this system and cannot get out because they are bound by selfish actions, they are too attached. Ishvara is an observer of this system. he does not get bound by Prakriti because he is unattached.
In order to free ourselves from the entrapment in Prakriti, we have to change our conditioning and rid ourselves of all misconceptions regarding Ishvara. The first misconception : Ishvara is finite human entity. The second misconception : I am body, mind, intellect.Third misconception: worship of finite deities will give infinite and permanent results. One by one, each of these misconceptions is clarified.
The easiest way to dispel all these misconceptions is to worship Ishvara, to follow the path of bhakti. There are several ways to bring this into our daily life. We can constantly meditate upon Ishvara as the cause of everything. This is known as “jnyaana yagnya”. We can perform actions in service of Ishvara. We can begin to see Ishvara in objects, people and situations through pointers. Shri Krishna provides several pointers. For instance, we can learn to see Ishvara in our parents, our grandparents, in the weather cycle and so on.
Next, Shri Krishna describes two kinds of devotees. The sakaama or desire-oriented devotee performs rituals so that he can attain heaven after his death, but ultimately comes back to earth after his merits are exhausted. The nishkaama or desire-less devotee only wants Ishvara. In an oft-quoted shloka, Shri Krishna says that Ishvara always takes care of desire-less devotees by giving them what they need at the right point in their lives including food, shelter, wealth, knowledge and a teacher.
We also learn that Ishvara does not expect big offerings when we worship him. In fact, he is happy with simple things like water, leaf, fruit or flowers. We can also offer our work and action to him when we serve others. What he wants the most is the feeling of devotion when we make the offering. Ishvara is impartial like the sun and rain, and will reward us based on our faith and effort.
The glory of devotion is that it is accessible to everybody, from sinners to people of great worldly attachment all the way to sages. Everyone can worship at any point in their lives. There is no qualification to begin the path of devotion.
Shri Krishna ends this chapter with an actionable message. He says “Keep your mind in me, become my devotee, perform actions for me, surrender to me.” This is the instruction for devotion towards Ishvara.