Shri Krishna ended the previous chapter with the message that Ishvara is in everything, and everything is in Ishvara. But since our senses see the world and not Ishvara, we need a way to constantly be aware of Ishvara’s presence. Till we get to a state where this happens effortlessly, Shri Krishna asks us to take up the path of bhakti or devotion, where we constantly abide in the faith that Ishvara is in everything, and everything is in Ishvara. The seed of bhakti yoga was planted at the end of the previous chapter and is expounded in this chapter.
Arjuna began this chapter by asking the question: of the devotees who worship Ishvara with form, and of those who worship him without form, who is superior? Shri Krishna replied that the worshipper of Ishvara without form sees no difference between him and Ishvara. But for most of us who still have a little saatvik ahamkaara, which is the sense of distance or separation between us and Ishvara, worship of the formless Ishvara is quite difficult. Therefore, he recommends worship of Ishvara with form for the majority of devotees. The key qualification, however, is that of single pointed devotion.
Next, Shri Krishna gives us a sequence of steps to get to Ishvara, but takes into account where we are as ordinary devotees. We are instructed to begin with karma yoga where we renounce the fruits of action by submitting them to Ishvara. We then begin performing every action for the sake of Ishvara, which is bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion. Once we have diminished our selfish desires and our ego to a large extent, we are urged to take up raaja yoga where we repeatedly meditate upon Ishvara with form. Finally, we reach a stage where we remain in constant awareness and knowledge of our oneness with Ishavara, which is jnyaana yoga, the yoga of knowledge.
The chapter ends with a list of thirty nine qualities of a perfected devotee. They are meant to inspire us. Even if we cannot gain all these qualities, we should aim for acquiring at least one, because gaining even one quality opens the door to the acquiring the rest. In all of these qualities, equanimity, unselfishness, lack of attachment and unwavering faith towards Ishvara are repeatedly emphasized.