“If you cannot practice the regulations of bhakti-yoga, then just try to work for Me, because by working for Me you will come to the perfect stage.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.10)Download this episode (right click and save)
He is Bhagavan, after all. His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada accurately and intentionally translates this Sanskrit word as “Supreme Personality of Godhead.” The more verbose translation is necessary since the word “God” is basically up for grabs, interpreted differently based on personal sentiment.
Bhagavan is indeed supreme. He must be; otherwise He is just like everyone else, making His association not as significant. It is necessary to mention Godhead since there are many divine figures. Especially in the Vedic tradition, a worshiper has a large choice of available candidates for directing their attention, for fulfilling their desires.
And of course, Bhagavan is a personality. The use of this word is a direct shot at the impersonalists, who describe God as formless. “Formless” is convenient for their desires, for if God had a form they would have to acknowledge Him and worship Him. If He is formless, then anyone can become like Him, with enough meditation and practice.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is Krishna, and with His transcendental form He was one time seated on the chariot of the bow-warrior Arjuna. Krishna’s decision to take that seat is worthy of many lifetimes of study, but one thing is clear: He is always Bhagavan. When Arjuna fell into distress, there were a lot of things Krishna could have told him.
1. Relax; I got this
There is the saying, “He who hesitates is lost.” Arjuna was hesitating on the biggest stage, and his losing would have dire consequences. A massive army counted on him for victory. His four brothers were fighting with him. They were collectively known as the Pandavas.
Arjuna had Krishna right there. The Supreme Lord could have stepped in and taken care of everything.
“Move aside. Let me fight with the Kauravas, who have wronged both you and your family. I will not let this injustice stand for a minute longer.”
2. Figure it out for yourself
Arjuna and Krishna were related as cousins and they were also close friends. Nevertheless, the Supreme Lord is always in the superior position, and we know that sometimes superiors don’t do everything for us. In this case Krishna could have gone in the complete opposite direction from the first example.
He could have said the following.
“Figure it out yourself. You are a great fighter. You have defeated so many people in the past. You are intelligent. You’re not sure how to proceed, but I think deep down you know the right thing to do.”
After all, we make so many decisions without consulting God directly. Arjuna could have figured out what to do on his own, without Krishna’s intervention. This would have been a form of tough love.
3. You are right; be nonviolent
The reason there was a conversation at all was that Arjuna had half-heartedly decided to lay down his weapons. He did not want to continue further. Though mentioning the greatness of the opposing army, what really concerned him was victory. He was brave in battle, and from his skill the Pandavas would likely win. The consequence would be death and destruction for the other side, which included people dear to Arjuna, like the teacher Drona and the grandfather Bhishma.
Krishna could have supported Arjuna’s sentiment. He could have told Arjuna that ahimsa, nonviolence, was the way to go. That would spare bloodshed. That would save lives. Arjuna would feel good, too, by retreating to the forest and not being a party to destruction.
4. You have to practice devotion or you are doomed
Of course Krishna did not say any of the above. He gave Arjuna the highest knowledge. The conversation became known as the Bhagavad-gita, or the Song of God. But actually the same knowledge existed since the beginning of time.
“The Blessed Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku.” (Bhagavad-gita, 4.1)
In addition to the difference between matter and spirit, the three modes of material nature, and the truth about karma, Krishna explained bhakti, or devotion. Yet He did not say that Arjuna had to practice bhakti. He did not threaten Arjuna with eternal damnation for failing to do so.
5. Don’t think too much; follow blindly
In the end Krishna did advise Arjuna to abandon all kinds of dharma, or religion, and simply surrender unto Him. The Supreme Lord would protect Arjuna from all sinful reaction.
Yet even this is not a recommendation to follow blindly. It wasn’t that Arjuna was told to cast aside doubts, logic, and inquisitiveness. Rather, Arjuna asked insightful questions, to the point that when his decision for bhakti would be made, it would be an intelligent one. After teaching Arjuna, Krishna left the choice up to him as to what to do.
“Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.63)
In the presentation, Krishna laid out so many different options. If a person couldn’t practice bhakti, they still weren’t doomed. They could work for Him and make advancement in that way. In every case there was a recommendation for doing something. The Supreme Lord is merciful in this way. He leaves the choice up to the devotee. If He took the opportunities for service away and simply did everything Himself, there would be little pleasure for the living entities. He advised Arjuna to stand up and fight, to carry forward with his prescribed duties, maintaining bhakti in the process.
Hopefully valuable instruction to understand,
And with courage up from chariot to stand.
Against wrongdoers bravely fighting,
And his teacher Krishna delighting.
Supreme Lord, so anything can do,
Could have fought and earned victory too.
Whatever the case, some recommendation given,
Abandoning all varieties, from sinful consequence forgiven.