40. Bhagavatas, The True Servants of God

Bhagavata, A True devotee of God

by Jayaram V

Notes: I have translated the Bhagavadgita twice. The first one was a loose translation. The second one was a word to word translation with a detailed commentary. The commentary is however different from what you will find here. In this section I will share with you my thoughts about the knowledge, philosophy and wisdom of the Bhagavadgita as I understand it from my perspective. Jayaram V


 

The Bhagavadgita is one of the most important and influential scriptures of Hinduism. To understand its significance and teachings, you may have to study it in some detail. Many translations of the scripture are available, including my own translation. Find the one that is convenient for you and study it.

However, you do not have to study the entire scripture in one attempt. You can return to it from time to time according to your convenience and keep motivating yourself. Even a little study has the potential to help you in your spiritual evolution. Know that Nature is an instrument of evolution and transformation, but as a human being you are endowed with the knowledge and intelligence to hasten it by your own effort. Nowadays people hoard a lot of things, including polythene bags brought from the departmental stores.

The Bhagavadgita is the best book to hoard in your book shelf, since it has the potential to transform your life. However, for that to happen you must study it, and open your mind to understand its significance in your spiritual growth and final liberation. To the discerning eye, it contains ageless wisdom, which can be practiced by anyone who has an open mind and who is willing to consider its use in daily life. If you do not believe in liberation or the beliefs it upholds, you can still use it for secular purposes in dealing with your problems and performing your duties (I will return to this subject later in another essay).

The Bhagavadgita is a scripture about life and your role in it. It teaches you how you may conduct your life, transcending your selfishness and seeing yourself in the totality of existence as one of its manifestations and instruments of duty and service. You can learn from it the highest ideals of human life and practice them in the space of your own religion or belief system, whatever path you may choose or whichever faith you may practice.

However, our discussion today is not about the practical wisdom of the Bhagavadgita, but about the Bhagavatas who exemplify the virtues and ideals of the scripture. The Bhagavadgita was originally meant for the guidance of the renunciant tradition of the Bhagavatas. They are so called because they are the true devotees and servants of God who selflessly dedicate their lives to serve God and His devotees as an offering, without expecting anything in return.

It is hard to find true Bhagavatas nowadays, but the tradition and their idealism are still intact in some sects of Hinduism. A true Bhagavata lives for God, works for God, and dies for God. He has no ambition, duty, expectation or aim, other than becoming a true instrument of God and manifesting His will and intent through his actions and his life. A Bhagavata sees no duality between him and God. On the path of nondualism (advaita) he totally identifies himself with God, and on the path of dualism (dvaita) he saturates his mind with the thoughts of God. Whatever paths he chooses, he strives for perfection to become transparent and pure like a crystal so that he can let the brilliance of his soul (or that of God) shine through him.

The Bhagavatas have no worldly aims other than facilitating the intent and purpose of creation as willed by the Supreme Being through them. They see the footprints of God in every wake of life and in the whole creation. Their devotion and love transcend the physical barriers and personal concerns, and their love for God manifests as compassion for all since they see the (stamp of) God in all.

However, the journey of a Bhagavata is long and arduous. No one becomes a Bhagavata overnight. It is not a title to be assumed for worldly ends, although some may use it as prefix before their names for vanity. A person becomes a true Bhagavata on the path of karma yoga at the end of many births and deaths.

The Bhagavata tradition is a reminder that none can practice karma yoga without cultivating the highest virtues, acquiring the right knowledge, and practicing detachment and renunciation. All the yogas mentioned in the Bhagavadgita reach their culmination or perfection in the life of a Bhagavata.

It means that, while you may theoretically identify and discuss each yoga in the Bhagavadgita as separate and distinct, you cannot practice them in isolation. It requires an integral approach, with your soul or God as its center and circumference. To be a true karma yogi, you need right knowledge, and to acquire right knowledge you must have the practical wisdom gained through karma yoga. You cannot truly practice either of them without practicing detachment, and sanyasa or renunciation.

All the yogas mentioned in the Bhagavadgita make sense only when you realize your true identity as the Self and remain centered in it through the practice of atma samyama yoga. Finally, you cannot understand the true significance of all these, and the virtues the scripture emphasizes, unless you know the Supreme State of God (Vibhuti yoga), the distinction between God and Creation (Purusha and Prakriti), and your relationship with them (bhakti yoga). Thus, you will realize that the Bhagavadgita is a book of 18 interconnected approaches to become centered in God and achieve liberation.

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