CHAPTER 18, VERSE 66
सर्वधर्मान्परित्यज्य मामेकं शरणं व्रज ।
अहं त्वा सर्वपापेभ्यो मोक्षयिष्यामि मा शुचः ॥६६॥
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
sarva-dharmān—all varieties of religion; parityajya—abandoning; mām—unto Me; ekam—only; śaraṇam—surrender; vraja—go; aham—I; tvām—you; sarva—all; pāpebhyaḥ—from sinful reactions; mokṣayiṣyāmi—deliver; mā—not; śucaḥ—worry.
Abandon all varieties of dharma (religion, path, teachings) and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
“Abandon all varieties of dharma (that is religion, path, teachings) and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.”
So we have reached the last verse that we will be studying, and this is the culmination of all instructions of Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita. What I would like to do is first just take a look at each of the words in this verse, the Sanskrit and the English translation.
The first is sarva-dharman, which is being translated as “all varieties of religious.” Sarva means all, in the broadest possible way, in the vast reaches, everything; and dharma is all forms of religion or righteous activity. Parityajya means to abandon, to give up. Mam eka saranam: mam – unto me, ekam is only, the only. Eka actually means one or singular. And saranam is the process of surrender, saranagati. Vraja aham tvam, that is “you’ll go to Me.” Sarva, meaning all, papebhyah – from all sinful reactions. Moksayisyami – to deliver. You’ll be delivered from all sinful reactions. Ma, meaning not, negation of something, sucah – do not worry. Actually, this last word sucah means not only worried, but to become deeply saddened and even quite terrified about.
So, if this is the final instruction of Bhagavad-gita, it is important to remember the context in which this is being delivered.
In the beginning of the Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna was on a battlefield along with Sri Krishna, who was acting as his chariot driver, and a huge battle was to take place. And Arjuna had asked Krishna to draw his chariot down between the warring armies. The leaders in the army opposing them were actually cousins. And so he saw on both sides, relatives, friends, fathers, sons, grandfathers, uncles, and cousins. He saw people related through marriage and others.
And Arjuna became utterly perplexed at this point and began to consider that what was about to take place is potentially, tremendously sinful and could therefore bring about his ruination. It’s not that he was being a coward, but he was struggling, not being able to see any good coming from this activity that was about to take place.
So I’ll just read a few verses from the 1st chapter of the Bhagavad-gita to remind us of what the situation was, and what this final instruction of Krishna, that He is giving, what problem He was addressing.
So Arjuna states:
“Alas, how strange it is that we are preparing to commit greatly sinful acts. Driven by the desire to enjoy royal happiness, we are intent on killing our own kinsmen.
Better for me if the sons of Dhrtarastra, weapons in hand, were to kill me unarmed and unresisting on the battlefield.
Sanjaya said: Arjuna, having thus spoken on the battlefield, cast aside his bow and arrows and sat down on the chariot, his mind overwhelmed with grief.”
And then later in another verse from the 2nd chapter, Arjuna states:
“Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of miserly weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me for certain what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me.”
So, just as a reminder, it was actually the cousins of Arjuna who were the vicious party in this situation; how, since Arjuna’s childhood, his cousins had planned to and attempted to assassinate their own cousin brothers when they were children, and their mother. And as a result of that, great difficulty ensued. This family were considered by nature cruel, and they were not loved by the people that they ruled; and the people wanted Arjuna’s brother, Yudhishthira, to take back the throne and to guide them all. And so this undertaking by Arjuna was actually considered a righteous and a dharmic activity. But in this situation, he became overwhelmed.
Somebody may ask, “Well if Arjuna was actually a great personality and had the association of Krishna, how could he be so ignorant?” And our spiritual teachers, our spiritual masters have explained that it was actually the arrangement of Krishna to put Arjuna into this condition, into this illusion, so that Krishna could speak, not only for his benefit but for the benefit of all human beings.
Arjuna had proposed renouncing everything and just going away to live in the mountains. And in the course of this conversation with Krishna (which is what the Bhagavad-gita is), Lord Krishna begins from the platform of explaining the difference between the body and the living being residing within, how we are not the body, and these bodily relationships are temporary things, and how the purpose of human life is to attain God-realization and self-realization, to actually, in fact, attain the ultimate experience of actual love for God.
And in the process of coming to that point—which was the verse that we last read, where Krishna told Arjuna just to always think of Him, surrender his life and entirety to Him, speak always of Him, etc., to become completely connected, to be joined in the mood of love—this is the highest state of yoga, of union—that in the process of coming to that point, and often, because of the inquiry of Arjuna, Krishna spoke of many different types of spiritual practices. He spoke of different forms of sacrifice, of spiritual undertaking, of different processes, of meditation, of breath control, spoke of a vast variety of spiritual or religious paths.
But now in this instruction, even though all these different paths have been made available in order to make it so that people of different state of consciousness, who are attracted to different types of things, may find a way to reconnect with this ultimate spiritual truth, and in their life be gradually directed towards or back home to their spiritual home, to Krishna—And so in this final instruction, He is telling Arjuna, “Just surrender. Give up all these different spiritual or religious practices, and simply do this one thing: Surrender unto Me.”
Speaking to Arjuna’s condition, we see that all living entities, at different points, experience or are living in fear. I mean it was fear that was driving Arjuna: “Is what I am about to do utterly sinful and wrong?” and he was fearful of the consequences of such actions or activities. But in this world people may be feeling fear in a variety of different ways. They may feel fear of karmic reaction, or some fear of suffering, or fear that they will not get what they think they need in order to be happy, fear of potentially living in some hellish condition, being condemned somehow or rather. And this fear is one of the main reasons that people often take to some spiritual path or some religious path.
There are so many different types of religious faiths and different spiritual paths, and they offer many different types of rituals or instructions for people to follow for what people consider will be their protection and happiness. Krishna had described many of these different paths or processes within the Bhagavad-gita. But here in this final declaration, Krishna tells Arjuna that there is no need to be fearful, do not fear. That, “If you simply take shelter of Me and dovetail your life with Me, then your life will be freed from all forms of fear, and you will be utterly and completely protected.”
The activity of surrender—and I’ve just got a note that I’ll read concerning this surrendering: It is in fact not just surrendering of one’s will, but it is a surrendering of one’s heart. This is the definition of love—to surrender one’s heart. And it is understood from the Vedas that this is the real meaning of religion or the ultimate meaning of dharma.
Krishna calls upon us to abandon all of our ideas about how to become happy and how to be liberated from suffering, and He assures us, as He assures Arjuna, that He will protect us. This protection, this idea of “to protect” means not just to protect one from a particular or singular type of danger, but it means to assure the actual well-being, the total protection in the sense of bringing you to the experience of positive joy and positive happiness, that we are all actually seeking within the core of our being. The only thing that will truly protect us and ultimately satisfy us in the highest way is the awakening of this natural condition of actual love for God.
I’d like to share with you a beautiful quote from the Bhagavat Purana that speaks to this subject:
“Such a saintly person must be considered the most learned of men. He perfectly understands that the ordinary religious duties prescribed by Me in various Vedic scriptures possess favorable qualities that purify the performer, and he knows that neglect of such duties constitutes a discrepancy in one’s life. Having taken complete shelter at My lotus feet, however, a saintly person ultimately renounces such ordinary religious duties and worships Me alone. He is thus considered to be the best amongst all living entities.”
In the beginning of the Srimad Bhagavatam, in the 1st canto, 2nd chapter, there is a great sage, topmost spiritual transcendentalist, mahabhagavata, who is addressing a great assembly of sages, who put different questions before him. And they asked him specifically about this process of surrender and of loving devotion or devotional service to the Supreme Lord. And he describes that there were many different ways or different degrees that a person could do this.
On the highest level, the purest of devotion, means when there is no material motivation whatsoever. And he describes that when one comes to that platform of rendering pure loving service, if it has these two characteristics—that it is without any material motivation or desire for any form of profit, and if it is uninterrupted—that one will experience the highest form of spiritual satisfaction. So those two qualities are characteristics, are what define pure or unalloyed devotion to the Lord.
In his purport on this verse, Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada states:
“The Lord has described various kinds of knowledge, processes of religion, knowledge of the Supreme Brahman, knowledge of the Supersoul, knowledge of the different types of orders and statuses of social life, knowledge of the renounced order of life, knowledge of nonattachments, sense and mind control, meditation, etc. He has described in so many ways different types of religion. Now in summarizing Bhagavad-gita, the Lord says that Arjuna should give up all the processes that have been explained to him; he should simply surrender to Krsna. That surrender will save him from all kinds of sinful reactions, for the Lord personally promises to protect him.
In the Eighth Chapter it was said that only one who has become free from all sinful reactions can take to the worship of Lord Krsna. And thus one may think that unless one is free from all sinful reactions he cannot take to the surrendering process. To such doubts it is here said then even if one is not free from all sinful reactions, simply by the process of surrendering to Krsna he is automatically freed. There is no need of strenuous effort to free oneself from sinful reactions. One should unhesitatingly accept Krsna as the supreme savior of all living entities. With faith and love, one should surrender unto Him.”
In a commentary, the great luminary Sri Sridhar Swami has stated the following:
“Now the Supreme Lord Krishna reveals the conclusion to the essence of all knowledge. That which is the most confidential of all that is confidential is being revealed. Relinquishing all conceptions of religiosity by indomitable faith that complete salvation and redemption will come naturally through bhakti or exclusive loving devotion unto the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of His incarnations and expansions as authorized in the Vedic scriptures. By this determined conviction that nothing else is required or necessary other than surrender totally to Him, the Supreme Lord himself personally promises moksa or liberation to such devotees.”
So I’ll just make one point that may be of interest to some of you. A distinction is actually made between the aspiration for liberation, spiritual liberation, and the attainment of actual love for God, which is called prema. On the highest spiritual platform, the desire for liberation is also considered, while a spiritual desire, it is colored by some degree of self-centeredness. It is about my liberation, meaning it’s about me. And while I acknowledge that Krishna, or any of His expansions or features of Godhead that I am serving or worshiping with a desire for liberation, in that condition, I am at the center of that formula. It’s about me and my desire, which I hope someone greater than me will support. But I am at the center of that equation.
Whereas in the condition of the highest attainment of love, the devotee has no feeling whatsoever of trying to get anything. One is utterly absorbed simply in seeing or seeking the happiness or pleasure of Krishna. Rather than being interested in my own happiness, I am solely interested in His, and acting in a way that is pleasing to Him. In such a condition, one does not have to seek liberation. One has already surpassed the condition of spiritual liberation. So that is another point that actually is taken up after the Bhagavad-gita, to elevate the devotee of the Lord to a higher spiritual platform or condition.
Before concluding, a couple of verses prior to what we’ve been reading, Krishna made an amazing statement to Arjuna. This statement confirms the free will of the individual soul. The verse reads:
“Thus, I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.”
We see in this verse how sacred is the free will of the living being, where Krishna does not threaten or cajole or seek to in any way force Arjuna to follow what He is advising. He tells Arjuna that “This is in your highest interest. You will attain your highest good, the most incredible transcendental experience, the highest and most ecstatic happiness and blissfulness, if you follow this path. But if you choose not to that is your independence. You are free to do that. I will not hate you. I will not be angry at you. I’m not going to seek to punish you.”
We have to understand that the laws of karma are not laws to punish the living being, but it’s just the natural consequence. Like if I put my hand on the door jamb of an open door, I put my hand there, then I close the door, the door is going to hit my hand, and it’s going to be painful. And it’s not like I’m being punished because I put my hand there. It’s just the laws of nature. If you put your hand in the way of a fast-moving and heavy object and it strikes your fingers, there will be a natural consequence—that is pain. So it’s not a punishment. It’s just a natural consequence.
And so Krishna has advised Arjuna about the consequences. He spoke about the laws of karma, for instance. And here in advising Arjuna what’s in his best interest, it’s not that He is saying, “If you don’t do this, you’ll be punished in hell forever.” No. If you choose not to do that, that’s your choice. But you have to understand that with all choices there are consequences. The consequences are natural consequences. They’re not something inflicted upon us by force as it were.
And so we see this amazing relationship between Krishna and Arjuna, which gives us this wonderful insight into the nature of the relationship between the soul and the Supreme Soul. We, as it’s stated, the eternal children, offspring of the Supreme Soul. We are His parts and parcels. We are always loved, no matter what, whether we choose to embrace that, to turn our back on it—even when one is insulting or angry at the Lord, one is still loved. Of course, there are consequences to such behaviour, but they are not retribution. We are eternally loved.
And so this concluding chapter of the Bhagavad-gita is incredibly important, and contains numerous relevant and highly important verses. But this concluding instruction is really the final declaration of Krishna to Arjuna’s great quandary and his fear about where he found himself. And just reading this verse:
“Abandon all varieties of dharma ([meaning] religion, path, teachings) and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.”
And how to do that? The preceding verse, of course, tells us how we should do that. And the focus of the process of bhakti, the sadhana of bhakti, is to engage in the following activities so that one will come to that point:
“Always think of me and become my devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend.”
And so the invitation is for us to once again re-establish this lost connection with Krishna. It is not that He has lost the connection. He still has the connection. It is us that have lost, and we have turned away. We are asked to turn back towards Him, our eternal friend to whom we have an eternal bond of kinship, and to re-establish this and set everything right and make it so that there is this perfect harmony now. I understand who I am and what I should be doing. And I don’t just understand that hypothetically, I’m dovetailing my life in the devoted and loving service of the Lord.
And as this love begins to grow and develop it automatically overflows to all of God’s children, to all living beings. I see everyone now differently. I see the world differently. I see my life differently. I have this extraordinary and focused purpose. And there is this lifting of the weight, the burden of anxiousness and fearfulness and emptiness, and everything becomes meaningful and purposeful. And one begins to taste this extraordinary spiritual nectar.
With that, I would like to thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to speak to you to share what it is that I have been given by my own spiritual masters. And with great thanks to them, I offer my most humble respects to you all and ask that you seriously consider and contemplate upon these lessons of Bhagavad-gita, for they will grant you the highest experience, the highest perfection that one can attain.
Jai Sri Krishna. Thank you.