The Mother Divine
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‘I have been reading the important verses from the Gita and I was particularly fascinated by the great one about surrender that comes in the 18th chapter,’ said the sannyasi.

‘It must be the charam shloka, saradharmaan parityajyaa…’ a fellow seeker said.

‘No, not that one. This is number 56,’ he said.

सर्वकर्माण्यपि सदा कुर्वाणो मद्व्यपाश्रय: | मत्प्रसादादवाप्नोति शाश्वतं पदमव्ययम् || 56|

My devotees, though performing all kinds of actions, take full refuge in me. By my grace, they attain the eternal and imperishable abode.’

This verse was like a discovery to the sannyasi, ‘Isn’t this great? God is telling clearly that if you offer all your deeds to me, no matter what you are doing, He will confer the avyaya pada, he said.
‘Yes Swamiji, it is so. It’s indeed a great verse,’ I said.

‘And that’s my personal experience. Narayana has been looking after me, all I do is to remember Him and offer my actions to Him,’ he said.

This conversation made me reflect about the set of ten verses from the Gita in the 18th chapter – 56th to 66th. Though 66th is the ultimate verse, the charam shloka, its purport is not simple to comprehend. The idea of renouncing dharmas सर्वधर्मान्परित्यज्य is not a flat one. It is layered. It cannot be accessed directly. And if we see the link from 56th to 66th, we see that Krishna is moving us from karmas to dharmas while retaining the theme of surrender. He is teaching us the charam shloka gradually. Unless we offer the karmas, we don’t become eligible to offer the dharmas.
A studied evaluation of verses 56 and 66 of chapter 18 of the Bhagavad Gita throws light on some very critical common aspects.

To start with, both these verses are aimed at preparing the devotee for liberation which is the ultimate goal of mankind and therefore both appear at the end.

In verse 66, after Arjuna has gone through the entire length of injunctions around do’s and don’ts through more than six hundred verses, in the last chapter, the Lord’s command nearly takes a reverse gear when He asks Arjuna to abandon all dharmas. One may question this apparent departure from strict adherence to dharmic principles. Why adopt if one has to abandon anyway? Why did the Lord not show us this path right at the start? Or, if this shloka is so critical for final liberation, then why wait till the last chapter to introduce these concepts?

In this regard, a fine philosopher has remarked, “The way out, is way in!”

Loosely put, we cannot aim to be liberated (way out) unless we have not first aimed to wash off our karmic baggage/ praarabdha (way in). And hence, one has to go through one’s karma with extreme sincerity before one is ready for the big jump. Hence, so much is said, on how to sail through the praarabdhic onslaught through one’s actions.

In both the verses, the Lord asks us to take refuge in Him. While the Lord has alluded to His own greatness and superlative qualities throughout the discourse, it is only in the end that He insists on surrender or sharnaagati unto Him. If one were to reflect on why the Lord must have waited till the end to give out this secret, two thoughts come to mind.

  1. Sharanaagati is not easy. It cannot come easily to one who is still seeped in karmic bondage.
  2. Sharnaagati also indicates surrender of the ego, which is the vice most difficult to rid oneself of. Hence, only through purification of the self through karma, does one qualify to surrender the ego.

Again, in both the verses, it is very clear, that it is by the Lord’s grace alone, that one can be liberated. Which means, only actions including surrender is within the rights of the devotee, but not the granting of liberation. For that, one has to patiently wait for the Lord’s grace.

Having understood the similarities between the two verses, it is now critical to understand the differences between them. It is in the appreciation of these finer nuances and differences that the criticality of the charam sloka becomes even clearer.

Verse 56 is about performance (of actions) while verse 66 is about renunciation of dharmas.
From the order of the appearance of these verses, it is evident, that in the final journey towards liberation, performance of actions is first stage and renunciation of action is the more advanced stage, though both are done in the spirit of surrender. It is only when the actions are performed with full surrender to the Lord, that one qualifies for abandoning the varieties of dharmas. And it is then, that the devotee not only surrenders but surrenders exclusively to the Lord.

This brings us to the second difference between the two shlokas. While 56 talks of ‘vyapāśhraya’ or comprehensive or all-encompassing surrender, shloka 66 refers to it as ‘mām eka śharanam vraja’ or exclusive surrender unto the Lord and only the Lord. There is a fine line of difference between the two. While both are extremely superior forms of surrender, the latter is a notch above, because in exclusive surrender, one is only tied to the Lord and none else (excludes all but Lord).

Why is exclusivity such an important criterion here? Because, so long as there are other avenues to help us with our karmas, our ego is not completely surrendered. It continues to remain deluded because the doership still lies with oneself. Once the devotee realizes that there is none except the Lord that can help him cross the ocean of samsara, that is when he is truly able to surrender the ego in totality. And hence, in the gradation of the verses, exclusivity comes as an advanced grade in verse 66.

In the 56th verse the Lord offers the shaasvat station, something that’s permanent and he uses the term mat prasaadaat, by my grace. As we move ahead in 62nd verse, Lord says

तमेव शरणं गच्छ सर्वभावेन भारत |
तत्प्रसादात्परां शान्तिं स्थानं प्राप्स्यसि शाश्वतम् || 62||

Mat-prasaadaat has turned to tat-prasaadaat, the word shaasvata remains, but now He offers shaanti as well.

That great place, that station, that param, avayaya, shaasvata pada, mokksha is being offered.
In the 58th verse Lord offers relief from all difficulties and help in crossing over  सर्वदुर्गाणि मत्प्रसादात्तरिष्यसि and now in 62nd He qualifies it with peace.

If we contemplate deeper we can discern a continuity of the Sarva theme in the ten verses. सर्वकर्माण्यपि (56, 57), सर्वदुर्गाणि (58), सर्वभूतानां (61), सर्वभावेन (62), सर्वगुह्यतमं, सर्वधर्मा (66). To succeed in  surrender, for us to secure His grace, we have to do an act of “wholeness”.
There’s no doubt these verses are coming as direct assurances from the Lord unlike general philosophies. The terms मद्व्यपाश्रय:, मयि सन्न्यस्य , मत्पर मच्चित्त:, मच्चित्त: मत्प्रसादात्त, मन्मना भव, मद्भक्तो मद्याजी ,मां नमस्कुरु ,  मामेवैष्यसि मामेकं etc are more than expressive of His personal abhay vaani.

We must surrender completely and exclusively, so long as the surrender is not exclusive, one is not completely safe from falling into the clutches of ego. But once we exclusively surrender to the Lord, we have nothing to worry, assures Lord Himself.
Let us offer our entire being at His feet!

Raj Supe (Kinkar Vishwashreyananda)