Chapter 9. Best of Secrets

1Arjuna, you are interested in my words
so I shall reveal to you the best of secrets:
it is practical knowledge guided by wisdom.
Know this and you will be free from sorrow.

2This is the deepest of all mysteries
and the greatest of all studies.
It is the purest of the pure
and the best of the best.
It follows the rules of dharma
and it is eternal.
It is easy to practice and
one can experience it directly.
Dharma refers to a moral law or principle.

3Those who reject this doctrine
fail to attain the supreme.
They are born again and again
in the endless cycle of death and rebirth.

4I pervade the entire universe but I am invisible.
All beings depend on me, but I don’t depend on them.
Here, ‘I’ is a reference to brahman, the supreme being.
Brahman is the source and the sustainer of the entire universe; there is nothing beyond brahman.
5Though I bring forth and sustain all beings,
I am not dependent on them.

In a way, even they don’t depend on me.
Such is my magnanimity, Arjuna!

6The mighty wind arises in space and
moves freely in all directions,
yet it is always confined to the space.

In the same way,
all creatures arise from me
yet they always remain within me.

7At the end of a cosmic day,
all beings return to my
unmanifest state.

Again, I bring them forth
at the beginning of the
next cosmic day.
A cosmic day spans 4.32 billion years and is followed by a cosmic night that spans another 4.32 billion years; this together forms a cosmic cycle. See 8:17-19.

8Again and again,
controlling my own nature,
I bring forth these myriads of beings
and subject them to the laws of nature.

9These actions don’t bind me because
I remain unconcerned and unattached.

10Under my supervision,
nature brings forth all beings –
animate and inanimate –
and sets the universe in motion.

11When I appear in human form,
the foolish people disregard me
because they don’t recognize my higher state
as the great lord of all beings.
They fail to look beyond physical appearances.

12They lack insight.
With unreal hopes,
trivial knowledge, and
insignificant deeds,
they resort to wicked ways.

13But the great souls who abide in divinity
are aware that I am the eternal source of all beings.
They worship me with singular focus.

14Further, those great souls glorify me,
honor me with intense devotion, and
worship me with firm resolve.

15And there are some others,
engaged in the cultivation of knowledge,
who worship me as the One, the distinct,
and as the supreme presence
that is manifested everywhere.
16I am the ritual,
I am the yajña,
I am the mantra,
I am the offering
that nourishes and heals,
I am the fuel and
I am the fire.
The yajña is a Vedic ritual in which fire is raised in an enclosed altar, typically a square-shaped structure made of bricks, with the top portion open to air. The sacred fire is both a deity as well as the medium to deliver offerings made to other deities. The deities to be worshiped are invoked during the yajña. Clarified butter (the fuel for the fire), medicinal herbs, twigs of Peepul tree, and other offerings are put into the fire, accompanied by chanting specific hymns from the Vedas. Mantra refers to the formative thought behind the chanted hymns.

All the distinct elements of a yajña are recognized here as embodiments of the supreme. See 4:24.
17I am also the father, the mother, the grandfather,
and the protector of this universe.
I am the purpose of knowledge,
I am the one who purifies,
I am the sacred syllable ‘om’, and
I am the Rig, Sama, and Yajur Vedas.
The Rig, Sama, and Yajur are the three principal Vedas. Rig Veda is the foremost one and the other Vedas were developed from it. A wholesome Vedic yajña would involve the three principal Vedas.

18I am the lord, friend, and witness.
I am creation, dissolution, and existence.
I am the everlasting seed and the sustainer.
I am the goal, the abode, the refuge,
and the final resting place.

19I radiate warmth.
I send forth and also hold back rain.
I am both immortality and death.
I am what is and what is not.

20Well-versed in the three Vedas,
they relish soma and are cleansed of sin;
they honor me through yajñas
with the desire to go to heaven.
By the merit gained they reach heaven ―
the domain of Indra ― and enjoy celestial pleasures.
Rig, Sama, and Yajur are the three Vedas
that are required to perform a yajña.
Soma is the brew of the soma plant, which the Vedic seers
used to drink as an instant reward of performing a yajña.

This verse talks about those who follow Vedic rituals
and refrain from doing bad deeds.

21Having enjoyed the wide world of heaven,
they return to earth once their merit is exhausted.
Again impelled by desire for heavenly pleasures,
they resort to meritorious rites prescribed in the Vedas
and are thus caught in the cycle of birth and death.
The duration and level of enjoyment in heaven is
proportional to the merit earned in one’s life;
once the merit is exhausted, one returns to earth.

22But those who are eternally devoted to me
and think of me alone,
I provide them with what they lack and
preserve what they already have.
I will completely look after their welfare.
In this verse and the following verses,
‘I’ and ‘me’ are references to the supreme.

23Arjuna, even those who faithfully worship other gods
in essence, are worshipping me, though unaware of it.

24I am the recipient and the goal of all worships.
But those who are unaware of my true nature
are caught in the cycle of birth and death.

25Those who worship devas
go to the devas they seek;
those who worship the pitrs go to the pitrs;
those who worship elemental spirits,
attain those spirits;
those who worship me, attain me.
Devas are divine beings residing in heaven.
Pitrs are the spirits of dead ancestors.
See 8:16.

26I happily accept whatever one offers me –
a leaf, a flower, a fruit or just water –
with love, devotion, and a pure heart.
27Whatever you do,
whatever you eat,
whatever you offer in worship
or give as charity
or give up in austerity,
dedicate that to me.

28Living in the spirit of dedication to me,
you will be freed from the bondages of actions.
Then the results of your action – good or bad –
will not impact you in any way.
Thus, you will be liberated
and will come to me.

29I am equally present in all beings;
none is hateful or dear to me.

But those who worship me with devotion –
I am in them and they are in me.

30Even if a man steeped in evil
takes on to my worship with undivided devotion,
he must be considered as noble
because he has taken the right decision.

31Readily, he becomes righteous and
attains everlasting peace.
Arjuna, know this:
no devotee of mine is ever lost.

32Whoever takes refuge in me –
even men of sinful birth, women, traders, or laborers –
will attain the supreme goal.
Societies typically look down upon certain sections of people. Krishna clarifies that whoever submits to the supreme attains liberation, irrespective of their birth, gender, or occupation.
33What more to say of
the pure and wise ones,
the devotees, and the royal seers,
who take refuge in me?

Having come into this fleeting
and unhappy world,
engage yourself in my worship
for the sake of liberation.

34Fix your mind on me, be devoted to me,
worship me, bow down to me;
seek me as the supreme goal with all your heart,
and you shall certainly be united with me.

In verses 30-34, Krishna explains the path of devotion leading to liberation. Even an evil person can instantly attain goodness and peace. One can be liberated regardless of birth, gender, learning, occupation, or position in society.

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