When Krishna expresses His opinion, we would do well to pay attention.
By Jitendra Savenur
Unlike us, when Lord Krishna gives His opinion, it’s perfect.

A famous quote by Plato reads, “Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance.” In other words, we tend to have opinions about things of which we’re neither completely ignorant nor fully knowledgeable. Our opinions are often fraught with the limitation of our lack of access to complete or absolute knowledge, as well as with our limited ability to process the knowledge we do have access to. Subsequently, the opinions we might form based on our abilities are also, from an absolute perspective, relative and imperfect. Therefore, in the relative world one opinion is debunked and proven to be flawed by a second opinion, and a third opinion does the same to the second, and so on. In the Mahabharata Yudhishthira Maharaja summarizes this process within the Vedic fold when he says:

tarko ’pratishthah shrutayo vibhinna
nasav rishir yasya matam na bhinnam
dharmasya tattvam nihitam guhayam
mahajano yena gatah sa panthah

“Dry arguments are inconclusive. A great personality whose opinion does not differ from others is not considered a great sage. Simply by studying the Vedas, which are variegated, one cannot come to the right path by which religious principles are understood. The solid truth of religious principles is hidden in the heart of an unadulterated, self-realized person. Consequently, as the shastras confirm, one should accept whatever progressive path the mahajanas [“great persons”] advocate.”

But this invites the question whether any opinion is absolutely perfect. Every opinion is based on something. Therefore, do the mahajanas mentioned by Yudhishthira Maharaja base their opinions on something absolute, some sort of perfect opinion? Even if for a moment we were to accept that some opinions are truly perfect, the source of such opinions would have to be perfect too. In the context of Vaishnava theology, the most perfect person in the entire creation is none other than its creator, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, that supreme source from whom everything, spiritual as well as material, emanates. That is Lord Krishna, who descended into this world about five thousand years ago. Among His many wonderful instructions to His various devotees, the ones that Arjuna received on the battlefield of Kurukshetra are considered the essence of all Vedic knowledge. The Bhagavad-gita, with its supreme philosophical depth, has come to be commented upon by scholarly minds over and over in an attempt to decode its true essence.

In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna unambiguously expresses His opinion in a number of verses. These verses, if seen from an unbiased perspective, also direct us to the essence of the Bhagavad-gita. Let us look at these verses one by one in the progression of the Gita’s chapters.*

The Topmost Yogi

The first instance where Krishna is offering His opinion occurs in the sixth chapter. Krishna has just concluded His instructions to Arjuna on ashtanga-yoga, the yoga system consisting of eight steps, beginning from yama, restraint, and concluding in samadhi, trance. Arjuna then asks Krishna: What happens to the yogi who has forsaken his material possessions to make spiritual progress but within his current lifetime does not attain perfection in the yogic process? After telling Arjuna that the yogi gets the chance to continue his practice in the next life, Krishna then elevates the definition of a yogi to the highest level possible when He says:

yoginam api sarvesham
mad-gatenantar-atmana
shraddhavan bhajate yo mam
sa me yuktatamo matah

“And of all yogis, the one with great faith who always abides in Me, thinks of Me within himself and renders transcendental loving service to Me – he is the most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all. That is My opinion.” (Gita 6.47) (Italics added here and in upcoming verses.) In this verse, loving devotion to Krishna is being glorified as the highest platform of yoga one can achieve. Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport to this verse: “The word bhajate is significant here. Bhajate has its root in the verb bhaj, which is used when there is need of service. The English word ‘worship’ cannot be used in the same sense as bhaj. Worship means to adore, or to show respect and honor to the worthy one. But service with love and faith is especially meant for the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” Further in the purport, he also mentions the yoga ladder, which begins from the rung of karma-yoga and goes all the way to bhakti-yoga, the culmination of all yogic paths.

The Dearmost Seeker

The next instance where Krishna expresses His opinion comes in the seventh chapter. From that chapter onwards, Krishna speaks about bhakti-yoga, or loving devotion to Him, as a means to achieve the highest perfection of life. When doing so in the seventh chapter, He speaks about the four kinds of people who approach Him, namely, the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and the one who is in search of knowledge of the Absolute Truth. After mentioning the four categories of people who approach Him, Krishna mentions that among them, the one who is in search of knowledge of the Absolute Truth is most dear to Him (priyo hi jnanino ’tyartham). In the next verse Krishna says:

udarah sarva evaite
jnani tv atmaiva me matam
asthitah sa hi yuktatma
mam evanuttamam gatim

“All these devotees are undoubtedly magnanimous souls, but he who is situated in knowledge of Me I consider to be just like My own self. Being engaged in My transcendental service, he is sure to attain Me, the highest and most perfect goal.” (Gita 7.18) In the synonyms for this verse, Srila Prabhupada translates the word matam as “opinion.” Krishna is expressing His opinion here: He considers that the one in knowledge of Him is just like His own self, and that such a devotee is sure to attain Him. Indeed, this verse, like 6.47, is glorifying bhakti-yoga, or devotional service to Krishna, as the highest yogic process.

The Supersoul

After Krishna describes the glories of pure devotional service and displays His universal form to Arjuna, the discussion between Krishna and Arjuna moves into the context of knowledge, or jnana. And right at the outset of this section, in the third verse of the thirteenth chapter, Krishna mentions His opinion yet again. Arjuna begins the thirteenth chapter by asking Krishna to define certain technical terms, like prakriti (nature), purusha (the enjoyer), the field and the knower of the field, and knowledge and the object of knowledge. Krishna’s answer:

kshetra-jnam chapi mam viddhi
sarva-kshetreshu bharata
kshetra-kshetrajnayor jnanam
yat taj jnanam matam mama

“O scion of Bharata, you should understand that I am also the knower in all bodies, and to understand this body and its knower is called knowledge. That is My opinion.” (Gita 13.3) In this verse, Krishna is reiterating that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead by saying that He is the knower in all bodies. Krishna is indicating His manifestation as the Supersoul, or Paramatma, in the body of every living being. Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport: “The individual may be the knower of his own body, but he is not in knowledge of other bodies. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is present as the Supersoul in all bodies, knows everything about all bodies. He knows all the different bodies of all the various species of life.”

Working Without Attachment

Finally, the last instance in the Bhagavad-gita where Krishna expresses His opinion comes in the eighteenth chapter. Krishna has concluded the seventeenth chapter by describing sacrifice in various modes of material nature. The eighteenth chapter begins with a query by Arjuna: “O mighty-armed one, I wish to understand the purpose of renunciation [tyaga] and of the renounced order of life [sannyasa], O killer of the Keshi demon, master of the senses.” After defining the terms tyaga and sannyasa, Krishna emphasizes that acts of charity, austerity, and penance should not be given up (Gita 18.5). However, such acts should be of a certain quality, evident from the following words of Krishna:

etany api tu karmani
sangam tyaktva phalani cha
kartavyaniti me partha
nishchitam matam uttamam

“All these activities should be performed without attachment or any expectation of result. They should be performed as a matter of duty, O son of Pritha. That is My final opinion.” (Gita 18.6) Krishna is emphasizing here that instead of giving up activity itself, which is what sannyasa entails, it is better to act, but without expectation of result and without attachment to one’s position and possessions. On the next level up, if the fruits of our activities are then used to further Krishna consciousness in a personal as well as social context, we end up engaging in what Srila Rupa Goswami calls yukta-vairagya, proper renunciation. Krishna then continues summarizing the Bhagavad-gita and concludes His instructions to Arjuna.

Arjuna’s and Sanjaya’s Opinions

It is worth noting that it is not just Krishna who expresses His opinions in the Gita. Arjuna and Sanjaya express their opinions too. In the eleventh chapter, when Arjuna witnesses Krishna’s universal form he is awestruck and composes a number of prayers, including:

tvam aksharam paramam veditavyam
tvam asya vishvasya param nidhanam
tvam avyayah shashvata-dharma-gopta
sanatanas tvam purusho mato me/div>

“You are the supreme primal objective. You are the ultimate resting place of all this universe. You are inexhaustible, and You are the oldest. You are the maintainer of the eternal religion, the Personality of Godhead. This is my opinion.” (Gita 11.18)

Finally, in the last verse of the Bhagavad-gita (18.78), Sanjaya is indirectly answering Dhritarashtra’s original question, asked in the beginning of the Gita (1.1): “O Sanjaya, after my sons and the sons of Pandu assembled in the place of pilgrimage at Kurukshetra, desiring to fight, what did they do?” Sanjaya says in the final verse:

yatra yogeshvarah krishno
yatra partho dhanur-dharah
tatra shrir vijayo bhutir
dhruva nitir matir mama

“Wherever there is Krishna, the master of all mystics, and wherever there is Arjuna, the supreme archer, there will also certainly be opulence, victory, extraordinary power, and morality. That is my opinion.” (Gita 18.78)

Arjuna and Sanjaya, unlike Krishna, are not the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So is it worth placing importance on their opinions? The answer is yes, the reason being that their opinions are in harmony with the instructions of Krishna. An important lesson for us: as long as our opinions align with Krishna’s instructions and the words of the scriptures, they are spiritually acceptable. However, if we are not true to the spirit and vision of the scriptures and the words of the guru and sadhu, then our opinions will be tainted by our own limitations and conditionings, taking us further away from realizing scripture’s sublime spiritual truths.

A Bridge to Knowledge

When we base our opinions on the pure teachings of Krishna or His true representatives, we also become true representatives of His timeless message. Therefore, the guru, a pure representative of Krishna, is glorified as nondifferent from Him. Srila Prabhupada’s writes in his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.29.51: “Srila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura says, sakshad-dharitvena samasta-shastrair uktas tatha bhavyata eva sadbhih: the spiritual master is described in every scripture as the representative of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The spiritual master is accepted as identical with the Supreme Personality of Godhead because he is the most confidential servant of the Lord (kintu prabhor yah priya eva tasya).”

Thus, if we look at Plato’s quote about opinion mentioned in the beginning of this article from the perspective of the Bhagavad-gita, we can very well say that when it comes to the opinions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna, such opinions, instead of being stuck somewhere between knowledge and ignorance, are the much-needed bridge that transports us from the platform of ignorance to the platform of true knowledge.

*In many places in the Gita Srila Prabhupada translates the Sanskrit words matam/mato/matah/mati as “opinion.” I have not included the verses where Srila Prabhupada translates them differently.

2024-02-17T16:22:22+00:00