Bhagavad Gita 10.1
The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: Listen again, O mighty-armed Arjuna. Because you are My dear friend, for your benefit I shall speak to you further, giving knowledge that is better than what I have already explained.
The Most Important Part of Gita?
The most valuable things we own are not the things we keep on the sidewalk or the front porch. We keep them safely protected on all sides. The most valuable part of the Gita is the middle portion. The middle portion begins at Chapter 7 and extends to the end of Chapter 12. It is protected on one side by Chapters 1-6, which give a proper understanding of karma (religion). On the other side it is protected by Chapters 13-18, which give a proper understanding of jñāna (science). With a proper understanding of religion and science, one can fully appreciate bhakti (love).
The center of the center is the inner sanctum. The center of the central portion of Bhagavad-Gita is the 9th and 10th chapters. Specifically, the end of the 9th Chapter and the beginning of the 10th.
Kṛṣṇa begins Chapter 10 by saying, “I shall speak to you further, giving knowledge that is better than what I have already explained.” The key word is further. That is why it is “better” – because it further elaborates on the best part of Gita, the end of Chapter 9.
In Chapter 9 Kṛṣṇa explained why it is of utmost spiritual potency to focus our actions, thoughts, emotions, and souls upon Kṛṣṇa. In Chapter 10 he will “elaborate” by giving us practical things to focus on.
The 9th chapter is actually sweeter than the 10th Chapter. The 9th chapter indirectly indicates Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, the topmost secret and sweetest zenith of divine love (in mahatmanas tu mam partha, daivim prakritim ashrita). Nothing can really “elaborate” on, go “further” than, or be “better” than that. We have passed the climax point of Bhagavad Gita, which unlike contemporary novels, occurs just slightly forward of the dead center of the book. In Chapter 10 the sweetness of Śrī Kṛṣṇa will decline and his majesty will rise up. This will come to its own climax in the next Chapter when Kṛṣṇa displays the all-mighty Universal Form. Majesty is rising and sweetness declining as we proceed through this 10th Chapter. Thus the topic of the 10th Chapter is “vibhuti” – the opulence and grandeur of Kṛṣṇa as Godhead.
Scriptures do not speak in forthright ways. They rely upon Gurus and Sadhus to explain them in forthright ways according to the nature of the audience receiving them. This is why, commenting on this text, Srila Viśvanātha Chakravarti quotes Bhagavatam 11.21.35: paroksa-vada rsayah paroksam ca mama priyam (“The wise speak in indirect terms, and this pleases me.”) By being indirect, the confidential secrets are hidden from those who do not yet deserve to grasp them. The statement that this 10th Chapter is “better” than the 9th is an example of Kṛṣṇa speaking as a Rishi / seer and being indirect or somewhat non-forthright. The fact is that the 9th Chapter holds the zenith of the Gita, not the 10th. The hidden meaning is:
bhūya eva (Again, certainly…) mahā-bāho (oh strong man…) śṛṇu me (hear my…) paramaḿ vacaḥ (supreme words..) yat te ‘haḿ prīyamāṇāya (that I speak to you because of loving you so).
So, what is actually being said is that what was previously spoken in the 9th chapter is the paramam vacah, the supreme statement of Gita. And that here in the 10th Chapter Kṛṣṇa will discuss it again from another angle.
Incidentally, I love that Kṛṣṇa addresses Arjuna as “Oh strong man” (maha-baho). Srila Viśvanātha Chakravarti explains Kṛṣṇa’s intention in addressing Arjuna this way: “You are a big strong man. But if you are really a strong man, make your intelligence strong and focus it on what I am going to tell you without letting your mind run back to any other topic!”
Real strength is the ability to focus the mind.
Why would Arjuna’s mind wander? Because he may be sad that the sweetness of the 9th chapter has passed. His thoughts will thus wander strongly back to those sweet topics. This would not serve Kṛṣṇa’s purpose of speaking the Gita in a systematic manner, however – so he requests Arjuna to use his mighty strength to concentrate his mind on the task at hand.
The text begins with, “śrī-bhagavān uvāca” Which means, “Bhagavan says.” A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swāmī Prabhupāda begins his commentary by taking an effort explain the word “Bhagavan.”
The word bhagavān is explained thus by Parāśara Muni: one who is full in six opulences, who has full strength, full fame, wealth, knowledge, beauty and renunciation, is Bhagavān, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. While Kṛṣṇa was present on this earth, He displayed all six opulences. Therefore great sages like Parāśara Muni have all accepted Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Why does Prabhupāda comment on the word Bhagavan here? Because the subject of the 10th chapter is the opulence of God, and Bhagavan addresses God as the possessor of all opulence.
Incidentally Parashara Muni is the father of Veda Vyas, and is also the main authority for jyotish – the science of Vedic astrology. Parashara Muni is a Vaishnava. He “accepts Kṛṣṇa as Bhagavan.” He begins his scripture on Astrology (Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra) by saying that Vishnu creates the universe and all the 9 planets are merely projections of his 10 avataras.
Incidentally, Parashara states that the planet most directly connected to Kṛṣṇa is the Moon. The salient point about the Moon is that she desires affection from everyone and is therefore not inimically disposed towards any other planet. This is parallel to Kṛṣṇa’s own personality, explained in Chapter 9 – his arms are fully wide open to anyone and everyone who wishes to show Kṛṣṇa any affection whatsoever.
Prabhupāda’s purport (commentary) also explains why the 10th chapter could indirectly be said to be better than the 9th:
In the previous chapter He has clearly explained His different energies to establish devotion in firm conviction. Again in this chapter He tells Arjuna about His manifestations and various opulences.
The more one hears about the Supreme God, the more one becomes fixed in devotional service. One should always hear about the Lord in the association of devotees; that will enhance one’s devotional service. Discourses in the society of devotees can take place only among those who are really anxious to be in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Others cannot take part in such discourses. The Lord clearly tells Arjuna that because Arjuna is very dear to Him, for his benefit such discourses are taking place.
The 10th Chapter is “better” because it takes one to the next stage. The result of the 9th Chapter is that, if you read it very deeply and with an open heart, you will get a very significant conviction and desire to cultivate divine love for Kṛṣṇa. At that point you will want to execute devotional service. How is this done? The 9th chapter first and foremost said, satatam kirtayanto mam – it is done by speaking lovingly about Kṛṣṇa all the time. What will one speak, though? The 10th Chapter gives some preliminary material for discussing Kṛṣṇa. Therefore it allows one to begin engaging in kirtan.
The progress of divine love begins with conviction (shraddha). Conviction in the value of divine love causes us to seek those who posses divine love in their hearts (sadhu-sanga). In the association of those persons we get the opportunity to have satatam kirtan – constant kirtan, constant loving discussion of Kṛṣṇa (bhajana-kriya). Only those who seek divine love, therefore, truly have an interest in kirtan. Others only enter into kirtan by circumstance, chance, or a passing curiosity.
Arjuna is symbolically undergoing this development in a sense. In Chapter 9 Arjuna obtained firm conviction in divine love (shraddha). He has Kṛṣṇa as the sadhu from whom he will learn more about divine love (sadhu-sanga). Now Kṛṣṇa will speak the 10th Chapter to engage Arjuna in kirtana, and thus take him to the third level (bhajana-kriya). Since Arjuna is “leveling up” in that sense the 10th Chapter represents an improvement over the 9th.
I am sad to see the 9th Chapter receding behind us as we continue to the end of Gita, but hopefully we will keep it in mind while proceeding. However I am looking forward to the fascinating points we will encounter from here till the end, and the end of the 18th chapter will revisit those central secrets in a very powerful way – so that they are not forgotten.