Side Effects of Spiritual Development

The final section of the 12th chapter of Gita describes the side effects of spiritual development in bhakti-yoga. In the first section, texts 1-7 asked, “which is the more perfect yoga: inactive contemplation on the formless absolute or active engagement in a relationship with the personal Godhead?” It answered that personal yoga is superior because it includes and surpasses everything in impersonal yoga.

Texts 8-12 addressed a new question: “since personal Bhakti-yoga is the most perfect yoga, how do we practice it?” in these four verses Krsna answers with a full spectrum of practices in and towards Bhakti-yoga.

The final section is texts 13-20. These seven verse describe the visible, verifiable symptoms of a person who is practicing Bhakti-yoga effectively.

When we hear this list it is natural to think, “I wish I had more of these qualities. But that misses the whole point of twelfth chapter. The point is that these qualities are automatic byproducts of Bhakti. All we should feel in reading this is “I wish I had more Bhakti. If I had more Bhakti I would naturally have all these good traits.” I think this is an important point worth pausing to be sure you understand.

It is good to also meditate on the fact that Bhakti is the root of all good qualities. Bhakti means love. Love is the root of all good qualities. Look around you at people who are more and less loving in their character note their faults and good qualities. You will find that love really is the fountainhead of all good qualities and that without a loving heart other qualifications are merely skills similar to the expertise of a robot and used to bring about inauspiciousness.

Now let’s review the qualities that serve as milestones tangibly marking our progress towards effectively practicing Bhakti yoga.

How I will treat others:
– I will become no ones enemy
– I will consider no one my enemy
– I will forgive
– I won’t burden others
– I will never feel that others are a burden on me
– I will give allegiance to no faction or party
– I will be attached to no one
– I will embrace friends and enemies equally
– I will accept honor and dishonor equally
– I will accept praise and insults as the same thing
– I will be quiet

My own character:
– nothing is mine
– I am not really important
– sorrow and joy have the same merit to my heart
– comfort and discomforts like heat and cold are not important
– I never express happiness, distress, fear or anxiety
– I am never dissatisfied
– I feel no pains
– I experience no grief
– I have no desires
– I am clean and pure
– I have no needs
– I can do whatever needs to be done
– I never start big projects
– I don’t enjoy anything nor do I suffer
– I never do anything auspicious or inauspicious
– I am satisfied with whatever comes to me
– I don’t need a home
– My decisions are firm

My yoga
– I am always aware of a link to the divine
– I have unyielding determination to realize that link
– I use all my actions, thoughts and emotions to do so

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