This incident is from the Bhagavatam, the purpose for which Bhagavan had assumed the form of Shri Krishna had been served. Mother Earth had been relieved of the burden which had been oppressing her. The great war that was fought on the field of Kurukshetra for 18 days had caused the annihilation of the entire clan. The Earth had been drenched with their blood. On the soil, Bhagavan had sown the seeds of Dharma. It was time for Bhagavan Shri Krishna to leave the earth.
Uddhava who was a very very dear friend got to know that Bhagavan Shri Krishna would not be there in that form and so he went up to him and shedding tears, said that I know everything, but, what will I do if you leave me and go away. Ever since the time that you came to Mathura and killed Kamsa, I’ve been with you. I want to be with you forever. Please take me with you. Bhagavan Shri Krishna says, Yes, every word you have said is true. Dwarka will be covered by the sea and nothing will be left except the memory of it. But, Uddhava, You cannot come with me. You have to live in this world. The world needs you. You have to abandon all desires and walk about here and teach people Brahmavidya which you have to master.
Bhagavan Shri Krishna teaches him Brahmavidya, but also realises that it’s not enough. The teaching has to be a little more detailed, a little more intense and explicit. So he continues, Bhagavan Shri Krishna tells Uddhava, consider the dream world. When a person is dreaming several events take place. The person goes through the many modes of sorrow, or he reaches the pinnacles of ecstasy, he’s happy or he sad, and he’s both, but when he wakes up, the entire dream world melts away, and he knows now that it was all a figment of his imagination. There was in reality no sorrow, nor was there any happiness. So consider this world to be very much like the world of dreams that was imagined by the dreamer. Even if we think of a man who indulges in daydreaming, all his many unfulfilled desires sprout wings, and they seem to have all come true in the state of his mind. This process of thinking called manoratha, the chariot of the mind and in it, not one of the experiences of the daydreamer is real, but they are all fabrications of the mind. This world is made up of neither sorrow nor happiness, neither pleasure nor pain. If you master your mind and train your mind to think on this long enough to realise the truth of it, you will be rid of the bondage of karma. The world of plurality is a result of the play of the senses, the Indriyas. When they become involved with the sense of objects, the world seems to be full of these feelings, made up of the opposites and a person loses the power of thinking. So, you hold on fast this one role, to not act with desire tainting the action. In other words, do what you need to do without being bound by the desire. So cultivate the qualities which are essential for the realisation of Brahman. He goes on to list them.
Ahimsa, which is an unwillingness to hurt anyone or anything.
Satyam, which is speaking the truth always.
Asteyam, which is not stealing that which belongs to another.
Asanghah, meaning not being extremely attached to anyone or anything. The greater the attachment, the greater will be the pain when separation happens which is inevitable. One can be free enough to love and care, but still be asangha unattached.
Lajja is another quantity, which is shame to do actions which are unworthy.
Asancayam, which is not storing anything which will lead you away from other pursuits. Day or night, you will think of hoarding more and more. So it’s better to avoid that.
Astikam, which is a firm trust in the presence of Bhagavan. Unless this basic trust is present, the rest of the teaching loses all meaning.
Brahmacharya has to be practised. Of course it means many things but a certain mastery, to the senses of the pleasures of the body.
Maunam is silence, but by silence he meant – Do not talk unnecessarily and don’t waste time and words, in the company of people who are driven only towards pleasure.
Sthairyam, is to be firm and steady and your actions, your words, your trust, your conviction.
Kshama, is accommodation and forgiveness that one could have the generosity of the heart to be able to forgive those who have hurt you in different ways.
Abhayam, fearlessness, is almost synonymous with Sthairyam. So that fearlessness which is prepared to tackle any kind of trouble.
Krishna goes on to say, “One who desires to reach me, should have the power to look on everything as the same. Meaning, to him a tree, a blade of grass will look alike. An enemy and a friend will look alike. He has no desire to own anything. He sees that his wife, children, home, land, wealth, friends, all of them are given. When he has realised that the same Brahman dwells in everyone, then, where is the possibility of suffering from the feeling that these things belong to Him. The feelings of I and mine would have vanished from the mind of a person who has reached me, which obviously does not mean that the person has to abandon all these and run away from them. He can be with all of these relations and pursuit by all means but he has to know the truth, the reality that underlies all this, and therefore he can remain untouched while performing his duty.
Consider fire and its nature. It is lodged inside a piece of wood. As long as it is inside the piece of wood, it assumes all the qualities of the wood, its length, its thickness, its colour, its nature in every way. But then, the fire is not a part of the word in reality. It is a thing apart. The apparent identity of the fire with the piece of wood is very much like the world of Maya, which we live in. The atma, which is, apart from the body it dwells in, is different from the body seems to dwell in the body, and is one with a body and this feeling is nurtured in the mind of the person because of the veil of avidya, the ignorance of the reality and avidya has enveloped his power of thinking. Just as the fire in the wood, which has the power to destroy the world completely and glow in its own glory is present, so too knowledge can destroy all our wrong notions because of which we have sorrow, because of which we have separation, because of which we sense separation, and how can you feel separate from all that is one? all that this here is one!
So the atma which seems to be trapped inside the equipment of the body, mind and intellect will never appear again as the inhabitant of this body but will become one with Brahman. The atma is self luminous pure awareness. Remember Uddhava, the atma is the only truth and everything else is mithya. With this understanding, see that even your affection for me which brings sorrow at the thought of parting from me is also mithya. You feel it, it exists, but it’s not absolutely real. Try to see that although I have this appearance, and I go by the name of Krishna, I am Brahman.
In this world of people no person is able to get what he or she wants. The person who is a slave to his or her actions to the sway of emotions which grant pleasure and pain is never free. It is only those who know the real nature of the world of Maya, who are ever happy. Anyone who claims to have found a treatment for all pains, and to have discovered that which will grant continued happiness, is still in truth helpless. Since, he has not been able to find a cure for the greatest pain of all that is death. When death is ever by the side of a person born in this world, how can the things of the world, grant him happiness? It’s like, offering perfumed sandalwood paste and beautiful garland of flowers to a person who’s being led to the rope that will hang him.
There are those who have performed Yajnas, fire ritual offerings, and the person who performs yajnas, because he has pleased Indra reaches swarga, where the gods dwell. As a consequence of his accumulated Punya, the person is able to move about in swarga as one among the devas, dressed in delicate silk and wandering around in chariots made of silver and gold. He has the company of the apsaras who are a part of the court of Indra, beautiful, talented women.
The Gandharvas, sing his praises and his ears have become so attuned to the music of the tiny bells, on the anklets of the women around him that he has already been able to hear the inner voice inside which tells him that, even all of this is mitya. With the passage of time the punya he has acquired on the earth becomes less and less and finally when it’s all exhausted, the person is pushed down to the earth, and the cycle begins, all over the again.
The person who is ignorant of the truth is born again and again and the only cure for this ignorance is knowledge. Remember that the indriyas, the sense organs perform the actions and not the atma that presides over them. It is because of his inherent guna, whether it is satva, rajas or tamas, that the person behaves as he or she does. He goes through the cycle of the opposites pleasure and pain, happiness and sorrow and because of the play of the gunas and the indriyas, of course, the world of objects around him, the ahankara continues to be there. The feelings of I and mine, which are twins residing in the mind of the person making move away from me, Krishna, and get more and more involved in the world of pain.
Uddhava then asks Krishna about bhakti and jnanam. Uddhava says that I’ve heard you speak about different yogas and I’ve come to the conclusion that jnana yoga which you have described is very difficult to practice, unless the person has a mastery of the mind and I don’t think I’ll be able to take to it. I also know that there are a lot of wise people who have worshipped you, and they have been granted the wisdom to differentiate between what is true and what is false. So your bhaktas, your devotees are never destroyed because they are never obsessed with ahankara, the sense of I, me and mine. They don’t have pride in their achievements because they recognise that all that is here is given to them by you and others that are deluded by Maya think that they are great Yogi’s because they’re very skillful in their work, but they allow pride to enter their hearts. So I understand Krishna that you love your bhaktas, and they are the ones who think about you all the time when you were born as Rama, the vanaras, monkey like humanoids, were more dear to you than all the devas, and then when you are so easily pleased by bhakti, why should a person, strive with jnana yoga?
Uddhava says I consider myself to be your bhakta because you are ever present in my thoughts. I love no one else but you. So Krishna says that the love for me, has to be constant. My bhaktas, my devotees have to see, and follow the behaviour of the others which is Narada who was divine, Prahlada who was an asura child, or Dhruva, who was also a human and child. My bhakta or devotee should worship Me, and by worship, I do not mean the bhajans in which several people combine and sing more to impress each other of their devoutness. I do not ask for puja with ostentatious offerings, including things like chatra chamara, the umbrella, and other things, or Simhasana, a grand throne. One need not even observe vratas like Ekadashi or rather severe austerities not as one has to go on pilgrimage to all the holy spots in order to worship me.
Bhagavan says, I am pleased if with the clear mind a person makes an attempt to see me in everyone and everything. If a person realises that everything is pervaded by me and only me, there is then no need for him to perform any japa or tapa, since he is already evolved. The avaranas, as though covering of ignorance, do not envelop him. So, he’s free like the air or the sky. The wise person is one who has realised the truth, which is me, and to Him everything looks alike. All things are seen as manifestations of me and only me. He finds no evidence between someone who is rich or poor, because he is able to look upon both with the same affection. He sees me in the sun, in a spark of fire, in a person whose equanimity is evident and even in a person full of cruel thoughts. He knows that the same Brahman dwells in all these, and because of the avarana, the covering, they do not realise it.
So to a person with thoughts like these, it’s very easy to be without ahankara or envy or arrogance or hatred. When bhakti and jnanam are combined in a person, he’s sure of attaining mukti, moksa.
He concludes saying that – “Don’t grieve Uddhava when I’m gone, but go about in this world and teach Dharma, whenever you can. I’ve taken so much trouble to establish it on this earth, and you should tend and nurture this plant, when I am gone. And Uddhava says with tears in his eyes that all my confusions are gone because of your presence. How can fear of darkness frighten the one who is standing in the presence of the sun. You’ve been so full of affection for me that you have taught me how to cut the bonds of affection I have. I am so free that I can care and love for everyone. Grant me with this bhakti that this knowledge is firm as a rock in this weak and wavering heart of mine. Krishna smiles at him with infinite love in his eyes and tells Uddhava to proceed to the ashrama by the name of Badri and tells him to live there and do all that he has asked him to do. This incident of Bhagavan Krishna teaching Uddhava is from the Bhagavatam and it’s a reminder to us to recognise the nature of true bhakti, which as bhagavan Shri Krishna has already said, is to dissolve the sense of separation that exists between me and the other and that separation exists only because of avidya, and therefore we make the most of this human birth by recognising the truth that sets us free from that which limits us and that because of which there is sorrow. We can dwell on what is it that prevents me from feeling loving towards the other. And a lot of answers will emerge.