Essence of the Three Secrets | 13. Charama Śloka

The Charama Śloka

Śrīman Nārāyaṇa rests on the Ādiśeṣa in the Milky Ocean. He left it to come to Māthura to uphold Dharma. He incarnated as the Lord of Dvārakā to destroy the wicked and save the virtuous. He was humbler than all of them.

When the five Pāṇḍavas with Draupadī surrendered to Him, he became their ambassador. He placed Arjuṇa as the master in the chariot, and himself acted as the charioteer.

Making Arjuṇa appear as his helper, he destroyed the evil ones:

At that time Arjuṇa was overwhelmed by fear and would not fight as it would lead to the killing of his kinsmen. He was also afraid of the sin that would accrue to him by killing his teachers.

Arjuna requested Krishna to educate him on what would be good to him. Krishna spoke the Bhāgavad Gita to chase away his sorrow.

In this work he clarified the nature of the Jīvātmā and of Paramātmā. He explained the ways of Karma and Jñāna yogas that lead to the supreme Ānanda of Moksha, and Bhakti yoga which is a straight path to Moksha.

Even after being taught about the straight path of devotion to attain Moksha, Arjuṇa was sad that it does not work speedily for one who wants to attain Moksha immediately.

Besides, Bhakti yoga is difficult, and even if one has the knowledge to perform Bhakti yoga, it may not grant the gain one wants.

Taking the sorrowing Arjuṇa as a pretext, Krishna, the author of the Gītā Upanishad also spelt out Prapatti as another Way:

There is no difficult sadhana to do here except surrendering with the five limbs of Prapatti. This needs only the five limbs like AnukuIya Sankalpa.

So it is an easy path. It can be performed in a few seconds. With compassion towards the whole world waiting to be redeemed, Krishna spoke of this Way at the very conclusion of the Gītā.

The Way indicated in the Vedas was again stated in the Gita as the last word. The same has been stated with love by the Āḻvārs and Āchāryas in their works.

The Charama Śloka opens with the phrase, 'Sarva dharmān’:

This is the last Śloka of the Bhagavad Gītā. This was the final firm and compassionate statement of Prapatti taught by the Lord to the people of the world with Arjuṇa as a pretext. One must definitely understand its significance.

The first part of the Śloka teaches the Way. By recording the gain, the latter half speaks of the limbs of the yoga, needed for surrender.

 'Vidhi' is the command given to a person to perform an act. If there is no result for the action, no one would like to do that action. Hence the sentence that speaks of the fruits of action will entice him to get down to action. Thus the whole Śloka indicates the Way.

When it is said, 'giving up all dharmas', one must know about dharmas:

Dharmas are the methods pursued to gain the goals stated in Puruṣārthas. The plural indicates that many dharmas have been stated in the śāstras to attain our goal.

'All' means dharmas as well as the instruments of dharma. For, the instruments needed to perform dharma are also referred to as dharma.

Though here all dharmas are referred to in general, taking in the earlier references, dharmas here refer to the methods of the Way to gain moksha as stated in the śāstras.

The next word is 'parityajya’. The words so far given mean, 'having given up all dharmas’. Here ‘giving up’ calls upon the aspirant not to desire other ways as he does not have the capacity to undertake them.

Pari' means 'completely. This is because here the aspirant is taken to be incapable of undertaking any of the ways and at any time. So he does not wish to pursue any other way.

The advice to give up all dharmas can also be taken as a command:

When taken in that light, it should be understood that whereas Karma and other limbs are necessary for upāsanā, no such accessory is needed for Prapatti.

This would mean that those who cannot perform other dharmas and those who can do them but cannot stand the wait are also eligible for performing Prapatti.

Giving Up all dharmas surrender to me alone, is the command:

But if some people think that this is a command to give up duties like Sandhya Vandanam and the rest of Anjna and Anujna ordained for their castes, it is a wrong assumption:

Even he who has performed Prapatti must follow the duties laid down in the śāstras for different castes. Here it only means these services are no more a limb of Prapatti.

What is required most for Prapatti are Anukula Sankalpa, humility, total faith, unquestioning nature and a prayer for guardianship. Prapatti expects nothing else.

Hence the devotee who has surrendered must fulfil his daily duties. It only means one who is unable to do, need not unnecessarily struggle to perform the dharma. He should not desire to do things which he wants to do.

Also, if he thinks of following another path along with Prapatti, the latter will not accept it and will withdraw, like Brahmāstra. The phrase, 'give up all dharmas indicates that one should not mix other methods with this Way.

The next word is ‘mām'. Krishna says, "Me". Surrender to Me alone:

One must take in the significance of the incarnation as spelt out by Him in the fourth canto, and understand His compassion in these words.

The true greatness of His incarnation is that His incarnation is true:

He never give up His true image which is the same as in Śrī Vaikuṇṭha, it is His desire that caused the incarnation and His aim is to guard the virtuous whenever dharma declines.

By knowing this truth about the incarnation, the one who has desire to surrender is able to approach Him. By revealing His compassion thus, the Lord invites one to surrender "to me’.

'Ekaṁ' has been used to indicate "alone" to be taken with "me”. The word 'me alone' shows that the Lord is the Way and the Goal:

The Lord stands as the Way, answers compassionately to the Surrender and grants Moksha. One reaches this Lord only. So it means He answers the Prapatti as Himself and grants refuge.

Alone' is also taken to mean that He stands as the Goal of Dharma, Himself standing as the Goal to be gained by all other dharmas.

'Śaranam' is taken to mean the Way. The Lord says: ‘Consider me alone as the refuge’.

Because this was addressed to Arjuṇa, and by other Pramāṇas also, one must take it as addressed to everyone through Arjuna. It would also mean 'do not take refuge in anyone except me'.

Next comes 'vraja'. This is used in the place of ‘prapadye' found in the Dvaya:

There the aspirant says, “I take refuge in you”. Here the Lord says: "Take refuge in me". Having stated the way of surrender in the first half, the Lord now reveals that He accepts the surrender and will grant refuge.

Here 'alone' indicates ‘one who is capable of everything'. Whatever sin the prapanna may have committed, nobody can withstand the Lord s power of guarding him. Such indescribable power is shown in the word, 'I'.

He refers to 'you". When he says ‘I shall release you from all sins’, "you' indicates this. This is the Lord's beloved message to everyone through Arjuna:

“l taught you all the philosophies. I said all other wealth is impermanent. You also found clarity and realised that the greatest gain is coming to Me.

You are not eager for that as the ways I have mentioned are hard. Hence surrender to me. You need not do anything else to gain your Goal. You, who are in this condition”.

Such is the significance of 'you' here.

The Lord who remove our bonds and gives Moksha is referred to as 'I’; he who surrenders to Him and desires Moksha is referred to as 'you', the sins that have bound him to the world are referred to as ’from all sins'. Sins are mentioned in śāstras as the root cause of evil. Evil destroys good and gives what is had.

For him who desires Moksha, even some good things have to be listed as evil. As one who desires Realisation has no need for heaven and the rest, the good deeds done for gaining them have to be abdicated. For a mumukshu even these are evil. The mumukshu has to give up both good and evil. The term ‘all’ indicates that evils are countless.

The statement, "I shall release you from all sins and save you” contains all these meanings. When the aspirant performs surrender, immediately the Lord destroys his sins and grants him Moksha.

For one who performs Prapatti desiring Moksha at the end of his earthly life, the Lord removes all his sins committed earlier except Prārabdha sins, He also sees to it that sins committed in ignorance after Prapatti are nullified. Even in the Prārabdha sins, those not accepted by the aspirants are made void.

After Prapatti, the devotee does not commit sins knowingly. But if he does, the Lord gives him the buddhi to surrender again in atonement. In this way the sins are removed. If one persists on a sinful path, He will ordain small punishments to clear the prapanna of the sins.

In any case, the aspirant gains Moksha at the falling away of his physical body. He will have no rebirth. All these thoughts are for cleaning up sins. All this is done because of the Lords compassion.

By saying, "I release you from all sins”, it is understood that the Lord conveys the message, “I shall give you Moksha." Moksha is the state when this Jīvātmā gains his natural form:

This Jīvātmā also possess all auspicious qualities as the Lord. These get veiled due to the karmic results of earthly life. Once the sins are removed, the real form emerges.

We do not see the brilliance of a glass once dust covers it. When the dust it removed, you gaze on the brilliance. That is its natural state. In the same way, when a well is dug, the water within gushes forth. It is not as if new water has been created there.

So do evils veil one's nature. When they are removed, the good nature is revealed. Qualities like pure intelligence shine forth, So this Jīvātmā is able to join the group of Nityā Sūrīs, engage himself in servitude and gain supreme bliss.

When the Lord says, "I shall free you from all sins’ it is obvious the Gītācharya means that He will grant him Moksha as the fruit of Prapatti.

Finally by saying, 'Do not fear’, the compassionate Lord consoles the aspirants through Arjuna. As all his sorrows are destroyed by choosing the way of surrender, the Lord seeks to strengthen his resolve by saying ‘do not fear’. Also, it means that there is no need for the aspirant to fear after gaining a Way that is easy, that destroys all enemies and gives speedy result.

“After you performed this act, all your actions have become my responsibility. The results are also mine. This being the state of affairs, it would be my mistake if you are not saved. Hence where is the need for you to be afraid?" Such is the Lord's view.

The full significance of the Charama Śloka is to be realised as follows:

"You have little intelligence and strength. Your life span is brief. You cannot brook delay:

Do not lose yourself in other ways which you cannot understand, follow or which take a long time to bear fruit. I am humbler than all, the guardian of all the worlds, and capable of such guardianship.

Consider me as the Way and surrender to me through the five-limbed prapatti. You who have become dear to me through such surrender, I who am compassionate and free shall accept you with my will.

I shall remove your obstacles, make you enjoy experiences equal to mine, give you the wherewithal to serve me at all times in every way and make you experience Brahmānanda. You need not sorrow.”

This is the significance of the concluding message of grace.