The Bhagavad Gita



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The Bhagavad Gita: Discourse 12 Summary & Analysis

Arjuna asks who is wiser: those who always practice yoga and devote themselves to the personal form of Krishna or those who honor his formless, imperishable manifestation. Krishna responds that those who practice yoga while thinking of him are “the most joined to yoga,” but those who honor the imperishable reach him, too. This latter group faces greater pain and difficulty, while those who give all actions to Krishna and perform yoga better honor him.
Arjuna’s question echoes the revelation he has just received: Krishna expressed his true power to Arjuna but can never directly show him his true, formless self, which cannot be perceived with the senses and is therefore much more difficult to grasp than an embodied form with the power of the infinite.
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Krishna explains that all who think constantly and singularly about him with the proper insight will be uplifted beyond the whims of death and reincarnation. Those who cannot do this should undertake yoga to reach God. Those who cannot practice yoga should focus on Krishna’s work, because acting for his sake can lead them to fulfillment. And those who cannot do this should devote themselves to Krishna’s power in order to learn to give up the fruits of action. Letting go of action’s fruits leads to peace, so doing so it is better than the focused mind, which is better than wisdom, which is better than mechanical practice.  
Although Krishna first elevates insight above yoga, he appears to then advocate the opposite: detachment above focus (through yoga), focus above insight, and insight above sacrifice. Krishna may be offering two contradictory hierarchies of worship because different forms of worship are suited to different people. However, there may also be subtle differences between the kinds of practices he discusses in each section: fixation on Krishna is a devotional practice of the focused mind, so it includes detachment from the fruits of action and requires wisdom; yoga builds this focus, detachment, and wisdom, which is why it would offer a viable alternative for those unable to fixate on Krishna directly.
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One who lacks hatred, a sense of self and ownership, and the distinction between pain and pleasure is dear to Krishna; so is the controlled and insightful yoga practitioner who devotes themselves to him, as is the one who does not tremble before the world and avoids pleasure, impatience, fear, and anxiety. Krishna continues enumerating qualities of a devotee, suggesting that they must overcome duality and steadily trust his absolute power.
By this stage in the Gita, because Krishna has revealed his true form, Arjuna has clearly switched from an impersonal, intellectual relationship with truth and God to a personal, devotional one; he has moved from trusting Krishna because of his wisdom to trusting Krishna because he is the divine. His willingness to face terror and anxiety at the sight of Krishna’s divine form suggests that Arjuna has begun to adopt the characteristics Krishna enumerates here and convert himself into a wise devotee.
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