We are at Thiruninravur, one of the Kshetrams of Thondainadu. The Lord here is Sri Bhaktavatsala Perumal [ஸ்ரீ பக்தவத்சல பெருமாள்]. He, Who shows vatsalyam at Bhaktas, is Sri Bhaktavatsalan. Vatsalyam is the noble quality of acknowledging devotees' faults as qualities. Swami Arulala Paerumal Emperumanar says that it is just like a cow licks and cleans its calf. A mother does not look at her child's mistakes. Even when, as an infant, the child excretes, she cleans the child with a smile and again fondles it. Like this great quality of a mother, the Lord Sri Bhaktavatsala shows compassion to His devotees. Alwars also pray the Lord to regard their mistakes as qualities and pardon them. One may ask that this quality is predominant in females only; and, so how the Lord exhibits this quality? But since the Divine Mother, Sri Ennaipetra Thayar is there, the Lord also would show the same traits. Thus the Divine Couple blesses devotees in this Kshetram. The famous Swami Periya Jeer [பெரிய ஜீயர் சுவாமி] of Thirumala, is managing this Kshetram. Present Jeer is the 43rd in succession, in this Mutt established by Swami Ramanuja. The Lord graces magnificently. Moolavar is large and in standing pose with Four arms. With abhaya hastam, He is holding discus, conch and mace in the other hands. He is accompanied by Sri Ubhya Nachiyar [ஸ்ரீ உபய நாச்சிமார்கள்]. Utsavar is identical in appearance. The Lord displays Kaustuba precious stone [கௌஸ்துப மணி] on His chest. Sri Thayar also is on His chest. Swami Bhattar says that Sri Thayar always displays a medal with the Lord engraved in it; just as He sports a medal with Sri Thayar in it! Both of Them always remember the devotees. This Divya desam has been praised by Thirumangai Alwar in Two pasurams - once while praising Thirukkannamangai Kshetram and the other while praising Thirukkadalmallai Kshetram. We will see more about them on another day; but we will now see the next sloka in Gita, with the blessings of the Lord here. The qualities of the Lord are infinite [asankeyam]. Even we can not thoroughly ponder on any one quality. The Lord is like a great treasure. Alwar says the Lord here is nithilachothu [நித்திலாச் சொத்து]; a treasure buried under, which never gets exhausted. The Lord said that by meditating on any quality of the Lord, Arjuna would get a firm faith in Him. By observing the beauty we see in the world, we could divert that taste in admiring the beauty of the Lord. The enchanting eyes of the Lord or His black locks, etc. By rememebering His victory over Ravana, Kumbakarna, Hiranyakasipu, Hiranyaksha and any amount of warriors, we can appreciate His qualities of souryam, veeryam and parakramam. Those qualities will infuse confidence in us that He would destroy our enemies also and get firmness in our Bhakti. Like this His many qualities can be pondered over and we can get resolute Bhakti. But Arjuna has another doubt in his mind. Is it possible to ponder over the qualities of the Lord, even if we wish? We are all used to some habits. We are more familiar with actions involving our body, rather than using our mind to think about. If in a temple volunteers were called for preparing garlands, at least 50 persons might appear; but, if we say that people were welcomed to listen to a lecture on His qualities, very few will turn up. That is because there are many to get involved in physical activities; but very few to give exercise for mind. It is easier to do manual labour. It is very difficult to sit and think of the Lord. This is what Arjuna felt. To pracice thinking on His auspicious qualities, as advised by the Lord in sloka 9, is very difficult. Our system is not tuned to such mental exercise. Realizing this doubt in Arjuna, the Lord gives the next alternative. If mental exercise was not possible, the Lord suggests activities serving the Lord. If we can dedicate our actions to Him, then, over a time, they would make us to think about His auspicioua qualiteis. Mental exercise [abyasa], will bring in the firmness in Bhakti. That would lead to Bhakti in Him. Thus all methods would lead to Bhakti. Resolute Bhakti is a definite requirement. If we can not reach that direct, the Lord suggests other means. Each suggestion is a progressive suggestion to get resolute Bhakti. In sloka 10, the Lord advises Arjuna to serve the Lord physically:
abhyase ’py asamartho ’si
mad-artham api karmani
kurvan siddhim avapsyasi
"If you cannot practice the regulations of bhakti-yoga, then just try to work for Me, because by working for Me you will come to the perfect stage."
Siddhim = siddhi, avapyasi = attain. Attaining siddhi means, by means of Bhakti yoga attaining Moksham; attaining Bhakti yoga; attaining the practice of thinking about His auspicious qualities. To get this Arjuna is asked to perform service to the Lord. By doing so, progressively he would attain various results. The real siddhi is to perform Bhakti yoga and attain Moksham. By suggesting an alternative, Arjuna or we should not think that the alternative would take to a different destination, other than His divine feet. All His alternative suggestions have the same objective. Efforts are made easier, but the objective remains as such. Asamartho'si = incapable of, abhyase 'pi = to do [mental] exercise [ of thinking about the Lord's auspicious qualities] even, mat-karma-paramo = superior activities related to Me [Sri Krishna], bhava = may be done. What type of activities? Making garlands, preparing sandal wood paste, offering flowers, cleaning up, doing pooja [aradhana], singing His names and in praise of Him, prostrating, dancing to songs on Him, etc. All these involve manual labour. We are all accustomed to do things involving direct perception. Thinking of unseen qualities is difficult to practice. Therefore, the Lord suggests easier course. We can go to the temple and go around, collect flowers, make garlands, etc. Like this if we do, then, mad-artham = towrads Me [Sri Krishna], karmani = activities, kurvan api = even if done, siddhim avapsyasi = [Arjuna] would attain siddhi. In the last sloka the Lord told that by meditating on His qualities, one could attain siddhi. Here, He says even activities related to His service also would make one to attain siddhi. So, whether thinking of His qualities or serving physically the Lord, one could choose the path suited to oneself. So, as in 5th pasuram of Thiruppavai, singing His glory or thinking of Him or offering flowers, any method will eventually take us to Bhakti yoga and lead to Moksham. Doing activities related to the Lord would take one to abhyasa yoga. This will tend to think of His auspicious qualities. This will firm up buddhi, with which one should get the mind involved in Him. Thus slokas 8 ,9 and 10 are steps, in which they are in descending order in difficulty to perform. Arjuna, now seem to think that suppose he was not able to do these activities also in the service of God, what then? So far He had advised Bhakti, meditation and physical action, all in respect of the Lord. But we are more accustomed to serving ourselves. He seems to think that suggesting easier methods but related to Him were not useful. Sensing this the Lord suggests further easy method. We will pray the Divine Couple to make us to understand Gita clearly.