Some argue that quitting one’s profession, and “depending fully” on Bhagavān for one’s maintenance is necessary for one’s bhakti to qualify as uttamā bhakti. In their view, any other lifestyle indicates a lack of faith in Bhagavān. These proponents quote the yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmy aham verse from the Bhagavad Gītā in support. I examine the meaning of this verse and its commentary by Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī below. As we will see, he does not agree with the meaning given above by these proponents.
The verse in question is as follows:
ananyāś cintayanto māṁ ye janāḥ paryupāsate |
teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmy aham ||
I will translate this verse after first translating Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī’s commentary on it. First he explains why the verse is spoken:
mad-ananya-bhaktānāṁ sukhaṁ tu na karma-prāpyaṁ kintu mad-dattam evety āha ananyā iti –
To explain that the happiness that my ananya-bhaktas get is not attained due to their karma, but is given exclusively by me, he speaks this verse.
The main point of this verse is that the ananya-bhakta, synonymous with uttama-bhakta, is not under the purview of the laws of karma. He now explains the meaning of individual words in the verse. The word nityābhiyuktānāṁ is to be understood as follows:
nityam eva sadaivābhiyuktānāṁ paṇḍitānām iti tad anye nityam apaṇḍitā iti bhāvaḥ
For those who are always (nityam eva = sadaiva) paṇḍitas (ābhiyuktānām = paṇḍitānām), [I protect what they have and provide what they lack]. The sense is that all others are always the opposite of paṇḍitas.
One has to choose what meaning to give to the word ‘paṇḍita’ here. I deliberately left it untranslated. Given the context, I think the sense of the word is “one who is truly situated in the essential meaning of the scriptures, that is, one who understands that service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the means of attaining the highest good”.
He gives an alternative meaning to the word nityābhiyuktānāṁ:
yad vā nitya-saṁyoga-spṛhāvatāṁ ..
Alternatively, [nityābhiyuktānāṁ means] those who desire an eternal union [with Śrī Kṛṣṇa]
He continues the sentence:
..yogo dhanādi-lābhaḥ kṣemaṁ tat-pālanaṁ ca tair tair anapekṣitam apy aham eva vahāmy
[for those who desire an eternal union with me,] I myself ensure their procurement of wealth and other such items [yoga] and the [subsequent] protection of those, even though this is not desired by them.
An ananya bhakta does not desire anything from Śrī Kṛṣṇa other than service to Him. Note the key words here: tair tair anapekṣitam api = even though [protection of wealth or acquisition of wealth] is not desired by them. Śrī Viśvanātha explains Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s own concept in doing all this:
atra karomīty aprayujya vahāmīti prayogāt teṣāṁ śarīra-poṣaṇa-bhāro mayaivohyate yathā svakalatra-putrādi-poṣaṇa-bhāro gṛhastheneti bhāvaḥ |
Here, instead of using the word ‘karomi’ meaning ‘I do’, the word ‘vahāmi’ meaning ‘I bear’ is used. The sense is that as a householder bears the burden of maintaining his wife, children and so on, I alone bear the burden of maintaining their bodies.
In other words, Śrī Kṛṣṇa views the ananya-bhakta as part of his family, and therefore willingly ensures their well-being even though the ananya-bhakta does not expect this from Him.
na ca anyeṣām iva teṣām api yoga-kṣemaṁ karma-prāpyam evety ata ātmārāmasya sarvatrodāsīnasya parameśvarasya tava kiṁ tad-vahaneneti vācyam |
One should not fault [this statement as follows:] their acquisition of wealth etc. and protection of these things is obtained due to karma only, like everyone else. Therefore what is the point of you bearing the burden, who are the Supreme Lord, and who are completely indifferent to all because of being satisfied in Your own self.
bhaktir asya bhajanaṁ tad ihāmutropādhi-nairāsyenāmuṣmin manaḥ-kalpanam etad eva naiṣkarmyam | iti śruter mad-anya-bhaktānāṁ niṣkāmatvena naiṣkarmyāt teṣu dṛṣṭaṁ sukhaṁ mad-dattam eva | tatra mama sarvatrodāsīnasyāpi sva-bhakta-vātsalyam eva hetur jñeyaḥ |
The śruti states, “naiṣkarmyam, or the state of freedom from bondage of action, is nothing but bhakti, which is His [Bhagavan’s] service (bhajanam), which in turn is the placing of the mind in Him, free from the adjuncts (upādhi) of this world or the next”. It follows from this that my ananya-bhaktas are desireless and therefore free from bondage to action. Any happiness that is observed in them is given by me alone. In this, my affection for my devotees, even though I am indifferent to all, is to be understood as the only cause.
Now he considers another objection. If a devotee puts the burden of his or her maintenance on Bhagavān, how can such a person be considered to have prema or love for Him? After all, the essence of love is service to other, and not taking service from another.
na caivaṁ tvayi sveṣṭa-deve sva-nirvāha-bhāraṁ dadānās te bhaktāḥ prema-śūnyā iti vācyam |
Nor should one fault those devotees, who, in this manner, put the burden of their own maintenance on you while you are their worshippable deity, as being devoid of prema [for you].
He responds as follows:
tair mayi sva-bhārasya sarvathaivānarpaṇāt mayaiva svecchayā grahaṇāt |
[One should not fault them in that way] because they do not place their burden on me even to the slightest degree. Rather, I accept the burden out of my own will.
Bhagavān accepts the burden of their maintenance even though they do not place it on Him. Now, if the devotees actively did not want Bhagavān to take their burden, then He would not be able to take it because Bhagavān subordinates His desires to the devotees’ desires. Therefore, we can conclude that the devotee is unaware of Bhagavān’s acceptance of the burden, and therefore does not oppose it.
As if disliking the word ‘burden’ which is implied in the verse by the word ‘vahāmi’, Śrī Viśvanātha adds:
na ca saṅkalpa-mātreṇa viśva-sṛṣṭy-ādi kartuṁ mamāyaṁ bhāro jñeyaḥ |
This is also not to be understood as a ‘burden’ on me, who am capable of creating the world, maintaining it and destroying it simply by thinking of it.
He offers an alternative understanding for the word ‘burden’ when applied to an uttama-bhakta:
yad vā bhakta-janāsaktasya mama sva-bhogya-kāntābhāra-vahanam iva tadīya-yoga-kṣema-vahanam atisukha-pradam iti
Alternatively, as the bearing of the burden of my beloved [gopīs] is delightful for me, the bearing of the burden of yoga and kṣema of my bhakta, to whom I am attached, is extremely enjoyable.
So the translation of the verse is (modified slightly from Śrī Babaji’s translation in his book on the Bhagavad Gītā):
ananyāś cintayanto māṁ ye janāḥ paryupāsate |
teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmy aham
Those people who are exclusively devoted to Me and who worship Me, being constantly absorbed in meditation on Me — for them, who are ever desirous of union with Me, I bear the responsibility to furnish their needs and to protect their possessions.
The essence of prema is service to Bhagavān, and not taking service from Him.
Bhagavān accepts the burden of the maintenance of His devotees even though they do not place it on Him. Prema cannot be denied in those devotees.
The yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmi verse is to teach the principle that Bhagavān’s devotees are beyond the laws of karma.
The yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmi verse does not teach that to do uttamā bhakti, one should give up one’s profession and ‘depend on Śrī Kṛṣṇa’.