Uddhava Gita is an amazing part of the 11th Canto of Srimad Bhagatam and I think it gets a lot less credit that it deserves. It’s definitely not as famous as Bhagavad Gita and even when we talk about Bhagavatam we’d rather discuss pastimes of Lord Nrisimha or story of Ajamila or Dhruva Maharaja but not Uddhava Gita.
It’s a bit longer than Bhagavad Gita, at over 1000 verses, and it doesn’t cover the entire Krishna Consciousness philosophy from A to Z in the concise way like Bhagavad Gita does but it has its own moments. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati wrote a commentary on it but I think in ISKCON it is still a little bit under appreciated. For one thing we don’t often quote from it and it’s a pity, there are some real gems in there, like this series of verses (SB 11.20.18-30), I’ll bold some of the key lines for easy skimming:
A transcendentalist, having become disgusted and hopeless in all endeavors for material happiness, completely controls the senses and develops detachment. By spiritual practice he should then fix the mind on the spiritual platform without deviation.
Whenever the mind, being concentrated on the spiritual platform, is suddenly deviated from its spiritual position, one should carefully bring it under the control of the self by following the prescribed means.
One should never lose sight of the actual goal of mental activities, but rather, conquering the life air and senses and utilizing intelligence strengthened by the mode of goodness, one should bring the mind under the control of the self.
An expert horseman, desiring to tame a headstrong horse, first lets the horse have his way for a moment and then, pulling the reins, gradually places the horse on the desired path. Similarly, the supreme yoga process is that by which one carefully observes the movements and desires of the mind and gradually brings them under full control.
Until one’s mind is fixed in spiritual satisfaction, one should analytically study the temporary nature of all material objects, whether cosmic, earthly or atomic. One should constantly observe the process of creation through the natural progressive function and the process of annihilation through the regressive function.
When a person is disgusted with the temporary, illusory nature of this world and is thus detached from it, his mind, guided by the instructions of his spiritual master, considers again and again the nature of this world and eventually gives up the false identification with matter.
Through the various disciplinary regulations and the purificatory procedures of the yoga system, through logic and spiritual education or through worship and adoration of Me, one should constantly engage his mind in remembering the Personality of Godhead, the goal of yoga. No other means should be employed for this purpose.
If, because of momentary inattention, a yogi accidentally commits an abominable activity, then by the very practice of yoga he should burn to ashes the sinful reaction, without at any time employing any other procedure.
It is firmly declared that the steady adherence of transcendentalists to their respective spiritual positions constitutes real piety and that sin occurs when a transcendentalist neglects his prescribed duty. One who adopts this standard of piety and sin, sincerely desiring to give up all past association with sense gratification, is able to subdue materialistic activities, which are by nature impure.
Having awakened faith in the narrations of My glories, being disgusted with all material activities, knowing that all sense gratification leads to misery, but still being unable to renounce all sense enjoyment, My devotee should remain happy and worship Me with great faith and conviction. Even though he is sometimes engaged in sense enjoyment, My devotee knows that all sense gratification leads to a miserable result, and he sincerely repents such activities.
When an intelligent person engages constantly in worshiping Me through loving devotional service as described by Me, his heart becomes firmly situated in Me. Thus all material desires within the heart are destroyed.
The knot in the heart is pierced, all misgivings are cut to pieces and the chain of fruitive actions is terminated when I am seen as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Where else one can find such a clear, practical guide for all of us, aspiring transcendentalists who are yet unable to transcend even the basic, gross bodily platform?
Whether one is a struggling grihastha or a dedicated brahmachari, we all continue to enjoy our material senses one way or another and thus we all fall victim to sense gratification, there’s no denying it, therefore we all can benefit from these Krishna’s instructions.
Sometimes we think “well, as long as I’m engaged in service of guru and Krishna I have nothing to worry about” and that is fine, but we shouldn’t mistake it for the state of actual liberation and we should not forget that actual devotional service begins only after actual liberation. Until then all our “service” is tainted with desires for sense gratification or false renunciation. We are on the right way, correct, but here Krishna gives us clues on how to navigate our path properly.
And while we might readily apply this advice to our own lives we should also remember that other devotees are facing the same problems, too, and rather than accuse them of “being in maya” we should see that they are also trying to rein in their own horses and more often then not Krishna Himself is helping them, meaning He Himself gives their senses some freedom to enjoy and He Himself will eventually bring them back under full control.
We’ve all heard this before – we shouldn’t criticize devotees for occasional “falldowns” but now we see the underlying methodology behind this – the “falldowns” are actually necessary and so should be praised, not criticized.
Another important point here is that there’s no special atonement procedures for lusting for ice cream or chocolate but we should just get on with our usual chanting and service, knowing that this is the best purificatory activity in the whole world already.
We should, of course, feel regret for our transgressions but, more importantly, we should remain happy and continue our service with great faith.
Golden words, truly golden.
There have been devotees who committed suicide when they were unable to follow the four regs – apparently these verses from Uddhava Gita weren’t sufficiently impressed on them. This is how proper knowledge can literally save lives.