evam satata-yukta ye
bhaktas tvam paryupasate
ye capy aksharam avyaktam
tesham ke yoga-vittamah
Arjuna inquired: Which are considered to be more perfect, those who are always properly engaged in Your devotional service or those who worship the impersonal Brahman, the unmanifested?
Commentary by Srila Prabhupada
Krishna has now explained about the personal, the impersonal and the universal and has described all kinds of devotees and yogis. Generally, the transcendentalists can be divided into two classes. One is the impersonalist, and the other is the personalist. The personalist devotee engages himself with all energy in the service of the Supreme Lord. The impersonalist also engages himself, not directly in the service of Krishna but in meditation on the impersonal Brahman, the unmanifested.
We find in this chapter that of the different processes for realization of the Absolute Truth, bhakti-yoga, devotional service, is the highest. If one at all desires to have the association of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then he must take to devotional service.
Those who worship the Supreme Lord directly by devotional service are called personalists. Those who engage themselves in meditation on the impersonal Brahman are called impersonalists. Arjuna is here questioning which position is better. There are different ways to realize the Absolute Truth, but Krishna indicates in this chapter that bhakti-yoga, or devotional service to Him, is the highest of all. It is the most direct, and it is the easiest means for association with the Godhead.
In the Second Chapter of Bhagavad-gita, the Supreme Lord explained that a living entity is not the material body; he is a spiritual spark. And the Absolute Truth is the spiritual whole. In the Seventh Chapter He spoke of the living entity as being part and parcel of the supreme whole and recommended that he transfer his attention fully to the whole. Then again in the Eighth Chapter it was said that anyone who thinks of Krishna at the time of quitting his body is at once transferred to the spiritual sky, to the abode of Krishna. And at the end of the Sixth Chapter the Lord clearly said that of all yogis, one who always thinks of Krishna within himself is considered the most perfect. So in practically every chapter the conclusion has been that one should be attached to the personal form of Krishna, for that is the highest spiritual realization.
Nevertheless, there are those who are not attached to the personal form of Krishna. They are so firmly detached that even in the preparation of commentaries to Bhagavad-gita they want to distract other people from Krishna and transfer all devotion to the impersonal brahmajyoti. They prefer to meditate on the impersonal form of the Absolute Truth, which is beyond the reach of the senses and is not manifest.
And so, factually, there are two classes of transcendentalists. Now Arjuna is trying to settle the question of which process is easier and which of the classes is most perfect. In other words, he is clarifying his own position because he is attached to the personal form of Krishna. He is not attached to the impersonal Brahman.
He wants to know whether his position is secure. The impersonal manifestation, either in this material world or in the spiritual world of the Supreme Lord, is a problem for meditation. Actually, one cannot perfectly conceive of the impersonal feature of the Absolute Truth. Therefore Arjuna wants to say, “What is the use of such a waste of time?” Arjuna experienced in the Eleventh Chapter that to be attached to the personal form of Krishna is best because he could thus understand all other forms at the same time and there was no disturbance to his love for Krishna. This important question asked of Krishna by Arjuna will clarify the distinction between the impersonal and personal conceptions of the Absolute Truth.
Commentary by Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur
In the twelfth chapter, the superiority of all types of devotees to the jnanis is described, and among the devotees those who are endowed with wonderful qualities like lack of hatred are praised. Arjuna heard the great superiority of bhakti at the beginning of the topic of bhakti in the following words:
yoginam api sarvesam mad-gatenantar-atmana sraddhavan bhajate yo mam sa me yuktatamo matah
But I consider he who worships me with faith, with mind attached to me, to be greater than all types of yogis. BG 6.47
Arjuna, desiring to hear about the superiority of bhakti, even if it is in summary, asks a question. Between the devotees described as being constantly engaged, who worship you as Syamasundara, mentioned at the end of the last chapter with – mat-karma krn mat-paramah (BG 11.55), and those who worship the impersonal, unqualified aksara brahman described in the srutis with statements such as etad vai tad aksaram gargi brahmana abhivadanty asthulam ananv ahrasvam (Brhad Aranyaka Upanisad 3.8.9) (O Gargi, that aksara, which is not wide, not small and not short, is called brahman), among these two types of persons who know yoga, who are the best knowers of yoga (yoga vittamah)? Who know the best process for attaining you? Or, do they not know? In a comparison of two items usually the form yoga vittara (which of them know yoga better) would be used. The word yoga vittama should be understood to suggest that among the many very good knowers of yoga (yoga vittara), who are the best knowers of yoga (yoga vittama)?