bahu-śākhā hy anantāś ca
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 2.41
Those who are on this path are resolute in purpose, and their aim is one. O beloved child of the Kurus, the intelligence of those who are irresolute is many-branched.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
A strong faith that by Krishna consciousness one will be elevated to the highest perfection of life is called vyavasayatmika intelligence. The Caitanya-caritamrita (Madhya 22.62) states:
’shraddha’-sabde——vishvasa kahe sudrdha niscaya
krsne bhakti kaile sarva-karma krita haya
Faith means unflinching trust in something sublime. When one is engaged in the duties of Krishna consciousness, he need not act in relationship to the material world with obligations to family traditions, humanity, or nationality. Fruitive activities are the engagements of one’s reactions from past good or bad deeds. When one is awake in Krishna consciousness, he need no longer endeavor for good results in his activities. When one is situated in Krishna consciousness, all activities are on the absolute plane, for they are no longer subject to dualities like good and bad. The highest perfection of Krishna consciousness is renunciation of the material conception of life. This state is automatically achieved by progressive Krishna consciousness.
The resolute purpose of a person in Krishna consciousness is based on knowledge. Vasudevah sarvam iti sa mahatma su-durlabhah: a person in Krishna consciousness is the rare good soul who knows perfectly that Vasudeva, or Krishna, is the root of all manifested causes. As by watering the root of a tree one automatically distributes water to the leaves and branches, so by acting in Krishna consciousness one can render the highest service to everyone—namely self, family, society, country, humanity, etc. If Krishna is satisfied by one’s actions, then everyone will be satisfied.
Service in Krishna consciousness is, however, best practiced under the able guidance of a spiritual master who is a bona fide representative of Krishna, who knows the nature of the student and who can guide him to act in Krishna consciousness. As such, to be well versed in Krishna consciousness one has to act firmly and obey the representative of Krishna, and one should accept the instruction of the bona fide spiritual master as one’s mission in life. Srila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura instructs us, in his famous prayers for the spiritual master, as follows:
yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasado
yasyaprasadan na gatih kuto ’pi
dhyayan stuvams tasya yasas tri-sandhyam
vande guroh sri-caranaravindam **
“By satisfaction of the spiritual master, the Supreme Personality of Godhead becomes satisfied. And by not satisfying the spiritual master, there is no chance of being promoted to the plane of Krishna consciousness. I should, therefore, meditate and pray for his mercy three times a day, and offer my respectful obeisances unto him, my spiritual master.”
The whole process, however, depends on perfect knowledge of the soul beyond the conception of the body—not theoretically but practically, when there is no longer a chance for sense gratification manifested in fruitive activities. One who is not firmly fixed in mind is diverted by various types of fruitive acts.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
Moreover among all types of intelligence, that intelligence concentrated on bhakti yoga is the best. Resolute intelligence fixed in bhakti yoga is only one. The meaning of this is illustrated as follows.
“My sadhana is to serve the lotus feed of the Lord, to remember and glorify him as instructed by my guru. That is also my goal (sadhya). It is my life sustaining medicine, for I cannot give up the sadhana and the sadhya. This is my most desirable object, my duty, and nothing else is my duty; nothing else is desired, even in dreams. There may be happiness or sorrow. Samsara may be destroyed, or may not be destroyed. That is no loss for me. Let there only be resolute intelligence fixed in pure bhakti.”
It is said:
tato bhajeta mam bhaktya sraddhalur drdha-niscayah
My devotee should remain happy and worship Me withgreat faith and conviction. SB 11.20.28
The intelligence of others however is not eka. Those intellects are unlimited (anantah) rather than one, because of the unlimited desires to fulfill in karma yoga. The intellects have infinite branches because of the infinity of actions in their practices.
In jnana yoga, in order to purify the mind, one first fixes the intelligence on niskama karma. When the mind is purified, the intelligence then concentrates on giving up action. This is called karma sannyasa. Next, the intelligence concentrates on jnana, knowledge. The intelligence at that time also concentrates on bhakti so that jnana does not become without results. The intelligence then concentrates on giving up jnana, as the Lord says, jnanam ca mayi sannyaset one should surrender such knowledge in order to attain me. (SB 11.19.1)
Thus the intelligences, concentration on different objects, are said to be infinite or many. And the branches of the respective sadhanas are also infinite, since karma, jnana and bhakti must all be performed.
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
2.41 Here, i.e., in every ritual sanctioned by the scriptures, the Buddhi or disposition of mind marked by resolution, is single. The Buddhi marked by resolution is the Buddhi concerned with acts which must be performed by one desirous of release (and not any kind of work). The term ‘Vyavasaya’ menas unshakable conviction: this Buddhi (disposition of mind) comes out of prior determination about the true nature of the self. But the Buddhi concerning the performance of rituals of fulfill certain desires, is marked by irresolution; because here only this much knowledge of the self is sufficient — ‘the self (as an entity) exists differently from the body.’ Such a general understanding is sufficient to qualify for performing acts giving fulfilment of certain desires. It does not require any definite knowledge about the true nature of the self. For, even if there is no such knowledge, desires for heaven etc., can arise, the means for their attainment can be adopted, and the experience of those fruits can take place. For this reason there is no contradiction in the teaching of the scriptures. [The contradiction negated here is how can the same scriptural acts produce different results — fulfilment of desires and liberation. The difference in the disposition of the mind accouts of it.] The Buddhi (mental disposition) marked by resolution has a single aim, because it relates to the attainment of a single fruit. For, as far as one desiring release is concerned, all acts are enjoined only for the accomplishment of that single fruit. Therefore, since the purpose of the scriptures here is one only (i.e., liberation), the Buddhi regarding all rituals taught in the scriptures too is only one, as far as liberation-seekers are concerned. For example, the set of six sacrifices, beginning with Agneya with all their subsidiary processes (though enjoined in different passages) forms the subject of a single injunction, as they are all for the attainment of a single fruit. Consequently the Buddhi concerning these is one only. The meaning of the verse under discussion must be construed in the same manner. But the Buddhi of the irresolute ones who are engaged in rituals for winning such fruits as heaven, sons, cattle, food etc., are endless, frutis being endless. In rituals like Darsapurnamasa (new moon and full moon sacrifice), even though attainment of a single fruit (heaven) is enjoined, there accrues to these the character of having many branches on account of the mention of many secondary fruits as evidenced by such passages as, ‘He desires a long life.’ Therefore the Buddhi of irresolute ones has many branches and are endless. The purport is: In performing obligatory and occasional rituals, all fruits, primary and secondary, promised in the scriptures, should be abandoned, with the idea that release or salvation is the only purpose of all scripture-ordained rituals. These rituals should be performed without any thought of selfish gains. In addition, acts motivated by desires (Kamya-karmas) also should be performed according to one’s own capacity, after abandoning all desire for fruits and with the conviction that they also, when performed in that way, form the means for attainment of release. They should be looked upon as equal to obligatory and occasional rites suited to one’s own station and stage in life. Sri Krsna condemns those who perform acts for the attainment of objects of desire:
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
It may be asked why the difference between actions performed without desire and actions done with desire is being given. The answer to this is being given in this verse. By karma yoga which is performed surrendering all actions to the Supreme Lord, there is spiritual intelligence which when bequeathed gives single pointed determination resolute in spiritual consciousness. But in the case of those enacting actions with desires of fruitive rewards their thoughts are endless due to their desires being endless. Indeed they have unlimited diverse branches and thus diluted by having too many conceptions in the form of all their desires. Performance of daily rituals enjoined by the Vedic scriptures such as meditation on the Supreme Lord and occasional rituals performed on special occasions such as the birth ceremony are never done in vain even if there is some defect present. for regarding them it is ordained that one who is duly authorised by the disciplic succession of one of the four authorised sampradaya’s should perform there duties fully according to there capacity and in this way there is no defect or imperfection for they cannot manifest through any righteous actions which are surrendered to the Supreme Lord. But fruitive actions of one motivated by rewards are always tainted by the imperfection of fruitive desires which is binding to fruitive reaction as well as the defect of not surrendering their actions to the Supreme Lord. Hence it can be seen that there is indeed a great difference between the two.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
Listen to these words with a balanced and equipoised mind. Thus has it been stated. Unlimited are the various conditioned states of the mind due to the influence of uncountable impressions leading to innumerable opinions. Therefore Arjuna may have a doubt and enquire, how can he have faith in these words without any reservation. Anticipating this the Supreme Lord neutralises this query with this verse. Amongst all the prescribed recommended opinions having truthful attributes there is always singular unity. This is the actual meaning. Propitiation of the Supreme Lord Krishna is performed only by very few as only a very few actually possess the quality of being singular and resolute in their commitment. Any performance done by others is disparate and irresolute due to the overwhelming impressions within their mind giving them an endless procession of distracting opinions.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
There is a huge difference between the mentality of intelligence involved in actions seeking fruitive reward and the mentality of the spiritually evolved engaged in selfless actions not seeking rewards devoted to the Lord Krishna which bring great happiness. Thus Lord Krishna says the word vyavasa or resolute. The purpose for actions must be resolute. One should perform actions with the thought that it is for the ultimate satisfaction for Lord Krishna thinking that their action will please Him and for not other reason. This resolute intelligence gives one the realization that they will easily be liberated by the Lords grace, from samsara the ocean of birth and death in the material existence and only by His grace. It is one- pointed because its aim is solely for the service and devotion of the omnipotent, omniscient, Supreme Lord Krishna the controller and dispenser of all rewards and the sole destination of all those seeking liberation. This resolute intelligence bestows one result and that is it gives great happiness and thus it is considered as already possessed by those who are in the process of devotion to Lord Krishna already. Those of fragmented intelligence who have not perceived reality and whose endless desires for fame, wealth, power, etc. and who by their actions are dictated by procuring and accumalization and work and reward. Their intelligence is fragmented into endless directions each unique unto itself and of diverse types all leading to misery. These things can only be perceived by direct experience.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
2.41 Kuru-nandana, O scion of the Kuru dynasty; iha, is this path to Liberation; there is only eka, a single; vyavasayatmika, one-pointed; buddhih, conviction, which has been spoken of in the Yoga of Knowledge and which has the characteristics going to be spoken of in (Karma-) yoga. It is resolute by nature and annuls the numerous branches of the other opposite thoughts, since it originates from the right source of knowledge. [The right source of knowledge, viz the Vedic texts, which are above criticism.] Those again, which are the other buddhayah, thoughts; they are bahu-sakhah, possessed of numerous branches, i.e. possessed of numerous variations. Owing to the influence of their many branches the worldly state becomes endless, limitless, unceasing, ever-growing and extensive. [Endless, because it does not cease till the rixe of full enlightenment; limitless, because the worldly state, which is an effect, springs from an unreal source.] But even the worldly state ceases with the cessation of the infinite branches of thoughts, under the influence of discriminating wisdom arising from the valid source of knowledge. (And those thoughts are) hi, indeed; anantah, innumerable under every branch. Whose thoughts? Avyavasayinam, of the irresolute ones, i.e. of those who are devoid of discriminating wisdom arising from the right source of knowledg.
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
2.41 Vyavasayatmika etc. The knowledge in the form of determination is just one and natural in the case of everyone; but it suffers manifoldedness according to the objects to be determined. Therefore –
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
bahu-sakha hy anantas ca
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
vyavasāya-ātmikā — resolute in Kṛṣṇa consciousness; buddhiḥ — intelligence; ekā — only one; iha — in this world; kuru-nandana — O beloved child of the Kurus; bahu-śākhāḥ — having various branches; hi — indeed; anantāḥ — unlimited; ca — also; buddhayaḥ — intelligence; avyavasāyinām — of those who are not in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.