bahūnāḿ janmanām ante
jñānavān māḿ prapadyate
vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti
sa mahātmā su-durlabhaḥ
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 7.19
After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
The living entity, while executing devotional service or transcendental rituals after many, many births, may actually become situated in transcendental pure knowledge that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the ultimate goal of spiritual realization. In the beginning of spiritual realization, while one is trying to give up one’s attachment to materialism, there is some leaning towards impersonalism, but when one is further advanced he can understand that there are activities in the spiritual life and that these activities constitute devotional service. Realizing this, he becomes attached to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and surrenders to Him. At such a time one can understand that Lord Sri Krishna’s mercy is everything, that He is the cause of all causes and that this material manifestation is not independent from Him. He realizes the material world to be a perverted reflection of spiritual variegatedness and realizes that in everything there is a relationship with the Supreme Lord Krishna. Thus he thinks of everything in relation to Vasudeva, or Sri Krishna. Such a universal vision of Vasudeva precipitates one’s full surrender to the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna as the highest goal. Such surrendered great souls are very rare.
This verse is very nicely explained in the Third Chapter (verses 14 and 15) of the Shvetasvatara Upanishad:
sa bhumim vishvato vrtva-
purusha evedam sarvam
yad bhutam yac ca bhavyam
In the Chandogya Upanishad (5.1.15) it is said, na vai vaco na caksumsi na srotrani na manamsity acakshate prana iti evacakshate prano hy evaitani sarvani bhavanti: “In the body of a living being neither the power to speak, nor the power to see, nor the power to hear, nor the power to think is the prime factor; it is life which is the center of all activities.” Similarly Lord Vasudeva, or the Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna, is the prime entity in everything. In this body there are powers of speaking, of seeing, of hearing, of mental activities, etc. But these are not important if not related to the Supreme Lord. And because Vasudeva is all-pervading and everything is Vasudeva, the devotee surrenders in full knowledge (cf. Bhagavad-gita 7.17 and 11.40).
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
“You say that this jnani attains the supreme goal. Being a devotee with a tinge of jnana, he attains you. But after how long does a jnani become qualified as a devotee?”
He who possesses knowledge, seeing Vasudeva everywhere, after many births surrenders to me. Such a saintly person attains me through chance association with devotees. That jnani who is a devotee has a very steady mind (mahatma), and is very rare. As I have said, manusyanam sahasresu, out of thousands, one person may know me in truth. What to speak of the rarity then, of the kevala or ekanta bhakta? Such a person is very, very rare.
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
7.19 Further after passing through innumerable auspicious births, one gets the knowledge: ‘I find my sole joy as a Sesa of Vasudeva. I find my essence, existence and activities to be dependent on Him. He is superior over all others on account of His innumerable auspicious attributes.’ Consequent to this knowledge he resorts to Me, i.e., meditates on Me, realising, ‘Vasudeva alone is my highest end and also the means for attaining it, and whatever other desire remains in the mind, He alone is all that too for me’. Such a great-souled person, i.e., great-minded man is hard to find. It is very hard to find such persons in this world. This is the only meaning of the statement that ‘Vasudeva is all,’ because of the topic having been begun with the statements: ‘For I am very dear to the man of knowledge’ (7.17) and ‘For he, integrated, is devoted to Me alone as the highest end’ (7.18). It is so, also because that Jnanin whose traits are given here, possesses the same qualities as the man of knowledge described earlier. For, it has been said that the two Prakrtis, the animate and the inanimate, have their sole essence in being the Sesa (dependants) of the Supreme Person in the verses beginning with ‘Earth, water’ (7.4) and ending with, ‘Ego-sense, thus My Prakrti is divided eightfold. This is my lower (Prakrti). But know that which is other than this (lower nature) and forms the life-principle to be the higher Prakrti’ (7.4-5). Then take the beginning from ‘I am the origin and dissolution of the whole universe. There is nothing higher than Myself, O Arjuna’ (7.6-7), and ending with, ‘Know that all the states of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas are from Me alone. But I am not in them. They are in Me’ (7.12). It has been declared in these texts that the two Prakrtis, both in their states of cause and effect, depend upon Him for their essence, existence and activities and that the Supreme Person is superior to everything in all respects. Therefore the knower of this truth alone is here spoken of as a man of knowledge or as one knowing ‘All this is Vasudeva.’ [The purpose of this explanation is to eliminate any pure monistic slant to this passage.] Sri Krsna now explains the rarity of finding such a person of knowledge.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
Such a self realised being completely devoted to the Supreme Lord Krishna is extremely rare and difficult to gain association with. This is what is being stated. The words bahunam janmanam ante is at the conclusion of many births. This means that after accumulation of merit gradually over innumerable births, the final birth indicating the last lifetime is naturally carried out with devotion to the Supreme Lord Krishna whose expansion is known as Vasudeva. When an evolved being realises that everything movable and mmovable in creation is under the control of the Supreme Lord at that time such an embodied being takes complete refuge in Him and worships Him as the ultimate consciousness existing within all beings and in all things. Such a self-realised being of unwavering devotion and unlimited vision is exceedingly rare to find.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
After the experience of many, many lifetimes one becomes aware of Lord Krishna’s supreme position. The Brahma Purana states: Becoming aware after taking many, many births one resorts to the Supreme Lord. It is not that everyone who first approaches the Supreme Lord Krishna is aware of His paramount position as the Supreme controller. It is subsequently after many, many lives of approaching Him that one becomes aware of this.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
The association with an advanced and enlightened devotee of the Supreme Lord is most difficult to achieve. This Lord Krishna indicates by the words bahunam janmanam ante meaning at the final cycle of innumerable births. All these final cycle births are meritorious, characterised by righteous actions and noble activities which were numerous. It is not possible to achieve such felicity with the meagre merits acquired from righteous activities throughout a single lifetime. To have the supreme blessing to qualify for worshipping the Supreme Lord Krishna one must have a bountiful surplus of meritorious activities over a myriad of lifetimes. Then at such a time an enlightened being with overflowing love and complete dedication based on the true understanding of the goal of life, the means to attain it and how Lord Krishna is connected to both as the omnipotent, omniscient, all pervading Supreme Being, worships Him with all their body, mind and heart. Lord Krishna should be known to be the source of the Brahman or the spiritual substratum pervading all existence and also the cause of creation, preservation and dissolution of the entire material existence. The Chandogya Upanisad III.XIV.I states: All the demi-gods that have come to worship you, are actually also you because the creator of the worlds is manifested from you. As the infinite is omnipresent the Supreme Lord is like that. An exalted being endowed with the discriminating power of this knowledge is su-durlabah meaning extremely rare, perhaps only one among millions of humans. It is stated in the Bhagavat Purana: Among those who have attained moksa or liberation from the cycle of birth and death only one of them out of millions is dedicated to the Supreme Lord Krishna.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
7.19 Ante, at the end, after the completion; bahunam, of many; janmanam, births, which becme the repository for accumulating [Ast. omits this word.-Tr.] the tendencies leading to Knowledge; jnanavan, the man of Knowledge, who has got hiis Knowledge matured; directly prapadyate, attains; mam, Me, Vasudeva, who am the inmost Self; (realizing)-in what way?-iti, that; Vasudeva is sarvam, all. Sah, such a one, who realizes Me [Here Ast. adds the word Narayana.-Tr.] thus as the Self of all; is mahatma, a high-souled one. There is none else who can equal or excel him. Therefore he is su-durlabhah, very rare among thousands of men, as it has been said (in verse 3). The reason why one does not realize that all this is verily Vasudeva, the Self, is being stated:
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
7.16-19 Caturvidhah etc., upto sudurlabhah. Those who worship Me are men of good action. They are of four types. All these are noble ones. For, other persons, mean-minded as they are, beg a cure of their affliction, and money etc., from persons who have hands, feet, stomach, body and intelligence (or bodily strength) that are equal to their (the beggers) own, or even from those who are very much inferior. But, by comparison with the man of wisdom, [the other three under question] are of inferior intelligence. For, they entertain, at that sage too, a sense of duality. Becuase, a sense of duality ‘I seek this from the Bhagavat’ is clearly discernible in them. On the other hand, the man of wisdom hangs on Me alone with a sense of identity [of him with Me]. Hence, I am verily indentical with him. It is I alone, and not [any other] gain, that is dear to him. That is why he is having a mind purified by the firm conviction ‘All is nothing but Vasudeva’.
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
bahunam janmanam ante
jñanavan mam prapadyate
vasudevah sarvam iti
sa mahatma su-durlabhah
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
bahūnām — many; janmanām — repeated births and deaths; ante — after; jñāna-vān — one who is in full knowledge; mām — unto Me; prapadyate — surrenders; vāsudevaḥ — the Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa; sarvam — everything; iti — thus; saḥ — that; mahā-ātmā — great soul; su-durlabhaḥ — very rare to see.