Verse 3.17: But for one who takes pleasure in the self, whose human life is one of self-realization, and who is satisfied in the self only, fully satiated — for him there is no duty.
Are you a lover of cheesecake? Up until a few years ago, I personally didn't care for it. Now, if you were to ask me, I would probably say that it's my favorite type of cake.
I mean c'mon...every layer is just amazing! From the fruit jam on top to the soft and decadent cream cheese centre, it's just so delicious. And the fact that it sits on a base of graham crackers....mmmm....just perfect! Personally, I find it to be an ideal culinary combination of textures, flavours and consistency.
Why the sudden need to highlight my love for cheesecake, you ask? For the simple fact that when I read today's verse it immediately reminded me of cheesecake and I thought, "Cheesecake can act as perfect analogy for bhakti yoga!"
Like the fruit topping which is very visually appealing, the external aspects of bhakti yoga are also attractive and engaging. Whether it be the various asanas (physical poses), to the kirtan aspect (mantra meditation to music ) or even the enlivening sangas (talks and discussions on bhakti), most people would agree that it's a fun process!
But if one goes deeper into bhakti yoga, one finds even greater fulfillment. Again, the parallel can be drawn to the second layer of a cheesecake. A well made cream cheese filling is dichotomous in nature since one may experience it to be light and fluffy but at the same time find it very filling.
With respect to today's verse, this second layer of bhakti could be compared to a person working in line with their proclivities and qualities and offering the results of that work in gratitude to the Supreme. Like the cream cheese filling it may seem contradictory at first (i.e. how can something light and fluffy be filling!). After all, one continues to do the same work, but now it's spiritual simply because one's attitude changes? Yes, it's true! All it takes is a shift in consciousness to transform something so mundane as work from material to spiritual.
***For those interested in this topic, a great deal has already been explored with respect to working in line with one's nature, most of which was discussed in Chapter 2 (i.e. embracing opportunities).
But today we get to delve into a deeper level of bhakti yoga and that is actually realizing that all happiness can actually be found within. Just like a cheesecake needs a firm foundation to build upon, the foundation bhakti rests on is that of - every living entity is a soul. Furthermore, eternal happiness is an inherent characteristic of the soul. The only reason that we may not be experience that limitless happiness is due to the fact that we identify ourselves to be the body, mind and senses. That's what is being described here today:
"For one who actually realizes and acts on the platform of 'I am the soul', there is no need for them to perform any type of work."
Why is that? Because those proclivities and qualities one may engage to perform work relate to the body, not the soul. The soul only possesses two qualities: to desire and to serve the Supreme.
Ultimately, this is the goal of bhakti - to realize we are eternal souls. However, like anything worthwhile, it doesn't come easy. It takes time and focused effort through the process of associating with advanced bhakti practitioners, reading the bhakti texts and engaging in mantra mediation. The great thing? All of these processes are fun and inspiring!
One important thing to remember is that although the Gita is highlighting the top goal, it's not encouraging us to artificially imitate or "cheat" to get there. If we are caught up in thinking and relating to ourselves as the body, that's ok. We can continue to work according to our nature and offer everything in gratitude. Gradually, by doing that, we will start to experience ourselves as souls. This verse is here as a reminder to let us know there's something even higher.
p.s. Here's to hoping that you view cheesecake in a new light - one filled with bhakti!