Chapter 3 – Verse 31 Part 1
Those who follow the teaching attain Moksha
ये मे मतमिदं नित्यमनुतिष्ठन्ति मानवाः ।
श्रद्धावन्तोऽनसूयन्तो मुच्यन्ते तेऽपि कर्मभिः
ye me matam idam nityam anutisthanti manavah
sraddhavanto nasuyanto mucyante te pi karmabhih
sraddhavantah – people who have faith
anasuyantah – those who do not find fault (with the teaching or teacher)
ye – those
manavah – people
me – my
idam – this
matam – teaching
nityam – constantly
anutisthanti – follow
te – they
api – too
karmabhih mucyante – are freed from the hold of the karmas (karma phalas)
Those people who constantly follow this teaching of mine, full of faith, without finding fault with the teaching or the teacher (anasuya), they too are free from the hold of the karma phalas (They gain Moksha)
The verb in this verse is anuthishtanthi, meaning ‘follow’, ‘practice’, or ‘live according to’. Manavah means those who come under the mandate of Manu, the ordainer of the law that is Ishwara (manu smriti). They live like this always (nityam). The people follow the teaching in the bhagavad gita with one vision (me matham) and they follow with sraddha-sraddavantah-anasuyantah and with no intolerance towards the lord, his vision or the Karma Yoga that is advised as a means of getting Moksha.
The sraddha mentioned here is looking upon the words of the shastram, the Veda as unfolded by teacher as true. Whether one understands these words to be true or not, one at least accepts them in good faith. This sraddha extends to the words of the bhagavad gita as well, since the gita does not say anything other than what is said in the Veda.
If you already know everything, you don’t need a teacher of guru. If you already know who you are and the mahavakyam like ‘tat tvam asi’, ‘aham brahma asmi’ and the reason for your birth and what as a human you are going to achieve, then for such person vedantic study is not useful. If a person wants to know the real meaning, then sraddha is required and a good teacher will unfold the vision. It is not a simple matter as without having sraddha, any study will not have effect. Vedanta can never be a subject matter of academic pursuit. It is not a degree that you try to get or mastery over language, but really to understand the self and how you are connected with this universe.
Chapter 3 – Verse 31 Part 2
For e.g. the Veda says that you are not a jiva, and your individuality is a notion. It says you are param brahma, a statement that simply cannot be dismissed. It is to be understood. That is why sraddha in sruti or pramana is important and also trust in guru or the teacher. We might say that if a teacher knew, I can also figure it out. Why do I need someone to teach me? But the teacher came to know about this because someone taught this to him or her. He or she also had a guru. Like this, it goes on right back to the first teacher. Lord Krishna says in Chapter 4 that he first taught this to Vivaswan and then Manu etc. Arjuna also asks a question in that chapter as to how can you say that you taught Vivaswan when your birth is after him. For that Krishna gives an elaborate answer which we will see in next chapter. But the crux of this verse is that you should have sraddha in any person who is a teacher, guru or anyone who has taught you.
Here we are talking about paravidya and not aparavidya. Paravidya is higher knowledge that by which everything else is known (atman, brahman). aparavidya is all knowledge related to materialistic pursuits, including prayers, karmas, rituals etc. These do help but unless one understands higher knowledge, there is bondage for that person and he is eternally in samsara.
Those who have sraddha are also described as anasuyantah. To understand this there are 2 Sanskrit words we need to look at – asuya and matsarya. Matsarya in English is jealousy. Suppose someone has gained something, skill, wealth, knowledge and seeing the achievement another person may become unhappy. Asuya (criticizing mentality) means intolerance when a person tries to find a defect in a person who has virtues, some blemish in a teacher, teaching. In fact, the person has a long list of things as counter arguments. Krishna says that this is not due to the Ahankara of the person, but the lack of sraddha or proper knowledge about what is satyam and what is mitya. e.g. a proof reader as a profession looks for mistakes as it is his job, but if you start proof reading your life, scriptures, or a teacher then it is not going to help. Due to this mentality the scripture, nor the lord nor the teacher is going to lose. Only the person is going to lose. Should I have a blind faith or if I find a defect in scripture what you should do. Let’s assume there is a defect in the guru or the scripture. What we should do is to leave the defective part if we know it is not correct, but embrace the good things that are useful to us. E.g. when you dig gold, you will find that gold comes with its own impurities and is not pure. But we don’t find defect in gold and we try to purify and get the gold part leaving the impurities part. If you dig a ton, you could probably get a gram of gold.
If you feel that there are certain defects, it also means that we have not understood that part of the scripture properly. It is a very important virtue and Krishna keeps stressing the qualities required for a person to learn this knowledge.