A bird’s Eye View of the Uddhava Gita: The Farewell Message from Sri Krishna


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A Bird’s Eye View of the Uddhava Gita: The Farewell Message from Sri Krishna

By T.N.Sethumadhavan June 2010

The world appears to you when the mind is working. During the dreamless sleep, the world disappears to you because the mind is dissolved. Therefore, the world which comes and goes many times a day is only a creation of the mind. The world is unreal. The world is like a revolving firebrand. - Hamsa Gita


There are several Hindu Scriptural texts by the name Gita though this name has come to be synonymous with the Bhagavad Gita because of its popularity. There is another Gita which goes by the name Uddhava Gita which is also in the format of a dialogue between Krishna and his dear friend, Uddhava. The timing of this dialogue is when the Lord’s incarnation as Krishna is nearing its end. The destruction of Yadava clan by mutual fratricidal fighting has already started on account of a curse by the holy men on them. During such turbulent times Krishna advised the Yadavas to move to Prabhasa for prayers. At this point Uddhava, the great devotee and attendant of Krishna, apprehending the impending danger, approached him for spiritual instructions.

These teachings of Krishna to Udddhava, spread over 23 chapters-from the 7th to 29th - of the 11th Skandha (Canto) of Srimad Bhagavatam came to be known as the Uddhava Gita. In the Gita literature it ranks only next to the Bhagavad Gita. These teachings are also called Hamsa Gita. The 11th Canto ends with the final destruction of the Yadavas by mutual fighting and the exit of Krishna after being shot at by a hunter. As the Upanishads are the Jnana Kanda of the Vedas, so too the Uddhava Gita is the Jnana Kanda of Srimad Bhagavatam, the quintessence of the devotional path.

Differences between the Uddhava Gita And Bhagavad Gita

Bhagavad Gita is known as ‘Song of the God’ whereas, Uddhava Gita is known as farewell message of Krishna, a parting discourse, and is meant for those who have advanced knowledge of Vedanta.

Uddhava Gita is the message or speech given by Lord Krishna to his friend and devotee Uddhava before his departure from the earth to console him from his sadness and explaining why the "Yadu" race or Yadava community should fall; the Bhagavad Gita is a clarion call for action and for performing one’s own duties.
In Bhagavad Gita SriKrishna explains to Arjuna his duties as a warrior and prince and elaborates on different Yogic and Vedantic philosophies, whereas in Uddhava Gita Krishna explains about, spirituality, religion, code of conduct for various classes of society and stages of life, supremacy of devotion, different paths to enlightenment, mind as a root cause of all miseries and many other similar topics.
In both the cases the listener is one only, In Uddhava Gita, it is Sri Krishna's friend Uddhava; in Bhagavad Gita, it is Arjuna.

The Bhagvad Gita was revealed by Krishna to Arjuna during the 18-day long battle of Kurukshetra, while the Uddhava Gita was revealed by Krishna to his Yadava friend, Uddhava during the days prior to his departure from this planet.

Though both Bhagvad Gita and Uddhava Gita were narrated by the great sage, Vyasa, Bhagvad Gita was described in his epic Mahabharata while the Uddhava Gita was described by him in his Pauranic work Srimad Bhagvatam.
Uddhava Gita chapter 2

God’s ’ Prayer to Krishna

One day Brahma, the Creator, surrounded by his sons, Siva, Indra and other Gods visited Krishna at Dwaraka. After paying obeisance to Krishna they requested Him to return to Vaikuntha, His Heavenly abode as the purpose of His descent was over.

Krishna then explained to them why the Yadavas had to be exterminated before his return to Vaikuntha. He told them that “made insolent by prowess, heroism and fortune, and inclined to take possession of the whole world, this celebrated race of Yadu has been kept in check by me as the ocean by its shore. If I depart (from this world) without destroying the huge race of the Yadus, who have grown impertinent and haughty, the entire humanity will meet its destruction.”
Krishna assured them that he would be leaving the world very soon and returning to Heaven after the Yadu dynasty in which the Lord Himself was born is wiped out by their own infighting.
Greatly saddened by this Uddhava beseeched Him to take him also along when He leaves this planet earth. During that time the Lord expounded the truth to Uddhava which is known as Uddhava Gita.
Real Nature of the World

Krishna tells Uddhava

Now due to the curse the Yadu dynasty will certainly perish by fighting among themselves; and the ocean will rise up and inundate this city of Dvaraka. In the near future I will abandon this earth, then, being overwhelmed by the age of Kali, the earth will be bereft of all piety and therefore you should not remain here on the earth once I have abandoned this world.

Shake off all attachment to your family and kinsmen and move about the world with a mind wholly centered on me. You must always remember that whatever is thought by the mind, perceived by the eye and the ear and spoken by the tongue is creation of the mind and therefore illusory. The mind falls victim to the illusion of diversity, which leads to the concept of good and evil and discrimination between various types of actions. By controlling the mind you will see the whole world in your own self and your own self in me, the Supreme Lord. He who knows the truth of the self will be a friend of all beings and will have peace of mind. Such a person will not undergo transmigration.

When Uddhava replied that it is not easy to abandon attachment and adopt renunciation, Krishna told him that those who take to the investigation into the nature of the world lift themselves up by their own efforts and go beyond their sensual cravings. The Self itself is the guide to itself through direct observation and inference. He says “I cherish most the human body because through it, keen and vigilant seekers can have a direct knowledge of me, who am otherwise difficult to perceive.” Krishna illustrates his statement that the human body can be made the best instrument for the attainment of the Supreme Goal, by telling a story of an Avadhuta who learnt wisdom of life from twenty four teachers like earth, air, tree, birds, wasp, bees, python etc. The Lord stresses the importance of performing one’s own duties without any desire for rewards and with mind fully engaged in the enquiry of the Self.
This Self, as the jiva under the influence of avidya or ignorance, pervades every point of the body. The question is then how the Jiva is said to remain free from the activities of the body or to put it differently, having no connection with them, how does the jiva get tied to them? What are the characteristics of the liberated person? Is it one and the same jiva bound and liberated too?

Characteristics of Souls Bound and Free As Well As Devotees

Krishna clarifies: the characterization of a jiva as bound or emancipated is determined by its being subject to or not subject to the Gunas of Prakriti controlled by the Lord himself and has nothing to do with its essential nature. It is like experiencing happiness or sorrow in a dream which ceases on waking. So long as there is ignorance Jiva is taken to suffer the bodily sufferings which get cleared once the individual realizes the knowledge of the Self. The man of knowledge, though has a body, is not conditioned by it any more than a dreamer just awakened from the dream is unaffected by the experiences of his dream. The man of ignorance assumes that he is the doer of all actions which are actually done by organs of action and perception. He is really free who remains unaffected though his senses feed on objects of senses.

If a man becomes a scholar in the scriptures but does not practice and become one with the Self is as useless as keeping a cow which does not give milk or an unchaste wife. A wise man who always chants the name of the Lord and hears his stories will surly attain to his state.
Importance of Satsanga

When asked who is a pious soul, the Lord replies : A pious soul will be compassionate towards everybody, harms nobody, is forbearing, has truthfulness, has no attachment to pleasures of senses; is self-disciplined, solely depending on the Lord and is given to contemplation. Free from passion and anger, he does not seek honor for himself but bestows it on others. Possessed of right knowledge, a devotee should direct his worship to the Lord alone. Krishna says; “they are considered by me to be the foremost of all devotees, who worship me with exclusive devotion, knowing in reality how great I am, what I am and what like I am.” Devotion to the Lord consists of touching and worshipping his representations in the form of pictures, images etc, rendering bodily service to the people devoted to him, repeated recounting his excellences and exploits and developing reverence to hearing his stories etc.

Then Krishna emphasizes the importance of Satsanga or association with great souls. He says “neither Yoga, Sankhya, righteousness, austerities, nor study of the Vedas, sacrifices, and philanthropic works, mantras, yamas, niyamas, can win me as does the association with the saints - satsanga. Satsanga puts an end to all attachments.”
Giving numerous examples of those who reached him despite having never studied the scriptures the Lord praised the fellowship of the saints. Krishna says “the Gopis with their minds fastened to me with the cords of love attained to me. Therefore seek as your refuge me alone with all your strength. With me alone, you can be rid of all fears.”

Extinction of The “I” Sense

Uddhava remarked that most men know that the sensuous pleasures are baneful in their results, inviting endless troubles, yet like dogs, donkeys and goats they heartily plunge into them and asked why it is so.

The Lord answered:

“It all begins with perverse sense of ‘I ‘which causes Rajo Guna to invade the mind and induces it to conceive the objects of enjoyment and the means of enjoying them. Brooding over such sensory objects creates an uncontrollable passion for them which overwhelms the mind and impels irrevocable actions. Although the perception of their evil consequences of such actions is present, the impetuosity of the passion is too strong to arrest them. But the man of discrimination exerts hard to control his infatuation and thus spares himself from the suffering. Such a man will turn his mind to me, away from everything else, and will be finally established in me. This is the Yoga I taught to Brahma and to his sons, the four Kumaras.”

The Lord then tells Uddhava how he took the form of a Swan (Hamsa) and clarified the doubts raised by the Kumaras as to the relationship of the mind with sense objects and how the seeker of Liberation can disentangle himself from such relationship. This teaching is known as ‘Hamsa Gita’
or ‘Hamsopadesam’
Path of Devotion

Uddhava asks Krishna

“Various ways of liberation have been taught by various teachers. You also teach the path of devotion. Are all these ways equally good?”

Krishna replies

“Many are the means described for the attainment of the highest good, such as love, performance of duty, self-control, truthfulness, sacrifices, gifts, austerity, charity, vows, observance of moral precepts etc. But of all these the path of love and devotion to me is the best. To the man who finds delight in me alone, who is self-controlled and even-minded, having no longing in his heart for anything other than me, the whole universe is full of bliss. Such a devotee who has surrendered himself to the Lord does not even desire salvation and finds bliss in me alone; this devotee is very dear to me. His happiness is unconditional. Although he may not be a master of senses, he is not a servant to them, either. As fire kindled into a blaze burns the wood to ashes, devotion to me completely consumes all evil.

Neither by the study of scriptures nor by Yoga or by any other method could I be easily attained? I, the Self, dear to the devotee am attainable by love and devotion. Devotion purifies even the lowliest of the low. Without love for me virtues and learning are unfruitful. He who loves me is made pure and is a purifying influence upon the whole universe. Let not your mind run after worldly things. Give your mind to me, meditate upon me.”
Then Krishna teaches Uddhava the process of meditating upon him. A Yogi practicing meditation regularly with intense devotion rises above all limitations of knowledge and action by realizing the one all pervading reality. Krishna says that while practicing such yoga, many occult or mystic powers accrue to the devotee, but makes it clear that they are all obstacles to the Union with him.
Divine Manifestations chap 3

Uddhava addresses Krishna

“You are the supreme Brahman without beginning or end, free from all limitations. In you the whole universe exists. The wise know this; but the ignorant do not. Teach me how to worship you in all beings and attain to your abode.” Krishna replies “O Uddhava, the same question was asked by Arjuna on the eve of the battle of Kurukshetra. I will tell you in brief my divine manifestations.”

Krishna tells Uddhava what he told Arjuna in the 10th Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita about all his glories or Vibhuties. However the Lord says “I have indicated in brief to you all these manifestations of mine. Know them to be nothing but the fancy of the imagination, mere words, and unreal. You will do well to control your speech, mind and senses, and you will never again suffer transmigration. He who fails to control his mind and tongue, all his spiritual attainments will leak out of him like the water out of an unbaked pot.”

Varna Ashrama Dharma

Then the discussion between Uddhava and Krishna centres on castes (varna) and orders (ashrama) of life, their origin, functions in the society, their duties and obligations. The purpose of marriage is not enjoyment but attaining knowledge by the couple in this life and everlasting happiness hereafter. Krishna says ‘as travellers meet by chance on the way, so does a man meet wife, children, relatives and friends: let him therefore be in the world and yet separate from it.”

The Goal and The Way

Krishna continues to advise Uddhava:
He whose mind has been thoroughly purified by knowledge and realization alone can comprehend my supreme state. Penance, pilgrimage, japa, charitable acts, is mere means of self-purification and not of perfection as knowledge is. Therefore work your self-knowledge up to the stage of realization and reject everything else but your devotion to me.
Uddhava wanted to know about the difference between Jnana, Vijnana and Bhakti as also about Yama and Niyama which are prescribed in the scriptures for the attainment of final beatitude. The Lord answered all these questions in detail and concluded by saying that the means by which he is attained is known as the right path and the wrong path is that by which mundane activity is undertaken.
Krishna continues;

“In order to lead men to the highest good, three methods of self-discipline have been taught by me. They are:

  • Jnana Yoga, the path of knowledge or investigation - meant for those who have lost the taste for worldly action, considering it to be a source of misery.

  • Karma Yoga, the path of action - meant for those who thirst for fulfillment of desires through action and

  • Bhakti Yoga, the path of devotion meant for those who are neither disgusted with sense pleasures nor inordinately attached to them. And who love to hear the stories about the Lord and chant his name.

Those who follow any one of these paths will attain the state of Brahman, the absolute Reality, my state.”

The Lord deprecates the goal of heaven through ritualism as mere glamorous and says that he only knows the true and hidden meaning of the Vedas. The reward of heaven promised by the Vedas for ritualistic worship is not blessedness or the final goal in itself, but is calculated to create a taste for worship as an introduction to the subject of final Liberation, even as the promise of chocolates induces a child to take its dose of medicine.

Then follows a detailed and long discussion between Krishna and Uddhava on varied topics like categories or tattvas, purusha and prakriti, sankhya doctrine, characteristics of the three Gunas, and the method of formal worship to propitiate the Lord.
Truth is One Only

Recapitulating the earlier teachings, Krishna affirms that considering the existence of only one substance viz. Paramatman or the Supreme Self, manifesting as purusha and prakriti, the seeker must desist from praising or condemning the actions or dispositions of others which will lead him to duality and thus defeat his own purpose of attaining the oneness of the Self.

In the world of duality where everything is false, unreal like a mirage, an echo, a reflection, the discrimination between good and bad does not arise, although it somehow affects the jivas.

The one substance is both, the creator and the created, the protector and the protected and the destroyer and the destroyed. The triad of percipient, percept and perception is the product of illusion and thus does not exist. The knower of this truth as taught by the Lord, neither extols nor reviles anyone, but goes about unattached like the sun.

Uddhava now raises an interesting question. He says that when death and rebirth is talked about, neither the soul (Self, Atman) nor the body is capable of rebirth because the soul is deathless and the body gets disintegrated upon death and stands no chance of revival. Yet birth and death are real. Then which entity, he asks Krishna, undergoes the process of death and rebirth (if neither the body nor the soul is reborn)?

Krishna answers: “Notwithstanding the fact that the phenomena of birth and death do not really happen to the Soul or prakriti, yet so long as the contact between the ignorant or indiscriminate jiva and the senses continues, birth and death does not cease. It is just like a man so long as he is dreaming, there is no corresponding reality for the objects experienced in the dream but he, the dreamer, continues to be deluded by the dream objects, and continues to suffer the dream sorrow, although this does not exist as real sensations in him, and ceases when he becomes enlightened on waking. Thus birth and death, grief, fear etc affect the deluded jiva, the ego and not his being or Self. Hence the aim should be not to identify with one’s own body which is non-self and unreal and to identify oneself with the Self, which is the only reality. This is called wisdom which consists of distinguishing Self from Non-Self.

The means to acquire wisdom are-

  • study of the Vedas (nigama)

  • tapas

  • faith in the teachings of exalted souls

  • one’s own realization

  • ability to infer what is the beginning, middle and the end.

Gold and not the ornament is the reality. Even so, the Atma is the reality and not the world. The mind in its three states of consciousness viz., dream, wakefulness and deep sleep creates the respective world. Consciousness, which is the reality, is Brahman which pervades all three states and the universe. The reality will persist, even when the threefold distinction disappears. The universe did not exist before and was evolved out of Brahman which is the cause of all, and which is not caused by any other entity or cause. Gold appears as ornaments which we may call as intermediary stage. Even if the ornaments are melted gold will exist which we may call as the end stage. Similarly, even when the ornaments were not made the gold remained in the form of a bar or some such shape. This stage we may call as the beginning. So what exists in all the three stages i.e. the beginning, the middle or intermediary and the end is the Reality and that which does not so exist is unreal.

Krishna advises Uddhava to clear his doubts in this way with the grace of a Guru. The sun is not affected by the clouds appearing and disappearing around it. The sky is not affected by the five elements viz. earth, air, water, fire and space which are in it. Similarly Brahman or the Paramatman is not affected by the universe.

Just as the light of the sun dispels the darkness from the eye and reveals what has been already present but unseen, so does the Self-realization, dispels the darkness of the mind and reveal the Self, the Lord, Bhagavan, which has been invisibly present as the source of all experiences, the senses and speech and which is beyond reason, words, time, space and causality. The Lord warns that even if one possesses such discriminatory wisdom, he should be ever vigilant lest there is every possibility of losing it on account various inimical forces at work like temptations for worldly objects, pleasures of wife, children and wealth etc. He assures that his true devotee will never have such obstructions.

Final Advice ch4

Uddhava submits that this Yogic discipline is extremely difficult for one who is not a master of senses as it brings about many failures and frustrations. He asks whether there is any alternative to it.

Krishna said: “I shall now tell you the code of conduct, which is pleasing to me, by observing which a man will conquer the cycle of birth and death. Dedicate the mind and intellect to me. Find delight in pleasing me in various ways. Do all actions for my sake. Remember me all the while.
A devotee should see me in everything and everything in me. He must regard all created things as identical with me. Honor them as such. Look with equal eye on a Brahmin and a chandala, a thief and a sanyasi. He should get rid of the three faults viz. finding fault with superiors, self-conceit and contempt towards inferiors.
Without any shame prostrate like a log of wood on the ground in front of the dog, paraya (the untouchable), cow or donkey. This must be done till my devotee is convinced that I am present in all beings. Seeing me in all beings is the highest worship of me and such a man will be rid of all fears.
I have explained in essence all the principles of Vedanta and to him who expounds this to my devotees I will show my real form even without his request.”
Uddhava said: “The darkness of ignorance in which I was steeped has been dispelled by your teaching.”

Honoring the instructions of Krishna, Uddhava left for Badrikaashram (Badrinath). There, practicing meticulously the teachings of the Lord he attained to the state of Sri Hari. Anyone who follows this teaching will be liberated. All who have fellowship with such a man will also be liberated.

Thereafter the internecine holocaust among the Yadus follows and the Yadukula is completely wiped out. The avatar of Sri Krishna also comes to end.


  1. Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana ( English Translation) Part II - Gita Press, Gorakhpur

  2. Srimad Bhagavatam - Swamy Srikrishna Das - TTD, Tirupati

  3. Srimad Bhagavata - S.S.Cohen - Sri Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai

  4. Uddhava Gita - Swami Madhavananda - Advita Ashrama, Kolkata

  5. Srimad Bhagavatam - Swami Prabhavananda - Sri R.K .Math, Chennai

Also read:

  1. Holy Gita is a guide to one’s life http://www.esamskriti.com/essay-chapters/The-Holy-Gita-is-a-guide-to-one%60s-life-1.aspx

  2. Perennial Psychology of the Bhagwad Gita by Swami Rama http://www.esamskriti.com/essay-chapters/Perennial-Psychology-of-the-Bhagwad-Geeta-1.aspx



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