by Swami Krishnananda
Yesterday we briefly summed up the first six chapters of the Bhagavadgita that we previously covered. We noticed that the emphasis is particularly on self-discipline - or rather, to put it in a more technical way, the emphasis is on self-integration in the different levels of the operation of the human psyche. Now what happens after the expected goal of self-integration is reached by way of direct restraint of the senses and the mind and meditation as per the suggestions given in the Sixth Chapter? Meditation on what? There is not much detail on this subject in the first six chapters. There was a reference to the Atman towards the end of the Fifth Chapter which continues throughout the Sixth Chapter – atmany eva vasam nayet (6.26). This has been reiterated several times. The restraint of the mind and the senses is intended for the purpose of achieving Self-identity – the establishment of consciousness in the Atman.
We have heard this word ‘Atman’ a number of times, but in the Sixth Chapter, the Gita doesn’t go into detail as to what this Atman is, though it says that it is immortal and it is pervading everything. From the Seventh Chapter onwards, we enter into a new field of observation and study – namely, the encounter of the individual with the cosmic purpose. Very little of the cosmos is mentioned in the first six chapters other than a reference to the three gunas of prakriti, etc., in the Third Chapter. But a direct onslaught, as it were, on this great subject of the Universal Being having an organic connection with the individual, and God being the creator of the world, did not receive adequate emphasis. “Do this,” “Do not do this,” “Restrain yourself” – we heard this many a time in the first six chapters.
From the Seventh Chapter onwards, the Supreme Lord assumes an important position. In the first six chapters, Sri Krishna speaks as an instructor, as a mentor, as a good guide – a friend, philosopher and guide, as it is said. Now he speaks in a different tone altogether, as a representative of the Almighty Himself. He no more is a teacher of the ordinary type. He is not a simple friend of Arjuna or a philosopher par excellence, but God Himself speaking. He is the mouthpiece of the Almighty. Therefore, the ideas of “Come to Me. Resort to Me. Be intent on Me. Depend on Me. Surrender yourself to Me” are more prominently emphasised from the Seventh Chapter onwards. God speaks as the mighty originator of the cosmos, and the be-all and the end-all of all things. Thus, we enter into the field of true religion – spirituality, we may say – from the Sixth Chapter onwards. From the beginning until the Sixth Chapter, we were in the field of psychology mostly – the constituency of the inner psyche and its modus operandi in relation to the gunas of prakriti, and more properly the way of right action in human society.
Here is something which is directly religious, in the sense that we come in direct contact with God Who speaks to us face to face, as it were. Mayy asakta-manah partha yogam yunjan mad-asrayah, asamsayam samagram mam yatha jnasyasi tac chrunu (7.1): “O Arjuna! When you are devoted to Me, intent on Me only”– mayy asakta-manah; “and for the purpose of uniting yourself with Me, you practise yoga” – what happens to you? “You attain to a total experience and you will know Me in totality.” That is to say, God speaks to the individual represented by Arjuna as the specimen of mankind and says, “You shall know me in totality.” Samagram: “You will not know Me merely as your protector and guide. You will not know Me merely as the creator of the cosmos. You will know Me in totality, which includes whatever you can conceive in your mind.” Samagram mam yatha jnasyasi: “How would you know Me in totality? I shall now tell you.”
Jnanam te’ham sa-vijnanam idam vakshyamy aseshatah, yaj jnatva neha bhuyo’nyaj jnatavyam avasishyate (7.2): “After having heard what I am going to tell you, there will be nothing left for you to know. Vijnana and jnana, both I shall place before you.” In commentaries of the Gita, the interpreters vary in the meaning they give to the words vijnana and jnana. Amarakosha, the famous dictionary of Sanskrit, says mokshe dhirjnanam anyatra vijnanam silpasastrayoh: When you are endowed with the wisdom of the Ultimate Reality which is moksha, that wisdom is called jnana; and vijnana is the arts and the sciences of the world, such as architecture, sculpture, etc. – vijnanam silpasastrayoh. But Acharya Sankara and certain other teachers say vijnana is the direct experience of what one has already known through jnana, or what may be called lower knowledge.
Reference to two kinds of knowledge – apara vidya and para vidya – is also made in the Mundaka Upanishad. These days we consider the Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, Atharvaveda, Itihasa, Purana, Siksha and other Angas, or auxiliaries of the Vedas, as the highest form of learning; but here this learning, which we adore as the highest possible reach, is considered as lower knowledge. Atha para yaya tadaksharam adhigamyate – that is called para vidya or Supreme Knowledge through which we directly enter into the imperishable Reality of the cosmos. We may become enlightened by the study of the Vedas and the Puranas or the Itihasas or other scriptures, but that knowledge is not adequate to enable us to enter the imperishable Reality. Merely knowing about it is not enough. Lord Krishna says, “I shall tell you both these things – that which is helpful to you as analytical knowledge of the structure of the cosmos, and also that which will directly take you to Me, the Supreme Being.”
Manushyanam sahasreshu kaschid yatati siddhaye; yatatam api siddhanam kaschin mam vetti tattvatah (7.3). Millions of people live in this world. Do they all want God? Very few even think of God. They very rarely put forth any effort in the direction of knowing and realising God. There is a small percentage of humanity who wants God, and they would very much like to practise yoga for the sake of the realisation of God; but among those who strive, even ardently, all may not reach God. Yatatam api siddhanam kaschin mam vetti tattvatah: “Even among those who devoutly seek Me – even among those – only very few really do reach Me.” How difficult it is! The difficulty in contacting God is stated here briefly: manushyanam sahasreshu kaschid yatati siddhaye; yatatam api siddhanam kaschin mam vetti tattvatah.
The cosmological principles which God created, as it were, at the time of His willing this cosmos are now mentioned briefly along the lines of the Sankhya, and also the Vedanta. We heard something about the Sankhya when we studied the Second and Third Chapters. The Sankhya enumerates the categories of the constituents of prakriti, and says that there is a purusha that superintends over all the activities of prakriti as an immutable universal consciousness. Somehow or the other, Sankhya falls into the chasm of the duality of purusha and prakriti. It is not possible for Sankhya to bring about a unity between consciousness and matter.
Even today we cannot easily say what the relationship between consciousness and matter is; and psychologists are in the dark as to the relationship between mind and body: Does the body determine the mind, or does the mind determine the body? When we have a mental shock, the body is affected. Or if we swallow poison, the mind is affected. So internally, interiorly, they seem to be interconnected; but what is the meaning of ‘interconnection’? Who causes this connection between mind and body? This question is still being raised in psychological circles. The principles of Sankhya, which enumerate the constituents of prakriti, are very highly informative knowledge indeed, but we are still left in the dark as to what connection purusha has with prakriti. What happens to us when we attain Self-realisation? Where does the prakriti stand at that time? Prakriti is supposed to be there permanently – eternal, never dying. Is prakriti still eternally there even after Self-realisation? If that is the case, will the Self-realised entity be conscious of prakriti?
These are the difficulties that Sankhya poses before us. When we realise the Universal purusha – ‘Universal’ is to be underlined, which means to say all-pervading and existing everywhere – and we are established in that Universal Consciousness which is supposed to be liberation even according to the Sankhya, where is the stance of prakriti? If the purusha knows prakriti, then it is in contact with prakriti, and that is bondage. The whole point is that the consciousness should not be in contact with prakriti. The moment it comes in contact with prakriti, it enters into the state of bondage; but if we say that purusha is not conscious of prakriti, it is not omniscient. So here is a snag in the Sankhya philosophy which the Gita gets over gradually when proceeding.
Bhumir apo nalo vayuh kham mano buddhi reva cha; ahankara itiyam me bhinna prakritir ashtadha (7.4): “My prakriti, the material out of which I have created this cosmos, can be classified under eight principles.” Earth, water, fire, air, and ether are five well-known physical elements; they are known as bhumir apo nalo vayuh kham. These are the gross manifestations of the subtle substances behind them which are known as tanmatras: sabda, sparsa, rupa, rasa and gandha. These five elements are the principal building bricks of the cosmos. Then there is the mind, which is the subtle, rarified matter which reflects consciousness through it as a mirror reflects one’s face. Then there is buddhi which understands, decides, and logically concludes; and ahankara which is self-conscious. So earth, water, fire, air and ether, mind, intellect and egoism are the eight categories out of which the whole cosmos has been manufactured, as it were, by God.