by Swami Krishnananda
In the Seventh Chapter of the Gita, we have been studying the essentials of a universal religion – an impartial religion of mankind with no denomination of any kind, where each god is equally as good as any other god, and yet no god is equal to the ultimate God. It was mentioned in this context that outside God nothing is – mattah parataram nanyat kinchid asti (7.7) – and our aim is to attain God. The whole point in the practice of religion is the learning of the art of conducting oneself in the way of God. Otherwise, what is the good of religion? It is a way to God. We have studied the principles of an impartially construed religion in the previous chapter.
The whole point is that we have to reach God through religious practice. It has been mentioned that God is such that outside of It nothing can be, and beyond It there is nothing. We have to reach a God outside of Whom nothing is. How would we reach a God outside of Whom nothing is? There is no question of reaching – because when we conceive a question of reaching or moving in the direction of something, there is an outside-ness already created. We cannot move towards anything which is not outside, and there is nothing outside God. It appears, therefore, that there is no such thing as an ordinarily conceived movement towards God. Hence, realisation, attainment, moksha, the goal of life – which is God – cannot be conceived in ordinary space-time related terms.
Then how do we reach God? The Bhagavadgita is the gospel of the art of reaching God, yet it confuses us by saying that we cannot easily reach God. Why we cannot easily reach God has been already mentioned in the earlier verses. It is because our mind is confused by its lodgement in a kind of split-psychic personality caused by love and hatred, which are the principles of mental operation. In any way, we have to get out of it. There is a necessity to integrate the psyche; we cannot go on living a split life. The object of final spiritual realisation is the total God, not a partial God.
It was conceded that the lesser gods are also equally good. They are equally good in the sense that they will give us some benefit – a benefit that has a beginning and an end. But liberation is not something that has a beginning and an end. Hence, a beginningless and endless achievement cannot be attempted by the worship of any kind of localised god – a god that is placed in some heaven and distinguished from other deities. Therefore, the merciful acquiescence of the Almighty in giving us permission to worship any kind of independent god does not mean that it is a solution to the problems of samsara. It is a solution to our daily problems, no doubt – problems regarding material prosperity, social status, freedom from illness, and joys of various kinds that this earth can give us. All these can be the boons that we can expect from our gods, but we will not get liberation. Liberation is a total merging in the Total Reality and, therefore, any localised god, conceptualised god, isolated god, or limited god will not permit us this attainment.
Who is this Ultimate God? How do we conceive Him? In his great compassion, Bhagavan Sri Krishna gives two verses which become the seed, as it were, for the next chapter, which is the Eighth. These verses tell us how God has to be accommodated in our meditating consciousness. Meditation is the way in which we accommodate this total concept of God in our own self. We are not accustomed to total thinking. It was already mentioned that we are partial thinkers; we think along the lines of love and hatred. But that will not do. We have to learn the art of a complete thinking which will exclude nothing from its purview or its operation.
Jara marana mokshaya mam asritya yatanti ye (7.29). “Do you want liberation?” is the question that is raised here. Jara and marana are old age and death. “Do you want freedom from old age and death, and to not be born once again into this samsara, this misery of the earth? If that is the case, I shall tell you the recipe, and here it is: Resort to Me as the Ultimate Being for freedom from decay and death.” Te brahma tadviduh kritsnam adhyatmam karma chakhilam.
Sadhibhutadhidaivam mam sadhiyajnam cha ye viduh, prayanakale’pi cha mam te vidur yuktachetasah (7.30). At the time of the passing, at the time of leaving this body, what kind of consciousness is to take possession of us? It is told to us in the Eighth Chapter that the consciousness that will take possession of us at the time of passing will be the same consciousness that we entertain in our daily life – because as is the tree, so is the fruit. We cannot have apples from pickles. If we have been living a very distracted, erroneous, confused kind of life, how would we expect this total awareness to arise in our mind at the time of passing? That is told to us in the Eighth Chapter.
However, certain terms are used here which are highly technical; and in the beginning of the Eighth Chapter, Arjuna raises a question regarding the meaning of these terms. These technical terms constitute the nomenclature of the aspects of God that make the Total – which have to be in our consciousness at the time of passing. The world is outside, but it is also inside. Therefore, we think of the Ultimate Being in our consciousness, as we cannot afford to limit God to something that only permeates the outside world. Isavasyam idam sarvam, etc. We have heard that God pervades all things. When we speak of God’s immanence in all things, we are likely to commit the mistake of thinking that ‘all things’ means all things that we see with our eyes.
This delimitation of all things that we see to an external world is an error of concept because we ourselves are also one of the things of the world which God indwells. Hence, the adhibhuta prapancha, which is the externally perceived world, should not be taken as merely the world which God indwells. God also indwells the adhyatma prapancha, which is the inward reality of our own self. Our inner reality is also indwelled by the God who indwells the world of objective perception; but we will not be able to easily blend these two aspects in our mind. When we think something, do we think of the total – the merging of both the subjective and the objective sides? Now I am seeing you sitting here: somebody is sitting. Can I, in ordinary circumstances, convince myself that the object that I see seated in front of me is organically inseparable from my existence here where I am seated? Normally this kind of thought is not possible and, humanly speaking, nobody in the world can think in this manner; the object and the subject cannot be taken together. But do we expect a cheap liberation? We have to pay a heavy price for it.
That heavy price is not only the concept of the blend of one’s own self and the object that we perceive, which is the world. There is something more. Adhidaiva prapancha is also to be taken into consideration. There is something midway between the perceiving subject and the world of objects perceived. It was indeed difficult enough for us to conceive a blend of ourselves and the world outside. Now things are made even more difficult by it being said that we have also to think of a third thing, not merely the two things. The third thing is the consciousness that enables us to know that there is a blend between us and the world. The world cannot know that it is connected with us in any manner. Physically speaking, we also cannot know that we have any vital connection with the world outside, because we are independently sitting here. But there is a third person operating between us, as the individual perceiver, and the world of objects outside, whose preponderance in our mind causes an inference that it is not possible to have consciousness of an object outside unless there is a third element – a connecting link which is transcendent. This transcendent element is called adhidaiva. At the time of death, we are supposed to meditate on the total concept of an inclusiveness of ourselves, the world outside, and also the transcendent superintending principle – adhidaiva.
Other things are also mentioned. There is a thing called adhidharma, which brings into a focus of cohesion all these three principles mentioned. It is not that I am here, the world is outside, and consciousness, the third thing, is hanging as a no-man’s land. This idea should also be removed from our mind. The connecting link mentioned between the subjective side and the objective side is not a third element to be contemplated independently, because that third thing is a union of both the subjective side and the objective side. There is no subject and object in the third element; it is like a single body feeling the unity of the right hand and the left hand. For the physical consciousness, the right hand and the left hand are not two objects. In a similar manner, the transcendent individual – the adhidaiva mentioned – is not a separately existing third entity, in the same way as the body is not a third principle for the right hand and the left hand. It is an inclusive principle wherein the right and the left are subsumed. By thinking hard, we must be able to conceive this in our mind. This unifying principle is called dharma, the total ruling force of the cosmos. In Vedic terminology it is known as rita or satya. Tad viduh kritsnam adhyatmam karma chakhilam. Sadhibhutadhidaivam mam sadhiyajnam cha ye viduh, prayanakale’pi cha mam te vidur yukta chetasah.
So many difficulties will harass our minds at the time of meditation. We will begin to think that God is creating the world, or God has created the world. The word visargah that is used here implies the force which generates the world and causes the emanation of the world from God. Sometimes we are unable to free ourselves from this idea that the world must have been created by God, and yet we are not be able to bring about a relationship between God and the world. Is God outside the world, is God inside the world, or is the world identical with God? God cannot be outside the world – because if that is the case, nobody in the world can reach God. Nor can the world be outside God – because if that is the case, it is an external object with no substance, no existence whatsoever. This is because only God can be existence, and if the world is totally outside existence, it is non-existence.
We connect the cause with the effect – the cause which we have imagined as God, the Creator, with the world as the effect. These ideas must be shed, particularly when we think of the Total Reality, because the idea of the Total excludes the concept of causality. The relationship between cause and effect, the relationship between subject, object and the transcendent – all these ideas are removed at one stroke by an entry of consciousness into a peculiar kind of Self which the Upanishads call Vaisvanara, and is portrayed as the Visvarupa in the Eleventh Chapter of the Bhagavadgita.
“Whoever can conceive this total in the mind – Brahman as the Absolute, which includes the adhibhuta prapancha, the adhyatma prapancha, and also the connecting link of adhidaiva – and removes from the mind the idea of causality of God in terms of the world, such people are really able to think of Me in the proper manner at the time of passing.” It is better we don’t pass so easily, because this kind of thinking is not humanly possible. Lord Krishna is trying to extract this idea with heavy wage. For the gracious gift that we expect from the Almighty, we have to pay that price through hard effort of sadhana in this manner described.