by Swami Krishnananda
We were discussing advanced thought on true religion, which was briefly delineated in the Seventh Chapter. Many of the ideas occurring in the Ninth Chapter are, to some extent, just expository of the thoughts expressed in the Seventh Chapter.
At the time of the dissolution of the universe, everyone is withdrawn into the cosmic bosom; and all individuals, all jivas, lie there in that state, like unconscious sleepers. When Brahma is dissolved at the end of time – after the period of one hundred years of his regime – the whole universe is dissolved. Not even the five elements – earth, water, fire, air and ether – remain. Everything goes, and all created beings are withdrawn into the causal sheath of the cosmos. In that condition of cosmic sleep, one will not know what ‘is’ and what ‘is not’.
The Manusmirti says, “Asid asitidam tamobhutam aprajnatam alakshanam apratargyam avijneyam prasuptamiva sarvatah”: In the beginning, it looked as if the whole universe was sleeping. Tamobhutam: darkness enveloped the whole cosmos. Aprajnatam: unknown to everybody. Alakshanam: Indescribable – all were sleeping. When another hundred years of sleep pass, there is a rising of Brahma once again; and one does not know whether it is the same Brahma who rises, or another. Evidently, it is not the same. It is mentioned in the Valmiki Ramayana that the next Brahma will be Hanuman: svayam nava vyakaranarthavetta brahma bhavatyapi te prasadat. Of all the created beings, only Hanuman has been found fit to be Brahma in the next cycle. We are also here, reading so much, but we have not been selected. The selection committee has been very strict, and it finally found Hanuman as the best person. Brahma bhavatyapi te prasadat. It is a very great wonder that there are so many great men, but only Hanuman has been selected. He must be some great genius.
Even according to certain doctrines of modern science, there is the enunciation of this cyclic rotation of the universe in which the individual patterns remain the same while the spirits indwelling these patterns differ. It is a very strange doctrine, which is parallel in pattern to the Indian doctrines of cycle. Yatha purvam akalpayat: In the same manner as creation took place earlier, once again creation will take place. The same forms will be there, the same mould, the same shape, the same persons will recur, and again and again the same avataras – the same Rama and the same Krishna – millions and millions of times; but the inner soul indwelling these forms will be different. This is some of the doctrines of modern thinkers like Alfred North Whitehead, and is corroborated by Indian thinkers who believe in the cycles of creation.
When we enter into this cosmic bosom, it doesn’t mean that we will be liberated. We will be only in a state of unconsciousness. The dissolution of the universe does not mean dissolution of our karmas. The karmas lie there – as creditors may sleep with us and get up in the morning with us in order to harass us for the dues that we owe them. All the good deeds and bad deeds – in a highly subtle, rarified form – will stick to us, as they stick to us even in our ordinary deep sleep. Our karmas are not destroyed when we become completely unconscious in the state of deep sleep because when we wake up in the morning, we do not become different persons merely because we were unconscious. We remain the same person when we get up in the morning because what we deserve sticks to us like a fine potency – adrishya – invisible to the eyes. Our deeds cling to us even in the state of deep sleep, and they cling to us even when the whole universe is dissolved. So there is no great point in thinking that we will be absolved of all our commitments when the universe is dissolved and we merge into the bosom of the cosmic prakriti. It is another long, long sleep in comparison with the shorter sleep of ours.
The Lord says, sarva-bhutani kaunteya prakritim yanti mamikam, kalpa-kshaye punas tani kalpadau visrijam yaham (9.7): At the end of the kalpa (which is the cycle of time I described previously) the whole universe gets withdrawn into prakriti. The Puranas refer to it as the baby Narayana. The Puranas have a fantastic description of all these conditions, where the little baby Lord Krishna, Narayana – we may call him by whatever name – is lying on this cosmic ocean on a little banyan leaf, sucking his own toe as children sometimes do. Vatasya patrasya pute sayanam balam mukundam manasa smarami: That little crawling child sleeps on that little leaf. That child is physically very small, but inside that little baby the potentials of the whole cosmos are dancing. ‘Anantakoti brahmanda nayaka’ he is called: the ruler of the endless universes. Thus, this drama of creation goes on endlessly, endlessly, endlessly – without beginning, without end.
Prakritim svam avashtabhya visrijami punah punah, bhuta-gramam imam kritsnam avasam prakriter vasat (9.8): Because of our involvement in the three gunas of prakriti, we neither have the option to enter that ocean, nor have we the option to come back from that. Avasam: We are helplessly driven into it, and are also helplessly brought back – as helplessly we go to sleep, and helplessly we wake up. We cannot stop our sleeping, nor can we stop our waking. A miniature cosmic drama is taking place in our own daily life. The universe expands into an endless dimension which includes all jivas. But the Lord says, “I am not doing anything, really speaking.”
Na cha mam tani karmani nibadhnanti dhananjaya, udasinavad asinam asaktam teshu karmasu (9.9). God is a transcendent Being, and therefore even if He is immanent and actually indwelling in these potential individuals, He is not contaminated. He cannot be said to be doing anything at all. The process of creation and destruction do not seem to affect the original will of the Supreme Being because of Its being transcendent and immanent simultaneously. It is involved in every bit of creation, and yet it is not involved in anything. Matsthani sarva bhutani, na cha matsthani: “I am in all things, and yet I am not in anything. All beings are in Me, and yet nobody is in Me.” Na cha matsthani bhutani: “The whole creation is due to Me, and yet it is not due to Me.” The gunas of prakriti cannot in any way touch the supreme transcendence of the Absolute.
Mayadhyakshena prakritih suyate sa-characharam (9.10): “The whole cosmic dance is due to My presence, of course.” The progenating capacity of prakriti through the three gunas is due to the light of the Cosmic Being that is activating it, as our lives are activated by the light of the sun that rises in the morning. The whole world gets transformed constantly, and never rests in one condition – jagadviparivartate – on account of the restlessness that is inherent in the gunas of prakriti; and their activity is enhanced into a continuous movement by the action of the consciousness of the Supreme Purusha – Bhagavan, the Absolute. But, “People who are limited to their own bodies, and cannot think beyond their skin, cannot know that in My transcendent capacity I incarnate Myself as the adhyatma, or the essential soul of all beings. People who do not have proper understanding, who are involved in the clutches of the gunas of prakriti, cannot appreciate this mystery of Mine that I am transcendentally disconnected from everything that is taking place in the realm of prakriti, though everything is taking place only due to Me.”
Avajananti mam mudha manushim tanum asritam (9.11): “People imagine that I have got a form.” We say that Lord Krishna was in Brindavan, that he was in Dwaraka, that he was in Kurukshetra, and so on; but His essential nature was nothing of the kind. That which is not human was masquerading in that apparently human form. Otherwise, that apparently human form could not have assumed a non-human cosmic form – which it did on various occasions. Bhagavan Sri Krishna’s Visvarupa was shown four times during his life, including once in the Bhagavadgita, and each time the presentation was qualitatively different. The Visvarupa appeared in a particular manner the first time, it appeared differently the second time, was another thing altogether the third time, and was something different the fourth time. It was a universal manifestation, no doubt, but it looked different according to the conditions or the exigencies of the time. In the context of the Bhagavadgita, it appeared as the Time Spirit that was up and doing for the destruction of all beings, as will be described in the Eleventh Chapter. “People think that I am a human being – walking with two feet, living in a palace with a large family – but nothing of the kind is My nature. My body, my personality, is only a focusing point of a larger existence which is My real nature, which pervades all space and transcends space and time.”
Moghasa mogha-karmano mogha-jnana vichetasah, rakshasim asurim chaiva prakritim mohinim sritah (9.12): People who are infested with rakshasi prakriti, with intense rajas and tamas, who believe in the reality of the external world of matter, who also believe, simultaneously, in the internal world of the physical body – these people who are of rakshasa nature are deluded by their involvement in these gunas of prakriti.
Daivi prakriti is a divine nature – to which, reference was made in the Seventh Chapter. It is the higher prakriti, in contrast with the lower prakriti of instincts, sensations, mentations, intellections etc. Mahatmanas tu mam partha daivim prakritim asritah, bhajanty ananya-manaso jnatva bhutadim avyayam (9.13): “Knowing Me as the origin of all things, knowing Me as supreme beyond all things, knowing Me as all-in-all, knowing that in Me everything can be found, knowing that I am the source of immortality – these great souls, Mahatmas, resort to Me, being endowed with the highest quality of sattva which is daivi prakriti. And they adore Me in their spirit, they worship Me in their spirit, they praise Me in their spirit, and concentrate on Me through their spirit, and wish that their spirit gets merged in My spirit.” Ananya-manasah: “Those whose mind cannot be distracted in any direction other than My universal existence – such people I consider as Mahatmas, the great souls that inhabit this cosmos.” Such great souls are very few in number, as the Yoga Vasishtha tells us. It is said that they are very few in number because the earth cannot bear the weight of such great people. Mahatmanas tu mam partha daivim prakritim asritah, bhajanty ananya-manaso jnatva bhutadim avyayam: Great souls are very few in number. Wicked people are multifarious. In one of his commentaries, Sankaracharya says that gods are lesser in number than demons.
Mahatmas are very few, and two mahatmas cannot be in one place. It seems that Bernard Shaw was invited to come to India, during which time Mahatma Gandhi was alive. He said, it seems, “I cannot go to India, inasmuch as two mahatmas cannot be in one country. Because Mahatma Gandhi is already there and I am also a mahatma, and two mahatmas cannot be in the same place, I am not going. One country can have only one mahatma, as only one lion only can rule in a jungle.”