by Swami Krishnananda
From self-discipline, the Bhagavadgita now takes us to the level of God-Consciousness as its discourse proceeds, and especially in the ninth, tenth and eleventh chapters we reach the climax of the description of this state. Here we seem to find God taking possession of everything. Human individuality and human responsibility do not anymore stand as an outside principle when God begins to rule His kingdom. The kingdom of the jiva, the individual, is no more an isolated factor requiring separate attention on the part of the individual. As we noted in earlier stages in the preceding chapters, the Gita concentrated itself upon the training which the individual has to undergo, until there is a complete preparation of oneself for the final onslaught, which is the great yoga of union with the whole cosmos.
We were discussing the other day the implications of the teaching in the eighth chapter. The whole universe is envisaged in various facets as adhideva, adhibhuta, adhyatma, adhiyajna etc., all which somehow maintain the position of a transcendent reality. Aksharam brahma paramam – the super-cosmic aspect of the Creator is subtly maintained and the facets of the universe, the adhibhuta, adhyatma and the like mentioned, also seem to give a suggestion that there is a graduated relationship of the individual to all these cosmical levels – which, incidentally, also hinges upon the question of the life of the soul after death.
The peregrination of the individual consciousness through the various stages, which were touched upon in our scheme of cosmological studies, is an interesting part of philosophical studies. Briefly it was told us that the last thought decides the future, and I mentioned that the last thought is not an isolated link but a culmination, a fruit, a maturity, the finality of the total psychological operations of the individual throughout one' s life. So it is not a chronologically disassociated last thought, but a logical development of the entire thought process, fructifying in this total thought. We can describe it only in that way – the total thought, and not one among the many thoughts. This complete thought would be the factor that determines the future of the soul. Whatever one aspires for, that one shall attain to. Yadbhavaiti tadbhava; yam yam vapi smaran bhavam tyjatyante kalevaram, tam tamevaiti – This is a great theme in the studies of the field of psychology, including abnormal psychology, we may say. The soul is supposed to depart from this world, shedding this body, and move in certain directions towards the destination where its unfulfilled longings can find fulfilment and fructification. The law which governs the universe seems to be so precise, mathematical, and exact in its functions that it does not ignore anyone – it does not set aside the longing of even a single psychological operation. Every thought has to fulfil itself – if not today, at least tomorrow. So there is an automatic action taking place in this computer system of the cosmos, and there is no need for another operator behind it. It is self-operating. And this system seems to be so exact and inexorable that preference seems to be given to the strongest of thoughts and feelings, and the lesser ones receive attention later on, at the proper time and in the proper place.
The Bhagavadgita does not go into great details in this subject, as much as we have in the Upanishads, for instance. There is a brief statement of the exit of the soul. 'The departure of the soul from the body,' is the way we describe things generally, as if we are encaged in this body and we are not this body. As a person may leave his house, we, the real individuals lodged in this tabernacle, leave it one day in order that we may enter a new house which is already constructed for us by the architect who is paid for by God Himself; and already the house is built, the foundation is dug and the entire structure is complete even before we leave this body. Such wondrous mechanism operates in the universe.
But where do we go? – is a crucial question. "Where do I go, and where does anything go?" We will not be taken to that place which we have not desired in our mind, or rather which does not follow as a natural consequence of our thoughts, feelings and actions. The Bhagavadgita will tell us at another place that the consequences of our deeds are not entirely in our hands. And the deed so-called is not merely what we do with our hands and feet, but also what we think and feel and will; all these are actions, perhaps they are real actions. Our deep-seated longings are our actions, more than what our feet do or hands do. And many times our longings are different from the shape taken by our physical activities. Social conditions and many other factors prevent inward longings from manifesting themselves in outward form, and we live a repressed life. But this repression is something like burying a seed in the ground, which will sprout itself forth one day when there is rainfall and a conducive atmosphere is manifest.
Anything can happen to the soul after death. One can be reborn into this world, one can rise to a higher level, a higher region or superior plane of existence, and if we are to follow the trend of the thought given to us in the Upanishad, one can go to heaven and hell also. One can go to Brahmaloka, one can move along the Uttaramarga or Dakshinamarga, the Aksharadipatha – the path of light, or the path of smoke – as the Bhagavadgita puts it. We need not go into minor details of these eschatological studies. The point that we may bear in mind is that we have to be very cautious in thinking, feeling, and willing. We should not be fools when we start thinking through our minds, under the impression that we are masters in this world. No individual can be a supreme master here, because of the very fact of a different type of relationship that seems to obtain between ourselves and the whole creation into which we had a peep when we studied the cosmological processes. But, however, we are given a solacing message in the end – "Whoever contemplates the Supreme Being, God Himself, that soul will enter God." There is no need of exit – that soul, which is in permanent communion with the Supreme Master of the Universe, the Sovereign of the Cosmos, the Absolute, Parabrahma, Ishvar – that consciousness which is in union by yoga with the Eternal Reality will melt into the ocean of existence, here and now. Atrabhrahama samyashvate tasya prana anoukamraamanti – There is no movement of the prana in any external direction to such a soul, and there is no Uttaramarga, Dakshinamarga or any kind of marga – it is a dissolution of the drop in the ocean, there itself, at the very location of it. Such a liberation is called Sadyo-mukti – instantaneous liberation.
Otherwise there is a progressive salvation, a graduated ascent through the paths which are described in the Bhagavadgita and the Upanishads. But God is more than all these things that have been told us. The power of God and the jurisdiction of God's operation is so vast that everything that we have said up to this time seems to pale into almost an airy nothing before the glory, the resplendence, the majesty and omnipresence of the Almighty. Nothing is there outside God, nothing is superior to God, nothing external. The absoluteness of the Infinite Being, who no more remains as an extra-cosmic creator but is an immanent reality, is the theme of the chapters to come, so that we seem to be in a more friendly, parental relation with God than a judicial relation or a very distant, remote, unreachable relation with God.
In the earlier stages it appears that God is far away – infinite is the distance between us and God. Often there is doubt whether it is possible for us at all to come in contact with Him. But this doubt is dispelled when the religious consciousness deepens, and it realises that the very being of God is the being of infinitude, eternity, and therefore there is no distance between the soul and God. He is not an unreachable potentate – the monarch ruling in high heavens, but an immediate presence, such that His presence is inseparable from our deepest self, and His language is spoken by our own inner conscience. The language of the Eternal is the voice of our conscience, and our Atman is Brahman.
The ninth chapter reveals before us the majesty of this deepened religious consciousness. In the earlier stages of religion it appears that the world is ruled by powers – divinities, angels, masters, adepts who are hidden behind the forms and the things of the world. There are many divinities, and every form has a divinity which ensouls that particular body. There is an extreme externality of these divine presences in the widespread expanse of the universe before us – this is the outer reach of the religious consciousness. When we go deeper in our studies and experiences in religion, there is felt an inwardisation of this concept. The presence of these divine powers in the far-fetched distance of the cosmos seems also to be in harmony with the deepest essences of all the jivas, individuals, so that that which is present in distant space has also to be present immediately in the heart of even the thinker himself. Thus the so-called thing-in-itself, which is incapable of contact by phenomenal means, seems to be at the back of the very person who thinks so. Thus God, the distant being, is also the God who is the soul of the very seeking spirit which feels God as a distant being. Thus the inwardisation leads to the universalisation of this concept. God is not merely a distant master, a creator of the universe that is far away from us, He is also not a secretly hidden light within an individual body, but a large presence which occupies all space and all time so that outside it nothing can be – not the universe, not the individual.
Ananyashchintayanto mam ye janah paryupasat; tesham nityabhiyuktanaam yogakshemam vahaamyaham – God protects us, and the succour which we receive from God's presence is an immediate consequence that follows from an inward union with Him. This verse that I quoted just now is immensely important in our religious studies because that discloses the deeper relationship that is there between man and God. In fact, the word 'relationship' is a poor word; there is no relationship – they are inseparables. Two birds perching on the same tree – say the Upanishads, say the Veda – these two birds are actually not two different birds. The higher self and the lower self may appear to be two birds sitting on the same tree no doubt, but we know very well that the higher and the lower are not two distinct birds. The lower is included in the higher, and thus the other bird does not stand spatially away from the bird which is the bound soul. But here we have only a symbology of a psychological and logical distinction that seems to be there between man and God. There is no spatial distance, and there is no chronological history of the distance.
There is immediate action following from deep meditation on God – 'immediate' is the word. Timeless is God's existence, and timeless, therefore, is God's action in His operation. Timeless is He because He is also spaceless. Hence, the grace of God is a non-spatial and non-temporal gift. Inasmuch as it is non-temporal, it is instantaneous – just here and now. There is not the time-gap of even a second, because there is no time in God. So when the soul, the seeker, the yogin, the aspirant, the devotee timelessly, spacelessly unites itself with this timeless, spaceless Being, there is a timeless and spaceless consequence that follows. There is an immediate fulfilment of all that is essential; there is a flood of all that one needs. This verse has been understood in many ways by different types of understanding. God provides us with every kind of need and necessity – not even a thousand mothers can equal Him in compassion and in love for us. The mothers of the world are nowhere before this Supreme Parent, because the love that proceeds from God in respect of us is the love that emanates from every corner of the universe. It is not one person like another person. A mother is one person, and even if there are ten-thousand mothers, they are only in some place. But this is a single mother who works from every corner; every nook and cranny, every particle of creation responds when God speaks. Sarva disho bal masmai haranti – says the Chhandogya Upanishad. The quarters of the world begin to pour upon us the tribute which God sends to us. A single thought, which is the total surrender of the whole of one's personality to this God-Being, evokes a response which is eternal and non-spatial, and an abundance follows – which the mind of man cannot contain, which the intellect of man cannot describe, and all the treasuries of the world cannot find place to keep – such is the wealth that God can pour upon us. All the lockers in the universe cannot contain this treasure, if God pours upon us this wealth that He has, which is unending, unthinkable, most glorious. Can we find a more solacing, comforting message in any vision than this great verse: Ananyashchintayanto mam ye janah paryupasate; tesham nityabhiyuktanam yogakshemam vahamyaham - I shall provide you with a cup of tea; I shall give you a spoon of sugar.