Sri Krishna as Revealed in All Our Levels of Reality
by Swami Krishnananda

(Spoken on May 1, 1983)

Yatra yogeśvaraḥ kṛṣṇo yatra pārtho dhanurdharaḥ, tatra śrīr vijayo bhūtir dhruvā nītir matir mama (Gita 18.78): “Where there is Krishna, the Lord of Yoga, and where there is Arjuna, the wielder of the bow, there is prosperity, victory, happiness and firm quality. This is my conviction,” said Sanjay. Thus concludes the Bhagavadgita.

Often teachers as well as students of the Bhagavadgita consider the last verse of this gospel as representing in a way the quintessential import of the whole teaching. This statement would mean that a kind of perfection in life can be expected where this blend between Krishna and Arjuna is made practicable. We know very well that Krishna and Arjuna, two geniuses in their own way, were seated in a single chariot, and the vehicle was driven through the battlefield of the Mahabharata. The point in this verse seems to be that we can hope for success where Krishna and Arjuna are in a state of unison, seated in a single vehicle.

The obvious meaning of this instruction is, of course, clear to any studious mind engaged in reading the Bhagavadgita. But if, as it is very often said, the Bhagavadgita is a sort of gospel for eternity, meaningful for all conditions of life and applicable to every state of existence, there is perhaps a possibility of our discovering in this poignant verse something more implicit and significant than what an ordinary, literal translation may furnish us.

The Bhagavadgita is a highly philosophical teaching, and thus, in the vast gamut which it covers, it seems to sweep over practically every question that can arise in the life of a human being. As a philosophical teaching, philosophical in the true sense of the term, it takes us gradually, stage by stage, until the final cause of the problem of life is discovered, and a final solution is seen and brought forth as a remedy for every kind of ill of mankind. The illnesses of life are manifold, as we all very well know. It is not merely a sickness of the body which should be considered as a sort of outer expression of an inward maladjustment. A basic difficulty, often called a metaphysical evil, is behind every form of temporal problem and difficulty.

If philosophy is essentially the tracing of effects to their causes and the attempt to interpret every event, every occurrence, every phenomenon in the light of a cause behind which there is no further cause, then the instruction that permanent and perennial success or happiness can be had only where Krishna and Arjuna are seated in one chariot may have a deeper meaning than what is visible on the surface. It is perhaps evident to any inquisitive understanding that Krishna and Arjuna have to be in one chariot at every level of being, and not merely in the physical field of the Mahabharata. The gospel of the Bhagavadgita itself is a teaching that is given from many angles of vision, inasmuch as the problems of life are multifaceted and so the remedies also have to be of similar character and potency.

Our difficulties do not arise from one side only. Misfortunes never come singly, as the old saying goes. It drops on our head like a hailstorm when it comes, and we will find ourselves in such a mess that we would not be able to easily discover the source of our difficulty. We are likely to trace the problems of life to immediate causes. For example, we think that we sneeze because we walked through the rain. We have an easy answer to the phenomenon of a sneeze, a cold, a headache and the like. Likewise, we have an immediate answer as an explanation for every event and every phenomenon of life, but rarely do we go behind these immediate antecedents of our difficulties and try to locate the ultimate root and permanent solution of the problem of life, which is the theme that is taken up for discussion in the Bhagavadgita.

If we live a multifaceted life, and if our existence is not exhausted merely by the physical level or by our physical body, and if it is true that we have inwardly in our own selves layers of being which are transcendent to or beyond the physical and the visible level, then the solution provided in the last verse of the Bhagavadgita as the coming together of Krishna and Arjuna in a single chariot should be an occurrence in every level of being. These principles have to be united in all the stages of our life, in all the angles of vision that may be the means of our knowledge in the world, and in every blessed thing that we perhaps are.

Now, inasmuch as the Bhagavadgita is philosophical, ethical and mystical, a Brahma-vidya and a Yoga Shastra, the art of the integration of being, we may say, this act of blending or integration is to be effected in the different levels from which the teaching of Sri Krishna emanates. A keen student of the Bhagavadgita would have observed that a single answer is not available, but a manifold answer is poured forth through the different verses of the Bhagavadgita, often making us feel that there is, as it were, a contradiction in the statements made. There is a sociological point of view sometimes visible to us at the very beginning of the Gita, a point of view of the Sankhya even in the classical sense, a point of view which is purely political, economic and personal, a point of view which may be called ethical and moral, a point of view which is cosmical, natural, universal, and a point of view which is perhaps Absolute. From these standpoints the teaching seems to be surging forth and, therefore, considering the last verse of the Bhagavadgita as a sort of a concentrated shape that the teaching has taken, we may have to see through the meaning of this verse and attempt to discover something which is applicable to all those levels and standpoints which were taken into consideration when the gospel was delivered.

We are, at the present moment, in the political, social, and physical level of existence. We are overly concerned with our political associations, requirements and involvements. Whatever be our spiritual, moral or philosophical longing in our leisure hours, there is no gainsaying that as a citizen of a particular nation a person is conscious of his or her involvement in what is called the national setup. There is an involvement in human society, in the community to which one belongs and from which relationship one cannot easily extricate oneself. And there are the fundamental involvements which are the ingredients of our own psychophysical individuality. While it is true that we are units in a politically organised nation, and are individuals related to human society in a particular manner and not totally independent of human relations, there is something more about us than what is visibly available in this manner.

We are apparently a physical frame we call the body, and this is a level which weighs very heavily on our shoulders. For all practical purposes in our life we consider ourselves as the physical body only. We do not seem to be concerned with anything else, though on rare occasions we manifest that particular feature in us where we seem to be concerned with our mental life much more than the physical or bodily life. We are all very well aware that the sanity of the mind, the inward peace and the composure of the psyche are of greater consequence in our life than merely the well being of the physical body. But there is something very crucial and a point which is easily missed by us, namely, the capacity of our understanding itself. Our longings, our likes and dislikes, and all the projects in which we engage ourselves, our very outlook of life, is nothing but a kind of interpretation of our own understanding.

Thus, there is a level in our own being which is not merely political, social or even that which is related to our community existence—not merely the physical or the psychic, but there is a rational element in us, and the importance of the reason in us is well known to every one of us. If the reason fails, we know what will happen to us. There is no greater treasure in life then a well-balanced reason which can think correctly, logically, systematically, precisely. If there is a confusion of the working of the reason, all the apparatus of the psyche will topple down and we shall cease to be human beings for any practical purpose, though we may be physically alive.

So we can very well understand that the so-called ‘I’ or ‘we’ to which reference is made again and again is not a simple thing which can be swallowed like a pill. It is a highly complicated structure. And in the same way as we do not seem to be exhausted merely by the physical body and we have inner levels of personality, there is a co-relation established between these inner layers of our personality with the corresponding layers of the cosmos.

There is not much difficulty in realising that there seems to be a basic connectedness between ourselves and the stuff of which the world is made. The human individual is supposed to be a specimen of what the universe is constituted. This is perhaps the reason why it is said that if one knows one’s own self, one can know the whole universe at one stroke because the human individual is a specimen of the cosmos, a sample of the universal structure. The sample that we are demonstrates the levels and layers beyond and beneath the physical and the social. Likewise, we may infer the presence of such corresponding levels in the universe with which our internal layers are related, so that in every level of our being we are cosmically obliged to perform a duty, which is the ringing tone of the teaching of the Bhagavadgita.

Duty is a most eluding term which occurs again and again in the Bhagavadgita. The true nature of the duty that is expected of us is something which we cannot easily know inasmuch as we cannot easily know our own selves as we are and, therefore, at the same time, we cannot also know what our total involvement is in the setup of the world outside. What we call duty, which the Bhagavadgita teaching seems to be expecting of every individual, is the obligation of the individual to the environment of the cosmos, and this obligation cannot be understood in its true essentiality unless the relationship between the individual and the cosmos is also known. Ethics, morality, and the proper behaviour expected of us may be said to be a natural corollary or outcome that follows from the centrality of a reality whose characteristic is to be known first and foremost.

So if life is an adventure in the direction of achieving success and life need not and should not mean a headlong movement towards defeat and folly, if life is a progressive movement towards greater and greater enduring success, and if success according to this verse of the Bhagavadgita is certain where Krishna and Arjuna are together, we must know what is expected from us in the context of the position in which we are placed in this world.

Often interpreters of the Bhagavadgita tell us that Krishna represents the cosmic reality, and Arjuna represents the individual. God and man, grace and effort, knowledge and action, the eternal and the temporal, the Absolute and the relative are supposed to be represented by these terms Krishna and Arjuna, so every blessed thing is included in the meaning and the significance of these interesting names Krishna and Arjuna. The eternal and the temporal have to shake hands with each other. Knowledge and action have to go together. The internal and the external have to be in alignment. The individual and the universal have to be in tune. All this having been said, it has to be added that this attunement or coming together or blend or harmony should be in every level, in every stage through the process of the ascent of the individual to the universal, the particular to the Absolute.

So life becomes a yoga in a very important sense. Yoga, at least from the point of view of this sort of understanding of what the Bhagavadgita means, is not outside the practice of yoga. Yoga is not a function that we perform among the many activities of our day-to-day existence; it is that alchemic touch that we give to any kind of performance and the very structure of our existence. It is the touch that we give, the transforming touch of perfection, the touch of the philosopher’s stone, as it were, which converts iron into gold, by which existence and activity do not remain as two different pictures presented before us. God and the world are not on the right side and the left side, as it were; and as Sri Krishna and Arjuna represent God and the world, God and man, the universal and the particular, these have to be in one chariot in the field of the Mahabharata which, as we have been told several times, is this life itself.

This chariot in which Krishna and Arjuna are seated is the location of our existence. Wherever you are located, that is your chariot, and if you can place yourself in the position of an Arjuna, you have to find your own Krishna in that particular locality in which you are stationed, and your station has its duties. Whatever be the station in which you are located, that particular station calls forth a particular corresponding type of duty on your part. So, first of all, find out where you are positioned in this universe, what your location is, and that is your chariot; and there you as an Arjuna have to find a corresponding Krishna. The corresponding Krishna is nothing but the universal element present in that particular context of your location as an individual in that station mentioned.

Where are you located? You are located in many positions at the same time, though only one or two come to the surface of your understanding and the vision of your mind. A politically involved busy individual may think he is located in a political world, and he has no time to think anything else; he has no family, no obligations of any kind, and nothing to think except the fact that he is a spark of the political conflagration. Similarly, you know how a wealthy man or aristocrat positions himself in the world. He has his own idea of his world, and he is located in a particular level.

As I mentioned already, we are in the physical level, we are in a psychic level, we are in a rational level, and we are in that level where we are ultimately inseparable from the total atmosphere of the universe. So where are we located, and what is our chariot? Our chariot is all these environments in which we are involved. It is not for nothing that we are told again and again that the Bhagavadgita is a gospel for all life. It is not only for the caveman, the recluse, the solitary yogin—nothing of the kind, because it is a teaching, an instruction, which has direct concern with a solution of a conflict which one encounters in the position in which one is placed in the locality of one’s existence, where a harmony has to be established. Harmony is the coming together of Krishna and Arjuna. Finding your Krishna is the harmony of your life, and if you cannot find him, you are loathly placed. You shall be crying forlorn in this battlefield, and you shall have no succour.

Sri Krishna is a cosmical representation to be understood as revealed in every level, every degree of reality, and inasmuch as we are involved in every degree of reality, we are Arjunas in all these degrees, in all these levels, and there should be a Krishna also in all these levels. Therefore, we shall find our beloved divine friend everywhere if only we are to seek him. But it is important for us to know what type of Krishna we require because the type of Krishna that we need at a particular moment will depend upon what type of Arjuna we are. This again depends upon the kind of life that we are living, our location, and the type of life in which we are involved.

Every vocation in life can be considered as a fit vehicle for the seatedness of Krishna and Arjuna. There is no unholy location of life because every location is one degree of the manifestation of this coming together of the universal and the particular, Krishna and Arjuna. We find ourselves in one level or the other at any given moment of time, though essentially we are in all the levels at the same time. Our personality ranges from the earth to the heavens at one stroke. We are ourselves a little bit of the Viratsvarupa, but this inner significance and glory of our own selves, our own being, is not visible to the surface of our understanding inasmuch as our conscious life is only a partially projected piece of the larger reservoir of the unmanifested levels of our inner personality. So whatever be the level in which we find ourselves consciously, there we have to strike a harmony, which means to say that we should have no opposition from outside, whatever be our occupation, whatever be our walk of life, whatever be our profession, and whatever be the job that we have chosen for our existence in this world.

The fact that we have an opponent outside us, something with which we cannot reconcile ourselves, of which we always have to be very cautious with drawn swords, only shows that we have not found a Krishna in our life, because to find a Krishna in our level is to find a principle of harmony, the secret of communion with that opposing element which is staring at us as the reality of life. In the Bhagavadgita itself we are told that a particular form, a degree of reality, may stand against us as our own enemy if we are not in a position to find a means of establishing a union of ourselves with it.

Ātmaiva hyātmano bandhur ātmaiva ripur ātmanaḥ (Gita 6.5). Our environment is our friend, and our environment is also our enemy. The inimical character which seems to be manifest in our environment is the opposition that we are facing in our life. This happens because the environment, the atmosphere in which we are placed, which is our so-called chariot, is constituted of such characteristics as are not easily reconcilable with the vehement affirmations of our egoistic personality. The assertions of our egoism stand in the way of this coming into a blend of union with that which stands as our opponent outside. It is Sri Krishna himself that is opposing you. Your larger personality stands outside you as the atmosphere outside. It is not really outside; it is a larger expansion of your own being, and so when you fight with the world you are fighting with your own self. And this larger being is the Sri Krishna who includes Arjuna also within himself because the particular is swallowed up by the universal, includes the universal. As the individual is in the universal, the environment should not stand outside you. You have to be in union with that atmosphere.

Now, what is the atmosphere we are speaking of? It is nothing but the particular level in which you find yourself. And what are these levels? I have already given a hint as to what they are. So right from the outward social involvement, which is a location in which we find ourselves, we have to raise our spirits gradually to the higher dimensions thereof until we scale the ladder of evolution inwardly through the practice of yoga and reach that perfect unanimity and uniformity of being where the supreme Krishna, the eternal universality, engulfs the individuality of Arjuna. And in the Viratsvarupa, Arjuna himself finds himself vanishing, as it were.

Thus, the yoga of the Bhagavadgita is a cosmic performance expected of every individual, every human being in every walk of life, in every profession, in every undertaking, and at every moment of time. Thus, there is no moment in our life when it cannot be a yoga. There is no outside atmosphere which we are confronting with which we cannot attune ourselves if only we have a mind to do that. Here is a point of view which may require our further consideration and meditation, a point of view which seems to emanate spontaneously from the well-known meaning of the last verse of the Bhagavadgita: yatra yogeśvaraḥ kṛṣṇo yatra pārtho dhanurdharaḥ, tatra śrīr vijayo bhūtir dhruvā nītir matir mama.

Perfection is the goal of life, and we have to be perfect in every one of our undertakings. Our every thought, every speech and every mode of conduct should be a specimen of a perfect attitude.  Yoga is perfection, yoga is communion, and yoga is the conversation, the discourse between Krishna and Arjuna, śrīkṛṣṇārjunasaṁvāde. It is the confluence of the mortal and the immortal, Arjuna and Krishna. This confluence is the yoga of the Bhagavadgita, and this is the yoga of all life, of every kind of life, intended for everyone under every circumstance, and it stands supreme as the perfect prescription for every one of us for the problems we face in our day-to-day existence.