by Swami Krishnananda
Reference was made in the Fourteenth Chapter of the Gita to the three properties of Prakriti known as the gunas – sattva, rajas and tamas. It is on the basis of this distinction of the three properties of Prakriti manifested both cosmically and individually that in the Fifteenth Chapter a further distinction was drawn among Kshara, Akshara, and Purushottama. In a way, this distinction is comparable to the difference that we noticed earlier among adhyatma, adhibhuta and adhideva. Adhyatma is comparable with the Akshara Purusha, adhibhuta with the Kshara Purusha, and adhideva with the Purushottama.
Dvāv imau puruṣau loke kṣaraś cākṣara eva ca, kṣaraḥ sarvāṇi bhūtāni kūṭasthokṣara ucyate (Gita 15.16); uttamaḥ puruṣas tv anyaḥ paramātmety udāhṛtaḥ, yo lokatrayam āviśya bibharty avyaya īśvaraḥ (Gita 15.17). The perishable is the adhibhuta; it is the Kshara Prakriti. The tamasic nature, which is perishable and is visible to us in the form of the objective universe, is what is apprehended in perception and cognition by the Akshara, which is the consciousness that beholds and knows all things. The consciousness that is responsible for the awareness of anything in this world is considered as imperishable in comparison with everything that changes in the world in the process of evolution – namely, Kshara.
That which changes is known by something which itself cannot change. The evolutionary process is, of course, a continuous movement, a fluxation in time; therefore, it is subject to transmutation from moment to moment. In this sense, the entire universe of objective perception can be regarded as Kshara, transitory, perishable. But one who is aware of it is not perishable because that which is perishable cannot know the perishable by itself. Movement cannot know movement. There must be something which does not move and does not change in order that movement and change can be cognised and become objects of one's perceptual awareness.
But there is something above both the perceiver and the perceived. As you have noticed in our earlier studies, the perceiver, the subject, the individualised consciousness – Akshara Purusha, so-called here in this context – is also related in some way to the Kshara Prakriti. This relation has been explained in the terminology of the Sankhya and the Vedanta as the adhideva, indivisible consciousness, which itself cannot be cognised. That which is responsible for real cognition of things itself is not cognisable. "Who can know the knower?" says the Upanishad. There is a transference of values taking place between the subject and the object at the time of perception, and a peculiar twofold modification takes place, called vritti vyapti and phala vyapti in the terminology of Vedantic epistemology.
In perception of an object, the mind takes an important part. The mind is cast in the mould of the object of cognition at the time of the knowledge of the object. That is to say, the mind takes the form of the very thing which it is supposed to know. But the mind, being a rarefied form of the gunas of Prakriti and Prakriti being not conscious at all – it is unconscious activity – cannot by itself, of its own accord, independently, know anything. The mould can take the shape of the thing that is cast into it – the crucible can assume the shape or the form of that which is poured into it – but it cannot know that such an event has taken place. Knowledge is a different factor altogether.
So in perception, it is not only necessary for the mind to assume a formation, it also has to know that such a formation has taken place. The objectivity or the objectness has to become a content of awareness in the subject. This awareness is a contribution that is made by the consciousness inside. This procedure adopted by consciousness in assisting the activity of the mind in perception is called phala vyapti.
Thus, there is a consciousness of a form in the perception of an object. The form is the particularity that is the outcome of the shape that the mind has taken in enveloping that particular form, and consciousness of it is the effect of the Atman itself participating in a way through certain degrees of its descent in the work of the mind. This takes place both cosmically and individually. We may say, for the time being, these terms Kshara, Akshara and Purushottama used in the Fifteenth Chapter of the Gita try to blend the cosmic and the individual aspects in a single grasp of vision. The Kshara is cognised by the Akshara, the perceiver becomes aware of the object. The perceiver stands distinguished from the object in the act of perception. You do not become the object when you know the object, as you know very well. It stands outside you, due to which it is that you develop certain psychological reactions in respect of that object. These reactions are like and dislike.
If the objects were not standing outside the perceiver in space and time, these vrittis or psychoses of like and dislike would not have arisen in the mind. But it is also not true that the object is entirely outside the perceiving subject. There is a double factor involved in the process of perception. If the object is entirely cut off from the area of the operation of the subject, there would be no occasion for the subject to know that the object exists at all because already it is assumed that the object is severed from its relation to the subject. There has to be some kind of internal relation between the subjective consciousness – the perceiving Akshara – and the perceived Kshara. If this were not there, there would be no perception; nobody will even know that there is such a thing called the Kshara Prakriti.
Now, knowledge, empirically speaking, is of this dual character. That is to say, the object has to stand outside in space and time for the purpose of its being known at all; at the same time, it should not really be organically disconnected from the subject. This intriguing situation is created by the action of the adhideva hanging, as it were, between the subjective side and the objective side which, on the one hand, being uncognisable in itself, creates the sense of separation between the subject and the object and, on the other hand, being entirely responsible for the perception of the object, is unavoidable in any act of perception. The unavoidable thing is also the invisible thing.
So you are caught up in a peculiar situation of difficulty. This difficulty is what is known as samsara, involvement in a peculiar tangle from which you cannot easily extricate yourself, this tangle being the expectation of the object to be always outside you in order that you may possess it or not possess it; on the other hand, you are inwardly longing to have assistance of something, without which this perception would not be possible.
Purushottama is supreme. Adhideva is the linking consciousness which is the transcendent essence between every degree of subject-object relation. There are different degrees of this relation in the cosmic evolutionary process, and the relater – namely, the subjective side – and the objective side stand totally cut off in the lowest level of experience, especially in the physical world where you and I do not seem to have any connection whatsoever. The object outside – the thing that you have, anything in this world – does not seem to have any vital, organic relation to you. That is the lowest level to which consciousness has descended by its utter segregation from the objective world. But as experience rises in its dimension through meditational techniques, the adhideva, which is invisible, becomes more and more perceptible, tangible and experienceable, so that the rise from the lower levels to the higher will also be a diminution of the distance that appears to be there between the subject and the object, so that in the highest state the adhideva engulfs both the subjective side and the objective side and there is no one perceiving anything.
Yad vai tan na paśyati, paśyan vai tan na paśyati (Brihad. 4.3.23): Seeing, you do not see; knowing, you do not know; being, you do not have any consciousness of being in that state where the seer merges into the object on account of the absorption of both the sides into the adhideva, the Universal Consciousness. This is something that is to be considered as the import of this marvellous verse – a hard nut to crack for many of the commentators on the Gita. Dvāv imau puruṣau loke kṣaraś cākṣara eva ca, kṣaraḥ sarvāṇi bhūtāni kūṭasthokṣara ucyate; uttamaḥ puruṣas tv anyaḥ paramātmety udāhṛtaḥ, yo lokatrayam āviśya bibharty avyaya īśvaraḥ. These two verses are something like mantras that are repeated by every seeker. Thus, the concluding verse of the Fifteenth Chapter says whoever knows this secret is free forever.
These three gunas pursue us wherever we go, perhaps till the end of the Eighteenth Chapter. This subject started from the Thirteenth Chapter, where mention was made of Prakriti and its three gunas, Purusha, and Yoga.
In the Fourteenth Chapter we were told that the three gunas of Prakriti are responsible for every kind of experience. There are three things, we are told – sattva, rajas and tamas – and the import of their action has been in a more cosmological fashion described in the Fifteenth Chapter. It is in the Sixteenth that we land on a revelation which seems to present before us the truth that there are no three things, as we have been told up to this time. There seems to be only two things: the positive and the negative forces. This is the subject of the Sixteenth Chapter: the positivity and the negativity of experience. Daiva asura sampat is the terminology used here. The divine and the undivine qualities act and react upon each other throughout creation, right from the highest to the lowest level. The three gunas manipulate themselves and operate in such a way that they seem to be capable of acting as only two forces in the universe.
Dvau bhūtasargau lokesmin daiva āsura eva ca (Gita 16.6): Creativity is of two kinds: divine and undivine. There can be a divine creativity and also an undivine creativity. You can manufacture demons or you can manufacture gods, if you so like. Both these are in your hands. But how is it that you are capable of manufacturing two contraries? These are explainable in terms of what you already know as the centripetal and centrifugal forces, as they are called. The forces that tend towards the centre of anything are called centripetal forces. From the periphery or the circumference they gravitate towards the centre, try to become one with the centre. This force that gravitates towards the centre of anything is known as the centripetal force. But there are other forces which ramify themselves in a distracted manner from the centre towards the circumference and become rampant everywhere. These are called centrifugal forces. So there are two operations taking place in this world – tending towards the centre and tending away from the centre. The daiva, or the divine, is that which tends towards the centre; the undivine is that which runs away from the centre.
Now, it is up to any one of us to know how we are feeling anything at all in this world. Are you centrifugal or centripetal in your experiences? If you are running after the world and feel very much wretched, miserable and inadequate in your own selves – you feel that you are poor nothings, that the world is everything, so you have to run after the gold and silver and the wealth of the world – if this is your attitude, the centrifugal force is violently working in you. But if you feel the world is not superior to you; that your being is far superior to the becoming of things; that you need not run to things in the world; that the world has to come to you on account of the centrality of the subjectivity in you – if you are a person satisfied in your own self and do not want things to come from outside to satisfy you, then the centripetal force is working in you. The divine daiva sampat is operating in each person when there is satisfaction in one's own self.
Yadṛcchā-lābha-saṁtuṣṭo (Gita 4.22). You never make complaints, and you never say you want something. You have a feeling, a conviction that things are perfectly all right in the world and there is nothing wrong anywhere. The only thing is you have to adjust yourself to the conditions prevailing in the whole creation because it is said in the Upanishad, yāthātathyato'rthān vyadadhāc chāśvatībhyas samābhyaḥ (Isa 8). The Isavasya mantra tells us that God, when He created the world, seems to have foreseen every necessary change or emendation in the constitution of the creation, and there is no need for the parliament of the cosmos to go on emending things every day or from moment to moment. Even the necessary changes that may be foreseen after centuries or ages in the future have already been preconceived and have been taken care of. That is to say, a spiritual seeker's duty seems to be finally an adaptation of oneself to the circumstances in the cosmos, and not trying to rectify the cosmos. There is no necessity to attempt that impossibility.
Therefore these two forces, the divine and the undivine, are operating both outwardly and inwardly, and the Mahabharata and the Ramayana are epic representations in a dramatic fashion of the war that seems to be taking place, the conflict that is always there between the daiva and the asura, the centripetal and the centrifugal, the divine and the undivine, the good and the bad, light and darkness. Dvau bhūtasargau lokesmin daiva āsura eva ca.
It appears that the seed for this duality or conflict is sown at the time of the creative act itself, as the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, for instance, tells us in a very dramatic fashion. The One willed to be two; that is all. The moment this will has started operating and the One thinks it is two, or the two have actually become manifest, there arises a necessity to bring about a relation between these two. This is the conflict. The conflict of the world is nothing but the conflict of relation between things. The most difficult subject to study in philosophy is the subject of relation – how anything is related to another thing, how the subject is related to the predicate. The subject is related to the predicate; otherwise, there cannot be any kind of logical judgment. But it is also not related to the predicate, on account of which it is dichotomised, and it is necessary for logic to bring them together into an act of cognition, which is deduction.
Thus, at the very beginning when the Will seemed to have taken the shape of a dual consciousness – "May I become many" – the manifold revealed itself only after One had become two. We do not want to go into details of the manifold; two are quite enough for us to create trouble all over in the world. Even if there are only two people in the world, war will take place. It is not necessary for millions to exist in order that there be conflict. Conflict can be there even if there are only two because conflict is the irreconcilability between one thing and another thing, and that thing is precipitating itself into the medley of the manifold that we see in the cosmos. So these two forces seem to have been somehow or other operating right from the beginning of time. We do not know how they started.
The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad tells us there has been a gradual descent of this nature of conflict into grosser and grosser forms until we are here, quarrelling among ourselves in any way whatsoever. In the beginning it is a metaphysical distinction, and not actually a quarrel in the sense of brothers and sisters or soldiers fighting in a field. That has taken place only latterly. In the earlier stages it is a philosophical, conceptual distinction of the subject and the object. This has also been mentioned in the Upanishad. I am digressing a little from the Gita to the Upanishad to elucidate this point. In the earliest of stages, as the Upanishad will tell you, the dual consciousness of One having become two is again consolidated to the consciousness of "I am myself these both". The One convinces itself, after having manifested itself into the two: After all, where are these two? "I myself am A. I myself am B. I am A and B." A is not B, of course; they are two different things according to the law of contradiction, but you cannot know that A is not B unless there is something in you which is neither A nor B. So the consciousness asserted itself, "After all, I am A and B both because I am between A and B – the supreme adhideva prapancha."
There is a gradual descent from the divine origination of this metaphysical duality into the lesser forms of creation through the realms of being – the fourteen realms, as we are told in our Epics and Puranas – until we come to the lowest kingdom of this Earth where that consciousness of there being something between A and B is lost completely, and all we know is that everything is different from everything else. Kali Yuga has come, we say. Kali Yuga is the age of conflict; everything is different from everything else, and nobody likes anybody. Everyone is at loggerheads with everyone else in this Kali Yuga, in which we seem to be somehow sunk. As the scriptures say, some five-and-a-half thousand years or nearly six thousand years have passed in the Kali Yuga, which seems to span four lakhs and thirty-two thousand years. So further descent into conflict may be expected, but before that we will quit this world. We do not want to stay here until the last conflict takes place where each one will abolish the existence of everyone else. That is Kalki Avatara, the Transcendent Being coming in the form of an abolition of both things, subject and object: neither this nor that. God will say, "I don't want this creation at all. I made a mistake." We may perhaps draw this kind of humorous conclusion from the act of Kali which, in a wonderful way, and in a very unpalatable and destructive way, is described in the Epics and Puranas.
So here we have, in the Sixteenth Chapter, the definition of the twofold forces acting in different ways, centripetal and centrifugal, the daiva and the asura sampat. The asura sampat, which is the devilish form it takes when it becomes uncontrollable, is psychologically engendered by certain operations in us, to which a reference is being made towards the end of the chapter. Trividhaṁ narakasyedaṁ dvāraṁ nāśanam ātmanaḥ, kāmaḥ krodhas tathā lobhas tasmād etat trayaṁ tyajet (Gita 16.21): The road to hell is threefold. The undivine nature can take you to the lowest perdition; and its seed is sown in our own hearts. Life and death are both operating in our own selves in a mysterious way, right from the time of our birth from the womb of the mother.