by Swami Krishnananda
In our rapid study of the Bhagavadgita, we could observe that there is an inherent defect in the understanding ingrained in human nature by the reply that Bhagavan Sri Krishna gave, as a retort, to the problems raised by Arjuna. This defect, this shortcoming, was also pointed out in the third chapter. The human way of thinking is not necessarily the right way of thinking, though it is accepted as the norm of thinking in the world of human beings. But, unfortunately, the world does not consist only of human beings—a point which man cannot accept due to the egoism of his nature. The ego is self-assertive and proclaims its superiority over the perceptional capacities of others. Do we not always measure everything else with the yardstick of our own way of perceiving and knowing? Everything should be in accordance with our way of thinking—only then do we regard it as right. And, yes, it is true that Arjuna employed this yardstick. He was a human being and he discharged the weapon of human understanding, and comparing the consequences of human activity with the preconditions of the human way of thinking, he projected his arguments.
Bhagavan Sri Krishna was there as a super-personal individual, the one who could think in a different way altogether, far different from the way in which all human beings can think. He was a total Man, ‘M’ capital, the true ‘son of man’, in biblical words, who could think as all human beings and yet go beyond the ken of human knowledge. The structure of the world is not the object of ordinary human perception. This is the theme of the third chapter of the Gita, which we went through in a precise survey last time. The world is made in such a way that it cannot be comprehended by the apparatus of human understanding, and therefore to pass judgment on the consequences that follow from the actions of man in the field of this world would be to go off on a tangent and would not serve the purpose. It would not touch even the border of reality. The nature of the world conditions the effects of human action, as it conditions the effects of any action, for that matter. Every event is inwardly connected to the organic structure of the cosmos, and this structure of the cosmos being the determinant of the rightness or the wrongness of any procedure, a human being who always stands outside the world, regards the world as an object of the senses, would be a bad judge of the circumstances of life. The human being cannot be a good judge because he stands outside the world, and he cannot therefore appreciate satisfactorily the various factors of the universal argument, which is the purpose of nature as a whole. The senses which perceive the world are constitutionally involved in the objective structure of things. That is the reason why we cannot know things as they are.
This was the great answer which the Bhagavadgita poses before us, who walk like peacocks with the pride of knowledge, and tells us where we actually stand. Yes, this is a great revelation indeed—that the world is involved in our perceptions and vice versa, and therefore no valuation can be acceptable in the end if it is purely individualistic, notional and limited to a single observer of things. Here we have the central philosophy of the third chapter of the Bhagavadgita. I mention these few words only a kind of recapitulation of what we observed in the last chapter.
All this is beautiful, yes, but who is to tell the senses that this is the state of affairs? Who is to give instruction to the mind that its perceptions and cognitions are erroneous? The teacher is absent, because the so-called teacher is the individual himself, and he is himself involved in the mistake that is committed in perception. The perceiver is involved in the perception, and if the perception is erroneous, and even in this erroneous perception the perceiver is also included, there would be no chance of enlightenment.
A question arises—what is going to be our fate? Who is to awaken us from the sleep of this ignorance? The Bhagavadgita is again the answer. It is an answer to all our questions in all the stages of their manifestation. There is a subtle power that works throughout the world, which is invisible to the senses and uncognisable by the mind. There is a mysterious presence pervading and enveloping all things, sustaining everything, connecting one thing with another thing and maintaining a balance of relationship among all things. Its manifestation at every juncture of time, at every crucial moment, is the rectifying factor behind every erroneous movement of things. The mysterious descent of this Universal presence into temporal events is what is called the avatara, the Divine Incarnation.
God manifests Himself at all times, and this manifestation is a perpetual process. Divine grace is like the flood of a river or the flow of the oceanic waves that never cease. God never withdraws His grace; He is an unconditional Giver. There is a perpetual flow of charity from the benign hands of the Almighty, and His charity is not merely material. He is not giving something out of Himself—He is giving Himself. The charity that comes from God is not a charity of objects, as is the case with the charity of people—it is a sacrifice of Himself that He makes. A self-abandonment is performed by the great Almighty in the incarnation that He takes, in the blessings that He gives, and in the grace that He bestows.
So there is a great solace for all of us in the midst of the turmoil of life, in the sorrows of our days and the grief through which we are passing every moment of time. Yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati bharata, abhyutthanam adharmasya tadatmanam srjmyaham. Paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam, dharma-samsthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge is an eternal gospel. This one gospel is enough to keep us rejoicing day and night, completely forgetful of all the apparent sorrows of life. If anything is alive, it is God. Everything is dead without Him. This life force takes effective measures at the proper moment, whenever there is a conflict of forces. This conflict of power is the yuga. It has various connotations and denotations. Any kind of friction is a yuga, and one power colliding with another power is a yugasandhi. It may be of the yugas known as krita, dvapara, treta and kali, the well known classifications of time measurement, or it may be any other type of sandhi or transitional period.
It is in the period of transition, which works like anarchy, that we find ourselves at a loss; where our brains do not function, intellects are not adequate to the purpose, and we feel totally out of gear. Our efforts fail when we are in a period of transition, when we are neither here nor there. At that moment it is that the Universal power reveals itself as the avatara, the Incarnation. The divine hand is the mysterious aid that comes unasked. That is the peculiarity of God’s grace; we do not ask for it—it comes unasked. While people grudgingly give some charity when asked, God gives abundantly even when not asked, because He is omniscient. He knows the secret and the needs of the world and the necessity of the whole cosmos. There is a complete evolution of forces, as it were, throughout the universe, whenever there is any difficulty at any point in space or in time.