by Swami Krishnananda
The seventh chapter of the Bhagavadgita introduces us into the great doctrine of God and creation—something very stimulating and thrilling as the subject develops through the chapters that follow, one after another. The cosmology of the Gita has been stated in a very few succinct verses at the very beginning of the seventh chapter, to which we made reference in the previous chapter. The relationship between God and the world is the crucial point in cosmological doctrines and theological principles. In fact, the explanation behind the existence of many religions in the world is here, namely, the relationship between God and the world, and consequently the relationship between the world and humanity. There are systems which have taken a stand that emphasises one aspect or the other—the transcendent aspect of God, the immanent aspect of God, or the total difference between God and the world.
There has been another difficulty in coming to a conclusion as to the actual state of affairs. God’s relationship to the world includes His relationship with everything, because all things are contained in what we call the world or creation. The points of the different theologies are taken into consideration in the various chapters of the Bhagavadgita, right from the seventh chapter onwards. In the analogy of the thread passing through the numerous beads in a garland, it was told to us that God exists as a connecting link amidst all the particulars and diversities. This is the first answer to the question of the relationship among things. Is there any vital or immanent connection between one thing and another in this world—between a tree and a stone, or a man and a beast? In this analogy of the thread passing through the beads of a garland, the initial answer is given. There is a connecting link even between apparently irreconcilable particulars, just as the initial bead is connected with a distant bead because of the uniformity of the thread that passes through all the beads in a necklace or garland. This answer is good enough, because it establishes the internal connection of things amidst the apparent diversity of objects. While bodies differ because of their placement in space and time, their souls are united because of the thread-soul that passes through all these beads of individuals—the sutratman, or the cosmic thread, which connects all these bodies, right from the angels in heaven down to the lowest atoms of inanimate nature.
The answer is good enough, but it raises questions of a philosophical nature. For a devotee of faith or a practitioner of yoga the answer that God pervades all things is quite adequate, but the philosopher or the scientist questions that point of pervading everywhere and immanency. When we dip a cloth in a bucketful of water and leave it there for some time, we find that water pervades the whole of the cloth. Every fibre is saturated and is dripping with water, so that we may say there is an immanence of water in the cloth. There is a presence of water in every bit of the cloth, in every fibre, but the water is not the cloth. This is something very clear, and everyone knows the distinction between the two. The philosophical doubts are of this nature. Does God pervade the world? Is God the same as the world, or is there some sort of distinction?
This doubt is cleared up by another aphoristic verse. Ye caiva sattvika bhava rajasas tamasas ca ye, matta eveti tan viddhi na tv aham tesu te mayi. An answer with a subtle question implied is given in this verse. This is a good answer, but it raises a further question later on. That which we call sattvic, rajasic and tamasic—all these are emanations from God only—matta eveti tan viddhi. Not only are the objects through which the thread passes tamasic constitutes, anything that is objective is tamasic in nature. So tamas and objects can be equated with each other. The inertia of the objects is the same as this tamasic element that we speak of in Samkhya or any other philosophy. So, to refute the doubt that the sattvic soul that passes through all the objects may perhaps be qualitatively different from the objects themselves, the great Teacher of the Gita tells us that even the objects emanate from the being of God. That means to say, the divine soul which permeates the object is also the soul of the object. The objects are tamasic; the forces that distinguish the seer from the seen, the object from the subject is rajasic; and the consciousness that enlivens us in the process of perception is sattvic. All these proceed from God.
Na tv aham tesu te mayi—this statement of this fragment of sloka injects another doubt in the mind. While it is true that some of our misgivings are quietened by the great gospel of the presence of God in all things—sattvica, rajasica and tamasica—even in the grossest of objects, while it is wonderful indeed, the great Master adds one appendix to this great verse. Na tv aham tesu te mayi: “They are in Me, but I am not in them.” This is a great surprise given to us. But this doubt also arises on account of a wrong comparison that we make, and a comparison that is befitting only in empirical experiences and not the ultimate Truth. Why does the great Master tell us that everything is in Him but He is not in things? And He is going to tell something even more surprising later on.
The drop is in the ocean, but can we say that the ocean is in the drop? We may say yes; we may say no. Likewise is this teaching. From one point of view at least, the whole cannot be regarded as present in the part, while from another point of view—a highly metaphysical and spiritual point of view—the whole can be said to be present in the part. It is true that the whole ocean is present in every drop, because it is enlivened by the power of the ocean. Its existence is the ocean; it cannot be separated from this ocean, and the impulses within the bosom of the ocean are conveyed to every drop in the ocean. So the ocean is in the drop, yet the very fact that we utter two words, ‘ocean’ and ‘drop’, should make out that there is a distinction drawn between the ocean and the drop. The ocean is not in the drop, because the ocean contains all drops and not merely one drop, so it cannot be said to be entirely present in only one drop. The drop is there, but the ocean is not there in the drop—na tv aham tesu te mayi. This enigma will come later on, in the ninth chapter of the Gita. When we come to it, we shall see. A similar statement is being made: Pasya me yogam aisvaram. “Look at the miracle of My being,” says the Lord. “I am there, and I am also not there.” Both are true. Mat-sthani sarva-bhutni na cham tesv avasthitah—this is said in the ninth chapter, to which we will refer later on.
So, the viewpoints of religious consciousness are the subjects of treatment in the chapters of the Gita, from the seventh to the eleventh at least, and all the theological questions are answered here, traditionally. So we are in the first step now where we are struggling through all the various questions that arise in our minds in regard to the relationship between God and the world, and consequently the relationship between ourselves and God. The very same chapter tells us that there are varieties of seeking souls. All seekers are not on the same level of evolution, and therefore a common answer cannot be given to all people. In a public audience a simple answer to a question of creation cannot be propounded, on account of the difference in the receptive capacities of people—students, the audience, the aspirants, the seekers.
Among the many kinds of seekers that we can think of, four at least are mentioned in this chapter. There is the lowest type of seeking souls—lovers of God indeed, devotees, religious people—but they are in the lowest category. So even among devotees of God there can be categories, which means to say there can be levels of devotion, again which means there can be levels in the comprehension of God. The levels in the comprehension of God create levels of devotion, even levels in philosophy, and levels in social life, the personality within us, and our day-to-day activities. All these are influenced by our ultimate comprehensive capacity of the reality of things. Catur-vidha bhajante mam janah sukrtino’rjuna, arto jijnasur artharthi jnani ca bharatarsabha: “Four kinds of devotees worship Me.”
The distressed souls seeking God are of one type. One who is baked in the fire of samsara,who is tortured in this hell of earth, suffering through various sorrows, seeks riddance from the grief of the world by resort to God under the impression that God is like a parent—a father or a mother or a supreme saviour. The intention behind this devotion is redress—freedom from sorrow, the inability to bear suffering. This is the reason here behind the devotion to God. Whether this could be an adequate reason, anyone can contemplate independently for oneself. Can we love God merely because He is the only source of redemption from our sorrows? Do we want freedom from sorrow, or do we want God? That is a different question that will come up later on.
Another type of devotee is those who seek expansion in their possessions (artha). The exponents of the Bhagavadgita vary in their opinion as to the true meaning of this word artha. Usually artha means material possession or empirical gain of some kind or other. One who seeks material wealth or prosperity of a temporal character, and for this purpose resorts to God and devotion to divinities, such a devotee is regarded as an artharthi. But others who study the Gita tell us that an atharthi need not be equated with a person who seeks material prosperity, for a reason which they deduce in this manner. There is a sequence in the placement of the words in this half-verse: arto jijnasur artharthi jnani. It appears as if the words go on rising from the lower to the higher categories, until one reaches jnana, which is the wisdom of God. In this verse, artha is placed at the lowest level, the jigjnasu at the next, the artharthi at the third and jnani as last. Can it be said that one who seeks knowledge is inferior to one who seeks material possessions? It looks very odd that we should think that the seeker of knowledge is in any way inferior to one who seeks material prosperity. It cannot be. The seeker of wisdom should be regarded as superior to one who seeks material prosperity, and therefore we have to understand by the word artha something different from mere material possessions, enjoyment or acquisition. So the opinion of these students of the Bhagavadgita is that artha should be regarded here as the summum bonum of purushartha—they who seek moksha, the highest purushartha—and therefore they are certainly to be considered superior even to the seekers of knowledge or wisdom. They are seekers of dissolution of themselves in God—moksharthi.