by Swami Krishnananda
So the thought of God is not a logical concept. It is something superior to ordinary understanding. It is super-logical indivisibility of comprehension that is the krisattva brahmatva mentioned in this verse. When Arjuna listens to this tremendous message injected into his mind towards the end of the seventh chapter, he is bewildered, as perhaps every one of us is. We are unable to understand what all this means. It amounts to saying that we cannot think at all. Our minds are put to a stop when we are asked to think in this comprehensive manner, because comprehensiveness is unknown to us. We are always partial beings. We have likes and dislikes; we are either this or that—but not both. Doubt arises in the mind of Arjuna and he puts questions, which are recorded at the beginning of the eighth chapter. What is this Brahman? What is this imperishable Being? What is adhyatma? What is adhibhuta? What is adhiyajna? These questions arise naturally in the mind of anyone. Kim tad-brahma kim adhyatmam kim karma purusottama, adhibhutam ca kim proktam adhidaivam kim ucyate. Adhiyajnah katham ko’tra dehe’smin madhusudana, prayana-kle ca katham jneyo’si niyatatmabhih. “How are we to contemplate You, the Supreme Being, at the time of passing? What do You mean by these words that You have used in Your lecture?”
The great Teacher of the Bhagavadgita answers in reply to these queries. Every term is explained beautifully. The imperishable, eternal is called the Absolute—aksaram brahma paramam. There is only one imperishable reality anywhere, and this world of perception does not contain anything imperishable—everything is passing in this world. Even this will pass away. Everything will pass away in this world, because in finitude is hidden a tendency to move on into larger experiences. No finite object can rest contented with itself. Finitude is a name for restlessness and an eagerness to transcend oneself into a larger dimension. So every finite object dies, perishes to its present form and assumes a new form in the process of the evolution of finitude towards larger finitudes, into greater forms of synthesis, until the supreme synthesis is reached, which is the supreme Brahman, the Absolute. Inasmuch as everything is perishable, the tendency of the whole universe is to overcome this perishable character of itself and attain the imperishable Brahman—aksaram brahma paramam. The adhyatma is the essential nature of an individual—svabhavo’dhytmam ucyate. Your essential nature is called adhyatma. Your essential nature is naturally not what appears on the surface of your personality. Your body, your social conduct, the words that you speak, the ideas that you think usually—these are not your personality. These are temporary expressions of various layers of your personality at different moments of time. They are like the movement of a river, or the burning of the flame of a lamp—a continuity but not an indivisibility.
But in spite of this continuity and a procession which forms the empirical personality of the individual, there is a basic indivisibility. That essential content is the adhyatma—atman as it is usually called. Sometimes it is known as the kutastachaitanya in Vedantic language. The innermost essence and the basic rock bottom of the individual is adhyatma, and it is inseparable from the imperishable Brahman. The atman is Brahman; kutasta is the same as the Absolute. Just as the root of the wave in the ocean is the ocean itself, the root of personality, the Overself, the kutastachaitanya, is Brahman, the Imperishable. Aksaram brahma paramam svabhavo ‘dhytmam ucyate, bhuta-bhavodbhava-karo visargah karma-samjnitah: All activity which forms part of the field of adhiyajna is called karma in a cosmical sense. There is only one activity ultimately, and that is the movement of the cosmos towards its ultimate end. The purpose of the universe is the impulse behind activity, and therefore there can be only one action anywhere and not many actions, such as my action or your action. All actions, the so-called activities of individuals, are facets of cosmic activity. This is the supreme yajna and is called adhiyajna—the transcendent purpose behind all activities.
The whole gospel of the Bhagavadgita herein is imbedded—the principle of karma getting transformed into yoga, known as karma yoga, when all actions are realised as expressions of cosmic activity. There is no such thing as my activity or your activity. They are only outer manifestations, through the individualities of persons, of that supreme impulse of universal action, and therefore there is only one agent behind action—God Himself—and neither are you the doer, nor am I the doer. If the agent is the Supreme Being in any form of action, all results of actions also accrue to Him. That is why the Gita again insists upon our abandonment of the fruits of action. If the actions do not belong to you, the fruits thereof also cannot belong to you. If, by any kind of egotistic affirmation of yourself, you assert your agency in any kind of action, there would be a nemesis following from this false notion of action—a reaction set up by this individual notion of activity or personal agency. This nemesis or reaction is what is known as karma bandhana, or the bondage of karma, which becomes the source of sorrows of various types, including transmigration. So the creative impulse, which is the source of all forms of action in this world, is the ultimate karma. This alone can be called real karma, and all other karmas are included in this supreme karma.
The perishable form of the world is called adhibhuta, the objectness that is present in objects. Externality is the clothing in which the essence of the object is rooted. Every object has an eternal element present in it. But, when it is looked upon as something present somewhere as a name and a form, it becomes a temporal, perishable appearance. There is a reality hidden in appearances, and the appearance aspect is called adhibhuta, while the reality that is responsible even for the appearance is the imperishable Brahman. The transitoriness that is the characteristic of objects is not their essential nature. Their essential nature is eternity and infinitude, but their name-form complex, which is in space and time, is the perishable aspect—this is called adhibhuta. Adhibhutam ksaro bhavah purusas cadhidaivatam. What we usually call today the Overself in man is the Atman in the individual—the kutastachaitanya that I referred to just now. The adhidaiva is the presiding principle behind all individuals, the supreme consciousness that is at the base of all individualities—not the mind, but consciousness.
There is an angel inside you, ruling your destiny, guarding you, protecting you, directing you in the proper way. This angelic element within you, the superhuman principle, the divinity implanted in the heart of all individuals is the adhidaiva. Purusas cadhidaivatam, adhiyajno’ham evatra dehe deha-bhrtam vara. Here the incarnate God, Sri Krishna, speaks of the adhiyajna as Himself. This is something very interesting and novel for us to contemplate. The divine incarnation is the adhiyajna. It is the unifying principle in human society. The blessedness of humanity rests in the extent to which it is able to be guided by the divinity that is immanent in human society. Human individuals cannot achieve ultimate success merely with the power of their hands and feet. Success is a name that we give to an achievement which is of a permanent nature. That which is today, but shall pass away tomorrow, cannot be called a victory. Human achievements in the process of human history have been passing phenomena—they have not been ultimate victories. We have won nothing in this world; we always have been defeated in the process of history.
Today we are looking up with dazed eyes as to what is going to happen to us in the future, because we are always depending on the strength of our arms, the power of our understanding or intellect, the ratiocinating faculty minus the divine element in us. Man minus God is a corpse, and a corpse cannot be expected to win any victory or achieve success. So the divine incarnation here, symbolised in the form of Krishna or any form that God may take as an incarnation at any time in the history of the cosmos, not merely in the history of the earth, can be regarded as the finger of God operating in individual societies. God creates the world and also takes care of it. He is the Creator and also the Preserver, and He preserves the world that He has created by means of His incarnations. The supreme excellences which you see manifested as great genius in this world can be also called divine incarnations, as we shall be told in the tenth chapter, for instance. Anything in this world that is superb, magnificent and beyond the ordinary in power, in knowledge and in capacity of any kind should be regarded as a divine manifestation.
God incarnates Himself from time to time, for the solidarity of mankind, for the establishment of righteousness and the abolition of unrighteousness. Dharma-samsthapanarthya sambhavami yuge yuge. At every juncture or crucial moment of time, God’s incarnation takes place. It does not mean that God takes incarnation only some times, in some centuries, and not always. There is an eternal manifestation of God. As God is eternity, His manifestation also is timeless. It is not only merely a historical occurrence that takes place some time in history. It is a timeless advent of an eternal reality, and therefore it can be regarded as a perpetual support in this world of mortality. God is the only friend of man, truly speaking, because perishable individuals cannot be regarded as true friends—they pass away. How can you live in this world by relying upon that which passes away? Suhrdam sarva-bhutnam jnatva mam santim rcchati, says the Gita. “Knowing Me as the true friend of all beings, people shall attain peace.” We have to realise that God is our true friend. He is a friend who shall not forsake us at any time. He shall stand by us at the hour of doom. We must realise God as the true friend, as incarnate divinity, as a presence which is perpetually before us, guarding us and taking care of us in every respect, providing us with everything that is required at any moment of time. Contemplating God in this manner, we realise His presence even in society.
So here, in these two verses at the beginning of the eighth chapter, the great Master of the Gita gives a reply to the queries of Arjuna, all amounting to this sum and substance with which I began today, namely, the necessity to conceive God as a totality and comprehensiveness and not merely as an external object bereft of relationship with the subject and human society. Such yoga is supposed to be the means of the liberation of the spirit from this mortal tabernacle, and the eighth chapter busies itself with the eschatology of the processes through which the soul passes in its journey through the layers of the cosmos.