by Swami Krishnananda
We have to retrace the steps of our thinking from where we commenced at the very initial chapter of the Bhagavadgita, in which was described the great complexity of the social approach to things. From that point there was a gradual withdrawal of consciousness tending towards the integration of the whole individual, with a further purpose of tuning the integrated individual to the set-up of the whole universe. These were practically the stages of the development of thought through the various chapters of the Bhagavadgita, right from the first chapter until the commencement of the seventh. Then there was an intensification of the idea that God indwells the created universe in a transcendent manner—unreachable, inaccessible and capable of attainment only after the shedding of the mortal coil. Thereafter we were told that, together with the transcendence of God, He also maintains an immanence of His presence throughout creation in various degrees of manifestation. These degrees were further explained in the tenth chapter, whereby we were given to understand that superb excellences of any kind, genius of any type, or an excess of knowledge or power visible in the world anywhere, at any time, under any condition, may be considered to be a ray of God’s glory.
But that God is more than all this is yet to be told. The curiosity of the seeker is stirred up when he is told that, the omnipresence of God notwithstanding, His presence is capable of being recognised and felt only in superior excellences of manifestation. But the character of omnipresence remains to be explained. That which is equanimously present everywhere is certainly existent not merely in the superior manifestations of visible glory, but also in invisible forms which may lie at the background of these particularised manifestations of superior glory. The consciousness of the seeker is yet to be awakened to a height of consternation where it should become impossible for the knowing subject to comprehend this all-inclusive object, namely, the Supreme Godhead. Up to this time God was somehow or other kept at arm’s length in spite of the acceptance by the subject of the all-inclusiveness of the Almighty, the omnipresence of God, and the impossibility of anything existing without the background of God’s existence. There was a little bit of theoretical acquiescence, together with a practical need felt to keep God at a distance from one’s own self, which is mostly the compromise which consciousness makes even in high forms of religious practice. The love of the self is the greatest of loves, and nothing can equal it. Thus, as long as the self is maintained as an isolated reality, the love for it also remains isolated from the love of God—whatever be the extent of our acceptance of the fact of God’s all-inclusive omnipresence. It is finally not acceptable to the root of the ego to be told that it should exist no more in order that God may exist. This sort of sermon would be the last thing that the ego of man can accept. Who would be pleased to be told that he is going to be shattered to pieces, even if the destruction of the personality be by a hailstorm of divine grace?
The human element in Arjuna was partially awakened to a curious, inquisitive mood when the glories of God were delineated in the tenth chapter. The great Master, as a divine incarnation, said that all glorious elements, wherever present, are to be adored as His manifestations in one form or the other. The curiosity consists in the desire to visualise this omnipresent form; otherwise it remains merely as a kind of acceptance, and not a vision and an attainment or a possession.
Whereas up to this time the gospel went on along the lines of instruction and enlightenment of the reason and the highest individual faculties available, now the religious consciousness gets roused up, which surpasses the rationality of the individual in many respects. The intuitive faculty is to be splashed forth, wherein the individual faculties of perception, cognition, emotion, volition and the like are to be brought together into a totality and a blend, and made to work in such a way that they cease to be independent faculties. The vision of the One is not possible through means that are distracted or diversified—the intellect working in one direction, the emotions in another direction, the social consciousness in a third direction, the physical appetites in a fourth direction, and so on. The aloneness of the individual alone can confront the aloneness of God. This solitariness of consciousness is to be awakened in order that the solitary Absolute can be encountered. The psychic faculties are to be melted in the stream of the intuitive cognitive faculty.
The vision of God is the intuition of the supreme Absolute. It is not a perception; it is not seen as we see an object. God is not seen with open eyes, and not heard with the ears. These sense organs, which give knowledge of things, diversify the objects and cut off colour from sound and sound from color, smell from taste, and so on, whereas in the vision of God all sense faculties join together, so that it is taste, smell, sound, colour—everything. It is not merely a colour that we see when we see God, not merely a sound that we hear, not merely a taste, not a smell. It is also not merely a total of these perceptions. We are incapable of even imagining what sort of experience it would be, if all the senses simultaneously act at one stroke. That means to say, if we were to be endowed with a faculty which is sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch altogether, what would be the kind of feeling in us? At present our sensations come in succession. We see and hear and smell and taste and touch, one after the other, and they are not commingled in one single act of awareness. Hence, we cannot even imagine what God-consciousness can be.
The awakening of the self to Godhood is not only to be understood in the sense of a total action of all sense perceptions at one instantaneous moment, but also the joining together of the thinking faculty, the rationality, the feeling and the volition all together. Not all together like a multitude of people or an isolated totality of individual particularities, but a blend of a mass of honey wherein the pollen of different flowers cannot be singly perceived or isolated one from the other. We have a condensed mass of sweetness in the honey where we do not know the constituents of which the honey has been manufactured by the bees. Likewise is God-experience. It is not thinking and reasoning and feeling and seeing and hearing, etc., one after the other coming in succession. It is an instantaneous, timeless awakening into a cognition which is the same as the experience of Being.
All this will be only a jumble of words for us, without any meaning and substance, because we are not accustomed to think along these lines. All this remains merely as a theory, a kind of textbook lecture or a scriptural gospel for us. Yet, the awakening has to take place, and everyone is after that. So, the faculties of the individual, Arjuna, were awakened up to the borderline of the perception of the Absolute through the intuition of the soul. The soul knowing things is called intuition—we do not call it perception or sensation or cognition and the like. The word ‘intuition’ is used in a very special sense and not in a Western psychological sense. It is immediate awareness, or as they sometimes say, non-mediate awareness. No mediation of the senses is necessary there. There is no need of the mediation even of the mind, and no need of the mediation of the intellect or reason—we have not to exert through the faculties of knowledge. All exertion ceases, and the whole personality gets gathered up. This happens at the time of death, in swoon, in deep sleep and in God-vision. At all other times we are distracted.
Having been stirred up into the height of curiosity to know this invisible Almighty, Arjuna, in glorifying Him, requests the great Master of the Bhagavadgita to bestow upon him this blessing of the vision of That about which so much has been told up to this time. “Am I fit to have the vision of this glorious Almighty? If, O Blessed One, you deem it proper that I be brought face to face with this solacing eternity, I shall regard myself as highly blessed indeed.” Now, this is a condition where the properties of prakriti, to which reference was made in earlier chapters of the Gita, work in a curious manner. The distracting force of prakriti known as rajas, and the stultifying power known as tamas are completely overcome; they are subdued by the force of sattva, which is transparent like a clean glass through which light passes in such a way that one cannot even perceive the existence of this reflecting media. Intuition is not the same as identity with the Absolute. The sattva of the mind is still supposed to be present. While we can behold the sun through a clean glass, the glass is still there, no doubt, as a kind of obstruction, notwithstanding the fact that it is a transparent medium through which the whole object can be seen as if it is not obstructed in any manner. The whole person is bathed in the light of the object.
Then, at the request of this prepared aspirant in the highly purified individuality of Arjuna, the glorious vision splashes forth—that is the subject of the eleventh chapter. The whole description in this chapter is poetic, because there is no other way of explaining this vision. Whatever be the power of our expression, we will fail in our attempt to properly express the significance of this divine vision. Hence there is only an outline or an indication thereof given to us by mighty images and glorious poetic expressions, thrilling feelings conveyed through the vehicle of language, which is mightily done in the eleventh chapter by the great author. Suddenly there is a transfiguration, and the Krishna who spoke vanishes, as it were, from the sight of the beholding Arjuna. There is a waking up from dream, as it were; a shaking up of oneself from the sleep of the ego, and Arjuna begins to hear voices from all sides: “Look at me.” This “look at me” expression comes from every nook and corner of all places, and he does not know who is speaking from which side.