Knowledge of the Absolute in its Entirety
1. With your mind attached to Me, O Son of Pritha, uniting yourself in yoga, depending entirely on Me, listen to the way through which you will know Me in My entirety without doubt.
2. I shall teach you knowledge (jnana) together with realization (vijnana) in their entirety, knowing which thereafter nothing more remains to be known.
3. Among thousands of human beings only a few endeavor for perfection. Of those endeavoring accomplished ones, only a few know Me in reality.
The sixth chapter explained attainment of the highest state through meditation, Arjuna now wants to know the object of meditation and an alternative method for attaining the heights that are reached by yogis. This theme continues in chapters seven through eleven, and more explicit instructions are given to Arjuna.
Lessons imparted by an accomplished teacher directly to his beloved disciple have a more profound impact on the mind and heart of the student than reading and studying the scriptures. The questions that are not answered by the scriptures and teachings of the sages or by any other means are finally answered at the summit that one attains through direct experience. Without direct experience, doubts still lurk. Every aspirant longs to have direct knowledge. It is not that he does not believe in the teachings of the great sages and the scriptures; they do inspire and help him. But attainment of perfection is possible only through Self-realization. Therefore a need arises for a perfectly devised method of preparing oneself to receive that knowledge.
The first instruction in this chapter is to maintain constant awareness that the Self-alone exists. One should practice a method of sadhana to attain that insight, for without having knowledge of the goal and purpose of sadhana, nothing can be attained. Even if the sadhana is devised profoundly, if one does not have knowledge of his goal, he cannot progress, for he becomes a victim of allurements and is bound to stumble again and again. Many students begin practicing meditation without knowing why they are practicing. Practicing meditation without knowledge of the goal is like walking along a path without knowing one’s destination. First the subject should be known in its entirety, and then one should pursue his practice.
Jnana and vijnana are two kinds of knowledge that we find in the scriptures. Jnana is knowledge of the Absolute; vijnana is the knowledge for devising the perfect method of sadhana. When one attains these two aspects of knowledge, he can tread the path and attain perfection. One among thousands reaches that perfection, and among those, only a fortunate few know the real Self in its entirety. Real knowledge is that knowledge after which nothing remains to be attained. The third verse explains that after attaining the state of samadhi or perfection, there still remains to be attained the highest state: Self-realization. In the state of perfection the aspirant attains the highest goal that an individual is capable of achieving. The last step is total expansion of the knowledge that he has attained: he becomes one with the Whole.
4. Earth, water, fire, air space, mind, intelligence, and ego, this is My primordial nature, Prakriti, divided eightfold.
5. This is My immanent nature. Known My other transcendent nature, which has become the souls (jivas), O Long-armed One, by which this world is sustained.
6. All the beings have their origination in this; hold this to be true. I am the origin as well as the dissolution of the entire world.
7. There is nothing at all beyond Me, O Arjuna. Everything is woven in Me like gems on a thread to form a necklace.
Every object in the world is gifted with a peculiar and unique quality. All that we see in the external world has some distinct quality that is not found in the same way elsewhere. Ultimately there is only one source from which all the innumerable aspects of phenomenal existence are manifest, but that source remains obscured from human vision.
In these verse Sri Krishna explains all the levels of manifestation from the gross to the subtlest. He addresses Arjuna as “long armed,” Meaning one who has the ability to grasp all-encompassing knowledge. That knowledge is imparted by the teacher only when the student has widened the horizon of his vision. Sri Krishna says that in the external world there are eight constituents: earth, water, fire, air, space, mind, intellect, and ego. He says to Arjuna, “These eight constituents make up my lowermost body, but within these there is another, highest essence. On this is sustained all beings. I am the originator, sustainer, and annihilator of this whole universe. Just as the beads are strung on a thread, everything is woven in me.”
The aspirant should learn to identify himself with the source of manifestation. Then it will be easy for him to grasp the knowledge in the Bhagavad Gita. When the students is faithful, eager to receive that knowledge, and when he applies all his resources with full devotion, that knowledge is grasped. But one should not forget that for attaining that knowledge, he needs a profound method of sadhana devised by examining his own capacities and abilities.
13. This entire world, deluded by three states constituted of gunas, does not recognize Me as the immutable One beyond them.
14. This divine maya of Mine, consisting of gunas, is difficult to transcend. Only they who surrender themselves to Me go across this maya.
15. The basest among human beings, the deluded ones, evildoers, do not surrender to Me, their knowledge having been plundered away by maya as they have resorted to a demonic aspect.
The whole world is deluded as a result of the illusory power of maya. Maya means that which exists and yet does not exist. The three gunas create an illusion for all human beings, and they are not able to see the power behind the illusion. All the activities of the human being-his mind, action, and speech-are controlled by the gunas, which motivate him to enjoy the objects but do not allow him to be aware of the self-existent Reality beyond all these phenomena. In the Isha Upanishad there is a prayer that says, “O Lord, remove this glittering disk which has hidden the truth.” This means that the illusory power (maya) is full of temptations and charms that completely sway the human mind and senses, creating desire for the objects of the world. We all know that neither the objects nor the pleasures of the mundane world are permanent, yet our minds remain deluded in wanting to capture these pleasures. We suffer because of these delusions. The human mind and senses remain allured by the charms and temptations of the external world, by maya.
Maya has no existence of its own. It is not any particular being or object like sun or moon but an illusion in the cosmos. Those who become aware of this fact and realize the truth that beyond all delusion lies the source of perennial light and life, which is self-existent, can cross the mire of delusion. Those alone who with sincere effort and the grace of God attain constant consciousness of the self-existent Lord of life cross the delusion of maya. They have made their minds one-pointed and inward and know the true nature of the Lord. But the mind that is dissipated and distracted and always goes out in search of the pleasures of the temporal world cannot comprehend that state. The mire of delusion created by maya is hard to cross. Maya veils the faculty of discrimination, judgment, and decision. One is then deluded, and in fact prefers to remain in that state. Those who have lost this faculty are called demonic or evil, for they create misery and sufferings for themselves and others. Such people, having demonic attitudes and behavior, commit harmful acts and destroy knowledge because they are infatuated.
Now let us examine the threefold quality of maya. The human beings goes to the state of sleep because of the predominance of tamas. The moment he wakes up, rajas is predominant and leads him to activity. Then he likes to enjoy the senses objects. But when sattva is predominant, one remains in a state of joy and peace. The aspirant can become aware of the influence of the gunas in all-human activities, mental and physical. He can measure the progress of his sadhana by observing which guna becomes predominant in his daily life. When he is sad, disappointed, and distressed, it is the influence of tamas; when he is active, busy in doing and in wanting to do, it is rajas; when he is calm and joyous and feels delighted from within, the sattva quality is predominant. Yogis consciously attain the state of sattva by applying sushumna with a particular exercise involving the combined effort of concentration and breathing. During that state one spontaneously lifts his body consciousness to the higher dimensions of life. Calmness and quietness reflect a tranquil state in which sattva is predominant.
The three-fold quality of maya arises from the source of the life stream, the Lord of life. But the highest of all, the lord of all, remains beyond them. Maya is called divine. It is a power of the Lord and cannot be dispelled by ordinary austerities and mortifications. Special effort and profound sadhana alone to cut the fetters of the bondage created by that delusion. When human endeavor fails, the sadhaka remembers the Lord in the same way that the infant cries for his mother’s help. That powerful devotion brings the grace of the Lord to the aid of the sadhaka. When the yogi makes sincere effort to attain the state of sattva and devotes his sattvic effort to the Lord, he becomes free from the delusion of maya. The tamasic attitudes of those who remain in the deluded state, always desiring to enjoy the pleasures of the senses, create misery for them. Because of their infatuation, they create darkness for themselves. Such ignorant people actually destroy the great gift given to human beings by Providence.
16. Four kinds of people, performers of good deeds, devote themselves to Me, O Arjuna: the distressed, the seeker of knowledge, the seeker of fulfillment of a wish, and the one who knows, O Bull Among the Bharatas.
17. Of these, the one endowed with knowledge, ever united in yoga with single-pointed devotion is distinguished. I am most beloved of the one endowed with wisdom, and he is also My beloved.
18. All these others are excellent, but one endowed with knowledge is My own self-this is My view. Such a one whose self is joined in yoga is established in Me, consequently in a state higher than which there is none.
19. At the end of many lifetimes one endowed with knowledge attains Me, knowing ‘the Indweller is All.’ Such a great-souled one (mahatma) is very difficult to find.
There are four categories of people who are devoted to the lord. In the first category are those who are needy and in distress, who suffer mentally and physically. They are not successful in attaining wealth in the temporal world, and they are miserable and suffer from all kinds of diseases. That type of person worships God to fulfill his mundane desires and has no knowledge of the nature of the Self. He prays to the Lord to fulfill his desires and does not pray when his desires are met. That kind of devotee is the most petty one, yet compared to those who do not pray to God and do not have any consciousness of higher dimensions of life, those who pray longing to fulfill their world desires are superior because they at least believe in the existence of God. Their search eventually leads them to realize the importance of selfless prayer and finally leads them to the realization of the Self, the highest goal of human life. To believe in God for whatever reason is far better than non-belief. How unfortunate are those who do not make efforts to believe in the reality of the Self. They deny their own existence.
The next category of worshipers seeks knowledge with the desire to know the mystery of human relationships, of life, and of the universe. That person’s devotion to the Lord does not arise out of misery or failure experienced in the external world but out of the desire to know the highest truth. His desire to know is predominant. To satisfy his intellectual curiosity, he pursues the path of enlightenment.
If he pursues it for a long time and learns to unfold himself to a point where pure reason begins functioning, he becomes able to discriminate between the mundane and the Absolute. That class of seekers is definitely superior to the first category of devotees who pray to God merely because they are distressed, miserable, and unable to fulfill their desires. Desiring to know the highest truth is superior to longing to have worldly needs and desires fulfilled.
In the third category are those aspirants who have sharpened their faculty of discrimination and know the difference between the pure Self and the not self, the imperishable and the perishable. Such an aspirant makes efforts to realize the highest truth. He searches for a competent teacher and follows the path to enlightenment that is imparted to him. With the help of meditation, he directs his energies only toward realizing the Self. He proves to the highest of all seekers. He devotion does not arise out of worldly distress, anxiety, or intellectual curiosity. In his search for truth there lies a purity of heart and mind. Those who have been practicing the path of light and life in the past start treading the same path again and continue pursuing their path until they reach the end.
The forth class in composed of those fortunate ones who have already wisdom. Such an aspirant has realized the real Self, so for him nothing remains to be attained. He has already attained the state of tranquility and is superior to those in the other classes that have been described. Such a jnana yogi is the finest of all. He is dear to the Lord, and the Lord is dear to him. The man of wisdom is called mahatma. Such high souls are rare and become torch bearers and examples for all aspirants. Because of these great mahatmas, the spiritual knowledge flows uninterruptedly.
28. But those people of meritorious deeds whose past sin is reaching an end, they freed of delusion with regard to the pairs of opposites, devote themselves to Me with firm vows of observance.
29. They who, resorting to Me, endeavor for freedom from old age and death, come to know the entire Brahman, the complete spiritual affairs, and the entire range of action.
30. They who know Me with reference to the beings, with reference to the deities, as well as with reference to sacrificial observances, even at the time of their departure their minds are united in yoga and they know Me.
Perfection can be attained by performing actions skillfully and with full devotion. When a one-pointed mind has been achieved and all the energies are directed toward Self-realization, all action becomes a form of worship. Then the aspirant identifies himself with his essential nature, which is truth, happiness, and bliss. He knows that the worshiped one and the worshiper are one and the same. All the qualities of the ocean are found in a single drop of water. Qualitatively they are one the same. Realizing that truth, the aspirant fulfills the purpose of his life and becomes perfect. He is no longer affected by the pairs of opposites.
Those who have made sincere efforts and have completed all endeavors attain freedom from old age and death. Ordinarily in old age the mind remains preoccupied; it goes to the old habit grooves that have been created in one’s past. But when one makes full effort to meditate and contemplate on the innermost center of his being, he does not suffer from his old patterns. Death reveals its mystery to him Thus he knows that one lives after death, that the Self remains eternal and unchanged, and that it is only the body that dies. He is no afraid of dying; he remains fearless both here and hereafter. Truth alone makes one fearless. Many devotees and aspirants make efforts to remember and maintain awareness of the center of consciousness at the time of death but are unable to do so because their meditation has not been strengthened and their minds still flow toward the grooves of their past habits. But those who have remained constantly aware of the center of consciousness are, at their hour of departure from this world, fearless, free, and happy.
Here ends the seventh chapter, in which the mystery of the unknown and the known is revealed.