A Bird's Eye View of the Uddhava Gita

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Divine Manifestations
Uddhava addresses Krishna
“You are the supreme Brahman  without beginning or end, free from all limitations. In you the whole universe  exists. The wise know this; but the ignorant do not.  Teach me how to worship you in all beings and  attain to your abode.”  Krishna replies  “O Uddhava, the same question was asked by Arjuna on the eve of the battle of  Kurukshetra. I will tell you in brief my divine manifestations.”

Krishna tells Uddhava what he  told Arjuna in the 10th Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita about all his  glories or Vibhuties. However the Lord says “I have indicated in brief  to you all these manifestations of mine. Know them to be nothing but the fancy  of the imagination, mere words, and unreal. You will do well to control your  speech, mind and senses, and you will never again suffer transmigration. He who  fails to control his mind and tongue, all his spiritual attainments will leak  out of him like the water out of an unbaked pot.”

Varna Ashrama Dharma
Then the discussion between  Uddhava and Krishna centres on castes (varna) and orders (ashrama) of life,  their origin, functions in the society, their duties and obligations. The  purpose of marriage is not enjoyment but attaining knowledge by the couple in  this life and everlasting happiness hereafter. Krishna says ‘as travellers meet  by chance on the way, so does a man meet wife, children, relatives and friends:  let him therefore be in the world and yet separate from it.”

The Goal and The Way
Krishna continues to advise Uddhava:

He whose mind has been thoroughly  purified by knowledge and realization alone can comprehend my supreme state.  Penance, pilgrimage, japa, charitable acts, is mere means of self-purification  and not of perfection as knowledge is. Therefore work your self-knowledge up to  the stage of realization and reject everything else but your devotion to me.

Uddhava wanted to know about the  difference between Jnana, Vijnana and Bhakti as also about Yama and Niyama which are prescribed in the scriptures for the attainment  of final beatitude. The Lord answered all these questions in detail and  concluded by saying that the means by which he is attained is known as the  right path and the wrong path is that by which mundane activity is undertaken.

Krishna continues;
“In order to lead men to the  highest good, three methods of self-discipline have been taught by me. They are:
1] Jnana Yoga, the path of knowledge or  investigation - meant for those who have lost the taste for worldly action,  considering it to be a source of misery.
2] Karma Yoga, the path of action - meant for those  who thirst for fulfillment of desires through action and
3] Bhakti Yoga, the path of devotion meant for  those who are neither disgusted with sense pleasures nor inordinately attached  to them. And who love to hear the stories about the Lord and chant his name.

Those who follow any one of these  paths will attain the state of Brahman, the absolute Reality, my state.”

The Lord deprecates the goal of  heaven through ritualism as mere glamorous and says that he only knows the true  and hidden meaning of the Vedas. The reward of heaven promised by the Vedas for  ritualistic worship is not blessedness or the final goal in itself, but is  calculated to create a taste for worship as an introduction to the subject of  final Liberation, even as the promise of chocolates induces a child to take its  dose of medicine.

Then follows a detailed and long  discussion between Krishna and Uddhava on varied topics like categories or  tattvas, purusha and prakriti, sankhya doctrine, characteristics of the three  Gunas, and the method of formal worship to propitiate the Lord.

Truth is One Only
Recapitulating the earlier  teachings, Krishna affirms that considering the existence of only one substance  viz. Paramatman or the Supreme Self, manifesting as purusha and prakriti, the  seeker must desist from praising or condemning the actions or dispositions of others  which will lead him to duality and thus defeat his own purpose of attaining the  oneness of the Self.

In the world of duality where  everything is false, unreal like a mirage, an echo, a reflection, the  discrimination between good and bad does not arise, although it somehow affects  the jivas.
The one substance is both, the  creator and the created, the protector and the protected and the destroyer and  the destroyed. The triad of percipient, percept and perception is the product  of illusion and thus does not exist. The knower of this truth as taught by the  Lord, neither extols nor reviles anyone, but goes about unattached like the  sun.

Uddhava now raises an interesting  question. He says that when death and rebirth is talked about, neither the soul  (Self, Atman) nor the body is capable of rebirth because the soul is deathless  and the body gets disintegrated upon death and stands no chance of revival. Yet  birth and death are real. Then which entity, he asks Krishna, undergoes the  process of death and rebirth (if neither the body nor the soul is reborn)?

Krishna answers: “Notwithstanding  the fact that the phenomena of birth and death do not really happen to the Soul  or prakriti, yet so long as the contact between the ignorant or indiscriminate  jiva and the senses continues, birth and death does not cease. It is just like  a man so long as he is dreaming, there is no corresponding reality for the  objects experienced in the dream but he, the dreamer, continues to be deluded  by the dream objects, and continues to suffer the dream sorrow, although this  does not exist as real sensations in him, and ceases when he becomes enlightened  on waking. Thus birth and death, grief, fear etc affect the deluded jiva, the  ego and not his being or Self. Hence the aim should be not to identify with  one’s own body which is non-self and unreal and to identify oneself with the  Self, which is the only reality. This is called wisdom which consists of  distinguishing Self from Non-Self.

The means to acquire wisdom are-
1] study of the Vedas (nigama)
2] tapas
3] faith in the teachings of  exalted souls
4] one’s own realization
5] ability to infer what is the beginning, middle  and the end.

Gold and not the ornament is the  reality. Even so, the Atma is the reality and not the world. The mind in its  three states of consciousness viz., dream, wakefulness and deep sleep creates  the respective world. Consciousness, which is the reality, is Brahman which  pervades all three states and the universe. The reality will persist, even when  the threefold distinction disappears. The universe did not exist before and was  evolved out of Brahman which is the cause of all, and which is not caused by  any other entity or cause. Gold appears as ornaments which we may call as intermediary  stage. Even if the ornaments are melted gold will exist which we may call as  the end stage. Similarly, even when the ornaments were not made the gold  remained in the form of a bar or some such shape. This stage we may call as the  beginning. So what exists in all the three stages i.e. the beginning, the  middle or intermediary and the end is the Reality and that which does not so  exist is unreal.

Krishna advises Uddhava to clear  his doubts in this way with the grace of a Guru. The sun is not affected by the  clouds appearing and disappearing around it. The sky is not affected by the  five elements viz. earth, air, water, fire and space which are in it. Similarly  Brahman or the Paramatman is not affected by the universe.

Just as the light of the sun  dispels the darkness from the eye and reveals what has been already present but  unseen, so does the Self-realization, dispels the darkness of the mind and reveal  the Self, the Lord, Bhagavan, which has been invisibly present as the source of  all experiences, the senses and speech and which is beyond reason, words, time,  space and causality. The Lord warns that even if one possesses such  discriminatory wisdom, he should be ever vigilant lest there is every  possibility of losing it on account various inimical forces at work like  temptations for worldly objects, pleasures of wife, children and wealth etc. He  assures that his true devotee will never have such obstructions.

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