[Note: the following was meant by Mr. Crosbie to be a continuation of the Notes on Chapters 1-7 by W. Q. Judge.]
The Bhagavad-Gita has a subsidiary title, “The Book of Devotion.” Each of its chapters—with the exception of the first one— treats of devotion by some particular means; so the preceding chapters may be regarded as leading up to the highest form of devotion through the various forms adopted by mankind.
The Eighth Chapter is entitled Devotion to the Omnipresent Spirit named as Om This title is a key to what follows in the chapter, as well as a summation of what is contained therein.
The Western mind may find a difficulty in grasping the idea of devotion to that which is everywhere, for the common acceptation of the term implies an object to which one may devote himself; here, however, devotion is shown to be a quality inherent in the one who perceives and not in any object seen and is therefore, applicable universally as well as in particular.
The deepest thinkers, ancient and modern, hold that That which reasons is higher than reason; and similarly, That which perceives forms and acquires knowledge, is beyond all form, and is not limited to, or by, any degree of knowledge. These sages declare, and show, that all limitations are self-imposed and impermanent; hence they speak of the manifested universe as the “Great Illusion” produced by a general and temporary sense of separateness on the part of the beings involved. Their efforts at all times have been directed towards aiding the advancing intelligence of mankind to a truer realization of the essential nature of all beings, from which alone can come perfection in knowledge and hence the highest happiness.
“The Omnipresent Spirit named as Om,” refers to the One Spirit which animates all worlds and beings. Another expression for the same idea is “ The Self of all creatures”, and in the present chapter Krishna begins his reply to Arjuna by saying “Braman the Supreme is the exhaustless”. These terms, and many others used, are but different ways of conveying the same idea. An aid to comprehension may be had if it is realized that ‘the power, or ability to perceive is common to all creatures”, and that it includes all that the abstract terms Spirit, Life and Consciousness imply. In fact, the Bhagavad-Gita cannot be understood unless it is studied upon the basis that “That which lives and thinks in Man is the Eternal Pilgrim”, and that “he is wise indeed who sees and knows that all spiritual beings are the same in kind, and differ only in degree.”
As has been before stated, Krishna stands for the Higher Self of all beings; there fore all the discourses under his name are to be taken as addressed to all men and not merely as from one personage to another. It will then be understood that when He speaks of “my being manifesting as the Individual Self ”, “Purusha, the Spiritual Person” or “myself in this body”, He refers to the constituents of each human being.
“Karma is the emanation which causes the existence and reproduction of creatures”. Perhaps this sentence may be made more clear if the student takes into consideration the ancient aphorism that “There is no Karma unless there is a being to make it or feel its effects”; Karma means action, and as each being or creature acts according to his own degree of perception and feels the re-action or effect in the same relation, Karma as a whole, in so far as any world or system of worlds is concerned, is the interaction of all the beings of every grade who constitute, or are connected with, any such world or system. Karma therefore is inherent in all beings and is not self-existent as such, or imposed by any imagined originator of worlds.
Krishna shows that the realization of immortality must be had during life in the body if the highest state is to be attained. This state reached, the necessity for reincarnation ceases. Those however whose beliefs are strongly fixed on some particular form of after death existence, have a realization of what they aspire to and then in the fulness of time are reborn upon earth.
The meditation spoken of as necessary to the highest attainment is sometimes called “a lifetime’s meditation” it means that the immortality of man has first to be assumed, and then rigidly adhered to as the basis for every thought and action, for it is only in this way that a realization of immortality can be obtained by embodied beings. As it is from the Spirit in Man that all law and power proceeds, each human being creates his own limitations on every plane of being; he can transcend those limitations only by reverting to and maintaining his immortality, as the observer and experiencer of all the passing changes, himself unchanged and unchanging.
Throughout the dialogue Krishna speaks of the various paths of devotion taken by men. Most of these paths are taken in order to obtain some coveted reward, such as freedom from rebirth, enjoyment of the individual’s ideal of happiness after release from the body; individual salvation. He shows that all these rewards may be obtained by constant effort, but that all are temporary in duration, necessitating a return to earthly existence at some later period, however remote. “The Brahmacharya laboring for salvation”, labors for himself alone; he “goeth to the supreme goal”, but in that state is beyond the power of helping his fellow men. Although he may remain in that blissful state for an immense period of time, the duties to his fellow men which set aside in order to obtain salvation for himself, will inevitably place him where those duties have to be faced and fulfilled. The case of such an one is quite different from “those great-souled ones who have attained to supreme perfection” in knowledge and universal duty.
“Al1 worlds up to that of Brahmâ are subject to rebirth again and again” In the section beginning with these words Krishna is pointing out the Law of Periodicity which prevails in every department of Nature. This more fully explained in the Secret Doctrine by H. P. Blavatsky, Vol. I, in that part referring to the Three Fundamental Principles. Briefly stated, our present earthly existence is the result of previous ones; the present earth is the result of previous earths; the present solar system is the result of previous ones. All of these present progress of some sort, for the essence of progress is change. All beings have evolved to their present status, be that high or low, and all are still evolving; an infinite universe presents infinite possibilities. “But,” says Krishna, “there is that which upon the dissolution of all things else is not destroyed; it is indivisible, indestructible, and of another nature from the visible”. This is the Divine Spark of Spirit, Life, and Consciousness in every form and being. In Man it is called the “Perceiver”, That which sees, learns and knows, apart from all objects, circumstances or conditions through which It passes. “This Supreme, 0 son of Pritha, within whom all creatures are included, and by whom all this is pervaded, may be attained by a devotion which is intent on him alone”. To “act for and as the Self” in every state, under all conditions and in every circumstance is the highest path and leads to the highest goal; it is the path of [ in its highest aspect.
“I will now declare to thee, 0 best of the Bharatas, at what time yogis dying obtain freedom from or subjection to rebirth”. Yogis are those who strive for union with the Higher Self. All do not succeed in any one life, so some are subject to rebirth. Krishna indicates the conditions of planets and seasons in the several cases of departure. It would appear from the specific statement above quoted that the indications mentioned do not apply to those whose thoughts are based upon material existence, and that in such cases other indications apply. It may be of interest to consider in this relation the declaration of the ancient sages that all Souls do not depart from the body in the same way. They hold that there are seven great plexi governing other minor ones, these represent channels through which influences are received or given. Each of these channels has its own direct relation to one of the seven divisions of the system, thus showing Man to have the possibility of conscious relation with all the divisions. From this it would follow that the predominating idea of any one life would necessitate departure through some particular channel leading to its own appropriate realm of freedom or bondage. Thus Man binds himself or frees himself by reason of his spiritual power—and his connection with every department and division of great Nature. Krishna concludes the chapter by saying, “The man of meditation who knoweth all this, reaches beyond what ever rewards are promised in the Vedas, or that result from sacrifices, or austerities, or from gifts of charity, and goeth to the supreme, the highest place”. This highest place is sometimes called “All-knowingness,” the perfection of knowledge, the possession of which confers power of action upon any or all departments of manifested Nature. To reach this “highest place” the highest motive must prevail in all thought and action, perhaps through many lives. The idea of this highest motive may be best conveyed by considering the following ancient pledge:—
“NEVER WILL I SEEK NOR RECEIVE PRIVATE
INDIVIDUAL SALVATION. NEVER WILL I ENTER
INTO FINAL PEACE ALONE; BUT FOREVER AND
EVERYWHERE WILL I LIVE AND STRIVE FOR THE
REDEMPTION OF EVERY CREATURE THROUGHOUT THE WORLD”
The title of the Ninth Chapter is “Devotion by Means of the Kingly Knowledge and the Kingly Mystery”. The word “Kingly” means of course “the Highest”, so that if the title had been written in our time, it would have read “The Highest Knowledge and the Deepest Mystery.”
That any book or system of thought should purport to afford the means by which such universal knowledge may be gained, is a fact which demands the attention of every intelligent mind. A claim so great may not be lightly brushed aside as unworthy of deep consideration. Thinkers everywhere admit that what is needed in the world is a self evidently true basis for thought and action; they realize that our sciences, philosophies and religions are attempts, more or less sincere, to obtain such a basis, but are being continually confronted with the fact that none of these supply a sure foundation for the peace, happiness and true progress of mankind. It is realized, for instance, that our modern modes of thought are based upon and applied to material existence and external appearances, all of these being the effects of unseen causes, and that where attempt is made to fathom the unseen, material existence is taken as the cause, and the unseen as the effect, with no perceptible gain in the direction of an understanding of Life or its purpose.
It is interesting to note that the modern basis of thought and action is the reverse of that of the ancient sages, and that whereas our ways of thinking leave us in the dark, the ways of the ancients throw a clear light upon all our problems. Let us therefore study the wisdom of the past, that we may go forward with a clearer and more definite purpose than we now have.
In this chapter, Krishna addresses his disciple Arjuna in these terms: “Unto thee who findeth no fault, I will now make known this most mysterious knowledge, coupled with a realization of it, which having known thou shalt be delivered from evil.” The words “Unto thee who findeth no fault” mean that Arjuna is recognized as one who understands that Law rules in everything and every circumstance, and that nothing can come to him of good or of evil, but that of which he him self was the cause; thus he accepted the good without exultation and the evil without complaint; in other words, Arjuna was equal-minded in pain or pleasure, joy or sorrow, and stood ready to suffer or enjoy whatever the Higher Self had in store for him by way of experience or discipline. Thus at the outset Krishna propounds and Arjuna accepts the rule of Law, as a necessary step towards further enlightenment.
The term “knowledge” as used here has a greater meaning than we are accustomed to give it; for we would esteem as “knowledge” an all-round acquaintance with religions, philosophies, arts, sciences and histories as so far recorded, together with that which our senses give us in regard to the external material world. It is generally held, for instance, that one cannot know the constituents or properties of a piece of stone, without mechanical or chemical aids applied directly to the object, and that nothing can be known of the thoughts or feelings of another unless expressed in words or acts; whereas, the knowledge spoken of by Krishna implies a full identification of the mind—or thinking power—, with whatever subject or object it may be directed to, which concentration enables the perceiver to cognize all the inherent qualities of the subject or object, as well as all incidental peculiarities, and know all about its nature.
The possibility of such “all-knowingness” is not admitted by the leaders of thought, and men of our day, whose process is based upon reasoning from particulars to universals, from effects to probable cause, and who are content to erect ever-changing hypotheses. Their process of reasoning is one, which although more refined and expanded, is the same as that used by our savage races. The sages of old, through experience gained from many civilizations, had learned to begin with universals—the plane of causation—and had finally come to see, understand and use the true process, after numberless testings and verifications. It is the result of this acquired wisdom that Krishna imparts to Arjuna as rapidly as his advancing intelligence will permit. It is this wisdom and its results that are portrayed in the Secret Doctrine—or Theosophy. So, if the student is to understand the Bhagavad-Gita, he must begin with universals and with the universal ever in mind expand into all particulars.
Take the opening sentence of the second paragraph of this chapter. “All this universe is pervaded by me in my invisible form; all things exist in me, but I do not exist in them”; here Krishna speaks as the Omnipresent Spirit which is in all beings, but which is fully realized in such beings as Krishna, Christ, and others who have appeared in the world of men.
When Krishna uses the personal pronoun throughout the Gita, he is not referring to his own personality, but to the Self of All. So the above sentence may be read “All this universe is pervaded and sustained by the One Self—the Omnipresent Spirit; as it is the Self and Perceiver in all forms, it cannot be seen externally. Because of It, all forms exist; but It is not dependent upon form or forms; these are dependent upon It.” In this sentence is contained an expression of the basic Universal Principle, the cause and sustainer of all that was, is, or ever shall be, and without which nothing exists. Being Universal or Omnipresent, and Infinite, no form of thought can define It; yet mankind has ever attempted to define the Infinite by their finite conceptions of Deity. Hence the many gods of different times and peoples; man-made idols every one of them, whether they be mental or physical. It is these man-made conceptions of Deity that have ever tended to erect and sustain divisions between peoples; tribal .and national gods deny and frustrate a realization of Universal Brotherhood.
The ancient teaching which Krishna once more enunciates is that all forms of every kind proceed from One Universal Source; the life of each is hidden in and sustained by that Source—the One Life. The power to perceive and expand its range of perception and expression is the same in all beings and forms; the degrees of perception and expression are shown in the innumerable classes of beings it is this power that is behind all evolution— the unfolding from within outwards.
Krishna goes on to present the Law under which all beings evolve, in the words, “0 son of Kunti, at the end of a kalpa all things return unto my nature, and then again at the beginning of another kalpa, I cause them to evolve again”. A kalpa means a great age or period, and the law referred to is what is spoken of in the Secret Doctrine as the Law of Periodicity, or the law of cycles. Everywhere in nature we find this law in operation, as in day and night, summer and winter, life and ,death, in-breathing and out-breathing, the systole and diastole of the heart, sowing and reaping. The general name for this universal Law is Karma, which means Action and Reaction, Cause and Effect; it applies to all beings and all planes. An ancient aphorism says, “There is no Karma unless there is a being to make it or feel its effect.” Hence all manifestation is the result of karmic action by beings of every grade in their inter-action and inter-relation.
The phrase “I cause them to evolve again” carries with it the meaning that each period of manifestation, great or small, is followed by another on the basis of the experience gained. That which causes “them to evolve again” is the Self of All, which is also the self of each, or as it has been poetically called, “the Great Breath” with its great periodical recurrent “out-breathings and in-breathings”; ceaseless pulsation may be said to be Its one attribute. It is this essential nature which is meant in the phrase “I emanate again and again this whole assemblage of beings, without their will, by the power of the material essence”. “Without their will”, may be understood by considering that no human being is in a body because he—as such—desired to be; nor does he leave his body because he desires to; the impelling force proceeds from the inner self. the real man. “By the power of the material essence” may be understood by considering the statement that Spirit and Matter are co-existent and co-eternal. By “matter” is meant primordial substance from which all differentiations in matter are produced by conscious actions of beings of different grades.
“I am as one who sitteth indifferent” means that the One Self is not involved in any or all forms of manifestation, but ever remains the spectator, the admonisher, the sustainer, the enjoyer, .and also the highest soul. Just as each one may say, “I was in a child body and had experiences pertaining to that state; I passed through the changes of body and circumstance up to the present, and will pass through all changes to come, but I remain the same unchanging identity throughout all conditions.”
“The deluded despise me in human form, being unacquainted with my real nature as Lord of all things”. The One Self is the self of all beings. The Upanishads say that “the Self shines in all; but in all It does not shine forth.” Krishna says that the deluded fail to recognize this Self, and judging from appearances and arbitrary classifications, maintain separateness. So acting, they set in motion causes that produce similar effects— in other words, bad karma. The remainder of the chapter is devoted to presentations of the right understanding of Self and its results, as well as the results of a false or imperfect understanding.
‘ Krishna’s teaching throughout, emphasises the statement that there is but One Spirit and not several,—the same Spirit animating all beings and sustaining all. The same power to perceive is possessed by all alike. The differences in beings consist in the range of perception which has been acquired through evolution, and this applies to all lives below Man, to Man himself, and to all beings higher than Man. In “The Voice of the Silence” it is said that “Mind is like a mirror; it gathers dust while it reflects,” and in other writings Mind is spoken of as “the mirror of the Soul”. We cannot fail to see that we act in accordance with the ideas of life that we hold; that what we call “our mind” is a number of ideas held by us as a basis for thought and action; that we change ideas from time to time, as we find occasion for such change; but that at all times we act from the basis of ideas presently held. The reason for the differences between human beings is the false, imperfect or true ideas , form the basis of thought or action are or one to accept and hold only such ideas as are in accord with our personal desires. Krishna presents an example of what, among us, would be called a good desire, that of “those enlightened in the Vedas”, whose desire is for a personal enjoyment of heaven; these, he says, obtain and enjoy that heaven for a period of time proportionate to their merits, and then they sink back to mortal birth. He concludes by saying “thus, those who long for the accomplishment of desires, following the Vedas, obtain a happiness which comes and goes. But for those who, thinking of me as identical with all, constantly worship me, I bear the burden of the responsibility of their happiness”. The words “constantly worship me,” have an explanation further on, in the chapter where he says, “Whatever thou doest, O Son of Kunti, whatever thou eatest, what-ever thou sacrificest, whatever thou givest, whatever mortification thou performest, commit each unto me”. The real “worship”, is devotion to an ideal. Here “the Self of All” is the ideal, and the action indicated is to think and act for, and as, the One Self in all things, without self-interest in the results. We are not attached to results by our acts, but by our thoughts; freedom comes from a renunciation of self-interest in the fruit of actions.
All of the above is included in Krishna’s closing injunction; “Having obtained this finite, joyless world, worship me. Serve me, fix heart and mind on me, be my servant, my adorer, prostrate thyself before me, and thus, united unto me, at rest, thou shalt go unto me.”
The title given is “Devotion By Means of the Universal Divine Perfections”. The words “Universal Divine Perfections” have a significance not usually perceived. Men speak of perfection from the standpoint of imperfection, and always in relation to forms, conditions and appearances that are constantly changing; so that with humanity in general the standard of perfection is an ever-receding and elusive, as well as delusive idea. Here again, as with our modern science, we reason from particulars to universals, instead of from universals to particulars, never perceiving that nothing less that the cause itself could ever know itself.
The discourses of Krishna but repeat that which was known before, to the perfected men of all ages, and that which all divine incarnations have since declared—that Man is identical with the Absolute unmanifested, and also with the Deity as we see It manifested in Nature. Our doctrines and education lead us to think that we are inherently imperfect; if we are so, we can never by any possibility become perfect; but if we are inherently perfect, we can see, understand and correct imperfect knowledge and use of all forces, for it is forces we are dealing with, not forms; it is ideas, not persons. We will begin to under stand that there is but one force or power— the Spiritual, and that all the various effects of that one power or force that we see and experience, are due to the direction given by conscious entities of many kinds in their different degrees. To understand the “divine perfections”, they must be applied universally, from the standpoint of the One Self—the Self of each, the Self of All.
While the Gita is laid out in the form of a dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna, as between a divine teacher and his disciple and may be so understood, it can also be applied in another way; Krishna is the Higher Self in each, and Arjuna, the mind, the mirror of external impressions; so that the dialogue can be profitably taken as a means to the realization of the Self, and Its adjustment and control of the lower elements and forces. The key-note of the ancient teaching is that the creative and sustaining power of all things and beings is not to be sought for externally; it can only be found at the very root of the nature of each and every being. As it is put in the Upanishads, “The Self-Being pierced the openings outward, hence one looks outward, not within himself.” The wise, who seek the Eternal, look inward, for “that which lives and thinks in Man is the Eternal Pilgrim” (S. D.). It is necessary then for the student to dwell upon the idea that he acts for and as the Self of All; that the power to see all, and to know all, is potentially present with him, is in fact his real Self. He will at least then understand when Krishna says “Neither the assemblage of the Gods nor the Adept Kings know my origin, because I am the origin of all the Gods and of the Adepts”; “I am the origin of all; all things proceed from me,” that he is speaking of the Self of All and of each, and that the origin of that which is Eternal and unchanging is not to be discovered, for it is both Being and Non-Being. As Patanjali states it, “The Soul is the Perceiver; is vision itself, pure and simple, and it looks directly on ideas”. This means that each human being has the power to see and know all things, however restricted that power may be at any given time; that the restriction lies in the more or less narrow range of the ideas that he adheres to, and which form the basis for his actions. This self-limited range of perception, not only prevents the full exercise of his powers as Self, but acts as a bar to the right understanding of his observation and experience; so, even the man of today may say, “I am the origin of all things; all things proceed from me”, for so far as he is concerned, his adopted ideas and acquired nature form the basis for all causes set in motion by him, and also constitute his field of observation and experience of effects. By the very power that resides in Self, Man creates good and evil, the delusion of separateness, and all imperfections. Divine perfections are universal; they can only be reached by acting for and as the Self in all things. This state can be obtained by a gradual elimination of all bases of action that make for separateness.
Arjuna begins by stating to himself (Krishna), the characteristics that to him designate the very highest place and power. “Thou art Parabrahm” (beyond Brahmâ) “thou art the Eternal Presence, the Divine Being; all-pervading; without beginning.” “Thou alone knowest thyself by thy Self.” “Thou alone can fully declare thy divine powers”. “How shall I, constantly thinking of thee, be able to know thee?” “In what particular forms shall I meditate on thee ?“
The reply begins with: “I will make thee acquainted with the chief of my divine manifestations, for the extent of my nature is infinite. I am the Ego which is seated in the hearts of all beings; I am the beginning, the middle and the end of all existing things.” He then goes on to recite that among the gods, the Self is the highest; among planetary bodies, the Sun expresses It; among the spirits of the air, the chief of these is an expression of It; among the sacred writings, It is the essence of these—the all-compelling song or sound; and so on through a long list of forms, powers and qualities understood by Arjuna. He concludes by saying, “I am, 0 Arjuna, the seed of all existing things, and there is not anything, whether animate or inanimate, which is with-out me”. “My divine manifestations are with-out end, the many which I have mentioned are by way of example. Whatever creature is permanent, of good fortune or mighty, also know it to be sprung from a portion of my energy. But what, 0 Arjuna, hast thou to do with so much knowledge as this? I established this whole universe with a portion of myself and remain separate.”
Arjuna had asked Krishna under what particular form should the Self be worshipped. Krishna’s reply was “under all forms”, that there is nothing in the universe, animate or inanimate, which is without the Self. The seeker for Truth and knowledge must see the One Self in all things, and all things in the Self, and then act for and as the Self of All. All sacred writings are addressed to the individual, for it is from within the individual, and the individual alone, that reformation can begin and must be consummated. The study and application of the Gita tends to break down all ideas based upon separateness, and impresses upon the student that the way of true knowledge of the divine perfections lies in universal service, without distinction of caste, creed, sex, color or race. “Self-Knowledge is of loving deeds the child”
Entitled “Vision of the Divine Form as including All Forms,” this chapter, like all the others, is to be applied to the individual, for while many classes of being, with their degrees of consciousness and power, are continually referred to, a clear indication is given that each Divine Ego is primarily the Self, and contains within his being every element that exists in the Universe.
Arjuna begins in this chapter by saying, “My delusion has been dispersed by the words which thou for my soul’s peace hast spoken concerning the mystery of the Adhyatma—the Spirit.” He had perceived that the One Self animates all forms of every kind; that the sustaining power, as well as the perceiving power is with in each and every form; but he desired’ to see and understand the form or container of Self; in other words, the means by which the One Self became focussed—so to speak—in the innumerable forms of existence.
Krishna in reply gives the key to the answer in one sentence. “Here in my body now be hold, 0 Gudakesha, the whole universe animate and inanimate gathered here in one, and all things else thou hast a wish to see. But as with thy natural eyes thou art not able to see me, I will give thee the divine eye.” Here, it is evident that the body Krishna spoke of was a spiritual one, since it required the divine eye to see it, and that Arjuna could not perceive this highest form unless he himself possessed similar sight. Body implies form and substance, and in this relation must mean the highest conceivable primordial matter or substance, which to us might be comprehended as “luminosity and energy,” the source of all light and power.
The words “the Divine form as including all forms” imply that there are no forms but those which the Divine form includes, from which it may be understood that the substratum of every form is the same primordial substance spoken of in this chapter as “the divine form,” and that every being possesses a divine form which contains within it potentially every power and element. In this ancient teaching is to be found the true basis of evolution, an unfolding from within outwards.
The descriptive portions of this chapter may be better understood if the student will bear in mind that the Gita, as we have it in our language, is a rendition from the Sanscrit,— the latter being a scientific language whose every letter has a numerical value, with a corresponding sound and meaning; whereas our language is that of a fighting and a trading people, with a paucity of terms for anything beyond the physical. One will not then make the mistake of thinking that such descriptions are due to a childish and ignorant imagery, but in reality to a knowledge of powers, forces, beings and states of consciousness.
Sanjaya (the recorder of the dialogue) says, “Han (Krishna) the mighty Lord of mysterious power, showed to the son of Pritha (Arjuna) his supreme form, with many mouths and eyes and many wonderful appearances, with many divine ornaments, many celestial weapons upraised; adorned with celestial garlands and robes, anointed with celestial ointments and perfumes, full of every marvelous thing, the eternal God whose face is turned in all directions.”
“The eternal God” is the Perceiver within the divine form; the “face . . . turned in all directions” is the “divine form,” which like a spherical mirror reflects all things. All differentiations of substance occur within the divine form, and each differentiation necessitates its own peculiar modes of expression and appearances, corresponding to “mouths,” “eyes,” and “wonderful forms.”
It has been said of old that “the Deity geometrizes.” All forms evolve from within outwards. From the “point” whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere, a radiation equal in all directions begins, and establishes a circumference; a sphere within which the activity of the “point” is particularly confined. The “point” spreading out horizontally becomes a diameter dividing the sphere into positive and negative hemispheres, forming a basis for action and reaction. A further extension of the point vertically to the circumference divides the sphere into four parts, represented on a plane surface as a cross within the circle. Remembering that these extensions of the “point,” or center, are lines of force proceeding from the center and tending to return to it, we can conceive of the beginning of a revolution of the sphere whereby the ends of the vertical and horizontal lines extend towards each other, forming at first the ansated cross, and finally the square within the circle, in reality, a cube or six-sided figure within the sphere. The cube, if looked at from either side presents the appearance of four angles, which, if we can conceive of them as being luminous points equidistant from the bright center, would be seen as a four-pointed star, the symbol and sign of the animal kingdom. If we can imagine Arjuna as seeing within the “divine form” all living lines of force and the forms produced by them, the four, the five, the six-pointed star, and the many-sided figures, all in motion and of wonderful brilliancy of light and of many colors, presenting the activities of all beings of every grade in the universe, we may obtain some conception of the descriptive parts of this chapter.
“I am Time matured, come hither for the destruction of all these creatures.” “Time matured” means the completion of cycles; everything that begins in time, ends in time; every action has its own cycle or period of return, or re-action; it is action and actions that produce cycles, and these latter range from those of momentary duration to those of a “great age,” as they are produced by separate entities, classes of beings, or the collectivity of actions by all beings of every grade concerned in any particular stream of evolution. The general reference here is to the impermanence of all forms or combinations of them. Change is necessitated by progress, for without change there would be stagnation; hence the constant disintegration and re-integration of elements in ever changing relation and form, all brought about by the requirements of the Perceiver— the Real Man within—, who is the sole survivor through all changes.
“Thou art the one indivisible Being, and non-being, that which is supreme.” This statement can only be understood by each one applying it to himself. We know that we are not our bodies, for they constantly change, while we remain the same identity through all the changes. We are not our “minds,” for we change them whenever we find occasion to do so; if we were our minds we could not change them, and further, it is apparent that “change” cannot see “change ;“ only that which is permanent can see change. That permanency is the Real, the immortal Man, or, as the “Voice of the Silence” states it, “the Man that was, that is, and will be, for whom the hour shall never strike.” Each is the Self, the Perceiver; non-being, yet the cause and sustainer of being; as the Gita states it in this chapter, “thou art the Knower and that which is to be known ;“ “thou art the final supreme receptacle of this universe”—the garnerer of all experience when this universe is dissolved. At the end of the Great Cycle, which includes all minor cycles, all beings return to the primordial state, plus the experience gained. The next great stream of evolution will proceed on the basis of the acquired knowledge of all beings concerned.
“Having been ignorant of thy majesty, I took thee for a friend, and have called thee ‘0 Krishna, 0 son of Yadu, 0 friend,’ and blinded by my affection and presumption. I have at times treated thee without respect in sport, in recreation, in repose, in thy chair, and at thy meals, in private and in public; all this I beseech thee, 0 inconceivable being. to forgive.”
Krishna is to be considered as not only representing the Self in all beings, but as a Divine Being embodied in a human form. Arjuna had asked to see the “divine form,” and having seen it, was awed by its grandeur and glory, and realized that he had conducted himself towards Krishna as a human being like himself, although of vastly greater learning: he therefore besought forgiveness for his presumption and asked Krishna to resume the form to which he was accustomed.
Here in this ancient scripture is pictured the ‘fatal error made again and again by mankind in the failure to recognize a divine teacher when he appears among them in human guise. Buddha, Jesus, and many others before and after them, were treated by their contemporaries as ordinary human beings actuated by similar motives as the rest of mankind. They were opposed by the established interests, religious and otherwise, because the doctrines they taught were destructive of the hard and fast conclusions upon which those interests were founded; their speech and acts, although intended to instruct, enlighten, and benefit, were construed as
violations of law and custom, and were frequently characterized as criminal in nature. Even among their immediate disciples, suspicion, doubt, jealousy, fear, resentment and self-interest were to be found, none of which could have had existence had the real nature of the teacher been understood. These conditions prevented the true relation between teacher and disciple which is so necessary to the latter if he would benefit fully from that relation. It is true that all the disciples learned something in spite of their defects, but it is also true that the lack of intuitive perception of the divine nature of their teachers was the most important factor in the failure of those disciples to truly transmit the teachings they had received; for that lack closed the door in themselves through which the divine enlightenment could come. Even Arjuna, loyal and devoted disciple as he was, had failed to perceive the wondrous nature of his teacher. It was not until that teacher by his favor and power had caused “the divine eye” in Arjuna to open that the ability to see on that plane of substance was gained. It is natural to suppose that Arjuna had by his unshaken confidence and constant devotion arrived at a stage of development where such help was merited.
It might be well for students of Theosophy to consider whether they may not have made a similar mistake in regard to Those who brought the message of Theosophy to the Western world, and so kept closed the only door through which direct help could come.
In the closing portion of the chapter Krishna says: “I am not to be seen, even as I have shown myself to thee, by study of the Vedas (scriptures), nor by mortifications, nor alms giving, nor sacrifices. I am to be approached and seen and known in truth by means of that devotion which has me alone as the object.”
The following, written by one of the Teachers, may serve as an explanation of the foregoing paragraph. “Ishwara, the spirit in man, is untouched by any troubles, works, fruit of works, or desires, and when a firm position is assumed, with the end in view of reaching union with spirit through concentration, He (that spirit) comes to the aid of the lower self and raises it gradually to higher planes.” The “firm position” and concentration are one and the same; it means a lifetime’s devotion, an acting for and as the Self in all things.
“He whose actions are for me alone, who esteemeth me the supreme goal, who is my servant only, without attachment to the results of action and free from enmity towards any creature, cometh to me, 0 son of Pandu.”
The word “faith” as used in this chapter has a far deeper meaning than is usually given it. To have faith, is the holding of a conviction of the truth of that upon which one’s faith is fixed. There are many “faiths” in the world, some adopted because of ignorance, credulity and superstition: others, because they appeal to the desires of their adherents; others again, because of the partial truths they hold. That which is lacking in all these is “knowledge,” for a conviction held in ignorance only perpetuates ignorance and its results: a conviction held from desire only perpetuates desires and their results; a conviction held because of partial truths perceived indicates a little knowledge, but not enough to distinguish the error that is always mixed with partial truths. The “faith” spoken of by Krishna is that which is founded on self knowledge—or knowledge of the Self as being All, and in All. A reliance upon that Supreme Self, and an identification of one’s Self with It, presents an unchanging and unchangeable basis from which the Truth in regard to Man and all Nature may be perceived. “True faith” can only exist when founded upon right knowledge.
In the reply of Krishna which closes the eleventh chapter, these words are found: “I am to be approached and seen and known in truth by means of that devotion which has me alone as an object.” Arjuna follows in the twelfth chapter with the question: “Among those of thy devotees who always thus worship thee, which take the better way, those who worship the indivisible and unmanifested, or those who serve thee as thou now art ?“
Krishna’s reply embodies the following:
“For those whose hearts are fixed on the unmanifested the labor is greater, because the path which is not manifest is with difficulty attained by corporeal beings.” A foot-note explains that “The difficulty here stated is that caused by the personality, which causes us to see the Supreme as different and separate from ourselves.” The tendency of human beings is to think and act as persons in their relations with other human beings and with manifested nature in general, and although they may ardently desire to act “for and as the Self,” they find themselves constantly falling under the sway of the purely personal feeling of separateness.
The words “Or those who serve thee as thou now art,” refer to the form in which Krishna was best known to Arjuna. That this was a human form is indicated in the previous chapter, where Arjuna says, “Having been ignorant of thy majesty, I took thee for a friend, and have called thee ‘0 Krishna, 0 son of Yadu, 0 friend,’ and blinded by my affection and presumption, I have at times treated thee without respect, in sport, in recreation, in thy chair, and at thy meals, in private and in public; all this, I beseech thee, O inconceivable being, to forgive.” In this sentence Arjuna recognizes Krishna as a divine incarnation, a being who had reached perfection and who had voluntarily incarnated in order to help those still struggling in “this ocean of incarnations and death.” That such divine incarnations have not been infrequent, both before and since the time of Krishna, is shown by a study of the world’s great religions; the rationale and meaning of such incarnations is clearly shown in the “Secret Doctrine.”
The course of every Arjuna—and each one of us is just that—is first a recognition that true knowledge must exist, and an ardent desire to obtain that knowledge. Then comes a search for the source of that knowledge; in that search lies the danger for the seeker. He finds many teachers, to knowledge. While as yet he has no means of determining the true from the false, he will accept ignorantly that teacher or teaching which his ideas and desires. This unf6rtunately is the course of most seekers. But there are to be found others who examine carefully the fundamental bases of the teachings offered, and who will accept only that one whose foundational propositions can be so universally applied that their truth be comes self-evident.
A resumé of the previous chapters will show that Krishna pointed out to Arjuna the various forms of belief and practice—or devotion— followed by men, and that these, though partial and erroneous, would finally lead to the one Truth if the seeker was sincere and devoted in his search for it. At the same time the One Reality or Truth was shown to be accessible to all men, and to be the highest, most direct and noblest path, leading to understanding wisdom and true happiness.
“But if thou shouldst be unable at once steadfastly fix thy heart and mind on me, ‘strive then 0 Dhananjaya, to find me by constant in devotion.” Steadfastness is gained by a constant endeavor to become stead fast.
“If after constant practice, thou art still unable, follow me by actions performed for me; for by doing works for me thou shalt attain perfection.” The works referred to are special ones, designed and performed for the sake of the Supreme, all tending towards an elimination of the “personal idea” of separateness.
“ But if thou art unequal even to this, then, being self-restrained, place all thy works, failures and successes alike, on me, abandoning in me the fruit of every action. For knowledge is better than constant practice, meditation is superior to knowledge, renunciation the fruit o action o meditation; final emancipation immediately results from such renunciation.” It has been said that the Source of all beings is One; that the goal is One; but that the Path varies with each pilgrim. Hence each pilgrim is at a point of evolution or development where one or other of the steps presented is within reach. Each of these steps is shown to be leading in the direction of the goal, but the aspirant must see them as only steps, the condition of his success being that he must ever keep the goal—union with the Higher Self—in view.
“ Being self—restrained,” means holding the personal self in abeyance. “Place all thy works, failures and successes alike, on me, abandoning in me the fruit of every action,” hardly needs an explanation; for the same instruction has been given so often in previous chapters of the Gita, such as— “Freedom comes from a renunciation of self-interest in the fruit of one’s actions.” Self-interest is always a matter of thinking; we can have no attachment for anything that we do not think about, nor can we have any dislike for a thing we do not think about; so if we find confronting us things right to be done, we should do them, regardless of whether they promise success or failure to ourselves. Krishna says that final emancipation immediately results from such renunciation, thus placing complete renunciation as attainment of the goal. Renunciation is superior to meditation because is by meditation upon the end in view that renunciation comes; meditation is superior to knowledge because right knowledge produces right meditation; knowledge is better than constant practice, because practice begets knowledge.
The remainder of the chapter should be read in connection with these notes, for there Krishna speaks of the qualities possessed by those who follow the path he shows. The chapter ends with these words,“But those who seek this sacred ambrosia—the religion of immortality—even as I have explained it, full of faith, intent on me above all others and united to devotion, are my most beloved.”
In The Path magazine of October, 1890, Wm. Q. Judge published this Thirteenth Chapter entire, prefacing the publication with the following words:
“There are nowadays many professors of occultism, just as years ago there was a numerous brood of those who pretended to know about the philosopher’s stone. Both, however, were and are learned chiefly in repeating what they have heard of as occultism, with no substance or reality underneath all the profession. Now, as then, .,the mere incidentals of the true occultist’s practice are thought of, spoken about, and pursued. Phenomena or the power to produce them constitute the end and aim of these searchers’ efforts. But seek as we may, we will not find among them real knowledge, real experience, true initiation. Being on the wrong path, deluded by false light, they cannot do aught but mystify, annoy, and deceive those who put their trust in them. During the days of Rosicrucian fame there was some excuse for the mass of seekers, but since the old Hindu works have become gradu ally known to everyone, that exculpation is at an end; for on every hand the note of warning is sounded, and everywhere are signs that show in what direction lies the true path. Particularly is this so in that wonderful book, the Bhagavad-Gita. In it however void of phenomena, however unattractive in respect to bait for psychic emotion, it points out the way, declares the mystic science, true devotion, right action.”
It has been said of this chapter that it contains the whole of occultism, by which is meant, that all-inclusive occultism which begins with the highest point of perception and realization—the Self within, and which regards action and reaction on every plane of manifestation, as the process by which individual and universal power and wisdom are attained.
That which stands in the way of knowledge is ignorance, and from the point of view of true occultism, the root of all ignorance lies in misconceptions as to one’s own essential nature.
In this chapter Krishna treats of devotion by means of the discrimination of the body from the soul, meaning thought and action based upon a knowledge of what is body and what is soul. He then speaks of “this perish able body” as including not only the physical form, but such elements as the following:
Ahankara-egotism, Buddhi-intellect or judgement, the unmanifest, invisible spirit; the ten centers of action, the mind and the five objects of sense; desire, aversion, pleasure and pain, persistency of life, and firmness, the power of cohesion. In this statement are included all that the ordinary mind conceives of as conscious existence, and purposely so, for if we are to arrive at an understanding of what is permanent, we must first see clearly what is impermanent and perishable.
In the divisions given by Krishna, Ahankara is placed first because in it is to be found the main cause of differences. Ahankara is the tendency to identify ourselves with forms and conditions; from that self-identifying attachment all the variations proceed; intellect or judgment is based upon that self-identification, as are all the likes and dislikes, modes, and channels of action.
If we can grasp the idea of the perishable nature of Ahankara-egotism, the perishable nature of the other elements can be understood. It is a fact that we do identify ourselves with the ever-changing perishable body, and with its conditions and relations, which are also ever-changing. We say, “I am happy, or I am sad,” “I am sick or I am well,” “I am contented or I am dissatisfied,” all of these expressions being due to some form or condition which is changeable. We should observe that the self-identifying attachment is chiefly concerned with the present form and conditions, although we are aware that other forms and conditions have existed in the past, to which we were attached by like or dislike, and that still others will exist in the future.
Through all the changes of the past we have gone; through all the changes of the future we must go. The past changes have perished; the present changes are perishing; the future changes will also perish; but “we” remain through them all, unchanged and unchanging. If we can grasp this idea and hold to it, we will have taken the first step towards right knowledge and freedom, for, as an ancient sage has put it, “The soul is the Perceiver; is assuredly vision itself pure and simple; unmodified; and looks directly upon ideas.” In this chapter are the following statements of a similar kind: “I am the knower in ever mortal body ;” “As a single sun illuminateth the whole world, even so doth the One Spirit illumine every body ;” “He who seeth the Supreme Being existing alike imperishable in all perishable things, sees indeed ;“ “Perceiving the same lord present in everything and every where, he does not by the lower self (Ahankara) destroy his own soul, but goeth to the supreme end.”
It must be apparent to every one who thinks, that to be immortal necessitates being change less, for that which changes has no stability. There could not be a continuity of consciousness even through one physical existence, un-less there is permanence of identity; the same “I” has noted the conditions, ideas, and feelings from childhood up to the present time, and will note them through all the years to come.
This Western mind of ours finds a difficulty in reconciling “changelessness” with “progression ;“ this is because of Ahankara, the tendency to identify ourselves with forms and conditions. Forms and conditions do change, but not of themselves; there is That which causes change to succeed change, and That is the indwelling spirit, which continually impels the instruments It has evolved towards further perfection. So progress and evolution mean an unfolding from within outward, a constant impulsion towards a better and better instrument for the use of the Spirit—the Self within.
“The spirit in the body is called Maheswara, the Great Lord, the spectator, the admonisher, the sustainer, the enjoyer, and also Paramatma, the highest soul.” This sentence really tells the whole story; the Spirit sees, rectifies, sustains and enjoys through Its instrument or vehicle; the ideal of progress is a perfected vehicle which will contact and reflect in the ‘highest sense all worlds and all beings.
The term “body” has been used throughout this chapter, but it must not be supposed that only the physical body is meant. The physical body is included in the term, because itself is the product of involution and evolution from higher states of substance or matter. Krishna says “Know that Prakriti or nature, (sub stance), and Purusha the spirit, are without beginning. And know that the passions and the three qualities are sprung from Nature. Nature or prakriti is said to be that which operates in producing cause and effect in actions.” There can be no action unless there is something to be acted upon; that something is the highest substance; it is that which fills all space, and from which all denser forms of sub stance or matter have been evolved, and within which they are contained. Thus, the body represents on this plane all the other states of substance from which it has been evolved; it is surrounded by, and connected with them. A study of the Seven Principles of Man will give an understanding of this statement, if it is remembered that Man, the Thinker, is not any of his principles; they are his vehicles or instruments.
“Individual spirit or Purusha is said to be the cause of experiencing pain and pleasure” (through the connection with nature found in the instrument) ; “for spirit, when invested with matter or prakriti experienceth the qualities that proceed from Prakriti; its connection with these qualities” (and self-identification with them) “is the cause of its rebirth in good and evil wombs.”
‘ Krishna says that “the passions and the three qualities are sprung from nature” (prakriti). The three qualities represent attachment to bodily existence through love of that which is good and pleasant (sattva) through a propensity for passion and desire (rajas); and through heedlessness, which destroys the power of judgment. They are all due to self-identification with one form or an other of bodily existence.
That which informs and moves all manifestation is the One Spirit. That Spirit is the Real and Permanent in all forms and beings; as Krishna says “it is wisdom itself, the object of wisdom, and that which is to be gained by wisdom ;“ it is “the receptacle and the seed ,“ it is the power to perceive, the consciousness, the life in all things. It is the cause of all manifestation and the holder of all knowledge gained thereby. Causing and perceiving change, It changes not. All power and all law proceed from It, are inherent in It. This is the meaning of “Spirit,” where Krishna says in conclusion: “Those who with the eye of wisdom thus perceive what is the difference between the body and Spirit, and the destruction of the illusion of objects, go to the Supreme.” By the “illusion of objects” is meant, the seeing of the objects as different from Spirit. Each object may be called an expression of Spirit through various evolved vehicles, whether these be called atoms, molecules, or forms composed of them.
In the “Voice of the Silence,” a statement of the same import may be remembered: “The eye of Spirit—the eye which never closes, the eye for which there is no veil in all her (Nature’s) kingdoms.”
All creatures, being essentially Spirit, strive (consciously or unconsciously) to realize their spiritual being through contact psychical and physical with all manifested nature; some by meditation; some by service; some—mistakenly—by selfishness through separateness. While all paths lead to the Supreme, it is only when the Permanent as distinguished from the Perishable is realized, that erroneous paths are forsaken and the true Path followed.
This chapter, like all the chapters in the Gita, speaks of but one Supreme devotion, to which all other forms of human devotion must eventually give way, as the pilgrim strives for perfection.
“The great Brahmâ,” here refers to prakriti, matter or nature, for matter or nature is the cause of all action throughout the universe, as it is the basis by which action may take place. There can be no action unless there is something to be acted upon, hence, spirit and substance are held to be without beginning, that is, co-eternal and co-existent.
As there are great periods of non-manifestation as well as of manifestation, so for Spirit or Consciousness, and Substance or matter, there must be periods of latency and periods of activity which are synchronous with each other.
Prakriti or substance is “the womb” in which the Self or Spirit places “the seed” of thought or idea; from this, action and evolution begin. The following classification and discussion of the three qualities illustrates the vital difference between the ancient, true psychology of the East, and what is termed Western psychology. Both abound in classifications; those of the East are much more numerous than those of the West and cover a far wider field; Western psychology in its classifications refers solely to mental states. The psychology of the Gita and the ancient sages classifies the moral states, treating the mental states as mere effects produced by moral conditions. Herein lies the secret of the hold the Gita has had all down the ages, and continues to have increasingly. It lays bare unsuspected bases of error; it discloses the most subtle forms of self-delusion ; it marks out the true course so painstakingly that the dullest mind cannot fail to grasp a clear perception of the path to true knowledge.
“ The three great qualities called sattva, rajas, and tamas—light, or truth; passion or desire; and indifference or darkness—are born from nature, and bind the imperishable soul to the body. The binding is by the attachment of the self or soul to the qualities perceived in nature. The sattva quality binds to rebirth through attachment to knowledge and that which is pleasant; the fruit of righteous acts appertains to sattva.
Rajas is of the nature of desire, producing thirst and propensity; it binds the soul through action and its consequences. Being separative and compelling in quality, its fruit is gathered in pain.
Tamas is of the nature of indifference or darkness; as the chapter states, it is the deluder of all creatures; it imprisoneth the Ego in a body through heedless folly, sleep and idleness; ignorance, delusion and folly exist where tamas prevails.
Every human being is attached to physical existence through the qualities; it must not be supposed, however, that one of these qualities is present in one individual and absent in others, for all three qualities belong to nature and living being. The differences in human beings are found in the degrees of attraction which each one has for one or other of the qualities. As the chapter recites, “when tamas and rajas are overcome, then sattva prevaileth;” “when sattva and tamas are hidden, then rajas prevaileth ;” “when sattva and rajas diminish, then tamas is chiefly acting.”
Once the student understands the nature of these three qualities or attractions found in physical existence, he is prepared to examine his own disposition in regard to them. Has he clearness of perception? Is he of a quiet and peaceful nature?
Is he attached to knowledge and that which is pleasant? If so, the quality of Sattva is there to some degree, even if only for the time being. To the individual, Sattva is that which seems good to him, even though his prevailing quality be Rajas or Tamas; so the bee seeks and appreciates the sweetness in the flower, but is ignorant of the flower’s nature or purpose. While every form in the three kingdoms of nature has its own peculiar quality, whether consciously or unconsciously expressed, yet the perceptions of these qualities depend upon the nature of the perceiver, his understanding and knowledge. Good and evil are relative; Nature may not be classified as part good and part bad. The goodness, the passion and desire, the ignorance, indifference and folly are in ourselves. The path to Sattvic perception and perfection begins with the feeling of responsibility for thought, word and deed, and ends in unselfishness.
“The characteristics of Rajas are love of gain, activity in action—meaning the holding of external action as the end in view; the initiating of works; restlessness and inordinate desire, producing thirst and propensity for possessions of any and every kind; loudness of speech; obtrusiveness in manner and action, and self- assertion in many ways.
Tamas shows itself in “indifference or darkness,” as the chapter notes. Here it would seem that “indifference” and “darkness” are synonymous terms; for that which we call indifference arises from ignorance of the true nature of things, events, and beings; it might be called the selfishness of ignorance. There are, of course, many degrees of Tamas, as many in fact as there are minds, for Tamas is indicated wherever there is ignorance, folly, idleness, and delusion in any degree.
Thus one may express Sattvic-Rajasic or Sattvic-Tamasic qualities; Rajasic-Tamasic or Rajasic-Sattvic; Tamasic-Sattvic or Tamasic Rajasic, in variable and varying degrees at different times according as one is carried away by personal feeling.
Even Sattva may be of that kind which expresses a harmless selfishness; the love of knowledge, of goodness and pleasantness for one’s own sake, (or the doing of righteous acts for the reward which follows them; while these bring a fair and pleasant existence, the results obtained from them are temporary, and at the same time bind one to physical existence.
The highest path, and that which leads to emancipation, is “separation from the three qualities Of course, there is in reality no separation possible in the ordinary sense of the— “separation” here means non-identification. It is Ahankara, self-identifying attachment with the ever-changing forms, conditions and relations of physical existence that makes the real “separation” and binds men to re-birth in a world, which they make one of infinitely more suffering than of joy. “He, O son of Pandu, who doth not hate these qualities—illumination, action and delusion—when they appear, nor longeth for them when they disappear; who, like one who is of no party, sitteth as one unconcerned about the three qualities and undisturbed by them, who being persuaded that the three qualities exist, is not moved by them; who is of equal mind in pain and pleasure, with those who like or dislike the same whether praised or blamed; equally minded in honor or disgrace; the same toward friendly or unfriendly side, engaging only in necessary actions, such an one hath surmounted the qualities.”
“Men say that the Ashwattha, the eternal sacred tree, grows with its roots above and its branches below, and the leaves of which are the Vedas; he who knows this knows the Vedas.”
In these words Krishna presents a symbol used by men to indicate the universe as an eternal evolutionary stream, proceeding from a changeless Source. This Source, though changeless Itself, produces change in ever- increasing differentiations throughout the great period of manifestation. When the limit of differentiation is reached, the same impulse gradually indraws all differentiations toward homogeneity. This evolutionary process is graphically symbolized in the Secret Doctrine as the Great Breath, with its periodical out breathing and inbreathing. Neither the “out breathing” nor the “inbreathing,” nor both together, describe or constitute the Great Breath, for these are actions by That which has the power to so act. As Krishna states it in this chapter, “It is the Primeval Spirit from which floweth the never-ending stream of conditioned existence.”
“The leaves of which are the Vedas,” refers specifically to the sacred scripture of the time; at the same time it should be understood as applicable to sacred scriptures of all times, for these are but formulations by men of portions of the eternal verities; formulations which present in concrete form such spiritual, philosophical and ethical ideals as exist among men at the time of formulation. These formulations are here properly symbolized by “leaves,” for they shoot forth from the branches (the three qualities), have their period of manifestation and are replaced by other “leaves”.
“Its form is not thus understood by men; it has no beginning, nor can its present constitution be understood, nor has it any end.” This sentence may be comprehended better if read in connection with the second paragraph of the chapter: “It is even a portion of myself which, having assumed life in this world of conditioned existence, draweth together the five senses and the mind in order that it may obtain a body and may leave it again.” This power to draw together and to disperse is that of the Supreme Spirit; it is the Self, the Real Man, “a portion of myself” in every human form, as well as in all forms. It is not thus understood by men who are bound by Ahankara, the self-identifying tendency of the thirteenth chapter, but it may be realized by “those who are free from pride of self and whose discrimination is perfected, who have prevailed over the fault of attachment to action, who are constantly employed in devotion to meditation upon the Supreme Spirit, who have renounced desire and are free from the influence of the opposites known as pleasure and pain.” Knowledge of the Supreme Spirit comes from identification with It; realization comes from dwelling upon the thing to be realized. The “power to perceive” is the very essence of our being, our perceptions are not that power, they are the exercise of it; our perceptions are the bases of our actions; it is because we identify ourselves with our perceptions that we are deluded and bound by the actions that flow from them.
“There are two kinds of beings in the world, the one divisible, the other indivisible; the divisible is all things and the creatures”—that is, all forms and objects of every kind, since every form and object is composed of minor forms or expressions of life or consciousness.
Our bodies, for instance, are composed of mineral, vegetable and animal lives and substance; these are borrowed from the three kingdoms below us and are returned to them; hence the term “divisible”. “The indivisible is called Kutastha, or he who standeth on high unaffected”. In every composite form—and all forms are that—there is a synthetic consciousness which has evolved and sustains that form; that synthetic power is unaffected by any changes in the form. In Man Kutastha would seem to indicate the Divine Ego, whose divinity and spiritual nature remain as such through all forms and changes.
“But there is another spirit designated as the Supreme Spirit—Paramatma—which permeates and sustains the three worlds. As I am above the divisible and superior to the indivisible, therefore both in the world and in the Vedas am I known as the Supreme Spirit. He who being not deluded knoweth me thus as the Supreme Spirit, knoweth all things and worships me under every form and condition.”
Devotion through Knowledge of the Supreme Spirit begins with a recognition that there is but one Spirit, the source and sustainer of everything that exists. As the Upanishads say “the Self shines in all, but in all it does not shine forth”. The Self is in all things, and all things are in the Self. Whatever there may be of “shining” through any form or under any condition, that “shining” is from and of the Self. If this is recognized and admitted, we must begin to regard all things and beings in that light and act towards them upon that basis; in this way we act for and as the Self, and as we hold to and follow that practice, all ideas, habits and desires that conflict become overcome little by little, until at last we have the supreme power for good that comes with selflessness.
In this chapter Krishna begins with an enumeration of the “godlike” qualities. It will be noted that these qualities or virtues are not so numerous as they are comprehensive and complementary, and that taken as a whole, they fully express the title under which they are assembled—a godlike nature.
When we come to examine these qualities from the modern point of view and compare one with another, we may find it difficult to reconcile some with others: as for instance, “power” and “fearlessness” with “freedom from conceit”. Our individualistic tendencies incline us to think that a sense of superiority is necessarily present with power and the absence of fear. And again, if we take the simplest, most definite and most easily understood of these qualities, “not speaking of the faults of others”, we see only a pale and negative virtue. Yet fault-finding is the most universal and most insidious expression of conceit and self-assertion. Speaking of and pointing out the faults of others is a vice which masquerades under many forms of virtue but in reality it is used to hide our own faults and present the appearance of a righteousness we do not possess—a vice which perpetuates self-delusion and negatives every apparent virtue. St. Paul, the Initiate, in I. Corinthians, Chap. XIII, says in this regard:
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”
Charity implies the possession of all the virtues, for they are all included in it; it implies the absence of fault-finding and condemnation. But charity is not negative; that which makes charity effective is knowledge, not sentiment; hence the need of discriminating between what are here called “godlike” and “demoniacal” natures.
We must therefore enquire into the meaning of Discrimination. It is a faculty, or power, whose range and value depend entirely upon the knowledge and understanding of the individual using it. All men use this faculty but in as many different degrees as exist between the densest ignorance and the highest intelligence and wisdom. It may be called the ability to do the right thing, at the right time, and in the right place, on every plane of action. This necessitates a universal point of view, an understanding that covers the whole of nature, and a universal application of both.
The ancient wisdom of the Gita begins with universals and descends into particulars, this being the course of evolution. It posits One Spirit as animating all beings and all forms, and shows the universe to consist of an aggregation of evolved beings of innumerable grades, each with its own form and tendencies, and each acting according to its own acquired nature. Whatever accords with the acquired nature of each being, will appear to it as good; whatever obstructs or opposes it, will appear as evil; this being true, it is self-evident that good and evil are not things in themselves, but are appearances due to the of the perceiver towards things, forms, conditions and circumstances.
No such considerations as the above could be addressed to any being lower than Man, because he alone, of all those in physical forms, has reached that point of development of his acquired nature which enables him to grasp that which is above, as well as that which is below, and permits him to extend his range of perceptions in all directions. He has reached that point at which he can know himself to be Immortal, and may, if he wills, bring his acquired nature in accord with his own spiritual nature. All of his perceptions are of the “pairs of opposites’; without these he could never find himself, nor understand the natures of those who are struggling to free themselves from the binding force of with forms and conditions.
It must be understood that Man the Eternal Pilgrim, is not his perceptions, for they are always relative. In all perceptions are to be found “the pairs of opposites”, for no perception could exist without them. Without darkness, there could be no perception of light; without pain, there could be no perception of pleasure; without sorrow, there could be no exception of joy; without sin, there could be no perception of holiness. That these perceptions are all relative to the Perceiver is shown in the fact that what is light to some is darkness to others; pleasure to some is pain to others; joy to some is sorrow to others; holiness to some is sin to others.
It is the lack of understanding of these facts in nature that produces every kind of “demoniacal nature,” and there are many kinds. There are those who “know not the nature of action nor of cessation from action”; those who “deny that the universe has any truth in it, saying it is not governed by law, declaring that it hath no Spirit”; those who “seek by injustice and the accumulation of wealth for the gratification of their own lusts and appetites”; there are those who esteem “themselves very highly, self-willed, and full of pride, ever in pursuit of riches, they perform worship with hypocrisy and not even according to ritual (that which is known) but only for outward show; indulging in pride, selfishness, ostentation, power, lust and anger, they detest me (the One Spirit) who am in their bodies and in the bodies of others.” What an arraignment this is of present day religions and systems of thought! All sects present formulas which must be accepted on faith, but which cannot be proved to be true. Many systems of thought affirm the unproven and unprovable and on facts of experience, thus ignoring law and justice in the universe; they deny the effects they perceive, on one side of nature, and affirm as self-existent the effects they perceive of an opposite kind, deluding themselves by offsetting one effect against the other, and never perceiving the Cause of both effects. None of these religions and systems of thought as represented by their adherents have the faintest suspicion that they are but repetitions of the errors of past times and peoples; yet such is the fact known to every student of ancient literatures, religions and sciences, who has gained discrimination by means of “the pairs of opposites.”
As before said, true discrimination proceeds from a universal point of view, an understanding The ‘whole of nature, and a universal application of both. The universal point of view is that all manifested nature, including all things below Man, Man himself, and all beings above Man, as well as all forms, degrees of substance, and elements have proceeded from one Source, the One Spirit. The understanding comes from a realization that, from atom to the highest being, each is an expression of that One Spirit and that from the faintest glimmering of perception in the lowest kingdom to the heights of Divine Knowledge, the path is the same for all under Law. Then comes the application of the knowledge gained.
The student must raise himself beyond “the influence of the pairs of opposites.” He must see that these are but the means and modes necessary to give him ever-widening perception, and he must realize that he is the perceiver and not any nor all of his perceptions. And as he raises himself above that influence, he will find others like himself, and still others beyond who are of a godlike nature—who love and understand; who possess what appear to others as virtues, but which to them are but actions with spiritual knowledge as director; who understand the vices of men to be due to ignorance and not to innate wickedness; and who hence have patience, power and fortitude, universal compassion, modesty and mildness. They know that that which makes for evil can be turned into that which makes for good; that which makes for destructiveness can be turned into that which makes for constructiveness; that which makes for separation and selfishness can be turned into that which makes for unity and selflessness. So knowing, all nature is theirs, every power and element in it are their instruments; not that the relativities of good and evil can or should be destroyed, but that the spiritual identity of all beings shall be realized at every stage, and only such thought and action prevail as will bring about a harmonious progress towards perfection.
True Discrimination distinguishes between good, evil, and mixed natures. It knows that all human beings are inherently perfectible, and that the imperfections exist only in the lower acquired nature; that while this acquired nature exhibits itself in actions, its root lies in tendencies fostered by limited and erroneous conceptions. The effort is therefore not expended in classifications of comparative good and evil, nor is there any condemnation of any being because of the state in which he is found to be ; the causes that have led up to each state are shown, the right basis for thought and action is given, the landmarks upon the “small old path” that leads far beyond comparative good and evil are pointed out, and the pilgrim patiently helped, on every step of the way.
The twelfth chapter treats of Devotion through Faith founded on knowledge of the Supreme Spirit; the present chapter explains the nature of the faith of those who while they neglect the precepts of the Scriptures (recorded sacred knowledge), yet worship in faith.
Krishna says that the faith of mortals is of three kinds and is born from their own disposition, and that this faith partakes of the qualities of Sattva, truth; Rajas, action; and Tamas, indifference. These three qualities are specifically treated in the fourteenth chapter and the necessity is there shown for the seeker after truth to raise himself above their influence. The twelfth, fourteenth and seventeenth chapters should be studied together, as they are intimately related.
“The faith of each one proceeds from the sattva quality . . . the embodied soul being gifted with faith, each man is of the same nature as that ideal on which his faith is fixed.” Here the word sattva should be given its highest definition, “the power to understand,” which every embodied soul possesses, as contrasted with the limitations imposed upon that power by those who fix their faith upon some ideal of seeming good.
“Those who are of the disposition which ariseth from the prevalence of the sattva or good quality, worship the gods.” “Gods” is a generic term covering many classes of in visible beings; here the reference is to that class of being which the worshipper believes to be endowed with supernatural powers and virtues, and from which is sought guidance and favors.
“Those of the quality of rajas, worship the celestial powers, the Yakshas and Rakshasas.” That is, those in whom the desire for personal and selfish possessions and attainments prevail, seek the aid of, and attract, elemental beings who in an irresponsible way aid in such accomplishments; in other words, where the quality of rajas prevails, any external force that will aid in the fulfilment of desires is sought and welcomed, regardless of its nature or of the evil effect upon others. Such forces or beings belong to the separative and destructive side of nature.
“Other men in whom the dark quality of indifference or tamas predominates worship elemental powers and the ghosts of dead men.” Here, the elemental powers are those of the lowest class, and among them are the so-called “spirits” of the séance room, galvanized into a factitious presentation of life and intelligence by the medium and sitters. This lowest class of elementaries and elementals belongs to the grossest part of invisible nature, is nearest to the physical, and most easily aroused. The opening of the doors to this class arises from ignorance of man’s true nature, and makes possible the delusion which fixes the faith on impermanent, irresponsible and vampirizing influences. Tamas also predominates in “those who practise severe self-mortification …..are full of hypocrisy and pride, longing for what is past and desiring more to come; they, full of delusion, torture the powers and faculties which are in the body, and me also, who am in the recesses of the innermost heart; know that they are of an infernal tendency.
It is a matter of common knowledge that many kinds of self-inflicted bodily punishments and tortures prevail among certain devotees in the East as a means of development, and that even among Western peoples a similar idea at one time prevailed extensively, and perhaps still exists in some quarters. There is no doubt that these practices had their origin in a misunderstanding of a phrase frequently used in ancient scriptures “mortification of the body.” In this chapter Krishna sets forth very clearly the true meaning of that phrase in these words: “Honoring the gods (beings higher than Man), the brahmans (those who have divine knowledge), the teachers (of knowledge), and the wise; purity, rectitude, chastity and harmlessness are called mortification of the body.” That this is the true definition is shown by the fact that the body of itself is incapable of action, and is merely an organized aggregation of physical matter used and controlled by the thinker and actor within; it is this thinker and actor who needs to change his modes of thought and action. In changing from one mode of thought and action to an other of an opposite kind, the man finds him self at war with habits which he himself established; these have to be dis-estäblished by the institution of habits in accord with his changed basis. In a true sense this is mortification of the body, but from within outwards, not by any external means.
Similarly “austerities of speech” do not consist of a severity of tone and manner and a puritanical contempt for the average mortal and his interests, a state due to an in-growing self-righteousness, but are practised and shown in “Gentle speech which causes no anxiety, which is truthful and friendly, and diligence in the reading of the Scriptures.”
“Mortification of the Mind” is not effected by imposed prayers and penances, nor by offerings to any supposed deity, but by “Serenity of mind, mildness of temper, silence, self-restraint, and absolute straightforwardness of conduct.”
The chapter continues by saying “This three fold mortification or austerity, practised with supreme faith, and by those who long not for a reward, is of the sattva quality.”
“But that austerity which is practised with hypocrisy, for the sake of obtaining respect for oneself, or for fame or favor, and which is uncertain and belonging wholly to this world, is of the quality of rajas.”
“Those austerities which are practised merely by wounding oneself, or from a false judgment, or for the hurting of another, are of the quality of tamas.”
The idea prevails among Western peoples that the value of a gift lies in its intrinsic value; Krishna presents the contrary fact that the value of a gift lies entirely in the attitude of mind which accompanies the gift; this applies to gifts and benefactions of every kind, whether seasonal or not; whether to friends, relatives, acquaintances or stranger poor; it would be well to remember this in the season of Christmas and holiday giving.
Krishna specifies and qualifies the different attitudes as follows: “Those gifts which are bestowed at the proper time to the proper person, and by men who are not desirous of a return, are of the sattva quality, good and of the nature of truth.
“But that gift which is given with the expectation of a return from the beneficiary, or with a view to spiritual benefit flowing there from, or with reluctance, is of the rajas quality, bad, and partaketh of untruth.
“Gifts given out of place and season and to unworthy persons, without proper attention and scornfully, are of the tamas quality, wholly bad and of the nature of darkness.”
What a commentary this is upon our Western ideas of charity as ordinarily dispensed, and particularly upon our charitable organizations. How many gifts or charities are bestowed without a view to spiritual benefit flowing therefrom? How many subscriptions are made to charities with reluctance, or from a desire to appear generous in the eyes of men? How many are given “out of place and season and to unworthy persons, without proper attention and scornfully?” Each one must answer for himself. It takes a very wise man to do good works without danger of doing in calculable harm; one such might by his great intuitive powers know whom to relieve and whom to leave in the mire that is their best teacher. The poor and wretched themselves will tell anyone who is able to win their confidence what disastrous mistakes are made by those who come from a different class and endeavor to help them. Kindness and gentle treatment will sometimes bring out the worst qualities of a man or woman who has led a fairly presentable life when kept down by pain and despair. The Gita teaches that the causes of misery do not lie in conditions or circumstances, but in the mistaken ideas and actions of the man himself; he reaps what he has sown in ignorance. A better knowledge of the nature of man and the purpose of life is needed; as this is acquired, the causes of misery are gradually eliminated. No greater charity can be bestowed upon suffering humanity than right knowledge that leads to right action. The possessor of this knowledge will be filled with divine sympathy for all sufferers; he will relieve only such distresses as should be relieved in each and every case, while at the same time he will impart as much of his greater knowledge as the sufferer can receive and apply. But he will not let his left hand know what his right hand does; he will have no thought of reward nor even of gratitude; he will simply do all that he can and the best he knows how to do to raise the sufferer to a higher plane of thought and action, while he affords sufficient physical relief to give a foot hold.
This chapter is the last but one of the Bhagavad-Gita, and perhaps as a chapter is the most comprehensive one, for it presents the One True Faith founded upon knowledge of the Supreme Spirit, the Self within, the Knower in every mortal body, and three kinds of false faiths fixed upon externalities.’ It considers true practices as the natural outcome of true faith, in contrast with erroneous practices based upon false faiths. It shows clearly that spiritual reliance placed upon any external being, thing or practice prevents right knowledge and true progress, and cannot fail to bring about detrimental karmic results.
Knowledge of and action for the Self of all—the Self within, is necessary in every thought, word and act, even in the providing of food for the body. Krishna does not enjoin any particular kind of food; he says that kind of food for each one is best “which in creases the length of days, vigor and strength, which keeps one free from sickness, of tranquil mind and contented, and which is savory, nourishing, of permanent benefit and congenial to the body, is that which is attractive to those in whom the sattva quality prevaileth.”
There are many who fix their faith on particular kinds of food and who endeavor to convert others to that particular kind of faith. They, like all others who fix their faith upon externalities, are “false pietists of bewildered soul.” The question never is of kinds of food, but of fitness for each particular case; for when all is said and done, each body extracts from any kind of food only that which conforms to the nature of the possessor of the body, and that nature is subject to change from within. The main thing to be observed is to keep the body efficient as an instrument for the soul who inhabits it, by whatever means and food may be found necessary for that purpose. Here, like and dislike are set aside and only the purpose of soul is considered.
“The food which is liked by those of the rajas quality is over bitter, too acid, excessively salt, hot, pungent, dry and burning, and causeth unpleasantness, pain and disease.” The faith being fixed on desire for personal possessions and attainments, desire becomes cumulative; each object obtained only stimulates the desire for more; this produces corresponding and cumulative tendencies in the body.
“Whatever food is such as was dressed the day before, that is tasteless or rotting, that is impure, is that which is preferred by those in whom predominates the quality of tamas or indifference.” Where tamas prevails there is a tendency for and affiliation with the lower elementals and elements of nature; the destructive and disintegrating side.
The last section of this chapter refers to the three-fold designation of the Supreme Spirit as Om, Tat, Sat, the triune Deity in its triple aspects corresponding to creation, preservation and destruction while re-creating, or in order to re-create. The word Om or Aum is at once an invocation of the highest within, a benediction, an affirmation, and a promise; its proper use is said to lead to a realization of the Self within. The Aum contains within itself all the aspects and implies the Universe controlled by the Supreme Spirit. It represents the constant current of meditation which ought to be carried on by every man, even while engaged in the necessary duties of life. There is for every conditioned being a target at which the aim is constantly directed; in the Mundakya Upanishad there is the following, “Om is the bow, the Self is the arrow, Brahman is called its aim. It is to be hit by a man who is not thoughtless; and then as the arrow becomes one with the target, he will become one with Brahman. Know him alone as the Self, and leave off other words. He is the bridge of the Immortal. Meditate on the Self as Om.”
The chapter begins with this question from Arjuna: “I wish to learn, O great-armed one, the nature of abstaining from action and of giving up of the results of action, and also the difference between these two.”
The whole of the chapter is devoted to the answer. Not only are the nature of abstaining from action and the giving up of the results of action involved in the reply, but an understanding of the very nature of action itself and the causes and bases of action. Relating to the “agents of action,” Krishna says:
“Learn, O great-armed one, that for the accomplishment of every work five agents are necessary as is declared. These are, the substratum, the agent, the various sorts of organs, the various and distinct movements, and with these, as fifth, the presiding deities. These five agents are included in the performance of every act which a man undertaketh, whether with his body, his speech, or his mind.” Again, that “whoever, because of the imperfection of his mind, beholdeth the real self as the agent, thinketh wrongly and seeth not aright.” It is thus evident that it is not the “real self” that acts, a statement that has been reiterated throughout the previous chapters, and one that it is necessary to understand before the nature of action is comprehended.
Prakriti or nature, is the cause of all action throughout the universe, as it is the basis by which action may take place; this is true on every plane of being. In the thirteenth chapter are these words: “Know that prakriti or nature and purusha the spirit are without beginning. And know that the passions and the three qualities are sprung from nature. Nature or prakriti is said to be that which operates in producing cause and effect in actions; individual spirit or purusha is said to be the cause of experiencing pain and pleasure. For spirit when invested with matter or prakriti experienceth the qualities which proceed from prakriti.” This passage throws some light on the meaning of “the substratum :” it is substance in its primordial state from which all differentiations proceed, and within which all differentiations are contained, and therefore forms the basic agent of all action; the word “agent” in the classification may be understood as the power which prompts to action; for instance, the personal self with its concrete and limited ideas, impels the organs of the body and the necessary movements to carry out the prevailing idea. The fifth “agent” is called “the presiding deities”; this latter term may be explained in this way: our bodies are composed of small lives of many different kinds, each of those kinds acting only in response to particular impulses; each class acts according to its own nature, and as a class constitutes a hierarchy of being, devas or deities.
It is understood, of course, that That from which all power to perceive or to cause action emanates is the Self of All; that power be comes particularized, so to speak, in the Individual Self, who on higher planes is the impeller of actions on those planes; on the physical plane, the Personal self is but a temporary aspect of the Individual Self, this aspect being sometimes called the “false ego” because of its delusion; it is this personal self which consciously or unconsciously to itself impels the lives in his bodily organs to action.
Now we may understand better this passage from the fifth chapter: “the devotee who knows the divine truth thinketh, ‘I am doing nothing’ in seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, moving, sleeping, breathing; even when speaking, letting go or taking, opening or closing his eyes, he sayeth, ‘the senses and organs move by natural impulse to their appropriate objects.’ ” It has been said that the Self neither acts nor is acted upon; this must be true also of the Personal self, for, as the thirteenth chapter says: “the spirit in the body is called Mahaeswara, the Great Lord, the spectator, the admonisher, the sustainer, the enjoyer, and also the Paramatma, the highest soul.” The self or spirit in the body is deluded by the three qualities perceived in nature, liked or disliked, and identifies itself with the actions it induces. “He who seeth that all his actions are performed by nature only, and that the self within is not the actor, sees indeed.” There is also this passage, “The path of action is obscure. That man who sees inaction in action and action in inaction is wise among men.”
If we reconstruct our ideas in regard to action as above indicated, it will throw a new light on karmic responsibility, connecting us more intimately with all selves, all lives small and great, and assist us to a better realization of acting for and as the Self. Having determined, to some extent at least, the nature of action, we have aroused to that extent what Krishna calls “the discerning power,” which is also called Buddhi, direct cognition, the highest intellection, the power of judgment, according to its various degrees of activity. These degrees flow from attraction to one or other of the three qualities found in nature, and are described as follows: “The discerning power that knows how to begin and to renounce, what should and what should not be done, what is to be feared and what not, what holds fast and what sets the soul free, is of the sattva quality. That discernment, 0 son of Pritha, which does not fully know what ought to be done and what not, what should be feared and what not, is of the passion-born rajas quality. That discriminating power which is enveloped in obscurity, mistaking wrong for right and all things contrary to their true intent and meaning, is of the dark quality of tamas.”
With the “discerning power” there must also be the “power of steadfastness,” for unless we are constant in devotion to the higher life, and the ideal of a conscious life in spirit, not matter, we will be recreant to the best we know. Having reached the power of discernment and having been shown the path which to us is peculiarly ours, we should set aside all other considerations that tend to draw us from it; we should cultivate and practise “That power of steadfastness holding the man together, which by devotion controls every motion of the mind, the breath, the senses and the organs ;“this, as the chapter says, “partaketh of the sattva quality ;“ that is, the whole instrument is used for the best and highest purpose only.
The “power of steadfastness” may exist without the highest power of discernment, as in the one who looking for the fruits of action, cherishes duty, pleasure and wealth from the point of view of desire or rajas; or in the man of low capacity who stays fast in drowsiness, fear, grief, vanity and rashness, bound by the tamasic quality.
If we have determined for ourselves the nature of action, the goal of true discernment, and steadfastness which is harmony of thought, will, and feeling, as well as an action on the lines of our determination, we can only have done so through something of that “wisdom which perceives in all nature one single principle, indivisible and incorruptible, not separate in the separate objects seen” and which is of the sattva quality. It is the changeless Self within, which, if we follow the lines of our determination, we will come to realize more and more.
There can be no realization of Self in that kind of knowledge “which perceives different and manifold principles as present in the world of created beings,” or in “that knowledge, wholly without value, which is mean, attached to one object alone as if it were the whole, which does not see the true cause of existence.”
All our thoughts give rise to action among the lives which compose our astro-physical instrument, and, as we never cease thinking, action continually goes on, for, as often said, “thought is the real plane of action.” Even though we may not contemplate any immediate bodily act, we may by our thoughts accumulate a tendency in the lives of our instrument which will eventually result in outward action when ever favoring conditions permit, and we will fail victims to our lack of discernment and steadfastness, as well as involve others in our fate.
“Now hear what are the three kinds of pleasure wherein happiness comes from habitude and pain is ended.” We may get some understanding of this sentence if we consider that when some ardently desired aim or object is sought and found, there is at first happiness, and the pain of non-attainment is ended. But the happiness does not remain the same; it resolves itself into contentment and habitude, until the latter becomes wearisome, and another aim or object is sought.
“That which in the beginning is as poison and in the end as the water of life, and which arises from a purified understanding, is declared to be of the sattva quality.” The pursuit of desires brings a beginning of sweetness and an ending of bitterness; the pleasure gained from idleness, carelessness and indifference stupifies the soul. To arouse oneself from desiring, or from carelessness and indifference is at first “as poison,” but with a purified understanding becomes “the water of life.”
The statement that “there is no creature on earth nor among the hosts of heaven who is free from these three qualities which arise from nature,” points to the fact that the three qualities exist on every plane of being.
The hard and fast hereditary castes of India of the present day are not meant by the Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, and Sudras of this chapter. In earlier days, before the ancient teaching had become materialized, marriage was a sacred and religious contract; family life was so understood and conducted as to provide proper environment for egos of the same nature as the family on spiritual, psychical and other lines. Then there existed natural castes where all lines of heredity conjoined; in these degenerate days the castes are mixed and there are those born in castes whose nature does not conform to the original caste whose name and privileges they take and abuse. Nevertheless, the castes exist everywhere; but no longer does social position or physical environment distinguish them. In all countries at the present time, there are those in high place and power who by nature are Sudras, and many who are Brahmans by nature are lower in our social scale, for this is Kali Yuga when the powers of darkness are in the ascendancy.
The ancient castes performed duties which. were the outcome of their several natures, and were so recognized by all. There was no pride of caste nor jealousy and there existed an ideal community of mutual helpfulness; hence, the duties of the castes were “determined by the qualities which predominated in each.”
“Men being contented and devoted to their own proper duties (that for which their nature fits them) attain perfection.” “If (in all that he does) a man maketh offering to the Supreme Being who is the source of the works of all and by whom this universe was spread abroad, he thus obtaineth perfection.” “The performance of the duties of a man’s own particular calling, although devoid of excellence, is better than doing the duty of another, however well performed; and he who fulfills the duties obligated by nature does not incur sin. A man’s own natural duty, even though stained with faults, ought not to be abandoned. . . . The highest perfection of freedom from action is attained through renunciation by him who has an unfettered mind and subdued heart.”
Dharma is the word which in our language is translated as “duty,” but it has a much wider range and meaning than that which we accord to the word “duty.” There are many who think that duty is something that others think we should do; others again consider “duty” to be irksome, and as actions to be performed under duress, and therefore to be avoided; it is therefore necessary to grasp the meaning of the word “duty” as used in the Gita. Dharma means “the sacred Law,” the fulfillment of our karmic destiny through many incarnations, the working out and elimination of defects which have brought us into earth life under the conditions in which we find ourselves, which conditions we should feel and know to be the very opportunities needed for our further progress. This is why one of the great Teachers wrote, “Duty is the royal talisman; duty alone will lead us to the goal.”
Krishna enumerates the attainments by which “a man is fitted to be the Supreme Being. And having thus attained to the Supreme, he is serene, sorrowing no more, and no more desiring, but alike towards all creatures he attains to supreme devotion to me. By this devotion to me he knoweth fundamentally who and what I am and having thus discovered me he enters into me without any intermediate condition. And even the man who is always engaged in action shall attain by my favor to the eternal and incorruptible abode, if he put his trust in me alone. . . . And if, indulging self-confidence, thou sayest ‘I will not fight,’ such a determination will prove itself vain, for the principles of thy nature will impel thee to engage. Being bound by all past karma to thy natural duties, thou, 0 son of Kunti, wilt involuntarily do from necessity that which in thy folly thou wouldst not do.”
“There dwelleth in the heart of every creature, 0 Arjuna, the Master—Ishwara—who by his magic power causeth all things and creatures to revolve mounted upon the universal wheel of time. Take sanctuary with him alone, 0 son of Bharata, with all thy soul; by his grace thou shalt obtain supreme happiness, the eternal place.”
‘Wherever Krishna, the supreme Master of devotion, and wherever the son of Pritha, the mighty archer may be, there with certainty are fortune, victory, wealth, and wise action.” Each one is Krishna and Arjuna; where these two are joined together, all nature makes obeisance.
In closing this series of comments on “The Bhagavad-Gita,” we need, perhaps, give no reminder that only the surface of the teachings contained in the ancient book is touched upon. The view-point taken, out of the seven different applications possible, is that of the individual, in accordance with Mr. Judge’s early comments, but even from that view point, the field has been by no means fully covered. It is hoped, however, that enough has been said to afford at least a little more light to those who aspire to learn the Science of Devotion.